I suppose everyone thinks “chocolate” when in February and especially around the 14th. I’m breaking the rules a bit here…these small cherry and bacon rolls are much more popular in our home under my loved ones than chocolate. In fact, I’m the only chocolate fan around here! So, when I make my people these little rolls, they know it says something about my love for them.
Very easy, so much so that it doesn’t require any recipe. I’ve had this “recipe” for as long as I can remember. It is sort of my “signature” snack and I have not yet come across a single person who sticks to only one or even two.
- Simply roll some sweet “cake cherries” as we used to call them in strips thin bacon. Secure with a toothpick
- Bake in a 200 degrees C (356 degr F) oven until the bacon is caramelized. In a preheated oven, this won’t take longer than 12-15 minutes.
- Use some prunes or apricots instead of cherries.
- Use a leaner ham, like prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut in think slices and roll around the cherries. I’ve tried them all, but our favourite stays bacon strips.
- The bacon rolls can be fried in a pan(without oil), but they are crispier and tastier(and healthier) baked in the oven.
- Use simple toothpicks.. fancy ones will burn in the oven.
- Eat warm from the oven.
…cherries in syrup, strips of bacon, toothpicks…
…May you all have a cherry sweet Valentine’s day!..
from Chérie here in Corréze!
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)!
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 am writing from Coin Perdu in Puy d’Arnac, Correze, where we’ve opened up the house and restarted the restoration process.
I have started work in the vegetable garden, where the process is much slower than I would like, but like with art, it should be about the process and not only about the end result. so I’m slacking down and enjoying the stiff muscles and backaches and bruises and blisters…or am I? Be it as it may; life here in the green valleys of Correze doesn’t care for haste and speed(except on the roads). Days are long and start and end in their own time. People stop in the roads to talk to the neighbour. Chickens and ducks waddle lazily by the roadsides and the cattle just graze without thought in the hills. how can I push on with my vegetable garden when the rest of the world around me is taking time to enjoy the present moment. So I suggest a break from our hectic programs…stop by the market, buy a bunch of radishes, call some friends for a sundowner and catch up on that friendship while you munch on fresh radishes with real butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. It is what we do often. It is what all French do. Often.
- Use any herbs of your choice, but stick to a maximum of three. I used parsley, chives and lemon peel, with a drop of lemon juice.
- Serve mayonnaise for those who don’t eat butter.
- Instead of Fleur de sel, use Maldon salt flakes.
- Don’t throw the leaves of the radishes away, use to make a soup, like you would use spinach.
- Serve with a cold rose or cold dry white wine as an aperitif.
…and a magazine feature.
I’ve had the big honor of being featured in the spring issue of the elegant magazine Where women cook, by the very creative team of Jo Packham. See the magazine cover on my sidebar.
In continuation of this article, everybody who is featured in this issue is also featured on the Where women cook – blog, Amuse bouche. I can promise you will enjoy Amuse bouche…it is full of inspiration with ideas and good reads about interesting people with exciting adventures and projects and stunning photography!
I will be featured on Amuse Bouchefrom Monday 18 April to Thursday 21 April with:
- Monday – On the frontburner
- Tuesday – Tools, tips and tricks
- Wednesday – Recipe
- Thursday – Photography
Please drop by and say hi…I hope you enjoy!
And last but not least: A BIG thank you to Jo Packham from the magazine Where women cook, for this invitation and to Loralee Choate who does such a fantastic job on Amuse Buche!
Ratatouille is such a versatile dish – there are more ways than can be counted to do it nowadays and everyone swears by his/her way. The traditional way takes takes far too long(for me in any case!) and the vegetables are too soft and juicy to my taste. So I do it the quicker and crunchier way and so far, nobody has complained…on the contrary…everybody finds it fresh and enjoys the crunchiness still present and the appearance pleasant. It is a perfect little vegetable starter for the festive meals that await us!
La ratatouille est un plat assez commun et pourtant, chacun fait sa ratatouille a sa façon. La façon traditionnelle veut que ce soit cuit longtemps, comme tout les ragout. Pour ma part, je trouve ça pénible! Et de toute façon, je préfère mes légumes toujours plus croquants avec ces couleurs encore vive! Donc, je fais ma ratatouille vite et croquante et personne ne s’en plaint. Au contraire! Tout le monde la trouve très bonne!Voilà une bonne petite entrée aux légumes pour les fêtes qui nous approchent.
- Ratatouille can be used as a startert or an amuse bouche or as a side accompanying chicken, fish or red meat. If it is to accompany a meat dish, cut the dice a little bigger…perhaps 6×6 mm.
- Don’t overcook, so the texture can still be crunchy, which makes it different from the traditional ratatouille which is simmered for a longer time to have the vegetables really tender with more sauce than I have here.
- Add some garlic and provencal herbs to the ratatouille like thyme, marjoram, oreganum.
- It can be served warm or at room temperature.
- Serve with freshly shredded basil over the top for a nice fresh appearance.
