Archive for February, 2012

A French country cemetery and no dessert because it burned!

I drive past Nonard’s cemetery almost every day. Never have I stopped and entered it. Never had the desire to. I never go to a funeral, so why would I want to go to a cemetry?  But today I stopped at Nonard’s cemetery and pushed open the wrought iron gate…..oh dear, do I see some frowns out there??

PS: I made a riz au lait to accompany this post, because I thought an old traditional dish like rice pudding would go well with the traditional cemetery and add a little bit of sweetness to an otherwise grim subject. But then my chickens were so cute today, the sun was so wonderful, the cats so playful  that I forgot about the rice inside on the stove and burnt it to oblivion! So…only cemetery and no pudding..

… three stones, one family…

Les cimetiéres in France are very different to those I grew up with…they are almost..pretty? I love a cross…not for religious reasons, just because, and in the French cimetiére there is no shortage of spectacular crosses. But let me not talk too much, I might just say inappropriate things, since I do sometimes have a wicked mind.

…through the open gate…

So, while walking through Nonard’s cimetiére , I heard all the stories being whispered around me…people who once were fathers and mothers, sons, grandchildren, sisters…If there is one place you can sit and be surrounded by stories, it is the cemetery. I thought of my own story, way back, when my father died  and I was a young and vulnerable teenager of fifteen.

…abandoned sites..

I can remember my mother’s black dress she wore for the funeral and for weeks after.  I remember her beautiful brooches she always wore with her dresses. A scarf. Black shoes. I always thought she looked very elegant in black with her black hair, dark eyes and olive skin. I have no idea what I wore. After that day, it became custom for my mother and I to visit the cemetery every Sunday afternoon with a bottle of water, a cloth and a bunch of flowers. Our sweet, sweet neighbour across the road always came by the morning with flowers she picked from her garden, knowing our ritual by heart.  On arrival, my mother walked around the stone, inspected it and and found  fault  here with the stone that chipped, and there with marble that moved…it is after all a thing that stands on ground that move? I think that was her way of just controlling her emotions. My task was always to empty  the dry flowers, fill the vase with  fresh ones, wipe the dust from the marble and then I  joined my mother, where she just stared at my father’s name. I stared too. In silence. We continued that ritual for years, every Sunday afternoon, until I left home to university.

..to my grandpa, to my mother, to my father, to our friend, to my cousin, with sorrow,..

…age old plaques, broken, worn, sad…

I  have no doubt that it is one of the reasons why I hate a Sunday and why I feel depressed for a whole Sunday, especially the afternoon. But I suppose there is no difference between Sunday rituals at the cemetery; flowers, a cloth, fresh water, staring. Wondering. And remembering. A cemetery has its stories.  Touching. All the same, yet so different.

…a private family…

…two families resting together – what would their story be?..

..and finally, to lift the dark veil a bit and to reveal the wicked side of my character – 2 statues I would love to have in my garden and 4 vases for my home!…

…and dare I bring in a little humor  with the abandoned stone reminding me of the Titanic (bottom left), and a Jesus about to fall out of his vase any minute(bottom right)? Of course I can! In the saddest moments lies the biggest humor…that is what keeps us going. In fact, there is very little difference between laughing and crying…?

**********************************************************************************

Pinch of salt:

 Inspiration: 2 star chef Jean Sulpice:  His restaurant, Oxalys is the highest in Europe, at 2 300 m above sea level where he serves food of the highest quality and ingenuity. What inspires me is his devotion to his passions: his work, his family and  his mountains. He watches the weather every day from his window high up in Val Thorens to see how his clientele will turn out. He rises every morning at dawn for his exercises in the mountains with his skies in winter and hiking in summer. He takes his son to preschool and serves lunch to the school:  healthy vegetable soups and delicious chocolate mousse, which leave the kiddies with broad chocolate covered smiles! A young man full of joie de vivre and a vivid passion for what he loves!

What inspiration!

************************************************************************************

Rest in peace until next time

..from your wicked, Nonard cemetry intruder..


Crêpe à la semoule for Mardi Gras 2012.

Welcome to today, Mardi gras 2012!!

A little Mediterranean flavour to celebrate this feasty day…the last day on which we “fatten up” before we start our 40 day fast up to Pâcques. What else do we eat than crêpes…again?! Only, this time a bit different…made with semolina flour and yeast, it is left for an hour to rise before baking in a pan. The yeast may scare you off, but it is not at all difficult…no kneading involved, and while you wait on the raising of the yeast, you can clean up the kitchen. It is traditionally served with soft butter and warm honey in the Middle East….delicious I tell you!

