Baguette aux fruits rouges et jambon de Parme(baguette with red berries and Pama ham)..and a sign for every shop.
It happens to all of us: that day when the house is empty but the people hungry. If you have a baguette at hand(like all French homes do), some kind of fruit, like red berries(which you should have, because they are packed with health benefits!) and some ham somewhere( if you dig deep enough, I’m sure you’ll find a substitute!)…well, then you have a meal and a great one at that. Good enough for a snack or a lunch or a brunch or a light dinner.
I am not giving any formal recipe for this baguette aux fruits rouges, it is all up to you own imagination. see the pincée de fleur des sel for some guidelines..
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use baguettes and cut in half so you have a solid “base” which helps prevent the bread from going soggy.
- I used a cheese with walnuts as a spread , added the red berries of my choice, drizzled with olive oil maple syrup and a little lemon juice, topped with thin slices of parma ham and grilled quickly in the oven for a minute or two. Serve warm with extra chopped walnuts and maple syrup.
- Serve with a green salad if preferred.
blueberries, black currants, red gooseberreis, raspberries, blackberries
..a sign for every shop..
I am sure you marvel at all the interesting sign shops wherever you go. Well, me too! The most exciting ones to the most boring ones. sometimes a boring one will actually push me to enter, just to have me praise my perception of the shop being as uninteresting as its sign. Or maybe to prove myself wrong and that I might just find some treasure…
Whichever way, a sign outside a shop lures us inside. And yes, there has surely also been the disappointment in a store’s interior with a charming sign flirting outside. Still, we enter a store with expectation after looking up and seeing its sign…
Some are brightly colored, tongue in cheek, funny… will they invite you in?
Some are not very indicative of what its store is all about, but that could be good tactics…
Some are regional and they have to really be original to stand out..
Some plays on our desire to remember the past…
Some very elegant …
And those with a personal name has you want to discover more…
then there are those you have no clue what might await inside but you love what the name represents…
And there are those for special customers…
And some are so often hidden in lovely greenery, it comes with the profession…
Proof goes to show…hidden in the foliage…
Sometimes though, high and clearly marked in old script..!
And then there are the handmade ones to suit every occasion…(so by the way, this was mine many years ago with an exhibition in my gallery at home)
Mine again…in the atelier…just to distinguish between the art studio and the “pretty”art exhibition!
In the wine area a multitude of signs direct you to the multiple domains and cellars and wine shops. This is the grande grappe de raisin just opposite from where we lived and was always a beacon.
These following ones were all in close proximity when we lived in Montlouis sur Loire.
Cave of course meaning in this case wine cellar….the bunch of grapes is there to make sure you don’t arrive with your climbing gear.
An oringal way of luting passers by to a wine cellar and regional products.
With this sign I had a personal affair….right behind it is a parking where I always went through to get into the main road. this sighn always blocked my view to check for oncoming traffic, so I had to get out and move it back as you see it standing now, got back into my car, checked my left and rights and into the traffic I went. Not quietly and patiently, but rather doorslamming and sighing and armslinging and a lot of ZUT, ZUT, ZUT! It happened every day for the whole time we lived there. It is just one of those things. Instead of going over to the cellar and fixing it, I just moved the thing each time with a French attitude. I miss it.
These cute board signs are just simply fun.
“I Invite you in to dine and wine, don’t mind my strict appearance!”
At the boucherie in Beaulieu you can even buy salads…
With all these signs, I always sign a salut to you
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..
It is now time for quince, pears, apples..all the lovely fruits of autumn with their heady fragrances when baked or panfried or poached. With added spices or without, they are wonderful as desserts and even better as accompaniment to venison and the heavier winter red meats. Serving it with a duck breast is something I love to do: Sauté the quince in a pan with butter and sugar, remove, add the juices of the panfried duck and reduce with some red wine, serve with the cooked duck slices and the quince on the side and a pain de campagne to sweep up the juices on the plate.. eh oui, we do love that! Doesn’t it sound delicious?
- Wash 2 large quinces and cut in quarters. Peel(optional) and remove the seeds. Cut each quarter again in half.
- In a large pan, melt a large knob of butter and about 3/4 cup sugar and some lemon juice to taste. Add the quince and pan fry for about 10 minutes or until the quinces are tender and caramelized. Remove the quinces from the pan heat before they fall apart and keep aside.
