You know you’ve reached a certain age when those around you take offence at being referred to as ‘old friends’. Well, last Sunday, two, erm, long-standing friends suggested we go out for lunch during our weekend at their new home in Pas-de-Calais.
They took us to a restaurant that has become one of their favourites since they bought their longère in the country. Le Clos de la Prairie is in the village of Gouy Saint André, about 35km inland from Le Touquet and a ten-minute drive from their home.
Its owners have clearly spent a lot of time and effort on renovating an old farmhouse to create a quality restaurant and hotel. So successful have they been that they have even gained a mention in the Michelin guide.
In short, then, I was looking forward to our lunch. It all began beautifully: an amuse-bouche, a crab and avocado terrine for my starter…
But when the waitress brought my main course, I had to ask her to repeat what it was. That it was lamb was clear enough – that was, after all, what I had ordered – but I was mystified by the vegetable that came with it.
“Salsifis,” she told me. (Salsify, in English.)
I had never heard of it.
It turns out it’s a root vegetable that looks like a rather long, thin parsnip, with white flesh and a dark skin. Apparently, it belongs to the dandelion family and is sometimes known as the oyster plant because it sometimes tastes of oysters when cooked.
The restaurant had poached it in port. It was delicious – and worked well with the lamb.
It’s not often that I find a food I’m not familiar with. It just goes to show that it’s never too late to teach this long-standing dog new tricks.