We have harvested some delicious nectarines from our newly planted nectarine tree. Our first apricots and cherries were stolen by someone..I will have to take stronger measurements against the feathered folk next year…
This rustic tart is prepared in a jiff, bakes 40 minutes, just enough time to get the coffee ready, clean up and call everybody to the table under the old oak tree.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use other fruits like apricots, or apples, pears, peaches, plums…
- Use pine nuts or pistachios instead of almonds.
- Be careful not to use too strong a honey like lavender honey which will completely overpower the tart.
- Serve warm with a dollop of créme fraiche, or a dollop of ice cream on hot days.
- When the flesh of the nectarines stick to the seed, place the nectarine on its stem side and cut a cheek on each wide side of the nectarine from top to bottom, close to the seed. Cut each cheek in half to get neat quarters. Cut off the rest of the flesh on each narrow side of the seed which already resembles en quarter.
Yesterday it was time for the new mother hens and their chicks to be upgraded to the chicken coop. When the chicks are born, I always take them and mamans from the chicken coop and keep them aside in a basket with me where I know they are safe and I get to enjoy the chicks more as well. Every moring they are taken outside and the flap lifted and they scurry out, happy to see light(and me, I hope) and every evening they move into their beds themselves, I close the flap and bring them inside. After a three weeks or so, when the chicks are strong enough and they start walking with the rest of the flock, I walk them to the chicken coop late afternoons, have them investigate and integrate en find their spot among the others. This takes a few evenings, because the rankings have now been disturbed in the poulailler and new ones have to be established. Never a dull moment.
..les deux mamans et leurs petits poussins..
..la poulailler “secondaire” ou elles partent en “vacances” (the holiday home where they spend their vacation)…
..le gardien devant la poulailler (guarding the chicken coop)..
In “le jardin de Ronelle” everything is a bit wild in July. The weeds win me over a bit, the lawns need constant mowing and trimming and deadheading drag behind. The chicks appear and begs for attention, the rabbits multiply and eat my salads… the tomatoes are growing like Jack’s beanstalk and we can keep up with the abundance of courgettes! Not to forget my constant desire to plant more and change again and again.
..les lapins n’attendent pas une invitation, elles sont trop à l’aise déja(the rabbits don’t await an invitation , thye just make themselves at home)..
At times like these, I just sit back and start focusing on the corners and little details that work together to make a garden. Some small corners and moments that give me pleasure. They tell a story in their own way.
..mais mignons quand même (but so cute)…
.Quelques morceaux de porcelaine voisinent un pelargonium odorant dans la mini serre ( old pieces of porcelain next to a scented géranium in a mini greenhouse)..
..les chaises et les lanternes (chairs and lanterns)…
..mon chéri picking some nectarines..
..J’adore mes pelargoniums odorants sur la table ( I love my scented geraniums on our outdorro table)..
Ice cream is a big favorite in our home. Usually I have my one or two scoops in a little bowl and mon chéri takes over the rest of the contaziner. As you see here, Carte d’or being very popular here. Apparently Carte d’Or saw the light in 1978 in France with only 5 flavors and their latest flavors arr absolutely just to die for..I am close to not handing over the container to mon chéri! See Carte d’Or here.
..et surtout la glace!..
..mes agapanthes bleue..
..dipladania blanc et les lavandes à l’arriére plan ( dipladenia agains a backdrop of lavenders)..
..L’heure de siésta!
..un verre de vin, une magazine et la tranquilité (a glass of wine a magazine and calm)..
à la prochaine fois
Autumn is the time of year we eat rustic food. Finish are the dainty salads and light desserts..we now go for rustic, unadorned meals. Apples are in abundance and it will be a shame to allow the time to pass and not use them to their full. I saw these apples in pastry somewhere in a magazine and I only remember they were called by the melodious name of Bourdelots and it looked much prettier than mine. I made them just on feeling, and I can’t imagine the magazine version being tastier, because they are so delicious with the puff pastry and brown sugar and apricot jam…and don’t they look pretty rustic too..(good excuse, n’est pas)?
..Rustic apples in puff pastry..
- Clean and peel 4 apples, remove the inner core and drizzle with lemon juice.
- Unroll a sheet of puff pastry, cut into quarters. Place 4 quarters on a baking paper on a baking sheet.
- Place an apple on each quarter. Fill the apples with a teaspoon of apricot jam, a knob of butter and sproinkle with brown sugar.
- Wrap the pastry around the apples and brush with beaten egg.
- If you have puff pastry left, cut strips and stick it around the apples from top to bottom.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Reheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Remove the apples from the fridge, brush again with beaten egg. Sprinkle again with brown sugar.
- Place on sprigs of rosemary and bake in the hot oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 25 minutes.
- If the apples get too dark on top, cover with brown paper.
- Serve warm, or at room temperature with a big dollop of whooped cream or a scoop of créme fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Bring the dough right up to the edge of the apples which will ensure that the apples are covered more fully with pastry.
- In order for puff pastry to rise high and crispy, the dough must be cold and baked in a hot oven for the first 10- 15 minutes.
- Serve the apples as a side dish with a meat roast, like pork or venison.
- Fill the apples with spices of your choice or with dried fruit like raisins and nuts.
The mairie or hotel de ville is an important part of every city, town and village in France. It can be as tiny as a hamlet, but it will have a mairie and an eglise. The hotel de ville is usually bigger and houses the mairie and houses several administration departments. But they both hop-use the office of the mayor of a town and the administration offices as well as an école of the commune. So it is no strange sight to see kiddies run around at lunchtime in part of the grounds of the mairie.
The mairies of the campagne has nothing to do with the elaborate and grand hotels de ville of the cities, like Paris or Tours, Lyon. Some are so small, you even pass by it without knowing.
..the mairie in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne..
..with its administration offices around the corner..
..the little hotel de ville in Bétaille, just alongside he main road through the village..
..the very typical stone hotel de ville of Biars-sur-Cere, with its lovely surroundings,dressed each season in different vegetation..
..le mairie of Biars sur Cere.
