Sometimes on Sundays I get the call of the sea, especially when the sun shines through my bedroom window as I wake up in the morning. The ocean is only a few minutes away and it’s as if the rays of the sun bring la mer closer to my home. On beautiful days like that, I love going to the market in Soulac-sur-Mer, a timeless belle époque sea-side village in Médoc.
For me, there is no better way to start a day than with the energy of a bustling morning market. The fishmongers, discussing the ocean’s sightings, the farmers pride on their local produce, the oyster man who sells his catch and a charming, rather short man, who grows the tallest tulips I’ve ever seen, the variety I always associate with France.
I just enjoy walking through the crowds getting lost in my thoughts. I go with the flow, interested in each stall, hoping to find something extra-special, like freshly baked cakes, beautiful flowers or in my case, fried acras de morue (salted cod fritters), which I nibbled with delight while shopping for food. It’s impossible to resist a mid-morning snack at the market because everything is just so appetizing.
As I was discussing which flowers were in season with Marie-Annick (who to my delight had lovely peonies so early in the season), I caught a glimpse of the catch of the day at my favorite fish stall. Beautiful daurades (sea bream), perfectly laid and ready to be adorned with handfuls of herbs, onion, garlic and lemon. I love the pleasure of cooking an entire fish. I made sure to ask my fishmonger to empty, scale and clean the fish. So really, what I had to do was a mere job of decorating. So fresh, so interesting and most of all such a delight to prepare. Just like my garden cake, I did the same with the fish. Out in the garden, I picked what I needed to create a lovely herb garden fish!
For starters, I served lovely amandes de mer sautéed with garlic, olive oil and parsley with a dash of piment d’espelette. The poetic amandes de mer, in other words ‘sea almonds’, are called dog cockles in English. They have an almond-like flavor, and are cooked just like clams. While I was preparing lunch I couldn’t resist a few bulots, French marine snails that are so delightful dipped in a freshly whipped mayonnaise with a glass of crisp white wine.
Médoc has such variety, beautiful vineyards on one side, the majesty of the Atlantic ocean on the other. I feel so blessed to have the ocean near, I guess having grown up by a fragrant harbour means I need to be close to the sea.
Last monday when Sunday’s fish was but a memory and when the beautiful sunshine had made way for more dramatic skies we had a long walk on the beach. It was just the two of us and a few dogs. Watching them run on the beach reminded me of a passage from Hemingway’s ‘The old man and the sea‘.
‘He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy’.
I guess in Médoc even dogs can be lions.
Poêlée d’amandes de mer/ Dog cockles with garlic, parsley and piment d’espelette (serves 4)
1 kg/ 2-2.5 pounds amandes de mer/ dog cockles (or medium-sized clams variety)
A bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
3 tbsp olive oil
1 glass of dry white wine
Sea-salt and black pepper
A dash of piment d’espelette
Rinse cockles in water several times and drain.
Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, stir for 1-2 minutes. Add cockles, stir 30 seconds. Add white wine, season with salt and pepper. Cover, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes, or until cockles open. Add a handful of chopped parsley and sprinkle with piment d’espelette. Serve immediately.
Daurade with herbs (serves 2)
1 daurade/ sea bream fish, approx 800-900 g, scaled and gutted
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tbsp mustard of Dijon
2 spring onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
8 sprigs of thyme
6 bay leaves
A handful of parsley
1 tbsp mustard
Sea-salt & black pepper
Preheat the oven to 210°C/ 410 F.
Place a large piece of aluminium foil onto a clean surface. Add an equal-sized layer of foil on top. Fold over the edges so they are secured together.
Place the fish onto the foil. Spoon one tablespoon of mustard and rub inside the fish cavity. Stuff the diced onion inside (keep 1 tbsp to scatter later on fish). Sprinkle fish with lemon zest, chopped parsley, thyme, diced onion, garlic, sliced spring onions and lemon juice. Drizzle olive oil all over fish, and add the bay leaves, inserting one in the fish cavity. Season with sea-salt and black pepper. Add another sheet of aluminium foil and carefully seal all edges of the foil to form an enclosed parcel. It should be tightly sealed so that the fish steams as it cooks without any steam escaping.
Place the fish in a roasting tray and transfer to the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on oven strength. When cooked, remove from the oven and place onto a large serving plate. Carefully undo the foil.
Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley and squeeze fresh lemon juice. Serve immediately with steamed vegetables.
59 thoughts on “Call of the sea”
Everything about this post is stunning. Thank you for brightening my morning!
Thanks Erica! Mimix
Once again, one of the most beautiful blog posts I’ve ever seen. I am enchanted! Thank you!
Merci beaucoup Debs – the beach is magical these days – so inspiring! Mimix
Thank you for the gifts of loveliness you bring to us.
That’s almost all the French I recall from school—-but it seemed perfect for this post
Mais alors vous parlez bien français alors? Bonne soirée, Mimix
Wonderful, inspiring writing, Mimi! Have a wonderful week. Some days ago I made your gateau basque – it was delicious! Greetings from Germany, Yushka
Thank you Yushka! So glad you enjoyed the Basque cake 🙂 Mimix
I miss living by the sea terribly! The smell, the salty, moist air, and all the gorgeous fresh fish! Perhaps one day I’ll move back, but until then I’ll enjoy it vicariously through your posts 🙂 Your daurade is beautiful adorned with the bounty of your garden! Congratulations on winning SAVEUR! You deserve it!
Bonsoir Rebecca! The sea is so moving – every time I go to the beach, whether is’s for a picnic or a swim, I come back home feeling serene and happy! Thanks so much for your kindness and support – we were so happy to win the Saveur award – such a surprise! Merci! Mimix
What amazed me were the beautiful, tight green artichokes. Fresh, fresh, fresh! And the sea looks so wonderful.
Oh thank you! We had those artichokes steamed for lunch today, along with a very strong garlic vinaigrette – it was heavenly! Bonne soirée, Mimix
Another fabulous post. Your photography is stunning! I miss France so much and can’t wait to visit our friends in Carlux.
Merci beaucoup Peter! I hope you’ll come to France soon! Bonne soirée, Mimix
Hi Mimi, we love all the great seafood we can have here in Vancouver; well we do live on the ocean…lol. Usually we have Pacific fish here. I wonder if we can get daurade/bream/porgy in the fish markets.
Oh I bet the seafood is amazing there! Would love to visit one day! Bonne soirée, Mimix
You are most welcome here Mimi. 🙂
I Mimi, I can describe your post as beautiful and delcious.
Your precious recipe was a great success, Merci Mimi!
Today I mentioned you on Kevin Sharkey’s blog from Martha Stewart.,
Best wishes xoxo
Oh thank you Rowaida! Merci for always sharing and being so kind! Much love, Mimixx
Mini, sorry I meant your previous recipe was a great success. My guests loved the dish.
Have a wonderful weekend xo
So happy to hear Rowaida! And thanks so much for mentioning me on Martha Stewart the other day 🙂 ! Have a lovely day, Mimix
Now this is what I call living the life! Amazing photos.
your fotos look so great !! and the baguettes look so delicious that one day I will emigrate to france. Actually I live in Austria and here we never will have such a baguette! Greatings Gabi
So beautiful! I always love your posts, but this one is particularly breathtaking – both the prose and the photos.
Gorgeous! the writing the pictures the food. it transports all there! thank you for bringing the sea to me!
How fabulous….the view of the ocean took my breath away! I am in awe of your culinary talent…to cook the whole fish…to deal with a whole pigeon…it takes bravery….you do it with such finesse!
Bonjour! Thank you so much for your kind words! The fishmonger did all the hard work for me, so all I had to do was decorate the fish 🙂 Such a simple meal, and so rewarding! I hope you will try this recipe – you can always replace a whole fish with fillets. Have a lovely week-end, Mimix
The coastline looks as if it stretches for miles. I’m sure you have many invigorating walks with the children and little foxies here. Daurande, it’s the perfect fish. I try and compare it to something here and I can’t…maybe a small sweet snapper…which is perfect for cooking whole…but there’s just something about the duraunde. xxx Anita
Bonjour Anita! We are lucky to have so much choice here living by the Atlantic coastline, and the beach is only 10 minutes away – we call it our ‘secret’ beach, because only the lucky few know how to get there! Growing up in Hong Kong we had fish (whole) at least 5 times a week, steamed in a wok with soya sauce, black beans, ginger, sesame oil, spring onion, garlic and fresh coriander. That and a bowl of steamed white rice was heavenly! This Daurade is my French version served with haricots verts! Bon week-end! Mimix
I continue to be inspired by your gorgeous posts/recipes! I just recently received word that I will be blogging my own food posts for a local farm and market! Thanks for the inspiration. http://obsessivision.com/portfolio/food/
Thank you for this Daurade recipe… so simple and delicious… I often get nervous about cooking fish… I am not sure why… but this looks like one I could easily follow!
