I wrote an article for LEEF, an Afrikaans magazine in SA, about our life here in France. Their February summer issue was devoted to all things French and I was asked to do a contribution. I called it “In the shade of the walnut tree”. This is our favorite spot in summer time where we enjoy our apéros and amuses bouches, long lazy lunches and philosophical discussions.
So…for the Afrikaans readers out there; the February issue of LEEF magazine is still available on the shelves. For my English and other readers I will soon translate the article into English and post it here.
In the meantime, here in the French countryside we are enveloped in the blankets of winter with misty days, rain, and cloudy skies. It makes for an ambiance filled season and we all enjoy gathering in the bistros around cups of coffee or chocolat chauds. Those more daring go for a glass of Ricard. We talk about the cold and the rain congested soil and what we’re having for dinner. Nestled in the misty hills, the chimneys have trails of smoke. The kitchens smell of les potages, soupes et veloutés and long sauce bourguignons. Our animals are safely sheltered in the stables while the fields are left bare for regrowth. We are cocooning.
à la prochaine fois!
I decided to make a walnut tart, even though it is actually an autumn dish which we make when our walnuts are harvested after summer. But here, we eat it throughout the year, because we love it. Tout simple. That’s it.
Coming home from the marché aux plantes in Curemonte last week, with my confiture de noix and my chutneys and oils and vinegars and dandelion syrup under my arm, I thought it would be appropriate to make a walnut tart to accompany this reportage on the plant day at Curemonte. I’ve never made a walnut tart myself and it is only recently that I started eating it. I never thought it could be something special, until that one day that I took a slice at a friend’s house. It was delicious and it still is. It tastes like autumn. It is a rather heavy tart (which makes sense for fall and winter comfort), so I make it in a small tart tin, to have small slices…a good idea in any case for all tarts and cakes and goodies!
Our walnut trees are always late off the mark. They start off late in spring with these nice “flowers”, which are then rapidly followed by the leaves. With 4 huge trees, we always have a large supply of walnuts, perfect for Noël.
..tarte aux noix (walnut tart)..
*Pastry base: Recipe here. Bake the pastry shell blind( without filling, but filled with dry baking beans to weigh down the pastry). Bake at 200 ° C for about 10 minutes. Remove the beans.
- Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
- Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
- Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with skewer and the tart is done when the skewer is removed clean when piercing the tart.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
- Leave to cool, decorate with dusted icing sugar and some whole walnuts and serve with some créme fraîche or whipped cream.
Serves 6 people
Une pincée de sel:
- The brown sugar and coffee gives a nice dark colour to the filling; but the coffee can be omitted if desired.
- For a winter tart, try adding some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or cacao instead of coffee.
- Pecan nuts can be used instead.
- Keep the portions small as it is a rich and heavy tart.
- Make extra pasty for the base and keep in the freezer for another tart.
…defrosting the pastry for the base..
...spring walnut branches..
Marché aux plantes à Curemonte
Curemonte is a quaint little village, 10 minutes drive from us. This past week saw the annual marché aux plantes (plant market) at Curemonte, an occasion I look forward to every year. Not only do they have plants, but also food, artwork and some bric a brac..a vide grenier. Everything sold and presented, is local. The bread is made locally, the beer is from the local brasserie, the plants and vegetables are local, the bees and honey, the walnut delicacies and walnut tarts are made locally , the wine is local and the vide grenier and brocante are from les Curemontais themselves.
I love the country side, whether it is a French one or an American one or and English one. I prefer the ambiance and laid back ambiance of les campagnards, country folk..of which I am one of course. Strolling the small streets, peeking around each corner, stroking the dilapidated doors and windows, enjoying the laisser faire gardens( gardens just seem to happen by themselves, relaxed..). the world just comes to a standstill in the countryside where chatting to your neighbour is still a pleasure, almost an obligation and something that can even happen on the road, simply expecting traffic behind to wait..everybody waits. Beauty is all around you, simple, nothing is ostentatious. Glamor has no place in the countryside. Nature isn’t glamorous. It is simple. Honest. sometimes hard and challenging. Always beautiful. I thus hope I pass a bit of the beauty of Curemonte and its marché aux plantes on to you by these images.
..and plenty of food for hungry visitors; 8 euros for a plateau repas, which consisted of a glass of rosé wine, rillettes with bread for a starter, steak frites and cheese to finish..so simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..
..I found my bonheur(happiness)..
..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..
..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)
I hope you enjoyed this day with me in the French country side! I of course loved every minute of it and I relived it all by sharing it here with you.
until very soon( à trés bientôt!)
I am very rarely inspired by a recipe. It almost never happens happens that I eat something great and I want the recipe. Of course I enjoy it, but my true inspiration to create a recipe comes from “things” of everyday life. At the moment I am inspired by colour. Every day as I watch nature, I witness colours deepen and darken, fade and disappear. I am mesmerized by the dark of wet wood.. the doors, the windows, the wood piles along the country roads ready for winter fires, the deep beiges of dry fields, the soft creams of the sheep grazing the green hills..and then I remember that recipe saw in a magazine, or the one I tasted at a friends home, and I’m inspired to create the same. This time - A chocolate mendiant tart I saw in a magazine at the hairdresser. I can’t remember the magazine, or theexact ingredients, except for the addition of the Nutella and the icing sugar roasted nuts. And yes, the chocolate colour perfect to accompany the browns I see around me. And the taste..perfect for the cold rainy days..or any other day!
