Et voilà! Le plat principal ( the main dish)! Beef tournedos with bone marrow and steamed vegetable parcels. The beef is local, from our Limousin department and couldn’t be more tender..it is cut from the filet and enjoyed with the marrow served on top, sprinkled withmy favorite fleur de sel..wonderful…I am a hypocrite, I can’t be a vegetarian! The sauce is made from a shallot, red wine, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a few cubes of ice cold butter, whisked into the reduced wine sauce. If you have never made a simple red wine sauce like this, you are missing out on a succulent slice of life!
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Tournedos cut from beef filet is the most tender pieces and need quick cooking.
- Order of preparation to serve your tournedos/ 1. Prepare the vegetable parcels. 2. Bard the tournedos. 3.Cut the shallots for the sauce. 4.Cook the marrow. 5.Cook the meat. 6.Cook the vegetables. 7.Reduce the sauce. 8.Serve.
- The cooking foil can withstand temperatures of up to 220degr. C.
- The marrow can be removed from the whole bone beforehand and poached in stock for 3-5 minutes, instead of frying in a pan.
- Replace 1 cup of wine with 1 cup veal stock for a lighter sauce.
- Instead of cooking the vegetable parcels in the microwave, it can be baked in the oven at 180 degr. C for about 15 minutes.
- Choose other vegetables, but keep to a maximum of three.
- You can find professional cooking foil here and a demo on one way to use it.
- Have fun!
Our Christmas this year is once again in the barn with dry mossed branches from the woods, stuck in a pot, assisted with rocks and stones from the “building site” ( the house area)..pampilles from Marinell’s wedding, rusted keys, and last but not least..our little owls. I am also somewhat off faerie lights and went for tiny lanterns instead, burning with a tealight every evening till late night. It sort of replaced our candle we usually burn for December in memory of everybody we love.
Isn’t it great to just for once in a year let the child in us loose, whichever way you choose it…? I hope by now your tree is up, how simple or elaborate..I hope you have a tiny something with a bow under your tree for someone else…I hope you have a candle burning…I hope you have love for someone around you, and I hope your heart is filled with hope..
- Tomorrow we will end our menu with an apple turret for dessert with a touch of amaretto..I just love dessert! One should enjoy dessert, small quantity, but it resounds off a meal beautifully..I can’t wait for tomorrow..why? Because I get to eat the dessert after I photographed it, of course!
- I have to pass on another good French film; if you think you would like the previous ones I advised, you would like this too _ I am a sucker for vintage French films...La tranchée des espoirs.
à demain mes chers amis
The entrée (starter) for this menu is A topinambour (Jerusalem artichokes) and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croûtons. It has a wonderful woodsy flavor and finished off with a shaving of black truffle on the chanterelles mushrooms, it transports you into a winter forest.
- Clean 1 onion and cut in slices. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent.
- Clean 5 large Jerusalem artichokes, cut into small, even chunks and add to the the onion.
- Add a tin of peeled chestnuts (210g) to the mixture.
- Add a bouguet garni and 350 ml water or stock (vegetable) to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Add a handful of washed parsley and mix with an electrical hand mixer until the soup is creamy. If you want the soupy perfectly creamy, you can push it through a sieve.
- Add some cream, or stock, or milk to bring it to the right consistency (like thick cream). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Serve warm with some freshly grated nutmeg and a mushroom croûton.
- Mushroom croûton: Toast three thick slices of bread. cut into fingers and brush with truffle oil on all sides. Clean some some mushrooms of your choice with a brush and fry quickly in olive oil. Add some chopped parsley , season and place on top of the toast fingers. Finish off by placing two shavings of black truffle on the mushrooms and serve immediately with the soup.
- This soup can also be served as an amuse bouche, served in small glasses, with small fingers of toast.
Serves 4 people as a starter.
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Don’t add too much liquid in the beginning..you can always thin with some milk, or stock or water towards the end to the thickness you prefer.
- Replace the mushrooms with plain button mushrooms or with crispy Spanish ham.
- Replace the Jerusalem artichokes with pumpkin.
- Toast the croutons in a toaster or dry toast in a pan to keep it light.
- Finish the soup with a twirl of truffle oil.
- Never wash mushrooms with water, clean them with a brush.
- Fry mushrooms in a hot pan ..I prefer to fry mushrooms in duckfat(a little) which can be heated to very high heat without becoming toxic. Afterwards I drizzle a little Olive oil. In a hot pan, you don’t need much fat, because the mushrooms fry very quickly.
- I don’t push the soup through a sieve, because I like the tiny pieces of parsley which gives a nice 3speckly” effect to the soup.
The Christmas market in Meyssac was very quaint and I especially loved the lovely church with its display of nativity scenes in all the alcoves. Each nativity scene depicted a country…Brazil was there, France of course, Italy, Africa. Even Peru was there, each little figurine dressed in typical clothing. I adored it and planned on going back to Meyssac to take pictures of all the scenes. When I finally went back, it was gone! Of course, it made sense..it was on display only for the weekend of the market..all those precious figurines couldn’t be left unattended for the whole season. I can kick myself! So I lost out on the lovely nativity scenes..you will have to wait until next year.
But the little église of Meyssac is still adorable and here are some photos…
…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…
..the interior towards the altar with Chrismas lights hanging above the aisle…
..the altar from close up..
..and the only nativity scene left for the season..
..un lustre lighting up one of the many figurines the Catholics so love..
- Tomorrow will see the plat principal (main meal): Beef tournedos with bone marrow in a wine sauce and steamed vegetables.
- A nice DVD to get you in a French vintage mood…La plus belle histoire des femmes.
.. alors, à demain!..
Don’t you just love it when a recipe says in its first line..easy and quick? I definitely do! With these last three daily posts, I had to think of very quick and easy but still delicious recipes and it being a time of nostalgia, this little recipe came to mind…It is not a stunner, but still a delicious little snack. It is even easy enough for young children to make….keeping them busy during the upcoming holidays.
My sister made this treat regularly so many years ago when she was living in her tiny apartement during university years. I loved visiting her on weekends with my parents, sure in the knowledge that this delicacy would be waiting in her fridge. It is sort of one of those treats that was part of a certain era and then disappeared. It was great for students to make on their desks in their rooms, without the need for cooking facilities.
You need only 2 ingredients: 2 packets of butter biscuits and a can of caramelized condensed milk. If you live in SA or a country which has “tennis biscuits”, then that is exactly what you will use. It has a slight coconut taste and it absorbs the caramel nicely to go all tasty soft and flavorful. Here I used le grand petit beurre from St. Michel, which is a nice square shaped biscuit. I also used confiture de lait by Bonne Maman (what will we do here in France without Bonne Maman?).
- Place two biscuits next to each other on a sheet of baking paper.
- Spread the caramelized condensed milk thickly over both biscuits.
- Place two more biscuits on top of the caramel layer.
- Continue until you have about 9 to 10 layers of biscuits.
- Close up tightly with the baking paper and wrap tightly(without crushing the biscuits!) in tin foil.
- Leave overnight.
- Will keep about a week or even longer in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Cut in slices and serve with a coffee or tea.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Try using nutella instead of caramelized condensed milk.
