A Kings’ cake and a poor man’s feast

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.

A galette, a cardboard crown, a fève.... and just a few buttery crumbs
A galette, a cardboard crown, a fève…. and just a few buttery crumbs

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

Ooops!  I almost left it too late to take a snap of a crunchy crust of baguette nestling in its  cheesy, eggy blanket.
Ooops! I almost left it too late to take a snap of a crunchy crust of baguette nestling in its cheesy, eggy blanket.

(serves 2)

  • 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.

24 thoughts on “A Kings’ cake and a poor man’s feast”

  1. What a pity you are going back to Britain …
    Who will then comment on our way of life with such pertinacity, friendliness and humour … Dear, dear, dear …
    Never mind, it is a real pleasure to read every single post of yours, Margaret ! And if you keep blogging from home, I promise I will continue enjoying your words and photos !
    Happy New Year again, Votre Altesse !

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    1. Oh, please don’t, Martine, you’ll make me cry (again). We feel we’re making the right decision, and we look forward to renewing our life in Engalnd. But we love our life and friends here too and the Ariège will always be very special to us. And we do plan to come back…. often. Happy New Year!

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  2. Ooooo, that all looks gorgeous! I love anything with almonds in it.
    You don’t get a gold crown when you buy a cake in Greggs!

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  3. Your recipe looks yummy! Between that and the galette, you’re making me hungry! I am a huge fan of the galette and eat many of them throughout the month of January. My husband always gets the feve — no matter how we cut that cake or how many guests we have. At least I don’t have to worry about breaking a tooth on it 😉

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  4. Reminds me ot the time I bought, unusually, a frozen pizza. I had failed to realise that it was an Epiphany pizza and almost broke a tooth on an unexpected figure of the Virgin Mary and child found lurking in the base!

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  5. super – a new recipe -“Margaret’s hints” – in CH the owner of the crown is supposed to give orders from the very moment on having it put on his head (imagine)…..!..did you miss something ? AnnAxxx

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  6. …….well the orders were just looking out for stupid things to do, or something no one would like (washing the dishes for ex)….not so exciting for grown up people …..xxx

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  7. Lovely, my youngest had one at school, although she was distinctly unimpressed, as she is with most food these days. Hurumph! Even the charm didn’t charm her; she is very difficult to please.

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