Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recipes from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF)

So I'm afraid I'm sort of limping onto the screen with this entry, because I had very little joy researching recipes for the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Because unlike the mainland of Antarctica, where I encountered several friendly people who were more than happy to share recipes, and places like Bouvet Island (also in the same general area) and Europa Island, I could not find a single person associated with the TAAF who could even be bothered to respond to my emails. One blogger even proclaimed, "I promise to respond within 24 hours." Ha! Snark.

I really don't know if you're supposed to photograph a lobster belly side up.

So after many weeks of an empty email box—well, empty except of course for all that spam—I finally took matters into my own hands. I spent hours, yes literally hours, researching recipes from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. I think I visited every single English and French website that had any mention of Kerguelen, St. Paul and Amsterdam Islands, Crozet Islands, Adélie Land or the Scattered Islands. I also searched for Terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF) all with, of course, "recettes," which is the French word for "recipes."

Penguins on Adelie Land. Photo Credit: AntarcticBoy

First of all let me tell you about the TAAF, known by us English-speakers as the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. It is one of the few sad remnants of the French colonial empire, which includes the aforementioned islands and a handful of temporary residents, mostly from the scientific community. The TAAF has a few meteorological and geophysical research stations, some extinct volcanoes, a small merchant marine fleet and penguins. But not really any recipes.

So here is what I was reduced to, a single recipe that I know to be from the TAAF, which was posted on a blog entitled Full of Stuff and Recipes, at least according to Google Translate. The poster writes that this recipe was prepared for her husband and his colleagues while they were stationed on the TAAF, so it is therefore the only one of the following three recipes that I can say for sure came from this region. Here it is:

Buns of TAAF
  • 6 tbsp warm milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 2/3 cup sugar
  • 12 whole eggs
  • 2 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water
Now let it be known that I don't think mine came out right. It was good, but I suspect that it wasn't exactly right. Anyway …

I gather from what I read, which was every single webpage currently available on the subject, that they eat a lot of lobster in the TAAF. Lobster is very available there, because it is one of the area's primary fishing resources. So with that in mind, I chose this recipe:

Lobster tails à la Plancha

For the lobster:
  • 2 to 4 lobster tails
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lime butter
For the marinade:
  • 1/2 cup virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 oz whole star anise
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs basil, chopped
  • 3 sprigs lemon thyme, leaves only
  • Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Now here's the thing about this recipe, it came from a chef whose father was stationed for five years on the TAAF. But I could find nothing claiming that this recipe had ever been eaten on the TAAF. I suspect not, but it's as close as I could come.


Leek Pie and Blue
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 4 oz good quality blue cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water
Now here's the other thing--this recipe came from a website that called itself an Adelie Land wiki, and included a section with a few recipes. Now, were these Adelie Land recipes, or were they just random recipes that someone associated with the site happens to like? No idea, because the website didn't actually say so. So there you go.

And that was my menu. Do leek pie and lobster go together? Hmm. At this point I really didn't care.

Anyway here's how to make: First make the marinade for the lobster, since you are advised to let the tails marinate overnight. Of course I didn't, because I don't have that kind of capacity for planning.
Crush the star anise with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder. Mine didn't get very powdery and actually looked like it had little wood chips in it, which I didn't think would be very pleasant to eat. So I poured the lime juice and olive oil in with the anise and let it soak for about 15 minutes, then I strained it and added the other ingredients. I got plenty of flavor this way, without having to eat bark.

Anyway do as I did or simply add the anise to the garlic, thyme and basil and pour the olive oil and lime over. (If you don't have lemon thyme, use regular thyme with a little bit of lemon zest added.) Now pour over the bellies of the lobster tails and let marinate over night.

When ready to cook, remove the lobsters from the fridge and cook in at 465 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes, or until an internal thermometer reads 140 degrees. Serve with melted lime butter for dipping.

 Hmm, not one of my better photos.
Now for the Buns of TAAF, which have an admittedly awesome name even if it is because Google Translate is not really very good at translating. (The other day I found a French recipe that listed "chipmunks" as one of the ingredients. Yay, Google Translate!)

First dissolve the sugar in the warm milk, then add the yeast and let stand until frothy. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and add the yeast mixture. Knead until you get a nice soft dough. (Here's where I went wrong: mine was really sticky. I kept adding flour until the texture was more dough-like, since the recipe didn't say it should be sticky. I don't know, though, maybe it was supposed to be, and adding all that flour turned it into something else. Your call.)

Let the dough rise for an hour or so. (Mine didn't rise--another problem. My milk might have been too warm when I added the yeast.)

Punch down, then divide into two equal sized pans. Let rise again until doubled in size. Brush tops with the egg wash, then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

This was really more scone-like than bread-like.

And the pie:

Melt the butter in a pan and saute the leeks until soft.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs together with the salt and pepper and cream.

Line a casserole dish with a sheet of puff pastry. Spread the blue cheese on top, then add the leeks.

Pour the egg mixture over and cover with another sheet of puff pastry. Brush with the egg wash and bake at 435 degrees for 25 minutes.

Done! So here's what we thought:

Naturally I did not feed lobster to my children. Because that would be stupid. So Martin and I ate this meal alone.

The lobster was yummy but probably would have been even yummier if it had, you know, marinated overnight. But I did like that anise marinade a lot, especially my non-woody version. Lobster tails, though, as they are sold at Safeway anyway are ridiculously small. I got maybe two bites out of mine and then it was over.

I liked the leek pie; Martin thought it was too doughy. I guess I could have baked the bottom half of the pie first so it would puff up more, but I didn't bother. It certainly would have improved the pie but I didn't think it was bad the way it was. Because you really can't go wrong with blue cheese, can you?

We really liked the buns of TAAF, but the way I made them they were really more like scones. They would have been nice with some strawberry jam and clotted cream. I served them as a dessert, and the kids got pieces in their lunches for a couple of days. Yum!

So that's another non-country checked off my list. Now I will sit back and hope that someone who has actually lived on the TAAF reads my blog and finds it in his/her heart to send me actual recipes from the region.

Next week: The Gambia

For printable versions of this week's recipes:


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