View Post

Scampi Diabolique (devil prawns)

FROM BAR FOOD, TO FANCY APPETIZER, TO MAIN COURSE Prawns or scampi diabolique is an absolute staple in any restaurant or pub where I come from. In a restaurant it might be offered as an appetizer or a main course; and in a pub setting it’s the perfect dish to accompany a bottle of wine, friendly conversation… a boozy night on the town. I like the latter purpose of devil shrimp, served with crusty baguette to dip into the spicy sauce. You’ll find many ways to prepare this lovely dish and in time I’m sure you’ll choose one and make it your own. In my kitchen, I make the “short” version with help from the supermarket. I use canned lobster bisque as a base for my sauce. It’s a personal favorite for me, something that is both humble and fancy. For guests I may serve it with rice or fresh …

View Post

Putain de merde! Writing 2020 off of my shoulders

The last week of the year is normally a time of reflection for me as it probably is for many people across the globe. At the end of 2020, I vowed not to. Because… why? What was the point? What could I possibly reflect upon more than what I had already demanded of myself, or screamed into my own ears, or lie curled up in a ball worrying about? With the festive season safely behind us and both feet firmly planted into the new year – that’s 2021 in case you were wondering – it’s probably time to write the traumatic experience that was 2020, off of me, and to regain a sense of hope and even a sense of humour about it all. After all… aren’t people going through so much worse on any given day and what the hell do I have to be so sad about? Well. …

View Post

Vouvant, Painters’ Village in the Vendée

Resting snugly in the arms of the Mère river at the edge of the largest oak tree forest in France lies one of the most beautiful villages of France. Vouvant, whose narrow streets demand a languid stroll in admiration of ancient architecture and a colorful plethora of flowers, seems to have been kissed by the gentle lips of history and tended by the loving care of faeries. A lovely drive toward the south-east corner of the Vendéen countryside will quickly point in its direction. Accept the challenge of discovery and you will quickly understand why Vouvant is lovingly referred to as the painter’s village. An introduction – The beginnings of Vouvant are somewhat mystical according to legend. The tale goes that the original castle here was created in just one night by the fairy Mélusine as a gift to the village. Of this castle only the donjon that dominates its …

View Post

My mother’s Frangipane

Not quite a Gallete des Rois but just as delicious! January 6th – the Christian Feast of the Three Kings or the Epiphany – is coming. Traditionally this is a day when a “Galette des Rois” is consumed ‘en masse’ in France. It is a puff pastry filled with almond-based cake or frangipane and a ‘bean’ hidden inside, typically in the form of a small golden crown or a genie lamp. French bakeries and super markets sell this typical delicacy with a golden crown. The person who gets the bean, gets to be King and wear the crown. My mother’s Frangipane doesn’t have the puff pastry but it is super delicious, my personal fav to serve with afternoon coffee or tea. I bake it often because typically I have the ingredients at hand and what’s more, the preparation is quick and easy, and you can’t really mess it up either! My …

View Post

The days to avoid driving in France summer 2021

France is the most popular travel destination in Europe with under normal circumstances over eighty-one-million worldwide visitors per year, but it is unclear how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect traffic on French motorways in 2020. France typically sees top traffic every July and August weekend. However, the outer European borders of countries where the virus-related health situation is not under control, remain closed. Travelers’ fears of contracting the disease abroad will also have an adverse affect on travel to or through France. This year, however, French natives may decide to vacation in-country, choosing a driving holiday over flying which may balance things out again. Additionally, the extra measures put in place at borders to control and to trace the spread of the disease, may put people off traveling. It’s also important to note new peeks of Corona virus in certain areas such as Catalonia in Spain, with governments (e.g. Belgium) …

