When your potager starts exploding with courgettes, it is time to come up with all sorts of ways to eat those courgettes without getting bored. But even so, by the end of summer, I feel like a courgette and can’t even look at one, let alone eat it. Courgettes are more flavorful when they are young and nothing needs to be added to give them moire flavor. These tartines can be served s a starter, a lunch with a salad, or as an apéro before dinner..and come to think of it, why not pack it for a pique-nique?
- Add some goat’s cheese or feta cheese to the tartines.
- Leave the toasts and serve as a tagliatelle pasta, topped with a fillet of fish of your choice and a salad.
- Make croutons instead of toasts and add along with the grilled courgettes to a salad. Top with dry roasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.
Les jardins de Colette is a large botanical garden at the foot of the chateau Castel-novel, where the French writer Colette lived with her 2nd husband Henry de Jouvenel and her daughter Bel-Gazou. The gardens were created in 2008 and depict her tumultuous life which centered around her insatiable desire for creating. You will surely know her for her novels Chéri in 1920 and of course Gigi from 1944, upon which the musical film was based and in which Leslie Caron played Gigi. Colette’s real name was actually Sidonie-Gabrielle , her last name/surname being Colette. But I’m her to show you the garden dedicated to her…so, to read about Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, you can pick and choose a site on Google.
Some trinkets in the store…and I found their little truck quite cute…and a rose named after Colette in 1995…
…Veronique flowers in abundance in the garden of her childhood in Bourgogne…and bees in abundance….
..le jardin de Rozven in Bretagne was bought by her friend, Missy, in 1910 and for 10 years afterwards Colette and her family still spent their summers at Rozven.
…a potager, part of remembering her childhood..
..a labyrinth in the shape of a papillon, where kiddies are told stories while finding their way to the end..
..some annuals planted in the jardin de Saint- Sauveur-en -Puisaye in Bourgogne...
..an english garden..”aussi libre qu’elle”..as free in spirit as she was…
…a little refuge for insects..
Colette with her brother in childhood…
…her love for animals clearly comes across in her books..
..la coccinelle and le papillon..les amis du jardin!
In the Correze gardin at Castel-Novel a little cabane/gloriettes was constructed from willow branches..
..The olive trees and lavenders from the Provence garden..
..a bit of freshness with a canal of water and fountain..
In the rose garden her favorite rose can be found…Cuisse de Nymphe
..as well as one of my favorites...Honore de Balzac…
And lastly, a lane of tilleuls trees to remind of her last years spent in Paris, where her windows opened onto the gardens of the palais Royal…
With something cool to drink, we finished this tour through the gardens of Colette and it was time to return to reality. I felt a vibrant kinship with her and her creativity, her desire to live to the full, her love for nature and animals and maybe one day I can retrace her steps to really experience what her life was like…
à la prochaine fois!
We are outside. Non stop. The weather couldn’t be more perfect. The days are wonderfully warm, sunny. The cigales are crazily announcing summer in the meadows. I am crazily happy.
Taking our meals outside in summer is a given. Preparing it outside is a given too. These tomato and goats cheese apéros ( appetizers)do it both ways. It is prepared by the barbeque fire. It is grilled on the fire. It is eaten by the fire. An ice cold dry rosé wine and life is crazily wonderful.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use feta cheese instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use feuille de brick, if available, which is not as thin and delicate as phyllo pastry.
- Add some flaked fish of your choice or add a sardine, in which case you can use dill or coriander instead of basil.
- Use other herbs of your choice..
- Leave out the tomato and add fresh spinach leaves and dry roasted pine nuts for a more Greek flavour.
- To serve as something sweet with coffee after barbeque…roll chocolates, chopped nuts of your choice and a mint leaf in the pastry sheets, treat the same way on the coals and enjoy with coffee around the fire.
Place at an appropriate distance above the coals on a grill.
Brush with a home made rosemary brush and olive oil.
We visited friends in Bretagne and were treated in typical Breton fashion to a wealth of cuisine Bretonne. Seafoods galore, vegetables, notably carrottes Nantaises( of which I have planted in my potager), crépes and galettes, sablés, far breton, quatre quart, kouign amann, cidre, beignets, butter, butter, butter… It is truly a good thing we don’t live in Bretagne for I would have rolled instead of walked. Fortunately, we did a lot of walking to fight the calories. I invite you now on some of our promenades around Rennes and the seaside villages of Tharon and Pornic.