- Serve on a canape(small slice of bread) for an amuse bouche, or serve in a little bowl or glass and toast some brioches to serve with it.
- If you want more special flavour to your ratatouille, add some chilies and spices to give it a kick.
- Add some langoustine, cut in chunks or mussels, oysters or shrimp to your rataouille along with chervil or dill.
..and hand me the scissors!..
I don’t have any fond feelings aboutf scissors, in fact, I pretty much associate them with pain and blood, of which I have first hand experience.
But then again, if I think of life without them..?
I had a pretty little old one from my mother which I kept in my handbag and forgot to take out before we had to board at the airport. I still have another one left, a very ancient model, frequently used by her and even though it lacks performance, its beauty stays unsurpassed. No psychedelic colored plastic in sight and the handle shows signs of hard use and yes, the blade is full of rust spots, but the lines are sleek and graceful and the grip allows for good comfort. Just a simple but beautiful, old pair of scissors from my childhood, one that came from my mother’s sewing kit and is now not so much a utility as a connection to the past.
And let’s not forget the garden scissors…those very important pruning tools and the small scissors for bonsai that I use to cut string for tying and staking in the garden. Do you keep your garden scissors clean and oiled? Not? shame on you!! the same goes for cutting flowers for the house…clean them, oil them and they will serve you a lifetime.
It seems I can actually conjure up some images of pleasure and so maybe I do have fond memories of scissors after all….
…à la prochaine!..
After buying some local saffron…from here in Touraine, I had to make something fishy with a saffron sauce. I love saffron and with fish it is really special…in taste as well as in appearance. Sometimes a white fish can look fairly …bland, but a sauce can lift it to a different level. I used skate wing in this recipe, a fish that I love for its delicate taste and ease with which you can enjoy it without fishing out bones in your mouth.
J’ai acheté un peu de safran de Touraine au marché bio à Tours.j’adore le safran au départ j’ai eu envie de préparer un poisson au safran. Parfois un poisson blanc semble très triste sur notre assiette et le gout n’est rien que fade. Une sauce au safran relève ce poisson banal à une expérience gastronomique, facile à manger, sans péniblement pêcher les arrêts dans sa bouche!
NB: It is a fish that is being overfished and quickly disappearing from certain waters. Measurements have now been put in place to control the fishing and protect the skate. Please make sure that you buy your skate from a reputable fishmonger. Definitely don’t buy it at the supermarket!
NB: Faites attention a ce poisson qui est en train de disparaître très vite, a cause de la pêche négligente. Ne l’achetez surtout pas au supermarché, mais plutôt dans une poissonnerie réputable.
I served the skate wing with a spaghetti of courgette on the side, quickly plunged in boiling water and rinsed under cold water, dried and lightly seasoned.
- This recipe can work well with any white fish. I used skate wing.
- Serve on a big platter and serve individual portions from the wings by lifting small filets off the bone onto each plate.
- The courgettes can be peeled into long ribbons, using a potato peeler if you don’t have the special spaghetti tool. Cut the ribbons into thin paghetti or leave as ribbons(tagliatelle).
- Don’t boil the courgette spaghettie or else they will lose their color, break up and become mushy, without any crunch.
- Dry the courgettes well after rinsing to prevent them from being soggy in the plate.
The organic market day in Tours took off early in the morning, with everybody setting up their stalls and readying themselves for a day of sunshine and hungry, eager visitors. Indeed a successful day for Touraine on the banks of the Loire.
Le bio marché à Tours était une grande réussite. Chacun installé ses stands et se préparé pour une journée estivale, remplie de visiteurs affamés. Encore un succès pour la Touraine aux bords de la Loire.
…je veille sur le parc…
…journée de la patrimoine et pont wilson…
…safran de touraine…
..au marché bio…
…on achète, on goute, on mange, on s’amuse…
…les poissons de la loire…
…on mange pas sans du vin de la région…
…à l’année prochaine…
Summer is a wonderful time to try new recipes. Not to cook. But simply to put together. Myabe a bit of cooking. But only a little. It is too hot and time is too precious to spend in front of a stove. These little rolls are something new to try and it involves no cooking. Delicious and refreshing cold. Serve either on its own with a drizzle of thick balsamic reduction, or enjoy as a summer lunch with a salad and some wholesome bread.
VF: L’été est parfaite pour s’amuser avec des nouvelles recettes vite et facile à assembler. On cuisine pas. Il fait trop chaud à la cuisinière et il y a trop de choses à faire… Bon d’accord. Peut-être un tout petit peu. Mais c’est tout. Ces rouleaux de saumon fumé sont intéressants, faciles et vite à faire. Ils sont délicieux froid et servis comme ils sont, avec un filet de réduction de balsamique sur l’assiette òu en salade accompagnée avec un bon pain rustique.
