Poirot Gourmet, cocktail edition: Elixir de Spa Poire

Things are heating up (or cooling down?) here in the “Poirot Gourmet” corner of the blog, because Kelly has discovered the joys of importing Belgian. Things are about to get that much more authentic, dear readers! Have I got some fun in store for you…  😉

Agatha Christie implies in the book The Big Four that Poirot originates from the Belgian city of Spa, in the eastern province of Liège. The TV series seems to follow this line of thinking as well, particularly in the episode Four and Twenty Blackbirds, where Poirot introduces Hastings to his mother’s Liège-style cooking. I had been poking around a bit for interesting-looking Belgian recipes to share here, but I thought I might as well get more specific. What is gastronomically unique to the area of Liège, I wondered?

Poirot is fond of liqueurs, and lo and behold, I chanced upon one that actually hails from his hometown. By name: Elixir de Spa!

You can read all about this liqueur here, along with recipes for cooking and cocktails. It is made from a wide variety of aromatic plants and herbs, and is apparently renowned for its digestive effects. (That alone sounds like something Poirot would go for, doesn’t it?) Although it is a liqueur, I was somehow expecting something a little more bitter– perhaps the word “elixir’ conjured up purely medicinal associations, or my assumption may have come from the 40% alcohol volume. But no; it is quite sweet, and although I have no idea what’s in it, there is a definite anise or fennel flavor in there, like liquorice. But it isn’t overwhelming; rather, a pleasant and subtle melange of flavors, VERY smooth. It’s a long time since I’ve gotten a buzz from a liqueur, so there you go.

Anyway, I found a cocktail recipe on that page called “Elixir de Spa Poire,” and it seemed very appropriate to feature here. 🙂  The name Poirot can be read as a contraction of “poire” (pear) and the diminutive “-ot,” as in “little pear,” possibly suggesting his shape. Some read the name “Poirot” according to traditional name etymology, presuming someone who grows pears or lives by a pear orchard. At any rate, from what I’ve read, pears actually seem to feature prominently in the food prep of this region… so Elixir de Spa Poire it is!

The recipe is fairly straightforward– the liqueur, pear juice, fresh mint, and orange zest.  I omitted the ice for serving and also used sparkling pear juice (call it a tribute to the famous bubbling waters of Spa). 😉  The result is AMAZING. Next time I will use ice, and possibly drink it for the rest of the summer!

I look forward to seeing what other interesting things can be made with Elixir de Spa. 🙂

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Poirot gourmet: French/English fusion edition!

Today’s Poirot gourmet represents a bit of French and English fusion! Inspired by “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” and The Mystery of the Blue Train, I’ve assembled a collection of comestibles which read like a compromise between Poirot and his dinner friend, Mr Bonnington.  🙂  Both book excerpts deal with a fillet of sole.

A blog called Reading Feeding, which deals with food and books, pointed out this passage from The Mystery of the Blue Train between Poirot and his valet, George.

‘The brown lounge suit, sir? The wind is somewhat chilly today.’

‘There is a grease spot on the waistcoat,’ objected Poirot. ‘A morceau of Filet de sole à la Jeanette alighted there when I was lunching at the Ritz last Tuesday.’

‘There is no spot there now, sir,’ said George reproachfully. ‘I have removed it.’

Très bien!‘ said Poirot. ‘I am pleased with you, Georges.’

‘Thank you, sir.’


Filet de sole à la Jeanette
also appears as a dish in the Tommy and Tuppence novel The Secret Adversary. The speculation was: is this a real dish, or a Christie invention? One anonymous commenter noted:

“Actually a real dish made with a tarragon sauce. Jeanette Bertrandy – La bonne cuisine Provençal.”

This seems to coincide with a dish called Fillet of Sole with Tarragon Sauce
(Filets de Sole Sauce Estragon). A note posted with the recipe: “Tarragon, an herb member of the wormwood family, is a popular herb in Provence and is used often with fish, chicken or eggs. This recipe is adapted from the delightful cookbook of Bernard Loubat and Jeanette Bertrandy, La bonne cuisine Provençal.”

I took their word for it and tried my hand at filets de sole sauce estragon. If this is indeed the preparation mentioned by Poirot to his valet George, there would be ample opportunity for a pretty impressive grease spot to manifest itself on his waistcoat. Butter, olive oil, and more butter contribute to this rich and flavorful dish.

Poirot’s friend, Mr Bonnington, had very different ideas on how to go about fillet of sole! From “Four and Twenty Blackbirds”:

‘Mess!’ said Mr Bonnington. ‘That’s what’s the matter with the world nowadays. Too much mess. And too much fine language. The fine language helps to conceal the mess. Like a highly-flavoured sauce concealing the fact that the fish underneath it is none of the best! Give me an honest fillet of sole and no messy sauce over it.’

It was given him at that moment by Molly and he grunted approval.

To compensate for the “French kickshaws” he disliked, I thought I’d throw in some nice Stilton on (square) English cream crackers.

As the story goes…

‘Good evening, sir,’ she said, as the two men took their seats at a corner table. ‘You’re in luck today– turkey stuffed with chestnuts– that’s your favourite, isn’t it? And ever such a nice Stilton we’ve got! Will you have soup first or fish?’

Mr Bonnington deliberated the point. He said to Poirot warningly as the latter studied the menu:

‘None of your French kickshaws now. Good well-cooked English food.’

To round it off properly– a couple of blackberry and apple tartlets! I made these with a bottom layer of crushed blackberries, followed by apple slices, whipped cream, and a blackberry to top them off.

‘Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie! Or blackberries if you prefer to be literal! …He had been eating blackberries again, by the way. A greedy fellow– cared a lot about his food. Eh bein, greed will hang him all right unless I am very much mistaken.’

A waitress brought them two portions of blackberry and apple tart.

‘Take it away,’ said Mr Bonnington. ‘One can’t be too careful. Bring me a small helping of sago pudding.’

Lastly, some crème de menthe for a digestif, and to keep things from being too English!  😀

Poirot Gourmet, from the Orient Express!

Sorry I haven’t been Poirot-ing much; we’ve been on vacation! But I thought I’d drop a bit of “Poirot Gourmet” here for you today.  🙂 (And no, I am not actually traveling on the Orient Express while presenting this episode, sorry!) 😀

Here, we have smoked salmon cream cheese on baguettes with olive oil and sea salt. To drink: a little crème de violette.

And here’s your book reference!

M. Bouc, who was already seated, gated a greeting and summoned his friend to the empty place opposite him. Poirot sat down and soon found himself in the favoured position of being at the table which was served first and with the choicest morsels. The food, too, was unusually good.

It was not till they were eating a delicate cream cheese that M. Bouc allowed his attention to wander to matters other than nourishment. He was at the stage of a meal when one becomes philosophic.

“Ah!” he sighed. “If I had but the pen of a Balzac! I would depict this scene.”

-Murder on the Orient Express