..the mairie is still wearing its summer ballgown and pretty soon, with Toussaint at 1 November, it will change to Fall Chrysanthemes..
..In Bretenoux, the hotel de ville is obscured by lovely trees..
..and right opposite it, is the traditional memorial of the soldiers who fought in the war..
..the quaint, typically Corrézien mairie of Le Pescher where our eldest got married..
..and next to it, the mémorial of Le Pescher..
..the mairie of Marcillac la Croze is one of those you pass by without knowing..it sits up on a hill, all alone. The day I looked for this mairie I drove up to its pretty eglise, full of history and asked a gentleman who was raking the leaves, where I could find the mairie. We got caught up in a 30 minute conversation. I had to cut the motor of the car after a while, because he just couldn’t stop talking..
..Of course I can’t leave our own sweet village of Puy d’Arnac behind. Our mairie has recently had a makeover and is now a chic gathering point in the village where the mayor has her offices and I often have to drop in for keys for the garbage points or documents or this or that..
..and right next to the mairie, its école…
..in Vayrac, the hotel de ville is huge with a big spacious place in front of it..
..and to the side, village life continues..
..Altillac has a beautiful building and I pass it almost every day to buy baguette and cheese..The pride of India trees in front complement the building so beautiful in high summer…I always slow down and admire this mairie..
..the mairie of la Chapelle aux Saints, is really out in la campagne and stands all alone among green fields..
This is a prehistoric area, a very important sightseeing site in our area and the mairie forms part of the site..the ecole is at the back of the mairie..
There is still so much to show and so much to be said about the hotel de ville in France and every town’s mairie is special.. Once you have found a town’s hotel de ville, you have also found its centre ville. I will certainly explore and show more at a later stage. These ones are all in a radius of 20 minutes from home. And like the hotels de villes, there are also the fascinating eglises, which I’ll save for another time.
So, with the theme of hotel de ville and French admin , I want to share the Marseillaise, sung by my favorite artist…Edith of course! We celebrated her life in PAris, as she died 50 years ago this October. I just LOVE her..and the song – I sing along with her just as loud as she does! Enjoy!
..à la prochaine fois..
In midsummer, when the sun is blazing hot and the cigales are singing away, we don’t have much desire for eating, except for indulging in ice cream. A cold simmer peach soup is perfect for those days and brings a bit of welcome change to the ice cream menu.
- Bring to the boil 1 liter of water with 1 vanilla pod, 200 g sugar and the rind of 1 lemon. Remove from the heat, add a handful of fresh mint leaves and set aside to cool.
- Peel and cut 6 peaches of your choice into slices.
- Add to the warm syrup and leave to cool down completely before storing in the fridge for about 4 hours to infuse.
- Serve cold in glasses or bowls and add a handful of fresh red berries of your choice to the soup(optional).
- Decorate with fresh mint leaves and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6 people.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used a mixture of white and yellow peaches.
- Macerate the berries with some sugar before adding to the soup, since they may be too sour for the soup.
- Add the berries on a little kebab/cocktail stick and stick into the soup, to eat separately.
- Leave the berries if so desired.
- Replace the mint with lemon verbena for something different.
- Serve in frozen glasses for an icy effect.
The signature of Provence is its white limestone..in the countryside, the hills, in the built walls, the drywalls, the houses, the pavings , the flowerbeds, the villages… Some of them new and some weathered handsomely by the mistral and rains of centuries.
I love an atmospheric window..
Clearly seen in this image below, is the different types of stone used, maybe at different times by different craftsmen.
Just look at that stone…beautiful non?..
A stone staircase between these beautiful stone walls, going up and up and up…
A flowerbed by a front door, typical in the small villages with no gardens..
Lovely shutters and vigne vierge creeper..
Sedum growing on the rooftiles..totally content in the heat, like me…
Holly hocks…an old world flower and one of my favorites..
Gay colour in an ochre coloured flower container..
Bonnieux is known for its brocantes..
..which overlooks the valley..
Lavenders on the windowsill..
So, with these images it is back to reality here at Coin Perdu, where summer is in full swing..and I don’t want it to end!
à la prochaine
In the spirit of the fraise season and it being the fruit of our region, I trumped up these little strawberry helpings. Very versatile, they can be served as part of a buffet, or an ending to a meal as dessert, or with a cheese platter, or even an apéritif for an al fresco dinner. Won’t hurt to try them, non?
Basil stuffed strawberries
- Rinse and dry a handful of large strawberries.
- Cut the stem side off each strawberry to form a lid and keep aside. Cut the tip off to make the strawberry stand up straight.
- Use a small melon scoop and hollow out the inside to form a little cup.
- Cut the remove strawberry flesh into small pieces.
- Add to the chopped strawberry flesh: Some chopped berries of your choice(blueberries, blackberries, mulberries…), a few drops of balsamic vinegar, a few drops of a fruit coulis of your choice, a few shredded fresh basil leaves. Mix together gently and spoon into the empty strawberry cups.
- Sprinkle some chopped pistachio nuts over the tops and replace the strawberry lids.
- Serve individually on a plate or on a large platter for a buffet and accompany with fruit coulis(which you have used in the strawberry cups)
- Decorate with berries and sifted icing sugar, basil leaves..
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used blueberries and raspberries with a raspberry coulis.
- If the berries aren’t in season yet, combine with another fruit like kiwi, which will also see to a nice filling.
- Remember that the bigger the strawberries, the less flavor and sweetness they have, So choose youraccompanying fruit accordingly.
- Pomegranate can make for a nice crunchy filling.
- For an sweet/salty apéro(amuse bouche), try a filling of quinoa, chopped spring onion and chervil with a drizzling of lemon juice, olive oi, and serve on some salad leaves..mmm, superb! Serve with a cold rosé wine by the barbeque fire..
- Don’t serve directly from the fridge..too cold temperatures kill the strawberry taste..in facet, I never serve anything, except ice cream and the likes, directly from the fridge. The fridge kills all flavours.
- Serve as part of a cheese platter..fill with a small cube of feta cheese, a shredding of dill and add a little piment d’espelette jelly(or another piquant jelly) and a drop of olive oil.
