Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Kumquat or Cumquat– The kumquat or Chinese orange is a small orange colored fruit with many equally small family members. The fruit has the taste of a slightly sour orange and is usually oval in shape; it may reach 2.5 cm (1”) on the long side, and that is a large kumquat. The English name "kumquat" derives from the Cantonese 金橘 pronounced gamgwat. Literally, that means golden tangerine.
The Kumquats originated in China.
Kumquats originated in China and the first of these fruits reached Europe with the Portuguese in the early 17th century. However, the Portuguese had brought home the fruit but not the plant. The Englishman Robert Fortune (1812-1880) brought back the first kumquat seedlings and cuttings in the 1840’s; this is the Robert Fortune who is better known for buying, stealing, or otherwise obtaining the first tea plants from China and so indirectly founding the tea industry in India for the British Raj.
I know that Kumquats are easy to grow. We bought a few small decorative trees for our balcony, and one was a kumquat. Even with my black thumb within three years the little Kumquat tree began producing hundreds of fruits. Even when distributed among family members there were more that we needed and this tree was really a bush. The Kumquat grows in the tea regions of China where the climate is too cold for other citrus fruits.
In France kumquats, and elsewhere, are used for their flavor and will be on your menu in sauces for entrees, the French first course, the main course and for desserts and pastries. Kumquats are also be made into preserves and conserves, jams; a kumquat conserve or marmalade may be served with your breakfast baguette.
Kumquat on French Menus:
Râble de Lapin Dans une Feuille de Blette, Kumquats Vinaigrés - Saddle of rabbit served wrapped in Swiss chard with kumquats pickled in vinegar. The saddle is the center of the back and the meatiest part of a rabbit or hare; a saddle of rabbit or hare is usually offered roasted and stuffed.
Demi-Pigeonneau de Racan au Chou, Confit de Kumquats – Half a young pigeon from the village of Saint Paterne Racan in the old province of Berry, now Indre-et-Loire. This village and the area around are highly rated for the pigeons raised there. The pigeon is served with cabbage and a kumquat jam.
Dorade Mousseline de Carottes Jaunes, Kumquat et Sauce Vierge -Gilthead seabream served with finely pureed yellow carrots, kumquats, and a sauce vierge. As the sauce’s name suggests it includes virgin olive oil and with the oil will be fresh tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice,basil,red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper. The sauce will be served slightly warm but not cooked as olive oil loses flavor when cooked. Here it would seem that the kumquats will be adding flavor to the sauce vierge. The sauce will be poured on the fish just before it is served.
Filet de Saint-Pierre Rôti, Artichauts Poivrade en Barigoule, Confit de Kumquats et Jus de Volaille- St Peter’s fish, John Dory, served with artichokes poivrade in a Barigoule. Poivrade is the name given to small violet artichokes from Provence which may be eaten whole. A barigoule today is made using these small violet artichokes braised in oil and white wine and stuffed with tomatoes and mushrooms, any mushrooms. There are differences in recipes that relates to the mushrooms used, but that is not indicated in this menu listing. On this menu listing, there is a sweet and sour citrus jam made with the kumquats, which will provide a good flavor for the fish and is prepared with a poultry gravy.
Artichokes à la Barigoule – This is a popular dish today that goes back to the mid-1800’s. Then artichokes were cooked with the barigoule mushrooms that then grew under or near the artichoke plants. That mushroom, now mostly called the lactaire or lactaire délicieux in France, is the saffron milk cap mushroom in English. The saffron milk cap is a tasty mushroom when well cooked. However, in most parts of France this wild mushroom is only in season from July through the beginning of October. With such limited availability and its relatively high price as it is a wild mushroom, in today’s artichauts à la barigoule there will rarely be saffron milk cap mushrooms. The name barigoule remains, but the recipe and the mushrooms used all year round will be different. Today’s recipes usually use the cultivated button mushroom,
Le Magret de Canard Rôti, Kumquat, Patate Douce, Sauce aux Épices – Roasted duck breast flavored with kumquats and served with sweet potatoes and a herb sauce.
Les Cuisses de Grenouille Crème d'ail, Blette Farcie des Hauts de Cuisses et Kumquat Confit –Frogs’ legs served with a creamy garlic sauce. The upper parts of the frogs’ legs are stuffed with Swiss chard and a kumquat jam.
The Kumquats originated in China but came to France from England.
After Queen Victoria’s and Prince Albert’s State visit to France in 1849, there was a massive increase in trade between the UK and France. That traded included in plants and livestock. Among the plants sold was the kumquat which despite the weather had thrived in the UK and since the 1850’s has done well in France as well.