- Add 1/4-1/2 cup of red wine to the caramelized quince juice and reduce for about 5-10 minutes. Add the quince slices back to the wine sauce and keep warm until needed.
- Serve as accompaniment with venison or duck breast or pan fried foie gras.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use apples or pear instead of quince.
- Add spices like star aniseed, or a cinnamon stick or juniper berries..
- Use honey of your preference instead of sugar.
- These quince can also be baked in the oven at 180 degrees C until the quince are tender.
- Serve as a dessert with a dollop of thick cream or créme fraîche.
- Use the pan fried quince for tarte tatin or use and make a topping for a crumble.
Well, back from Paris; t’was a quick there and back, but that is how I have to do Paris now with all the animals waiting back here at Coin Perdu. Not that I complain because that is exactly the way I like it. Paris is wonderful, but after a week my head hurts. All is well when you don’t have parcels and bags and cameras and bottles of water and it isn’t raining and you have enough money to be taxied around. But a week of city life is more than enough – enough shoving and pushing on buses and le métro, slipping on wet métro stairs, struggling through narrow métro gateways with parcels and umbrellas, enough garlic odours on the métro from the stranger breathing in your neck and spitting his chatting into his portable above your head.
BUT…thankfully Paris is also filled with stories and a rich history and incredible beauty and there is always a good seat and (albeit expensive) coffee at the next corner. Great lunch meals at bistros, which is cheaper and sometimes better than dinners. Great places(squares) where you can eat your sandwich jambon and read your book(given it doesn’t rain). And of course, there is always le jardin du Luxembourg.
..le jardin du Luxembourg with the Eiffel tower in the background..
..Monsieur is out with his little sailboat..
*Did you know…?
total surface of le jardin du Luxembourg: about 23 hectares
- ornamental lakes: 2 800 m²
- lawns: 5 400 m²
- Shrub beds 17 700 m²
- flower beds 6 000 m²
- interior perimeter: 2km
- Trees forming lanes: 2 200
- trees forming shade: 740
- shrubs: 35 000
..the garden is still dressed in summer attire with géraniums in the pots and will soon be replaced by the habitual chrysanthémes..
..le jardin colours later in autumn with the gay Chrysanthémes..(images from November 2009)
..Luxembourg pigeons basking in the November light..
..le palais in November with its security guard an elegant backdrop to they sunny yellow chrysanthémes..
..les chaises ..- I have always been fascinated by the chairs in le jardin and I am keeping my eyes wide open to find some for my own garden..love them, don’t you?
..sketchbook exchange: my theme for the sketchbook exchange in 2008 was the chairs of le jardin du Luxembourg..see more here of our exchange Flying pictures
..la buvette des Marinonnettes..
..le Pavillon de la Fontaine..
..Don’t forget to look upwards every now and then..
..and for thirst and directions, always some help..
..after a morning spent walking, reading, watching people, watching school kiddies run relay around the fountain, witnessing a great game of tennis, drinking coffee at le Pavillon de la fontaine, doing some tai chi with other Parisiens, I said goodbye to le jardin and left by the gate of Medici..
*Read more about le jardin du Luxembourg: (they can all be translated)
..à la prochaine..
The regulars here on Myfrenchkitchen will by now know how much I love an apéro(apéritif), or amuse bouche, or the spanish tapas.. On weekends it is standard practice in our home to have a glass of wine before dinner with an apéro. I hope one day in heaven there will be some apéros awaiting me on weekends- that and good coffee-or else I will take my business elsewhere…
As all the regulars will alos know, is that everything on Myfrenchkitchen is simple, as these salmon amuses bouches clearly show. The only requisite is “l’envie”, the desire to make it and enjoy it.
- Cut 140 g smoked salmon into thin strips, about 2cm wide. If possible, use wild salmon, which is much stronger in flavour. If you have your own gravlax that you made, all the better. Wash and cut green 1 large Granny Smith apple(unpeeled) into matchtsticks. Drizzle liberally with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Wash a few branches of fresh dill.
- Roll about 5 matchsticks of apple and a tiny branch of dill in a strip of salmon.
- Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with freshly milled pepper and decorate with lemon slices, dill flowers and serve with cold white wine, rosé, sparkling wine or champagne.
