Spain part 3: Southern France + Rosemary Cornmeal Pancakes with Red Wine Figs

It was never our plan to go to France. It actually never even crossed our minds until we got to Zarautz. Our plan was to explore as much of Spain as we could in three short weeks without feeling rushed. Crossing a border was not something we had even considered. But in Zaratuz we found ourselves at a crossroad. We could drive 8 hours south to Granada (our original plan) to experience southern Spain’s frenzied Easter celebrations or we could… we weren’t sure, but we knew that spending a whole day in the car driving from north coast to south coast wasn’t very appealing. It just didn’t feel right. But what to do? After going back and forth for hours, we eventually asked our airbnb host what she would do for a week before needing to be back in Barcelona for a flight out. Hands down, she said go back through Southern France. So that’s what we did.

Once we entered France, the mood and atmosphere changed immensely. The north coast of Spain is very laid back, open, and easy going. The villages are painted in light tones like beige, terra cotta, and white and people are always out and about. Southern France - the part that borders the Pyrenees - is dark and almost sinister in a beautiful way. The tiny cluster of houses that make up the villages are roofed with a dark, glossy shale and have an eerie abandoned feel to them, almost like they haven’t been touched since medieval times. 

Our first night in France was spent in Ore. Not because Ore is a popular destination town or because somebody suggested that we should go there, but because Ore was where I found an airbnb within driving distance from the border. We really had no idea where to go or what to do in France nor do either of us speak French. We were kind of like fish out of water, but that’s how we tend to travel, for better or worse. One day at a time. Ore turned out to be great, though, albeit a bit deserted. We spent the early evening exploring the narrow stone streets that were devoid of human life (where was everyone?) and were captivated by a gothic graveyard that looked like it came straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Definitely eerie, but beautiful in an haunting sort of way 

The real highlight for us in France, though, was a total unexpected gem. After Ore, we continued east along the north side of the Pyrenees passing through small village after small village until we came to Galey, home of L’Ancienne Bergerie Bed & Breakfast hosted by Becks and Kevin. The B&B is actually a converted barn that has been beautifully and meticulously restored inside and out. It sits on a ridge overlooking the cloud-encased Pyrenees and dark shale roofs of Augirein below. The surrounding area is a honeycomb of miles and miles of great hiking trails that we explored and got lost in. We only spent one night at the B&B, but I could have stayed a week. Becks - an unofficial chef - prepared a five-course dinner for Noah and I and a Spanish couple visiting from Barcelona (their third time there). We drank Kevin’s homemade herbal wine for an aperitif then sat down for the feast. The first course was toast with local foie gras followed by braised rabbit, local camembert goat cheese from a fromagerie we stumbled across on one of our walks (baby goats galore!), wine poached pears, and lots of red wine. It was decadent! Not staying another night at L’Ancienne Bergerie might be our only regret of the trip…

Our last three days in France were a little rushed, mainly because it was Easter and we didn’t have any airbnb’s booked. We ended up spending one night in Sete during the height of a tall ships festival, which was fun, but the small city was insanely packed with people. For our last night in France we continued south along the coast to Collioure, a whitewashed coastal town recommended to us by the Spanish couple at the B&B. We really liked Collioure for its lazy atmosphere, good food, and artistic current - we definitely could have spent more time here as well. Our last French meal was at the outdoor patio of La Cuisine Comptoir who’s red wine poached figs were the inspiration of this posts recipe. They were so simple, but so delicious and a perfect ending for our Spain/France sojourn.

// Rosemary Cornmeal Pancakes with Red Wine Figs // - makes about 10-12 pancakes
This recipe was inspired by a dessert we had in Collioure, France. The dessert was just red wine poached figs, fresh cinnamon whipped cream, and candied walnuts, but it was one of our favorite dishes we had on the trip. So simple, but so delicious! While this recipe isn't quite the same rendering, it's no less satisfying. Perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch. The figs can be made a couple of days in advance and kept in the fridge for 1-2 weeks

For the red wine figs:
1 pint fresh figs, about 8 whole
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the pancakes:
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon flaxseed, ground
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Butter or oil for cooking

For the walnut-honey syrup:
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 inch piece rosemary

Plain yogurt or creme fraiche to serve

1. Cut the figs in half lengthwise and place cut-side down in a deep glass or ceramic baking dish. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the red wine, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Pour red wine mixture over figs and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake figs for 20-25 minutes, then flip so cut-side is facing up and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove figs from oven and let cool slightly. With a slotted spoon transfer figs to a bowl. Pour remaining red wine sauce into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until thick and syrupy, about 10-20 minutes. Let cool then pour sauce over figs and set aside

2) For the pancakes, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and rosemary in a large bowl and mix well. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt, flaxseed, melted butter, and maple syrup. Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Melt 2 teaspoons of butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup cupfuls of batter onto skillet and cook until bubbles form on top and edges turn golden brown. Flip and cook until browned on the other side and cooked through. Keep pancakes warm in oven set at lowest temperature

3) To make the honey-walnut syrup, combine the walnuts, honey, water, vanilla, and rosemary piece in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until honey dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble ferociously. Cook 1 minute more then remove from heat

4) To serve, top pancakes with yogurt or creme fraiche, fig halves, and honey-walnut syrup