spring

Anchoïade ( anchovy cream)..and hopes of spring.

*It seems my previous post of January  has been re-emailed to my subscribers last night..It is a mystery….I promise it is not of my doing and I have no idea how it could have happened. I have never emailed a post twice, but  I apologize and I trust all my regular readers know me by now and would have realized that it was a glitch.

An anchoïade(anchovy cream) is a big favorite of mine…that and aïoli (garlic cream). In summer it is frequently on our tables, served as an apéro with a cold glass of rosé wine.

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Anchoïade (anchovy cream)

  1. Everything is made to taste…
  2. Use 100g of anchovy fillets in olive oil, or marinated in wine.
  3. Place it in a mortar and pestle, or in a mixer/handmixer.
  4. Add about 10 capers, 1 large garlic clove with the inner core removed, 1/2 TBSP white wine vinegar, 1 tsp Provencal herbs and milled pepper.
  5. Mix together while slowly adding olive oil until it turns to a nice, firm paste.
  6. Taste and add a little more white wine or capers or herbs.
  7. Serve with crusty bread or vegetables as starter or an amuse bouche.

Suggestions:

  • Add a small tsp of sundried tomato paste to the anchoïade.
  • Add a few black seeded olives when grinding or mixing the anchoïade.
  • Add the olive slowly, like you would do for mayonnaise to prevent the oil from seeping out later and the paste becoming runny and oily.
  • Keeps in the fridge for 5 days.
  • Make it the previous day to allow the flavours to develop.
  • Using fresh anchovies can be done, but I find it a hassle to remove all the very fine bones.

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I have been occupied by other things this first part of the year, one of which was moving home and finding place for everything that needs storage until our house is finished here at Coin Perdu. Every nook in the barn is filled with something which needed to be “stored”. I have never been so challenged in finding a spot for everything. I can proudly announce that I have indeed found a resting place for everything, from a chair to a pillow case. Just in case you are wondering if we can still move about, I give you a shot of our kitchen corner in the barn where we were busy preparing a dinner for 10 people a while ago. So yes, we even still have room for a table and 10 guests in the barn.

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In the meantime, spring has crept up on us. the days are longer, the sun is bright and warm, nature is exploding in colour and I am glowing with contentment. winter is behind me. even if we still have colder days, I revel in the fact that I am in spring and summer for the wonderful months to come!

 ..my borage never stopped flowering this winter, a sign of our unusual, mild winter…

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..Working in March with many teabreaks in the sun..

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..and a tea break always leads to a nap..

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..the first paperwhites, perfect in beauty..

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..the cyanothes, waiting to explode in blue flowers..

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..happy chickens as company…

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..Jack Frost with its clouds of blue forget me not- flowers..

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..Viburnum..

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..Iberis..

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..Plum blossoms..

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..Lilas..

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à la prochaine fois

Ronelle

 


Nettle velouté with petit pois pesto.

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

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Recette:

Soup:

  1. 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.
  2. Rinse the leaves in cold water to get rid of sand and grit. Don’t forget using the gloves, or switch to tongs.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. Simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and mix with a hand mixer to a creamy soup.
  7. 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.
  8. Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  9. Leave aside until needed.

Petit pois pesto:

  1. Boil 1 large cup of freshly shelled petit pois for 2-3 minutes and rinsed under cold water. Leave to dry.
  2. Mix together in a mortar and pestle with 5 sprigs chives,  2-3 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP pine nuts.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.
  4. 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.

Bon appétit!

Pick nettles with a pair of leather or other thick gloves!

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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!

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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.

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Last, but not least..the pea shells are off to the compost heap!

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*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!

Laundry day at Coin Perdu!

* 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!

Ronelle


Basil stuffed strawberries..and bubbles at la fête de la fraise.

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

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Recette:

  1. Rinse and dry a handful of large strawberries.
  2. 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.
  3. Use a small melon scoop and hollow out the inside to form a little cup.
  4. Cut the remove strawberry flesh into small pieces.
  5. 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.
  6. Sprinkle some chopped pistachio nuts over the tops and replace the strawberry lids.
  7. 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)
  8. 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.

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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

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..This was my attraction all day long..

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..Strawberries, smoothies, meringues, crèpes..it was all there..

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..just a few names under so many varieties..

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..and the traditional giant tarte aux fraises, a combined effort by the patissiers of Beaulieu..

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..I was as as fascinated by the bubbles as the kiddies were..

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..How I wish we could hang on to that uninhibited spontaneity..

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..just like the strawberries, bubbles of all sizes and shapes..

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..and this is where the bubbles originated from..a complicated vintage machine..

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..As usual, mon chéri had to discuss  the engineering principles behind the bubbles with Monsieur bubble machine..

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..And..forgive me..more bubbles!..

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..such a pity I have no more daughters; musicians and bands galore throughout the day…

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..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!!”

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**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,

Ronelle


Friday Ambiance

Je vous souhaite un trés bon weekend..

Have a great weekend with, or without friends, but definitely  with good food and a good book and some exercise, like gardening!

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Next week’s post is all about the washing day. A chore we either hate..or love. If you want to be inspired to do laundry, then remember to stop by. If you want to affirm your dislike for washing..then stop by too! If you want to know what I think about washing..then be sure to stop by!

I will also be making a spring petit pois and stinging nettle soup, picked right here in our meadows at Coin Perdu (with gloves of course!) Will it be good I wonder?

..a laundry day..

