Today, being the 11th of November is ‘Remembrance day’ (Armistice day), and it is a public holiday here in France.
‘Remembrance day’ is the day when the armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918, marking the end of the First World War.
Both my grandfathers’ fought in this bloody, brutal and often futile war.
My paternal grandfather, Richard (Dick) was one of very few men who entered the conflict on the first day, and remained fighting in France until the last, taking part in all three of the major battles, Ypres, Passchendaele, and the epic Battle of the Somme.
My maternal grandfather, Charlie, a former music hall ‘song and dance man’ was gassed and being thought dead, was placed in a mortuary and was only discovered when someone heard him calling for water, and they responded by saying ‘There’s no-one to hear you in here mate, they are all dead’.
He survived, but never went back to the front, instead became a foreman on the railways, which was considered essential civilian work and he died at the ripe old age of 97 (Dick not quite getting this far, died at 96)
The poppy is a symbol of remembrance in the UK and paper poppies are sold by the ‘British Legion’ in the build up to Remembrance day and the proceeds go to charities that help and support Injured Servicemen.As some of you know from my last post, I have just returned from a visit to the UK, but could not stay long enough to participate in the Remembrance day services, which are held at churches and cenotaphs all over the country – the most famous of which being the Remembrance Sunday parade at Westminster, where the Queen and members of the Royal Family and government, lay wreaths of poppies at the cenotaph in London.
In Liverpool there was an evocate display of poppies spilling from one of the windows at ‘St Geoerge’s Hall’ to represent tears falling for the dead. I have included some photos that some of you may have seen on the internet.
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing fly Scarce heard amidst the guns below”
Taken from ‘In Flanders Fields’ a poem written by the Canadian doctor and Lieutenant Colonel, John McRae, while he was fighting and overseeing medical care in Boulogne with the ‘Canadian Expedition Force’.
He sadly died from pneumonia on a battlefield in January 1918; but his wonderful poem, the first to refer to poppies as a symbol of remembrance, is frequently read at Remembrance day services across the world.
As I have not had a lot of time since returning, my culinary offering is very simple and has been chosen for a number of reasons.
It originates in the Basque region between France and Spain (see my post on ‘Basque Chicken’), a region which has seen its fair share of fighting. The deep red colour of the tomatoes remind me of the red of the poppies. Eggs are a symbol of life and resurrection
Last but not least – this dish is simple, versatile and just tastes SO good………no more excuse needed!
2 large free range eggs
3 large plum tomatoes roughly chopped
1 medium shallot very finely chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
4 slices of chorizo (optional)
A good glug of olive oil
Tabasco sauce to serve (optional, but yummy!)
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the olive tomatoes in the oil for 2-3 minutes until soft
Add the tomatoes, and chorizo and cook for a further minute
Season with salt, pepper and oregano to taste, add a tablespoon of water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes
Half fill a baking dish with boiling water
Divide the tomato sauce between two cocottes (ramekins with lids)
Carefully break the eggs, taking care not to break the yolk (jaune) into the cocottes
Cover with lid and place in the ‘bain Marie’ of hot water and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees/ gas mark 4
Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of Tabasco (watch out they’re hot!) Perfect as an entrée, or alternatively substitute the chorizo for cooked sausage or crispy bacon (or both!) for a novel, simple, delicious and messy pan free English style Breakfast of Brunch