What a pleasant surprise I had when my heliciculturalist (snail farmers) friends Francis and Françoise dropped by to say Bonjour. After saying our belated ‘happy new year’, they gave me a pack of snails from their ‘petit gris’ farm as a gift. There was also a little bonus. A succulent recipe for a garlic and almond cream sauce to go with the snails. I couldn’t wait to share this gastronomical delight. I love the surprises I get from my everyday country life. Like Françoise said, c’est un vrai délice! (it’s delicious)
Just like the other day, when I had to call in a plumber who lives a few farms away. He was the kindest man, solving all the little and big problems I had around the house. What I enjoyed most during his visit was the conversation we had. As he was assembling the pipes and screws, he spoke with pride about his eldest daughter, currently studying in Bordeaux to be a pastry chef. He also loves hunting woodcock (bécasse in French), a passion for locals in Médoc. He explained to me how he cooks the bird, à la ficelle. It’s a technique where the bird is simply hung by a string in front of an open fire. You place a few pieces of bread under the bird while it melts with the heat, pouring a few teaspoons of Armagnac ever so often. You can just imagine how tasty everything is, especially those drenched toasts. As soon as I get a hook in my fireplace, I will try the bécasse à la ficelle. Fine rustic cooking par excellence.
The breaking news this month is the arrival of the newest member of the family, Squiffy. Officially called Glendraterra Pie Eyed, Squiffy is a Smooth Fox Terrier puppy from England. He was bred by Jenny Thornton and Roger Bebbington who are, in our opinion, the finest breeders in the world. It’s been my husband’s dream for years to have a dog from their kennel so you can imagine the pride and joy in his face when he brought him back home. Boys will be boys … and some more than others. Squiffy has settled in well and proven himself to be a good sport and a bit of a humorist, his latest achievement is thrashing a book called ‘How to restore and repair practically everything’. Fortunately he gets along well with the other dogs and has found a perfect playmate in Bee who is just a few weeks older. Who knows, maybe one day they will be more than just friends. At the moment, though, they are just like two silly characters from one of my favourite movies, The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Wes Anderson.
There’s a new smell in the air, a mixture of earthy and minty scents. As I wander around the garden, dreaming of summer roses, sweetpeas and lavender, I greeted a hint of spring. The first buds and pink flowers popped out on a few branches, elevating me to an April state of mind. To quote William Shakespeare,’ April hath put a spirit of youth in everything’.
A new puppy, a new season and fully functioning plumbing certainly calls for a good lunch. My latest menu consisted of snails with garlic and almond cream, pan-fried lamb chops (just like the ones I love in Rome at Ristorante Matricianella) with rosemary and garlic, served with baked potatoes. For dessert, a great classic we all love, fromage blanc with lavender honey and almonds. I serve them in terracotta pots I keep from St Félicien cheese (excellent cheese, and you get to keep the rustic pots!).
For those who are just not really into snails, you must at least try the garlic and almond cream recipe. I recommend it with chicken breasts, vegetables (especially potatoes) and even pasta for a side dish. It’s all about the sauce!
Snails with garlic cream sauce (serves 4)
5-6 large garlic cloves
36 snails (cooked/ canned or frozen)
240 ml/ 1 cup full cream milk
254 ml/ 1 cup full cream
100 g/ 2/3 cups almonds
8 g/ 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
A small handful of parsley
Salt and black pepper
In a saucepan, bring the garlic, milk and cream to a soft boil. Add the cornstarch (maïzana), mix well. Simmer for 20 minutes. Leave to cool and mix in a food processor until smooth.
Pour boiling hot water on the almonds, leave for a couple of minutes and remove the skin on the almonds. Chop them coarsely and fry them in a pan (no oil required) until slightly golden. Set aside.
Melt 1-2 tbsp of butter in a frying pan, fry the snails for 5 minutes on a medium heat, add salt and pepper. Reheat garlic cream sauce on a very low heat.
Place the snails in a large ramequin, pour garlic cream sauce all over and serve with sprinkled almonds and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
Lamb chops with rosemary and garlic (serves 4)
12 good-quality lamb chops
A large bunch of fresh rosemary (coarsely chopped leaves)
6 cloves of garlic (sliced finely)
20 ml/ 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
Coarse salt & black pepper
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Fry the garlic until golden and crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside. Fry the rosemary for 3 minutes. Set aside. Add the lamb chops to skillet, cook approx. 3 minutes per side (or to desired ‘cuisson’). Return rosemary to skillet and give the meat and herbs a good stir. Transfer to a large plate, garnish with a few fresh rosemary sprigs and sprinkle with fried garlic.
Potatoes with garlic and rosemary:
10 small potatoes (slice)
3 garlic cloves (whole)
30 ml/ 2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (leaves picked)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Slice potatoes, leave the skin on (4 mm thick). Place them in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, coarse salt, black pepper and rosemary leaves. Add whole garlic cloves. Cook in a 210°C / 410 F preheated oven for 30 minutes. Stir potatoes halfway.
