We were strolling through the market places, inspired and enchanted by the dozens of varieties of oysters, the mountains of fresh fruits and the valleys of vegetables with dirt still clutching the roots.
The French food markets are every second day in some towns and they are the hub of the community which shares a passion for seasonal foods from the land and the sea. The oyster men proudly displayed wicker baskets of 15 coastal varieties of succulent sea morsels, while the small blue and black shell mussels sold briskly as refined customers sought them out.
The meats were displayed in open air - wild rabbits, hares, small and large fowl, both alive and hung.
There was lamb from the country estate, beef and buffalo displayed next to the horse meat trader. Stop the gravy thoughts . . . they eat horse here in France? Well of course. It can be found on menus of fine-dining restaurants such as Gordon Ramsay's and in rustic country estate houses of France.
Being a young lad on the culinary tour of the world it was a new experience, much like seeking out kangaroo meat in Australia and reindeer in Canada.
Horse is well thought of in France and other European countries but is frowned on in Britain and Ireland as the horse is viewed as a pet and companion and not a friend that you would have at the dinner table.
Just two months ago DNA testing discovered that horse meat was being sold undeclared in processed consumer products such as beef patties and beef lasagna.
Some were 100 per cent horse meat, some contained a percentage of it, much to the surprise of retailers.
The meat has been traced back to Romania and Poland and it has been proven that it was exported as horse meat yet in transit re-labelled as beef - all of it originating in the European Union. The No 1 ingredient in the food supply chain in the modern world is the human factor and the actions of a few companies and individuals have made millions ask: what is really in our food ?
PREMIUM GAME WILD VENISON STROGANOFF
200g white or brown rice
Marlborough extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves Marlborough garlic, peeled and finely sliced
300g Premium Game wild venison loin, fat and sinews removed, trimmed and sliced into finger-sized pieces
Marlborough sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
250g mushrooms diced
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
zest of ½ lemon
150ml creme fraiche or sour cream Cook the rice and leave covered to the side.
In a large, heavy based pan heat the extra virgin olive oil, saute (cook with out browning ) the onions and garlic for about 10 mins. Remove from the pan and reserve for later.
Season the meat well with salt, pepper and paprika and then fry in the hot pan until browned. Add the mushrooms, herbs and onions and finally the brandy. Yes, you are allowed to flame it.
Stir in the lemon zest and creme fraiche or sour cream and season to taste. Continue simmering for a few minutes only. Serve with the rice and garnish with chopped herbs and optional gherkins
- The Marlborough Express