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à la semaine prochaine!

Ronelle


Walnut tart …and a marché aux plantes(plant market) at Curemonte.

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I decided to make a walnut tart, even though it is actually an autumn dish which we make when our walnuts are harvested after summer. But here, we eat it throughout the year, because we love it. Tout simple. That’s it.

Coming home from the marché aux plantes in Curemonte last week, with my confiture de noix and my chutneys and oils and vinegars and dandelion syrup under my arm, I thought it would be appropriate to make a walnut tart to accompany this reportage on the plant day at Curemonte. I’ve never made a walnut tart myself and it is only recently that I started eating it. I never thought it could be something special, until that one day that I took a slice at a friend’s house. It was delicious and it still is. It tastes like autumn. It is a rather heavy tart (which makes sense for fall and winter comfort), so I make it in a small tart tin, to have small slices…a good idea in any case for all tarts and cakes and goodies!

Our walnut trees are always late off the mark. They start off late in spring with these nice “flowers”, which are then rapidly followed by the leaves. With 4 huge trees, we always have a large supply of walnuts, perfect for Noël.

..tarte aux noix (walnut tart)..

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La recette:

*Pastry base: Recipe here.   Bake the pastry shell blind( without filling, but filled with dry baking beans to weigh down the pastry). Bake at 200 ° C for about 10 minutes. Remove the beans.

*Walnut filling:

  1. Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
  2. Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
  4. Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with skewer and the tart is done when the skewer is removed clean when piercing the tart.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
  6. Leave to cool, decorate with dusted icing sugar and some whole walnuts and serve with some créme fraîche or whipped cream.

Serves 6 people

Une pincée de sel:

  • The brown sugar and coffee gives a nice dark colour to the filling; but the coffee can be omitted if desired.
  • For a winter tart, try adding some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or cacao instead of coffee.
  • Pecan nuts can be used instead.
  • Keep the portions small as it is a rich and heavy tart.
  • Make extra pasty for the base and keep in the freezer for another tart.

…defrosting the pastry for the base..

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...spring walnut branches..

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Marché aux plantes à Curemonte

Curemonte is a quaint little village, 10 minutes drive from us. This past week saw the annual marché aux plantes (plant market) at Curemonte, an occasion I look forward to every year. Not only do they have plants, but also food, artwork  and some bric a brac..a vide grenier. Everything sold and presented, is local. The bread is made locally, the beer is from the local brasserie, the plants and vegetables are local, the bees and honey, the walnut delicacies and walnut tarts are made locally , the wine is local and the vide grenier and brocante are from les Curemontais themselves.

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I love the country side, whether it is a French one or an American one or and English one. I prefer the ambiance and laid back ambiance of les campagnards, country folk..of which I am one of course. Strolling the small streets, peeking around each corner, stroking the dilapidated doors and windows, enjoying the laisser faire gardens( gardens just seem to happen by themselves, relaxed..). the world just comes to a standstill in the countryside where chatting to your neighbour is still a pleasure, almost an obligation and something that can even happen on the road, simply expecting traffic behind to wait..everybody waits. Beauty is all around you, simple, nothing is ostentatious. Glamor has no place in the countryside. Nature isn’t glamorous. It is simple. Honest. sometimes hard and challenging. Always beautiful. I thus hope I pass a bit of the beauty of Curemonte and its marché aux plantes on to you by these images.

curemonte collage 4 5120x4096..and plenty of food for hungry visitors; 8 euros for a plateau repas, which consisted of a glass of rosé wine, rillettes with bread for a starter, steak frites and cheese to finish..so simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..

curemonte collage 2 5120x3544…a plate or a table, a bowl or a tea towel..just browse..

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..I found my bonheur(happiness)..

bol 1 4419x3076..and a lot of strolling

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..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..

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..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)

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I hope you enjoyed this day with me in the French country side! I of course loved every minute of it and I relived it all by sharing it here with you.

until very soon( à trés bientôt!)

Ronelle

Ron


Biscuit de Savoie (cake)..and a handful of spring lilacs.

..biscuit de Savoie..

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My hens, tiny as they are, provide us with a plenitude of eggs. As if that is not enough, the two geese, Sidonie et Aglaé, add their daily quota as well. I donate eggs left and right and we still end up with a surplus! I don’t complain..an old Paysanne told me that laying hens are happy hens. So how can I deprive a happy poule from laying a happy egg?

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The goose eggs are perfect for baking. They are far too rich for eating on their own, too rich  even for an omelette or mixed with chicken eggs. Seeing that I have these basket fulls of goose eggs, I found this delicious Biscuit de Savoie that asks for 14 eggs. Yes, you read right – FOURTEEN eggs. It may seem expensive to you, but the cake is worth it. To me of course, it is a bargain, because I only dig into my basket for 7 goose eggs and I have a perfect cake. Mon chéri, who is not a cake lover, now asks for the 14- eggs-cake, as he calls it. I hope you try it…you will like it!

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La recette:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 °C.
  2. Separate the yolks and whites of 14 eggs into 2 bowls.
  3. Add 500g castor sugar and the seeds of 1 scraped vanilla pod to the egg yolks. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk/beat until stiff peak stage.
  5. Sift together 185 g Flour and 185 G Maizena(cornflour/cornstarch).
  6. Add 1/3 of the stiff egg whites to the creamed yolk and sugar mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites into the mixture, alternating with the sifted dry ingredients. Don’t over mix! Always stir/fold in by going in the same direction.
  7. Pour the batter into 2 buttered and flour dusted  cake tins of 26cm in diam. each. Fill the cake tins only 2/3 with batter, as the cake rises high while baking.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer is removed clean when piercing the cake.
  9. Leave to cool and dust with sifted icing sugar or top with a vanilla  butter icing.
  10. Serves about 8 people or more.