Une Pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used orangettes(candied orange strips). See crystallized orange strips how to make them. It is worth making them yourself to buying those tasteless ones in the supermarket.
- Other dried fruits I used: Dried figs cut in slices and dried cranberries.
- Nuts I used: Freshly shelled walnuts and pistachios.
- I didn’t use a sweet pastry, because the chocolate is sweet enough.
- This dough is enough for 2 tarts. I always make a double quantity so I have a spare pastry ready to roll out in the freezer.
- Consider using this pastry recipe..Omit the cheese, thyme and peppercorns in the recipe. It is much more buttery, delicious of course, but also richer.
- Leave the tart/tartlets to stand for a day to develop flavor.
- It is important to leave the dough to rest. I always leave my dough overnight, it prevents shrinking. This time I was too hurried and in the photo you can see the result..shrinkage!
..an old dilapidated, but charming door contrast beautifully with white stone walls..
..typical Corréze country-with light cream stone houses and dark roofs, dark shutters, rusted barn equipment, nestling in the green hills..
green Corréze hills with brown soil prepared for new fields, dry cornfields of the past season and stark, late autumn trees..
..happy, creamy white sheep roaming the green hills..
..two friends, a familiar Corrézien sight..
..this is a time of year I love to sketch. At the moment, I am truly inspired by the browns and the shapes, especially those of leaves, branches and everything else I find on my walks..
..the stacks of wood ready for the fast approaching winter..
Armed with my camera and macro lens, my boots and hat, I headed for the woods.
But…champignons of course!!
..my favorite hat..
Note: I’m not a mushroom expert, except when it comes to eating them, in which case I do have a strong opinion. So I may be wrong in my classification of these mushrooms. It is very difficult to identify them, since some are so close in appearance and character. See the end of the post for the sources I tapped into. The photos are of course my own.
..Entoloma lividum - toxic, under leaves
.. Hypholoma fasciculare – a poisonous mushroom, very common, grows on dead wood..
..Polypore feutré (Inonotus cuticularis)- a parasite that live on the damaged parts of live trees..
..armillaria gallica – toxic, grows on dead branches and leaves
..dacrymyces microsporus -grows on dead branches and tree trunks..
..Clavaire etroite – common on dead leaves and rotting wood..
..Russules Maculée – common under leaves on alcalic soil..
- More photos can be seen in my gallery in the sidebar: Champignons d’automne.
- Le nouveau guide des champignons – Cécile Lemoine
- Champignons -Polesse Jean Marie
- Les champignons de France – Hervé Chaumeton
I will soon have to go back into the woods, because I haven’ captured even half of what is still out there; And some of my photos didn’t turn out good enough which I’ll have to redo. So, until such time…
♥ don’t eat mushrooms which haven’t been identified by an expert..
♥ keep unidentified mushrooms apart for the others..
♥ clean your hands after touching a strange mushroom..
♥ don’t forget your camera..
When asked which is her favorite princess in a fairytale, Marinell always says Belle, from Beauty and the beast. On 15 September she really was Belle and she had her handsome blue eyed prince and her castle..and they danced in the sunset on “La vie en rose”, their own fairytale.
..Chateau du Doux..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..on the staircase in the chateau..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..in the library of the chateau..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
Both the bride and groom wanted a traditional wedding, from the word go. The challenge was to incorporate the traditions of three different cultures. As time passed and planning was done step by step(mostly by themselves), it all naturally fell into place. The finished result was a good and fun mix of 3 cultures and even the hands that helped stretched over continents; friends and family from SA to Australia, friends and family from the UK and of courseall those good friends from France. Everyboldy pitched in happily… preparing salds for the Friday evening’s barbecue, roaming the forest for ferns and moss and branches, loading and unloading tables and chairs and pots and urns, stripping leaves from ferns for confetti, arranging flowers, setting tables, folding napkins, sweeping floors, making coffees, taxying people from the airport…and finally we all sat down together for dinner in a candle lit room, surrounded by happy chat and laughter. This is exactly how I wanted their day to end. Happy.
..flowers in the church of Le Pescher..
..”supposed” to be singing..
..confetti made of Ferns we picked in our forest at Coin Perdu and many hands helped strip the leaves..
..Now where are you off to..?
..Resting on the bridge after walking with everybody through the little village of Le Pescher..
Like every mother, I was highly excited about this wedding of our first daughter.And like every mother, a little afraid too: of the costs, of not staying out of it( very hard!), of not being able to help them live their dream, of not being able to make the day only joyous and happy.To keep the costs down we did everything ourselves and worked quite hard, I did indeed succeed in staying out of it(sometimes), and it was a beautiful joyous and happy day on which they truly lived their dream by saying “I do”
..Striped paper straws for old fashioned coke bottles, mailbox for letters, signing the guestbook, pouring oil into torches, lanterns and chandelles..
..Flowers, urns and sitting corners in the garden..
Pampilles(crystals), hanging from tree branches – to find your seat..
..some fun in the garden..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..A first dance to Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose”..
..Two pretty smiles..
(photo: W van Wyk)
..the dining room is ready..
..table decorations: moss and ferns and foliage from our forest at Coin Perdu; hydrangeas and grey foliage from the garden with accents of chardon and Chrysanthemum and camomiles among lanterns and some silver for sparkle.
..Entering for dinner..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..Bon appetit et bonne nuit!..