- The longer it stand, the better the flavor and softer the biscuits become.
Backstage. If there is one thing we all have in common, it is that “fun” behind the scenes. But, I am unfortunately not Jacky Chan, so my behind the scenes will probably only have significance for me and no one else. It is a bit like the friend who comes back with photos from Russia, taken with his expensive Canon and ten lenses, and entertains you with great enthusiasm to his hundreds of touristy cathedrals and fountains and bridges and museums, while your jaw aches from biting back your yawning. But just maybe seeing a bit of my backstage scenes, will have you run to your photos to remember your own backstage times with loved ones.
We are always in our total number represented in the kitchen, stretching over one another, reaching over heads for a tool, tasting, licking, nibbling, fighting. It is amazing the busyness only 4 people can cause in a kitchen..
These are truly precious memories..
Not everything that came out of the kitchen was that big a success, but that didn’t matter in the least..we made our flops together, that is what counts.
Even guests had to pitch in, and they did it with enthusiasm… for that reason I have plenty of tabliers(aprons).
One thing to be found in practically all our scenes, is the opening of oysters. It is the task of mon chéri. I will probably lose all my fingers, because I have never opened an oyster! and mon chéri and our youngest daughter always have to get into a dish cloth fight..in the kitchen!
We normally start off our evening of Réveillon with some vin chaud et apéritifs in the living room. then we start warming up and finish off our menu and seat ourselves at the table where an amuse bouche is awaiting us. I always have something ready at the table when guests seat themselves..it adds to the expectation and while everybody start eating their amuse bouche and have their wine poured and just simply settle at the table, it gives me the time to finish off the starter. Our entrée(starter) is plated in the kitchen.
After the starter, we bring the plat principal(main course) arranged on a large platter to the table, where we keep it warm over a flame. It is normally fish and a vegetable accompaniment, all arranged on one platter. We follow that up with a cheese board..
..and end of course our dinner with la piéce de résistance….le dessert! Byt that time, we are close to midnight,; which is the time we pass around our gifts. But before that, we go for a late pre-midnight walk..or rahter that is what we used top do in the Loire house – we went for a walk by the Loire, just to walk down some calories. On arriving back home, we warm ourselves by the fireplace, make coffee and start opening up gifts..slowly, deliberately, lingering on each moment.
Christmas day followed about the same pattern, except that we ate earlier and afterwards we walked up to the DVD store and rented a DVD while we had coffee and chocolates a and fell asleep before halfway through the movie..
Thank you for sharing this trip down memory lane with me. If nothing else, I hope it took you on your own roads back, remember with tenderness all the good and I hope it inspires you to make many new memories this December and note them down, either in words or in pictures.
- Some nice music again which I listen to lately: Opéra rouge – Vincent Niclo/les choeurs de l’Armée rouge. Here is one song you can listen to..Ameno
Merci et à bientôt!
I initially thought I would post a recipe for “du vin chaud” (mulkled wine), to celebrate the last of my fall colour posts. But then I “fell” upon this recipe..red cabbage..beetroot…apples…pork fillet..and it won me over. So here I give you the voluptuous, dark reds of beetroot and purple cooked cabbage, lazy late-fall plums instead of apples and a juicy, tender pork fillet.
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used late season red plums, but use apples if you prefer.
- Use cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar if you use apples.
- Add a handful of dry Gobi berries.
- Avoid cooking the cabbage to death… remove from the heat when it still has a bite, because it continues cooking, reaching the perfect stage while standing a bit.
- Also good with veal.
- If you are vegetarian, the pork can be replaced by large roasted or stuffed mushrooms, or fish fillets.
- Can also accompany a frittata or boiled eggs.
Recipe adapted from “Filet mignon de porc, chou poêlé; des recettes pour reçevoir; le grand livre Hachette.”
Yesterday was Beaujolais Thursday, the day when new Beaujolais and le vin primeur of the season are sold worldwide. It is tradition in our house to have a meal somewhere with a glass of Beaujolais. It is a day I always look forward to and this year was no different. It is also the last post of my autumn color inspiration and I can’t think of a better way to end it than to toast the wine reds of nature with a young Beaujolais 2012..
And so, with a touch of sadness I say good bye to the splendour of fall. It is time to move on.
à trés bientôt!
Once again, a great time spent on my feet. This time round I spent my days leisurely strolling around. Gone are the days I fly on my feet and hyperventilate to catch all museum doors open. Now I simply enjoy the different culture which I find myself in for a few days, the different lifestyle and the habits of the pedestrian passing me by, and I fall in with each moment as it presents itself. And I still have a lot of fun..like getting lost.
I thought I knew Amsterdam by now, but I got so lost this time I almost ended up in Antwerpen! I walked for 2 hours before admitting I am lost and then spent almost another 2 to get out of my predicament and to some familiar ground. I have a good sense of direction(usually) and very rarely use a map and I have (usually) some great experiences with getting a bit lost. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those occasions where one falls upon treasures on your lost road, on the contrary, it was a bit challenging. Maybe because it started getting dark and the streets I wandered started getting empty, or maybe because I saw so many black dogs lying outside the doors, or could it be the barred doors and windows I passed? With a dead phone battery and a very fertile imagination I continued walking. When I saw a young woman with a black Doberman on a leash, I decided this was my saving line..I followed her, not having the slightest idea where she was going, but I hoped if something happened, maybe she would unleash that black dog. I also had the good hope that she would get me to a less scarier corner. It worked. Following her brought me back to where I could at least see the church tower and I started breathing easier again.
By that time, my feet burned from wearing winter shoes my feet aren’t used to yet, I was hungry and thirsty and exhausted from visualizing the end of my life. A tiny Turkish eating corner and its beautiful young owner with her long dark black hair came to my rescue. I plonked my tired body into one of her chairs and ordered a chicken tajine with yellow rice and dried fruits and beetroot and a large glass of mint tea. That was the best meal I’ve ever had and I could see a future ahead of me again!
So, in commemoration of that wonderful reviving tajine, here is my version of it…delicious if I may say so myself..or maybe it lies in the memory..
..Tajine d’agneau(lamb tajine)..
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use whichever meat you prefer, just adjust the cooking time. White meat like chicken cooks quicker than red meat like lamb and beef.
- ALWAYS brown your pieces of meat before making a stewing dish..it enhances flavor.
- Don’t drown your meat with liquid when braising. Adding a little liquid thorough the cooking time makes for a more flavorful and thicker, caramelized sauce.
- Add fruits towards the end if you want whole pieces of fruit in your meal. Adding them earlier will break up the fruit and thicken and naturally sweeten the sauce
- A tajine served the next day is even better in flavor. Just add a little water to reheat because the sauce thickens when standing.
Everybody knows Amsterdam for its tulips and canals and of course bicycles. And so, like all tourists, I also took some typical touristy shots, depicting Amsterdam in its daily habit. Of course there is much more to a buzzing city like Amsterdam apart from its colorful dress code. There is its poverty and illness, its age and constructional city problems, the crime and simply mean people, as I’ve had the misfortune of discovering.
..My soup bench and the surprise element..