Une pincée de sel:

  • Remember that 2 large chicken eggs = 1 goose egg.
  • The lightness of the cake is due to the 14 beaten egg whites.
  • Fill the cake tins only 2/3 with the cake mixture..the cake rises high in the oven.
  • The cake is baked when a knife blade is retracted clean when piercing the cake.
  • From this recipe I get 2 cakes (26cm diam. and 24 diam.). Half the recipe to get only 1 cake of about 26 diam.
  • Use eggs at room temperature.
  • Flavour with almond essence instead of vanilla.
  • Dust only with sifted icing sugar, or top with a butter icing, or drizzle with a runny milk icing.
  • Replace the vanilla pod with a packet of vanilla sugar (7.5g) or a tsp of vanilla essence.
  • Serve (without the topping of butter icing) as dessert with strawberries, whipped cream and a strawberry coulis.

I am still old school. I love my metal cake tins. I have succumbed to the silicone stuff, but now I’m handing them all out as gifts and I am reverting back to my old tins, some of which still come from my mother. Maybe it is what happens when one gets older..you revert back to the things that once gave you joy, in spite of new trends and “fashionability”. By oiling my tins with butter and giving it a dusting of flour, sticking to the pan is not a problem. But of course..freedom of choice is what makes the world go round, so by all means use whatever you fancy!

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The biscuit de Savoie was adapted from the book Pâtissier, Petit Larousse.

…a handful of spring lilacs..

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Spring is awakening very slowly this year, causing the garden to be in a slow rising too. but nonetheless, colour is everywhere. The glycine (wisteria) is absolutely gorgeous in the gardens and of course, we all have lilas..of all colours. I only have the light lilac, of which the colour fades beautifully as it ages. And they fit into all pots and vases and tittles and cups. For tables and bathrooms and shelves and corners to enjoy to the full. They don’t last too long once picked, but for the day or two they provide me with such satisfaction and my barn house smells like spring, even on a cool rainy day! It is true. The biggest happiness comes in small doses.

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*Our little poulain (faul) is a week old today and getting just more cute by the day. If you would like to see some pics of her and her equally adorable maman, make a stop at  A spring poulain! on my blog Coin Perdu, to read and see how things went last Friday night with the birth! Very exciting, it was!

*Have a great Sunday tomorrow..I will be off to a brocante, make a stop at the jardinerie for some tomato plants and  do some weeding at home…

So, as always..

à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Lemon cake… and an Easter spring is in the air.

Easter  is spring time. Or spring is Eastertime.Whichever way, that is of course for us here in the Northern Hemisphere. Down south everybody is preparing for winter with their days beautiful and lazy with fall colors entering the scene.

Because I am so busy in the garden(every minute the skies give me a chance!) I don’t get to the stove much, and when I pass the stove per chance, I am too tired to the bone to cook and bake….so….. I am re-posting this delicious little cake from a past post; Lemon cake and writing our stories. I might just make a stop with my tired bones next to the oven and put it together for us too on Sunday afternoon to enjoy with English tea! I have never come across someone who didn’t fall in love with it right after that first bite..and just look at the recipe down below.. really….this is as easy(yet delicious) as it gets!

lemon cake

Lemon cake recipe

Pincée de sel:

  • Use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of lemon juice.
  • Add some grated lemon/orange rind to the mixture.
  • Top with some icing sugar of your choice, or serve without. I prefer without, since icing sugar makes it too sweet for me.
  • Decorate with fresh edible flowers.
  • The cake is even more flavorful the next day.
  • Use for dessert: break into pieces and serve, topped with strawberries, whipped cream and a berry coulis, OR serve with warm caramelized peaches and crème frâiche.

Here at Coin Perdu, I am fervently planting and digging and dividing,  as much as my arm allows, that is. It is just wonderful to be back in the garden. The rains are still coming down very regularly, but the moment it stops, I charge outside to do a little something. A new garden is such hard work, especially in the preparation thereof, because planting in bad soil makes for even harder work the next season! It might look like nothing at the moment, BUT in a few weeks…!

..passion fruit juice for our break…

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..mon cheri preparing the potager for me..along with his very willing assistants..

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..early morning by the potager and the mist slowly lifting..while I slowly sip my coffee…oh, that first morning coffee..sooo good..mince!

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..when taking a pause the chickens are there to “pause” along – this day I had un fraisier(strawberry cake) which I shared with them(of course!) and they loved every morsel! for the rest of the time, they scuffle around my feet in the soil, just coming up for some air every now and then..!

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..still a lot to be done: the dalles(paving stones) must be laid on the terrace and partly into the lawn at the bottom, the wrought iron pergola must be constructed for the white glycine(wisteria), a stone bench under the small window. To the right I have planted kitchen herbs which I hope will grow under the walnut tree, since not many things grow under a walnut…

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..eh bah voila..there you are, mon café..!

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..my tulips are slow in the rising, but they are coming on steady..pretty soon they will be spectacular in their show off! I am so chuffed, because all my  bulbs I brought back from Amsterdam, (see post here) is pushing through, except for 3 Allium bulbs I lost to mischievous rabbits.. 

