Celebrating the Tour de France with food writer Felicity Cloake 

In the second of our series of excerpts from Felicity Cloake’s new book 'One More Croissant for the Road', we follow her journey to Brittany, in search of the perfect crêpe.

A note from Felicity: If you’re looking for a decent crêpe in France, then you go to Brittany, and if you go to Brittany, then it makes sense to find the best crêperie in Brittany... which is how I ended up in the far west of Finisterre (literally “the end of the earth”) cycling through an Atlantic squall in search of lunch.
 

La Frégate 

I’m pleased to say it was worth it: Christophe Beuriot, three times crowned the best crêpier in Brittany, and thus, one assumes, the world, is a genial man, born in neighbouring Normandy, trained in Switzerland, and gratifyingly modest about his achievements, crediting good ingredients as the secret to his success. Certainly these are in evidence on my visit to La Frégate, a steep slate-tiled restaurant in the pretty, flower-filled village of Le Faou; in early June I’m offered wild asparagus and locally farmed abalone, Breton scallops and seaweed, but I can’t help noticing that most of those around me are tucking into simpler fare like the crêpe complète in the recipe below.

Crêpe with wild asparagus

After telling wife Sylvie that I’ve cycled from London for this lunch, I’m invited into Christophe’s busy little kitchen, where the man himself is calmly tending three smoking hot plates, filled from vast vats of grey-brown buckwheat batter for savoury crêpes, and creamy wheat batter for the sweet version. He kindly lets me have a go – the secret is all in the wrist apparently – and I can tell you it’s harder than it looks when you’re standing beside a champion. At home, however, it’s surprisingly simple, and great fun once you get the hang of it. Bonne chance! 

An excerpt from One More Croissant for the Road

STAGE 5 

SAINT-MALO TO REDON 

 

Crêpes Complètes 

Buckwheat crêpes were once the bread of Brittany, a region too poor and damp to support much in the way of wheat cultivation. Indeed, Anne Willan claims in her excellent guide French Regional Cooking that they formed the basis of whole meals, starting with yesterday’s crumbled into soup, followed by a main course of fresh pancakes spread with salted butter, and concluding with a second filled with butter and sugar or jam. They remain incredibly popular, though buckwheat is now generally saved for savoury dishes: look out for the galette-saucisse, the Breton equivalent of a hot dog, at markets throughout the region. 

Known as galettes elsewhere in France, these emphatically savoury pancakes get their earthy, slightly bitter flavour from the buckwheat (sarrasin or blé noir), which sustained generations of Breton peasants, for whom imported wheat flour would have been an unthinkable luxury. Because of its lack of gluten, buckwheat is harder to work with than ordinary flour, but it’s well worth persevering, as the finished pancakes have a lovely crisp texture and a far more interesting flavour that, to my mind at least, pairs particularly well with cheese. 

Crêpe Complète

Makes about 20 galettes 

500g buckwheat flour 

2 tsp coarse salt 

egg , beaten 

Per galette 

1 tbsp butter, plus extra to serve 

1 egg 

50g grated cheese (I like Gruyère) 

1 slice of ham, torn 

1 - Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl, then gradually whisk in 1 litre of water until bubbly and the consistency of single cream. Beat in the egg, and ideally leave to rest, if possible, for a couple of hours – but it’s no disaster if you don’t, it just gives a better final consistency. 

2 - Grease a flattish, heavy-based frying pan (you want to mimic the professional billig hotplates as closely as possible) with half the butter and put over a high heat. Pour some of the batter into a jug. 

3 - When the pan starts to smoke, pour in just enough batter to cover the base, quickly swirling to coat it evenly but as thinly as possible, using a palette knife to help spread it if you find that helpful (if it’s too thick to swirl, add more water), and cook until it begins to come away from the base. Loosen and turn it, adding the rest of the butter underneath. 

4 - Once cooked, break the egg in the centre and spread out the egg white. Sprinkle the grated cheese around the white and top with the ham. Fold each side of the galette into the centre, so only the yolk is exposed, and cook for another 3 minutes. 

To purchase a copy of 'One More Croissant For The Road' click here.

Crêpe Complète at Côte