Promenades en mer…boat trips.
The port of Pornic is quaint and with the perfect summer weather we had, the whole world crept out of their shells comme les escargots de leurs coquilles(like snails from their shells).
Le blanc du nil is a well known chain store in the French seaside villages. They sell only white cotton and linen clothes and I love it for the prices and the loose summer dresses, shirts and slacks and skirts. And of course the all white look makes you feel cool and light. And a little chic too…
The walkway was filled with people, basking in summer sun, seeking out some dappled shade and licking dripping ice creams. We did too.
A lonesome Canna lily adding some charm to an ordinary signpost indicating the way to the hotel de Ville of Pornic.
Back in Tharon, it was time for eating again, something we did too much of , but enjoyed so much! The boulangerie Tharonnaise is comfortably just a walk down the road where one doesn’t mind queuing for all the bakes delicacies I mentioned above.
One of those wonderful delicious sinful and dangerous cakes, is the kouign amann, for which Bretagne is known for. I DO plan on baking it, sharing it with you, I REALLY DO! But only after I lost the 3 kg I picked up after eating it in Bretagne! Typical Ronelle style, one slice was not enough…It is literally a butter cake and a little challenging on the making-side: made with bread dough and folded like puff pastry with loads of butter and sugar which, during the baking process, gives you a devilishly, deliciously, flaked caramelized cake.
One of our outings was also just down the road…a regular vide grenier in Tharon. As you can see below..one man’s junk becomes another man’s fortune. We found some fortunes there too…
Of course we visited the beach with its colourful cabanes which mostly belong to the inhabitants of Tharon and gets unlocked every season to let out the sunscreens and chairs and umbrellas and beachballs…
As is shown below…the beach umbrella and bags and towels and kiddies were let out of the colourful cabanes.. well, maybe not the kiddies…
A close up..
A lunch of langoustines, and lemon mayonnaise with baguettes from la boulangerie and accompanied by a crisp white wine.
In Rennes the géraniums on the windowsills paraded shamelessly in their beauty and gaiety.
We had a schedule to follow in Rennes, a to-do list that kept us on a quick run. Nonetheless we found the time for a pit stop in the centre ville to have un café créme et un allongé, while we drooled at seeing the bar à crépe which was just opening its doors early morning. Next time.
Centre ville in Rennes.
Hope you had fun on this promenade. And I hope you on your turn drooled at the tomato and goat’s cheese apéro’s. Maybe enough to make them. I should probably have given you an exciting recipe from Bretagne, as the post asks for….but what are rules made for, if not to be broken? I greet you as always….
…à la prochaine fois…
Vegetables are part of our every day healthy diet, right? Five portions of different fruit and veggies every day. Yes, that is what we are advised here in France. I try my best to adhere to that..in any case, we love fruit and we love our vegetables. On the menu here are thus some carrots of all colours served with Greek yoghurt and a sauce flavoured with orange flower water.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Serve the carrots warm in fall and winter as a starter on individaul plates.
- Serve cold with salad leaves in summer.
- The sauce can be kept in the fridge for about two weeks.
- Add orange juice to the sauce with the vinegar and reduce to a syrup.
- Use an orange flower honey if possible, but otherwise a wildflower honey can work too.
..parsnips can serve as “white carrots”..
..when using young and organic carrots, it isn’t necessary to peel, only wash and use..
*recipe adapted from “Les légumes de Monsieur Wilkinson; Matt Wilkinson.
Like the carrots, my chickens are rainbow coloured too. And I adore them, no doubt about that. Every day is a story that unfolds before me from the morning to the evenings when silence dawns finally on the chicken coop.
..keeping an eye on the cooking in the barn kitchen…
..aren’t I pretty with all my colours..?
..I am the epitome of elegance, in case you haven’t noticed..
..life looks interesting from up here..
..Where are those hens again..!
..Don’t mess with our corner..!
à la prochaine fois
Our potager is bursting with courgettes and we can’t keep up with eating them. With vegetables one doesn’t have to do much in summer, the vegetables are good just on their own. Which is why any salad or carpaccio is a good idea.