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..a lot of planting still awaits me – 60 lavenders, (lavande angustifolia, lavande intermedia, white lavenders) 20 santolinas, agapanthus, cistes,  4 olive trees, 6 Cypres de Provence,  buddleias, kniphofias, ceaonothe de Versailles,  100 Siberian irises, then a lot of Iberis, Eryngiums, ficoides…

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..In between all the pathways and staircases and dry hot corners, I stick in some thym serpolet and  succulents like the ever popular sedums, sempervivums and jovibarbas, which grow beautifully in all those sunny spots…

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* I am working on a series on tartes, tourtes, quiches et cakes, which I will combine with some table setting in white with silver, yellow with pottery, red with vintage and blue with rustic.

*So stick around..if I can just get my act togehter and organise my organising better..i will be back soon with the series on tartes, tourtes, quiches et cakes,

Joyeux Paques

et à bientôt!

Ronelle


Salmon, potato and mussel salad..and a contribution to pie-ography

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.

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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.

  1. Heat some leftover salmon(flaked) and potatoes(cut into chunks). Add some chopped spring onions and a handful of currants.
  2. Arrange a mix of fresh salad leaves and herbs on a large platter.
  3. Sprinkle with nuts and marinated mussels and sliced marinated tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
  4. 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.
  5. Top with the warm(not hot) salmon mix. Sprinkle with chopped dill.
  6. 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.

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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!

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30 things you don’t know about me:

  1. My worst characteristic is impatience.
  2. My best one is enthusiasm.
  3. I can lift my one eyebrow and drop the other at the same time.
  4. My ankles are rather thick
  5. My feet are quite cute.
  6. I used to trust people easily.
  7. I now put my trust rather in animals.
  8. I am impulsive and it gets me into trouble.
  9. I don’t fit into my wedding dress any more, but it doesn’t bother me.
  10. I  don’t fit into my bathing suit and that bothers me.
  11. I still want to do parachute jumping, but I hate flying.
  12. I don’t like sharing the licking bowl when baking.
  13. I hate washing dishes. I also hate stacking the dishwasher. I see no light.
  14. My mom used to say my bladder is situated just under my eyes. It takes very little to make me cry.
  15. I laugh easily and loudly.
  16. I have perfected the puppy eye flutter. Mon chéri is completely defenseless against it.
  17. I hate conflict of any kind.
  18. I don’t believe the truth has to be told at any cost. Sometimes the truth serves no purpose..
  19. I have a great sense of humour. It is my life line.
  20. I love to learn, but I hate to be taught.
  21. I don’t mind making a fool of myself, but I don’t like to be made a fool of by others.
  22. It only takes one glass of wine to have me make a fool of myself.
  23. I  don’t answer a telephone.
  24. I am a coffee snob.
  25. I have two experiences in my past which I can’t forgive and forget. They still influence my self image to this day.
  26. I am a nomad, I have to move on every few years.
  27. Autumn makes me  sad.
  28. When I am upset I get into bed and cover my head.
  29. I am a Leo.
  30. 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!)

Ronelle


Coley fish(lieu noir) in crispy filo pastry.

I make only easy, simple and quick food. I have done the difficult, intricate thing, but now I enjoy doing relaxed cooking. This is another very simple, very versatile recipe, which I’m sure many a home has in its possession. Only the presentation differs from the one occasion to the next and the one family to the next.

Suggestions:

  • Use any other white fish.
  • Instead of folding the pastry in rolls, fold them in triangles.
  • serve as a cold apéritif before dinner with a cold dry white wine.
  • The same recipe can be used in different ways: as a crumble with a breadcrumb, butter and oats topping and baked in the oven. OR topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven, OR with flour and butter and eggs added for some fish cakes…
  • Can be served small as a starter or larger as a light lunch with a big mixed salad.

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Some Koi images. I’m not truly a fish person, but Koi can fascinate me with their movements, their colors and their behaviour. they really have personalities, which I didn’t believe until I saw it for myself. I have done some paintings and some studies of them, but find it very difficult…it is much easier to capture the personality of a person than a fish!

…Koi…

Have a great weekend!

à bientôt

Ronelle


Joyeuses Paques from Coin Perdu!

Joyeuses Paques, happy Easter, gesëende Pase, buona Pasqua, felices Pascuas…!!!

..à bientôt..

Ronelle


Les oeufs Mimosa(deviled eggs) for an Easter brunch.

Easter weekend is around our tables.. Families are preparing for visitors, or are preparing to hit the road to family.. We’re doing neither, but we prepare for an Easter brunch le Lundi de Pacques, just the two of us, mon chéri et moi. I have sent a sweet message Upstairs asking for a sunny day, so we can enjoy our lunch outside . But if I don’t get my wish, we will still have our brunch, albeit in the barn. Just as perfect.

Instead of showing Easter chocolate and with our two little hens being so prolific in their egg producing, I decided to do some deviled eggs, or as we call them here in France, Les oeufs Mimosa, reminding of the mimosa flowers which are of the first signs of spring here and it happens all around Easter. I had to do a search about why it is called deviled eggs…

According to Wikipedia it originated in ancient Rome…go figure. Apparently “deviled” referred to the spicy nature of the food.  The deviled egg gourmet has a description of the origin of the term deviled which you can read for some more info. I prefer to call them eggs Mimosa, like we do here in France. We push the hard boiled egg yolk through a fine sieve, having it look like the Mimosa flowers of early spring, which we sprinkle over the filled egg halves, so it looks like we have sprinkled some Mimosa petals over our egg halves. It is a little bit of old French cooking  but still sort of romantic, don’t you think? I revisited the “egg halve” -presentation, serving it with a salad of green vegetable brunoise.