But there is also the surprise element like when I was taken aback by a young man, staggering towards me and my soup on a bench(above). With a half empty bottle in his one hand and a full one in the other, he asked me in Dutch for a cigarette; I shook my head and pulled up my shoulders, suggesting I don’t understand. He switched to English and again I shrugged my shoulders. Being convinced he would understand no word of French, I answered him and satisfied with myself, I turned my attention to my soup. In perfect French, he addressed me again and even paid me an askew compliment, while holding out his hand to me in greeting. I almost swallowed my soup cup. What are the odds of a street bum speaking 3 languages fluently? Of course I had to take his sweaty hand in acknowledgement of him checkmating me in my own game.
..Pompadour chocolates and coffee..
I frequently stopped r for so,something to drink, which would be either a coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice. And it hit me how the little coffee shops differ so immensely from ours here in France. It could be anything from only one tiny table to a single wooden bench or a row of cushions. This is what I wanted to capture.
..Royal bagels and muffins..
..Greenwoods, with everything and anything..
..A single bench at LEF..
..Cushions and blankies at Kaldi..
..So many, many more coffee shops to choose from..
I skipped on museums this time, but I visited many an art gallery..some highly expensive, some interesting and some plain boring. But there is sure something for everyone. And with capturing a little of the art here in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist being a little kitschy in introducing a bicycle sweeping by in front of my lens…now that was fun!
Of course Amsterdam isn’t Amsterdam without its bulbs. I carried somewhat heavy on my plastic bag all the way back to Coin Perdu, where they await their planting. Bulbs, bulbs and bulbs..will they grow?
..Bulbs and bulbs and bulbs..
Too soon I had to say goodbye to my new friends and head back home. But there is always the prospect of seeing them again..I wonder what experiences will await me then..
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’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)!
We were in Singapore for a few days and with a food repertoire stretching from East to West, you could enjoy anything you desired. My prime choice of course was sushi! It was wonderful. I couldn’t get enough , but did put several other foods to the test, especially at the “hawkers stalls”, where you could choose to your heart’s delight between Malay and Indian, vietnamese and Indosian and Cambodian, thai and chinese…the list goes on…
…scattered sushi( chirashi sushi)..
- There are many different types of sushi, of which the most known would be the rolled sushi. But if you shy away from making rolled sushi at home, becasue of the effort and time consuming aspect, (or you are too tired, like I am since being back!), try making the scattered sushi, which is quick and easy and just as tasty.
- Use fillings and accompaniments that you have in the house…fresh vegetables, fruit…
- Make that extra little effort to cut the vegetables into attractive shapes…it is what Japanese cooking is all about.
- Keep the portions small and serve several small helpings of servings, like a broth, a fresh simple salad, and fresh fruit.
- Keep attractive bowls and small dipping bowls in the kitchen, square plates, oblong plates and mix and match for an interesting table setting.
- Serve extra soya sauce(shoyu) in an attractive small teapot.
…Jamae mosque in chinatown…
…colonial civic district – firestation…
…the indian cricket club, the city hall and old supreme court…
..more of the civic district…
..chinese chamber of commerce,
…modern singapore …
…Kampong glam(malay district)…
…behind the scenes…
…Architecture in Kampong glam…
…Street scene in little India…
**My Singapore sketches are on Africantapestry.
**All uncollaged photos of Singapore can be seen on Travels
Ratatouille is such a versatile dish – there are more ways than can be counted to do it nowadays and everyone swears by his/her way. The traditional way takes takes far too long(for me in any case!) and the vegetables are too soft and juicy to my taste. So I do it the quicker and crunchier way and so far, nobody has complained…on the contrary…everybody finds it fresh and enjoys the crunchiness still present and the appearance pleasant. It is a perfect little vegetable starter for the festive meals that await us!
La ratatouille est un plat assez commun et pourtant, chacun fait sa ratatouille a sa façon. La façon traditionnelle veut que ce soit cuit longtemps, comme tout les ragout. Pour ma part, je trouve ça pénible! Et de toute façon, je préfère mes légumes toujours plus croquants avec ces couleurs encore vive! Donc, je fais ma ratatouille vite et croquante et personne ne s’en plaint. Au contraire! Tout le monde la trouve très bonne!Voilà une bonne petite entrée aux légumes pour les fêtes qui nous approchent.
- Ratatouille can be used as a startert or an amuse bouche or as a side accompanying chicken, fish or red meat. If it is to accompany a meat dish, cut the dice a little bigger…perhaps 6×6 mm.
- Don’t overcook, so the texture can still be crunchy, which makes it different from the traditional ratatouille which is simmered for a longer time to have the vegetables really tender with more sauce than I have here.
- Add some garlic and provencal herbs to the ratatouille like thyme, marjoram, oreganum.
- It can be served warm or at room temperature.
- Serve with freshly shredded basil over the top for a nice fresh appearance.
- Serve on a canape(small slice of bread) for an amuse bouche, or serve in a little bowl or glass and toast some brioches to serve with it.
- If you want more special flavour to your ratatouille, add some chilies and spices to give it a kick.
- Add some langoustine, cut in chunks or mussels, oysters or shrimp to your rataouille along with chervil or dill.
..and hand me the scissors!..
I don’t have any fond feelings aboutf scissors, in fact, I pretty much associate them with pain and blood, of which I have first hand experience.
But then again, if I think of life without them..?
I had a pretty little old one from my mother which I kept in my handbag and forgot to take out before we had to board at the airport. I still have another one left, a very ancient model, frequently used by her and even though it lacks performance, its beauty stays unsurpassed. No psychedelic colored plastic in sight and the handle shows signs of hard use and yes, the blade is full of rust spots, but the lines are sleek and graceful and the grip allows for good comfort. Just a simple but beautiful, old pair of scissors from my childhood, one that came from my mother’s sewing kit and is now not so much a utility as a connection to the past.
And let’s not forget the garden scissors…those very important pruning tools and the small scissors for bonsai that I use to cut string for tying and staking in the garden. Do you keep your garden scissors clean and oiled? Not? shame on you!! the same goes for cutting flowers for the house…clean them, oil them and they will serve you a lifetime.
It seems I can actually conjure up some images of pleasure and so maybe I do have fond memories of scissors after all….
…à la prochaine!..
Butternut soup is probably my most favorite soup. Keeping it simple brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut and warm comfort of its creaminess. Don’t hide its wonderful autumn flavors behind all sorts of funny additions…sometimes something has to be left alone to speak in its own voice. Like the velvety butternut.
- Any other pumpkin of about 1 kg can be used in the same way.
- Add a knob of butter when sauteing the shallot…it adds more flavor.
- Use home made vegetable stock if possible, or else an organic vegetable stock. Water can be used instead.
- See here for a bouquet garni.
- Add about 2 tsps orange zest for a more pronounced orange flavor.
- If the soup is too thick, add cream for a richer version and milk for a lighter version to your taste.
..and fragrance in the home..
Isn’t it nice to step into a home and smell the most subtlest of fragrances…not an overwhelming smell, but just enough to have you wonder what it is, where it comes from.