- Cut 4 small to medium courgettes into thin slices. Layer onto a plate and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and leave aside for 30 minutes to marinate.
- To serve: Divide the slices among 4 plates by spreading them evenly on each plate. Drizzle with some more olive oil and lemon juice, a teaspoon of sundried tomato paste, and a drizzle of balsamic syrup. Season with fleur de sel and freshly milled black pepper. Add some olives of your choice, shavings of Parmesan cheese and finish off with rocket/arugula leaves.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use green pesto instead of the tomato paste.
- Add dry roasted pine nuts.
- Use small black Greek olives.
- Add chopped sundried tomatoes or semi-oven roasted tomatoes.
- Use crumbled goats cheese instead of Parmesan cheese.
Summer evenings at Coin Perdu
Our evenings are spent around the fire..we start off with a glass of icy cold rosé while the fire is lit and we munch on a little apéritif, a must to keep my legs from going jello from the wine. It is something quick and easy..fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, baguette slices with some sliced sauccisson of the region, or melted Camembert over the fire with baguette slices, or fresh radishes with salt(a big favorite!).
In the meantime, while the fire is coming on, mon chéri still fiddles with some activities around the garden, like mowing the lawn, feeding apples to the horses who are allowed late afternoons to graze on the lawns, cleaning the fountain orother small tasks around the house.
I am mostly sunken deep into an Adirondeck by the fire in the shade of the tilleul tree. My feet are up and I have a book in my hand. It is my favorite time of the day and I savor every minute. War will break loose if someone expects me to do anything else than reading my book, sipping my rosé and enjoying the early evening ambiance. At that hour am in my zone and refuse to be disturbed.
After dinner, we linger as late as we can around the fire. As the coals burn away and the horizon turns dark, we start moving away from the fire, lazy and slowly. It is time to call it a day.
**And some summer music for these summer evenings…
Girls in their summer clothes – Bruce Springsteen
Red peppers are synonym with the Mediterranean and it is one of my favorite vegetables, raw or otherwise. We grow them in our potager(vegetable garden) rows of them..and they find their way to our table in every way possible. Une petite tarte, using ready made puff pastry or home made if you are so handy or ordered from your boulanger, which is how I prefer to do it, is one way of serving these delicious vegetables.
- Wash 4 red peppers.
- Remove the seeds and cut them into thin strips. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and milled black pepper. Add three twigs of fresh rosemary and two lemon wedges.
- Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Roll out 4 rectangles of puff pastry to about 1mm thick and 8x16cm long. Roll the sides to the inside to form a little rolled side. Prick the inside with a fork, cover with some baking paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake in a preheated oven at 200° C for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Arrange the roasted peppers on the prepared pastry shells. Add some cubed or crumbed feta cheese and dry roasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with red pepper corns and drizzle the pan juices from the roasted red peppers over the filling. Add some rosemary twigs and place under the grill for about 7 -10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm with a dollop of créme fraîche and a large green salad.
Serves 4 people
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use courgettes instead of red peppers, or a mixture of both.
- Add some halved spring onions to the red peppers before roasting.
- Use goats cheese instead of feta cheese.
- Serve with homemade balsamic sorbet.
- Spoon some pesto on the base of the pastry shell before adding the red peppers.
- Turn into a dessert by spooning some sweetened mascarpone cheese on the bottom of the pastry shell, cover with red peppers and drizzle with honey and chopped mint.
..the lavenders of Provence..
Mon chéri treated me to a couple of days in Provence. I don’t have to say anything, except that it was pure joy. It was so short, but my senses were alive to its maximum every minute.
Apart from the wonderful Provencal sun, the delicious meals on sunny terraces, the Provencal rosé wines, I did indeed manage to complete 7 sketches, while mon chéri patiently waited and used the time to play chess. Since our time was so short, I didn’t want to spend too much time on sketching though, so all I wanted was to capture a bit of the ambiance of our short stay. I think I achieved that and I am so chuffed. So chuffed indeed. If you’d like to see the sketches, you can pop over to Africantapestry.
