En saison: What to put on your plate in December
Because the French never eat strawberries in winter and even different types of goat’s cheese have seasonality...
Every month the French Ministry for Agriculture and Food presents its selection of seasonal fruits, vegetables, fish and cheeses, to encourage people to consume local and sustainable produce throughout the year. We feature it every month in French Living, the Connexion's lifestyle supplement.
Clementine from Corsica (the only place in France where the fruit is grown), kiwi, mandarin, pear, apple, orange.
Beetroot, carrot, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, endive, turnip, onion, parsnip, leek, potato, pumpkin, squash, Jerusalem artichoke, salsify, watercress.
Focus on: Beets
A root vegetable, the beet belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family (also including spinach and marsh samphire). Formerly cultivated for medicinal purposes, beets conquered European gastronomy during the Renaissance period. First lauded in the 17th century by the agronomist (those advocating the use of plants for nutrition) Olivier de Serres, it is now a common ingredient.
There are three varieties: sugar beet, rich in sucrose; fodder beet for animal feed; and vegetable beet or red beet, which we eat. France is Europe’s second largest producer of beets after Italy. The country’s consumption is about 1.2 kg per capita per year – and a commonly enjoyed recipe is beetroot and goat’s cheese salad.
Fish, shellfish and crustaceans
Scallop, oyster, whelk, langoustine, langoustine, barbecued lobster, sea bass, sea bream, herring, gurnard, clam, whiting, red mullet, Warty Venus clam, haddock.
Focus on Warty Venus clams (Venus verrucosa): Larger than a standard clam and with a pronounced iodine marine taste, the praire (known as a ‘Warty Venus Clam’ in English) is a shellfish covered with a thick, lined shell.
A burrowing bivalve, the Warty Venus can live on the coastal seabed up to a hundred metres deep. Its fishing, widespread in the Norman and Brittany gulfs, is practiced from mid-September to the end of April – the season is closed from May 1 to September 8. Granville (Basse-Normandie) is the leading French port with (anecdotally) 80% of the catch.
Seasonal recipe: Stuffed Warty Venus
Ingredients: one bunch of flat parsley, 50g semi-salted butter, a small clove of garlic, two shallots, six Warty Venus clams per person.
Chop the fresh parsley. Mix it with the shallots, crushed garlic, salted butter (room temperature). Place one teaspoon of this mixture in each half-clam (it is necessary to open them one hour before tasting). Grill for seven minutes.
For the Christmas table...
Some things are essential to any self-respecting Réveillon meal – the lengthy family feast enjoyed with plenty of accompanying wine on Christmas Eve. For a starter you might serve oysters, scallops (Coquille St-Jacques), foie gras with toast or smoked salmon. The main course might be turkey with chestnut stuffing, roasted goose or lobster for those feeling particularly generous. Dessert is a true feast and spectacle with the Bûche de Noël at its heart. In Provence, you would serve 13 desserts, one each for Jesus and 12 apostles.