There are many ways to bring fragrance into your home. But always remember the first golden rule: always keep it soft, gentle and subtle. Nothing is as sickening as a sweet and overpowering smell. It is much like an old woman seeking youth in powder and perfume. Or like a guy who fell into a bottle of Old Spice. The second rule is to never have a perfumed candle at the dinner table or around food.
To prevent a room from being invaded with scent, a perfumed candle should burn only for a short while. The small tealight tops are a favorite of mine to burn on winter evenings when it gets dark in the afternoons. They are very gentle in flavor and I leave them to burn the whole evening…romance and ambiance for all, even on week nights…everybody loves it!
Winter chases us inside earlier and for longer…we cook inside more, we make fires in the fireplaces and receive more visitors inside than in any other season. It is important to have fresh fragrance in the house as well…flowers, diffusers, lamp bulbs with rings and dotted wih essential oils, some envelopes in drawers or in hidden corners, some light house sprays, pillow sprays, sachets hanging on door knobs, incense burning after an open fire in the fireplace. Again…keep it light and stay away from the sweet and strong flavors, like vanilla and fruits. I sometimes use cedar incense to get rid of the smoky smell of our open fireplace. I never use potpourii, because it only gathers dust.
When using a diffuser and a tealight, take care to drop only a little 0il and burn the candle only a short while. The fragrance quickly disperses throughout the room.
In the bedroom, room sprays and pillow sprays are gentle enough..spritz on the bed rather than the pillow and a light spritz in the air with a room spray leaves a gentle frangrance.
My favourite fragrances are rose, heliotrope, amber, citrus, all tea leaves and cotton flower. Some of these tiny bottle below go back many, many years and I can’t get rid of them. They still carry the smell of essential oils…and sweet memories.
A drop of essential oil on a bulb ring, made from terracotta or balsawood on a bulb and the heat of the bulb disperses the fragrance through the room. The balsa wood works great on the new economy bulbs which don’t get as hot.
Although the scented envelopes are meant for drawers, I place them in bowls in corners in the house. They aren’t strong and overpowering and only give off a flavor when you pass them. And of course, nothing is easier than making your own envelopes: Use white envelopes and paint them in your favourite olours, drip the paint, flow it on the envelope, write, scribble, hand paint…whichever you feel like doing. Fill your handpainted envelope with clean catsand or wooden shavings, add a drop of soft essentail oil, glue your envelope and place in a corner where it can be admired as well as give off its gentle fragrance in the room.
May your winter days…and for otheres, summer days…be filled with the softt fragrances of cotton flower, and your evenings be cozy around the flicker of a cedar scented candle.
…à la prochaine!..
Artichokes filled with red fig and topped with a goats cheese can be served whichever way you want to…on the side with a meat dish, or as a salad, or a starter, and even as an amuse bouche with a glass of cold white wine. It is truly delicious and even enjoyed by people who find artichokes without taste. If you want to be really gourmet, you will prepare the atichokes yourself, but you can choose the easier but still delicious way, by buying the frozen artichoke hearts, readily available everywhere.
- Use frozen artichoke hearts, which is as delicious and fresh and less work. BUT for a special occasion in season , DO put in some effort for some fresh, seasonal artichokes.
- Feta cheese with ricotta or sour cream can be used instead of goats cheese and crème fraîche.
- Yellow figs can be used instead of red figs.
- Substitue maple syrup or thym honey for the white balsamic syrup.
- Serve as a starter on a bed of greens, or as a side with duck, or as an amuse bouche, served on small plates.
- Bake at 200 degrees C for about 10 -15 minutes.
..and a little bit of Paris…
I was in Paris for a quick visit and when passing by Antoine, I couldn’t resist this parapluie for the coming winter and its rains. I never actually use one, because I knock everyone in the eye and over the head or umbrella them off the sidewalk. But I’ve decided everything can be worked at and I want to look chic this winter and for that I need this parapaluie. So I will work at my clumsiness with a parapluie and turn myself into a proper parisienne…just imagine…never again wet hair clinging to my forehead..
I’m almost tempted to say that the elagant Parisienne you see in the following images, is me, but unfortunately my concience won’t allow it! It is my beautiful friend who was willing to play model for me with my ombrelle! And she knows exactly how, since she had been une Parisienne a few years ago, before she became une Tourangelle.
And some scenes from my meanderings in Paris:
…statues always attract me with their wistfull quietness and their frozen stares…
…and architecture with roofs and chimneys, towers and balcomies, doors and windows…
..and of course, on my way to catch the TGV home, I have to wander through le jardin du Luxembourg where I always stop for a game of chess and delight in the creative chaos of the the Luxembourg chairs…
… in le bois de Vincenne, autumn is a flaming opera with the colours performing the libretto with extravagant flair…
..à la prochaine!..
I always think of lasagna as a true homy meal…served with a fresh green salad and a pungent vinaigrette and of course a crusty bread to sweep your plate…It can be served in a large oven-to-table dish, which is what I prefer with a lasagne. It can also be served in portion dishes, which makes it of course a bit more elegant.
- You can use any vegetable, but don’t use too big a variety. The same Golden three rule, as for any other decoration-, architect-, flower arranging- subject applies here too. Less says more.
- Frozen spinach can be used instead of fresh. There is no exact measure…check your dish and measure how much veggies and sauce and cheese you would need.
- Pasta sheets: Fresh or dried pasta sheets can be used but make sure to use enough liquid in the tomato/vegetable mixture for the pasta sheets to absorb. Pasta sheets can be cooked beforehand, which means more work!
- I prefer only two layers of pasta and I end with a third layer of vegetbale and béchamel sauce. But if you like more pasta in your dish, make as many layers as you like by spreading the layers thinner.
- Béchamel sauce: Heat 500 ml milk along with 5 parsley stems, 4 whole peppercorns, a small carrot, branch of thyme and 1 celery stick. Leave to infuse and to cool completely. Make a roux in a saucepan by melting 1 heaped TBSP butter. Whisk in 1 heaped TBSP flour. Leave to cook on medium heat unitl it becomes frothy…about 3 minutes. Remove the herbs from the milk and add slowly to the butter mixture, while whisking the whole time. Leave on low heat and stir until thick. If your sauce is too thick, add a little milk. I like my sauce like thick cream. I definitly don’t want to plaster a house! Season to taste.
- This is not a recipe where exact amounts are necessary. Add a little more spinach or less, add more courgettes or less..be interested in what you’re doing, taste and taste again.
- I serve with a drizzling of olive oil…just to give that bit extra mediterranean touch…
…1001 garders’ secrets - Jean-Michel Groult…
As mentioned before, I love garden b0oks…well, all books for that matter…new ones, old ones, worn ones, impeccable ones, thick ones, thin ones, beautiful ones, ordinary ones and all topics…but for today I’ll stick to a little book that gives so much advice on simple gardening. Just 1001 tips to make work in the garden a pleasure. there are many books on the market, worldwide, in all languages, presenting the same. We have all come to a stage where we are forced to do simplify work, whether in a garden or elsehwere. And we have come to a stage where we are forced to consider healthier ways of gardening…letting go of the pesticides in favour of more natural ways…plants, prevention, insects, animals…
My garden is all set for autumn. I’m just waiting for the colours to deepen a bit more before taking some photos. And in a few weeks, I’ll be setting the garden up for winter – wrapping the pots and some plants, wrapping and storing all garden furniture, setting out some winter decorations. But more about that later. For now there is still a lot of garden reading and writing going on and here is a little taste of a book that inspires gardening all year round.