- Play around with your own preferences.
This year’s fête de la fraise happened in the rain. Although the number of visitors were lower than previous years, there were still many brave ones..like mon chéri and me. The fraises were as usually in abundance, but I missed the taste of sunshine..it is clear that our fruit and vegetables aren’t what they usually are. All the rains and grey and rainy days are taking its toll. But nonetheless, going to la fête de la fraise is what we just do and we strolled the streets and nibbled on strawberries all day long.
..a cool fête de la fraise
..This was my attraction all day long..
..Strawberries, smoothies, meringues, crèpes..it was all there..
..just a few names under so many varieties..
..and the traditional giant tarte aux fraises, a combined effort by the patissiers of Beaulieu..
..I was as as fascinated by the bubbles as the kiddies were..
..How I wish we could hang on to that uninhibited spontaneity..
..just like the strawberries, bubbles of all sizes and shapes..
..and this is where the bubbles originated from..a complicated vintage machine..
..As usual, mon chéri had to discuss the engineering principles behind the bubbles with Monsieur bubble machine..
..And..forgive me..more bubbles!..
..such a pity I have no more daughters; musicians and bands galore throughout the day…
..and with this last image I want to say:
“Gros bisous à toutes les mamans et à ceux et celles qui les entourent..
bonne fête des mamans!!”
**Note: the washing day post is postponed to later date due to loss of images(total computer clumsiness on my part!!)..I have to await a sunny day to redo it all…my apologies!
à la prochaine fois,
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..
When I was in Hawa’i I searched everywhere for a nice tropical dessert with local fruits, but all in vain. Probably because of a lack of fruits in season? Back here at home, I still want a fruit salad, so I made this salad Not completely a tropical one, but with some well known fruits. Next time I’ll make a real tropical salad with lesser know fruits and give my verdict.
- Cut some tropical fruits of your choice into brunoise(small cubes). I used mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, kumquat, pomegranate, green Granny smith apple.
- Use fruits that are ripe, but still firm, so that you don’t end up with a soggy fruit salad…awful!
- Cover the apple with lemon juice to prevent coloring.
- Don’t use banana, it is too strong and overpowering for a fruit salad.
- Use a tiny melon ball scoop for the papaya to add some difference in shapes. I also cut the pineapple in little triangles.
- Keep the fruits separate and mix lightly just before serving, OR set in layers in a pretty glass.
- Make a syrup of 4 passion fruit pulp, 1 TSP of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Let it boil down to a syrupy consistency and pour over the salad just before serving.
- Serve with a small scoop of lemon sorbet. (recipe following in a next issue)
- Decorate with some fresh flowers or a little umbrella for fun, lime strips, or add mint leaves or small basil leaves.
- Serve cold, but NOT so cold that you can’t taste the fruit!
Hawai’i is always a good place to unwind, even if you just do nothing, which is exactly what I did this time around. Reading by the pool, watching people(one of my favorite pastimes) while imagining their stories. On one such a day, this lovely Hawaiian woman gave some Hula lessons and of course I don’t have the same pretty hips for swaying along, but I could at least capture some nice hips!
The Hula is not just pretty hip swaying, but tells a story. With the hands and arms and face, a tale is mimicked with sensuality and sensitivity. One does get involved and captured and can’t help but wish more stories were told this romantic way.
I was too far away to hear this story, but I imagine it could be something like this:
“The goddess Pele, who owns the sea and oceans and the mountains, saw that Hiania who lost a child, was absorbed by sadness. Hiania hid from the world and her tears filled the rivers. Pele cares passionately for her children of the islands and she heaved the winds and stirred the waves with a message to Haina.
“Cry no more“, she said.
“Look up to the sun and see your child in the skies. He is smiling upon you and asking you to set free your sadness and prepare your womb to receive the child the winds will bring you.”
Hiania looked up and saw the smile of her son. She gave her sadness to the mountain who took it deep into the earth to feed its fire and she was set free to wait with anticipation upon her keiki (little one).
Until next time and with swaying hips(in private!),
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…!
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
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.
I’ve been back from Provence for some time, but very busy at my gallery(which I’ll talk about in a next post).
I’ve suddenly come down with a terrible gastro and I’ve been like a limp fish the last two days. but I need to get up an just move a little, so I thought it good to recall some moments from my painting trip.
I can’t face food at the moment, but I can show you the lovely desserts we had at Le vieux Four, in Crillon le Brave.
…French cheesecake with red berry coulis…
…red fruit sorbets…
More photos can be seen here in my gallery, Beauty of la France and Paintings can be found on Africantapestry…posts More paintings from Provence, Paintings from Provence and Two oil paintings and a gouache.
Our home away from home…the lovely home of artist, Julian Merrow Smith from Postcard from Provence.
…the view on Mont Ventoux from my room…
...early mornings in pj’s around painting, coffee and croissants…
…Sarah’s early morning oil painting in progress…
…Robyn’s watercolor in progress…
..a gathering of Provenceaux in Bédoin…
…when the market is quiet…
…The closest I got to lavender…
…au revoir et à bientôt!…
I love Lemon verbena…it dries beautifully, it makes a refreshing infusion, it adds zest to a cabinet, a room…and makes an elegant ice cream. And whichever season you’re in, an ice cream is always a good ending to a meal.
- Use lavender flowers or other dried herbs that you like instead of the lemon verbena.
- If you want a lighter ice cream, use only milk instead of the cream. \For an even creamier version, substitute 1 cup of cream for one cup of crème fraiche.
- If you’re afraid of curdling the cream when heating, heat up only the milk and add the cream later.
One thing I am finicky about in my home, is clothes hangers. I normally use wooden hangers, which are quite expensive for all our clothes. And I don’t really like thickly covered hangers. And I don’t like plastic hangers. And here at Coin Perdu, while we are still living in the barn, wooden hangers feel too extravagant. Since Hartman’s shirts are being ironed professionally, I have loads of wire clothes hangers, which I return, but there are always a few lying around. and while we were around the barbeque fire one evening, an idea was born to cover these wire hangers with some strips of torn fabric. I’m highly excited about my clothes hangers and have decided that they will just move into my clothes closet once our house is finished! not to mention my excitement about recycling, saving on money and being a wise consumer!
