Winter has suddenly hit us with a bang and out came the soups of which onion soup is a favorite. The secret of a good onion soup rests on a good stock (preferably homemade) and of course the slow, deep caramelizing of the onions. If you want a quick soup for dinner, this is not it. But no doubt, for a cold day, an onion soup, topped with a melted cheese crouton, is pure heaven.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- The longer you can caramelize your onions, the more flavorful they will be. It is a myth that onions can be caramelized within 10 minutes.
- I cut my onions in quarters and then slice the quarters finely, because I don’t like long strips dripping soup from my spoon.
- To serve country style, serve the soup in a tureen with the croutons on top and serve each portion from the tureen.
- It can also be served individually by placing a slice of bread on the soup, top with cheese and grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
- Don’t be skimpy with the thyme as it adds to the flavor.
- To really serve a soup and not soaked bread, don’t serve too much bread in the soup, for it soaks up a lot of the liquid and you will be left with only onions and soaked bread.
- Serve the soup hot in warmed bowls.
..a variety of onions..
..onions cut into quarters and sliced thinly, cooked until translucent and caramelized until dark and soft…
…countrybread, called a tourte here inCorréze, sliced and torn into smaller portions..
..Vieux Cantal( aged Cantal cheese) broken into small chunks and sprinkled on the bread and soup for a country dinner..
To all my American friends and readers…have a Happy Thanksgiving!
..à la prochaine fois..
Vegetables are part of our every day healthy diet, right? Five portions of different fruit and veggies every day. Yes, that is what we are advised here in France. I try my best to adhere to that..in any case, we love fruit and we love our vegetables. On the menu here are thus some carrots of all colours served with Greek yoghurt and a sauce flavoured with orange flower water.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Serve the carrots warm in fall and winter as a starter on individaul plates.
- Serve cold with salad leaves in summer.
- The sauce can be kept in the fridge for about two weeks.
- Add orange juice to the sauce with the vinegar and reduce to a syrup.
- Use an orange flower honey if possible, but otherwise a wildflower honey can work too.
..parsnips can serve as “white carrots”..
..when using young and organic carrots, it isn’t necessary to peel, only wash and use..
*recipe adapted from “Les légumes de Monsieur Wilkinson; Matt Wilkinson.
Like the carrots, my chickens are rainbow coloured too. And I adore them, no doubt about that. Every day is a story that unfolds before me from the morning to the evenings when silence dawns finally on the chicken coop.
..keeping an eye on the cooking in the barn kitchen…
..aren’t I pretty with all my colours..?
..I am the epitome of elegance, in case you haven’t noticed..
..life looks interesting from up here..
..Where are those hens again..!
..Don’t mess with our corner..!
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..
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.
Our potager is bursting with courgettes and we can’t keep up with eating them. With vegetables one doesn’t have to do much in summer, the vegetables are good just on their own. Which is why any salad or carpaccio is a good idea.
- Cut 4 small to medium courgettes into thin slices. Layer onto a plate and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and leave aside for 30 minutes to marinate.
- To serve: Divide the slices among 4 plates by spreading them evenly on each plate. Drizzle with some more olive oil and lemon juice, a teaspoon of sundried tomato paste, and a drizzle of balsamic syrup. Season with fleur de sel and freshly milled black pepper. Add some olives of your choice, shavings of Parmesan cheese and finish off with rocket/arugula leaves.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use green pesto instead of the tomato paste.
- Add dry roasted pine nuts.
- Use small black Greek olives.
- Add chopped sundried tomatoes or semi-oven roasted tomatoes.
- Use crumbled goats cheese instead of Parmesan cheese.
Summer evenings at Coin Perdu
Our evenings are spent around the fire..we start off with a glass of icy cold rosé while the fire is lit and we munch on a little apéritif, a must to keep my legs from going jello from the wine. It is something quick and easy..fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, baguette slices with some sliced sauccisson of the region, or melted Camembert over the fire with baguette slices, or fresh radishes with salt(a big favorite!).
In the meantime, while the fire is coming on, mon chéri still fiddles with some activities around the garden, like mowing the lawn, feeding apples to the horses who are allowed late afternoons to graze on the lawns, cleaning the fountain orother small tasks around the house.
I am mostly sunken deep into an Adirondeck by the fire in the shade of the tilleul tree. My feet are up and I have a book in my hand. It is my favorite time of the day and I savor every minute. War will break loose if someone expects me to do anything else than reading my book, sipping my rosé and enjoying the early evening ambiance. At that hour am in my zone and refuse to be disturbed.
After dinner, we linger as late as we can around the fire. As the coals burn away and the horizon turns dark, we start moving away from the fire, lazy and slowly. It is time to call it a day.
**And some summer music for these summer evenings…
Girls in their summer clothes – Bruce Springsteen
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
Red peppers are synonym with the Mediterranean and it is one of my favorite vegetables, raw or otherwise. We grow them in our potager(vegetable garden) rows of them..and they find their way to our table in every way possible. Une petite tarte, using ready made puff pastry or home made if you are so handy or ordered from your boulanger, which is how I prefer to do it, is one way of serving these delicious vegetables.
- Wash 4 red peppers.
- Remove the seeds and cut them into thin strips. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and milled black pepper. Add three twigs of fresh rosemary and two lemon wedges.
- Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Roll out 4 rectangles of puff pastry to about 1mm thick and 8x16cm long. Roll the sides to the inside to form a little rolled side. Prick the inside with a fork, cover with some baking paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake in a preheated oven at 200° C for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Arrange the roasted peppers on the prepared pastry shells. Add some cubed or crumbed feta cheese and dry roasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with red pepper corns and drizzle the pan juices from the roasted red peppers over the filling. Add some rosemary twigs and place under the grill for about 7 -10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm with a dollop of créme fraîche and a large green salad.
Serves 4 people
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use courgettes instead of red peppers, or a mixture of both.
- Add some halved spring onions to the red peppers before roasting.
- Use goats cheese instead of feta cheese.
- Serve with homemade balsamic sorbet.
- Spoon some pesto on the base of the pastry shell before adding the red peppers.
- Turn into a dessert by spooning some sweetened mascarpone cheese on the bottom of the pastry shell, cover with red peppers and drizzle with honey and chopped mint.
..the lavenders of Provence..
Mon chéri treated me to a couple of days in Provence. I don’t have to say anything, except that it was pure joy. It was so short, but my senses were alive to its maximum every minute.
Apart from the wonderful Provencal sun, the delicious meals on sunny terraces, the Provencal rosé wines, I did indeed manage to complete 7 sketches, while mon chéri patiently waited and used the time to play chess. Since our time was so short, I didn’t want to spend too much time on sketching though, so all I wanted was to capture a bit of the ambiance of our short stay. I think I achieved that and I am so chuffed. So chuffed indeed. If you’d like to see the sketches, you can pop over to Africantapestry.
I love lavender. Just simply love it. Not in foods. Not in soaps. Not in perfumes. not in my closets. But in pots and in the fields and gardens. That is the only place I can appreciate its fragrance, which is too strong and overpowering anywhere else. But the joy of lavender and its fragrance in a field or in a garden…nothing else comes close.
If only I could pass along the fragrance with these images…but it is all up to you and your imagination. Stretch out your hand and touch the blooms, hear the bees, see the butterflies, sniff the air, feel the sun and dwell in the heady fragrance…
The soil varies between the different fields, but they all have three things in common…altitude, sun and poor soil.
A lavender field snaking over the hill into a row of Provence cypress.
At the abbaye de Senanque, the lavenders aren’t fully open yet, it being a different variety. But I love the faded blue which harmonizes with the gentle quietude of the abbaye and the greys of its old stone building.
Small fields, larger, tiny, among wheat, beside the roads…everywhere.
Where there is lavender, there you’ll find bees and butterflies!
Green vines, purple lavenders and red soil…the colours of Provence.
One of my favorite photos with a scene of all my favorite things..nature with its rocky area, the olive grove, the lavender, the hills, the colors, the smells..
A quilt of color in the valley just below Bonnieux; lavender fields, wheat fields and vineyards.
*Keep an ear to the ground for the next post on Provence..until then..
Unimaginable that nettle soup can be delicious and yet, it is! Once cooked, the stinging effect disappears completely and all that is left, is a dark green, flavorful soup. Stinging nettle grows everywhere, the sign of fertile soil, and costs nothing. So why not make use of it? It reminds me somewhat of watercress, of which I often make soup too. Along with the spring petit pois pesto, it makers for a typical spring lunch or dinner or even a starter. See the Pincée de fleur de sel below for more ideas. I do hope you’ll try it.
Nettle soup with petit pois pesto
- Pick nettle leaves, wearing a pair of leather or other thick gloves. Separate the leaves from the stems, keeping only the tender leaves and stems. Harvest about 3 large colanders full of leaves for 4 people.
- Rinse the leaves in cold water to get rid of sand and grit. Don’t forget using the gloves, or switch to tongs.
- Clean and chop two spring onions and sauté in coconut oil(not to be confused with palm oil)or olive oil. Add 5 stems of garlic along and its flowers.(optional)
- Mix the nettle leaves with the onion and add enough vegetable stock to JUST cover the nettle/onion mixture. Adding too much liquid will result in a watery soup.
- Simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and mix with a hand mixer to a creamy soup.
- Add 3/4 can of coconut milk and 1 large TBSP of mascarpone cheese to the soup. Stir and leave to simmer very gently over low heat for another 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- Leave aside until needed.
Petit pois pesto:
- Boil 1 large cup of freshly shelled petit pois for 2-3 minutes and rinsed under cold water. Leave to dry.
- Mix together in a mortar and pestle with 5 sprigs chives, 2-3 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP pine nuts.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.
- Don’t overwork to a puree.
To serve: Serve the soup warm OR cold with a quenelle of petit pois . Finish off with sprinkling of milled pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Pick nettles with a pair of leather or other thick gloves!
I picked the leaves(with gloves of course) early morning, separated the leaves from the harder stems, kept the softer ones, rinsed it very well and kept it in the fridge until I started the preparation.
Rinse very well!
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Remember to pick the leaves with gloves, rinsing and adding to the casserole, working with gloves or tongs all the time.
- Like spinach, nettle must be rinsed well, preferably under running water. Catch the water in a bowl and add to you plants.
- It resembles spinach when cooked.
- Use watercress, or spinach leaves instead of nettle.
- If you fear the nettle to be too “wild” to your liking, add 1 large peeled, boiled and mashed potato, OR add some spinach leaves along with the nettle.
- Don’t add too much stock or else the soup will be watery. It is always possible to add some stock afterwards.
- Serve the soup cold in glasses or cups, topped with a room temperature pesto, or serve warm in bowls with room temperature pesto.