I love lavender. Just simply love it. Not in foods. Not in soaps. Not in perfumes. not in my closets. But in pots and in the fields and gardens. That is the only place I can appreciate its fragrance, which is too strong and overpowering anywhere else. But the joy of lavender and its fragrance in a field or in a garden…nothing else comes close.
If only I could pass along the fragrance with these images…but it is all up to you and your imagination. Stretch out your hand and touch the blooms, hear the bees, see the butterflies, sniff the air, feel the sun and dwell in the heady fragrance…
The soil varies between the different fields, but they all have three things in common…altitude, sun and poor soil.
A lavender field snaking over the hill into a row of Provence cypress.
At the abbaye de Senanque, the lavenders aren’t fully open yet, it being a different variety. But I love the faded blue which harmonizes with the gentle quietude of the abbaye and the greys of its old stone building.
Small fields, larger, tiny, among wheat, beside the roads…everywhere.
Where there is lavender, there you’ll find bees and butterflies!
Green vines, purple lavenders and red soil…the colours of Provence.
One of my favorite photos with a scene of all my favorite things..nature with its rocky area, the olive grove, the lavender, the hills, the colors, the smells..
A quilt of color in the valley just below Bonnieux; lavender fields, wheat fields and vineyards.
*Keep an ear to the ground for the next post on Provence..until then..
Unimaginable that nettle soup can be delicious and yet, it is! Once cooked, the stinging effect disappears completely and all that is left, is a dark green, flavorful soup. Stinging nettle grows everywhere, the sign of fertile soil, and costs nothing. So why not make use of it? It reminds me somewhat of watercress, of which I often make soup too. Along with the spring petit pois pesto, it makers for a typical spring lunch or dinner or even a starter. See the Pincée de fleur de sel below for more ideas. I do hope you’ll try it.
Nettle soup with petit pois pesto
- Pick nettle leaves, wearing a pair of leather or other thick gloves. Separate the leaves from the stems, keeping only the tender leaves and stems. Harvest about 3 large colanders full of leaves for 4 people.
- Rinse the leaves in cold water to get rid of sand and grit. Don’t forget using the gloves, or switch to tongs.
- Clean and chop two spring onions and sauté in coconut oil(not to be confused with palm oil)or olive oil. Add 5 stems of garlic along and its flowers.(optional)
- Mix the nettle leaves with the onion and add enough vegetable stock to JUST cover the nettle/onion mixture. Adding too much liquid will result in a watery soup.
- Simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and mix with a hand mixer to a creamy soup.
- Add 3/4 can of coconut milk and 1 large TBSP of mascarpone cheese to the soup. Stir and leave to simmer very gently over low heat for another 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- Leave aside until needed.
Petit pois pesto:
- Boil 1 large cup of freshly shelled petit pois for 2-3 minutes and rinsed under cold water. Leave to dry.
- Mix together in a mortar and pestle with 5 sprigs chives, 2-3 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP pine nuts.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.
- Don’t overwork to a puree.
To serve: Serve the soup warm OR cold with a quenelle of petit pois . Finish off with sprinkling of milled pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Pick nettles with a pair of leather or other thick gloves!
I picked the leaves(with gloves of course) early morning, separated the leaves from the harder stems, kept the softer ones, rinsed it very well and kept it in the fridge until I started the preparation.
Rinse very well!
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Remember to pick the leaves with gloves, rinsing and adding to the casserole, working with gloves or tongs all the time.
- Like spinach, nettle must be rinsed well, preferably under running water. Catch the water in a bowl and add to you plants.
- It resembles spinach when cooked.
- Use watercress, or spinach leaves instead of nettle.
- If you fear the nettle to be too “wild” to your liking, add 1 large peeled, boiled and mashed potato, OR add some spinach leaves along with the nettle.
- Don’t add too much stock or else the soup will be watery. It is always possible to add some stock afterwards.
- Serve the soup cold in glasses or cups, topped with a room temperature pesto, or serve warm in bowls with room temperature pesto.
- If using frozen petit pois, boil longer than fresh peas..about 4 minutes. Stop the cooking process by placing in ice cold water.
- For a nice apéro, make a cuppacino – Place a layer of petit pois a the bottom of a small glass,pour over some soup and finsih off with whipped cream. sprinkle with grean matcha tea powder.