- Wire coat hangers.
- Old pieces of cotton fabric, cut/torn into strips of roughly 4 cm wide and about 150 cm long, although the length is not such an issue, since one can just start off with a new strip if you run out of fabric on a hanger. I used off cuts of toile de jouy fabric in shades of beiges and whites. I used cotton which is easy to use and to manipulate around the hanger. the thicker your fabric the more difficult it becomes. If you want a thicker covering, make your strips a bit wider, or wind closer together.
- I also tore my pieces of fabric so the edges are quite rough, giving nice texture to the hangers. I like the frayed edges and pieces of thread escaping wildly here and there. (See photo above)
Start at the top of the hook of the hanger and let a longish piece of your strip hang down to the middle(where you will tie the two strips together at the end.)
- With your long strip, start winding down the hook to the middle, making sure you capture well around the sharp point of the handle.
- If you run out of fabric halfway through a hanger, simply finish off tightly and start with a new strip of the same fabric, working forward and then a bit backward(like backstitching) and then continue. Both the end of the old strip and start of the new strip are now “buried” under the new strip.
- Make sure to make your windings tight. (See image above)
- When you have gone right around the hanger, you will end back at the middle, where your short piece of fabric strip is hanging.
- Tie the two strips together into a tight knot and let the strips hang down like a ribbon/bow.
- You can finish off the two strips by simply leaving them tied in a knot (like I did), OR work some ribbons or buttons or and other decoration of your choice.
…et voilà..a facelift for some ugly ole wire hangers!…
Christmas time is chocolat time. A feather light chocolate mousse. The perfect ending to a magical christmas dinner. And in January we’ll go on a diet.
This is a recipe from Chocolate desserts by Pierre Hermé. I’ve been making this mousse for many years and haven’t found a recipe that is so light and delicious as this one…it is a true winner !!
- This is a basic mousse recipe…add some flavor the your mousse by infusing the milk with grated orange zest, or a tsp of coffee, or a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, any other Christmas spices.
- Using milk makes for a lighter mousse, but if you want it richer and creamier, use cream instead of milk. I even go so far as tu use 2 percent milk.
- The longer the mousse stands, the creamier and denser it becomes, but it is still good. I prefer to make my mousse nothing more than 12 hours in advance…having a beautiful feather light chocolat mousse.
- It can be kept up to two days in the fridge.
- Cover the mousse when chilling it in the firdge to prevent it from absorbing other flavors in the fridge.
- Serve as individual portions in glasses, or scoop quenelles from a glass dish onto a plate.
- See how to make quenelles.
- Decorate with chocolate shavings or a touch of edible gold leaf.
…and memories of christmas dinners…
How can we dwell on our past, delight in experiences long ago and not remember past years spent around a christmas table. Always special, however small or simple. Each table has a story of its own…one year a daughter arrived long after midnight from a long and problematic journey, one year there was a last meal with an elegant and fragile neighbor, one year was spent in the company of a crazy crowd of friends , one year delivered an utterly chaotic and catastrophical dinner ..one year was sad with last goodbyes, one year was spent alone and tearful in a strange country…so many christmas dinners, so many stories, so many memories…
May you have great memories of past dinners…whether you were with family or friends, or whether you were alone, or whether they were sad times…whatever the case…they are yours, cherish them, becausethey give you a history. A past.
Voiçi my very first starter I made in my mother’s house as a child. With a few changes here and there, it is better served now as a small amuse bouche before dinner. It is still very light and fresh and I’m still proud of my very first attempt! The little glasses it is served in (in the photos), are the original glasses from my mother that I used about 40 years ago for my starter of clementines and litchis. So, les verrines is not something new…it was already a successful concept 40 years ago!
- Marinate the fruit in the vinaigrette for about an hour, but not longer.
- Use mandarins or orange segments instead of clementines.
- Try serving it as a bigger salad by placing the fruit on a bed of salad greens and add some shredded smoked salmon.
- Can be used as a fruit salad…replace the vinaigrette with a sauce: clementine juice, sugar, a little water, few drops of lemon juice, zest of a clementine…simmer untul reduced to a syrup. Add a few drops of Clementine liqueur just before serving.
- Replace the raspberries with a small scoop of raspberry sorbet.
…and a sous-chef..
To me, December is a month of remembrance, memories, reflections. Many memories surface during this time…some of which are funny, some sad, some without any particular significance and because memories aren’t always honest, I remember them all as dear, solely because they have brought me to this point where I am today and who I am today.
Christmas was a time in our house where things happened according to my mother’s schedule. She was a formidable woman who had the ability to organize an army into baking cookies. So, under her hand, Decembers were very busy in our house and all the while she hoaxed me into thinking chores were fun! Baking cookies, cleaning the silver, polishing floors, washing curtains, ironing the Christmas tablecloth, decorating the living room, cooking jams, preparing for holidays…these were the things that filled up our month, with my mother holding the reigns firmly in her hands and me a close step beside her.
I was sous-chef from a very young age, whether it was washing the curtains or cooking a meal or baking the cookies. A very important position…the sous-chef! Without me, how could she have hung the wet heavy curtains on the line to catch the sun…without me, how could she have polished the silver in time for Christmas,…without me being in charge of the cookiemaker, we would have no coffee cookies for December? It would be disastrous…scandalous! How would the maizena cookies have jamfilled centres without me? Christmas would be sad and lonely, if I hadn’t had the responsibility of lavishing it in swirls of silver and gold streamers and glitter and shining stars!
It is of course one of the big secrets…the complete confidence of a chef in his/her sous-chef! My mom trusted me with many things, so much so that I was allowed the responsibility for the starter at a big dinner. This was my first ever solo contribution to a dinner. She also allowed me the key to her dinnerware cabinet where I could choose something for my starter. Such an important position…the sous-chef!
