Petit-gris snail shell at back left with gros-gris shell next to it. The others are Roman snail shells.
Grégory Roy is a snail farmer (Fr. héliciculteur). His business, called L'Escargolette, is fully vertically integrated, as modern farmers like to say. That is, he controls the whole process from breeding and raising the snails to preparing them, marketing and selling them. The farm, near Ligueil, covers 300 m² (that's the size of our vegetable garden) and he has 80 000 head. He uses the words tête (head) and bêtes (beasts) just as any anglo grazier would.
Grég with a tray of snails in croustilles (edible shells made from flour paste baked in a special snail shell shaped mould).
Toastines d'escargots on the left, escargots au court bouillon on the right.
The snails get to eat about 30 different vegetable, forage and grass species, all grown on site without pesticides. In the mix are plants like Jerusalem artichoke, agricultural rape, clover, lucerne, rye and sunflower, to which Grég adds a supplement of powdered legumes. It's important to him to follow the traditional methods of raising snails, respect the soil, find locally sustainable ways of working and focus on the quality of the lifestyle and the product.
If you want to try snails, but are a bit hesitant, I suggest trying the toastine. It's a very tasty buttery garlicky parsley flavoured spread on a bit of crunchy toast. And if anyone can convince you to try some it's Grég. He's like many of these young men I see around here who are living and working their dream -- totally dedicated to making a success of his business, producing the best snails he can, educating the public about the product and spreading the word about how delicious they are. If you go to the farmers markets in the Touraine du Sud you will quite likely encounter Grég and his snails. I would have linked to his website, but he claims to be a paysan (peasant) living in the middle of nowhere, so he doesn't have good internet connection and doesn't use email or a website. These photos were taken at the annual autumn market held in the farmyard of Maison Perrin, a foie gras and fat duck producer whose farm is located between la Celle Guenand and le Grand Pressigny.
I first met Grég several years ago at an informal meeting of organic producers which we blogged about at the time.
A la cuisine hier: Curry Goat, with bits of goat that have been marinating in a spicy rub for a couple of days. After frying the goat pieces I added onions, then garlic, a can of tomatoes, some water, coconut milk and lime juice. Then it got two hours of slow cooking on the wood stove. Jamaican food is not for the faint hearted. Not because it is spicy hot necessarily, but because it is rich -- if it isn't deep fried it is dosed with coconut milk. The curry will have potatoes added today and cook for another hour and be served with rice'n'peas (more coconut milk...).
Muesli, a simple matter of combining two packets of mixed rolled cereals (wheat, oats, barley and rye), a packet of sultanas, one of sunflower seeds and a cup of linseeds. Two cups of unbleached almonds were toasted and added, and a packet of the leatheriest dried apricots I could find, cutting each apricot into three. No added sugar or fat. No spices or chocolate.
Custard, made by heating a pint of milk containing a split vanilla pod and letting it infuse. Vanilla needs heat and time to give its flavour up. Meanwhile, four egg yolks are combined with three tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of cornstarch (cornflour). Reheat the milk to near boiling and pour it into the egg mixture, stirring all the while. Put back on the heat and stir until thickened, being careful not to let it boil. Strain into a jug to get rid of any stray bits of milk skin and coagulated egg white. If you use vanilla extract you can just chuck everything in together and heat from cold, stirring all the time. Last night's custard was served with stewed cherry plums from the freezer.