We are gearing up. Did you know that black truffles from Perigord are wholesaling at €1,000 a kilo? I burnt through at least a ton*on my own yesterday. For this year’s fêtes, like every year, we will shift somewhere in the region of 100 kilos of foie gras. A poularde **from Bresse can easily cost 60 quid at this time of year; it comes with its fluffy white neck and head protruding from a cloth bag, neatly sewn up in a tight parcel which conserves its modesty and hides its rather splendid blue feet. We also have capons and turkeys, langoustes and salmon. White and black puddings, patés en croûte, terrines and suckling piggies. C’est la fête, quoi!
We’re getting ready for the big day at home too. I made pate en croûte yesterday at work, but in our house I made a pork pie. Of course, it is a very similar beast, but it’s not quite the same. It’s better. No foie gras†: the british version is more boldly seasoned, with herbs and spices and a more open texture; slightly wobbly, tasty jelly; lard replaces butter – and the pastry kicks ass! A home-made pork pie is a revelation.
I can heartily recommend the version in Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s Meat book. Not only does it have a well-thought-through set of picture instructions, but the pastry is a winner and the filling works a treat. I pretty much just do what he says, although I’ve taken to adding the meat from my trotter stock to the pie because it adds a nice richness. Also, Hugh doesn’t discuss how to judge the seasoning properly. You can either follow his quantities blindly, or guess, or, as I do, fry a small pattie of your mix, and eat it, so as to be able to judge for yourself. It takes a bit of effort to make, after all, so you want to make sure it’s worth it...
It’s an impressive beast – a festival for the season of generosity. Just the thing to have waiting in the wings for when guests descend. Or the post-pub posse. A jar of chutney and a pickled onion and Bob’s your barman! Happy Christmas everyone!
* Money, not weight.
** Girl chicken.
† Well, not none. We’re having foie gras as well! We do live in the South West of France...