***Photos: All images Ronelle van Wyk, unless otherwise stated.
***I have just recently started a Facebook page, which I call Café des artistes. It is an extension of my three blogs and on it I do exactly what one would do in a café around coffee..talk about art and life and food and photography..if you are interested in some of these short snippets, you can find my link in the sidebar to join. You will also find more photos of the wedding on my facebook page..as always, Ronelle
I have been like these butterflies the last few weeks…fluttering left, right and center! Our eldest daughter’s wedding is a week from today and I’m in top gear, working to get everything done. Truth be told, up until now most of the organizing had been done by the two themselves. My work only really started these last few weeks and being true to my very bad self, I left everything until the very last minute, which now means a mean scuffling of feet to be on top of things. But I’m almost there…on top of things!
..Inachis Io(Paon du jour) Peacock butterfly..
Every now and then I get distracted by my animals or the garden…the flowers, the vegetables and my potager, a coffee…before finding my rhythm again to move along with wedding stuff. One such a pleasant distraction was the seductive butterflies in my summer garden.
.. le petit nacré (Issoria lathonia) ..
..Iphiclides podalirius – scarse swallowtail (le flambé)..
..la belle dame (Vanessa cardui)..
..(papillons satyrinae (satyre)..
..Colias alfacariensis (Fluoré)..
A last sip of cool and calm Provencal Rosé at sunset with mon chéri before friend and family start arriving from tomorrow onfor the wedding. And so with these images of my summer butterflies here at Coin Perdu and two cold glasses of Rosé, I leave you until I resurface after the wedding!
Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.
In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!
Une petite pensée:
- I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
- Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
- Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
- Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
- Use a celery branch to stir.
- Add cubes of ice in each glass
- Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.
A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.
From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!
Sunday was a real “Dimanche à la campagne” at Coin Perdu. Our children from Toulouse visited the weekend, the sun was shining, we stopped working on our house for the day and we had a great brunch outside under the Tilleul tree. What made it really perfect was that Mon Chéri made lunch! I just sat in the shade, sipped my Rosè and enjoyed the company of the people I love. This frittata/tortilla/ omelette is the brainchild of Mon Chéri and it changes every time he makes it which course is typical of a frittata…you use whatever is available and to your liking!
..frittata/tortilla/omelette on the barbecue..
..the assistant earns her lunch..
Une petite pensée:
- Make a frittata to empty the fridge at the end of a month.
- Normally a frittata is done on the stove and placed under a grill for a few minutes before serving. I is firm enough to cut into slices.
- If you want it creamier, add a TBSP of crème fraîche just after you’ve added the eggs and stir .
- Always add a sprinkling of freshly cut herbs before serving for a fresh appeal.
- Place your frittata under the grill for a few minutes to have it puff up, melt the cheese if added and brown nicely.
- To make it vegetarian, omit the left over meat.
- Be creative with your frittata.
- Serve with fresh green salad, toast or country bread and fruit.
..dèjeuner à la campagne..
But back to the moment: ..the strawberries try desperately to produce one last crop… I sure did something wrong, because my garlic went to seed and is even smaller than when I planted them!… I lost all my newly planted carrots by simple neglect unfortunately (I didn’t water them…too lazy?)…my basil dried up too, but I still have some new leaves pushing, so I’m not completely hopeless!…My onions are all dug up…my young leeks look a bit frail…
..an empty late summer potager..
But on the other hand…my maize (corn) looks beautiful, although few…my pumpkin is coming along beautifully and already have little pumpkins all over…I am in love with all my grey foliaged herbs like the Absinthe(Artemisia absinthium), the santolinas, the grey potent curry plants..
..absinthe, french marigolds, tomatoes, maize, pumpkin herbs..
My artichokes are late, but I’m happy, even though I have only one plant carrying buds…next year I will have plenty of artichokes..enough to leave for flowering and enough for eating!…
One thing I don’t fail at, is growing beets…deliciously sweet, small and big, the young leaves delicious in salads. We have feasted this season on fresh beets and I’ve just planted some more and I’m already picking the leaves for colour in my salads – of course beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I pretend they are very difficult and I’m just soo good!…
..young beetroot peeping through the lavender..
A lovely green view on my potager..I have to add that this photo was taken just after some hard work, like weeding and digging-in horse manure(with the help of sweet Mon chéri of course) and pruning and all the labour a potager asks for…but still… quite pretty with the bright tansy and gay French marigolfds, the cloches and yellow pots, tomato forest… heh?…
..bright yellows for a potager..
Now just look at my maize (admitting again in a whisper that Mon Chéri sees to it being watered…?). In France maize is not eaten “corn on the cob” wise. On the contrary, it is seen as animal food and frowned upon as human food..but once they try it our way..on the BBQ.. with butter and fleur de sel..they are converted!…
..maize(corn on the cob)..
Of course I have camomile, as everubody does…how can one not have Camomile…such an easy growing, abundant and gratifying herb! Don’t trust the marker…nothing is what it seems here at Coin Perdu…
rosemary…oops non, camomile..
Aha…the tomatoes – last year I was conscientious and my tomatoes were properly staked and all the necessary pinching and mulching were religiously done and they were beautiful! This year, it is more of a tomato war with cherries and grapes and rondes and ovals fighting for air and power and it is an ordeal to harvest, but when we succeed, we have nice sweet abundant crops; I’ll be perfect again next year!…
As said…I love the santolinas…the greens and the greys…mixed with lavender, I can dwell there for hours. Hopefully I’ll have a whole field of mixed santolinas and lavenders next year – it all comes down to efficient planning?…
The visitors are bountiful and it rewards the hard work of gardening without pesticides! This young lady goes by the pretty name of le Nacré de la ronce(Brenthis daphné)…
..Nacre de la ronce..