So, why not get out to the bookstore and find a similar little book that inspires you to go for a greener, healthier but still beautiful and delighful garden, filled with colour and harvests, buzzing animal life and quiet moments of reflection.
All images below taken from the book, 1001 secrets de jardiniers.
…Simple and easy garden care…
* gone are the times where gardening was hard work to keep in tip top condition, even when being a natural garden. After all, we visit a garden to sow happiness, not difficulties. *
…à la cuisine…
* flavour above all else, wild plants, make vinegar!, store dried, cordon-bleu tricks *
…enhance your space…
* keep your garden seasonal, some interest in every seaon. let it breathe some freedom by breaking hard lines with freeflowing and -growing plants, leave some shrubs to grow high and shape onto arches hwich will give as much charm as climbing creepers. *
…baskets full of fruit and vegetables…
* what can be more gratifying thatn harvesting your own fresh fruit and vegetables? but it can be hard work and tiring as well if not simplified and made easy for yourself. *
… a green view…
* See the garden as you wouild see the interior of your home….walls with furniture and decorations and wall hangings. apply the same to your garden…not only a green lawn in an empty garden. See trees and shrubs and creepers and garden furniture as the decorations of your garden and keep it as aestethic as you would your house. *
…348 pages of secrets for a healthy, interesting and inspiring garden, simplified to do it the easy and environmently friendly way…
…à la prochaine!..
When something is in abundance, we should make use of it…like the sorrel in my garden, which is growing profusely. Not to mention the rocket, which is close to taking over the garden. Combine the two in an early atumn soup, sprinkle with some pistachios and cut some baguette to accompany.
- Spinach and basil leaves can be used instead of the sorrel and rocket.
- The green peas are added for a green color…don’t boil the peas so they lose their green colour.
- Potatoes can be added for a more consistent soup.
- Be sure to sauté the sorrel beforehand in a bit of oil to prevent a sour taste to the soup.
- Use a cuppaccino frother to make milk froth for a light version, or use whipped cream instead.
- My way of making a creamy milk froth: Use cold, half fat milk. pour up to the marked level of the frother and froth until creamy. warm in the microvwave until the froth rises to the top. (Keep an eye on it, it haapens very quickly).Remove from the microwave and stir with a metal spoon until the mixture is nice and creamy.Spoon onto your soup(or coffee). The froth will hold its shap for quite a long time. For a cold soup, omit the heating.
- This soup is delicious warm or cold.
…while the soup is busy simmering… an update on the chicken chronicles...
I mentioned in a previous post: Asparagus with poppy vinaigrette and a confused chicken, that the one hen turned out to be a rooster, which forced me to give them to a friend living on a farm. It broke my heart to see them go and I especially missed Petronella, the rooster terribly, with his wonderfully cockey attitude! But they are happy where they are now and Petronella can crow to “his” heart’s delight without worrying about neighbours. Here they can be seen as cute tiny chicks…A simple salad and special corners.
After a while I got two new chickens…Tartelette and Omelette. Two Pekin bantam little chickens in the colour of Touraine…a soft grey, called “porcelaine“. They soon filled the sad corners of my heart…isn’t it amazing how much love we have to give? They are two adorable little featherfooted friends and I couldn’t ask for better chatterboxes to bring fun and laughter to my days!
Early mornings begin with joghurt. Healthy chicken food the rest of the day and a gouter(snack) late afternoon is their favorite joghurt again, some grated coconut and a few shreds of salami…yeah yeah…I know… chickens know nothing about joghurt and coconut…, but then I also think these two chickens don’t know they are chickens!
Where Tokala and Ayiani(my two beautifully chic cats)ignore me for the better half of the day to live their royal life, Tartelette and Omelette are just too eager to follow in my every fresh footstep, to entertain and be entertained all the way. They fiddle around under my easel in my atelier during the day, groom and massage their feathers by my feet and slip into the kitchen when I’m not looking to nestle in “their” corner for a nap, while looking at me with flirty eyes and charmingly tilted heads, begging to be allowed to stay…now tell me…how can I refuse such seduction?
…à la prochaine!
After buying some local saffron…from here in Touraine, I had to make something fishy with a saffron sauce. I love saffron and with fish it is really special…in taste as well as in appearance. Sometimes a white fish can look fairly …bland, but a sauce can lift it to a different level. I used skate wing in this recipe, a fish that I love for its delicate taste and ease with which you can enjoy it without fishing out bones in your mouth.
J’ai acheté un peu de safran de Touraine au marché bio à Tours.j’adore le safran au départ j’ai eu envie de préparer un poisson au safran. Parfois un poisson blanc semble très triste sur notre assiette et le gout n’est rien que fade. Une sauce au safran relève ce poisson banal à une expérience gastronomique, facile à manger, sans péniblement pêcher les arrêts dans sa bouche!
NB: It is a fish that is being overfished and quickly disappearing from certain waters. Measurements have now been put in place to control the fishing and protect the skate. Please make sure that you buy your skate from a reputable fishmonger. Definitely don’t buy it at the supermarket!
NB: Faites attention a ce poisson qui est en train de disparaître très vite, a cause de la pêche négligente. Ne l’achetez surtout pas au supermarché, mais plutôt dans une poissonnerie réputable.
I served the skate wing with a spaghetti of courgette on the side, quickly plunged in boiling water and rinsed under cold water, dried and lightly seasoned.
- This recipe can work well with any white fish. I used skate wing.
- Serve on a big platter and serve individual portions from the wings by lifting small filets off the bone onto each plate.
- The courgettes can be peeled into long ribbons, using a potato peeler if you don’t have the special spaghetti tool. Cut the ribbons into thin paghetti or leave as ribbons(tagliatelle).
- Don’t boil the courgette spaghettie or else they will lose their color, break up and become mushy, without any crunch.
- Dry the courgettes well after rinsing to prevent them from being soggy in the plate.
The organic market day in Tours took off early in the morning, with everybody setting up their stalls and readying themselves for a day of sunshine and hungry, eager visitors. Indeed a successful day for Touraine on the banks of the Loire.
Le bio marché à Tours était une grande réussite. Chacun installé ses stands et se préparé pour une journée estivale, remplie de visiteurs affamés. Encore un succès pour la Touraine aux bords de la Loire.
…je veille sur le parc…
…journée de la patrimoine et pont wilson…
…safran de touraine…
..au marché bio…
…on achète, on goute, on mange, on s’amuse…
…les poissons de la loire…
…on mange pas sans du vin de la région…
…à l’année prochaine…
Rosemary and lamb. A perfect combination.
- Other/or mixture of herbs can be used along with rosemary. Rinse them and use them wet to line your oven pan.
- Chicken and pork can be used the same way, cut off excess from pork.
- It is worth it to invest in a meat thermometer. It gives you your desired stage of cooking and keeps the guessing and disappointment out of oven roasted pieces.
