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!..
Our youngest daughter loves apple-anything and she started baking this cake when she was only knee high. It is from The Australian woman’s weekly home librabry – Cakes and slices. We’ve changed it only a little . The recipe directs to cut apples in quarters and then cut 3/4 trhough in slices and then press into the dough. It gives a beautiful cake, but makes the slices too big(to include apples in each slice) so we cut the apples in slices and spread them through out the cake, which gives a less attractive cake, BUT much more moist and of course delicious!
PS: forgive the bad photo..I was being pushed on with the photo, because my daughter didn’t want the cake cold…and after all, she DID bake the cake..!
- Pears could be used instead of apples.
- Instead of inserting the apples slices all over the top of the cake, the apples can be cut into courters and then sliced only 3/4 way through. Press into the cake at the edges. I gives a prettier cake, but the slices won’t be spread through out the cake.
- Gelatin powder can be used…1 tsp.
- Best when served slightly warm with a spoonful of whipped cream on the side…or my ever trusting naughty crème fraîche!
- It can be stored for two to three days.
Last weekend, Montlouis held its yearly, autumn “marché des douceurs. A lot of eating and drinking, socializing and selling marks the day and if one arrives home hungry you have only yourself to blame!
Le week-end dernier etait le marché des douceurs en centre ville de notre petit village si sympa, avec des rencontres de Montlouisiens si sympa. C’est la fête automnale annuelle et on y mange et on y boire. On discute dans les rues, on vends et on achète . Si, après tout ca, on rentre à la maison sans un sourire ou encore affamé… eh bien, c’est pas à cause d’un manque de la nourriture ou un manque de divertissement!
…à la prochaine…
In the extreme heat we are experiencing, a sorbet is more refreshing than ice cream… and my favourite…red berries. Combined with some poached summer peaches and a scoop of vanilla/peach ice cream and topped with some chantilly… a peche melba to die for. But for now, only a scoop of sorbet with a min leaf. This is a popular sorbet found at La patisserie de Madame Cheftel in rue Scellerie in Tours. Delicious.
VF: Dans l’extrême chaleur qu’on subi maintenant en France, il n’y a pas mieux qu’un sorbet…fait maison en plus. Un sorbet aux fruits rouges. Pour un dessert somptueux, on fait des pêches pochées, ajoute une glace vanille ou même de la pêche, une boule de sorbet et on sert avec un nuage de chantilly. Et voilà, un délicieux pêche melba! Mais pour l’instant, restons à une boule de sorbet aux fruits rouges, décorée avec un feuille de la menthe. Délicieux!
Recipe from Ice cream and iced desserts(Le grand livre des glaces) – Joanna Farrow & Sara Lewis.
- Use other fruit…strawberries, peaches(remove skin), apricots(remove skin)…winter fruits like pear(peeled) combined with a little white sauterne wine. (Don’t add too much alcohol or else your sorbet won’t freeze.)
- Add some peaches to the red berries for a more intense flavor.
- Add some finely chopped mint leaves for a fresh flavor.
- Stirring the sorbet every now and then when making it by hand, helps break up the ice crystals to give a smoother, creamier sorbet.
- during the warm summer days, keep the ice cream maker out of heat or warm air when making the sorbet, it will help your ice cream/sorbet reaching the iced staged quicker.
Rue Scellerie is one of my favorite streets in Tours. It walks up to the cathedral where I always make a stop and it passes by my favourite patisserie de Madame Cheftel. It has antique stores, book stores, our Grand Theatre, exclusive boutiques, a toy shop with GORGEOUS toys – a far cry from toys are us! Of course a chocolaterie, one or two salons de thé, an art galery, a park with a fountain and it ends at the cathedral.
VF: Rue Scellerie est une de mes préférées a Tours. Je prends si fréquemment la route, fais un arrêt à la pâtisserie de la charmante Madame Cheftel pour un thé et un petit gâteau et continue ma vadrouille, passe les boutiques exclusives, un mignon magasin de jeux d’enfants, un chocolaterie, une galerie des arts, prend une repose auprès de la fontaine dans le parc, et finis à la Cathédrale de Tours.