Without planning it, my potager developed and grew towards the yellows. And I love it! Yellows, oranges, greens, whites and grey. Beautiful. But only in my garden. and only in the potager. The rest stays all white. And definitely not on my body! Look at these cheeky marigolds, bursting with energy!… and they get picked when they start to wilt, the petals are dried and used in salads..Nothing goes to waste .
Salads. A potager isn’t a potager without its salads. A leaf here and a leaf there, a handful f tomatoes, a basil leaf, a beetroot leaf … voilà, a salad for lunch….
salads (feuille de chène)
I’m one of those crazy gardeners… I am greedy, I plant too much, I plant too close together, I sow too many seeds… And so I planted far too many courgettes for our household and we ended up having these giants…pretty to look at, not as tasty as the young sweet courgettes though. But I always reason that life must be pretty too, not only practical and sensible, and that same reasoning goes for a potager…pretty has its place too in a potager. So here they are, my pretty giants!…
I hope you enjoyed walking with me through my potager at the end of the summer…almost.
A potager is hard work…all that weeding, the watering, the planting and seeding, the harsh summer sun, fighting the slugs and the deer, the rabbits and snails……it IS hard work and I am fa..aar from being the most effective gardener. Around us, everything grows and wanders like it wishes(animals included, people included) and when the worms devour my artichokes, I break into an instant fit and man and animal flees, but then calm down and casually start over again. We pretty much believe in laisser faire, so you will never see perfection around here, but I believe that it is a stress free way of gardening. What is a few weeds after all? And insects do more good than harm, and if the snails feed on your salads, just plant a few more.. or plant some sorrel to keep them away from your salad(snails adore sorrel)..or cover the soil with broken eggshells, or ash from the barbecue…live and let live..
OK. I have to shower and clean my nails and go find my gloves, which stayed behind somewhere in the potager…
Et voila…M Pierrot Gourmand, as promised!
We love our apéro (apéritif) before dinner. It can be many things and always quick and easy. Only with visitors do I try to do something more “travaillé” more elaborate. But most of the time it will be fresh tomatoes with some mozzarella, or a bowl of home marinated olives, or melted Camembert and baguette slices, or carrot sticks with vinaigrette dip, or brushcetta… These little tomato cocktails are very popular. Fresh from our tomato vines, they are dipped in caramel and in poppy seed and stuck into Pierrot and served with cold Provencal Rosé wine on the patio while Mon Chéri prepares his fire for our dinner… this is of course in summer where one can’t be anywhere else but outside!
- Dip the caramelized tips into any finish of your choice: dessicated coconut for a tropical touch; toasted seame seeds, finely chopped basil, or mixed fresh herbs; gremola; chopped dried tomatoes flakes, milled peppercorns, chopped nuts of your choice…
- Don’t make the caramel too dark or else it will taste burnt.
- Use wooden lollipop sticks for an authentic feel or use toothpicks and serve on wooden beard.
- Serve with cold white or Rosé wines along with a bowl of torn and seasoned buffalo mozzarella pieces.
The birth of Pierrot Gourmand:
At the end of the XIXth century, the famous actor Debourreau created and played his own pantomime on the melody of “Au clair de la lune“. The personage Pierrot inspired Adolphe Willette, an artist to create a poetic Pierrot. He was referred to as “le Pierrot de Montmartre“. In 1892 Monsieur Everard of Everard and Herbert industries gave birth to a marquette of Pierrot sitting on the moon, offering bonbons to children. And so Pierrot Gourmand was born.
The first lollipop was invented by Everard in 1924, made of barley sugar, fruit flavors, cola and caramel and shaped in the form of a spear head. The milky caramel was the first flavor on the market. Up until today Pierrot Gourmand lollipops still exist in both the round and original spear head shape. With a production of over 2000 tons of candy per year, the fifties was regarded as the golden years for Pierrot Gourmand. Today it is part of the Agro-industriel-andros group, well known for its Andros jams and juices.
More reading on Pierrot gourmand:
..à bientôt mes amis!..
Today, 22 April 2012 is Earth day.I would like to add my small contribution to help make the world conscious of the wonder of this planet we are privileged to inhabit. We have only one lifetime we to enjoy it and at the same time secure and preserve it for the future.
If we can teach our children from a young age to see nature from close-up, we will see a beauty deeper than just by scanning the surface: Taking walks in nature, having closer looks at what lies beneath a leaf or a branch, having them plant their own bean in a saucer lined with cotton wool, giving them their own corner in a garden to plant annuals, teaching them the benefits of insects and other crawling critters we normally flee from, having books on our shelves about nature, riding bicycle with them rather than transporting them to ballet in a car, teaching them the precious value of water, lie on our backs with them and discovering the stars, smelling wet earth, freshly cut grass…so much that we can learn from nature just by being present, so much nature can teach us when we pay attention…
..argiope brunechii female..
..Arion rufus(red slug)..
..Forest shield bug on Scottish thistle..
..wild flowers in correze…
..Bufo bufo, common toad..
..Mellicta Athalia, butterfly..
..Lacerta agilis, common lizard..
..water canal at Le Pescher..
..Birds of the Loire..
..La Loire in July..
Read about earth day 2012 here.