- One large Granny Smith apple and 140g smoked salmon (4 slices) make about 14 amuse bouche.Provide for 3 – 4 helpings per person if it is the only apéritif served.
Serves 3-4 people.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use fresh fennel or fresh chertvil instead of dill.
- Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraìche when rolling the salmon.
- Serve with a bowl of mayonniase or crème fraîche as an accompanying dip.
- Use other fruits in season and use smoked ham instead of salmon.
Since we are in the greens today…the hydrangeas are beautiful at the moment with nuances of green and salmon. Two Granny smith apples complete the picture in the barn.
..Green is one of the colours I love for setting tables outside. And blue. And red. And of course white. And ochre. Well, for that matter, all colours! I have a few things here at Coin Perdu which we often use for dining on the terrace in summer: rustic green rimmed glasses, old bottles, green fun plates, green banana lreaf bowls, green pottery bowls..
..Some small wild apples live in harmony with berries and egglantine rosehips..
..the birds don’t shy away from digging into the small wild apples..
..and neither do the horses..
..when going through my artwork in search of painted apples, I realized I have almost nothing. I had to rectify that immediately with a sketch. Green is a difficult colour. So many shades of it in nature. The challenge lies in creating your own green from yellows and blues with touches of reds and purples. That way you get much richer and interesting greens than the greens directly from the tube.
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
If ever you are in the area of Beaulieu sur Dordogne, be sure to drop in at Café Douceur for either a coffee or tea accompanied by homemade treats, or for a light lunch.
Si vous vous trouvez dans la région de Beaulieu, ne continuez pas tout droit sur votre chemin sans faire un stop au Café Douceur pour prendre un lunch, un cafe ou un thé avec un goûter fait maison,
You can judge from the photos that it has a warm atmosphere, welcoming and intimate. Everybody feels instantly at home which is no wonder, because Sophie, the owner and the chef of her café has a big heart and wide smile.
Ces photos montrent clairement l’ambiance chaleureuse, intime et conviviale. C’est normal, car Sophie, la petite propriétaire et la cuisiniére, dirige son café avec en grand coeur et un sourire pétillant.
As a young girl, Sophie was enchanted by l’heure du goûter..(late afternoon tea in France). From then on, her dream was a little café where she could bake, serve and sell madeleines, canelés, sablés and other delicacies she grew up with around l’heure du gouter. At the young age of 24 she took the plunge and opened up Café Douceur, not regretting one minute of her decision since.
Depuis son enfance, Sophie a été enchantée par l’heure du gouter. Son rêve était d’ avoir son propre petit coin pour partager cette passion. Les madeleines, les sablés, les cannelées..ce sont tous ces gourmandises qu’elle a savourée pendant son enfance et qu’elle fait aujourd’hui elle-même. Dèja il y a quelques années, à 24 ans, elle a décidée de réaliser ce rêve en ouvrant son propre café.
La terrasse has a view on centre ville, where everything happens in Beaulieu and everybody knows everybody.
Sur la terrasse, on peut s’amuser en voyant tout ce que et ceux qui arrivent en centre ville de Beaulieu.
In the image below is how she is frequently seen in la salle ..peeking around the corner from the kitchen to say hi and throw a smile at everybody.
With tables and chairs as well as comfy canapés, wooden games and toys for kids, gentle colours, you are invited to take a seat, linger with a magazine and have a second coffee or tea.
On est invité à s’installer dans la salle pour l’ambiance conviviale. On oublie le temps sur un canapé soit avec un livre, soit on découvre les jouets anciens tout en attendant un deuxième café..ou thé.
.. a little bouquet de fleurs at the lunch table..
The meals coming from the kitchen are homemade by Sophie herself, using seasonal fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables, many coming from her own potager(vegetable garden).
Les plats arrivent de la cuisine faits maison avec des produits saisonnièrs et les herbes fraîche, les légumes et fruits, quand possible, cueillis dans son propre potager.
..crépe complete et salade de jardin..
..Tarte citron au sorbet exotique..
La pate a brioche:
- Add 117g yeast to 1 glass of warm water. Mix it into 250g flour, a pinch of salt and 2 eggs.
- Cover an oven pan with baking paper.
- Spread the dough to an equal thickness on the paper. Leave aside in a warm corner to rise for about 30 minutes, while you prepare the apples.