- A piece of meat does shrink alot when roasted at high temperature. But it is still tender and juicy. If you want less shrinkage, bake for longer at 150-160 °C.
- Temperatures for lamb: (taken from “La grand Larousse gatronomique)
- rare: from 60-62 °C (very pink with pink juices still running)
- medium: from 62-64°C (pink with clear juices running)
- well done: >64°C (slightly pink to completely cooked/gray)
“You smell like rosemary“, said our daughter when she hugged me at the train station. I bloomed. I liked the thought of smelling like rosemary. It says…mother. Care . Childhood. Home. Remembrance.
Later that night, after our dinner of rosemary lamb and catching up on her life as a young working woman, I lay in bed dwelling on her words and my thoughts drifted off. I dreamed how wonderful it would be if our daughters would talk about us one day along the lines of something like this:
“My mother was cook in the kitchen. My father was cook at the barbecue. And between them grew a rosemary bush. I have my own rosemary bush now and when I walk past it and feel my legs brushing the leaves, a heady fragrance envelops me making me feel lightheaded with memories. I smell my mother after her fiddling in the garden among her roses and herbs and I see my father bending over the rosemary bush, cutting and snipping leaves for his lamb cutlets. Our mealtimes were festively spent around a table in the garden, or in the summer kitchen by die barbecue or under the walnut tree overlooking hills or elegantly candle lit in the dining room or simple and homey around the kitchen table. I recall hours of inventing new recipes, cooking and preparing, tasting wines, all the while eating at pretty set tables around laughter and jokes, teasing and chatting and many a times heart-to-heart talks.
I have no doubt, that there where they are now, they still reign as queen of the kitchen and king of the barbecue. And between them, a rosemary bush grows high and lush”.
…Hartman’s handmade rosemary brush- a piece of copper piping, a string pulled through to the other side with a loop…
…snip some rosemary branches and tie the one end of the string around…
…pull at the other end of the string, fix the stems inside the copper pipe and cut the tips to form a firm brush - baste your meat with melted butter, marinade…
…voilà a fresh rosemary brush…
…some rosemary folie for a home- in teapots, in a jug, on a door, on linen, as a kebab, on oven roasted vegetables, with preserved quince…
..until next time!!..
We have about three days left for remembering the old year and planning for the new year. Dreaming up new dreams. Setting new heights. Asking simple questions. Struggling with honest answers.
Part of dreaming new dreams and setting new goals, is a desire to give back more to life than receiving. Looking back on this year, I’ve seen our human soiety grasped in the claws of spending. We were/are admired for our talents. For our beautiful homes. And our beautiful blogs. For our wonderful recipes. Our creativity. We have friends across the globe, praising us for our kindness, gentleness, goodness. It has driven me to ask some simple questions during this time. A time which inspires real hope and renewal. Change. Growth..
Have you been grateful this past year, content with what you have? Without a desire for what you don’t yet have?
Have you given back more than you received?
Have you brought fresh vegetables to the grumpy old lady/man down the street whenever you brought back your own loaded bags? Do you even know a grumpy old lady for whom you could have dropped a fresh bread?
Have you dropped a coin in the hands of the beggar, or have you justified your simply walking past that it would have just be going for alcohol anyway…could you have helped in some different way…something that took more trouble, more effort…started making a difference? Have you even given it any thought after just walking on? Or have you just turned your head and started thinking of dinner?
Have you done anything consciously for charity, effort, planning, effort – just as you would do it for yourself? Or were you very busy.
Have you ever spent some of your precious time to go an old age home to read to the elderly? Do you know any elderly people? Do you know their fears? Their fascinating stories? Their needs? Or do you only hope to not grow into such an old sour prune?
Have you contributed in any way positively to our environment? Have you ever been to the dump yard? Talked to the people working there? Have you ever taken a pie and shared a coffee with them? Have you ever woken up early to thank the garbage workers for the work they do?
Could you have cared more in an unspending way for your dear ones? Without the aid of money. Without the aid of material things. Just you and your time. Your effort.
Could you have cared more in an unspending way for friends? For your community?
Did you run to the store to buy something to make you feel better, to rid you of depression, to lift your mood? Did you run to an stock full pantry to indulge in foods of all choices and flavours to wallow in your awful life?
Have you given a shoulder to someone in need? Reached out to a complete stranger?
Have you taken a dinner for someone at her/his home who was just simply tired, worn out, or just because you wanted to?
Have you done something special for someone, not so YOU could feel good afterwards, but because he/she needed it? Without receiving a thank you, without caring about a thank you?
Have you complained constantly about your circumstances and then got into a warm bed, luxurious bedlinen, having had a hot meal, even having sipped a glass of wine? Or complained about your misfortune…or about being misunderstood….or neglected?
Have you complained about your circumstances and then had had the luxury of ice in your drink or a cool glass of water to quench your thirst…turning the tap and having had water running freely to fill a bath to your heart’s content?
Have you written down at the end of each day how many good things life had handed you during the course of the day? Have you even noticed it?
On a bad day, have you even tried to find something good in your life?
Have you sat quietly and really listened to someone’s else’s fears, dried her/his tears without thinking of your own hurt, or comparing to your own hurt, but could only feel the sadness of this person?
Were you quick to rationalize and justify your own reasons or motives, your jealousy, your envy, your anger, your hurt…
Were you spiteful…were you critical…were you judgmental…were you righteous…
Were you deeply sorry after harsh words…did you admit it, say it out loud?
Were you ashamed after harsh behaviour…did you acknowledge it, say it out loud?
Have you sat down and wondered, marvelled at this wondrous thing called life?
What small things have you done, unnoticed by your friends and family, society… just because?
….And so these simple questions are never ending. One leads to another. Looking us straight on with raised eyebrows. Awaiting a response. Can we meet the straight stare? Can we be be honest in our answers? Do they make us look ahead differently? Will they change anything?
May 2010 be less about ourselves.
May we care more about the world around us. Our community.The bigger picture.
May we use our talents and our good fortunes to make the world better for everyone.
May we live each day with a long list of gratitudes. Small ones. Important ones.
May we give more attention to the small, insignificant aspects of life. May they grow and become life changing.
May we give in abundance. Love. Time. Attention. Care. Empathy. Understanding…
May we receive with grace. Love, Teachings. Lessons. Help. Advice…
May we ALL grow in wisdom and get to that place which is called peace. Contentment. Happiness. Understanding.
A Wonderful, rich 2010 to all.
I sometimes serve individual cheese platters for the cheese course after the plat principal. I find it is easier to serve cheese this way, than having a heavy cheese board or platter going around at the table with each person having to find a place to rest the platter and cut his cheese. Along with the individual portions, I keep the platter close by, for those who want an extra helping and so the cheeses and their names can be seen.
…plat du fromage…
..st, marcellin, corsu vecchiu, tete de moine, morbier, fourme d’ambert, mango, kiwi and quince paté…
- Serve small helpings of diced fruit in season along with your cheese. It is optional. In France you will very rarely be served some fruit with your cheese, but I find that most people enjoy a hint of fruit on the cheese plate, eevn if only for its uplifting colour!
