Some years ago I baked mince pies for Ben's work Christmas Do. Only the older French people eat them (don't you think young people are so conservative?) but they are generally appreciated - and on this one occasion one of Ben's colleagues was a particular fan - they reminded her of a speciality of the town where she grew up! A French mince pie? Remarkable.This week she came back from a visit to her hometown and gave Ben a little package from the Boulangerie Molière - six petits pâtés de Pézenas. They are the bobbin-shaped, sweet-sour tarts for which this Mediterranean town is known.
We knew from our discussion years back that these pies are more like the mince pies of Olde England - they have mutton and beef in them as well as dried fruit, spices and lemons. And they aren't reserved for Christmas.
We warmed them up and ate them with a raw veg salad (thinking of Serenata!)...They were great! The mutton is really strong, which is an unusual taste for a modern Brit, but the overwhelming flavour of sucrée-salée is just like that of a mince pie. I knew there had to be some English connection - perhaps from the Middle Ages, when Crusaders came back with the original dried fruit/sweet and sour recipes? It turns out that the connection is much more recent, and is Anglo-Indian, rather than Middle Eastern. Lord Clive, the Governor of India, spent some time in Pézenas, and used to give soirées where the main delicacy was these little meat tarts. On leaving the town he gave them the gift of his recipe! This all dates to 1768 - what a lovely French/British/Indian connection we have unwittingly linked in to...If you'd like to know more about this delightful cardinal bird, and, more specifically about how we're going to be thinking our way through the Cardinal Virtues in Lent, please check out the post below.