…our Grand Theatre, dates from about 1794, was destroyed by a fire in 1883. Everything was burnt down to the ground except for four walls. In 1889 the doors were opened again, just to be closed by the world war I in 1914 and then again for world war II and reopened again in 1939, after the war(le grand Theatre d,epoque de 1700, ferme pour les deux guerres du monde et réouvert dans 1939)...
…a street filled with old book stores(pleine de librairies)…
…and antique stores… and brocantes(antiquités et brocantes)…
…and a scary old lady in her VERY old ancienne book store, not taking nonsense from anyone and I always first peep through the window to see if she is out, before I enter(une vieille dame d’une nature un peu effrayante dans une librairie ancienne, et avant d’entrer dans sa librairie, je jète un œil pour vérifier qu’elle n’est pas présente!))…
…a little store with an adorable proprietesse who has lovely old curtains made from old fabric and who doesn’t want to sell her bicycle(un magasin avec des rideaux faits de vieille tissu et un vélo pas à vendre, dommage)…
…shops with old medals and coins for the men and old jewellery for the ladies(des magasin au goût des homme et ceux-là avec des bijoux pour plaire aux femmes.…
…tea and cake at Madame Cheftel’s Patisserie – having her shop for already 29 years and always greeting one with her chic short hair, wearing her black apron, her wide smile and a little joke at the ready…how can we not stop by and indulge in her delicacies(un goûter chez Madame Cheftel qui a son pâtisserie déjà 29 ans et elle est toujours charmante, chaleureuse, souriante avec un air chic aux cheveux courtes et elle court partout en tablier noir, folle d’énergie) …
…which already wink at you in her window display(les gourmandises nous séduisent en vitrine)…
…and then off to browse again the every-4th- sunday-brocante in rue scellerie; small and intimate, but with an interesting find every time among all the(et voilà la brocante de chaque quatrième Dimanche, très agréeable malgré le petit nombre des exposants) …
…stuff – displayed on the ground, or sometimes not so stable tops(on fouille par terre, sur les tables bancale)…
…but always inviting one to lean in for that closer peak(on regarde de prés) …
…or to simply just walk and say hi to the brocanteurs, who endure bitter cold, hoping optimistically they will make a sale(on discute avec les brocanteurs, qui endurent parfois des températures sévères avec l’optimisme d’en faire au moins une vente ou deux) …
Bon weekend et à la prochaine!
An apricot soup says SUMMER! in so many ways.In its bright yellow color we find the warmth of mid summer days. The flavor has us smelling the shadows of big overhanging tree branches…that afternoon nap after the pic-nique. And the taste…the taste that makes us hear les cigales in the heat of the day, see les guêpes hoovering over all the sweet delicacies of our al fresco meals… So. If you’re in the mood for a little summer heat and holiday…take to an apricot soup, close your eyes and see yourself stretched out in the fields, chewing on a grass sprig, dozing off with a heavy summer laze and then just lose yourself in being the happiest soul walking this earth!
*Une petite soupe d’abricot est indispensable pour l’été. Sa couleur nous donne la chaleur des journées dorées. Dans son saveur on sent les ombres des rameaux d’un grand noyer et on a envie de s’allonger et fermer les yeux pour un petit moment magique. Et le goût…le goût nous donne l’impression d’entendre les cigales, de voir les guêpes qui dérangent la tranquilité d’un repas al fresco. Alors. Goûtons cette petite soupe et laissons notre imaginaire nous transporter vers un champ où on s’allonge dans l’herbe et nos pensées disparaissent dans les nuages de rêves et de bonheur.
- Try this also with soft ripe peaches.
- Use a rose wine instead of a white.
- for a completely vegetarian dish, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
- Serve with a fresh traditional baguette, topped with some melted camembert cheese.
- Substituez avec des pèches.
- Remplacez le vin blanc par une rosé.
- Pour la version végétarienne, replacer le bouillon de poulet par un bouillon de légumes.