View Post

Getting to the Vendée

Travelling to the Vendée is easy thanks to the proximity of airports, railway stations and well-maintained access routes. If your destination is Le Bocage Vendéen (the countryside) or the Marais Poitevin, narrow country roads add another dimension to the charm and authenticity of the area. No matter your point of departure or mode of transportation, we hope to see you soon in the Vendée! Airports and countries With some planning ahead you can get very affordable flights from within Europe. to Nantes or La Rochelle airports. Planning itineraries from elsewhere in the world to these airports can be expensive but allowing yourself enough time and by splitting the itineraries, it could be done. Research to find best options! Fly to the Vendée via Nantes Airport from these countries and cities ▸ Austria Innsbruck Vienna ▸ Algeria Algiers ▸ Belgium Brussels ▸ Bulgaria Burgas Varna ▸ Canada Montreal ▸ Croatia Dubrovnik …

View Post

Apéro honey-mustard dipping sauce

A versatile sauce for many dishes and we’ve included three! Honey mustard sauce is a very tasty addition to your apéro table. It’s sweet and tangy, it’s sweet and a little bit spicy, and it’s super sweet because it takes no more than five minutes to make and keeps for up to a week. The longer it stores in the fridge, the stronger the flavor. So, if it’s not spicy tasting right when you make it, the next day you’ll catch that hint of cayenne at the back of the throat. It can be served to accompany an array of finger foods. It can be more fatty or more healthy. It can be used for a plethora of things in the kitchen, such as: marinade for barbecue, deviled eggs, as a glaze for a pork roast or ham, as a sauce on a hamburger, glaze for seared ahi tuna, on …

View Post

Apéro Mini Vol-au-Vent

For apéritif we handle them quickly! At our house we are not planning to conjure up a big party menu this Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We don’t have any guests and actually “apéro dining” is something we do every Friday evening anyway; just a lot of snacks we like with a cocktail or a bottle of Cava and a nice movie. For us it’s a cozy, relaxing way to end the week. When I prepare vol-au-vent as a meal, it involves a lot of work and love. “In grandmother’s way” you know… I don’t do that for apéro-dining. First, not much filling is needed for the mini-pastries, and second it shouldn’t take so much of my time. These mini vol-au-vents are tasty AND quick. Ingredients and preparation – mini-vol-au-vent For 24 – 30 mini-pastries 2 chicken breasts cut into small pieces 1/2 lemon – juiced 50g/50g butter and plain …

View Post

Château de la Preuille joins the Dakar Rally in 2021

The Dakar Rally, renowned for being the biggest and toughest off-road race in the world, will have one of our very own Vendéen châtelains among its participants in 2021. In just a few day’s time, Paul Las van Bennekom of Château de la Preuille will be joining the Dakar Press Team for the 7600 kilometer race, a dream come true for the Dutch expat! Founded by Thierry Sabine in 1978, the race formerly known as Paris-Dakar is now called “The Dakar”. From 2009 to 2019 it was forced to move to South-America due to security threats. Since 2020 the drivers face the arduous adventure in Saudi Arabia. Is Paul ready for the challenge? Chasing dreams is par for the course in the life of Paul Las van Bennekom and his wife Sandra. Last year they bought the lovely Château de la Preuille in Saint Hilaire de Loulay located in beautiful …

View Post

Lettuce wraps with beets, endive, and apple (v)

So crispy fresh and delicious It’s a salad, yes. How does a salad become finger food? Simple, by cutting everything extra fine and serving it as a wrap. A lettuce wrap – or in this case I also used endive leaf ‘boats’ – that is at once refreshing, crispy, slightly tart and goes well with any of our other apéro suggestions. It’s just wonderful and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be equally awesome as a stand alone salad throughout the summer season, or as part of a picnic. I’ll be honest, people who don’t like vegetables might not like this. But that’s okay… more for those who do like this kind of thing! Ingredients and preparation – Lettuce wraps with beets, endive, and apple – Vegetarian Makes about 10 wraps plus some extra (see cup) 1 fresh butterhead lettuce (laitue) 1 sweet apple peeled (preferably Pink-Lady) 1 stalk endive cut …