- If using frozen petit pois, boil longer than fresh peas..about 4 minutes. Stop the cooking process by placing in ice cold water.
- For a nice apéro, make a cuppacino – Place a layer of petit pois a the bottom of a small glass,pour over some soup and finsih off with whipped cream. sprinkle with grean matcha tea powder.
Freshly shelled petit pois.
Last, but not least..the pea shells are off to the compost heap!
*Note: I have finally gotten the chance to redo my photos for the Washing day post and if you would like to see and read my thoughts on a washing day..just follow this link to Coin Perdu -Laundry day!
* Thank you to everybody who shared their laundry stories either on Facebook, in an email or on the blog..I loved reading them..if there are more of you who want to share..please do so, I would love to hear your washing day stories and I know others would like to read them too!
Bon appétit et à la prochaine!
In the spirit of the fraise season and it being the fruit of our region, I trumped up these little strawberry helpings. Very versatile, they can be served as part of a buffet, or an ending to a meal as dessert, or with a cheese platter, or even an apéritif for an al fresco dinner. Won’t hurt to try them, non?
Basil stuffed strawberries
- Rinse and dry a handful of large strawberries.
- Cut the stem side off each strawberry to form a lid and keep aside. Cut the tip off to make the strawberry stand up straight.
- Use a small melon scoop and hollow out the inside to form a little cup.
- Cut the remove strawberry flesh into small pieces.
- Add to the chopped strawberry flesh: Some chopped berries of your choice(blueberries, blackberries, mulberries…), a few drops of balsamic vinegar, a few drops of a fruit coulis of your choice, a few shredded fresh basil leaves. Mix together gently and spoon into the empty strawberry cups.
- Sprinkle some chopped pistachio nuts over the tops and replace the strawberry lids.
- Serve individually on a plate or on a large platter for a buffet and accompany with fruit coulis(which you have used in the strawberry cups)
- Decorate with berries and sifted icing sugar, basil leaves..
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used blueberries and raspberries with a raspberry coulis.
- If the berries aren’t in season yet, combine with another fruit like kiwi, which will also see to a nice filling.
- Remember that the bigger the strawberries, the less flavor and sweetness they have, So choose youraccompanying fruit accordingly.
- Pomegranate can make for a nice crunchy filling.
- For an sweet/salty apéro(amuse bouche), try a filling of quinoa, chopped spring onion and chervil with a drizzling of lemon juice, olive oi, and serve on some salad leaves..mmm, superb! Serve with a cold rosé wine by the barbeque fire..
- Don’t serve directly from the fridge..too cold temperatures kill the strawberry taste..in facet, I never serve anything, except ice cream and the likes, directly from the fridge. The fridge kills all flavours.
- Serve as part of a cheese platter..fill with a small cube of feta cheese, a shredding of dill and add a little piment d’espelette jelly(or another piquant jelly) and a drop of olive oil.
- Play around with your own preferences.
This year’s fête de la fraise happened in the rain. Although the number of visitors were lower than previous years, there were still many brave ones..like mon chéri and me. The fraises were as usually in abundance, but I missed the taste of sunshine..it is clear that our fruit and vegetables aren’t what they usually are. All the rains and grey and rainy days are taking its toll. But nonetheless, going to la fête de la fraise is what we just do and we strolled the streets and nibbled on strawberries all day long.
..a cool fête de la fraise
..This was my attraction all day long..
..Strawberries, smoothies, meringues, crèpes..it was all there..
..just a few names under so many varieties..
..and the traditional giant tarte aux fraises, a combined effort by the patissiers of Beaulieu..
..I was as as fascinated by the bubbles as the kiddies were..
..How I wish we could hang on to that uninhibited spontaneity..
..just like the strawberries, bubbles of all sizes and shapes..
..and this is where the bubbles originated from..a complicated vintage machine..
..As usual, mon chéri had to discuss the engineering principles behind the bubbles with Monsieur bubble machine..
..And..forgive me..more bubbles!..
..such a pity I have no more daughters; musicians and bands galore throughout the day…
..and with this last image I want to say:
“Gros bisous à toutes les mamans et à ceux et celles qui les entourent..
bonne fête des mamans!!”
**Note: the washing day post is postponed to later date due to loss of images(total computer clumsiness on my part!!)..I have to await a sunny day to redo it all…my apologies!
à la prochaine fois,
Nothing makes a better salad than leftovers.During spring, when all attention is focused on the garden and restoration work on the house, all sorts of salads with leftover meats and fish and vegetables make life so much easier. It is also a time when I stock my pantry heavier than usual with some interesting condiments to add zest to the salads without spending hours in the kitchen in the evenings. It is typically additions like sundried tomatoes, ready made pestos and tapenades, marinated mussels and oysters, canned sardines and anchovies, mackerels, beans and split peas.
For this easy peezy, light and delicious salad, I used the left over salmon and steamed potatoes from the previous evening’s dinner and turned it into a salad with all sorts of other goodies coming from the pantry and the fridge. I served it with toasted pita bread and a cream and dill sauce. What can I say…“cetait un régal tout simple”!
Salmon, potato and mussel salad.
- Heat some leftover salmon(flaked) and potatoes(cut into chunks). Add some chopped spring onions and a handful of currants.
- Arrange a mix of fresh salad leaves and herbs on a large platter.
- Sprinkle with nuts and marinated mussels and sliced marinated tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
- Make a cream sauce of a finely chopped small shallot, handful of chopped dill, a cup of cream or créme fraîche and a TBS of mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice.