- Servez accompagnée d’une baguette ancienne et son camembert fondu.
…un brunch d’été…
With two weeks left before the summer holidays, it is now or never to have a fete d’ete with all our friends before they all take off with their straw hats and tanning lotions. Let’s make it special. Make it fun. Make it beautiful and dreamy. Summer. Gay with color. Inviting.
*Dans deux semaines on arrive au début de vacances d’été. Il reste donc qu’un petit bout de temps pour se régaler une toute dernière fois avec nos amies, avant qu’on prenne la route, armée de nos crèmes solaires et les espadrilles! Allé! Faisons une fête spéciale. Gracieuse. Chaleureuse. Merveilleusement habillée avec les couleurs gaies de l’été.
…rustic romance for a brunch…
Choose a corner in the garden.
On cherche un coin dans le jardin.
…a view on summer…
Go overboard on flowers and plants. Don’t spend money on buying flowers. Pick all kinds of greenery and even herbs and don’t overlook the beauty of weeds all around you. Ask a friend for trimmings which are happening now to pump new life into plants. Buy some seedlings or summer plants instead that can be planted afterward in the garden. They come at cheap prices everywhere now and buy them in trays. Set the trays as is on your tables and in your serving corners. Tie some rafia or some sisal around for a ristic garden look. And don’t forget to send a few plants in a cute container home with your friends, which they can plant in a pot or their own garden. And DON”T do what I did….have so much fun that you forget to give each friend her plants at going home time!
*Il y’a un choix exubérant de fleurs et de plantes. Ne dépensez pas d’argent sur les fleurs en commerce. Elles sont libres et abondantes tout autour de nous. Pensez aux herbes, aux feuillages, même les mauvaises herbes qui poussent sans cesse avec une beauté plus subtile. Surtout on a des voisins et des amis qui font une nettoyage de saison en ce moment, donnant une nouvelle vie saisonnier au jardin. Passez par la jardinerie et achetez des barquettes de fleurs d’été, qui peut servir pour la décoration de table et comme cadeaux pour nos invités, voir plantée dans leurs propres coins du jardin.
…pétunias in trays and all things garden…
…umbreallas at the ready…
Have some colorful umbrellas close by for that urgent run in that rain to the bathroom! And in the same thinking frame…remember some suncream for those who prefer sitting in the sunny side, have an ecofriendly trap for the “gueppes” so you can lunch in peace and provide lots of cool water if you are lucky to have a blasting hot summers day, but if not…a cozy little throw can provide some body heat if your day is cool and cloudy like we had on Friday!
*N’oubliez pas les jolies parapluies pour les courses sous la pluie ou pour se rendre à la maison. Et pourquoi pas une crème solaire pour ceux qui adorent s’installer en plein soleil. Une piège bio pour les omniprésentes guêpes sera un petit geste attentionné. Voir dans le cas d’une canicule, l’eau fraîche à boire nous éviterons de tomber dans un sommeil impolie. Pourtant, dans mon cas ce Vendredi dernier…cette scenario était impossible, car on est ici en France toujours capturé dans l’âge de glace!
..knee blankets and flowers do go together…
…cherries, freshly picked from a friends garden, a garden hat and pretty flower…
…garden tools and a warming fire…
Have your guests bring their favorite dish to the table. We had delicious quiches and gorgeous salads, which I hope to bring to you soon with the permission of my friends, we finished with magnificent cheese a friend got fresh from the market earlier the morning and we feasted on local rose’s and homemade moelleux wine with our strawberry soup.
*Les amies apprécient toujours contribuer à la table, n’hésitez pas à demander une bonne quiche ou une salade gourmande, comme elles sont faites pour notre brunch. Puis, on a terminé le brunch avec du fromage du marché, une soupe de fraises pour un dessert et ce festin était accompagné par une bonnes rosé d’Evres et un moelleux fait maison par ma gentille voisine Claudine!