So, without any further ado, I present some Easter Oeufs Mimosa revisités to you!

Suggestions:

  • If you have a rectangle inox shape, it works easy to shape it in the rectangle, I don’t have rectangle ones, but I do plan on getting, they work fantastic!
  • The Mimosa eggs can also be served in “petites verrines“, small glasses. Start off with toasted croutons at the bottom, follow with egg white, then the egg yolk cream en finish by decorating with the “mimosa”( the fine grated egg yolk).
  • OR make an egg sandwich , adding some of the salad to the filling too.
  • OR serve the egg whites and egg yolk cream and salad in small bowls, with toasted bread rounds separately for an aperitif i summer outside by the pool and each one serves himself/herself a small piece of toast with a scoop of whatever he/she feels like  topping up with.

Serves 4 people for starter

..large geese eggs, ordinary chicken eggs and small eggs from my little bantam hens…

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A spring brunch and geese and chicken chronicles.

I’d like you to meet our two new feathered children…Sidonie et Aglaé. They are named after a 70′s French television show, called Sidonie et Aglaé.

They showed up last Sunday and after a week of discovering the farm, they already have their favorite spots and they continue roaming about, following me or the chickens or the cats. They love company and I , of course, love their company too!!

Sidonie et Aglaé

Since I am still in the process of constructing our little lake for the geese and the ducks and the peacocks and….and…, they have to make do with two large bowls for some swimming. Do they complain? On the contrary, looking at the photos below, they are having a ball! Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we all could be happy with so little…?

Camembert, Mimolette et Ciboulette are not disturbed by the newcomers. They do their thing tranquilement, happy as always – the amount of tiny eggs I have at the end of a week, is proof enough! I used their eggs to make some oeufs Mimosas for Easter, to be seen at Myfrenchkitchen, Les oeufs Mimosa, for an Easter brunch.

…Camembert..

…Ciboulette…

…Mimolette…

..and a very simple spring brunch last week with two good friends..

I am showing off my very simple but very wonderful day here…far too many photos of the same thing! But, it was such a glorious midday in early spring and we lingered lazily  under the still-leafless walnut and tilleul trees. I can’t stop reveling in the colors of the spring sky and the sun and the greens of the fields, the color of the air…everything…spring gives me such a kick!

Today is Vendredi  saint, which means for the roman Catholics that it is the Friday of fasting just before Pacques, of spiritual day of rest, peace, restrain from eating and alcohol and just quiet reflection. Many places were closed today, depending on the prefecture of the region. the death of Christ on the cross is celebrated and even Christians are invited to join in this “chemin du croix“. Because we have many friends in the Catholic religion, we too will respect this tradition and we will spend a quiet evening, with salmon, some salad and water and reflection.

 I wish you a wonderful Easter weekend !

à bientôt

Ronelle


Tropical fruit salad… and Hawai’i chronicles 1 – the hula.

When I was in Hawa’i I searched everywhere for a nice tropical dessert with local fruits, but all in vain. Probably because of a lack of fruits in season? Back here at home, I still want a fruit salad, so I made this salad Not completely a tropical one, but with some well known fruits. Next time I’ll make a real tropical salad with lesser know fruits and give my verdict.

  1. Cut some tropical fruits of your choice into brunoise(small cubes). I used mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, kumquat, pomegranate, green Granny smith apple.
  2. Use fruits that  are ripe, but still firm, so that you don’t end up with a soggy fruit salad…awful!
  3. Cover the apple with lemon juice to prevent coloring.
  4. Don’t use banana, it is too strong and overpowering for a fruit salad.
  5. Use a tiny melon ball scoop for the papaya to add some difference in shapes. I also cut the pineapple in little triangles.
  6. Keep the fruits separate and mix lightly just before serving, OR set in layers in a pretty glass.
  7. Make a syrup of 4 passion fruit pulp, 1 TSP of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Let it boil down to a syrupy consistency and pour over the salad just before serving.
  8. Serve with a small scoop of lemon sorbet. (recipe following in a next issue)
  9. Decorate with some fresh flowers or a little umbrella for fun, lime strips, or add mint leaves or small basil leaves.
  10. Serve cold, but NOT so cold that you can’t taste the fruit!

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Hawai’i is always a good place to unwind, even if you just do nothing, which is exactly what I did this time around. Reading by the pool, watching people(one of my favorite pastimes) while  imagining their stories. On one such a day, this lovely Hawaiian woman gave some Hula lessons and of course I don’t have the same pretty hips for swaying along, but I could at least capture some nice hips!

The Hula is not just pretty hip swaying, but tells a story. With the hands and arms and face, a tale is mimicked with sensuality and sensitivity.  One does get involved and captured  and can’t help but wish more stories were told this romantic way.

I was too far away to hear this story, but I imagine it could be something like this:

“The goddess Pele, who owns the sea and oceans and the mountains, saw that Hiania who lost a child, was absorbed by sadness. Hiania hid from the world and her tears filled the rivers. Pele cares passionately for her children of the islands and she heaved the winds and stirred the waves with a message to Haina.

“Cry no more“, she said.