- Top with the warm(not hot) salmon mix. Sprinkle with chopped dill.
- Serve immediately with pita breads or a country bread and some extra sauce on the side.
Une pincée de sel:
- Use a good mixture of herb salad leaves.
- Use mushrooms instead of the fish, if you don’t like fish.
- When using chicken, replace the dill int eh sauce with basil pesto or freshly sliced basil.
A contribution to Pie•ography..
Last year I’ve been asked by the creative Jo Packham, creator of Where women cook, to contribute, along with 38 other women, a recipe to her book, Pie•ography. The project was to create a pie which best described each author and write a short biography along with it. I found it quite a challenge, because talking about myself isn’t something I am comfortable with. Nothing wrong with revealing a little bite here and a little pinch there, but sitting down and directly saying: “..and so, his is who I am…” – THAT is tough. BUT…I finally got something on paper and created my pie..so I can tap myslef on the shoulder and say ;..“not too bad, Ronelle, not too bad at all..!”
For fun, I listed 30 tongue in cheek- things you don’t know about me. Read at the bottom if you’re interested.
Thank you to Jo for inviting me to join in..it is a great book and I am honoured to be in the company of highly talented and educated and ambitious women in this book, of whom Jo is of course one. Her creativity is never ending. for me it was a fun and exciting project to be part of!
30 things you don’t know about me:
- My worst characteristic is impatience.
- My best one is enthusiasm.
- I can lift my one eyebrow and drop the other at the same time.
- My ankles are rather thick
- My feet are quite cute.
- I used to trust people easily.
- I now put my trust rather in animals.
- I am impulsive and it gets me into trouble.
- I don’t fit into my wedding dress any more, but it doesn’t bother me.
- I don’t fit into my bathing suit and that bothers me.
- I still want to do parachute jumping, but I hate flying.
- I don’t like sharing the licking bowl when baking.
- I hate washing dishes. I also hate stacking the dishwasher. I see no light.
- My mom used to say my bladder is situated just under my eyes. It takes very little to make me cry.
- I laugh easily and loudly.
- I have perfected the puppy eye flutter. Mon chéri is completely defenseless against it.
- I hate conflict of any kind.
- I don’t believe the truth has to be told at any cost. Sometimes the truth serves no purpose..
- I have a great sense of humour. It is my life line.
- I love to learn, but I hate to be taught.
- I don’t mind making a fool of myself, but I don’t like to be made a fool of by others.
- It only takes one glass of wine to have me make a fool of myself.
- I don’t answer a telephone.
- I am a coffee snob.
- I have two experiences in my past which I can’t forgive and forget. They still influence my self image to this day.
- I am a nomad, I have to move on every few years.
- Autumn makes me sad.
- When I am upset I get into bed and cover my head.
- I am a Leo.
- The sun is my oxygen.
You can find the recipe and how I worked my way to it here.
Pi•ography can be ordered from Amazon.com.
If you want more information, don’t hesitate to contact me(details in my sidebar)
So, until next time…
Amusez vous bien et soyez sage sage!
(Have fun and stay out of trouble!)
The entrée (starter) for this menu is A topinambour (Jerusalem artichokes) and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croûtons. It has a wonderful woodsy flavor and finished off with a shaving of black truffle on the chanterelles mushrooms, it transports you into a winter forest.
- Clean 1 onion and cut in slices. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent.
- Clean 5 large Jerusalem artichokes, cut into small, even chunks and add to the the onion.
- Add a tin of peeled chestnuts (210g) to the mixture.
- Add a bouguet garni and 350 ml water or stock (vegetable) to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Add a handful of washed parsley and mix with an electrical hand mixer until the soup is creamy. If you want the soupy perfectly creamy, you can push it through a sieve.
- Add some cream, or stock, or milk to bring it to the right consistency (like thick cream). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Serve warm with some freshly grated nutmeg and a mushroom croûton.
- Mushroom croûton: Toast three thick slices of bread. cut into fingers and brush with truffle oil on all sides. Clean some some mushrooms of your choice with a brush and fry quickly in olive oil. Add some chopped parsley , season and place on top of the toast fingers. Finish off by placing two shavings of black truffle on the mushrooms and serve immediately with the soup.
- This soup can also be served as an amuse bouche, served in small glasses, with small fingers of toast.
Serves 4 people as a starter.
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Don’t add too much liquid in the beginning..you can always thin with some milk, or stock or water towards the end to the thickness you prefer.
- Replace the mushrooms with plain button mushrooms or with crispy Spanish ham.
- Replace the Jerusalem artichokes with pumpkin.
- Toast the croutons in a toaster or dry toast in a pan to keep it light.
- Finish the soup with a twirl of truffle oil.
- Never wash mushrooms with water, clean them with a brush.
- Fry mushrooms in a hot pan ..I prefer to fry mushrooms in duckfat(a little) which can be heated to very high heat without becoming toxic. Afterwards I drizzle a little Olive oil. In a hot pan, you don’t need much fat, because the mushrooms fry very quickly.
- I don’t push the soup through a sieve, because I like the tiny pieces of parsley which gives a nice 3speckly” effect to the soup.
The Christmas market in Meyssac was very quaint and I especially loved the lovely church with its display of nativity scenes in all the alcoves. Each nativity scene depicted a country…Brazil was there, France of course, Italy, Africa. Even Peru was there, each little figurine dressed in typical clothing. I adored it and planned on going back to Meyssac to take pictures of all the scenes. When I finally went back, it was gone! Of course, it made sense..it was on display only for the weekend of the market..all those precious figurines couldn’t be left unattended for the whole season. I can kick myself! So I lost out on the lovely nativity scenes..you will have to wait until next year.