A fete d’ete indeed. More than that. An uplifiting 5 hours spent with lovely ladies, funny ladies, creative ladies. Friends. Summer. Good food. And so traditionally french, we tasted, examined, commented, complimented, changed the recipe, suggested alternative ingredients, discussed accompanying wines, and simply savored each helping.
*Voila une vraie fete! En fait, beaucoup plus que ça. C’était quelques 5 heures passées dans la compagnie de femmes très sympas, drôles et créatives. Les amies. L’été. Une bonne table. Et comme la tradition dicte toujours en France, nous avons goûté et fait des propositions de différentes ingrédients. On a testée, examinée, changée les recettes, discutée les vins comme des pros… bref…un après-midi savoureux et chaleureux!
Then we said our goodbyes and gave our “bisous” with promises of outings to chateaux…and a lunch.. To show gardens…and a lunch. To walks around town…and a lunch. To hiking trails…and a lunch. To painting days…and a lunch. to music concerts…and a lunch. The moral of the story? We have to seize the moment.
So c’mon! Deck the garden, load the table with fresh produce! Call up your friends! Chill the wine! Life is short…grab onto it with in a fork in the one hand and a joie de vivre in the other!
*Nous avons faites nos bisous avec de sacrées promesses de se réunir en visites des châteaux…et un lunch. Des promenades en ville…et un lunch. Des rencontres Van goghe-esques…et un lunch. Les concerts musiques…et un lunch. Alors. On comprend qu’une chose. Il faut profiter de chaque moment!
Allez! appelons nos amies!Ouvrons le portail! Faisons le marché! Décapitons le champagne! La vie passe trop vite…profitons-en avec une fourchette et un joie de vivre triomphant!
…passez une bonne été et à la prochaine!…
The Charentaise melon is coming in, sweet and bright. Treat yourself to one half, cut up, drizzled with maybe some caramel syrup and sprinkle with lavender, put on the grill, your loving husband so tenderly lit up for your plump fruit and once again…as always here on Myfrenchkitchen….indulge with a spoon and shameless delight!
VF: Le melon Charentaise arrive sur les marchés, radieux et douce. Pourquoi pas se régaler avec peut-être un sirop de caramel, quelque fleurs de lavande et puis on demande à notre amour d’allumer un feu et de griller ce petit melon coupé en deux tendrement, jusqu’a ce qu’il se caramelise. Et comme toujours ici à Myfrenchkitchen, on se régale scandaleusement!
- Cut a melon in half, scoop out the seeds and turn upside down on the grill. Grill over medium coals until nicely caramelized.
- Turn over and pour in some sauce of your choice…I used maple syrup.
- Leave over warm colas for a while to get soft and have the syrup infuse the melon.
- Add the chopped rosemary and leave another few minutes.
- Remove to pretty plates, serve with a dollop of cream or ice cream and enjoy warm.
- I used maple syrup…sue also honey, or a proper caramel sauce.
- Enjoy while still warm.
- It can also be grilled in the oven, or inside grill.
- Serve with ice cream, corresponding with your flavour… a vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce, or lavender ice cream with lavender petals, or mint ice cream with chopped fresh mint.
- For a less sweeter version, use cream or crème frâiche.
I have someone dear in my life who is experiencing terrible pain at the moment. When the rain passed this morning and the world glittered under the Correze sun, I thought of her and her courageous words: “I want to appreciate everything even more than before“, which is hardly possible, since she already appreciates life with every fiber of her being. But her words stick to me as I drive along the road here in Puy d’Arnac, forcing me to look at every nook and appreciate the obvious beauty all around.
J’ai une chère ami qui endure beaucoup de douleur en ce moment. Ce matin, j’ai parcouru la route de Puy d’arnac avec les mots courageux de mon ami resonnants dans ma tête: “Je désire apprecier toutes les choses plus qu’avant”.. Je peux témoigner qu’elle le fait déja. Mais cette phrase m’interpelle toujours. Elle me force à regarder et observer chaque petit coin et apprécier la beauté abondante qui m’entoure.
May her pain and the pain of all those who experience whatever hurt at this moment, subside, so the beauty can become alive again. And may we, who have less pain, appreciate everything even more than before.
