I accidentally just made a great salad. It was an accident because it includes lentils which I usually avoid. The bottom line is that I’m about to serve duck for dinner with a side of lentil salad … I’m sure I’ll come up with a more creative name for it by the time I’ve finished writing this post but that’s what we shall call it for now. So what’s the show you ask? A series of SMS messages coming at me every minute or so from my husband who is currently sitting at the Limoux piscine (piscine = pool: I use the French translation because it’s his favourite french word). He very gallantly volunteered to help with swimming lessons for the kids school in May. His help was gratefully received … and then they sent a note home.
“Please report to the Limoux municipal pool on a cold Monday night in February so that we can check if you actually can swim. We will be the judge of your swimming capabilities. Please don’t wear boardies – we want to see what you really look like under those winter coats. Wear DTs (as us Aussie’s know them) or tighty whities. And what we’re not telling you is that we will first make you sit through a lecture on what we will actually be teaching the kids – because it’s very important that you know all this three months out from the actual lessons. On a Monday night. In the cold. Thirty minutes from home. Oh and by the way, the lecture will be all in French so you won’t understand a word. But it is polite to sit through it all with an impressed look on your face, and nod occasionally to show your interest. Thankyou so much for your help – we really appreciate it. We couldn’t do swimming lessons without the valuable help from parents like you.”
So, as you can tell, I may be inflating this story just a little, but the officialdom around ten swimming lessons in a country school for no more than 27 students is slightly amusing. One thing is for sure, I will not be nervous about my children participating … I think their safety needs will be well-covered.
Allow me to double back to the type of swimwear that parents were asked to wear … just in case you missed it. If a good-looking Aussie guy walks into the pool trying to wear boardies, he will be forbidden to swim. This is what we had heard, so I decided to double check with our go-to man here in our little village, Monsieur le Mairie. He answered me in French and said “yes that is correct, you need to wear tight swimming costumes, although a lengthier short is allowed, so long as it is tight. And he must also wear a rubber duckie around his waste.” He said this to me with a straight face so it took me a second to appreciate that he too found the requirements a little stringent. Nevertheless, it meant hubby had to take a trip to town to invest in some tight togs so he didn’t offend. Let it be known that I did not assist him on this particular shopping trip.
All photographic evidence that I tried to collect of his black and fluro pink (yep, that’s what he bought) swimming shorts has been destroyed. Hubby has a background in security so there’s no way he was going to let those photos slip through his grasp. I’m not sure why he felt he needed fluro pink shorts, but all I got by way of explanation was “they looked red in the store … they were definitely red when I bought them” from a very grave looking face indeed.
So imagine the show I enjoyed when he proceeded to keep me updated on the whole hilarious night via SMS while it was actually happening. His french is improving so he picked up a phrase here and there. They covered a policy that was created in 1937 and is still effective today. Really?? They drew stick figures so all the parents could understand what the swimmers would be taught. And they explained that any “helper” on their mobile phone WHILST in the pool would not be covered by insurance should anything happen to a child on their watch. Gee I’m glad that was covered – now it’s clear.
So back to dinner … duck is very popular here in France. And they’re huge! I don’t really want to know why they’re so huge; all I know is that they taste amazing and it is by far my favourite meat dish here. I’ve been practicing cooking duck breast quite a bit since we arrived so now I think I have it just right. Here’s my recipe for duck breast and lentil salad. If I just change it to French, I have my exotic title: Magret du Canard aux Lentilles. Perfect!
Magret du Canard Aux Lentilles
Ingredients – serves 4-5
2 large duck breasts (or 4 small)
1-2 tbsp orange blossom honey
1 cup green lentils
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup slivered almonds
50gms fresh rocket
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, fan forced. Put a large saucepan on to boil with the lentils and 2 cups of water. As soon as the water boils, turn down the temperature to facilitate a gentle simmer for a further 20 minutes. Add the cumin to flavour the water.
As the oven is heating up, put the slivered almonds in to brown for 5 minutes and cube the sweet potato. Once the almonds are brown and fragrant, roast the sweet potato cubes for about 30 minutes with coconut oil, salt and pepper.
Prepare the duck breast by drying it in a paper towel. Rub salt into the fat and turn a large frying pan on high heat. Cook the duck breast fat side down to render the fat for about 5 minutes. It should be a lovely golden colour. Remove from the pan and place on an oven tray, fat side up. Drizzle the honey over the fat and place in the oven to finish for about 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180 degrees as you put the duck in. Keep the duck fat left in the pan for tomorrow night’s roast potatoes!
Meanwhile, add salt to the lentil water just as it’s finishing, and drain. Add to a bowl with the rocket and almonds. Add the sweet potato once it’s cooked and caramelised. Dress the warm lentil salad with olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve.
The duck breast should be a dark pink to pale brown colour. Slice diagonally and plate on top of the lentils. Bon appetit!