But the little église of Meyssac is still adorable and here are some photos…
…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…
..the interior towards the altar with Chrismas lights hanging above the aisle…
..the altar from close up..
..and the only nativity scene left for the season..
..un lustre lighting up one of the many figurines the Catholics so love..
- Tomorrow will see the plat principal (main meal): Beef tournedos with bone marrow in a wine sauce and steamed vegetables.
- A nice DVD to get you in a French vintage mood…La plus belle histoire des femmes.
.. alors, à demain!..
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!
Autumn asks for rustic food. Because some days are sunny and mild, meals can still be enjoyed outside and as such a homey, rustic meal can add warmth and cosiness. A rustic meal also falls in step with the colours of the season, as the pumpkin tart shows. So what can be better than being right in the spirit of the season!
***Errata: 3. PASTRY: .. “Use a bit MORE water if too dry and add more flour if needed…”
Une pincée de sel:
- Sweet potatoes are just as good instead of pumpkin..treat the sweet potatoes the same way.
- Use wholewheat flour instead of plain flour.
- Drizzle some herb honey over the pumpkin just before serving, or caramelize the pumpkin with some honey.
- Make individual servings of tartlets instead of one large tart.
- Use leeks instead of red onion.
..and autumn gives us umber and sienna..
When I think of winter think of black and white, grey, mystery, design.. Spring makes me think of flowery pinks, blues, lavenders, whites..In summer it is the exuberance of reds and yellows, that come to mind… Autumn gives us siennas and umbers, rich, embracing us with its warmth. I always think that it is the season for artists.
I wish you a lovely artist’s season!
Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.
In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!
Une petite pensée:
- I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
- Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
- Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
- Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
- Use a celery branch to stir.
- Add cubes of ice in each glass
- Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.
A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.
From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!
Sunday was a real “Dimanche à la campagne” at Coin Perdu. Our children from Toulouse visited the weekend, the sun was shining, we stopped working on our house for the day and we had a great brunch outside under the Tilleul tree. What made it really perfect was that Mon Chéri made lunch! I just sat in the shade, sipped my Rosè and enjoyed the company of the people I love. This frittata/tortilla/ omelette is the brainchild of Mon Chéri and it changes every time he makes it which course is typical of a frittata…you use whatever is available and to your liking!
..frittata/tortilla/omelette on the barbecue..
..the assistant earns her lunch..
Une petite pensée:
- Make a frittata to empty the fridge at the end of a month.
- Normally a frittata is done on the stove and placed under a grill for a few minutes before serving. I is firm enough to cut into slices.
- If you want it creamier, add a TBSP of crème fraîche just after you’ve added the eggs and stir .
- Always add a sprinkling of freshly cut herbs before serving for a fresh appeal.
- Place your frittata under the grill for a few minutes to have it puff up, melt the cheese if added and brown nicely.
- To make it vegetarian, omit the left over meat.
- Be creative with your frittata.
- Serve with fresh green salad, toast or country bread and fruit.
..dèjeuner à la campagne..
But back to the moment: ..the strawberries try desperately to produce one last crop… I sure did something wrong, because my garlic went to seed and is even smaller than when I planted them!… I lost all my newly planted carrots by simple neglect unfortunately (I didn’t water them…too lazy?)…my basil dried up too, but I still have some new leaves pushing, so I’m not completely hopeless!…My onions are all dug up…my young leeks look a bit frail…
..an empty late summer potager..
But on the other hand…my maize (corn) looks beautiful, although few…my pumpkin is coming along beautifully and already have little pumpkins all over…I am in love with all my grey foliaged herbs like the Absinthe(Artemisia absinthium), the santolinas, the grey potent curry plants..
..absinthe, french marigolds, tomatoes, maize, pumpkin herbs..
My artichokes are late, but I’m happy, even though I have only one plant carrying buds…next year I will have plenty of artichokes..enough to leave for flowering and enough for eating!…
One thing I don’t fail at, is growing beets…deliciously sweet, small and big, the young leaves delicious in salads. We have feasted this season on fresh beets and I’ve just planted some more and I’m already picking the leaves for colour in my salads – of course beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I pretend they are very difficult and I’m just soo good!…
..young beetroot peeping through the lavender..
A lovely green view on my potager..I have to add that this photo was taken just after some hard work, like weeding and digging-in horse manure(with the help of sweet Mon chéri of course) and pruning and all the labour a potager asks for…but still… quite pretty with the bright tansy and gay French marigolfds, the cloches and yellow pots, tomato forest… heh?…
..bright yellows for a potager..
Now just look at my maize (admitting again in a whisper that Mon Chéri sees to it being watered…?). In France maize is not eaten “corn on the cob” wise. On the contrary, it is seen as animal food and frowned upon as human food..but once they try it our way..on the BBQ.. with butter and fleur de sel..they are converted!…
..maize(corn on the cob)..
Of course I have camomile, as everubody does…how can one not have Camomile…such an easy growing, abundant and gratifying herb! Don’t trust the marker…nothing is what it seems here at Coin Perdu…
rosemary…oops non, camomile..
