Politicians and their plates: Christian Allard's Christmas bourguignon
The French-born MEP shares his thoughts on Scottish-French fusions and his favourite festive dish
Describe your favourite plate of food.
Tender Scotch beef cooked in French wine accompanied with potatoes slow cooked in cream and local seasonal vegetables. The best of both worlds, the wonderful alliance of Scottish best products cooked the French way: I give you Boeuf Bourguignon or Beef Bourguignon as it is known here.
Why is it so special?
It’s not your everyday dish but reserved for special occasions as it is full of goodness and calories. More importantly the recipe is from Burgundy where I come from. Burgundy is famous for its wine, the best in the world. Don’t bother mentioning any other French region, when it comes to wine places like Nuit St George and Beaune are where real connoisseurs get their wine. Burgundy is famous for its rich cooking tradition, food is important for us, cooking it, eating it and passing recipes from generation to generation.
Who have you shared this plate of food with and what was the occasion?
In the very Scottish Allard family, Beef Bourguignon means Christmas for my children and grandchildren. I share the preparation of the dish too, involving them all. From buying the best Scotch beef available, soaking it in burgundy red wine overnight, peeling the potatoes and tasting the sauce during the slow cooking and then we all set the table and enjoy. Last Christmas, my younger daughter in Edinburgh asked for help and we cooked online together via FaceTime. Her partner, who is from Hungary, really enjoyed the fusion of French cuisine and the best Scottish produce.
More generally, what’s your most memorable meal and why? Not everybody knows this, but I share something with Jackie Baillie MSP. We both have Portuguese grandparents. Away from fine Burgundy cuisine, I really enjoyed summer breaks with my Portuguese grandmother. A simple tomato and raw onion salad with a splash of olive oil is still my favourite summer dish, one that reminds me of summers with my grandmother. I can still hear her singing the fado and I do remember her praying at every occasion.
Have you ever had any culinary disasters?
Souffles and choux pastry can be a hit or a miss, my children would say more often a miss than a hit. I blame the cooker usually when I know that I should blame the cook. One of those recipes that ends up regularly as a disaster is the fantastic dessert called Paris-Brest. Made of choux pastry and filled with a praline flavoured cream it is delicious – if you have the right cooker that is.
What would be your last meal of choice? A banquet, one with all my favourite dishes from France, Portugal and of course Scotland; from Burgundy where I was born to the North East of Scotland where I chose to live. It will have to be a banquet, I love my food, I love cooking it and I love sharing it.
What’s your comfort food?
I have a sweet tooth, a good meal should always finish with a dessert. Yet, I have to admit that I am addicted to a local North East delicacy, raans. If you’re not from the North East and don’t speak the Doric, raans are fish roes. I love them straight out of the steamer and I could eat them all day long. Beware of the taste and the texture, raans are not for everyone but for some, like me, they are just like sweets.
Is there any plate of food that you would never eat?
Non, remember I come from France, the land of frog legs lovers and another speciality of Burgundy - snails. To be eaten very hot in their shells in garlic butter, they are of a similar taste to garlic mushrooms. To be honest, I would never eat something too spicy.
What is your favourite thing on the European Parliament menu?
Fish, any kind of fish, has to be the answer. I always choose Scottish if it’s on offer of course, cold or smoked as a starter and as a main course grilled, steamed or baked. Shellfish I also love and those are often straight from our Scottish larder. I try to eat fish everyday, when in Brussels or in Strasbourg, in the parliament’s canteen.