Je veux bien que tout sa douleur et même les douleurs des autres, peu importe la douleur, s’efface, pour que la beauté vive encore. En plus, il faut que nous, qui sommes épargnés de la souffrance, tentions aussi d’apprécier toutes les choses plus qu’avant.
…les roses rouges pour l’amour…
Now is the time for exuberant roses and Puy d’Arnac isn’t shy to show off her splendor. All the way down the hill, the roses drape themselves around the crosses which can be found on every corner of a crossroad, against old walls and staircases, in doorways…where there is a nook , there is a rose. And where there is a rose there is beauty.
…la grande portail…
…les roses roses et rouges et une abeille…
…un croix au carrefour…
…deux chaises autour d’une rose…
…la route monte a Puy d’Arnac…
… les vieux murs habillés par des roses delicates…
…la rose blanche et l’immatriculation…
Have a lovely weekend and remember to appreciate the obvious beauty around us and look in closer to find the less obvious.
…à la prochaine…
The summer fruits are winking at the markets, enticing us with their plump “rondeurs” and their rosy cheeks. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, dark velvety red cherries, flirty strawberries and mischievous blueberries and raspberries, blackberries and all kinds of beady berries. The best way of course is to enjoy the summer fruits right from the tree, picking with one hand and eating with the other. Or buy the red cheeked nectarine at the market stand and have the juices run down the palm of your hand right there while you pay Monsieur his few centimes. But should he complain about your bad manners and sticky money, you can place your peaches elegantly in your basket and hurry home, take out your pan, cut up your summer fruits, call your friend and tell her/him to come over with some creme fraiche and quickly pan sautée your cut fruit in a caramelized vanilla syrup. Sit down under the walnut tree with your friend and scoop up a spoonful of fruit with a dollop of cream and imagine what paradise must be like.
Pan sautéed summer fruits
- Melt some butter in a big pan, add some sugar and melt over low heat. Add a good serving of white balsamic vinegar to the syrup.
- Clean summer fruits of your choice: peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries…
- Remove the seeds and cut the bigger peaches, nectarines and apricots into quarters. Leave the strawberries and other berries whole. Remove the seeds of the cherries.
- Add the harder fruits like the peaches and apricots tot the butter mixture. Simmer gently in the syrup for a few minutes.Add the rest of the fruit, keeping some berries aside to add fresh just before serving.
- Stir over the heat for a few minutes more.
- Add a handful of torn basil leaves and fresh mint.
- Pour into serving bowls and serve while warm with ice cream or cream on the side.
- Any mixture of fruits can be used.
- Vary the sizes of the fruits for interest in texture and visual appeal.
- Don’t overcook the fruit…keep it still with some crunch.
- Serve while still slightly warm.
- Collect interesting small pans to serve outside.
- It can easily be prepared on the barbecue.
- Add vanilla seeds scraped from a vanilla pod and some fresh thyme for variation.
…Beaulieu-sur -Dordogne is a beautiful medieval town on the banks of the Dordogne river, situated in la vallée de la Dordogne in Corréze…
Even though we fall under the commune of Puy d’Arnac here at Coin Perdu, our mountain home, Beaulieu sur Dordogne is the village where we do our shopping…the marché, a morning cafe créme with croissants. It is also where Hartman regularly stops at Point P with his remorque to fill up on building material. Les Monsieurs just take out the book, have him sign and off he goes, back to Coin Perdu where the work is waiting. I might linger longer…have a coffee at Les voyageurs, chat with Cecile, walk around with my sketchbook and camera, buy strawberries and salad at the marché and pop in at the Antiquités.