Aha…the tomatoes – last year I was conscientious and my tomatoes were properly staked and all the necessary pinching and mulching were religiously done and they were beautiful! This year, it is more of a tomato war with cherries and grapes and rondes and ovals fighting for air and power and it is an ordeal to harvest, but when we succeed, we have nice sweet abundant crops; I’ll be perfect again next year!…
As said…I love the santolinas…the greens and the greys…mixed with lavender, I can dwell there for hours. Hopefully I’ll have a whole field of mixed santolinas and lavenders next year – it all comes down to efficient planning?…
The visitors are bountiful and it rewards the hard work of gardening without pesticides! This young lady goes by the pretty name of le Nacré de la ronce(Brenthis daphné)…
..Nacre de la ronce..
Without planning it, my potager developed and grew towards the yellows. And I love it! Yellows, oranges, greens, whites and grey. Beautiful. But only in my garden. and only in the potager. The rest stays all white. And definitely not on my body! Look at these cheeky marigolds, bursting with energy!… and they get picked when they start to wilt, the petals are dried and used in salads..Nothing goes to waste .
Salads. A potager isn’t a potager without its salads. A leaf here and a leaf there, a handful f tomatoes, a basil leaf, a beetroot leaf … voilà, a salad for lunch….
salads (feuille de chène)
I’m one of those crazy gardeners… I am greedy, I plant too much, I plant too close together, I sow too many seeds… And so I planted far too many courgettes for our household and we ended up having these giants…pretty to look at, not as tasty as the young sweet courgettes though. But I always reason that life must be pretty too, not only practical and sensible, and that same reasoning goes for a potager…pretty has its place too in a potager. So here they are, my pretty giants!…
I hope you enjoyed walking with me through my potager at the end of the summer…almost.
A potager is hard work…all that weeding, the watering, the planting and seeding, the harsh summer sun, fighting the slugs and the deer, the rabbits and snails……it IS hard work and I am fa..aar from being the most effective gardener. Around us, everything grows and wanders like it wishes(animals included, people included) and when the worms devour my artichokes, I break into an instant fit and man and animal flees, but then calm down and casually start over again. We pretty much believe in laisser faire, so you will never see perfection around here, but I believe that it is a stress free way of gardening. What is a few weeds after all? And insects do more good than harm, and if the snails feed on your salads, just plant a few more.. or plant some sorrel to keep them away from your salad(snails adore sorrel)..or cover the soil with broken eggshells, or ash from the barbecue…live and let live..
OK. I have to shower and clean my nails and go find my gloves, which stayed behind somewhere in the potager…
I’m not a very big potato fan, but with our extremely cold temperatures here in Europe and especially here at Coin Perdu in the barn, I take comfort in a hearty true mountain tartiflette. It does wonders for my cold body…and spirit! It is a favorite in my family and we make it different every time. It is a recipe that can be played around with, except for the cheese..that can NOT be replaced. It won’t be a tartiflette without that strong flavoured creamy cheese.
There aren’t any specific quantities for making a tartiflette…I can only tell you more or less what I do:
- Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
- Rinse, leave to cool aside.
- Fry 2 large onions in a pan, add a handful of sliced champignons de Paris and a packet of bacon pieces. Season to you taste.
- When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
- Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
- Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
- Cut a Reblochon cheese(or another soft cheese of your choice) through the middle so you have two thin rounds. I used a Montagnard des Vosges. Place cut side down on the potatoes.
- If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has become dry and brittle. Remove from the oven and remove the crust from the dish. Sprinkle with some paprika or “piment d’Espelette” and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nicely caramelized.
- Serve warm with some slices of smoked ham and a large fresh green salad on the side with a pungent vinaigrette.
Serves 4 as a meal.
Europe had been covered in a Siberian snow blanket for the past week or so…freezing cold, hyper dangerous, but spectacular! It is exceptionally cold here at Coin Perdu and I have a rough time keeping warm, seeing to fresh water for the horses with all the plumbing frozen rock solid. Warming up the barn to a comfortable temperature has also been a challenging task as of late and the only solution is to dress Inuit style, shuffling around in multiple layers and moving with less agility than a polar bear. don’;t even mention femininity.. We were snowed in without snow chains for the car and couldn’t get up the hill. the small French country roads are not made for snow and tiny cars and evidence of this is seen all around the countryside with cars in ditches off the roads.
..our/my home for now…
..bringing the horses in for the night, feeding them, carrying hay from the e other barn and water from the swimming pool..
…an unfinished home – what would I give to be all snug in my home..
…VERY c..c..c..c0ld visits..!!
…the boxwoods are still standing and showing off their beauty against a white background…
..first time snow for Mimolette…
…discovering this all-white-business…
..a white potager(vegetable garden) with the eiffel tower empty, a garden cloche looking quite pretty and last year’s cherry tomatoes…
Mésanges bleues(blue tits and a mésange charbonniére(Great tits) are all too playful in this cold. Between them and the red robins and the pies and the horses and the chickens and the cats and the rabbits and whoever else…; I just can’t keep up with feeding everybody!…
…just some prettiness…
Last, but not least: THANK YOU to everybody who has sent me emails and messages expressing concern for our staying here in the barn at Coin Perdu during this cold, wondering how we/I’m holding up and whether we/I’m surviving. It is very much appreciated.!! I’m still here, even though I have to admit it is a bit tough lately. Thank you for caring!
the polar bear(ess)!
There are no rules in this world. Ok, maybe a few. In the kitchen it is no different. Not even fun is imposed on us by a rule. Is cooking in your kitchen on a Wednesday evening fun, when you are tired and would rather have someone make you a sandwich? Yes? Well, not for me. There are those times that cooking is just not fun. But that isn’t what I want to talk about. Maybe next time.