So here I am presenting my first starter, then as a sous-chef in my mother’s kitchen. The only difference is that now I’ve been promoted to chef. I have my own kitchen. And the starter is now served as an amuse bouche.
..May your December memories be as dear as mine!..
..à la prochaine..
In the extreme heat we are experiencing, a sorbet is more refreshing than ice cream… and my favourite…red berries. Combined with some poached summer peaches and a scoop of vanilla/peach ice cream and topped with some chantilly… a peche melba to die for. But for now, only a scoop of sorbet with a min leaf. This is a popular sorbet found at La patisserie de Madame Cheftel in rue Scellerie in Tours. Delicious.
VF: Dans l’extrême chaleur qu’on subi maintenant en France, il n’y a pas mieux qu’un sorbet…fait maison en plus. Un sorbet aux fruits rouges. Pour un dessert somptueux, on fait des pêches pochées, ajoute une glace vanille ou même de la pêche, une boule de sorbet et on sert avec un nuage de chantilly. Et voilà, un délicieux pêche melba! Mais pour l’instant, restons à une boule de sorbet aux fruits rouges, décorée avec un feuille de la menthe. Délicieux!
Recipe from Ice cream and iced desserts(Le grand livre des glaces) – Joanna Farrow & Sara Lewis.
- Use other fruit…strawberries, peaches(remove skin), apricots(remove skin)…winter fruits like pear(peeled) combined with a little white sauterne wine. (Don’t add too much alcohol or else your sorbet won’t freeze.)
- Add some peaches to the red berries for a more intense flavor.
- Add some finely chopped mint leaves for a fresh flavor.
- Stirring the sorbet every now and then when making it by hand, helps break up the ice crystals to give a smoother, creamier sorbet.
- during the warm summer days, keep the ice cream maker out of heat or warm air when making the sorbet, it will help your ice cream/sorbet reaching the iced staged quicker.
Rue Scellerie is one of my favorite streets in Tours. It walks up to the cathedral where I always make a stop and it passes by my favourite patisserie de Madame Cheftel. It has antique stores, book stores, our Grand Theatre, exclusive boutiques, a toy shop with GORGEOUS toys – a far cry from toys are us! Of course a chocolaterie, one or two salons de thé, an art galery, a park with a fountain and it ends at the cathedral.
VF: Rue Scellerie est une de mes préférées a Tours. Je prends si fréquemment la route, fais un arrêt à la pâtisserie de la charmante Madame Cheftel pour un thé et un petit gâteau et continue ma vadrouille, passe les boutiques exclusives, un mignon magasin de jeux d’enfants, un chocolaterie, une galerie des arts, prend une repose auprès de la fontaine dans le parc, et finis à la Cathédrale de Tours.
…our Grand Theatre, dates from about 1794, was destroyed by a fire in 1883. Everything was burnt down to the ground except for four walls. In 1889 the doors were opened again, just to be closed by the world war I in 1914 and then again for world war II and reopened again in 1939, after the war(le grand Theatre d,epoque de 1700, ferme pour les deux guerres du monde et réouvert dans 1939)...
…a street filled with old book stores(pleine de librairies)…
…and antique stores… and brocantes(antiquités et brocantes)…
…and a scary old lady in her VERY old ancienne book store, not taking nonsense from anyone and I always first peep through the window to see if she is out, before I enter(une vieille dame d’une nature un peu effrayante dans une librairie ancienne, et avant d’entrer dans sa librairie, je jète un œil pour vérifier qu’elle n’est pas présente!))…
…a little store with an adorable proprietesse who has lovely old curtains made from old fabric and who doesn’t want to sell her bicycle(un magasin avec des rideaux faits de vieille tissu et un vélo pas à vendre, dommage)…
…shops with old medals and coins for the men and old jewellery for the ladies(des magasin au goût des homme et ceux-là avec des bijoux pour plaire aux femmes.…
…tea and cake at Madame Cheftel’s Patisserie – having her shop for already 29 years and always greeting one with her chic short hair, wearing her black apron, her wide smile and a little joke at the ready…how can we not stop by and indulge in her delicacies(un goûter chez Madame Cheftel qui a son pâtisserie déjà 29 ans et elle est toujours charmante, chaleureuse, souriante avec un air chic aux cheveux courtes et elle court partout en tablier noir, folle d’énergie) …
…which already wink at you in her window display(les gourmandises nous séduisent en vitrine)…
…and then off to browse again the every-4th- sunday-brocante in rue scellerie; small and intimate, but with an interesting find every time among all the(et voilà la brocante de chaque quatrième Dimanche, très agréeable malgré le petit nombre des exposants) …
…stuff – displayed on the ground, or sometimes not so stable tops(on fouille par terre, sur les tables bancale)…
…but always inviting one to lean in for that closer peak(on regarde de prés) …
…or to simply just walk and say hi to the brocanteurs, who endure bitter cold, hoping optimistically they will make a sale(on discute avec les brocanteurs, qui endurent parfois des températures sévères avec l’optimisme d’en faire au moins une vente ou deux) …
Bon weekend et à la prochaine!
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…
The summer fruits are winking at the markets, enticing us with their plump “rondeurs” and their rosy cheeks. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, dark velvety red cherries, flirty strawberries and mischievous blueberries and raspberries, blackberries and all kinds of beady berries. The best way of course is to enjoy the summer fruits right from the tree, picking with one hand and eating with the other. Or buy the red cheeked nectarine at the market stand and have the juices run down the palm of your hand right there while you pay Monsieur his few centimes. But should he complain about your bad manners and sticky money, you can place your peaches elegantly in your basket and hurry home, take out your pan, cut up your summer fruits, call your friend and tell her/him to come over with some creme fraiche and quickly pan sautée your cut fruit in a caramelized vanilla syrup. Sit down under the walnut tree with your friend and scoop up a spoonful of fruit with a dollop of cream and imagine what paradise must be like.
Pan sautéed summer fruits
- Melt some butter in a big pan, add some sugar and melt over low heat. Add a good serving of white balsamic vinegar to the syrup.
