salade niçoise avec thon rouge
niçoise avec thon rouge
Salterton, Devon 3 December 2006 A near hurricane passed through
Topsham in the early hours of this morning. We were awoken at around
4am to the most determined and severe of gales: the wind howled through
our tightly sealed, weatherproofed windows, insisting that we wake,
while outside the swollen river surged up with the 3.7 metre spring
tide in a succession of breaking waves that crashed into our garden
wall, throwing spumes of foam and salt spray high into the blackness
of the night sky. Fortunately the tides weren't any higher (earlier
in the year they had reached levels of 4.5 metres) or else there would
most certainly have been serious flooding. Downstairs, our domestic
defences were minorly breached when a window in the conservatory was
blown open, and rain that must have been nearly horizontal was driven
through this slim aperture, soaking our dining table and wooden floor,
leaving behind huge pools of water. After mopping up the floor, then
having sat vigil until the worst was over as the hour of high tide passed,
we returned to bed and tried to get back to sleep, though without great
success. I finally gave up and went downstairs in the early hours to
watch the final session of the third day of the 2nd Ashes Test Match
down under at Adelaide (England are well poised).
daylight, the skies had cleared, and, though it was still very breezy,
the morning was bright, the air very clean and fresh, with a deep blue
winter sky and high, white, fast-moving clouds. It was as if the exhilarating
power of the raging storm - embodying a force that was powerful, determined
and too strong to be contained (like the force of a mother's love) -
had passed through, its brief passage serving to blow away the day's
(if not life's) storm clouds, the threatening darkness, the black and
night-like abyss that we are all sometimes forced to look into.
was Sunday and the plan was to go to Budleigh Salterton, first to
swim in the sea (yes, even in December) and then to have a cook-out
on the beach. Our dear friend Joan, had she been with us, would
almost certainly have been the first in the water, whatever the
time of year, the weather, the temperature. And indeed she would
have shamed us all into joining her. Afterwards, we were going to
fire up the portable travel Weber, and, on the pebbles of Budleigh
beach, cook thon rouge over
charcoal and feast on good French bread and olives, washed down with vin
rouge was a favourite of Joan's
that we had enjoyed together many times over the years - we remember
in particular just such a simple feast when we'd met up in St
Remy de Provence some years back when we were travelling through
the South of France on our voyages for our book research. We had
toured St Remy's wonderful outdoor market that morning and purchased
huge steaks of thon
rouge, some cheap vin rouge and also, I recall,
a magnificent - and very expensive - bottle of huile d'olive extra
that came from the famous Mas de la Dame wine estate in Les Baux de
Provence. This was a very special olive oil and Joan was particularly
looking forward to sampling it. We toured the Roman ruins of St Remy
that day and returned to their rented gîte to prepare
our evening meal. As always, the vin rouge flowed copiously,
the first litre bottle soon emptied, another opened.
The thon rouge that
night, as prepared by Joan - she cooked it beautifully simply - served
with a salad dressed with that exquisite huile, and washed
down with that simple, anonymous vin rouge from
an unlabelled litre bottle, was as perfect a meal as you could ever
son Guy was only six years old, Bella just one: for us it was simply
great to be in Joan and Gal's company, relaxing, as the wine flowed,
while they regaled us with tales of France, stories about travels with
their own children, and learning from them important lessons about the
most basic and fundamental things in life: that every moment of every
day matters; that, like precious oil, you should never waste a single
sea today at Budleigh Salterton was too rough for swimming, yes, even
for Joan. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it rougher: churned
up from the sandstone sea bed, the boiling waters were stained a deep
wine red. Huge foaming waves pounded relentlessly onto the steep, pebbled
beach, wave after wave. As the undertow drew back, the sound of the
rushing, retreating waters over the big, smooth Budleigh pebbles was
a constant roar. No, swimming today was definitely out of the question.
bad," said Jilly, with that beautiful, lovely, cheeky grin of hers.
would have held the towels."
if swimming was out of the question, drinking wine most certainly
couldn't bring Gal's whole wine box," said Kevin. "It was
too heavy and my tennis elbow has been playing up. It must be 10 litres!
So I decanted it into something suitable."
that he drew out from his bag a bottle of Gal's famous Cuvée
Spéciale 'Derrières les Fagots' and poured us all a glass.
does the business
so, standing on the beach, fine spray from the waves blowing into our
faces, we toasted Joan, remembered happy times, and drank deeply.
Joan!' (as Jilly holds on to her hat)
spread out some rugs on the stones and sat down, determined to enjoy
Joan's outdoor feast at Budleigh Salterton. But the wind by now had
picked up again and it really was bitterly, outrageously cold. I could
almost hear Joan's insistent refusal to be defeated. But dammit, there
are limits! And just behind us along the promenade there was a splendid
beach shelter, gleaming white and deep blue in the low afternoon sun.
we?" After a moment's hesitation, another throat-rasping gulp of
'Derrières les Fagots', we all agreed: "Yes!" and packed
up and hurried to shelter.
little hut was the perfect spot: protected from the wind, with the low
sun streaming in, and just above the pounding waves along the beach.
We spread out on the benches with our splendid feast, our bottles of
'Derrieres les Fagots', Bella and Kim laying out the plates and glasses
and knives and forks. How terribly, terribly, wonderfully smug we must
have looked, in the warmth of that shelter, as all those out for a bracing
Sunday walk along the Budleigh promenade looked in on us in envy as
they struggled past our special spot!
for Joan's thon rouge, I hope all will understand that under
such severe, near hurricane conditions, it would not have been possible
to fire up the travel Weber. So in anticipation of this, I chargrilled
the tuna steaks chez nous while Kim prepared a wonderful
salade niçoise, with good Romaine lettuce and mesclun, hardboiled
eggs, marinaded black olives, tomatoes, cooked green beans, and a garlicky
then, was our special feast, enjoyed in Joan's hut, in memory of a very
special lady and a very dear and much loved friend. Beautiful and elegant,
she was powerful, determined, exhilarating, a force too strong to be
contained! For us all, we will always feel her presence on walks at
Budleigh Salterton beach, in the roar of the waves, in the red, wine
dark sea on sunny and stormy days alike.
salade niçoise avec thon rouge
thon rouge steaks
Huile d'olive (the best you can find)
Salt and pepper
Mixed salad leaves
6 hardboiled eggs
Black and green pitted marinaded olives
Cooked green beans
4 parts huile d'olive extra vièrge
1 part red wine vinegar
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
the thon rouge steaks in olive oil, salt and black pepper.
Chargrill or cook in a griddle pan as you like (we like our tuna still
pink), probably 3-5 minutes per side. Set aside and when cool, break
into large pieces.
the salad by mixing everything together lightly with the hands. Dress
with the vinaigrette. Serve on plates with the thon rouge place
on top of the salad. Drizzle a little extra vinaigrette over the
wine: Cuvée Spéciale 'Derrieres les Fagots' of
course. Nothing else will quite do.