Fromage blanc with almonds and honey
Lavender honey (or any of your favourite honey – to drizzle)
Scoop a few tablespoons of fromage blanc in a small bowl. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Serve immediately.
30 thoughts on “It might as well be spring”
Thank you Mimi.
A refreshing post announcing spring (although it’s been pouring it down all afternoon in Bordeaux)!
Will try the Lamb chops and the garlic cream sauce next week end! I can’t wait 🙂
Bonne soirée !
Merci Alice! Same here – crazy rain this afternoon! Les côtelettes d’agneau sont succulentes, demande à ton boucher qu’il te découpe de belles ‘côtes premières’. Bonne soirée! Mimixx
I love to read your tales about life in France, they are so colourful and poetic. I particularly enjoyed reading this one, on a rainy and windy day in Normandy. I also love seeing the dog photos, I’d love a Squiffy running around the house! Unfortunately I don’t do snails as a vegetarian but will give this sauce a test on pasta. Btw, my kids love chestnut cream on their fromage blanc, heavenly x
Hi Elizabeth! There’s something so romantic about rainy and windy Normandy! We had quite a rainy afternoon here in Médoc – it’s an on/off thing. We loved the sauce, especially with the toasted almonds. Pasta sounds lovely! Enjoy! Mimix
Ca me donne faim : J’attaque ma pomme.
Merci, Mimi, for this new post.
How do you clean live snails and how to prepare them before cook them?
Thank you for your attention.
You are welcome! Thanks for visiting. Here’s a link to one of my previous post from last September dedicated to snails – you will find all the info on how to clean them and prepare them in various ways. http://mimithorisson.com/2012/09/20/september-is-for-snails/
I’ve never tried snails before, but you have bestowed upon me a recipe that gives me the courage to try them!
Oh they are delicious. I like them best à la Bourguignonne, but this creamy sauce just won me over! ps:I will respond shortly regarding your tech questions, sorry for the delay! Mimix
Ahhh, spring… I love the smells of the earth as spring approaches. What an adorable addition to your family. I LOVE his face markings!
Quick question: can I substitute something for the rosemary on the lamb chops? I’m not a huge fan of that herb.
Thanks! Have a wonderful evening.
Hi Lisa! Squiffy is a little charmer! Regarding your question, if you don’t like rosemary, why don’t you try sage? Or I would simply suggest salt, pepper, and fried garlic to garnish. Simple and delicious. Bonne soirée, Mimix
I wish I had heliciculturalist friends! This is a perfect menu, and Squiffy is adorable.
Oh, I am definitely trying the almond cream sauce! You know, I used to take care of a little boy in Maine who was four years old and his favorite dish was snails!!
Hi Amy! Thanks for visiting! The cream sauce is really a treat. My son also loves snails (he’s 6), but my daughters are not the biggest fans 🙂 Mimix
What is the difference between full cream and full cream milk? I live on almonds and would love to try the sauce, just not sure of those two dairy products. Would it be whole milk and heavy cream? Thank you!
Bonjour Ginger! Heavy cream is what you should use. There are so many terms for creams. Full cream milk is full fat milk (I will update on the ingredients list to avoid confusion). In France I use crème liquide entière. Thanks for pointing this out! Mimix
OH! Fromage blanc. I miss it most of all the things from France. That and perfect croissants.
I LOVE snails!! But where to get them fresh in HK is a big question. Hopefully, we will be traveling to France this summer so I get plenty of escargot starters 😉 The plumber’s story brings back childhood memories. My grandfather and my father were hunters too. In Ukraine there were two official seasons for hunting back then. So it were hares in winter and wild ducks and quails in fall. The wild bird stew my grandma cook was so delicious.
Mimi, the dog is super cute!
What a sweet little puppy with a delightful little name! The lamb looks divine…I love that classic combination of rosemary & lamb. Everything looks so pretty on your table!
I am looking forward to spring as well, even though we are still in the heart of winter here in Finland. But the sun is shining more and the days are getting longer, spring will soon be here as well! Thank you for the inspirational post!
Mimi… welcome to your new pup… he is magnificent…:)
Try as I can with the snails…we just don’t like each other but I will make the recipe with chicken…
The lamb looks heavenly and I can smell the rosemary from here… Have a wonderful week… xv
Ok…i will try the sauce…without snails 😀
Bonjour Mimi, I found your blog through a blog through a blog – as one does, with an hour to spare browsing the internet – and im so glad I did! What wonderful photos, words and emotions. Huge fan now and cant wait to see more!
How beautiful is your page!!! I will follow it and pretend I am visiting your beautiful home and partaking of your delish food!
Love this post Mimi and your web 🙂
Love our photos, styling and last but not least your Fox!
Can you give me the name where your dog is born/breed?
I am looking for a puppy.