When I think back to my childhood, I remember actively disliking cake, cream, icing and butter. What a weird little girl I must have been. Unfortunately, just when I reached an age when it would have been useful for this naturally health-inclined fad to continue, I discovered the joys of all four. But it is butter that holds a particularly special place in my heart. Melted into a bowl of steaming sweetcorn, mashed into boiled potatoes, spread thickly on a piece of toast, butter makes stars of the most simple foods and I can’t imagine life without it.
Of course, there is one butter that steals the crown when it comes to churned milk and, when crusty French bread is involved, simply no other will do. Well-known as one of the best artisan butters in France, if not the world, Echiré butter has reached gourmet status and is served in some of the world’s finest restaurants. So, what makes it so special?
Well, firstly, it is presented beautifully and anything that comes in a pretty little wooden basket tends to be good. Secondly, it really does taste different to normal butter. I remember my father banging on about it being “the best butter you’ll ever taste” on one trip to France. So, we bought some (unsalted for table use) in the supermarket (you can buy it from Waitrose in the UK) and, sure enough, when I slathered some on my tartine the next morning, I realised he was right!
It was creamy and smooth, light yet rich, with subtle tangy flavours conjuring up images of happy cows pulling up clumps of green, green grass in the sunshine. And, no, I’m not exaggerating. Being very protectionist about their best produce (the 1955 Appellation d’Origine Protégée enforces strict rules about quality and traditional methods in the food and wine sector), 85% of the production of Echiré butter is kept in France, where it still comes exclusively from the village of Echiré and, despite technological progress, is still made by traditional means using a wood barrel churn. This ensures its’ unique taste and texture and cements its place – along with so much of France’s fabulous food produce – as quite simply the best.