the miller’s wife’s tale…


The red herring has not been seen on the perambulating hors d’oeuvre trolley since the early days of Mao’s influence, when all things red were de rigueur. And there it is; my fallacy is neatly laid in your path to divert your attention from a very ordinary plate of food giving me the chance to massage your virtual sensory papillae with a mouthwatering encomium in praise of the classic bistro hors d’oeuvre of herring and warm potato salad/ harengs aux pommes de terre. Last year I spent some time in Lyon engaged in the arduous task of photographing some of the excellent restaurants that abound in that centre of gourmandise. Until that visit I had not encountered the saladier Lyonnais which is an hors d’oeuvre of Pantagruelian proportions. The exemplar of this traditional dish is to be found at the celebrated bouchon Lyonnais, La Meunière, where, on the occasion that I ate lunch, no fewer than 8 huge bowls of different salads were presented at the table, 4 of which are evident in the middle picture, bottom row, of the La Meunière compilation below.
Skipping a beat, I will quickly move on to share with you a passage, from a book that I am currently enjoying, whose sentiment ( the passage not the whole book) goes some way to explain my pleasure in restaurants such as this and in simple dishes such as harengs aux pommes de terre:”Complementarity is a deep mystery about taste just as it is about people.There is a profound unity-in-plurality when one meets a spirit that vibrates at the same frequency as one’s own..” A bit poncy, but you get the meaning: certain people, places and foods immediately resonate with me in a very pleasurable but unexpected and undefineable way…the reverse of this principle is even more powerful. The recipe for this dish is simplicity itself and just requires that the correct ingredients should be put together carefully and eaten in the right spirit. In Lyon I drank a delicious light Beaujolais with this hors d’oeuvre, but in the heat of the recent days, when I made the dish at home, I substituted a chilled glass of white and, of course, good bread.

Salade Harengs- Pomme de Terre La Meunière – from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells

250gms small new potatoes – waxy.
4 fillets of Hareng Fumê Doux (smoked herring /not the very salty sort. If too salty soak in milk for a bit)
Handful of chopped fresh chives
Ground nut oil, rapeseed or some such mild oil…not olive oil.
Plunge the new potatoes, in their skins, into salted, boiling water and cook for about 15 minutes or until they are only just cooked.Drain the potatoes and cut into quarters or smaller pieces. Cut the herring fillets into similar size chunks. In a large bowl, mix together the warm potatoes, herring and chives lubricating the mixture with oil. Leave for a bit to let the flavours permeate.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2015, Bistro, Bouchon, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Drinks, Emotion, Excellence, Expectation, Fish, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Patricia Wells, Photography, Recipes, smoked herring, smoked herring and potato salad, Uncategorized, wine, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to the miller’s wife’s tale…

  1. What a pretty bowl! I’ve got to get around to the brocantes more often and acquire!

  2. ardysez says:

    Lovely photos and prose. That familiar resonance is such a thrill when it happens. 🙂

  3. Misky says:

    A very pretty bowl of food. The sweating glass is a stunner, too.

  4. Eha says:

    Good morning to you and two points Milord: First: have just bought a copy of ‘Debt to Pleasure’ [Friday night treat after a very busy day and ere ‘joining’ you in France in about 20 minutes!] You part with good info and I actually got it from the States for about $6 postage free – not complaining:) ! Love potatoes and herrings together naturally but do eat it cold . . .

    • I agree, although I like to mix the potatoes and herrings whilst the potatoes are still warm to absorb the flavours. “The Debt to Pleasure” is enormous fun…I’ve had it next to my bed for about a year, hidden under another book, so have only just got around to reading it:)

      • Eha says:

        Hot potatoes, cold potatoes 🙂 ! Entirely a geographical issue: I eat it the Scandinavian way and you French/international . . .and yes, the potatoes do have an oil dressing applied whilst warm . . . then come the sour cream and dill whilst cold . . Being into medicine and economics am a dunce at ‘the Arts’: so your links to more erudite reading most welcome.

      • Like the sour cream…different dish, but wonderful:)

  5. Mad Dog says:

    That’s funny, I definitely prefer Chaucer to Shakespeare.
    Your Harengs look delicious as do the salads in La Meunière 😉

  6. If I was stranded on an island and could only eat one meal -I would eat pickled herring and ‘hot’ yellow potatoes (with a little butter). Leave me on the island forever!

  7. I love that quote, poncy or not, I get the feeling.

  8. Sally says:

    I’ve had pickled herring but never smoked herring…hmmm…. to be rectified. Love the pics of the restaurants Roger.

  9. Conor Bofin says:

    Lovely. Back in Dublin, enjoying the rain and wind.

  10. Michelle says:

    Oh, Lyon. How I want to go back. You’re killing me!

  11. I’m out the door with my shopping list.
    Mille mercis!

  12. such gorgeous evocative photos – as always!

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