…served with warm panfried clementines and honey and butter…

…served with soft butter and drizzled with warm honey…

  1. Add 4 tsp dry yeast to 125 ml lukewarm water. Add 3 TBS flour and leave aside in a warm place for about 15 minutes until the mixture begins to foam.
  2. Sift 250g flour, 250 fine semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl and shape a hole in the middle of the flour.
  3. Beat 2 eggs with 125 ml lukewarm milk and add into the hole made in the flour. Add the foamed yeast mixture and another 350 ml lukewarm water. Work the flour gently from the outside towards the centre, mixing it with the yeast/milk mixture in the middle. Whisk briskly until the mixtrue is smooth with the consistency of thick cream. cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for and hour unil the mixture becomes foamy and doubles in volume.
  4. Wipe a pan with a little buttered or oiled paper and heat it up on the stove until hot. Drop a small ladle full of mixture into the center of the pan(about 3 TBSP).  Bake until the top is dry and makes small holes/bubbles. don’t turn over. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a plate  over hot water. Cover with a damp towel.
  5. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.
  6. Serve warm on a plate with warmed honey and soft butter OR some clementine slices, slightly caramelized in butter and honey.
  7. Serve warm.

Makes about 16 crêpes.

Suggestions:

  • Add  a drop of orange flower water to the crêpe mixture OR add it to the clementines.
  • Arrange the crêpes after baking each one in overlapping fashion rather that on top of each other.
  • Butter the pan between baking if you don’t use a non stick pan.

…eggs, semolina, flour, yeast and a scale..

..acacia honey, fresh seasonal clementines and many books..

* Recipe adapted from “crêpe à la semoule” de  Le Meilleur du MAroc, by Tess Maloss, Larousse.

I hope you have a festive Mardi Gras and that your fasting from tomorrow on stays motivated and on the right track… ahem ahem…!

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Ambiance – Old bonbon jars.

I think the majority of people will never have enough storage space in the kitchen. I am no different. I’m also a firm believer of “out of sight, out of use” which means everything in my kitchen is in plain sight, ready for the taking. You can see some images of our Loire home kitchen here). But it means mean that  a lot of stuff can lie around in every nook and corner. And that of course…I hate too! It is always those small “tools” lying around in drawers that work on my nerves. So I prop them in old glass jars that I bought at the brocante, at the same time functional and nice to look at. The same goes for old apothecary jars, which I can unfortunately not show, since they are stored at the Loire house in Motlouis. They are SO beautiful!!you can see one filled with old porcelain pieces I pick up(bottom right image) These are old bonbon jars can now also be bought new, as reproductions from recycled glass, with the words engraved...bonbons, café, chocolats. Imagine how nice they would look on your shelves filled with petits gateaux over Christmas time, chocolats at Valentine or Oeufs de Pâques eggs during Easter? Any other sturdy glass jar can work too, just figure it big enough so you don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar!

..old glass bonbon jars and an old apothecary jar(the bottom right picture, left jar on the shelf)..

*Because it is still winter and too cold to hold a book …a movie with which you can cuddle up completely covered by blankets…Rabbit hole with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart and directed by john Cameron Mitchell (2010). The story of a couple coming to terms with the loss of their son.

…Rabbit hole…

…bon weekend…

..from the bonbon girl..


Cherry and bacon rolls..and happy Valentine!

I suppose everyone thinks “chocolate” when in February and especially around the 14th. I’m breaking the rules a bit here…these small cherry and bacon rolls are much more popular in our home under my loved ones than chocolate. In fact, I’m the only chocolate fan around here! So, when I make my people these little rolls, they know it says something about my love for them.

Very easy, so much so that it doesn’t require any recipe. I’ve had this “recipe” for as long as I can remember. It is sort of my “signature” snack and I have not yet come across a single person who sticks to only one or even two.

  1. Simply roll some sweet “cake cherries” as we used to call them in strips thin bacon. Secure with a toothpick
  2. Bake in a 200 degrees C (356 degr F) oven until the bacon is caramelized. In a preheated oven, this won’t take longer than 12-15 minutes.

Suggestions:

  • Use some prunes or apricots instead of cherries.
  • Use a leaner ham, like prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut in think slices and roll around the cherries. I’ve tried them all, but our favourite stays bacon strips.
  • The bacon rolls can be fried in a pan(without oil), but they are crispier and tastier(and healthier) baked in the oven.
  • Use simple toothpicks.. fancy ones will burn in the oven.
  • Eat warm from the oven.

…cherries in syrup, strips of bacon, toothpicks…

…May you all have  a cherry sweet Valentine’s day!..

…à bientôt

 from Chérie here in Corréze!


Ambiance – love on line 12.