- Peel and core 3 apples, cut into pieces and place into a casserole with some sugar, a few drops lemon juice , a few juniper berries, a pinch of salt. Simmer to reduce to a compote.
- Peel 2 to 3 more apples and slice. Drizzle with lemon juice.
- Spread the compote on the prepared brioche dough and arrange the apples slices on top.
- Top with sprinkled cassonade/vergeoise/brown sugar and dollops of butter.
- Bake for about 30 minutes at 180 degr. C or until the apples are caramelized and the dough is cooked through.
La suggestion du moment changes every day, depending on season and availability of produce. This day had Papillote de saumon aux petits légumes (salmon parcels with vegetables)on the menu.
La suggestion du moment change quotidiennement selon la saison et les produits disponibles. Ce jour là…une papillote de saumon aux petits légumes.
At the counter/bar, is always a lot of laughter and chatter going on..around a cup of coffee of course.
Autour du bar, toujours de la rigolade!
So, next time you are in the vallée de la Dordogne, do make the effort to turn off to Beaulieu sur Dordogne and drop in to meet Sophie and Pascale and Michel and have a seat by the counter with a coffee, or on a couch with a magazine, or enjoy a light lunch at a table.
Alors. La prochaine fois que vous passez par la vallée de la Dordogne, faites demi tour et arretez-vous devant le Café Douceur en centre ville pour fair la connaisance de Sophie, Pascale et Michel. Surtout, n’soyez pas pressés et restez un bon moment sur un canapé tout confortable!
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,
This is the last post of our menu and it is with a touch of sadness that I say goodbye for now… I enjoyed sharing this menu with all of you and I enjoyed all the comments and visits and stories, kindness and care. Thank you!
With this festive dessert I wish you all a very joyeux Noël. May you all be just as festive in spirit!
- Cut 4 apples in 4 slices.
- Melt butter and dip the slices in the melted butter.
- Marinate some dried raisins, nuts and cranberries in amaretto liqueur.
- Rollther apple slices in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon and restack the slices to form a turret of apple with fruit in between the layers.
- Place in an oven proof oven pan, top with a knob of butter and bake for 30 minutes.
- Sauce: Heat 150ml milk and 150 ml cream. Whisk together 3 egg yolks and 40g sugar until light and thick. Add to the warm milk while whisking and continue whisking the mixture until it thickens. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve.
- Add a tsp of amaretto liqueur. Sprinkle with sugar to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool.
- Serve an apple on a plate, decorate with star anise, cinnamon stick and a spooning of sauce. Sprinkle some gold leaf and serve.
serves 4 people
Joyeux noël…Merry Christmas…Geseënde Kersfees!!!
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, I had to scratch my head to think of a recipe that would accompany the stunning ochre colours of fall. Of course not only in colour, but also in taste, spirit, ambiance..Of course..cheese. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this simple salad yet. It can be manipulated and changed according to the seasons and is always a winner with its warm toast, cheese and apple and fresh green salad.
- Place the apple rounds and goat’s cheese on toasted bread before putting under the grill.
- Take care to slice your apples, bread for toast and cheese more or less the same size.
- Use slices of Camembert instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use pears or quince instead of apples.
- Use brown sugar to caramelize the pears or quince instead of honey and serve with a helping of quince jam/jelly.
- Play around and make your own combinations to serve a melted cheese and apple/pear/quince salad.
..stillife nicked by a chicken..
..stillife with Royal Gala apples..
..walnut oil, walnut vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle vinegar..
Our fall colors have only now really reached their peak and the ochres are in abundance. I don’t have much to say, except that nature is at the moment an explosion of magnificence..
à la prochaine!
Et voila…M Pierrot Gourmand, as promised!
We love our apéro (apéritif) before dinner. It can be many things and always quick and easy. Only with visitors do I try to do something more “travaillé” more elaborate. But most of the time it will be fresh tomatoes with some mozzarella, or a bowl of home marinated olives, or melted Camembert and baguette slices, or carrot sticks with vinaigrette dip, or brushcetta… These little tomato cocktails are very popular. Fresh from our tomato vines, they are dipped in caramel and in poppy seed and stuck into Pierrot and served with cold Provencal Rosé wine on the patio while Mon Chéri prepares his fire for our dinner… this is of course in summer where one can’t be anywhere else but outside!