I’m telling you there aren’t any rules constraining us to use a vase for flowers. Or a chair for sitting. Or a kettle for boiling water. Or a doormat for wiping our feet.
..mint in a kettle…
Feel free to use a metal doormat for a large trivet next to the stove. Easy and handy for a heavy pot to lift from stove to trivet an large enough for more than one pat and pretty enough to please the eye in the kitchen.
No rules. Only freedom. Imagination. Guts. Do you have it?
…trivet alias doormat…
Have a rebellious weekend!
from Ronelle alias la revolusioniste
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.
I’ve been struggling with this koulibiac for two full days. The first one was far too dry, so I took on a second one. Terrifying colors! The third tasted complicated..and by that time, I couldn’t trust my judgement any more either! Tasting the same thing for two days…the same salmon, the same spinach, the same onion mix etc, truly numbs the taste buds. Finally I came back to the first effort with a few changes here and there. It is how it works with my painting as well. The first effort is always the most spontaneous, most honest rendering. Writing too. Those first thoughts should never be changed…only polished maybe, but never changed.
Just for interesting sake, here is the last effort..remember…the one with the complicated flavors?
Salmon and spinach koulibiac(pie)recipe
- Clean about 700g of fresh salmon fillet and poach for about 10 minutes or until flaky, but not dry and colorless. Leave to cool. Flake, remove all skin and the bones. Add lemon juice and zest of 1 lemon, season to taste and mix lightly. Add alittle poaching liquid to the flaked salmon to prevent it from being dry.
- Sautée 2 small onions in olive oil. Add about 1 cup(250 ml) white arborio risotto rice, add salt, and 500 ml water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the rice is creamy. Stir in 1 TBSP of butter. Remove from the heat and leave aside(covered) to cool.
- Rinse and dry 2 large handfuls of fresh young spinach leaves. Chop roughly.
- Finely chop 2 large bunches fresh dill. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C.
- Grease a bread tin with butter, (12cx24cm).
- Roll out 500g puff pastry, (pre ordered from your baker).Cut a rectangle large enough to line the bottom and sides of your bread tin(about 1/3 of the 500g). Keep in the fridge until needed along with the rest of the pastry.
- Fill the puff pastry base with some rice, cover with spinach leaves, the chopped dill, the flaked salmon, chopped dill again, some spinach leaves, and end with a layer of rice.
- Roll out the rest of the puff pastry and cut a rectangle a little bigger than the bread mould. Place over the rice topping and wet the fingers to glue the sides of the top neatly together with the pastry base.
- Roll out the rest of the pastry into shapes of your desire and decorate the top as you wish. Replace in the fridge for an hour to get cold.
- Brush the top with 1 egg and make a hole in the top of the pastry with some baking paper to serve as a “chimney” and let heat and steam escape.
- Bake for abut 40 minutes. Cover with a sheet of baking paper or brown paper if the top browns too dark.
- Bake a sauce of Bulgarian yogurt and crème fraiche, season with salt and pepper, a spoonful of mustard and lemon juice.
- Serve sliced with a fresh green salad and pungent vinaigrette.
Serves 8 people
- When poaching the salmon, add a carrot, an onion, lemon slices, dill and parsley stems to the poaching water to flavor the salmon. Strain afterwards and save the water for a soup.
- The rice should be slightly sticky which will keep the rice layer together for better cutting of your koulibiac.
- The success of puff pastry depends on as little handling as possible, working with cool hands, and being put very cold into a hot oven. The temperature can be lowered afterwards.
- Don’t layer too much rice so you end up having a whole lot of rice and a lot of too little salmon! I tend to add too much rice to my layers..
- Try whole wheat rice, wild rice or quinoa instead of white rice for a more healthy option.
- Add a sprinkling of dried yellow/orange flower petals between the rice and spinach layer for a colorful version…zinnia petals, nasturtium, begonia, geraniums, marguerites, sunflowers, nasturtiums…
- Have fun creating your own versions!
…doesn’t look too bad when goinginto the oven(remember that I’m at coin Perdu, baking in the wood burning stove…I’m sooo good!!)…
…and the sortie out of the oven after 40 minutes doens’t look too bad either(except for some bad photography!)…
Why do I prefer the first effort?
*The flavors are clean and simple and along with the sauce it combines into perfect harmony. The biggest challenge of this effort is to make sure your koulibiac isn’t dry. So my tips would be to: add some poaching liquid to the salmon, make sure the rice is moist and sticky, but still white and plump(chicken stock tends to color your rice).
In the next two efforts?
*I added roasted fennel, combined it with the dill and added as an extra layer. The result was that the flavors were just too complicated and overpowering for the whole ensemble. Much like an electrical guitar playing in a symphonic orchestra…
*I also added chopped red onion to the salmon, which ended up with some ugly purply spots between the delicate pink of the salmon.
*Oh, and don’t forget that wobbly silicone bread pan-business-thing which I’ve tried for the first time…cost me an arm and a leg! It “stretched” in the middle so the bread shape plonked out…you can see it in the first image. I was a very unhappy woman… In the second image I used my ole trusted normal bread tin and just look at the difference…a lovely square shape.
The lesson: Simple ALWAYS works! You may have to adapt a little here and change a little there, but staying on the simple road is to be on the success road.