Today is Grandmothers’ day here in France. everywhere “les Mamies” were taken out to lunches, flower shops were open(normally closed on Sundays) and husbands and children walked around with small bouquets for their sweet “Mamie” I wish I had a “Mamie” who I could spoil today, but the best I could do, was join in the fun at out Cecile’s bar, “le café du Centre” in Beaulieu sur Dordogne, where everybody gathered in happy spirit for coffee and croissants!
Of course that is something just up my alley, for I adore my coffee and I adore my croissant. I’m not a very routine and organized focused person, but not a day goes by that I don’t routinely start my day with my black “café allongé, un verre d’eau, un croissant and the day’s journal, La Montagne.
..my habitual café et croissant..
And so…right there, this morning, next to mon Chéri, among our cafés and croissant crumbs, camera, lenses and writing carnets and laughter of Cecile’s clients, the idea was born for a new blog. I am up for change!
..le café du centre..
So maybe I will move over from Myfrenchkitchen to Café & croissant, which will just be about everything I encounter in my everyday life…I suppose not much different from what I’ve done on Myfrenchkitchen. and of course food is included….man can’t live on croissants alone! I am considering having only the one blog…for my art, for our coin Perdu and its country life and restoration and all things that I find brings sense to this challenging life we live. But maybe I won’t move…I will of course lose many of my readers and will have to start all over and my URL will change which is always a complicated story for all involved. But where is a will, is a way. I need to move on to something new…some new juice! The future will lead me.
I’m also leaving this week for a week or two in Hawaii with mon Chéri. All tech stuff will stay behind, except for my camera. I’m taking only my bathing suit, sketching tools and little black number…for all those dinners awaiting me! I want to switch off and indulge in nature the sun and surroundings, let my senses treat me every day. Can you tell I’m excited?
And to round off this post…I made a curry chicken tagine for dinner..
- Chicken cut into portions, browned in olive oil and madras curry. Added potatoes cut in cubes, onions cut roughly, a handful of organic dried apricots, chopped preserved lemon, a tablspoon of wild flower honey and some homemade chicken stock from the freezer. Bring to the boil and slowly simmer until you have a thick sauce and tender vegetable and chicken.
- Add some spices of your taste…I used cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and crushed juniper berries.
- Serve with couscous.
- Bon appétit!!
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.
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!
Rest in peace until next time
..from your wicked, Nonard cemetry intruder..
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…
- 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.
- Sift 250g flour, 250 fine semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl and shape a hole in the middle of the flour.
- 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.
- 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.
- Repeat until all the mixture is used up.
- Serve warm on a plate with warmed honey and soft butter OR some clementine slices, slightly caramelized in butter and honey.
- Serve warm.
Makes about 16 crêpes.
- 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…!
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.
- Simply roll some sweet “cake cherries” as we used to call them in strips thin bacon. Secure with a toothpick
- 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.
- 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!..
from Chérie here in Corréze!
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:
- Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
- Rinse, leave to cool aside.
- 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.
- When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
- Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
- Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
- 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.
- If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
- 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.
- 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!
the polar bear(ess)!
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!
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.
…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…
…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.
Enjoy your ONE crêpe!!!
and until next time..
from your devoted servant, Ronelle
I’ve been struggling with this koulibiac for two full days. The first one was far too dry, so I took on a second one. Terrifying colors! The third tasted complicated..and by that time, I couldn’t trust my judgement any more either! Tasting the same thing for two days…the same salmon, the same spinach, the same onion mix etc, truly numbs the taste buds. Finally I came back to the first effort with a few changes here and there. It is how it works with my painting as well. The first effort is always the most spontaneous, most honest rendering. Writing too. Those first thoughts should never be changed…only polished maybe, but never changed.
Just for interesting sake, here is the last effort..remember…the one with the complicated flavors?
Salmon and spinach koulibiac(pie)recipe
- Clean about 700g of fresh salmon fillet and poach for about 10 minutes or until flaky, but not dry and colorless. Leave to cool. Flake, remove all skin and the bones. Add lemon juice and zest of 1 lemon, season to taste and mix lightly. Add alittle poaching liquid to the flaked salmon to prevent it from being dry.
- Sautée 2 small onions in olive oil. Add about 1 cup(250 ml) white arborio risotto rice, add salt, and 500 ml water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the rice is creamy. Stir in 1 TBSP of butter. Remove from the heat and leave aside(covered) to cool.
- Rinse and dry 2 large handfuls of fresh young spinach leaves. Chop roughly.
- Finely chop 2 large bunches fresh dill. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C.
- Grease a bread tin with butter, (12cx24cm).
- Roll out 500g puff pastry, (pre ordered from your baker).Cut a rectangle large enough to line the bottom and sides of your bread tin(about 1/3 of the 500g). Keep in the fridge until needed along with the rest of the pastry.
- Fill the puff pastry base with some rice, cover with spinach leaves, the chopped dill, the flaked salmon, chopped dill again, some spinach leaves, and end with a layer of rice.
- Roll out the rest of the puff pastry and cut a rectangle a little bigger than the bread mould. Place over the rice topping and wet the fingers to glue the sides of the top neatly together with the pastry base.
- Roll out the rest of the pastry into shapes of your desire and decorate the top as you wish. Replace in the fridge for an hour to get cold.
- Brush the top with 1 egg and make a hole in the top of the pastry with some baking paper to serve as a “chimney” and let heat and steam escape.
- Bake for abut 40 minutes. Cover with a sheet of baking paper or brown paper if the top browns too dark.
- Bake a sauce of Bulgarian yogurt and crème fraiche, season with salt and pepper, a spoonful of mustard and lemon juice.