And as for your pups… heaven… xv
Thank you Vicki! It is very easy to cook fish – I am sure you will enjoy this daurade, especially the decorating part. It’s such a rewarding meal. Bon week-end! Mimix
hello Mimi, I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while now…so beautiful and inspiring..my husband, baby and I are planning a holiday in the medoc i a few weeks and I was wondering if you can recommend some nice quiet villages by the ocean that are worth spending a few days..thank you!
ps: we are driving down from belgium 🙂
Those tulips are unbelievably tall! And gorgeous too.
This post so perfectly captures what it feels like to be connected to food and inspired by your surroundings. I love your wording of “decorating” a fish as that is exactly what it is when you have such a lovely fish to begin with.
When I saw the words ‘fragrant harbour’ I wondered with my very basic Mandarin whether you grew up in Hong Kong. And via your ‘About’ page I have found you did! I am sure it was an amazingly energetic place to grow up. And the food you would have eaten…! Lovely post as always Mimi. It makes me want to get back to the sea. There is just something about a sea horizon that provides contentment.
Bonjour Flora! So happy you picked up on that! Yes, ‘fragrant harbour’ is none other than Hong Kong, where I spent so many inspiring, magical and delicious years. Thank you 🙂 ! Bon week-end, Mimix
Thank you Mimi for sharing these nice pictures to us! I just made a little journey through Médoc and your home and now I have hunger on fish 🙂 I wish you a nice weekend! Nadine
What a beautiful photo! I really love your blog and your photos and recipes!
I read yor blog..to take a trip away. With your words I can travel to a dream place I can only go in my head. Envy is not the word, because I hope one day to live somewhere as lovely as this..
Mimi, your photos always throw me. They are enchanting, beautifull and remind me of old stilllife pictures.
Thank you! So very touched by your kind words! My husband (he’s the photographer) will be very happy to hear this – merci! Mimix
Hi Mimi, I have a mission for you! I love to grow eggplant, but I never know how to cook them so I always end up giving my crop away. I’ve loved every recipe of yours I’ve tried. Do you think you could come up with an interesting recipe for eggplant so that I can enjoy eating them as well as growing them? Thanks!
Bonjour Sarah! How I wish I was your neighbour, so you wouldn’t have to throw any crops away! There’s a ratatouille recipe on the blog (we often make this meal at home, to be serve with a golden fried egg on top), and I made 2 recipes yesterday with lovely aubergines, so stay tuned (will try to post tonight). Have a lovely day, Mimix
Stunning photos and recipes! I get your sentiment about the call of the sea 🙂
Merci Anh! Bonne journée, Mimix
Your blog makes me want to travel so badly…this is beautiful, I even enjoyed saying all the French words, even if I don’t speak French! I too miss the sea, I used to live off of the Pacific, and I recall the smell as well, so lovely 🙂
The shot where the clouds seem to mimic the sea, leaves me breathless…
Merci! It does look like a dream! Mimix
Hi Mimi! The sea looks so enchanting in Médoc! I wholeheartedly agree – there’s nothing better than starting Sundays with the hustle and bustle of a morning market!
Lovely photos – the dunes remind me of the Norfolk coast, and your dogs look so happy! I love visiting the beach off season too.
the fish looks incredible! and a lovely post as always
this post reminds me of a children’s book i grew up loving called, The Magic Fish (http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Fish-Freya-Littledale/dp/0590411004). your photos and words are always so lovely.
I love the way you combined the ocean photos with food. Great idea!
If given a choice, I would eat seafood every day! And I too just love cooking a whole fish, with head, tail and skin on 🙂
How happy your dogs look! Wonder how you keep them, knowing you’ve got 14 – are they in a kennel or in the house with you?
Also, I hear many foreigners find purchasing land or a home in France quite challenging with all the beaurocracy – was it easier for you because of your connections to France?
Your photography is so gorgeous. I love coming over to your blog and dreaming of cooking up some of these recipes!