Freshly shelled petit pois.
Last, but not least..the pea shells are off to the compost heap!
*Note: I have finally gotten the chance to redo my photos for the Washing day post and if you would like to see and read my thoughts on a washing day..just follow this link to Coin Perdu -Laundry day!
* Thank you to everybody who shared their laundry stories either on Facebook, in an email or on the blog..I loved reading them..if there are more of you who want to share..please do so, I would love to hear your washing day stories and I know others would like to read them too!
Bon appétit et à la prochaine!
The entrée (starter) for this menu is A topinambour (Jerusalem artichokes) and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croûtons. It has a wonderful woodsy flavor and finished off with a shaving of black truffle on the chanterelles mushrooms, it transports you into a winter forest.
- Clean 1 onion and cut in slices. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent.
- Clean 5 large Jerusalem artichokes, cut into small, even chunks and add to the the onion.
- Add a tin of peeled chestnuts (210g) to the mixture.
- Add a bouguet garni and 350 ml water or stock (vegetable) to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Add a handful of washed parsley and mix with an electrical hand mixer until the soup is creamy. If you want the soupy perfectly creamy, you can push it through a sieve.
- Add some cream, or stock, or milk to bring it to the right consistency (like thick cream). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Serve warm with some freshly grated nutmeg and a mushroom croûton.
- Mushroom croûton: Toast three thick slices of bread. cut into fingers and brush with truffle oil on all sides. Clean some some mushrooms of your choice with a brush and fry quickly in olive oil. Add some chopped parsley , season and place on top of the toast fingers. Finish off by placing two shavings of black truffle on the mushrooms and serve immediately with the soup.
- This soup can also be served as an amuse bouche, served in small glasses, with small fingers of toast.
Serves 4 people as a starter.
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Don’t add too much liquid in the beginning..you can always thin with some milk, or stock or water towards the end to the thickness you prefer.
- Replace the mushrooms with plain button mushrooms or with crispy Spanish ham.
- Replace the Jerusalem artichokes with pumpkin.
- Toast the croutons in a toaster or dry toast in a pan to keep it light.
- Finish the soup with a twirl of truffle oil.
- Never wash mushrooms with water, clean them with a brush.
- Fry mushrooms in a hot pan ..I prefer to fry mushrooms in duckfat(a little) which can be heated to very high heat without becoming toxic. Afterwards I drizzle a little Olive oil. In a hot pan, you don’t need much fat, because the mushrooms fry very quickly.
- I don’t push the soup through a sieve, because I like the tiny pieces of parsley which gives a nice 3speckly” effect to the soup.
The Christmas market in Meyssac was very quaint and I especially loved the lovely church with its display of nativity scenes in all the alcoves. Each nativity scene depicted a country…Brazil was there, France of course, Italy, Africa. Even Peru was there, each little figurine dressed in typical clothing. I adored it and planned on going back to Meyssac to take pictures of all the scenes. When I finally went back, it was gone! Of course, it made sense..it was on display only for the weekend of the market..all those precious figurines couldn’t be left unattended for the whole season. I can kick myself! So I lost out on the lovely nativity scenes..you will have to wait until next year.
But the little église of Meyssac is still adorable and here are some photos…
…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…
..the interior towards the altar with Chrismas lights hanging above the aisle…
..the altar from close up..
..and the only nativity scene left for the season..
..un lustre lighting up one of the many figurines the Catholics so love..
- Tomorrow will see the plat principal (main meal): Beef tournedos with bone marrow in a wine sauce and steamed vegetables.
- A nice DVD to get you in a French vintage mood…La plus belle histoire des femmes.
.. alors, à demain!..
Once again, I had to scratch my head to think of a recipe that would accompany the stunning ochre colours of fall. Of course not only in colour, but also in taste, spirit, ambiance..Of course..cheese. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this simple salad yet. It can be manipulated and changed according to the seasons and is always a winner with its warm toast, cheese and apple and fresh green salad.
- Place the apple rounds and goat’s cheese on toasted bread before putting under the grill.
- Take care to slice your apples, bread for toast and cheese more or less the same size.
- Use slices of Camembert instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use pears or quince instead of apples.