- Clean summer fruits of your choice: peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries…
- Remove the seeds and cut the bigger peaches, nectarines and apricots into quarters. Leave the strawberries and other berries whole. Remove the seeds of the cherries.
- Add the harder fruits like the peaches and apricots tot the butter mixture. Simmer gently in the syrup for a few minutes.Add the rest of the fruit, keeping some berries aside to add fresh just before serving.
- Stir over the heat for a few minutes more.
- Add a handful of torn basil leaves and fresh mint.
- Pour into serving bowls and serve while warm with ice cream or cream on the side.
- Any mixture of fruits can be used.
- Vary the sizes of the fruits for interest in texture and visual appeal.
- Don’t overcook the fruit…keep it still with some crunch.
- Serve while still slightly warm.
- Collect interesting small pans to serve outside.
- It can easily be prepared on the barbecue.
- Add vanilla seeds scraped from a vanilla pod and some fresh thyme for variation.
…Beaulieu-sur -Dordogne is a beautiful medieval town on the banks of the Dordogne river, situated in la vallée de la Dordogne in Corréze…
Even though we fall under the commune of Puy d’Arnac here at Coin Perdu, our mountain home, Beaulieu sur Dordogne is the village where we do our shopping…the marché, a morning cafe créme with croissants. It is also where Hartman regularly stops at Point P with his remorque to fill up on building material. Les Monsieurs just take out the book, have him sign and off he goes, back to Coin Perdu where the work is waiting. I might linger longer…have a coffee at Les voyageurs, chat with Cecile, walk around with my sketchbook and camera, buy strawberries and salad at the marché and pop in at the Antiquités.
…hôtel de ville…
…baron de Marbot Marcellin…
…une boulangerie et une boucherie – two places no french town can do without…
…la place du marché…
…where the Antiquités draws me in every time with its beautiful things of yesteryear…
…la bôite a lettre et l’eau potable – for those thirsty moments and the ever important letter or postcard to post…
…if’ like me, you love anything architectural, all these beautiful old lintels above the doors will keep you spell bounded, in awe of the craftsmanship and detail…
…and still more…
…few things can be as fascinating as watching people, making up stories about them, wondering about their hopes and dreams and then turn around to wonder about our own…
… never a dull moment when it comes to a little humor and interest…
…and beauty is always present…
…in the charm of old stone and wood, pretty lace and an unpretentious flower…
If ever you might be passing through our special area of Corréze, turn off at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, give me a call and drop in for un petit noir at our Coin Perdu, only 10 minutes away… where the world really comes to a standstill and like Peter Pan, we live extracts of life we never thought possible.
…à la prochaine..!
Summer delivers an abundance of wonderful moments. One such a moment is enjoying a cake or tart with tea late afternoon. Outside, under the walnut tree. There was a time that I baked a cake or tart every Friday afternoon for the weekend. Everybody was very impressed with this tradition, believing it would never end, but as the girls grew older and finally left home, so did the cake and tarts on Friday leave too. A pity. Change isn’t always a good thing, I say. Now everybody has to wait for a whim on my side to have a cake on Friday. Yesterday was a whim day. Unfortunately I’m alone at home and me alone with cake is bad news for the hips. So I called a friend this morning. “Come pick up a whim cake“, I said… “You may never get this lucky again“..
- Use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of lemon juice.
- Add some grated lemon/orange rind to the mixture.
- Top with some icing sugar of your choice, or serve without. I prefer without, since icing sugar makes it too sweet for me.
- Decorate with fresh edible flowers.
- The cake is even more flavorful the next day.
- Use for dessert: break into pieces and serve, topped with strawberries, whipped cream and a berry coulis, OR serve with warm caramelized peaches and crème frâiche.
We all have stories to tell. Our own stories. The ones we are living each day. Stories with all the seasonings that make for a good read. It has sadness and happiness, heroes and villains. It has drama and suspense and it unfolds into unforeseen endings. We write “The end”, sign our name and start a new story.
We write on instinct, improvise while waiting for life to dictate the next chapter, to channel our decisions and choices. Sometimes we plan ahead and witness as it changes and adapts on the page, perhaps taking a direction better than we originally envisioned. Sometimes writers’ block gets in the way – we stop and get trapped in I- don’t- know- how-to-live. Those are the times we need to let go and allow life to formulate its own phrases. And every so often we get mixed up and confused with which story we are living and the past and future become the present.
Our life manuscripts are raw, unedited, original. Often unfinished, with no ending. In a time where authors don’t write “The End” anymore, the door is always open to the sequel. We chew over our own lives. We brood over the last page which leaves only questions and an uncertainty about where the story is heading…can it continue to an end which all mankind is looking for; happiness…. contentment…a reassurance that all is well…that all will be well with our lives tomorrow…?
And so we continue writing because we exist. In search of recognition. Because we want to live a bestseller. And our bookshelves become filled with rows and rows of drafts and manuscripts, fresh starts and sequels…completed works; our stories…and somewhere in one of them will be an ending that assures us that all will be well. It will be our bestseller.
I am leaving for Oslo, Norway tomorrow. I decided to put up an old post before I leave which I had on Africantapestry two years ago. A little story. A sketch.
To accompany the ongoing saga of the soon-in-bloom-tulip, as well as the gardening folie that has me firmly in its hystyerical grip, I made a strawberry soup with the very first strawberries of the season. Not yet tasting of summer and sun though…! But who cares…! Using them in a summer/spring soup with added balsamic vinegar and handsfull of mint and pepper and rose water, is a great way to satisfy that ferocious desire for summer fruits.
Flinging soil and seedlings around in the garden (here in the northern hemisphere!) and serving early strawberries on our plates and sometimes even catching a warm glimpse of the sun…what more can we wish for?
- Add red berries like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries…
- Serve with a sprinkling of freshly milled black pepper.
- Use a handmixer instead of fork to break up the strawberries.
- Use Maroccan mint if you can find, which have a stronger flavour than ordinary garden mint.
- Or use some lemon verbena instead in high summer.
