Sunday, April 6, 2008

burning bushes

I've just returned from a few days in England and I'm glad to be back in the wide open spaces of the mountains. I always feel a bit claustrophobic when I go back to the UK now.

Last night we went to les failles - the "lighting of the fires" at the salle des fĂȘtes. This is a local tradition which takes place every year around this time after everyone has finished pruning their trees. All the branches are piled up into giant stacks outside the village hall and set on fire. As with any organised social event here, a bar was set up outside in the field where they were serving vin chaud from a dustbin boiling away over a gas ring, accompanied by bugnes - a fritter made with strips of thin dough, like a crispy doughnut.

Although a Mardi Gras classic originating in Lyon, bugnes are served in this region all year round whenever a few guests are expected. Mini-B's Mum makes her bugne dough by hand mixing 1kg of flour and a sachet of dried yeast with 5 eggs, 5 tablespoons of warm vegetable oil and a few drops of vanilla essence.

The dough is then rolled out to no more than 1/8 inch thick and cut into rectangles about 1 inch wide by 4 inches long, making a 2-inch slit down the centre of each rectangle to make a hole. You then slip one of the ends of the rectangle through the slit and pull it back, to give a kind of knot effect. Shallow fry the shapes in hot vegetable oil for 1 minute either side then sprinkle with icing sugar.

Quite often they're served at the end of a meal with champagne.

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