- The rolls can be made small like in the recipe, or bigger by leaving the salmon slices uncut. In this case rolling would be a bit easier and the rolls can be cut carefully afterwards ibnto two slices. If you want neat rolls, cut off the ends with a very sharp knife. I prefer a more rustic look.
- Spread the ricotta cheese on the red pepper for easier spreading and top then with the spinach leaves.
- The red pepper can be chopped finely and mixed in with the ricotta cheese for a different version.
- Prioscutt, basill leaves and roasted oven tomatoes could be an interesting substitute for the red pepper and spinach leaves, giving a more Italian ambiance.
- Serve two rolls of salmon rolls per person on a plate with a drizzling of thick reduced balsamic syrup, as in the photo.
Our street kicked off the holidays with our yearly bbq across our homes, on the banks of the Loire. A sunny Saturday. A Smoke from the bbq. Set tables. Fresh flowers. Pique-nique baskets. And happy neighbors. Perfect.
Notre rue à commencée cette été dans un esprit de festival. Un barbecue aux bords de la Loire. Un Samedi bien ensoleillé avec une trainée de fumée qui conduit vers le ciel. Des fleurs gaies. Des paniers éparpillées partout, l’évidence de pique-nique. Et les gents bienheureux. Un midi parfait.
As always, we enjoy our three course. Starting off with some aperitif and a petillante and icy cold rosé wines. We had different kind of cakes, abig favorite in France for an apritif with a sparkling wine. Cake with sauteed leeks and artichokes, cake with goats cheese and tomato.
Et bien entendu, nous nous régalons toujours en commencer avec une petite apéritif et une pétillante de la région. Très froid bien sur.Sur la table était un bon choix de différentes cakes salés; un cake aux poireaux et artichauts…un cake a la tomate et au fromage de chèvre.
..around the aperitif table(autour l’aperitif)…
…the pique nique baskets speak of heavy loads(les paniers de pique-nique)…
…what could possibly hide under that wrapping?(que cache au dessous)…
…someimtes keeping an eye on the pique-nique baskets(garder un œil sur les paniers)…
…baguettes and wine – couldn’t do without!(pas sans baguettes et du vin)..
…choosing seating(òu s’installer à table)...
…but first – time for some conversation among pretty ladies and heavy discussions(des jolies femmes et sérieuses discussions)
…and a far off call while the fire is stretching high(un appel et le feu)…
…and the smoke is a sign of good things to come(la fumée des promesses)…
…like this( de ca)…
…and this(et ca)…
…and while we wait for those good things from the smoke, we start with our starters…salads and baguette!(salades et baguettes pour entrées en attendant de la viande)…
…everybody is happy(le monde est content)…
…and silence sets over the long table(et la silence arrive à la table)…
…while we taste and share, discuss and delight(lorsqu’on goute et partage, discute et se régale)…
…far from done, we get to our cheeses(loin d’être terminé, on attack les fromages)...
…and clafoutis…of apricots and cherries, and peaches(et ensuite, un clafoutis de pêche.. et d’abricot.. et de cerise)…
…and after our coffee and chocolates, the Loire reclaims its silence once again, the only proof of an afternoon of laughter and good food and happy relionships are some summer blooms picked from a garden in the street by the Loire…
…Et quand on a terminé nos cafés et chocolats et la Loire règne à nouveau en silence, il ne reste comme preuve d’un après-midi de bons repas, de bonnes relations, et de joie, que quelques fleurs d’un jardin de notre rue.
I always keep in mind something a great chef once told me: “Asparagus are at their best until June 22″. This is my perfect excuse to luxuriate in asparagus morning noon and night. By June 22 I then cross the finish line and can’t look an asparagus straight on. But for now, I am still running the course!
- Instead of making a vinaigrette…simple drizzle the asparagus with some oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt an pepper just before serving.
- Add a little bundel of sprouted seeds for some crunch and good health.
- Use some green beans instead of aspaaragus.
- The same can be done with purple or white asparagus, but be sure to cook them long enough to avoid struggling with stringy asparagus.
- Green asparagus don’t need to be peeled, only break them at the ends(they will break easily at the most vulnerable point) and rinse.
- Boil them in only enough water to cover the end parts and halfway up the asparagus. The top leafy parts must cook in the steam of the water, or else you will eb stick with mushy asparagus or without any tops.
- Don’t overcook asparagus, they need to by JUST tender and still have some bite.
- Serve them immediately if served on their own. If served in a salad, they can stand a while.
- this recipe could be finished off with a perfectly poached egg on top of the asparagus, my ultimate favorite way of enjoying asparagus!
- Use nigella seeds or mustard seeds or poppy seeds instead of the black lava crystals(from Hawaii) and sprinkle only a little fleur de sel.
I fly violently out of bed, hit my hand hard agains the bedside table, instantly feeling the pain in tears. Simultaneoulsy the two cats screech off the bed, run into each other and dive for cover. A shrill squawk just outside the window, like that of a disorientated rooster, have us all in shock. In a haze of pain and confusion, I make it down the stairs, all the while fearing my chickens are hurt; my two eight weeks old poulettes, who conversate in dainty chirping twitters, much like young débutantes giggling on their first public appearance. Very girly. Very excited.