- Serve chilled on hot summer days, but at room temperature early in the season.
- Serve along with a slice of lemon poppyseed cake as accompaniment, or a herbed shortbread.
- Don’t be afraid to use a lot of mint!
- Use stevia, which is a herb sweetener, instead of sugar or honey.
…the red tulip…
“Like last year, this single red tulip once again made its appearance in my all white and blue garden. And like last year, I accept it and welcome it. It has become quite a game and I’m amused by the tulip’s proudness and dedication to defeat me. It reminds me of a guy I once knew at university who wouldn’t give up either.
He was madly in love with me, completely, head over heels..and yes, he was sort of cute too, I thought at that stage. I was staying in a hostel for girls on campus, fourth floor out of six, overlooking beautifully tended campus gardens. And he was staying in a hostel for boys, way off, on the other side of the campus. That’s how it was those days. No men allowed in the girls’ hostels and vice versa, which made for very exciting experiences! Except of course, for visiting hours in the lounge downstairs.
Very regularly, he would show up at my hostel, long after visiting hours, on nights when the moon was showing off in the sky and the stars were sparkling impatiently with anticipation. With his guitar and a red rose and his best friend, I would be charmed with unashamedly beautiful love songs from the garden under my window. Their strong, deep melodious voices, trained from years of singing, had every girl hanging out their windows along with me, losing ourselves in the charm and romance of “old world courting” from down below. Beautiful beautiful brown eyes, would always be on the list of songs and their voices would fade away in the distance with Goodnight ladies. My red rose, always stolen from an overflowing garden somewhere, would be left on the windowsill downstairs at the front door, for the hostel had already firmly been locked up for the night.
And so it happened that he got caught one night while stealing my red rose. He unfortunately chose the garden of the Professor of engineering, with whom he was very well acquainted…! He was allowed the rose, but had to work the Professor’s compost heap for two weekends. For a while, it was slow on the rose-serenading-scene and we all missed it..all the ladies, that is. Then one night there he was again, with a stolen red rose and guitar and his best friend. The cute guy I once knew. And who I still know. He is my husband.
Today is Mardi gras. 16 Fevrier. According to Catholic tradition, it is the last day of indulging in the “fat of the land” before taking on the fasting of the 40 days to Pacques(Easter). It is celebrated by crazy feasting, carnivals…so, in the fun spirit of Mardi gras…let’s feast and carnival today, for tomorrow the world ends!
And the way to do it…crêpes of course. Every which way you want it. Stacked, rolled, folded in parcels, folded in triangles, aumoniéres, flambéed, caked, salty, sweet, natural…you name it.
My husband’s favourite crêpe is sprinkled with softly flavoured cinnamon sugar, drizzled with lemon juice and rolled. He folds it double and whops it into his mouth, crunching on the still crackling sugar, while he starts sprinkling and rolling the next one.
We have a good friend who spreads his crêpe with butter, sprinkles liberally with sugar, folds it into a little parcel to entrap the butter and there you go…warm, melted butter and sugar…. every bite.
Then there are those individuals more deliberate. I am one. Open up the crêpe on a plate, very warm, spread a loaded knife with nutella over one half, fold over and then again to form a triangle, pick it up ever so dainty with your hands and then with closed eyes, dig those teeth into the crêpe, all the while feeling the warm chocolate trickling down your fingers. Pure heaven.
- I always use 2 eggs for 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and 20g of butter. It makes it easy to multiply for big batches of crêpes.
- I use water instead of milk for lighter crêpes, that way I can eat one extra!
- The baking soda adds to a ligher crêpe.
- Leave the batter to stand and “develop” a while…like a good relationship.
- Don’t keep the crêpes warm over hot water or on astove, it dries out with heat. Keep the crêpes close by your baking process and turn the stack often to keep warm. If necessary they can be quickly reheated in small batches if too cold.
- Don’t sprinkle with sugar just after baking, unless you want syrupy crêpes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar individually when eating for crunch.
- DO make some oopsedaisies…and enjoy them while baking!!
- When using Nutella, warm a little in the microwave to soften for easier spreading.
Of course there are many ways to indulge when feasting on a crêpe: drizzlings of canadian maple syrup and sprinkled with chopped nuts; mountain honey; a scoop of vanilla ice cream with dark decadent chocolate sauce…
Or how about some caramelized fruit – crêpe Suzette with flambéed oranges; apples and currants with a hint of cinnamon, lemon juice and oven roasted almonds, drizzled with a trickle of thick balsamic syrup, red berries with créme frâiche; tropical caramelized mango with passionfruit; banana with caramel sauce and fleur de sel… endless possibilities!
Don’t forget the salty fillings; smoked salmon, drizzled with lemon juice and mixed with capers and some chopped spring onions or chioves, parsley or dill, and served with a greek tzatziki made from fromage blanc, lemon juice and cucumber and finshed off with a sprinkling of lump eggs.
Or my favourite…spinach sauteed with onion and thyme, sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, s touch of lemon juice and a generous helping of créme frâiche and lastly sprinkled with crumbled goats cheese…
But crépes are not only about the filling and eating. On days like Mardi gras, when the world is a little crazy, baking crêpes should be a little crazy too. A little flopping and flipping, whirling and twirling and of course, countless oopsedaisies!!
And so, as this day ends… and our tummies call to a halt… and the craziness turns to mellowness… only one thing remains…..
Trucs & astuces de nos grands-méres:
May the following forty days be light and healthy and when we eat again at Easter, may it not be Mardi Gras crêpes…
A deliciously moist and quick cake to satisfy some desire for sweetness. Mix all together and put into the oven and by the time you’ve wiped the counter and made a fresh pot of coffee, your cake will be ready. Dust swaggeringly with icing sugar, put onto a fancy platter and voila…an appealing and flirtatious invitation on a plate… a Valentine one…
- Don’t overwork the batter! It is a light mixing of all the ingredients together…NO creaming of the sugar and butter etc beforehand.
- The amount of flour is CORRECT! The amount IS enough to bind the cake…It doesn’t have much flour, therefore the moistness of the cake. It is not a light, fluffy cake.
