Belgian butter cookies (waffle wafer) with Sirop de Liège; cream cracker with shrimp and goat cheese with roasted garlic and herbes de Provence; strawberry macarons; and crème de menthe. Happy 2019!
This has to be one of the most Poirot things I’ve ever featured for Poirot Gourmet. 🙂 Readers with a good familiarity with the books will likely remember the detective’s appreciation for square crumpets. Combine them with this distinctive and characteristic fruit spread of Liège, and voilà! We have an English-Belgian fusion worthy of Poirot.
I used square silicone egg rings for my crumpets. Alas, I am not what the English would call a “dab hand” at crumpets. They turned out more like pikelets– either I killed the yeast with too-warm milk, or my baking soda was taking the day off. Also, like many egg rings used for crumpets, they lend themselves to a shallower product. At any rate, they’re still quite edible. 🙂 I also decided that they weren’t initially quite square enough. Here’s how they looked at first…
…So I gave them a good severe trim with my lasagna server. 🙂 Before I move on to the spread, here are some book references for you…
Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life. Now that crumpets were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.
…And in due course, the faithful George was instructed to provide a meal of square crumpets richly buttered, symmetrical sandwiches, and other suitable components of a lavish English afternoon tea.
…The resourceful George had on this occasion produced large cups, a pot of really strong Indian tea and, in addition to the hot and buttery square crumpets, bread and jam and a large square of rich plum cake.
All this for the delectation of Inspector Sharpe, who was leaning back contentedly sipping his third cup of tea.
-Hickory Dickory Dock
Hercule Poirot sat in a square chair in front of the square fireplace in the square room of his London flat…
…His eyes strayed from the jigsaw puzzle in front of him to the chair on the other side of the fireplace. There, not half an hour ago, Inspector Bland had sat consuming tea and crumpets (square crumpets) and talking sadly.
-Dead Man’s Folly
The spread I used is a Belgian import with a consistency rather like apple butter and dark and heavy like molasses. Sirop de Liège is made primarily with pears and apples, but also (to a lesser extent) dates, apricots, and prunes. Pear/apple syrups and spreads of this kind had been developed in the area for centuries, but this particular recipe was apparently nailed down around 1937 and trademarked after the war. You can read more about it here. It is VERY sweet and concentrated– there’s no need to add more sugar! Liège, of course, is the general vicinity in Belgium from which (we are given to understand) Poirot hails. We know that he likes anything sweet and sirop-y, so this spread is really a no-brainer for Poirot Gourmet. And it’s absolutely lovely with these little griddle cakes.
We found this local (Winnipeg-based) Belgian-style beer the other day. It’s called Le Sneak Belgique, a witbier made with coriander, orange peel, and black pepper. Did I mention that the can is adorned with a moustache?? 🙂
I had to bring it home and feature it in a blog episode of Poirot Gourmet. So I decided to pair it with miniature versions of Quiche Lorraine and a side salad with tomatoes, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and black truffle olive oil. 🙂 Lovely comfort food for autumn!
I’ve been eager to try out various cocktail recipes with my newly-acquired Elixir de Spa. (For more information about this liqueur from Spa, Belgium, see this previous post.) This one is called Elixir de Spa du Chef. It’s a nice, summery, champagne-based drink with lime juice, Angostura bitters, and of course Elixir de Spa. 🙂 The recipe can be found here.
My personal word to the wise: don’t leave out the bitters! The champagne and liqueur together is going to be very sweet, and although I tend not to blink at drinking sugar, it’s not everyone’s thing! I don’t often use bitters, but I was happy enough to use them with this drink.
Let’s make the most of our last couple weeks of summer, all! Santé!
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. 🙂
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! 😀
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
Here’s a picture of a summery lunch (in progress!) for today’s “Poirot gourmet.” An omelette with sautéed mushrooms, garden chives, Danish brie, and Havarti. To drink: a shandy.
Poirot’s passion for omelettes is pretty well-documented, appearing in stories like “The Third-Floor Flat,” Lord Edgware Dies, Mrs McGinty’s Dead, and several other places. But the shandy may be a new one for you. Here’s the book reference…
‘What shall I get you?’ said Spence. ‘No fancy stuff here, I’m afraid. No blackcurrant or rose hip syrup or any of your patent things. Beer? Or shall I get Elspeth to make you a cup of tea? Or I can do you a shandy or Coca-Cola or some cocoa if you like. My sister, Elspeth, is a cocoa drinker.’
‘You are very kind. For me, I think a shandy. The ginger beer and the beer? That is right, is it not?’