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For four as a starter:
• A large pan of boiling water to which a wine glass full of white wine vinegar or cider vinegar has been added
• 24 frog’s legs
• 50g unsalted butter
• Two cloves of garlic
• One glass of white wine (off dry for preference – something like a Vouvray or a Côteaux de Layon)
• A good tablespoon of finely chopped parsley or summer savory.
• Salt & black peper to season
1. Frogs’ legs are pretty much inevitably supplied frozen these days and should be defrosted in accordance with the packaging instructions. Plunge the legs into the boiling water, return to the boil and cook for a minute, then drain.
2. Melt the butter in a large, heavy frying pan, add the garlic, fry for a few moments then add the frogs’ legs and fry for a couple of minutes on each side.
3. Pour in the glass of wine and cook over a high heat, turning the legs occasionally, until the wine is almost completely reduced.
4. Place the legs on a warmed serving dish and pour over the juices from the pan. Season and garnish with the chopped parsley or savory. Eat as an entrée with bread and the more of the same wine you used for the cooking.
Serves four. The dish contains saffron, which has been grown in the Vendée and nearby regions since the 16th century, though finding authentically French saffron can be quite hard these days. Some recipes call for the use of curry powder in its place, a nod perhaps to the spice trade that flourished through ports such as La Rochelle for many years.
• 2kg cleaned mussels
• A glass of dry white wine
• A good pinch of saffron
• The juice of a lemon
• 50g unsalted butter
• One clove garlic
• A tablespoon of plain flour
• A sprig of parsley
• 150ml thick cream or crème fraîche
1. Pick over the mussels and discard any that are open and fail to close when tapped or have broken shell.
2. Heat the wine in a large pan until boiling and add the mussels. Toss them in the hot wine until they have opened. Discard any that have failed to open. Place the opened mussels on a serving platter and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquor through a fine sieve and reserve.
3. In a small bowl, soak the strands of saffron in the lemon juice.
4. In a large pan (large enough to accommodate the mussels later on), melt the butter, fry the garlic in it for a couple of minutes then add the flour and mix to make a roux.
5. To the roux, slowly add the reserved cooking liquor, stirring continuously to make a smooth sauce. Add the parsley and the saffron mixture, season well with salt & black pepper, then add the mussels to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Add the cream and heat for one minute before transferring the mussels back to the serving platter and pouring over the sauce. Serve with bread to mop up the sauce.
If you are collecting snails from the wild (and why shouldn’t you? They are gratis
For four people:
• About 100 snails
• A large onion, finely chopped
• A thick slice of jambon de Vendée, diced
• Butter for frying
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 50g of softened butter mixed thoroughly with 50g flour
• A bouquet garni of thyme and bay
• 500ml of sturdy red wine
• 1 litre of vegetable stock
1. In a lager pan, gently fry off the onion until transparent then add the ham, fry for a further minute of so and add the snails. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring them around periodically. Remove the snails from their shells – a larding needle or a cocktail stick is a good tool for this
2. In the meantime, bring the wine and stock to the boil, add the crushed garlic cloves and the bouquet garni, then the snail mixture and then simmer very gently.
3. Towards the end of cooking, ladle out some of the sauce and place in a small pan, bring to the boil and whisk in the flour / butter mixture. Return this to the main pan to thicken the sauce, remove the bouquet garni, adjust the seasoning and serve. If the sauce is too acid then this can be corrected by adding a square or two of dark chocolate.
Rillettes are best described as a kind of pâté but with a distinct slow cooked flavour and a texture all of their own.
• One large rabbit, weighing about 1.2 to 1.5kg, cut into large portions
• One litre white white
• Two large carrots
• One large onion
• A bouquet garni
• 500ml water
• 300g lard
• Salt & pepper
• Two tablespoons Cognac or (better) white Pineau de Charante
1. Put the rabbit portions into a bowl with the vegetables and the bouquet garni and cover with the wine. Leave to marinade for 24 hours.
2. Discard the vegetables and the bouquet garni and place the rabbit and its marinade into a casserole. Add the water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 90 minutes until the meat is starting to come off the bones. Leave to cool.
3. Once cooled, lift the rabbit portions from the cooking liquid and remove all the meat from the bones, pulling it apart into shreds as you do. Place this in a pan and add the lard. Heat very gently so as to just melt the lard and mix it through the meat. Season to taste and add the brandy / Pineau.
4. Pack the rillettes into a basin and refrigerate – it should keep for a week or so. Serve it with fresh bread and pickled gerkins.