Ah non! There it goes again! The false shriek. We soar down the last two stairs, anxious to see what affaire is stirring outside.
There they are. Petronella and Stephanie. Happily sitting on my chair in the shade of the big umbrella. Ecstatic to see me, they storm closer in a flurry of chirps and feathers, look eagerly into my eyes and wait for our usual intelligent conversations.
But first I pour a strong morning coffee, just to suddenly hear a blasting shriek again, right behind me. The cats dart off to safety leaving me standing there alone and barefoot in my pyjamas, hand bruised and aching, staring dumbfounded at my two grinning poulettes…could it be that I have a gay chicken….or have I been duped?
…à la prochaine!…
A refreshing salad..full of crunch and texture…a delight on the taste buds with the soft sweetness of the pears and the tart exploding sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. Fitting for a special parcel…
- Red cabbage ribbons can be added for more colour.
- Add the pomegranate seeds last if you want you salad to be “unstained”.
- A yoghurt dressing with lemon and honey is great too.
- If you want a more “sustainable ” salad, add some coarsely grated hard cheese of your choice.
- Good with fish.
- Can be served on its own as a starter or accompaniment as a side.
- A good salad for losing weight and/or detox.
Some days are sometimes unexpectedly special. Like a Tuesday when the post lady knocks on your door and with a broad smile hands you a parcel: “Voilá! Toujours Noël!” (still christmas for you!)
A lovely surprise from the extraordinary Monique at A la table de Nana. After opening up the very well wrapped outer box and fixing my eyes upon the beautiful first layer, I found myself working softer and more delicate with each unwrapping; lingering, feathering and stroking my fingers deliberately over each wrapping, wonder what hides underneath, trying to prolong the seconds to minutes, enjoying the feeling of excitement and yielding to the pleasure of feeling special.
…opening up onto creative bookmarks and cards...
…then a next surprise…
…even more delicate and beautifully wrapped…
…so many unfolding surprises in such a small box…
…a notebook, beautiful chcolate transfers, even more beautiful cookie transfers…
Few things in life give us that warmth around the heart than caring, attention, a spontaneous compliment…a little act of some kind making you feel special. This little parcel did exactly that. It had something of everything…
…a little bit of romance, a touch of personal creativity, a hint of refinement, a sprinkling of originality, a taste of beauty…finished off with drizzlings of warmth and presented with care and delicate attention…
Have you sent a small parcel to someone? Wrapped with care and attention to small détail, adding a little note here and a chocolate there, a smile, a giggle, a wish…not a Christmas gift. Not a birthday gift. Just something to say someone else is special. No? So…let’s just do it!
Trucs et astuces de nos grands-mères:
These cornes de boeuf peppers from Spain lend themselves ideally to stuffing and they are fascinating with their long and twisted shapes.
…cornettes de boeuf…
- Any filling can be used…mushrooms, onions, peppers, courgettes, cheese, berries, broccoli florets, tomatoes, dried fruits, breadcrumbs, left over chicken, ground beef, quinoa, rice, lentils…
- Ordinary sweet peppers or courgettes can be used instead of the peppers. Or more piquant peppers.
- Can be served as a starter or a vegetable accompaniment, or even a whole meal served on a green salad with a mustard vinaigerette.
- When stuffed tightly with a crumbs filling, it can be sliced and served as an aperitif on canapés, with a moelleux wine, (a sweet, fruity white wine).
In Octobre I had an art friend visiting France and she stopped through here in Touraine, where we met for the first time after being blogging friends for a long time. See both her sites, Making a mark(in which she covers much more information than just art – her latest post is about Technorati and blogosphere…have a look) Travels with a sketchbook is all about her sketching and travelling.
Katherine and her sister and niece had dinner with us at home on their last night here and they brought me a beautiful book – Boire et manger that I wish to share with everybody. It is such an inspiration, seeing how food and art have walked hand in hand through all ages, depicting the habits and cultures and changes of the times and the different symbolisms of different foods, some of which we still hang onto today; cherries being a symbol of love and volptuousness, bread being the symbol of the body of christ, the apple seen as the origin of sin. I wish I could share the whole book with you, but here are a few excerpts. I hope they delight you as much as they did me and inspire you to be creative with food, not that I mean to paint it, but to “paint with it”! And above all, to respect it!
You can see more examples on Africantapestry at Food sketches and a book on dining a painting.
…jeunes garcons mangeant des fruits: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo(1645-46)
Le melon-meaning: Sweetness, earrthly pleasure, friendship.
- Maybe look between the two boys could be interpreted as a silent dialogue between them to decide which fruit they prefer; the grapes or the melon, both having existentially different symbols.
- In the mythical sense the melon symbolically represents the earthly sweetness and pleasures of the flesh.