…hôtel de ville…
…baron de Marbot Marcellin…
…une boulangerie et une boucherie – two places no french town can do without…
…la place du marché…
…where the Antiquités draws me in every time with its beautiful things of yesteryear…
…la bôite a lettre et l’eau potable – for those thirsty moments and the ever important letter or postcard to post…
…if’ like me, you love anything architectural, all these beautiful old lintels above the doors will keep you spell bounded, in awe of the craftsmanship and detail…
…and still more…
…few things can be as fascinating as watching people, making up stories about them, wondering about their hopes and dreams and then turn around to wonder about our own…
… never a dull moment when it comes to a little humor and interest…
…and beauty is always present…
…in the charm of old stone and wood, pretty lace and an unpretentious flower…
If ever you might be passing through our special area of Corréze, turn off at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, give me a call and drop in for un petit noir at our Coin Perdu, only 10 minutes away… where the world really comes to a standstill and like Peter Pan, we live extracts of life we never thought possible.
…à la prochaine..!
I am leaving for Oslo, Norway tomorrow. I decided to put up an old post before I leave which I had on Africantapestry two years ago. A little story. A sketch.
To accompany the ongoing saga of the soon-in-bloom-tulip, as well as the gardening folie that has me firmly in its hystyerical grip, I made a strawberry soup with the very first strawberries of the season. Not yet tasting of summer and sun though…! But who cares…! Using them in a summer/spring soup with added balsamic vinegar and handsfull of mint and pepper and rose water, is a great way to satisfy that ferocious desire for summer fruits.
Flinging soil and seedlings around in the garden (here in the northern hemisphere!) and serving early strawberries on our plates and sometimes even catching a warm glimpse of the sun…what more can we wish for?
- Add red berries like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries…
- Serve with a sprinkling of freshly milled black pepper.
- Use a handmixer instead of fork to break up the strawberries.
- Use Maroccan mint if you can find, which have a stronger flavour than ordinary garden mint.
- Or use some lemon verbena instead in high summer.
- Serve chilled on hot summer days, but at room temperature early in the season.
- Serve along with a slice of lemon poppyseed cake as accompaniment, or a herbed shortbread.
- Don’t be afraid to use a lot of mint!
- Use stevia, which is a herb sweetener, instead of sugar or honey.
…the red tulip…
“Like last year, this single red tulip once again made its appearance in my all white and blue garden. And like last year, I accept it and welcome it. It has become quite a game and I’m amused by the tulip’s proudness and dedication to defeat me. It reminds me of a guy I once knew at university who wouldn’t give up either.
He was madly in love with me, completely, head over heels..and yes, he was sort of cute too, I thought at that stage. I was staying in a hostel for girls on campus, fourth floor out of six, overlooking beautifully tended campus gardens. And he was staying in a hostel for boys, way off, on the other side of the campus. That’s how it was those days. No men allowed in the girls’ hostels and vice versa, which made for very exciting experiences! Except of course, for visiting hours in the lounge downstairs.
Very regularly, he would show up at my hostel, long after visiting hours, on nights when the moon was showing off in the sky and the stars were sparkling impatiently with anticipation. With his guitar and a red rose and his best friend, I would be charmed with unashamedly beautiful love songs from the garden under my window. Their strong, deep melodious voices, trained from years of singing, had every girl hanging out their windows along with me, losing ourselves in the charm and romance of “old world courting” from down below. Beautiful beautiful brown eyes, would always be on the list of songs and their voices would fade away in the distance with Goodnight ladies. My red rose, always stolen from an overflowing garden somewhere, would be left on the windowsill downstairs at the front door, for the hostel had already firmly been locked up for the night.
And so it happened that he got caught one night while stealing my red rose. He unfortunately chose the garden of the Professor of engineering, with whom he was very well acquainted…! He was allowed the rose, but had to work the Professor’s compost heap for two weekends. For a while, it was slow on the rose-serenading-scene and we all missed it..all the ladies, that is. Then one night there he was again, with a stolen red rose and guitar and his best friend. The cute guy I once knew. And who I still know. He is my husband.
When thinking of mothers and daughters, I think of oranges and coffee. Oranges recall childhood days with my mother and coffee recalls intimate talks with my daughters. SO. Let’s first pour ourselves a coffee with a snack while we ready ourselves for stepping into the relationships of mothers and their daughters.