- Serve sliced with a fresh green salad and pungent vinaigrette.
Serves 8 people
- When poaching the salmon, add a carrot, an onion, lemon slices, dill and parsley stems to the poaching water to flavor the salmon. Strain afterwards and save the water for a soup.
- The rice should be slightly sticky which will keep the rice layer together for better cutting of your koulibiac.
- The success of puff pastry depends on as little handling as possible, working with cool hands, and being put very cold into a hot oven. The temperature can be lowered afterwards.
- Don’t layer too much rice so you end up having a whole lot of rice and a lot of too little salmon! I tend to add too much rice to my layers..
- Try whole wheat rice, wild rice or quinoa instead of white rice for a more healthy option.
- Add a sprinkling of dried yellow/orange flower petals between the rice and spinach layer for a colorful version…zinnia petals, nasturtium, begonia, geraniums, marguerites, sunflowers, nasturtiums…
- Have fun creating your own versions!
…doesn’t look too bad when goinginto the oven(remember that I’m at coin Perdu, baking in the wood burning stove…I’m sooo good!!)…
…and the sortie out of the oven after 40 minutes doens’t look too bad either(except for some bad photography!)…
Why do I prefer the first effort?
*The flavors are clean and simple and along with the sauce it combines into perfect harmony. The biggest challenge of this effort is to make sure your koulibiac isn’t dry. So my tips would be to: add some poaching liquid to the salmon, make sure the rice is moist and sticky, but still white and plump(chicken stock tends to color your rice).
In the next two efforts?
*I added roasted fennel, combined it with the dill and added as an extra layer. The result was that the flavors were just too complicated and overpowering for the whole ensemble. Much like an electrical guitar playing in a symphonic orchestra…
*I also added chopped red onion to the salmon, which ended up with some ugly purply spots between the delicate pink of the salmon.
*Oh, and don’t forget that wobbly silicone bread pan-business-thing which I’ve tried for the first time…cost me an arm and a leg! It “stretched” in the middle so the bread shape plonked out…you can see it in the first image. I was a very unhappy woman… In the second image I used my ole trusted normal bread tin and just look at the difference…a lovely square shape.
The lesson: Simple ALWAYS works! You may have to adapt a little here and change a little there, but staying on the simple road is to be on the success road.
No sketch with the recipe today…too tired, too fed up with salmon, too heavy from all the tasting…a good chef alwasy tastes his food, they say. I did that and look where I am now…?
No story from my side either…aren’t you happy!? I have no first thoughts left after these two days.
And now please..
“Please don’t feed me no more salmon…
I could do with a little bit of famine…
My kitchen makes me ill…
for lack of clean… plates and place to chill..
and I am now ready for that thing they call in French…”régime”?
Oh man…how to lose these salubrious omega 3’…sss
So I can again be the lanky woman of my man’s dream…sss!”
a bientôt … from the gleaming omega omnivore!!
It is epiphany weekend and here in France we have “les galettes des rois” tempting us around every corner! I almost gave in, but I held my ground firmly and walked past.
Safely here at home, I can now proudly boast about my steadfast self discipline! After a season of nibbling on all the festive foods, I want to get back on track with healthy eating. Doesn’t that sound quite boring? NOTE TO SELF: Keep the healthy eating exciting! Tall order, since I have become a bit lazy in the cooking department. Proof…I haven’t even baked a galette this this year! But that is no problem. I have links up this lazy sleeve!
First: My own galette des rois from last year…oops…not last year, but 2010!
How did a year pass without me knowing about it?
Ronelle’s (that’s me..)galette des rois
And here is Monique’s galette des rois:
So this is what dictionary.com has to say about epiphany:
noun, plural -nies.
- 1. ( initial capital letter ) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
- 2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
- 3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
- 4. a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.”
I hope your weekend will be filled with all the meanings of the word epiphany; eat a galette on 6 January, experience a pleasant appearance, receive that sudden insight we all need so desperately, and present your epiphany by means of a piece of work…maybe by baking a galette, even if only this once in your life?
Enjoy the weekend, stay warm in the north, stay out of the sun in the south, eat “healthy”, and enjoy your epiphany.
“Epiphany”. I have to say it again.
Such a nice word.
The past year has been rather on the quiet side…in terms of my presence here. I hope to change it in the new year, pump some new life into Myfrenchkitchen, add some new and exciting experiences, adventures and yes, why not…recipes!
..Roasted rack of pork on hay and some marrow..
In the meantime I am at Coin Perdu again , have been here for the past few months, after only a quick return to Montlouis. I am staying in the barn with the cats and chickens and horses. Of course not all us us together in the barn, but almost. It will be the one and only winter we’ll spend in the barn, as our house will be finished next winter, if all goes well. For that reason, I wanted to take a kind of sabbatical here in the barn for the winter. My sweet husband, who is always eager to take on an adventure, was quick to help me close up the barn…putting up some temporary insulation in the up to now open roof. He built me glass doors to allow more light into the otherwise dark barn and moved the heavy wooden doors so they serve as shutters on the outside of the glass doors.. He installed a wonderful Godin wood burning fireplace andfixed the wood burning stove on the opposite side of the barn. This is where we do our cooking and even baking in the oven. It is my first experience with a wood burning oven and since I don’t havean oven thermometre, it all comes down to testing the heat with my hand..slow counting….1 is still too cold, good for slowly drying out biscotti….5 is about really hot and good for baking some chocolat fondant desert, which I usually bake in my fancy oven in Montlouis at 200 degrees C.