- Dip the caramelized tips into any finish of your choice: dessicated coconut for a tropical touch; toasted seame seeds, finely chopped basil, or mixed fresh herbs; gremola; chopped dried tomatoes flakes, milled peppercorns, chopped nuts of your choice…
- Don’t make the caramel too dark or else it will taste burnt.
- Use wooden lollipop sticks for an authentic feel or use toothpicks and serve on wooden beard.
- Serve with cold white or Rosé wines along with a bowl of torn and seasoned buffalo mozzarella pieces.
The birth of Pierrot Gourmand:
At the end of the XIXth century, the famous actor Debourreau created and played his own pantomime on the melody of “Au clair de la lune“. The personage Pierrot inspired Adolphe Willette, an artist to create a poetic Pierrot. He was referred to as “le Pierrot de Montmartre“. In 1892 Monsieur Everard of Everard and Herbert industries gave birth to a marquette of Pierrot sitting on the moon, offering bonbons to children. And so Pierrot Gourmand was born.
The first lollipop was invented by Everard in 1924, made of barley sugar, fruit flavors, cola and caramel and shaped in the form of a spear head. The milky caramel was the first flavor on the market. Up until today Pierrot Gourmand lollipops still exist in both the round and original spear head shape. With a production of over 2000 tons of candy per year, the fifties was regarded as the golden years for Pierrot Gourmand. Today it is part of the Agro-industriel-andros group, well known for its Andros jams and juices.
More reading on Pierrot gourmand:
..à bientôt mes amis!..
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…!
I think the time has come for some good ole healthy eating. I always that little “click” before I can step forward into action.. Maybe sniffing a delicious mango was that “click”… or was it the belt of my jeans that needed a different hole. Whatever. A click is a click and can’t be ignored! Let’s do it! This simple salad is chock full of vitamins and fiber and very few calories.
- Cleaned 1 mango and sliced it into juliennes.
- Cleaned 1 handful of mange tout and sliced it on the diagonal into juliennes.
- Wash 1 handful of mint leaves and Italian parsley leaves and break into a bowl.
- Cut 1 large spring onions on the diagonal into strips and add to the herb leaves. Add a handful of haricot mungo sprouts, the mango slices and the mange tout strips to the salad. Add 1 lemon grass stick, harder outside removed and finely chopped to the salad. Mix lightly with your fingers.
- Drizzle the salad with some olive oil, a bit of nuoc nam sauce, lemon juice, chopped fresh ginger and a teaspoon of acacia honey anf season with salt and pepper.
- Finish off with a sprinkling of dry roasted almonds and lastly black sesame seeds.
Those who bask in summer at the moment, will enjoy the salad as is, but for us in the North, it is probably a little too cold. So I enjoy it with a big pot of green tea. You can always drink a tisane(herbal/flower infusion). Along with the salad it will be great for digestion.
…walk, walk and walk..
…load up on fruits and vegetables…
…eat more fish..
- drink enough water every day…about 6 to 8 glasses.
- eat smaller and varied portions.
- have an extra light hand on the salt, sugars, butters and creams.
- Cut off fat from your meat.
- when and if choosing bread, then choose whole wheat…whole wheat rice, grains, lentils, wild rice, quinoa..
“The Bathing Suit (by a middle-age woman unknown).
When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure
was-boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They
were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.
Today’s stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a
figure carved from a potato chip.
The mature woman has a choice, she can either go up front to the
maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away
looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney’s Fantasia, or she
can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make
a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent
What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and
entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first
thing I noticed was the extraord ina ry tensile strength of the stretch
Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to
launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that
if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be
protected from shark attacks. Any shark taking a swipe at your passing
midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.
I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder
strap in place I gasped in horror, my boobs had disappeared!
Eventually, I found one boob cowering under my left armpit. It took a
while to find the other. At last I located it flattened beside my
The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature
woman is meant to wear her boobs spread across her chest like a speed
bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a
full view assessment. The bathing suit fitted all right, but
unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it.
The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I
looked like a lump of Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.
As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the
prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, “Oh, there
you are,” she said, admiring the bathing suit. I replied that I wasn’t
so sure and asked what else she had to show me.
I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of
masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an
oversized napkin in a serving ring.
I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and
came out looking like Tarzan’s Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a
I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in
I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would
have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.
Finally, I found a suit that fitted, it was a two-piece affair with a
shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap,
comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it.