- the melon is always not only the cosen sweet ness of both adults and children, but a symbol of friendship, because the quality of the kin of the melon can determine the quality on its flesh.
- Grapes, givng birth to wine, could be reference to the spiritual path and the need to follow it.
…la table d’office: Siméon chardin(1756)…
Olive and oil – meaning: Grace of the Holy Ghost, conscience, clemency and charity.
- The European porcelain soupterine accentuates the refinement of the table.
- Two coilcans are presnt- one for oil and one for vingar, the usage of both these condiments togheter would be reaffirmed during the ages.
- The rustic terrine had a specific culinary function, which was the making of paté and was typically French cuisine.
- This still life present a contrast between elegance and rustic in the display of the kitchen tools and refined tableware. Chardin was fascinated by the culinary arts and gastronomy and used both at the same time to create his art.
- The silver warmer with silver seen as a noble metal, was part of the refined table and added to the elgance of the piece.
…nature morte avec des fruits et un homard: Jan Davidsz de Heem(1648-49)
- The fruit represent the earthly pleasures and in deeper context they represent the joy of the spirit/mood.
- The ornate decoration on this pure precious metal container represents its excellence and gives it a symol of saintly spirituality.
- The lobster is a symbol of resurrection.
- The peeled lemon represents life; which gradually “peels” off the outer earthly layers to finally arrive at the soul.
…le mangeur de haricots:Annibale Carrache(1583-84)…
Dried beans- meaning: humility, poverty, continence
- the borken windeow represent the negligence of this humble environnement.
- The man eating the beans was a subject reintroduced to painting at beginning of the XVI century. Up until then this theme was only kept to the indignant.
- The dried bean was condidered the most humle of the starch food and and represents the everyday food of the common peasant.
…l’enfant gaté: Jean Batiste Greuse(1865)
Cutlery- menaing: Elegance, finesse, treason, word of God.
- The presence of the cauldron emphasizes the popular character of the represented scene.
- The little boy holds a silve spoon, which contrasts with the humble and diorganized environnement. During this era, a silver spoon was given to children, because silver was believed to have antibiotic properties.
Topinambours counts under “the old vegetables/foods” which have been making a come back the last few years. Previously I made a Velouté de topinambour which is great. This time it is is cut into chunks, sprinkled with powdered espelette pepper and baked in the oven on a bed of fresh thyme.
- Sauté some apple chunks in butter, add a bit of cassonade(brown sugar) and fry until nicely caramelized. Mix gently with the baked topinambours and serve warm.
- The piment d’espelette can be replaced by any other chili of your choice, either dry and in powder form, or finly chopped.
- Cook the topinambours in water on the stovetop until almost tender and then add to an oven pan with the seasonings to caramelize. It shortens the baking time.
- Serve the topinambours on a bed of salad greens or as an accompaniment to any meat.
- By adding créme frâiche after baked in the oven, you can serve it with a pasta or add it to a saffron risotto.
- Be sure to have it nicely tender or else it has a “burning” taste, much like raw potato.
- It is a healthy alternative to potatoes, seeing that it has a lower glycemic index than potatoes.
Piment d’espelette is a variety of pepper, with a light “bite” that is produced in the Basque region of France. Because of its fragrant flavour and taste, it is frequently used instead of pepper. We also find a beautiful fleur de sel d’espelette, which is powdered espelette mixed with a good quality fleur de sel, which is what I used on my baked topinambours)
For Liandri’s birthday in beginning of Octobre, we had dinner le chateau de Beaulieu here in Tours. A nice quaint hotel with a menu gastronomique; we could choose between foie gras, turbot, pigeon, filet de boeuf, magret de canard, carré d’agneau… A small dinng room, a local wine list as well as some distant cousins, nice dessert, coffee and olde worlde ambiance. A charming place to stay and dine when you visit our area.
…chateau de beaulieu…
…Olde world memories for olde world foods…
I have many weaknesses and they all depend on time of year or time of week or kind of mood. I’m not talking character weaknesses, of which I have so many, I could create a whole new population! I’m talking about those weaknesses that make you jittery in the knees. Like a handsome guy passing you on the street( ladies..!), or a stunning woman smiling at you(for the men..!!), or that pair of shoes in the window whispering: “buy mee, buy mee…” all the while next to you, you see the man in your life droolingly staring at that iphone in the window next door.
…classic and romantic…
Weaknesses. As I said,I have many. But not in the line of clothes or make-up, or even kitchen gadgets. Maybe perfume? But my knees do go jello when I see old linen. Silver. Glasses. Old etchings. OLd books! Old postcards. Old tableware. Old kitchen towls. Tablecloths. I’d better stop. At the moment I am the napkin phase. I love eating with a fabric napkin. Old, new, classic, contemporary, embroidered, monogrammed, linen, cotton, colourful, white..
