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Île-de-Ré may be famous for many other culinary delights but above all, Île-de-Ré is renowned for producing some of the best salt in the business.
Salt has been produced on the island since the 13th century giving Île-de-Ré the nickname of ‘White Island’. At the peak of production, during the 19th century, 32,000 tons of salt were farmed during the summer months. The industry went into decline due to competition from industrialised-mined salt and the introduction of refrigeration, but in the 1990s the salt-producing dykes and ponds were restored. Today around 100 producers harvest a total of 2,000 tonnes per year. It is farmed on huge salt pans, left to evaporate over the summer months and then harvested using traditional methods. Fleur de Sel (flower of salt) is harvested first, with the smallest and most delicate salt crystals collected by hand. It is little wonder that Fleur de Sel has become one of the most celebrated finishing salts. It also finds its way into all kinds of products; you can buy it in salted caramel ice-cream and deliciously chewy salted toffees as well as in jars of flavoured salt specially prepared for fish, meat or salads.

Sel Gris is the greyish-coloured salt harvested from the bottom of the salt pans towards the end of the season – the colour is caused by the clay. It is rich in minerals and is often used with salads. If you cook anything with a salt crust, sauniers (the salt producers) recommend Sel Gris.



Sea salt and rosemary focaccia

Make 500g of dough using 500g bread flour, 15g of salt, 1 packet of dried yeast (7g of dried yeast) 80ml of olive oil and 200g of warm water (more if necessary).

Leave to rise for an hour, pat out into a round loaf. Leave to rise for another hour.

Sprinkle with a teaspoon of Sel Gris and a teaspoon of chopped rosemary, then drizzle with olive oil before baking for 15 minutes in a hot oven.