- DON”T forget a good red wine!
- I prefer to serve simply une baguette tradition with the cheese, simply becasue the slices are small and crusty and aren’t overwhelmingly heavy and is just perfect with any cheese.
- NO butter!
- NO crackers!
- Honey is also a good accompaniment to some cheeses as well as a quince paté.
- Serve a variety of cheese – start from a hard cheese, a soft and creamy one, a blue cheese and a goat’s cheese as basis and add to that maybe an unknown cheese or exotic or an artisan cheese, or your favourite.
- Round cheeses are normally sliced from the middle outwards. Triagular cheeses are easiest to lay flat and sliced from the thin end upward to the thickest. A pyramid is sliced from the top to the bottom.
- Serve a tete de moine (the frilly cheese in the photo below) on the shaving board(if you have one), as it always pleases the guests to shave some for themselves.
- You can serve thse individual cheese platters as a starter, or as a small aperitif before the meal, but then skip the cheese course after the main dish.
…tete de moine, pouligny st pierre, st. marcellin, fourme d’ambert, morbier, corsu vecchiu, …
* I can’t walk past anything that has a story. I own broken cups, and burnt linen and chewed up books and mildewed paintings – all because they have stories behind them. My wooden floorboards still have patches of old paint drippings. I left part of a wall unpainted, because we discovered abeautiful old frieze. I refuse to replace the old glass of some of our windows with double glaze, because it is still the original glass and you can see the tiny bubbles and other defects.
…chewed up old medicine journals and letters, dug up from our garden…
..porcelaine pieces dug up from our garden in Montlouis sur Loire…
And so I have this beautiful antique linen tablecloth with its complete set of napkins, whih I only bought because it made me cry. It belonged to an old lady, who grew up in a typical bourgouise family. She received beautiful lines for her trousseau as a young girl, one of which was this set of table linen. She used it for her fromal dinners and one evening when entertaining guests, one napkin was dropped on the floor, the family dog got hold of it and chewed it to get to the meat juices on the napkin. So the elegant old Madame gently washed the napkin by hand, repaired it with needle and thread by hand, ironed it and placed it back with the set. When she got old alone, she went to an old age home, but had no children to pass her linens on to. So she gave it up to be sold. I was heartbroken when hearing this sad tale and couldn’t leave the brocante without it. I trust it is the truth, because I know Madame aux Brocantes, who specializes in old linens, very well. She always keeps some things aside for me, especially when they have a story behind them.
…tablecloth with a story…
Each time I set my table with this beautiful linen set, I fold the chewed up serviette for myself. I think of old Madame and hope she looks onto me from wherever she is, with happiness.
* Always interested in how people lived in all ages, I recently got this cute calendrier for 2010, not for the calender but for the content, which holds tips and tales from days gone by. Some are real good advice and some make you giggle…for you to decide which!
…astuce de grand-mére:
*For whiter teeth – dip your finger in olive oil, rub it against your teeth and keep it for several minutes in your mouth before rinsing, OR, rub a sage leaf against your teeth once a week.
These cornes de boeuf peppers from Spain lend themselves ideally to stuffing and they are fascinating with their long and twisted shapes.
…cornettes de boeuf…
- Any filling can be used…mushrooms, onions, peppers, courgettes, cheese, berries, broccoli florets, tomatoes, dried fruits, breadcrumbs, left over chicken, ground beef, quinoa, rice, lentils…
- Ordinary sweet peppers or courgettes can be used instead of the peppers. Or more piquant peppers.
- Can be served as a starter or a vegetable accompaniment, or even a whole meal served on a green salad with a mustard vinaigerette.
- When stuffed tightly with a crumbs filling, it can be sliced and served as an aperitif on canapés, with a moelleux wine, (a sweet, fruity white wine).
In Octobre I had an art friend visiting France and she stopped through here in Touraine, where we met for the first time after being blogging friends for a long time. See both her sites, Making a mark(in which she covers much more information than just art – her latest post is about Technorati and blogosphere…have a look) Travels with a sketchbook is all about her sketching and travelling.
Katherine and her sister and niece had dinner with us at home on their last night here and they brought me a beautiful book – Boire et manger that I wish to share with everybody. It is such an inspiration, seeing how food and art have walked hand in hand through all ages, depicting the habits and cultures and changes of the times and the different symbolisms of different foods, some of which we still hang onto today; cherries being a symbol of love and volptuousness, bread being the symbol of the body of christ, the apple seen as the origin of sin. I wish I could share the whole book with you, but here are a few excerpts. I hope they delight you as much as they did me and inspire you to be creative with food, not that I mean to paint it, but to “paint with it”! And above all, to respect it!
You can see more examples on Africantapestry at Food sketches and a book on dining a painting.
…jeunes garcons mangeant des fruits: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo(1645-46)
Le melon-meaning: Sweetness, earrthly pleasure, friendship.
- Maybe look between the two boys could be interpreted as a silent dialogue between them to decide which fruit they prefer; the grapes or the melon, both having existentially different symbols.
- In the mythical sense the melon symbolically represents the earthly sweetness and pleasures of the flesh.
- the melon is always not only the cosen sweet ness of both adults and children, but a symbol of friendship, because the quality of the kin of the melon can determine the quality on its flesh.
- Grapes, givng birth to wine, could be reference to the spiritual path and the need to follow it.
…la table d’office: Siméon chardin(1756)…
Olive and oil – meaning: Grace of the Holy Ghost, conscience, clemency and charity.
- The European porcelain soupterine accentuates the refinement of the table.
- Two coilcans are presnt- one for oil and one for vingar, the usage of both these condiments togheter would be reaffirmed during the ages.
- The rustic terrine had a specific culinary function, which was the making of paté and was typically French cuisine.
- This still life present a contrast between elegance and rustic in the display of the kitchen tools and refined tableware. Chardin was fascinated by the culinary arts and gastronomy and used both at the same time to create his art.
- The silver warmer with silver seen as a noble metal, was part of the refined table and added to the elgance of the piece.
…nature morte avec des fruits et un homard: Jan Davidsz de Heem(1648-49)
- The fruit represent the earthly pleasures and in deeper context they represent the joy of the spirit/mood.
- The ornate decoration on this pure precious metal container represents its excellence and gives it a symol of saintly spirituality.
- The lobster is a symbol of resurrection.
- The peeled lemon represents life; which gradually “peels” off the outer earthly layers to finally arrive at the soul.
…le mangeur de haricots:Annibale Carrache(1583-84)…
Dried beans- meaning: humility, poverty, continence
- the borken windeow represent the negligence of this humble environnement.
- The man eating the beans was a subject reintroduced to painting at beginning of the XVI century. Up until then this theme was only kept to the indignant.
- The dried bean was condidered the most humle of the starch food and and represents the everyday food of the common peasant.
…l’enfant gaté: Jean Batiste Greuse(1865)
Cutlery- menaing: Elegance, finesse, treason, word of God.
- The presence of the cauldron emphasizes the popular character of the represented scene.
- The little boy holds a silve spoon, which contrasts with the humble and diorganized environnement. During this era, a silver spoon was given to children, because silver was believed to have antibiotic properties.