…old and wintery…
In summer we are loud and modern bright, fun and frivolous with our summer tables. In winter I turn to old and classic, warm, heavier storytelling table ware. And the napkins of course, have to play along…whites and soft greys, dark aubergines and burgundies. Here at the dawn to autumn, I have grown a bit bored with all the summer napkins we used, so I got seduced this morning into indulging in a few new autumn-spirited napkins, which I couldn’t wait to use with dinner!
And no, I don’t spend a lot of money on a napkin. I have a rule as to what I’ll pay for a napkin and I never cross that line. To buy expensive everyday napkins , would be obscene. And thus far I could find pretty, elegant, stylish, fun, wintery…every kind of napkin I desire, within my set budget boundaries. Of course there are beautiful ones far above my rule script, but I would have to leave the price tag on so people would see it and then be too intimidated to wipe their mouths and so the napkins would remain forever unused. If you have the time and a sewing machine, it becomes even cheaper and your choice of fabric is endless. But another rule when making your own(of course to be broken if you so wish, that is why there are rules..?) is to keep the napkin simple, easy washable and of a natural fabric like cotton. Leave the trimmings like buttons and boughs for your cushions. Napkins should be simple. Unadorned.
No, I don’t do any napkin folding. No swans, or donkeys, or rabbits or candles swooning next to my plate. No flowery creations suiciding over wine glass rims. Just simply folded(with the monogram or the embroidery on top, if any), or rolled and stuck into a napkin ring.
And NO STAINS!! Therefore you have the trusted old soap- and- soak trick, letting it dry in the sun. Treat your stains as soon as possible and DON’T EVER iron on a stain.
So. You’re thinking: “Fabric napkins! Urgghh! Work!!” Maybe. Or not? Isn’t it the washing machine who washes it? Or even the washing services? OK, yeah yeah yeah, it still needs to be ironed, but isn’t all the trouble a small sacrifice compared to the delight of having a lovely napkin beside your plate?
So. How about an inspiring napkin drawer? Napkins neatly folded. Some maybe rolled and tied into a bundle with an oh, so pretty ribbon. And on the side in the drawer, interesting napking rings in a small basket, bowl, old tin, or pretty covered little box(that your creative self decorated at almost no cost!)Any fragrant herbs for repellant as well as perfuming? You wouldn’t want a guest, or yourself, bringing a musty, dusty smelling napkin to his/her mouth, that area right under the nose?
After spending time and energy and thought into preparing a meal, you owe it to yourself and to the food to present it at the best table you can create. It is called respect. For yourself, and your hard work, your guests and for the food you prepared.
…an inspiring napkin drawer makes for inspiring tablesetting. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It only has to be inventive and creative….
…now let’s eat!…
- This is eaten like a risotto…only with quinoa, but use arborio rice and you can have a green vegetable risotto.
- Subsitute half of the boiling water with dry white wine.
- Any green vegetables can be used, or other for that matter.
- If on a diet, don’t mix the réme frâiche with the vetables, but serve it on the side, as I did in the photo, but still do toss the vegetables with some olive oil, a squirt of lemon juice and seasoning.
- Top off with some tasted almonds or some sunflowerseeds for crunch.
- Play around, and don’t skimp on the vegetables!
…shelled beans & peas…
A while ago Nina posted some delicous rolls and I’ve been threatening to make them ever since… I adapted her recipe a bit acoording to the ingredients we have available here in the country side in Corréze. I also wanted to give them a little bit of Greek touch. They are delicious – whichever way they come! Quick, easy, colourful and fingerlicking good. Thanks Nina!
I added some feta cheese to these rolls and made the sauce with greek joghurt, having someone special in mind when I made them this afternoon.
For Adela and John, two friends currently in Skiathos, Greece for 3 months. Adela is a regular reader here and I think this might be something she would enjoy. They love good food! So. May this be goo..ood..!
Thanks to Adela and all the other faithful readers who visit regularly and enjoy Myfrenchkitchen…I appreciate your support!
…sucrine, basil, string beans, feta, nectarine – voilà!…
A very old salad. Now with maybe a face lift in the shape of a tomato vinaigrette. This was a favourite little salad in our home right after my marriage. And at that stage and age it was delicious with a liberal drizzling of tomato sauce, better known as ketchup, bought straight from the supermarket shelf, instead of a fancy vinaigrette. I don’t like tomato in a green salad, the two don’t marry well for me. But this is an exception. Maybe because it isn’t really a green salad. Or maybe it is the way it is served. Or maybe I’m only fooled by the play on words. That is what we do nowadays. A salad in the seventies would mean chopped tomatoes and green leaves with onion rings and a dressing of vinegar and sugar. Now we are still not french and call our dressings vinaigrettes. Now we eat an “avocado salad with bacon topping”, Or “tomato salad with a drizzling of lemon juice”. A “green salad with roasted almonds”, “mesclun with truffle shavings”. So, do we still eat ketchup on our avocado salad…of course we do…in the secrecy of our kitchen!