Her name is Leyin. I am Julien. For  6 years we were together until she left me, 7 weeks ago. If you will allow me, I will share this story of love and passion with you, a piece a day, for as long as my faith keeps up or  until she comes back to this line 12, which she takes regularly. My wish? To touch her, move her and at the same time, bring some beauty to this world of the Paris metro.

For this Valentine weekend ambiance, I want to share this Paris metro love story with you.

Chéri called me last week one day, early morning, from Paris. “I miss you and I just quickly want to tell you how much I love you. Later, during  the weekend I found out what stirred his emotions on that early morning. He found a letter on his seat on the metro, line 12, the one he takes to work every day. It is a love letter from Julien to his lost love Leyin. It is written with passion and sadness and a hope that she’ll take line 12 again, find his words of love dedicated to her and be so touched by it that she returns to him. He ends his letter with a poem and a request that the letter not be destroyed, but left on the seat where you found it, as it is more than just a letter…it is a symbol of love.

So…I know many will immediately think this is a hoax, scam…or a joke…or anything else, except honest and real. Maybe it isn’t real. Maybe it is a joke. Or a scam. But then, in my opinion, it is a positive one. One that leaves you with a smile and a twinkle in the eye…a dream…. and one that has your husband of 30 years  call you early morning to quickly tell you that he loves you. THAT is honest and real.

Have a passionate Valentine weekend!

from the hopeless romantic!

Updated Saturday, 11 February. This reply showed up  in my comment box…

“Hello,

I am the author of the papers for Leyin on line 12.
It’s not a hoax or something like that.
It’s real, it’s our story, and I hope she will come back.

It’s funny. You’re the second english spoken people who think it could be not real.
I’ve received reactions on my mail (darling_jf@yahoo.fr), and all reactions in french don’t enven think about a hoax, joke… For french people, it sounds like it is , a romantic way to find again my love.

The paper you show is the number 7. I finished the week on friday with the number 11.

Thank you very much for your interest. With many good vibrations, I think we (leyin and me) will be soon together.

Sorry for my english.

Darlin JF

11/02/2012 at 13:0″

**I’m so happy to hear from Julien and so this is for him...let’s ALL hope and wish together that he’ll find this love!!


Tartiflette…and a Siberian blanket.

I’m not a very big potato fan, but with our extremely cold temperatures here in Europe and especially here at Coin Perdu in the barn, I take comfort in a hearty true mountain tartiflette. It does wonders for my cold body…and spirit! It is a favorite in my family and we make it different every time. It is a recipe that can be played around with, except for the cheese..that can NOT be replaced. It won’t be a tartiflette without that strong flavoured creamy cheese.

There aren’t any specific quantities for making a tartiflette…I can only tell you more or less what I do:

  1. Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
  2. Rinse, leave to cool aside.
  3. Fry 2 large onions in a pan, add a handful of sliced champignons de Paris and a packet of bacon pieces. Season to you taste.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
  5. Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
  6. Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
  7. Cut a Reblochon cheese(or another soft cheese of your choice) through the middle so you have two thin rounds.  I used a Montagnard des Vosges. Place cut side down on the potatoes.
  8. If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has become dry and brittle. Remove from the oven and remove the crust from the dish. Sprinkle with some paprika or “piment d’Espelette” and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nicely caramelized.
  10. Serve warm with some slices of smoked ham and a large fresh green salad on the side with a pungent vinaigrette.

Serves 4 as a meal.

Europe had been covered in a Siberian snow blanket for the past week or so…freezing cold, hyper dangerous, but spectacular! It is exceptionally cold here at Coin Perdu and I have a rough time keeping warm, seeing to fresh water for the horses with all the plumbing frozen rock solid. Warming up the barn to a comfortable temperature has also been a challenging task as of late and the only solution is to dress Inuit style, shuffling  around in multiple layers and moving with less agility than a polar bear. don’;t even mention femininity.. We were snowed in without snow chains for the car and couldn’t get up the hill. the small French country roads are not made for snow and tiny cars and evidence of  this is seen all around the countryside with cars in ditches off the roads.

..our/my home for now…

..bringing the horses in for the night, feeding them, carrying hay from the e other barn and water from the swimming pool..

…an unfinished home – what would I give to be all snug in my home..

…VERY c..c..c..c0ld visits..!!

…the boxwoods are still standing and showing off their beauty against a white background…

..first time snow for Mimolette…

…discovering this all-white-business…

..a white potager(vegetable garden) with the eiffel tower empty, a garden cloche looking quite pretty and last year’s cherry tomatoes…

Mésanges bleues(blue tits and a mésange charbonniére(Great tits) are all too playful in this cold. Between them and the red robins and the pies and the horses and the chickens and the cats and the rabbits and whoever else…; I just can’t keep up with feeding everybody!…

…just some prettiness…

Last, but not least: THANK YOU to everybody who has sent me emails and messages expressing concern for our staying here in the barn at Coin Perdu during this cold, wondering how we/I’m holding up and whether we/I’m surviving.  It is very much appreciated.!! I’m still here, even though I have to admit it is a bit tough lately.  Thank you for caring!