My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured.
When I got it home, I found a label that read, “Material might become
transparent in water.”
So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water
this year and I’m there too, I’ll be the one in cut-off jeans and a
You’d better be laughing or rolling on the floor by this time. Life
isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain, with
or without a bathing suit!”
Until next time,
from the middle aged, dieting, but laughing diva.
A very popular tart/cake/sweetness in our home is this little lime tart…sometimes made with lemon. It has a tartness without being overwhelming sweet or soury, like lemon tarts can sometimes be. It reminds a little of a cheesecake…just perfect for those particular tastebuds.
- Use lemons instead of limes.
- Use other biscuits of your choice for the base.
- Serve cream on the side or decorate each tartlet with a whipped cram dollop.
*A recipe adapted from Atelier tartes, salé +sucré by Catherine Kluger.
Doesn’t fascination come in so many forms? One of them is the beautiful old crosses(las crotz) standing at the carrefours (crossroads) in France and especially here in the Limousin. I have to admire them every time I pass them, because somehow they grab my sentiments and transport me back to a time when life was so different from how we live it now. Standing in the heart of the countryside all over the Limousin, I can still feel their eternity, hear their stories, their silence, even despite the fact that I now break that calm of the past with the cruel blare of modern transport.
These beacons served once upon a time as road signs. Sometimes elaborate, but most of the time very simple and very often as plain as one huge exceptional stone. After Christianity la croix de chemin took on the shape of a real cross…in wood or carved from the best stone of the region, elaborate, in wrought iron, on pedestals, or freestanding.
Today these crosses are only reminders of what was once a landmark for the peasants, roadsigns and parish, places of pilgrimage. They were also objects of religion and devotion and sometimes commemoration of events, like La croix des femmes, which was created in commemoration on a corner where a blind horse caused the death of two women.
The photos were all taken just around the area, 30 minutes’ drive around our home, Coin Perdu in Correze.
These two crosses stand at the entrance of the village Beaulieu sur Dordogne and the other at the entrance to Puy d’Arnac. It was custom that a cross indicates the beginning and ending of a village.
At the crossroads the crosses also serve during snow periods in winter where the four roads came together. People gathered at these crossroads, mostly for religious ceremonies and blessing of the crop and the land And prayers. They were important landmarks, not only of the land, but also of the lives of the peasants. It is not a strange thing then when we speak of standing at a crossroad in our lives. We should stop frequently and check if we still see our beacon/landmark. Can we still recognize it? Has our direction changed? Maybe it is necessary to change the course of our pilgrimage from time to time. A next landmark will always be there to guide us. Crossroads will always be there. They are timeless. Create your own las crotz. Let it guide you. Let it tell your story.
All photos: Ronell van Wyk
Bibliography: Mémoires de la Corrèze, Jean- Pierre Lacombe.
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.
Very few people enjoy white beans. I’m actually not one of those few. But a salad…that’s something I always enjoy, and with bean salad, it is no different. Not a cold salad though. Slightly warm. And not a mushy one either. Fresh and crispy. That’s how I like all my salads. Try it, you might like it too.
There can be so much playing around with this recipe:
- Use a mixture of white and red beans.
- Do yourself a favor and use either the fresh pods or dry beans from the organic store, but not the canned beans…there is just no comparison between beans freshly cooked…just, just tender with still some bite…and those overcooked, bleak, mushy, floury canned stuff.
- Keep the colors and flavors in your recipe simple.
- Add other grapes of your preference, or try figs, which are also in season now.
- Use chervil along with the parsley, which will compliment the anchovies.
- The anchovies can be left out or replaced by another fish like sardines.
- Use red onion for its sweetness.
- Add some freshly grated ginger for extra piquancy and flavor, in which case one would leave out the chervil.
- This little salad can be used as an aperitif, which is very “tendance” at the moment – serve a helping on pretty spoons with a cold wine, or serve on a small toast triangle, or in a verrine(small glass), or serve in a bowl with slices of baguette so each person can serve him/herself.
- Add the grapes cold and just before serving, so as to have nice crisp and cool contrast with room temperature.
Here at the end of summer, I am remembering a garden by the Loire. One I haven’t seen in almost 6 months. A garden I miss for its beauty. Its tranquility. Its animal life. For the many memories it gave birth to.