As young girl, my mother regularly peeled an orange and then broke it in half, one half for me, the other for her…and another orange…peel…one half for me…one half for her…It continued this way even after I have become a mother myself. So I decided these sugared orange strips would be a fitting accompaniment to the endless cups of coffee and girl talk I have had(and still have) with my daughters over the years.
- Let the peel strips cool down in the syrup before dipping them in the sugar.
- They can be dipped in melted chocolate instead(or as well)
- Store them in a cool and dry place.
- Use as decorations on cakes or desserts.
- Use also lemon and grape fruit peel
- Try and use biological fruit.
- Always wash and dry the fruit before using.
I came across a lovely book which was the trigger for these pondering thoughts: Histoire des mères et filles, by Gabrielle Houbre. (The history of mothers and daughters) (Editions de la Martinière). It covers social paradoxes, intimate journals, choosing husbands, the role of the grandmother, motherhood judged by the law and the public, and beautiful images, paintings and drawings. I enjoyed the history of this special relationship through the decades, comparing it with what we have today in our contemporary world, seeing how much it had changed, yet how much it is still the same..
Histoires des mères et filles.
…alice in wonderland, 1879, (george dunlop leslie)…
“…God, You who can do everything, give me the strength to make my family happy, You can do with me as You wish, I belong to You. You know how hard I work: keep me from evil, and save me from mine. Mother! Mother! Please come to me. Speak to me! I am suffering!…” Laure Frémont, 17 years old, Journal, Besancon.
- left: edith kingdon gould et sa fille marjorie, 1903(Théodore mace)…
- right: mme collas et sa fille gisélle, 1903 (théobald chartran)…
- left: “c’est ma fille monsieur”(it is my daughter, sir)…
- right: chagrin d’amour, 1908 (ferdinand von reznicek) – “don’t be so unhappy from love, my child, it will ruin your complexion!!”
…“Je t’embrasse ma chérie, de tout mon coeur. Mais ne perds pas ton temps! Les consignes, les punitions, les réprimandes, les bouderies, les rancunes, tout ca c’est du temps gâché. La vie est si courte…De tout mon coeur je suis Ta Maman et ton amie, Colette”. (I embrace you my darling, with all my heart. Don’t waste your time! all the instructions, the punishments, the reprimands, moods and resentments are a waste of time. Life is so short…With all my heart I am your mother and your friend, Colette.) Letters from Colette to her daughter, 1916-1953)
- left: Mme Vigée-Lebrun et sa fille Jeanne Lucie Louise dite Julie, 1789(Elizabeht Vigée-Lebrun)…
- right: Soins tyranniques, 1840 (Frédéric Bouchot) ” – ” Chère enfant, tu es en âge de te marier, l’agitation de ton esprit, tes émotions inquètes et vagues; tout m’annonce que ton coeur s’éanouit…J’ai fait pour toi le choix d’un èpoux qui te rendras[sic] heureuse”(dear child, you are of age to be married, your agitation, your nervousness, your emotional spirit; all tells me that your heart is blooming…I made a choice of husband for you who will make [sic]you happy).
As for my own two daughters …each phase was wonderful. Sometimes hard and sometimes tiring, difficult and challenging. But still wonderful. I think I learnt more from them than I taught them in these past 22 and 24 years. I learnt acceptance, patience(a lot!). I learnt about honesty, humility, I learnt that hope is a neccessary part of each day. I learnt that you can’t have daughters without a sense of humour. I learnt to understand, or at least to make an affort to understand. I learnt to be strong when I wanted to be weak. I learnt to move on when I wanted to rest. I learnt about history and chemistry and architecture and tennis and biology and sex education. I learnt about broken hearts and tantrums and slammed doors and locked away journals. I learnt that gentlesness goes a far way. I learn that too much kindness can lead to disappointment. I learnt that discipline gives security. I learnt that giving love is more rewarding than receiving. I learnt that no sadness or hurt or disappointment can break this love.
