Great Ocean Food: French wedding
But for Covid, our family would be in Lyon now preparing for my cousin’s wedding.
She is one of triplets and the first to be married. Many years ago, we received an email (in French) out of the blue from their parents asking if it were possible to send their little darlings to stay with us for their school holidays – about three months. My father reconnected our French relations many years ago and we have always been enthusiastic to foster the relationship and had no hesitation in hosting our cousins from across the sea.
In hindsight, I think their mother Annie saw the benefit of offloading her three teenagers as far from her and her husband as possible. At the time, our children were at primary school, so my wife and I did not have much experience with teenagers. Were we in for a surprise! Not only were the triplets typical adolescents, but they didn’t speak the language.
By the language, I mean English, but they certainly spoke the international language of the teenager. Self-absorbed, easily bored, fascinating, lazy and lovable all at once. I collected them from the airport with a well-rehearsed series of French phrases prepared in advance. I should not have bothered as, after 10 minutes in the car, all three stuck their headphones in their ears. This continued for the entire journey home and a large proportion of the ensuing three months.
We did, however have a wonderful time together. They attended school, went to parties, surfed, participated in countless family gatherings, and became part of our family. Typical of most teenagers, they pushed the boundaries at times. They had a great interest in surfing. Rip Curl has a long and established history in France, so they knew Torquay well and were very keen to surf at Bells. I thought perhaps cosy corner was the place for them to start, but they were insistent that the big wave experience was for them. So, against my better judgement, I compromised.
They assured me of their swimming prowess, and we decided thirteenth beach would provide some big waves without the danger of Bells beach. It was a cold August day with a big swell. Fortunately, two of the three decided it was far too cold, so I took the most adventurous boy with me.
Two minutes into our escapade, he lost his board and disappeared from view.I still remember the horror I felt at potentially being responsible for him drowning. Worst still was the thought of having to call his mother! There was a strong undertow and he really did struggle but eventually made it back to the beach. I have rarely been as terrified.
We are so sad to be missing Alexandra’s wedding. She (and her two brothers) have grown into beautiful adults and it would have been fabulous to participate in what will be a joyous celebration. I’m hoping we have the opportunity to visit again soon. Meanwhile I am going to cook one of my favourite Gabriel Gate dishes of lentils and pork belly while reminiscing of my much-loved French family.
Lentils and pork belly
500g pork belly
60g sea salt
2 teaspoon cracked pepper
3 springs of thyme
1 onion, pierced with a clove
3 cloves gralic, crushed
2 carrots, whole
2 bouquet garni, made up of 1 bay leaf, 2 springs of thyme and a few parsley stalks
2 shallots, chopped
80g bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups lentils, boiled for 2 minutes then drained
3 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Place the pork belly on a plate and rub generously with sea salt. Season it with pepper and thyme, then wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for at least eight hours.
Place the salted pork in a pot and add the onion pierced with a clove, the garlic, carrots, leek and one bouquet garni. Cover with water, bring to a simmer for two to three hours until tender.
Heat the pork fat in a pan. Add the shallots and stir for one minute. Add the bacon, stir well, then add the lentils. Cover with the chicken stock, add the remaining garlic and bouquet garni and simmer until the lentils are soft. Stir in a little butter. Drain and slice the pork. Serve the lentils with a few carrots and the sliced pork. Sprinkle with parsley.