à bientôt

the polar bear(ess)!


Ambiance – a French name or two.

Some of our villages have some real tongue twister names here in the Correze countryside. Just because it is weekend, I’m leaving you with one or two to struggle with and see if you can figure out their pronunciation. When you’re done, put up your hand and I’ll pass on the advanced challenge..

I’m also a kind person, so to lift your spirit after all the hard work at practicing your French…a great movie with some great actors;  Julie Andrews, who will always be one of my favorites, Colin firth OF COURSE…now whose legs don’t go jello by the delicious sight of this cute man?? Mine certainly do! The only one, I have to say frankly I’m no fan of, is Jeanne Tripplehorn, but fortunately the rest of the cast makes up for her . Be warned, it is British humor and if you don’t like British… well, then rather go for Terminator!

..and on this French/British  note I wish you a very pleasant weekend, my dears…

à la prochaine fois

 from a freezing cold barn in Correze!


Sophie’s crêpes for la Chandeleur…and all kinds of french chateaux.

Today, 2 February is la Chandeleur( a  commemoration of the presentation  of the baby Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem and the purification process: (Luke 2:22 – When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”) . But mostly this day in France is devoted to eating crêpes.  I’m sharing a traditional Breton recipe, a favorite of our daughter’s  friend, who is Bretonne.

…crêpes de Sophie…

I feel a little like Paula Deen advocating this butter and sugar, so maybe I should warn...DANGER! One can’t have too many of these and in any case, we French only eat one or at the most, two crêpes(if they are small) at a time! Hope you enjoy your one crêpe.

…exploding sugar crystals”..(pumping candies)…

The basic recipe for the crêpes can be found here: A classice crêpe recipe and feasting the Mardi Gras way.

Suggestions for Sophie’s Bretonne crêpes.

  • When serving your crêpes, heat a pan with a small knob of butter.
  • Add one crêpe at a time, turn and warm/fry the other side.
  • Add a little sugar to the crêpe in the pan, allow it to melt, fold the crêpe in half and fold again so you end up with a small envelope.
  • Slide onto a plate and serve hot.
  • For fun I added some “exploding sugar crystals” just before serving. They will “explode” in your mouth, adding a surprise to each bite. I see they are called “pumping candies”…?Her is one address in France where they can be ordered from: Meilleur du chef.com

********************************************************************

When we hear the word château, we immediately dream up an image of Le Roi Louis XIV, the sun king of France. And yes, it is spot on. It is those beautiful country residences of royalties like le château de Versailles, or Fontainebleau, or those found in La vallee de la Loire, like the majestic Chambord and Chenenonceau, or Villandry and Uzé and others, more or less known.

…Fontainebleau…

…Chambord…

…Bourdaisiére…

…Chinon…

…Chaumont sur Loire…

 But then we also have the smaller French country house, also called  un château which might be inhabited by a noble Frenchman or not. Lately many châteaux here in France are bought up and restored by foreigners and run as bed and breakfasts or luxury hotels. And yes, stories rich in deception, love and intrigue still abound in all these châteaux, even the luxury château hotels…how can you silence the voice of a place?

…a locked up country château…

.. you want to hear the mysterious story of this small château…no, not now? OK next time…

…no entry, only mystery…

There is a third kind of château…my chickens are of noble heritage…owing not only one, but two châteaux of which I am the butler and the maid and housekeeper. Their fancy heated one in Tours is at the moment up for sale, and they are living in an old dilapidated château here at Coin Perdu which we inherited when we bought the property. But, as royalty runs deep in the veins and isn’t determined by  surroundings, my chickens reign with dignity and class from their ruins.

…the entrance to the chateau de Plumes…

…a dilapidated château de Plumes..

As soon as my vegetable patch is finished, the château de Plumes will move to the potager. I have the plans all set up for a cute and regal château de Plumes with turrets and all, still rustic, but worthy to be home to Their Royal Hignesses. As it is very cold here at night, I bring them into the barn at night,  in their baskets, where they sleep next to my bed and we all snore in sync and cozy warmth. At 5:30, when Camembert announces the day(how does he know it is day, when all is still spitting dark??), I turn on my other side and cover my ears.

…dignified royalty…

Enjoy your ONE crêpe!!! 

and until next time..

from your devoted servant, Ronelle


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 265 other followers