Look up to the sun and see your child in the skies. He is smiling upon you and asking you to set free your sadness and prepare your womb to receive the child the winds will bring you.

Hiania looked up and saw the smile of her son. She gave her sadness to the mountain who took it deep into the earth to feed its fire and she was set free to wait with anticipation upon her keiki (little one).

Until next time and with swaying hips(in private!),

 Mahalo !

Ronelle


Countrybread with panfried strawberries and basil…and apron fun!

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.

Suggestions:

  • 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.

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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…?


à bientôt

Ronelle



Ginger broccoli salad…and edible flowers.

A salad is something that can be eaten at any time…mealtimes or snack times and even those times you feel like eating out of boredom. Go for a salad. It is safe. It is my ultimate favorite dish, summer through winter.

In our home we are always stocked to the brim with ingredients for a salad. Vegetables, greens, leaves, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, cheeses, flowers and herbs, essential oils, but even more so… an interesting vinaigrette and little “addition” to prevent a salad from becoming boring.

This time… a salad with broccoli and preserved ginger, a pungent ginger vinaigrette and a scattering of dried edible flowers for some interest.

Suggestions:

  • Use a mix of broccoli and cauliflowers florets.
  • Use broccolini instead of broccoli.
  • Omit the ginger and use a firm fruit in season. Use some juice or pulp of the same fruit in the vinaigrette.
  • Try different herbal/flower teas or infusions as a base for a vinaigrette.
  • Use fresh flowers instead of dry dried ones.
  • Add some fried bacon pieces or thin strips of pancetta for a salty addition.
  • Serve the broccoli still warm for a salad with more substance and sprinkle the dried flowers just before serving.
  • Marinate the broccoli in the vinaigrette for 15-30 minutes before serving at room temperature.

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…and edible flowers:

Nothing can be easier than making your own dried flowers to use in vinaigrette, salads, and sauces and any other food decoration, with only one rule to keep in mind: make sure the flowers are edible! sometimes the leaves can be used, but not the flowers or vice versa. Make sure you’re not allergic to some flower or pollen. Don’t use flowers from florists which may  be sprayed with pesticides. Your own garden or nature is the place to gather your flowers. Whether you’re in summer or winter, you can always find some flowers around you to use in your foods and of course, so much the better, because you DO eat seasonal don’t you?

We all use herbs in our salads, dried and fresh and they are familiar to us. A few lesser known flowers for a vinaigrette are marigolds, lawn daisies, dandelions, pansies, clover, hibiscus, cornflower, mallow, zinnia, tulips, phlox, day lilies, begonia, gardenia, lilacs, magnolias, fuchsias…

and of course, the well known violets, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, sages, sunflowers,roses, camomile, marguerites, geraniums, honeysuckle, poppies, courgette…

I’m showing a few that I’m drying now which are in season:

I pick my flowers when I dead head them…snip off the drying ones. Pick them during midday, wash them, let dry.  I then use a scissors to cut the flowers off right behind the petals, as to keep only the softer tips of the petals. I mostly use only the petals of the flowers to dry, except for the small lawn daisy which looks very cute scattered on a salad or sorbet. To keep its daisy shape, I let them dry face down with a little pressure to keep them open . The harder and tougher stems aren’t always enjoyable in a salad or sauce, so make sure all hard stems are removed.  Spread the petals on a large tray, covered with a absorbing paper or kitchen towel. Leave in a dark, cool and dry place. The petals dry very quickly and can then be stored separately in small glass containers to use on different occasions and with different dishes. Store in cool dark spot.

…lawn daisy (paquerette)

…pansies(pensees)

…dandelions(pissenlit)…

…marigold(souci)…

…clover(trefle)…

When you’re not in the mood for drying your own flowers, you can run off to the organic store or any herbalist where you will find interesting tea infusions and herbal infusions which you can buy.

…hibiscus…

…mallow(mauve)…

…cornflower(bleuet)

à la prochaine!

Ronelle


Asparagus with balsamic sauce…and a brocante in Collonges la rouge.

In the spirit of this perfect spring , enjoying fresh asparagus with a balsamic  sauce, topped with a poached egg  fresh from my chickens,  is a sin easily forgiven. It is a popular spring dish and with a twist here and there, you can enjoy it several times and each time have something different on your plate. (see suggestions below)

Suggestions:

  • Stem or boil the asparagus instead of sauteing in oil if you want to cut down on fat.  Make a vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon juice and balsamic and drizzle when served.
  • If the asparagus are too thick, cut in half.
  • Use wild asparagus.
  • Use thin green string beans instead.
  • Instead of a poached egg, a soft boiled egg can be used.
  • Chop a hard boiled egg finely, sprinkle on the asparagus and top off with a dollop of mayonnaise and fresh herbs, instead of the poached egg.
  • Instead of balsamic vinegar, make a reduction of white wine and a few saffron strands: Remove the asparagus from the pan, add about 150 ml white wine, 1 tsp of white balsamic to the pan along with a few strands of saffron, let simmer until syrupy and drizzle over the asparagus.
  • Use dry roasted almond flakes instead of pine nuts.

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…and a brocante at Collonges la rouge.

Elsewhere it may be cold and rainy, but here in Correze, France, it seems we have skipped spring and jumped straight into summer. Browsing the brocante in Collonge la rouge this past Easter weekend, couldn’t have been more perfect, The brocantes are starting off with full force and every weekend one can pick and choose between several. I prefer the small town, more informal ones with jovial, hearty conversations and laid back country side ambiance.