No sketch with the recipe today…too tired, too fed up with salmon, too heavy from all the tasting…a good chef alwasy tastes his food, they say. I did that and look where I am now…?
No story from my side either…aren’t you happy!? I have no first thoughts left after these two days.
And now please..
“Please don’t feed me no more salmon…
I could do with a little bit of famine…
My kitchen makes me ill…
for lack of clean… plates and place to chill..
and I am now ready for that thing they call in French…”régime”?
Oh man…how to lose these salubrious omega 3’…sss
So I can again be the lanky woman of my man’s dream…sss!”
a bientôt … from the gleaming omega omnivore!!
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.
My courgette is taking over my potager here at Coin Perdu…beautiful and healthy with enormous bright green leaves and underneath those cheeky yellow flowers peeking through. The male flowers are starting to fall of and I’m picking them up and drying them to use as dried flowers for sprinkling over my salads…my latest craze; if you keep still long enough, I sprinkle you with dried flowers
The female courgettes are the only ones carrying fruit and I’ve picked some of both to stuff with a crab filling. Both male and female flowers are edible. If ever you can get hold of some courgette flowers…they are absolutely divine, from another world and savored slowly and deliberately…well, I’m a lady, I can’t say what I really think, but you’ll know what I mean when once you’ve enjoyed one!
- Serve the flowers stuffed, without steaming.
- OR make a batter of some flour and add some fizzy water, mix until a thick cream . Dip the courgette flowers wth filling into the batter until coated and deep fry quickly, one by one, turning each once once. Remove, drain and serve sprinkled with fleur de sel and a few drops of lemon juice, or a light yoghurt/mint sauce (natural yoghurt, chopped mint, seasoning, lemon juice..)Make your own filling by choosing ingredients you like and by mixing flavor which compliment each other. Keep it light.
- Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves with a vinaigrette.
Myfenchkitchen is off to Provence for a week of painting with 3 artist buddies. We’ll be staying in the Vaucluse home of well known painter of Postcards from Provence, Julian Merrow Smith and his wife Ruth Philips, while they will be in England where Ruth will be playing cello at the Garsington festival. We even have our own blog, Four go painting in Provence and you’re invited to follow us every step of the way on this trip if you’re interested in seeing all our adventures…which of course will be mostly painting…and eating…and painting again…and then visiting the markets and painting them …and eating…and having some wine perhaps and eating again… or is it painting…in any case, a lot of everything! you can read a little more on my art blog too: Africantapestry is off to Provence for a crazy painting experience!
I’m leaving on Sunday for a week..the other three artist buddies, Katherine, Sarah and Robyn will be there for 3 weeks. unfortunately I have some exciting obligations to tend to here at Coin Perdu, which I’ll share with you once I’m back! So don’t go away…keep well and in the meantime…keep those pots sizzling!
I love Lemon verbena…it dries beautifully, it makes a refreshing infusion, it adds zest to a cabinet, a room…and makes an elegant ice cream. And whichever season you’re in, an ice cream is always a good ending to a meal.
- Use lavender flowers or other dried herbs that you like instead of the lemon verbena.
- If you want a lighter ice cream, use only milk instead of the cream. \For an even creamier version, substitute 1 cup of cream for one cup of crème fraiche.
- If you’re afraid of curdling the cream when heating, heat up only the milk and add the cream later.
One thing I am finicky about in my home, is clothes hangers. I normally use wooden hangers, which are quite expensive for all our clothes. And I don’t really like thickly covered hangers. And I don’t like plastic hangers. And here at Coin Perdu, while we are still living in the barn, wooden hangers feel too extravagant. Since Hartman’s shirts are being ironed professionally, I have loads of wire clothes hangers, which I return, but there are always a few lying around. and while we were around the barbeque fire one evening, an idea was born to cover these wire hangers with some strips of torn fabric. I’m highly excited about my clothes hangers and have decided that they will just move into my clothes closet once our house is finished! not to mention my excitement about recycling, saving on money and being a wise consumer!
- Wire coat hangers.
- Old pieces of cotton fabric, cut/torn into strips of roughly 4 cm wide and about 150 cm long, although the length is not such an issue, since one can just start off with a new strip if you run out of fabric on a hanger. I used off cuts of toile de jouy fabric in shades of beiges and whites. I used cotton which is easy to use and to manipulate around the hanger. the thicker your fabric the more difficult it becomes. If you want a thicker covering, make your strips a bit wider, or wind closer together.
- I also tore my pieces of fabric so the edges are quite rough, giving nice texture to the hangers. I like the frayed edges and pieces of thread escaping wildly here and there. (See photo above)
Start at the top of the hook of the hanger and let a longish piece of your strip hang down to the middle(where you will tie the two strips together at the end.)
- With your long strip, start winding down the hook to the middle, making sure you capture well around the sharp point of the handle.
- If you run out of fabric halfway through a hanger, simply finish off tightly and start with a new strip of the same fabric, working forward and then a bit backward(like backstitching) and then continue. Both the end of the old strip and start of the new strip are now “buried” under the new strip.
- Make sure to make your windings tight. (See image above)
- When you have gone right around the hanger, you will end back at the middle, where your short piece of fabric strip is hanging.
- Tie the two strips together into a tight knot and let the strips hang down like a ribbon/bow.
- You can finish off the two strips by simply leaving them tied in a knot (like I did), OR work some ribbons or buttons or and other decoration of your choice.
…et voilà..a facelift for some ugly ole wire hangers!…
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…?