I remember the hard work, shaping something from nothing. I remember the many mistakes made. But mostly I remember the small but significant successes. The bounty in flower and foliage, the madness of rambunctious herbs, the unforgiving heat of summer sun, the many surprises and no less , the stubborn, but amusing persistence of the weeds. This all shaped my garden, gave it a rich and full life… gave me a rich and full life… season after season.
I remember being too ambitious. Having too little space and planting far too much. I My little garden turned into a forest by the end of summer…the roquette sweeping through the pebbles, the fennels reaching for the skies, the lavenders dancing wild sambas in the beds, the Pierre de Ronsard climbing rose playing out a Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The boxwoods’ constant demand for pruning, the long shoots everywhere, the new shoots everywhere, the dead heads waiting paitiently…
I remember how the garden could change as often as I can change my mind. Each seasons’ corners were plentiful and changed from one year to the next. Or even more. There was a corner for reflection, for morning coffee, one for sipping a coolness in midday. There was room to bask in the sun and of course a spot chosen somewhere for the meal of the evening. And how romantic were these summer evenings in this garden by the Loire, accompanied by the heady fragrances of jasmines and roses, lavenders and lilies! These lazy dinners lasted long into the night, lit up by candles and lanterns, handmade especially for me by a lover.
I remember how different this love affair with my little garden was to what I have now here at Coin Perdu, where our eyes follow the fall of the sun every evening to far beyond the horizon. It flames up the skies and we are woken up much later by the brightness of a moon and a starlit sky. In the garden by the Loire, sunsets were rare, cut off early evenings by the shadows of the cliffs and the welcome coolness of the caves. The small garden enfolded our evenings in a soft dusk pashmina, a warm embrace of familiarity and comfort. We lit up our candles and made fires in the summer kitchen. With herbs from the garden we stuffed meats and marinated vegetables. Our summer days began and ended in this little garden.
We lived and worked close together in this tiny “jardin de curé”...the cats, the chickens, the people…we all crowded in the summer cave, or in the working “cave” or in my “ atelier“…purring on cushions, lounging on daybeds, playing guitar, listening to music, reading, talking deep talks, speaking deep thoughts, painting, eating, sleeping…
It was nice.
No. It was magical.
It was mine.
This tiny garden by the Loire.
Can we ever get enough of strawberries? Of course not! Right off the vine, directly out of the basket, sliced with cream, sorbet, panacotta, tarts, salads…every which way. And as a lunch with fresh country bread, goats cheese and basil? Simply delicious.
- The strawberries can be used fresh instead of sautéed, o cut and marinated in some white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Add a bit of olive oil to the marinade and use as a vinaigrette.
- Use some soft cottage cheese instead of the goats cheese with freshly chopped chives and basil the and salt and pepper mixed into the cottage cheese.
- Omit the cheese completely and make a sandwich of fresh strawberries, basil, chopped chives and add a drizzle of maple syrup.
- Another version could be to top the bread with strawberries and lastly add some goats cheese, put under the gril for two to three minutes and add the basil and a drizzle of honey just before serving.
- Use other sliced fruit in season instead of the strawberries.
We stopped our restoration here at Coin Perdu for a day of fun. With aprons. And three delightful, playful models. They chopped and chirped, giggled and grated, peeled and pestered, mocked and mixed, all the while performing with an apron chosen from the heap. So.. can an apron be fun? Judge for yourself…
I grew up seeing my mother in her apron every day. While she was doing her morning’s work; the washing, ironing, cleaning, kitchen work, she faithfully wore her apron. And after lunch, it would be removed until dinner time, when preparing dinner and cleaning up would demand an apron again.
Unlike those days, when aprons at home were more of a necessity to protect the small wardrobe of clothes, we have a multitude of aprons today for adding to that special ambiance of an occasion or activity. It partially serves to also show our domain of expertise as well as our our fun loving side. But some habits haven’t changes over the years…the butcher still wears his butcher’s apron/outfit, the boulanger(baker) is still clearly recognized by his apron, the fishmonger wears his proudly, the blacksmith is never without his leather aprons, the “garcon” serving your “panache” at the bar wears his with French flair… an apron is there for our barbecues and for our kitchens , our gardens, for playgrounds, yes, it is fun equally for men, women and children.
So, do you have a fun loving side…?
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..
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!..