Collonges la Rouge  counts as one of “The most beautiful villages of France” and is a charming little 800′s village with its rustic red stone. In a next post I’ll show and tell more about it.

We can never do it any other way..always  start off with a coffee!

…Wooden farm furniture at the brocante…

…and two sketchers…not buying, only observing…

…and Scruffy is keeping an eye from down below…

…bottles I would love to have, but can’t afford…

…and ditto for this beautiful white and black Gien pot…extremely expensive…

…such nice milk glass vases…

…and finally I found lovely lace curtains for the barn door at Coin Perdu…

àla prochaine!

ronelle


Radishes with butter and fleur de sel..and a magazine feature.

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.

Suggestions:

  • 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:

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!

à bientôt

Ronelle


Asparagus with poppy vinaigrette and a confused chicken.

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!

Suggestions:

  • 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!…


Petit pois dip with mint and goats cheese and garden stories.

It is time for nature. For long walks. For the garden. Double digging and planting. For pruning and sowing. And for observing. After a hard winter, nature is on the verge of exploding into its exuberant spring plumage. To harmonize with the new growth and hope springing up all around, I wanted something green. Petits pois came to mind with its vibrant green .   I call it a dip, but it is a spread, a paté, a guacamole, a tapenade too… I added Maroccan mint, some freshly sprouted seeds, soft goats cheese; it is early spring on a bruschetta. Nothing more can be said.

  • In a next post, we’ll talk a little about sprouting seeds, which is something we all should be doing at our homes!

Suggestions:

  • Instead of serving the dip on bread, it can be served in individual small glasses or bowls and eaten with a spoon as a starter and some bread on the side.
  • Or serve as a little salad on a bed of young spinach leaves.
  • Add some dried currants for a little sweetness.
  • Use other vegetables like fava beans or a mixture of the two.
  • Consider also crushed steamed broccoli or steamed courgettes.
  • Don’t skimp on the mint.
  • Some mayonnaise or cream can be added to the mixture to give it more of a dip texture. Serve with carrot and celery sticks.
  • Serve with toasted bread slices or fresh crusty baguette slices.


Let’s put winter with its deep conversation and full bodied Cabernets and hypnotic fireplaces behind for a while. Let’s move outside to the stories of nature. To the optimistic nesting of the gulls on the Loire islands. To the plunging flights of the swallows. The fearless circling of the eagles. Let’s focus on the delicate entrance of the apple blossom.  The almond blossom. Let’s admire the elegance of the magnolia and not shy away from the shameless flirtation of the sweeping wildflowers.

From the beginning of time, man had been entranced by nature. Living by it, dying by it. Cursing by it, loving by it. We live by it force every day. 

…it is only when you start to garden, probably after 50 – that you realize something important happens every day – Geoffrey B Charlesworth…


I can’t pass by a book on garden stories.  Some day I’ll share one of my own stories from my garden journal. But for now, I’d like to share four of my favorite garden story books. (The lovely bookmarks you see in the following images, was a gift from  la belle Monique)

…A growing gardener by Abbie Zabar. Delightful sketches about her garden on the rooftop, with delightful  accompanying drawings, a feast for the eye and an enrichment for the soul!…

Les affranchis jardiniers by Annick Bertrand-Gillen…..a couple living the simple  way, providing for themselves from nature, doing it all the biological way. I adore this book.We experience a bit of their life with them, their garden and home and it gives us envy to follow in their footsteps. A beautiful life. A beautiful garden, open to the public in summer….

Simple pleasures of the garden by Susannah Seton…...a collection of stories and recipes, quotes and tips for every season. This is a book to be read outside in the shade of the walnut, or curled up by the fireplace, or in the splendor of autumn by the riverside, it makes you love every season.

True nature by Barbara Bash…..a writer/illustrator taking solitary retreats, living close to nature with only her thoughts and art and her journal. I received this as a gift from a good friend an fellow artist, the very creative Lindsay who sent it to me when I was not in the best of places. It was wonderful food for my thoughts then and still is!

… welcoming spring…

And last but not least…have a spring inspired look at Jain’s day inthe country!

Don’t throw outt the water you’ve used to boil your eggs in. They are rich in mineral salts…use it to water your plants with.


Strawberry soup with balsamic and the red tulip.

I am leaving for Oslo, Norway tomorrow. I decided to put up an old post before I leave which I had on Africantapestry two years ago. A little story. A sketch.

To accompany the  ongoing saga of the soon-in-bloom-tulip,  as well as the gardening folie that has me firmly in its hystyerical grip, I made a strawberry soup with the very first strawberries of the season. Not yet tasting of summer and sun though…! But who cares…! Using them in a summer/spring soup with added balsamic vinegar and handsfull of mint and pepper and rose water, is a great way to satisfy that ferocious desire for summer fruits.

Flinging soil and seedlings around in the garden (here  in the northern hemisphere!) and serving early strawberries on our plates and sometimes even catching a warm glimpse of the sun…what more can we wish for?

Suggestions:

  • Add red berries like raspberries, blackberries,  blueberries…
  • Serve with a sprinkling of freshly milled black pepper.
  • Use a handmixer instead of fork to break up the strawberries.
  • Use Maroccan mint if you can find, which have a stronger flavour than ordinary garden mint.
  • Or use some lemon verbena instead in high summer.
  • Serve chilled on hot summer days, but at room temperature early in the season.
  • Serve along with a slice of lemon poppyseed cake as accompaniment, or a herbed shortbread.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a lot of mint!
  • Use stevia, which is a herb sweetener, instead of sugar or honey.

