On arriving in La Rochelle a few evenings ago, we got extremely excited about our following day’s plans. The sun would be shining, we would go to the market to buy our ingredients and then we would cook up a local dish somewhere on route to the Dordogne. Fabulous! So, when we opened the ‘curtains’ of our den (the car) to find that it was raining, we were a touch disheartened to say the least.

We headed to the market ‘quand même‘ (a French phrase whose translation of ‘all the same’ isn’t quite good enough!) and we bought a pain au chocolat to accompany our café crème at a bar called Le Gerbe du Blé that was attached to the market. This has been without a doubt my favourite breakfast, if not overall experience, of the trip thus far. With a motto of “Le travail c’est que du plaisir Seul l’orange et le citron sont pressés” (work is nothing but pleasure, only the oranges and lemons are squeezed (stressed… A French pun!)), the ambiance was captivating. We sat and kept ourselves to ourselves amongst the bustling world of the morning market… Clients inside reading the paper, groups of friends outside enjoying an early lunch with wine, old ladies pottering past with their purchases and then a broad man entered very astutely with a huge tray of oysters, plonked himself down on the table à côté (beside us) and with a glint in his eye asked ‘ je vous donne envie‘ (if were we jealous!)… and we were not!

Morning Market Coffee

We could have sat there all day watching the world go by, however eventually we moved on to the market and visited some very dishy young mussel merchants from whom we bought lots of mussels and also picked up a recipe for Mouclade, a regional dish! We visited various other vendors to pick up other ingredients and met a lovely couple with a basket of goodies!

Mussels ready to go!

With our ingredients all bought we headed off on the road again and decided, despite the rain, to stop off in Cognac to cook roadside style. We prepared the boot of the car to create a make-shift kitchen and began to cook away. Our previous presumptions about the rain “oh it will pass” were not quite fulfilled. It began to rain more and more until it was torrential. After losing a mussel to the river and the camping stove conking out on us, we decided to abort mission and reloaded the car absolutely soaked and with a bucket of half-cooked mussels playing passengers on my lap.

Rainy Roadside Cooking in Cognac

We turned up at our hotel in Perigueux an hour late and after recounting our story to the owner, he very kindly allowed us to finish in the hotel kitchen. Lucky ladies! So we finished off and it turned out rather well if I say so myself! He even gave us a glass of wine which we enjoyed as an accompaniment in the deserted bar. True dedication certainly paid off!

Muscadet and Mouclade, bien joué!

Recipe and a video of the days events to follow…