…mère et filles…
Now, as they have become young women, I look onto them with pride and love. I can’t do it any other way. Is it perfect…our mother/daughter relationship? Far from! I irritate them. They work on my nerves. They mess up my kitchen. Thjey find me”high maintenance”. They make pasta this way. I make mine that way. I ask too many questions, they tell me too little. They don’t make their beds. I make mine too perfect. I yell at them. They ignore me. They get angry with me. I get upset with them…..is it perfect? This relationship of ours? Of course it is! It is as it should be! They have become individuals. They have grown into human beings…funny, witty(sometimes too much!), intelligent(every now and then!) , caring, wise(sometimes?), cute, understanding, accepting…Time has forced us all to grow into human beings. We are friends. But first and foremost, we are mère et fille.
Today is Mardi gras. 16 Fevrier. According to Catholic tradition, it is the last day of indulging in the “fat of the land” before taking on the fasting of the 40 days to Pacques(Easter). It is celebrated by crazy feasting, carnivals…so, in the fun spirit of Mardi gras…let’s feast and carnival today, for tomorrow the world ends!
And the way to do it…crêpes of course. Every which way you want it. Stacked, rolled, folded in parcels, folded in triangles, aumoniéres, flambéed, caked, salty, sweet, natural…you name it.
My husband’s favourite crêpe is sprinkled with softly flavoured cinnamon sugar, drizzled with lemon juice and rolled. He folds it double and whops it into his mouth, crunching on the still crackling sugar, while he starts sprinkling and rolling the next one.
We have a good friend who spreads his crêpe with butter, sprinkles liberally with sugar, folds it into a little parcel to entrap the butter and there you go…warm, melted butter and sugar…. every bite.
Then there are those individuals more deliberate. I am one. Open up the crêpe on a plate, very warm, spread a loaded knife with nutella over one half, fold over and then again to form a triangle, pick it up ever so dainty with your hands and then with closed eyes, dig those teeth into the crêpe, all the while feeling the warm chocolate trickling down your fingers. Pure heaven.
- I always use 2 eggs for 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and 20g of butter. It makes it easy to multiply for big batches of crêpes.
- I use water instead of milk for lighter crêpes, that way I can eat one extra!
- The baking soda adds to a ligher crêpe.
- Leave the batter to stand and “develop” a while…like a good relationship.
- Don’t keep the crêpes warm over hot water or on astove, it dries out with heat. Keep the crêpes close by your baking process and turn the stack often to keep warm. If necessary they can be quickly reheated in small batches if too cold.
- Don’t sprinkle with sugar just after baking, unless you want syrupy crêpes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar individually when eating for crunch.
- DO make some oopsedaisies…and enjoy them while baking!!
- When using Nutella, warm a little in the microwave to soften for easier spreading.
Of course there are many ways to indulge when feasting on a crêpe: drizzlings of canadian maple syrup and sprinkled with chopped nuts; mountain honey; a scoop of vanilla ice cream with dark decadent chocolate sauce…
Or how about some caramelized fruit – crêpe Suzette with flambéed oranges; apples and currants with a hint of cinnamon, lemon juice and oven roasted almonds, drizzled with a trickle of thick balsamic syrup, red berries with créme frâiche; tropical caramelized mango with passionfruit; banana with caramel sauce and fleur de sel… endless possibilities!
Don’t forget the salty fillings; smoked salmon, drizzled with lemon juice and mixed with capers and some chopped spring onions or chioves, parsley or dill, and served with a greek tzatziki made from fromage blanc, lemon juice and cucumber and finshed off with a sprinkling of lump eggs.
Or my favourite…spinach sauteed with onion and thyme, sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, s touch of lemon juice and a generous helping of créme frâiche and lastly sprinkled with crumbled goats cheese…
But crépes are not only about the filling and eating. On days like Mardi gras, when the world is a little crazy, baking crêpes should be a little crazy too. A little flopping and flipping, whirling and twirling and of course, countless oopsedaisies!!
And so, as this day ends… and our tummies call to a halt… and the craziness turns to mellowness… only one thing remains…..
Trucs & astuces de nos grands-méres:
May the following forty days be light and healthy and when we eat again at Easter, may it not be Mardi Gras crêpes…