It’s not easy to find a lot of typically French food in UK supermarkets outside of the stereotypical pastries. I only really crave specific things that don’t necessitate a whole food shop of French items, which is just as well because most delivery services are only available or reasonable if you live in London and can afford to do your entire food shop from websites like Chanteroy, French Favour, French Click and Europa Food. As it is, I don’t live in London and I can’t afford to buy imported regular items like dry pasta at UK prices – unless I need some coquillettes (teeny tiny macaroni) or vermicelle (even tinier pasta you add to soup to bulk it up, like alphabet pasta) – so I wait until I am overcome with homesickness/cravings to splurge out on a little French produce. I am lucky that my mum send us care packages that often contain fruit compote pouches for the girls, Tassimo coffee for Badgerman, and a couple of saucissons secs (dry sausage) for the whole family.
Before I let you in on a little secret about where I buy French food in the South of England, I’ll quickly explain why we get our Tassimo coffee from France, when you can find it in all UK supermarkets. You might have noticed that the coffee strength is represented on the side of the boxes with little coffee beans. In the UK, you can buy up to strength 4 or 5 but it actually goes up to strength 7, and guess where you can find that beauty? That’s right. So we get it shipped over by my mother. But enough about weak coffee.
Where to buy French food: bread and pastries
It’s not actually that hard to find nice bread in the UK (tiger bread is lovely), but it is hard to find good French-style bread, and even harder to find good pastries. The best bread and pastries I’ve found so far has been from the Co-operative supermarket. I was genuinely surprised but I have been very impressed with their quality; their bread is great. In the village where I live, we have a Co-Op and an independent deli and, as much as it pains me to say, I would choose to buy my croissants from the supermarket. They are a lot fresher, lighter and more buttery.
Where to buy French food: online supermarket
The best regular online shop to buy French food in the South of England if you only need the occasional item is Ocado. They sell regular British food but also have a great selection of French brands and typically French products like:
- Fruit compotes
- Drink syrups, which are a bit like fruit squash but different. It’s hard to explain but they’re pretty much my childhood in a bottle: grenadine, mint, and my new favourite, mojito-flavoured (lime and mint, but non-alcoholic of course)
- Proper French cheeses i.e. not necessarily pasteurised: I bought a Reblochon so I could make a proper Tartiflette (recipe to come in a future post very soon!).
- The whole of the Reflets de France range: this is a range of French specialties you can find in French supermarkets so it is not purely targeted to foodies and foreigners. This is a Good Thing.
A Frog at Large Recommends:
- The big compote pots from Bonne Maman; you get a large jar with the gingham top at the end of it which you can use around the house to great effect.
- A typical French goat’s cheese from Rocamadour. Warm it up and serve on top of a green salad drizzled with honey.
- Rillettes de Porc: you have not had paté until you have tried some rillettes. It is not a smooth pate, but is unlike any other coarse you will ever try.