..putting in glass doors, insulation..
…baking in a wooden stove oven…
Hartman also closed up the very wide openings in the plank floor, where one can see through to the cattle stables down below and where some mighty cold air bellows upwards into the barn. Some carpets picked up at the brocante and a chandelier here and there for a bit of whimsy glamour. Et voila, a barn for the winter! There are still some openings here and there, but a little suffering is good too…it provides fresh air!
..some glamour in a barn…
The worst part of this whole experience is when nature calls and in this case it is literally a call of nature…our temporary toilette is outside, on the Eastern side of the house, while the barn is on the western side of the house. So I literally have to do some cross country to answer nature’s call! First it entails putting on boots to scramble through the mud, then a jacket to keep me a little dry at least and at night…a torch…to see what I’m doing in the mud…and elsewhere, remembering that the toilette has no light. To lighten you aghastness at this experience, it is a modern working toilette, flushing, clean and nice smelling, with a door, no flies or bees or spiders, well maybe some tiny harmless spiders, looking for a little protection from the rain…
…the chemin to the stable and…toilette…
…with wet and muddy clothes……
For most of the time, I am alone here, except on weekends when Hartman join me, or when the children come visit for the weekend. I spend my time painting and doing art, experimenting and playing with mediums and techniques. a typical day would be…waking up warm and snug in a warm bed, stepping first toe out into the cold, cowardly jumping back, finding courage to lift my whole body from the warmth. dashing out, I run for a hot shower, dressing with the speed of lightning. Put on coffee machine. Put on my boots and all, open the shutter doors to let in the day light. Run for nature’s call. Open up the chickens who follow me with moans of happiness knowing where we are going, yoghurt and delicacies are awaiting them. Food for the cats. Talking and chatting to all. Grabbing 4 apples and pocket knife. Off to the stables, all the while whistling to call Gaitchi and Gubi form the fields. Spooning some molasse covered horse muesli into their bowls, I hear the rumbling of the earth as they approach the stables, eager to get to their buckets. We talk ad snuggle, brush and talk. Back to the barn where the freshly brewed coffee makes the trip through the mud and rain all worth it. Two slices of toast made on the wood burning stove, a up of coffee and seating myself by the computer to check mail and listen to morning radio. And then off to work. Drawing, painting, maybe some photography in the countryside. Writing. A walk in the fields with my camera and horses. Sketching in the countryside. A drive to the town of Brive to relieve a bit of cabin fever. Feeding the horses again, closing up the chickens, keeping the fire going in the Godin and stove, dinner, a nice adventure movie, reading, more writing, bed.
..snug inside the barn wit paints…
… and books…
…and a warm bed…
..and everything else I need…
…and my friend…Madame Pompadour…
Does it all sound romantic and story book like? Perhaps. But it isn’t always moonlight and roses. My jeans are never clean, always full of mud. I don’t have a dryer and with the constant rain, I can’t get my clothes dry. If I don’t see to the stove and fireplace, I don’t have any heating. the wood is heavy to carry from the other barn. Cleaning the stove and fireplace every morning isn’t fun. After a while, sledding in the mud isn’t funny any more. I don’t have my “stuff” with me…of course can’t fit a whole home into a barn. even though we have put up insulation, I have no ceiling and dust still sifts down. I don’t have a bath in which I can soak my sometimes cold body, only a home made shower in a sinktub. BUT! I have warm running water. I sleep warm. My husband arrives every Friday evening. My children visit. I have my animals that I love around me. In fact I have everything I need.
…Gaitchi et Gubi…
…Tartelette, Mimolette, Ciboulette et Camembert…
…Tokala et Ayiani…
This winter time in the barn makes me realize how we take life for granted. How we actually have too much of everything. Our homes are overheated. Our kitchens are over equipped. Our closets are luxuriously full. A bit of struggle can do us all good. It can make us realize that life is actually a gift.
May you have a wonderful festive season and may you see life as it is meant to be. A precious gift.
Et voilà! Another year flat on its back and only a few days left for a last effort to check off our 2011 list. And while we do it, we can delight in some December ambiance, eat some dessert and then go for a long walk afterwards to start a new healthy habit. This dessert is extremely easy and quick, loaded with Calcium and can be adapted to your taste and presented in every which way you like it.
Pinch of salt:
- The cream adds some lightness to the heavier curd cheese, also called “faisselle”
- Substitute cream cheese for the curd cheese (fromage blanc.)
- Use a fruit coulis in season…pineapple, melon, peach, apricot…
- Use the berries whole, slightly sautéed in sugar for a warm sauce.
- In summer, add a drop of rose water instead of the violet syrup.
- Taste for sweetness and add more or less sugar.
She wakes up in the darkness of the night. Sitting straight up in her bed, she holds her breath, tilts her head…hears it… and falls back on her pillow. The owls are back. With a smile lingering on her face, she drifts off, snug under the warmth of a heavy down duvet.
Outside in the cold of the night, the fog lies thick in the valley, wrapping all sounds in a silent cloak of mystery. All is quiet. The forest is dark and austere and the large oaks stand solemn and still. Unflinching in their guard. Then the owl calls. An answer breaks the heavy silence with an echo in the valley. A twig snaps in the woods. A deer bellows. Eyes gleam. A snort stifles. Silence. The mist rolls thicker over the hills into the forest, relentless in protecting her womb and the life she hides.
The owl calls. An answer. An echo. Silence.