- See to it that your butter is very soft.
- Be careful of too much lemon juice, for the passion fruit already has some sourness.
- One medium passionfruit gives about 30 ml (1,015 fl ounces) of juice.
- Any other exotic fruit can used instead of passion fruit…pineapple coulis, mango coulis…
- Use about 180 ml (6.09 fl ounces)of mango(or pineapple) puree/coulis for the equivalent of 6 passionfruit.
- Don’t skip the dusting of icing sugar, it rounds off the cake and adds a little zing to the taste.
- The cake can be served as a dessert as well, along with some fresh strawberries or a glass of fruit salad.
- It is even tastier the next day.
- It can be served slightly warm with a dollop of whipped cream…if the hips allow!
- If the hips are struggling, lock the rest of the cake away and go leave the keys with your strictest neighbour.
This is a recipe from Meilleurs desserts from Marabout chef.
In a previous post I talked about my love for fabric napkins. A while ago Madame Brocante held these beautiful napkin holders aside for me at our local Sunday brocante. They were used for everyday fabric napkins. Every member of the family gets a napkin and a holder/pocket which belongs to him/her. Usually each family member’s name was embroidered on the holder to distinguish it from the other napking holders. With each meal you would get your same napkin and you would use it again until it is dirty enough to be washed. In ancient times, washing was a difficult and tiresome, not to mention long and elbow grease process, so it didn’t happen daily or even weekly like we are so used to today.These poches are still very much in use for everyday family meals at home here in France. Unless you are really a pig, you don’t smear a napkin so dirty in one meal, so keeping your own napkin for a next meal is economic on washing and wear and tear and easier on the environment. So each napkin pocket stores its individual napkin, reused for a meal or two or three, before being filled with a clean one for the next few meals. The table is set with a napkin in its napkin holder beside each plate. Handy and beautiful at the same time.
To make these little napkin/holders/pockets, are SO easy and the decoration can be played around with to your heart’s content. Use colourful fabrics, embroider your family members’ name on each , use lace or ribbons or do some cross stitching to give each owner his/her own pocket/holder. Make a double set of holders…one on the table and one in the wash. They make for good gifts as well, along with a set of napkins, signed with your own little logo!
From the scribblings in my notebook you can get an idea of how they fold and stitch together. But go and sit and work it out yourself and make it according to your size napkins and your desires!
If you have a meal consisiting of food to be eaten with your hands, especially seafood, or maybe ribs, or chicken wings…then stay away from your lovely napkins! And definitely from paper napkins! Ususally your host or yourself will place a small bowl of water with a lemon slice or even a flower or mint next to each plate. But I have found that men with big hands tend to struggle with the little bowl of water and I am always afraid of splashing my water all over the table…. I prefer to serve a warm face cloth or dish cloth, wrapped in foil alongside each plate.
Wet your cloths with hot water, wring, place a lemon slice with mint or another fresh herb, or a flower decoration on the cloth , wrap them warm in foil and keep in a warm oven until the meal is on hand. Decorate each parcel with a sprig of herb or flower or slice of lemon, depending on your season. Place each warm parcel in little bowls by each plate and thus providing each guest his/her own warm foil parcel. By the time they use it, the foil will have cooled down, but the cloth inside will still be warm. Guests, usually enjoy the little attention and detail and especially the warm cloth/napkin.
For entertaining outdoors, a good and fun idea can be to provide a stand or table or even chair with a bowl or any other interesting container of fresh water, filled with lemon, mint, flowers. Make a tap/faucet from a small watering can…..hang small towels close by…, some hand cream for the ladies….be creative and make it inviting and fun to rinse those hands after digging into a good al fresco meal!
Trucs et astuces de nos grands-mères.
- To get your hortensias/hydrangeas blue, bury some rusted nails close by the roots. Do it early in the spring season.
Why do Decembers ignite this uncontrollable desire for all things dessert? Just to have the hips show every inch of this desire flagrantly off in January.
It is a crisis. But in some crises the best thing to do is…have some dessert. Some apple tartlets. They are truly quick and easy and utterly delicious and very homey. They’re not fancy, rather rustic and no one will be offended if you pick one up by hand. They are meant to be enjoyed with a friend or someone you care about. And leave the plate with tartlets in the middle for a second helping. One won’t be enough. Oh, and leave one secretly for yourself for tonight, when all is quiet and asleep.
So the hips in January will be even rounder. But that is OK. At least it will give us something to talk and write about in January!
…ingredients for tarte fine aux pommes…
- Choose an apple with a bit of sourness like a Granny smith.
- The puff pastry can be replaced with another pastry of your choice.
- Other fruit like pears, figs, peaches, apricots can be used.
- It you find the top isn’t caramelized enough after baking, then sprinkle with a little brown sugar and caramelize quickly under a hot grill and keep your eye on it.
- You can make the size of the tartlets as big or small as you like or even a single big tart.
- Sage leaves are a good substitute for thyme.
- Try sprinkling a tiny bit of fleur de sel with vanilla over the top just before baking.
- Can be enjoyed as dessert with an accompanying scoop of ice cream or créme frâiche, or as a late afternoon snack with tea, a goûter, as we call it in France.
…joanne’s home in Tours…
My friend Joanne, allowed me into her home with my camera a while ago. She lives in the centre of Tours, where it takes a few minutes and you can serve up a fresh baguette and croissant for breakfast. With a basket and some walking shoes, you can browse the market just around the corner from her to have fresh veggies on the table at dinnertime. Just down the road from her lives a musician whose melancholic saxophone melodies vagabond down the quiet street. Life is tranquil and beautiful in her home. It reflects the stillness of her character, yet reveals the brilliant colours of her spirited and optimistic nature. Always trying to see the bright side, always ready for a new project, enthusiastic about life with a strong belief that every minute counts. She loves good food and it is just a pleasure inviting her over for a meal and seeing her obvious joy in appreciating what is put in front of her.
* astuce de grand-mére:
* Boil some vinegar on the stove for a few minutes to eliminate unpleasant kitchen odours.