I was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in the north of France. Max hails from Lille, close to the Belgian border.
Lille has a reputation for cold, rainy weather, but also for the kindness of the people who live there. So much so that a common catch phrase of the region is: “Il fait froid a l’extérieur mais chaud a l’intérieur”.
When you first think of Lille, many people immediately think of the rather unfair portrayal of the city in ‘Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis’.
But when I think of Lille, I think of the fogged up windows of warm bistros on rainy days. I picture La Braderie in September and mountains of moules frites. But most of all, my thoughts turn to two dishes: une carbonade flamande, and un welsh.
Une carbonade flamande consists of slow-cooked beef seasoned with mustard and gingerbread soaked in dark Belgian beer. Traditionally served with frites and salad in a bistro – this dish is certainly not what you’d call a light meal, and is therefore best enjoyed on a cold, rainy winters day. Which, luckily for those of you who love this dish as much as me, is most days in Lille.
Perhaps borrowed from the English cookbooks, un welsh follows the same principle of une carbonade flamande in terms of offering a hearty, beer-soaked dish. Few, simple ingredients combine to produce a meal that is at once richly flavourful, inherently warming and intensely satisfying.
Take a slice of bread, une tranche or two of ham, then add a delicious mix of Belgian beer and thick, gooey, melted cheese and finish with a crème brûlée-esque blow torching to give a delicious caramelised cheese crust.
Et voilà, Lille on a plate!
Image of Lille in the rain courtesy of mrjamie on Flickr.
Image of carbonade flamande courtesy of put_the_needle_on_the_record on Flickr.
Image of beer used in a welsh courtesy of Boris & Co on Flickr.