View Post

Market Days in the Vendée

Markets in France are typically held in the mornings from 8h00 to 13h00. They are usually up-and-running by 9h00. Do check village websites for cancellations, though these are not always announced. Winter Cabbages: savoy, white, brussels sprouts, broccoli. mushrooms (wild and other), endive, avocados, beets, carrots, cauliflower, chard, fennel, green onions, kale, parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squashes/ pumpkins, citrus fruits (grapefruit, lemons, oranges, clementines), dates, pears, apples For a summary of markets in the Vendée, please keep scrolling. The markets highlighted here are organised in or around the Vendée. They are worth your time due to their seize, focus, or interesting location to perfectly combine shopping and sightseeing. Keep scrolling for our comprehensive list of markets. Covid-19 update: our market list dates from 2020 before coronavirus. Please check local websites and facebook pages for protocols or cancellations. inthevendee.com is not responsible for cancellations.  Niort Niort, with its narrow streets …

View Post

Apéro fried ravioli and marinara sauce dip (v)

Quick and easy. AND tasty! Fried ravioli is kind of a finger food staple for as long as I can remember. It’s cheap to make, quick and is sure to please everybody around the apéro table. What’s more, measurements are not really necessary, because you can’t go wrong. We use sunflower (tournesol) frying oil, but you can use whatever you’re used to, use a deep fryer or a pan like we d0. You can also use any fresh ravioli you like, stuffed with cheese or other things. Ingredients and preparation – fried ravioli with marinara sauce (vegetarian) 1  or more bags of fresh ravioli from the supermarket breadcrumbs eggs marina sauce – make your own or buy at supermarket as you wish spices: paprika powder, dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper – no set measurements, use them liberally sunflower or other frying oil and paper towel for …

View Post

Préfou de Vendée – garlic bread (v)

Making Préfou from scratch surprised me! Until this moment we had only ever bought the pale préfou at the supermarket… well… never again! This homemade garlic bread, a Vendéen delicacy although we’re relatively sure that the term delicacy in relation to loads of garlic is a total oxymoron, is scrumptious. Until now we had only been familiar with the Italian garlic bread which we now realise is like the “milquetoast” version of REAL garlic bread. (Milquetoast is a word that has been around since 1925 and means ‘meek’). So, what is préfou and where does it live in Vendée history? In the countryside near Fontenay-le-Comte, long before we had the modern convenience of thermostats to tell us when the oven was hot enough to bake, Vendéen bakers had the clever idea to throw a piece of bread into the oven to check the temperature. Once the bread was pale but …

View Post

Apéro alligator pull apart bread (v)

Ridiculously easy and delicious It’s very simple…. think of your most beloved melting cheese(s), nuts, and ingredients that work well together. Stuff it all randomly into a loaf of bread, bake it and voila. Not only is it super pretty (we called it alligator bread because it looks like the back of an alligator), but it goes well with any apéritif, the children will love it, and just like pizza, you can do a half and half. In our house that works well as we don’t necessarily enjoy the same cheeses. You will enjoy this so much. It’s versatile for guests too… ask them ahead of time which ingredients they love and make one just for them to share. Finger foods made to order. We love that idea! Ingredients and preparation – Alligator pull apart bread (vegetarian) 1 small round brown sourdough PAIN BATARD bread (not sliced) – or another …

View Post

Apéro-time Empanadas

The appetizer that works every time! Empanadas are the Central -and South American version of pasties, crescent-shaped, savory pastries filled with a variety of ingredients. They are usually fried, but we prefer baking them to golden perfection. They are quite versatile and can be filled with meat or even made in a delicious Caribbean-style vegetarian version simply by replacing the meat with boiled and shredded  (sweet)potato and carrots. Even better… you can make them ahead of time and freeze, so you always have something to serve unexpected guests that is (almost completely) homemade and thaws/ reheats/ bakes quickly. When we have a party or for any fancy occasion like Christmas -or New Year’s eve, these beef-olive-raisin empanadas are on the menu as a favorite finger food. Hope you enjoy! Ingredients and preparation – Appetizer Empanadas For about 40 appetizers 175 gr lean minced beef – for this recipe, minced turkey …

View Post

Chickpeas and Kale (v)