…the red tulip…


“Like last year, this single red tulip once again made its appearance in my all white and blue  garden. And like last year, I accept it and welcome it. It has become quite a game and I’m amused by the tulip’s proudness and dedication to defeat me. It reminds me of a guy I once knew at university who wouldn’t give up either.

He was madly in love with me, completely, head over heels..and yes, he was sort of cute too, I thought at that stage. I was staying in a hostel for girls on campus, fourth floor out of six, overlooking beautifully tended campus gardens. And he was staying in a hostel for boys, way off, on the other side of the campus. That’s how it was those days. No men allowed in the girls’ hostels and vice versa, which made for very exciting experiences! Except of course, for visiting hours in the lounge downstairs.

Very regularly, he would show up at my hostel, long after visiting hours, on nights when the moon was showing off in the sky and the stars were sparkling impatiently with anticipation. With his guitar and a red rose and his best friend, I would be charmed with unashamedly beautiful love songs from the garden under my window. Their strong, deep melodious voices, trained from years of singing, had every girl hanging out their windows along with me, losing ourselves in the charm and romance of “old world courting” from down below.  Beautiful beautiful brown eyes, would always be on the list of songs and their voices would fade away in the distance with Goodnight ladies. My red rose, always stolen from an overflowing garden somewhere, would be left on the windowsill downstairs at the front door, for the hostel had already firmly been locked up for the night.

And so it happened that he got caught one night while stealing my red rose. He unfortunately chose the garden of the Professor of engineering, with whom he was very well acquainted…! He was allowed the rose, but had to work the Professor’s compost heap for two weekends. For a while, it was slow on the rose-serenading-scene and we all missed it..all the ladies, that is. Then one night there he was again, with a stolen red rose and guitar and his best friend. The cute guy I once knew. And who I still know. He is my husband.

…fini…


Corréze ham and vegetable parcels

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!

…veggie parcels…

corréze ham and vegetable rolls 9-2-2009 5-09-21 PM

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!…

preparing vegetable parcels 9-2-2009 4-28-08 PM

Corréze ham and veggie parcels 2…old but still working…

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Avocado salad and tomato sauce.

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!

avocadosalad2-1-9-2009-1-52-46-pmavocadosalad1-1-9-2009-1-57-29-pm

avocadosalad

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…

tradition2-12-7-2004-3-42-57-pmoldies2-10-3-2007-12-17-53-pm1


Citrus and carrot salad with currants and toasted sunflower seeds

A burst of flavour in simplicity. Texture and colour. Easy, swift to make, a lingering sweetness on the palate…like life should be.

carrotsalad1-12-6-2008-3-58-00-pm

citruscarrotsalad

…cutting an orange into segments…


Pineapple carpaccio with saffron syrup and pine nuts.


I had a crazy craving for pineapple yesterday, so I went on a hunt and found the sweet Victoria from South Africa, the big green andwatery pineapple produced in  Costa Rica, coming from Miami, Florida????…. and lastly the heavy, bland one from the Ivory coast. First painting them(and in the meantime eating some), I afterwards made a carpaccio from the small , sweet Victoria, which has a beautiful dark yellow colour and an intense flavour.

…Pineapple carpaccio with saffron syrup and pine nuts

  1. Take a pineapple of your choice(I prefer the small dark yellow Victoria), peel and cut into thin slices.
  2. Arrange on dessert plates.
  3. In the meantime, bring a 1/2 cup of water to the boil, add 1/4 cup of sugar, a pinch of saffron threads, juice of half a lemon and zest of a lemon. (Be careful fro too much saffron, it is very powerful. Two to three strings on 1/2 cup water is plenty) Reduce until syrupy, about 15 minutes. If you want a thicker syrup, simmer for longer.
  4. Leave aside to cool down.
  5. Dry roast a handful of pine nuts in a pan, leave to cool.
  6. Spoon some juice over the pineapple slices, decorate with some pineapple leaves and sprinkle with the roasted pine nuts.

One Victoria pineapple serves 2 people

…Gigi…


Courgette feta salad

This is a quick starter, popular with everybody. It can be played up or down, with more vegetables added, or less or different ingredients. Instead of the pine nuts, pumpkin seeds can be added, in which case a roasted pumpkin seed oil would be perfect. Be sure to serve it with the courgettes still warm. A great dish for spring and summer, served on a hot spring day or a summer evening, while watching the sun fall away slowly below the horizon.

Courgette feta salad

  • Olive oil, rosemary salt (or any other herbed salt)
  • Four courgettes
  • salad leaves – rocket, watercress, batavia…
  • a handful of roasted pine nuts (or roasted flaked alomonds)
  • feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • teaspoon  of dark honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degr. C.
  2. Wash and slice the courgettes on the diagonal.
  3. Plce in and oven dish, sprinkle with olive oil and rosemary salt. Roast in the the oven until nicely caramelized.
  4. Place a mixture of washed and dried salad leaves on 4 plates.
  5. Serve the still warm courgettes on the salad leaves and top with crumbled feta cheese and dry roasted pine nuts (or almond flakes).
  6. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, honey and finish off with a sprinkling of pepper.
  7. Serve immediately.

      Serves four

…in the footsteps of the shadows…


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