A tip to try: Never put tomatoes in the fridge, even in summer. Keep them in a cool place. The cold kills all flavour. To revive some of its flavour, leave for a few minutes in water…like salad, like carrots, like all vegetables in fact.
…old things become new…
A burst of flavour in simplicity. Texture and colour. Easy, swift to make, a lingering sweetness on the palate…like life should be.
…cutting an orange into segments…
I feel very nostalgic lately. Thinking of people I knew long ago, missing friends and family. I long for smells of my past…Christmas time in my mother’s kitchen, the early mornings on the farm of our friends, the African animals, the African bush, pancakes with cinnamon sugar wrapped in greased paper at church fairs, tomato and onion salad with a sugar vinegar sauce.
The salads I grew up with, were simple and straightforward. A salad was a cold dish, eaten with warm meats. Today we have small salads, large salads, cold salads, warm salads, even soupy ones. Fancy or simple, with sauces or with “vinaigrettes” and “croutons” and toppings. They are served in salad bowls and on spoons, towered on plates or layered in glasses. they are served at the beginning of a meal or at the end with cheese… or without cheese. I think my mom would’ve appreciated this little salad. She was an adventurous woman.
Now is the time to enjoy sweet potatoes…soups, purees, oven roasted, boiled in the skin and served with honey or as part of a salad or appetizer as shown here. It can also be served on the side. It is quick and easy, with no fuss and it looks colourful and inviting.
I had the opportunity to do some hot air ballooning recently. A wonderful experience and one I’ll definitely want to repeat, especially in the Alps. We took off from the chateau de Fontainebleau and landed an hour later somewhere southwest from there, where we were treated to champagne by candlelight. In the spirit of ending our flight with une coupe, I made a cake au fromage de chévre, avec olives et tomates. For when the knees get jittery after une coupe on an empty stomach!
…cake au fromage de chèvre avec tomates et olives…
If you’re interested in seeing two sketches of this flight, you can go to Aricantapestry.
…stretching out the toile…
…let in some air…
…80 days to go…
…into the sunset…
In summer, we daily see a small promise of smoke appearing over a rooftop in the area, evidence of a barbecue taking off, with whiffs of onion and chicken, beef and brochettes teasing our senses. As if receiving a signal, we all run to our barbecues and soon the smoke is trailing all over the rooftops.
In the cold of winter, there is a different trail of smoke coming from snug fireplaces. Except over our rooftop. We are practically enveloped in smoke clouds…from our chimneys as well as our barbecue. We are alone outside, dressed in snow gear, cold, but firm in tantalizing with our canard a l’orange in the “fired oven”, côte de boeuf over coals with a mustard butter, chicken tagine, lamb curry, and yes, even vegetables en cocotte. We snuggle up to the flames, drink red wine to warm our bodies and we delight in the warmth of the moment.
I dedicate this post to Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Continue reading under the photos.
Ostrich is an extremely healthy meat, loaded in protein and vitamins, low in fat. It is tender and tasty on its own and delicious served with sauces like a mustard sauce or even a sweeter orange sauce. Served with bright green and yellow coloured vegetables like broccoli and carrots, you’ll have a visually appetizing as well as healthy meal.
Ostrich strips with mint carrot salad.
- 4 pieces of ostrich, cut from the steak, about 3 cm thick.
- whole peppercorns
- caraway seeds
- fleur de sel or kosher salt
- 3 carrots
- chopped fresh mint
- chopped fresh Italian leaf parsley
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- olive oil and/or coconut oil
- toasted walnuts
- créme frâiche
- grated cheddar cheese
- Peel the carrots and then peel into thin ribbons with the peeler.
- Finely chop the mint and parsley, add to the carrots along with the walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix together lightly.
- Steam the broccoli, dry and turn out into a 4 ramekins. Top each with a teaspoon of créme frâiche, sprinkle with cheese and brown under the grill until the cheese has melted. Season with salt and pepper.
- Crush the peppercorns and caraway seeds together in a mortar and pestle. Rub some oilve oil onto all sides of the ostrich fillets, cat entirely with the crushed pepper mixture and leave in the fridge for an hour.
- Heat some coconut oil or olive oil in a pan, and fry the pieces of ostrich about 4 minutes on each side for a medium rare fillet. Slice each piece into strips, season with fleur de sel/kosher salt and serve immediately with the broccoli gratin and the carrot salad on the side.
- Variations on the carrot salad: Instead of ribbons, cut into julienne, grate or cut into thin spaghetti. Substitute walnuts for dry roasted pine nuts. Add a teaspoon of honey to the lemon, olive oil dressing.
Serves 4 people
…just had my monthly facial and pedicure…
O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of Gina DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchenand Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy, Jenn of The Leftover Queen, and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are asking you to donate to the:
Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67. The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2008 and about 15,520 women will die from the disease.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
In spite of this patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
It may seem that all we eat in this house, is salad. Well, in spring and summer, that is pretty much the case! The vegetables and fruit are so beautiful and abundant that we can’t do it any differently. And because of the freshness it would be a shame to dress them up. We leave “creative cooking” for the colder months and eat fresh and simple in spring and summer.