Topinambours counts under “the old vegetables/foods” which have been making a come back the last few years. Previously I made a Velouté de topinambour which is great. This time it is is cut into chunks, sprinkled with powdered espelette pepper and baked in the oven on a bed of fresh thyme.
- Sauté some apple chunks in butter, add a bit of cassonade(brown sugar) and fry until nicely caramelized. Mix gently with the baked topinambours and serve warm.
- The piment d’espelette can be replaced by any other chili of your choice, either dry and in powder form, or finly chopped.
- Cook the topinambours in water on the stovetop until almost tender and then add to an oven pan with the seasonings to caramelize. It shortens the baking time.
- Serve the topinambours on a bed of salad greens or as an accompaniment to any meat.
- By adding créme frâiche after baked in the oven, you can serve it with a pasta or add it to a saffron risotto.
- Be sure to have it nicely tender or else it has a “burning” taste, much like raw potato.
- It is a healthy alternative to potatoes, seeing that it has a lower glycemic index than potatoes.
Piment d’espelette is a variety of pepper, with a light “bite” that is produced in the Basque region of France. Because of its fragrant flavour and taste, it is frequently used instead of pepper. We also find a beautiful fleur de sel d’espelette, which is powdered espelette mixed with a good quality fleur de sel, which is what I used on my baked topinambours)
For Liandri’s birthday in beginning of Octobre, we had dinner le chateau de Beaulieu here in Tours. A nice quaint hotel with a menu gastronomique; we could choose between foie gras, turbot, pigeon, filet de boeuf, magret de canard, carré d’agneau… A small dinng room, a local wine list as well as some distant cousins, nice dessert, coffee and olde worlde ambiance. A charming place to stay and dine when you visit our area.
…chateau de beaulieu…
…Olde world memories for olde world foods…
…add secret spices, cherry tomatoes, serve with cooked wheat…
- Any other meat can be used
- Use these spices with oven baked winter root vegetables
- Crush the mixture together in a mortar and pastle to a paste.
- Serve with white/wholewheat rice, or cooked wheat or fluffy steamed potatoes.
Sun and summer are still plentiful here in Montlouis. On arriving home, we opened the gates to a jungle of green. . Mosquitoes in the switched off fountain. Boxwood in pots dried and sad. Rosebushes hanging heavy with hips, spiderwebs in every corner, dust swirling around in the streams of sun light. Mail overflowing. Advertisements strewn over the entrance…does it sound familiar?
…bienvenue chez nous!…
Back bending and hopeful we dug in. Into the garden. Into the house. Scraping, digging, pruning shoveling. We drank water by the liters and turned to icy cold colas. We washed and rinsed, dusted and coughed, groaned and polished. Not to mention attacking the washing machine with vigour and gratitude! I forgot how to set the time on my microwave oven and wondered if I still needed it? I listened to the murmur of my dishwasher and wondered how on ever I got by for 5 months without! I now once agin appreciate my comfy and (for me), simple but luxurious kitchen and delighted in putting together a meal of fish and citrus fruit. Then we indulged in our dinner under the parasol, hearing the fountain, smelling the September bloom of jasmin, dreaming and planning for this second half of 2009.
- Scorpion fish is really delicious and reminds somewhat of lobster flesh. But of course any fish can be used for this recipe and the method of cooking can be adapted as well. If on a diet and you want to stay away from sauteing, then go for poaching, or even roasting in the oven. Just make sure NOT to overcook the fish filets. In any case, fish should ALWAYS be done quickly, because a little standing time cooks the fish even further. Nothing is more off- putting than rubbered fish!! Another note on fish…do your guests the honour and favour, by removing ALL the fish bones…the reason why many people shy away from fish!
- Don’t raise the eyebrows for the amount of lemon segments…it really flavours the dish and it isn’t noticeable as..”eeuww…lemon!”
- For a suggestion on how a citrus fruit is segmented you can seethe slide show in a previous post here: Citrus and carrot salad – how to segment an orange.
- the orange flower water enhances the salad and it is a good idea to have it in your pantry as a few drops enhances many a dish. To harmonize with the citrus and orange flower flavour, the addition of a citrus honey would be perfect, but a flower honey is nice too, which is what I used. Try not to use acacia, since it competes with the orange flower water.
- And lastly…DO have fun when cooking! Remember, cooking is all about Try, Test and Taste!!
…letting it marinate…
Montlouis is situated on the banks of the wild, untamed Loire river in Touraine, 10 minutes from Tours, and on the route touristique…wines, chateaux, promenades, photograph tours and the special troglodytes of Touraines, where many people adore living in the caves. We also have 3 caves at the back in our property, going into the cliff. But more on that and les troglodytes and its lifestyles next time. For now, a taste of la vie quotidienne d’une Montlouisienne(moi!)!
…je vous prèsente Montlouis…
…then you turn right, then go up the hill, then.. then…
In the photo at the top left can be seen…an enormous bunch of grapes! Which at some stage was lit at night and it was a fountain, but now it only serves as the land mark of our little town. It forms part of every direction giving to deliveries and strangers and visitors: “…et puis on va tout droit, et puis on tombe sur une horrible grappe de raisin, et puis on tourne à droite et puis….(then you go straight, then you will see a huge ugly bunch of grapes right next to the Loire, then you turn right up the hill, then…”)
Turning at this bunch of grapes takes you up a steep hill to la centre ville, where cars play second fiddle to walking and cycling, shopping and chatting.
…walking and shopping…
It is a busy little town with festivals going on throughout the year..brocantes et vide greniers, jazz festivals in September, tomato festival at the chateau bourdaisiere in September, garden festival in april, bread festvals, wine festivals, food festvals, fresh market every Thursday. We have the jour de Loire, with all activities and actions circling around the river Loire. And just as we think by the end of the year that the festivals are over, along comes the Christmas market, and we eat again, chat again, drink and buy wine again, shop for that star for le sapin noël…
…religion, homes and war..
Life is a hustle and bustle at Montlouis, while the Loire just nonchalantly continues snaking forward – silently in summer and filling up with winterrains to a passionate and powerful flood..
Voilà a short introduction to the place we call home. There is more to come in follow ups- the festivals, the people of Montlouis, interviews with les vignerons(winemakers) and their pleasures, artists of the area, the caves and their history and all kinds of food, fun and flair! A bientôt!
…la Loire en septembre…
…sunset in September…
A while ago Nina posted some delicous rolls and I’ve been threatening to make them ever since… I adapted her recipe a bit acoording to the ingredients we have available here in the country side in Corréze. I also wanted to give them a little bit of Greek touch. They are delicious – whichever way they come! Quick, easy, colourful and fingerlicking good. Thanks Nina!
I added some feta cheese to these rolls and made the sauce with greek joghurt, having someone special in mind when I made them this afternoon.
For Adela and John, two friends currently in Skiathos, Greece for 3 months. Adela is a regular reader here and I think this might be something she would enjoy. They love good food! So. May this be goo..ood..!
Thanks to Adela and all the other faithful readers who visit regularly and enjoy Myfrenchkitchen…I appreciate your support!
…sucrine, basil, string beans, feta, nectarine – voilà!…