In the Kale-for-Winter post I had already described how I typically stock up on this healthy treat before winter by blanching in broth and freezing for soups and stews. This vegetarian (or vegan with just a small change) recipe is an example where I use one of my ‘treasure packages’. I call them that because I love this ‘green gold’ that much. Kale is a superfood with many health benefits. Like Popeye and his spinach, I feel stronger when I consume it. This is where my work before winter pays off because this recipe is so tasty and easy to make, and all I have to do to finish it is to drop one of my kale-frozen-in-broth packages into the pot at the very end. If you really don’t like kale, another potent green vegetable will work too, including spinach. This is not a chickpea stew, nor is it a …

View Post

American-style Meatloaf

Meatloaf or meatbread can be found in many cultures around the world! Meatloaf is typically something we like to eat in fall and winter as it’s so delicious with mashed potatoes and other winter veg. But it’s just as good in the summer too, as a sandwich on toast with spicy mustard and mayo, perhaps a pickle to accompany it, and with an ice cold beer to accompany it. The concept of turning a large amount of minced meat (ground meat) into a large loaf to feed a family, is not new. From Austria to Vietnam and everywhere in between, many countries around the world have some version of meatloaf in their cuisine. Pinpointing the origin is not easy, but we can be quite sure that the tradition for meatloaf is rooted in frugality. To feed a large number of people with just pennies to spend. When I was a …

View Post

Château de l’Hermenault and Garesché: connecting Vendée to world history

Chatting with the current châtelaine of Château de l’Hermenault, it came to light that the person who sold the beautiful castle to her forefather in 1806 had been Daniel Garesché, mayor of La Rochelle in 1791-1792. In our pleasantly lengthy conversation, the kind châtelaine said “Garesché family is fascinating. You should look it up.” … So, we did. We found in Daniel Garesché a man who was part of a veritable dynasty. A family that, to put it mildly, left their at times muddy boot prints on the history of France, Haiti, and the United States of America. With the motto “Jamais sans Espérance” (Never Without Hope) to lend a strong hand, it is the story of close-knit family built on patriarchal opportunism and survival spanning centuries, and touching the Vendée along the way. To truly understand the opportunistic make-up of this family it is necessary to travel back to …

View Post

Orangette No-Bake Cheesecake

Cheesecake anybody? Yes, please! What I don’t have to bake it? NOPE! This cheesecake is something I adapted from an old recipe that my mother had, but with significant changes. In fact by the time I was done revising the recipe, there wasn’t much left of the original. I have found that letting it set in the fridge for 4 to 5 hours, as my mom’s recipe suggested, it not enough. There are two fixes for this: OR you make the cheesecake very early in the morning to serve in the afternoon for coffee, OR you can use gelatin sheets to help it along. I chose the first option, and it worked out just fine. After ample time in the fridge (or even overnight!) the filling is the consistency of a baked cheesecake… like a mousse. Very yummy! And husband approved. His favorite candy is orangettes, and he’s my favorite …

View Post

Baked salmon roll with endive and leeks

Leeks and endive are two veggies that we love at our house. Growing up, they were regularly served in one way or another and even as a child, I loved it all. Both leeks and endive are vegetables are incredibly versatile. If I could have had one Euro for every time that a cashier in the U.S. asked me these two strange vegetables they were ringing up for me and how to cook them, I would sit behind this keyboard with heavy pockets. How could I possible answer that question anyway. The meals you can make with them certainly do not begin or end with leek soup or endive au gratin. THIS recipe surprised even me. It is incredibly delicious. Silky… lemony… With the Holiday Season coming, this salmon roll with endive and leeks baked in a delicate sauce can be the star on your festive table. A little background …

View Post

Easy banana bread

Is it time to use up the overripe bananas in your fruit basket? Yes? Great timing! This banana bread recipe is so easy you can do it with your eyes closed. The hardest part about it is that it will be in the oven for an hour or more and that the aromas floating through the house will have you mouthwatering for at least half of that time. And your spouse and children and grandchildren, if you have them, will be hovering about with impatience. Because… who doesn’t love banana bread? Ingredients and preparation Easy Banana Bread For 1 large loaf (TIP: please don’t use an electric mixer for this – use a wooden spoon to make the dough) You will need: 2 mixing bowls large cake/bread form butter to grease the form preheat the oven to 160C or 320F download conversion chart 2 cups self-rising flour 3 large overripe …