Here is another salad, straightforward and unadorned.
Fava and peitit pois salad.
Decide whether you’d like to serve this on the side or as a starter or even as a light meal and measure your quantities according to that.
Fresh fava beans, blanched in boiling water and shelled. OR use frozen fava beans, treated the same way. I find the frozen beans in excellent condition and much easier when pressed for time. The same goes for the peas. Go fresh and hull them if you have lazy weekend days on hand, otherwise go frozen. I’m not such a purist that I would bend backwards just for the sake of announcing: “I’ve hulled my own, garden picked peas!” Some frozen products are really great substitutes and I have no qualm in using them…petit pois, fava and spinach, comes to mind.
Fresh/frozen fava beans blanched and shelled.
Fresh/frozen petit pois, blanched
A spring onion, finely chopped
A handful of dry roasted sunflower seeds
a spoonful or two of caraway seeds (or cumin seeds)
A vinaigrette made of olive oil, feshly squeezed lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar(optional), salt and pepper
- Mix all the ingredients toghether gently and serve at room temperature, decorated with some herbs of your choice.
- Serve as a starter with a cold dry white wine of your choice or a cold rose, seeing that we’re in spring/summer. Maybe something like your trusted Sauvignon Blanc, from our region here in the France Loire valley or why not a crisp Tariquet Ugni Blanc/Colombard from the south west of France.
…five, six, seven, eight….
Few people like beetroot. I was one of them, until I started playing around with beetroot….roasting them, making a creamy soup, combining them with different flavours, of which mint and apple and pear are my favourite.
I made them into a terrine here, combined with mint and red onion and served with a minty lemon zest yogurt…which my judging panel all seemed to enjoy. I hope you do too.
- 4 large beetroots, cooked and skin peeled off
- 1 small red onion
- a handful of mint leaves
- 5 gelatin leaves
- 45 ml white wine vinegar
- 45 ml white balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 45 ml water
- salt and pepper
- Yogurt sauce: a cup of natural yogurt
- chopped mint leaves
- lemon juice
- zest of a lemon
Line a terrine pot with baking paper.
Chop the onion and mint leaves finely.
Cut the beetroot into small cubes or thin rounds. Layer some beetroot at the bottom of the terrine. Follow with a layer of chopped onion and then a generous layer of chopped mint. Repeat and finish with a layer of beetroot.
Mix the vinegars, the water, teaspoon of honey and salt and pepper in a small bowl and heat together, until the honey is dissolved.
Soften the gelatin leaves in a bowl with cold water, completely covered. Once soft, squeeze the excess water from the leaves and add to the warm vinegar/water sauce. Stir until completely dissolved. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the warm, runny gelatin over the terrine until covered. Press slightly down, cover and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight or longer for a better flavour.
Mix all the ingredients for the yogurt sauce and leave to infuse.
Serve a fairly thick slice of terrine with some drizzled sauce, alongside a green salad for an interesting starter and decorate with some mint leaves and fresh pepper.
Serves 6 people
The first of December is officially the day we “start” the festive season here in our home. Our tree gets decorated today, we switch on our fairy lights, hang a garland and listen to the first Christmas music. Then we end the day with a nice dinner by candle light.
To kickstart December 2007, a little ambiance…
A full moon in Andorra…
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved and set him free”, said Michelangelo…
A portion of dessert…
Lanterns in the snow…
A White Christmas…
After all the decorating and cleaning up afterwards on this first day of the season, an easy meal is the only option. This vegetable dish is quick, there are no measurements and the hardest work is just peeling some onions and poaching an egg or two, which can be left out of course! Open a bottle of wine, finish off with a scoop of ice cream and a sauce of your choice – I love a berry coulis, but when push comes to shove, I can enjoy a vanilla ice cream just on its own. Sit back with an espresso and enjoy the lights and music and spirit of Noël.
May your December be filled with gratitude and joy.
- vegetables of your choice, cleaned or peeled and cut into chunks - in the photo: sweet potatoes, red onions, brussels sprouts, parsnips and mushrooms.
- a pickled lemon, diced
- 2 branches of fresh rosemary
- 2 bayleaves
- a few slices of a creamy camambert cheese
- a poached egg for each person
- créme fraîche (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
- Place the chunks of vegetables in an oven pan and drizzle libereally with oil. Season.
- Tuck the bayleaves and rosemary inbetween the vegetables.
- Bake the vegetables until tender.
- Remove from the oven and serve a portion into an ovenproof bowl.
- Add a dollop of créme fraîche (optional)
- Cover with a slice or two of Camambert cheese and put under the grill until the cheese has melted and the vegetables have a nice caramelized appearance.
- Slide a poached egg onto the cheese and drizzle some olive oil and finish off with some ground fresh pepper.
- Serve warm with brown rice, quinoa or a whole wheat bread.