Epiphany, 6th January. Today’s the day when here in France we’re supposed to eat Galette des Rois – Kings’ Cake, because this is the day when, according to tradition, the three kings arrived to visit the baby Jesus.
When I went down to the baker’s this morning, I found there were two sorts on offer. Should I chose the yeasted brioche style more popular down here? Or should I go for the layers of puff pastry filled with almond cream? I couldn’t help thinking that Madame was nudging me towards the puff-pastry option, and that suited me fine.
As you share it out, one of you will find yourself with a fève in your portion. This used to be a bean, but these days it’s usually a little china trinket. And there he was, in the very first slice I had on my plate, a little yellow-uniformed fellow on a plinth inscribed ‘le pompier japonais’ – the Japanese fireman. Lucky me. I got to wear the cardboard golden crown supplied at the baker’s and proclaimed myself King For The Day. Which was fine as far as it went. I’m still waiting to be dressed in fine robes and whisked off in a sparkling limousine to some red carpet event. It’s getting on for bedtime, and so far…. nothing.
I did get to commune with a kitchen full of odds and ends however. I found half a stale ‘bio’ baguette, and half a Livarot cheese that was uncharacteristically disappointing from the very first mouthful. Though it wouldn’t find a place on the menu of any Royal banquet, I decided on a version of an austerity dish that’s always popular in this house.
Savoury bread and butter pudding
- Butter the base of a shallowish baking dish
- Cut and butter thick slices from a baguette or other loaf . I usually find 2 slices per person is enough.
- Grate or slice some cheese you’re trying to get rid of and use it to top the bread and butter. Usually I use a hard cheese like cheddar, but the Livarot worked just fine .
- Arrange in the bottom of the baking dish.
- Beat together 2 eggs, about 150 ml. milk, or milk and cream, or milk and plain yoghurt (this really is about emptying out your cupboards and the fridge), and season. Today I added a teaspoonful of grainy mustard and a handful of chopped parsley, but it could have been chopped chives, chopped chilli, some crisply fried bacon pieces…..
- Pour the eggy milk over the bread and cheese and – this is important – leave for at least half an hour for the bread to absorb the liquid.
- Bake in a hot oven (170 degrees fan oven) for about half an hour till puffy, risen, and with a rich golden crust. Eat immediately, with an astringent salad of bitter leaves to counteract the richness of the dish.
Actually, it’s not remotely sophisticated, but I don’t think those three kings would have turned up their noses at this meal after all those days and nights trekking across the desert to find a baby in a stable. But we still have a slice or two of Galette des Rois if they’d prefer.