La Cigale: The French connectionby Lauraine Jacobs
Elizabeth and Mike Lind are bringing European sophistication to their Auckland food market.
The smoky scent from several barbecues mingles with spicy aromas of paella wafting over the car park, and the crowds are gathering. There’s jostling to get in line to grab a portion from the enormous pan of rice and seafood and those in the know are queuing for fresh fish to take home for dinner. Under an awning, a couple of trestle tables are almost groaning with piles of artisan breads and pastries, and it seems everyone wants a loaf or two to pop into their shopping bags. It’s 8.30am on Saturday and La Cigale French Market in Auckland’s Parnell is in full swing. Around the edge of the park, regular stallholders have set up their wares and offer tastings of artisan products, crates of seasonal fruits and vegetables, briny oysters, sausages, meats and a wondrous array of goodies. They come from as far away as Whangarei in the north and Coromandel to the southeast, and all are on first name terms with regular shoppers.
Francophiles Elizabeth and Mike Lind met while studying law, but that’s been left far behind as they’ve built their highly successful business, La Cigale, one of Auckland’s most popular food lovers’ destinations. The market is open Saturday and Sunday mornings, and inside the large onsite warehouse La Cigale Cafe (open all week) pumps out espresso coffees at a breakneck rate while market-goers relax at long tables – sipping, snacking on pastries and chatting to strangers as if they were old friends. For more adventurous shoppers, La Cigale’s interior space has a supply of imported wines, designer clothing, housewares and bric-a-brac, all with that touch of French sophistication. A selection of gooey French cheeses can be cut to order in La Cigale Fromagerie, and Wine Direct, another arm of the business, showcases well-priced wines from France, New Zealand and Italy.
A few years ago, the Linds decided to offer their French rotisserie chickens with a glass of wine to shoppers who came to their Wednesday afternoon markets. That idea quickly evolved to become La Cigale French Bistro, a casual dinner offered in the cafe from Wednesday to Friday. The concept has taken off and replaced the afternoon market. There’s a waiting list for the dinners on almost every evening the bistro is open. As in many French bistros, La Cigale diners are offered a small set menu, choosing their main course when making their reservations. A charcuterie platter kicks off the night, followed by classic bistro fare for the main course. It may be lamb navarin or roasted chicken with stuffing, or a choice of two tagines, or bouillabaisse or braised wild boar. Wine can be ordered by the bottle or glass from the warehouse shelves, with a choice of two desserts as the finale. It’s a simple formula, but it works, as everyone revels in the casual French atmosphere. Here are two simple recipes from the Linds’s new book, with two French-style vinaigrettes.
- 3-4 large leeks or 12 young spring leeks
- Parisian or three-vinegar vinaigrette
- 3 handfuls of fresh parsley
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim the leeks and wash well under cold running water. If using large leeks, cut them into 3 x 10cm pieces. Fill a saucepan with salted water and simmer the leeks until soft. Drain well, refresh under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut each leek in half lengthwise and dress generously with vinaigrette and plenty of parsley. Season to taste. Serve as an entrée or as part of a spring or summer lunch. Serves 4. Wine match: sancerre white wine.
Elizabeth Lind says, “This classic salad from Lyons always reminds me of our meals at Aux Lyonnaise in the 80s. I’ve tried several different bacons for making the lardons and the best by a long way is the cured and smoked speck from French Market stallholder Marty. Frisée lettuce (curly endive) is sometimes hard to fi nd. Try to fi nd a lettuce with a slightly bitter taste, and you can vary the amount of speck and croutons.”
- 1/2 french loaf cut into 2cm cubes
- olive oil for cooking
- 6cm piece of speck, cut into thin lardons
- 1 frisée lettuce
- 4 fresh free-range eggs
- Parisian vinaigrette
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Make the croutons by tossing the bread cubes in a little oil and baking in the oven until crisp and golden but not too hard. Gently brown the speck in a frying pan until slightly crisp. Wash and dry the lettuce, then tear it up. Place in 4 individual bowls. Poach the eggs in simmering water until set but still runny. While the eggs are poaching, sprinkle the croutons and speck on top of the lettuce in each bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves. Place a poached egg on each salad. Serves 4. Wine match: French rosé.
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- 30ml good-quality white wine vinegar
- 1 generous tbsp dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Shake or whisk the ingredients together. Crushed garlic is an optional extra. If you don’t use a good-quality vinegar, the taste will be too sharp. Makes enough for 1 large salad.
LA CIGALE THREE-VINEGAR VINAIGRETTE
- 100ml canola oil (or a light olive oil)
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp each of red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar and balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Shake or whisk the ingredients together and season well. Makes enough for 1 large salad.
A little slice of France
La Cigale is the lively tale of how Elizabeth and Mike Lind brought a little slice of the France they love so much to Auckland. With their two daughters, they have travelled extensively in France and their journeys add to the story of their thriving multi-faceted Parnell business. The whole family have been involved in the making of the book; Elizabeth and Mike have shared their travel experiences, and cooked, tested and photographed the recipes. Daughter Emma, the artist in the family, did all the sketches, and younger sister Frances wrote the pen portraits of the market stallholders. It’s a delightful read and the recipes, all photographed and simply presented, use La Cigale market produce or are French classics and favourites the family have learnt to love on their travels together.
La Cigale, by Elizabeth Lind (Random House, $55).
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