My courgette is taking over my potager here at Coin Perdu…beautiful and healthy with enormous bright green leaves and underneath those cheeky yellow flowers peeking through. The male flowers are starting to fall of and I’m picking them up and drying them to use as dried flowers for sprinkling over my salads…my latest craze; if you keep still long enough, I sprinkle you with dried flowers
The female courgettes are the only ones carrying fruit and I’ve picked some of both to stuff with a crab filling. Both male and female flowers are edible. If ever you can get hold of some courgette flowers…they are absolutely divine, from another world and savored slowly and deliberately…well, I’m a lady, I can’t say what I really think, but you’ll know what I mean when once you’ve enjoyed one!
- Serve the flowers stuffed, without steaming.
- OR make a batter of some flour and add some fizzy water, mix until a thick cream . Dip the courgette flowers wth filling into the batter until coated and deep fry quickly, one by one, turning each once once. Remove, drain and serve sprinkled with fleur de sel and a few drops of lemon juice, or a light yoghurt/mint sauce (natural yoghurt, chopped mint, seasoning, lemon juice..)Make your own filling by choosing ingredients you like and by mixing flavor which compliment each other. Keep it light.
- Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves with a vinaigrette.
Myfenchkitchen is off to Provence for a week of painting with 3 artist buddies. We’ll be staying in the Vaucluse home of well known painter of Postcards from Provence, Julian Merrow Smith and his wife Ruth Philips, while they will be in England where Ruth will be playing cello at the Garsington festival. We even have our own blog, Four go painting in Provence and you’re invited to follow us every step of the way on this trip if you’re interested in seeing all our adventures…which of course will be mostly painting…and eating…and painting again…and then visiting the markets and painting them …and eating…and having some wine perhaps and eating again… or is it painting…in any case, a lot of everything! you can read a little more on my art blog too: Africantapestry is off to Provence for a crazy painting experience!
I’m leaving on Sunday for a week..the other three artist buddies, Katherine, Sarah and Robyn will be there for 3 weeks. unfortunately I have some exciting obligations to tend to here at Coin Perdu, which I’ll share with you once I’m back! So don’t go away…keep well and in the meantime…keep those pots sizzling!
The Charentaise melon is coming in, sweet and bright. Treat yourself to one half, cut up, drizzled with maybe some caramel syrup and sprinkle with lavender, put on the grill, your loving husband so tenderly lit up for your plump fruit and once again…as always here on Myfrenchkitchen….indulge with a spoon and shameless delight!
VF: Le melon Charentaise arrive sur les marchés, radieux et douce. Pourquoi pas se régaler avec peut-être un sirop de caramel, quelque fleurs de lavande et puis on demande à notre amour d’allumer un feu et de griller ce petit melon coupé en deux tendrement, jusqu’a ce qu’il se caramelise. Et comme toujours ici à Myfrenchkitchen, on se régale scandaleusement!
- Cut a melon in half, scoop out the seeds and turn upside down on the grill. Grill over medium coals until nicely caramelized.
- Turn over and pour in some sauce of your choice…I used maple syrup.
- Leave over warm colas for a while to get soft and have the syrup infuse the melon.
- Add the chopped rosemary and leave another few minutes.
- Remove to pretty plates, serve with a dollop of cream or ice cream and enjoy warm.
- I used maple syrup…sue also honey, or a proper caramel sauce.
- Enjoy while still warm.
- It can also be grilled in the oven, or inside grill.
- Serve with ice cream, corresponding with your flavour… a vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, or lavender ice cream with lavender petals, or mint ice cream with chopped fresh mint.
- For a less sweeter version, use cream or crème frâiche.
I have someone dear in my life who is experiencing terrible pain at the moment. When the rain passed this morning and the world glittered under the Correze sun, I thought of her and her courageous words: “I want to appreciate everything even more than before“, which is hardly possible, since she already appreciates life with every fiber of her being. But her words stick to me as I drive along the road here in Puy d’Arnac, forcing me to look at every nook and appreciate the obvious beauty all around.
J’ai une chère ami qui endure beaucoup de douleur en ce moment. Ce matin, j’ai parcouru la route de Puy d’arnac avec les mots courageux de mon ami resonnants dans ma tête: “Je désire apprecier toutes les choses plus qu’avant”.. Je peux témoigner qu’elle le fait déja. Mais cette phrase m’interpelle toujours. Elle me force à regarder et observer chaque petit coin et apprécier la beauté abondante qui m’entoure.
May her pain and the pain of all those who experience whatever hurt at this moment, subside, so the beauty can become alive again. And may we, who have less pain, appreciate everything even more than before.
Je veux bien que tout sa douleur et même les douleurs des autres, peu importe la douleur, s’efface, pour que la beauté vive encore. En plus, il faut que nous, qui sommes épargnés de la souffrance, tentions aussi d’apprécier toutes les choses plus qu’avant.
…les roses rouges pour l’amour…
Now is the time for exuberant roses and Puy d’Arnac isn’t shy to show off her splendor. All the way down the hill, the roses drape themselves around the crosses which can be found on every corner of a crossroad, against old walls and staircases, in doorways…where there is a nook , there is a rose. And where there is a rose there is beauty.
…la grande portail…
…les roses roses et rouges et une abeille…
…un croix au carrefour…
…deux chaises autour d’une rose…
…la route monte a Puy d’Arnac…
… les vieux murs habillés par des roses delicates…
…la rose blanche et l’immatriculation…
Have a lovely weekend and remember to appreciate the obvious beauty around us and look in closer to find the less obvious.
…à la prochaine…