- Use brown sugar to caramelize the pears or quince instead of honey and serve with a helping of quince jam/jelly.
- Play around and make your own combinations to serve a melted cheese and apple/pear/quince salad.
..stillife nicked by a chicken..
..stillife with Royal Gala apples..
..walnut oil, walnut vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle vinegar..
Our fall colors have only now really reached their peak and the ochres are in abundance. I don’t have much to say, except that nature is at the moment an explosion of magnificence..
à la prochaine!
Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.
In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!
Une petite pensée:
- I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
- Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
- Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
- Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
- Use a celery branch to stir.
- Add cubes of ice in each glass
- Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.
A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.
From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!
Et voila…M Pierrot Gourmand, as promised!
We love our apéro (apéritif) before dinner. It can be many things and always quick and easy. Only with visitors do I try to do something more “travaillé” more elaborate. But most of the time it will be fresh tomatoes with some mozzarella, or a bowl of home marinated olives, or melted Camembert and baguette slices, or carrot sticks with vinaigrette dip, or brushcetta… These little tomato cocktails are very popular. Fresh from our tomato vines, they are dipped in caramel and in poppy seed and stuck into Pierrot and served with cold Provencal Rosé wine on the patio while Mon Chéri prepares his fire for our dinner… this is of course in summer where one can’t be anywhere else but outside!
- Dip the caramelized tips into any finish of your choice: dessicated coconut for a tropical touch; toasted seame seeds, finely chopped basil, or mixed fresh herbs; gremola; chopped dried tomatoes flakes, milled peppercorns, chopped nuts of your choice…
- Don’t make the caramel too dark or else it will taste burnt.
- Use wooden lollipop sticks for an authentic feel or use toothpicks and serve on wooden beard.
- Serve with cold white or Rosé wines along with a bowl of torn and seasoned buffalo mozzarella pieces.
The birth of Pierrot Gourmand:
At the end of the XIXth century, the famous actor Debourreau created and played his own pantomime on the melody of “Au clair de la lune“. The personage Pierrot inspired Adolphe Willette, an artist to create a poetic Pierrot. He was referred to as “le Pierrot de Montmartre“. In 1892 Monsieur Everard of Everard and Herbert industries gave birth to a marquette of Pierrot sitting on the moon, offering bonbons to children. And so Pierrot Gourmand was born.
The first lollipop was invented by Everard in 1924, made of barley sugar, fruit flavors, cola and caramel and shaped in the form of a spear head. The milky caramel was the first flavor on the market. Up until today Pierrot Gourmand lollipops still exist in both the round and original spear head shape. With a production of over 2000 tons of candy per year, the fifties was regarded as the golden years for Pierrot Gourmand. Today it is part of the Agro-industriel-andros group, well known for its Andros jams and juices.
More reading on Pierrot gourmand:
..à bientôt mes amis!..
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!
- 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…
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.
..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 !
I think the time has come for some good ole healthy eating. I always that little “click” before I can step forward into action.. Maybe sniffing a delicious mango was that “click”… or was it the belt of my jeans that needed a different hole. Whatever. A click is a click and can’t be ignored! Let’s do it! This simple salad is chock full of vitamins and fiber and very few calories.
- Cleaned 1 mango and sliced it into juliennes.
- Cleaned 1 handful of mange tout and sliced it on the diagonal into juliennes.
- Wash 1 handful of mint leaves and Italian parsley leaves and break into a bowl.
- Cut 1 large spring onions on the diagonal into strips and add to the herb leaves. Add a handful of haricot mungo sprouts, the mango slices and the mange tout strips to the salad. Add 1 lemon grass stick, harder outside removed and finely chopped to the salad. Mix lightly with your fingers.
- Drizzle the salad with some olive oil, a bit of nuoc nam sauce, lemon juice, chopped fresh ginger and a teaspoon of acacia honey anf season with salt and pepper.
- Finish off with a sprinkling of dry roasted almonds and lastly black sesame seeds.
Those who bask in summer at the moment, will enjoy the salad as is, but for us in the North, it is probably a little too cold. So I enjoy it with a big pot of green tea. You can always drink a tisane(herbal/flower infusion). Along with the salad it will be great for digestion.
…walk, walk and walk..
…load up on fruits and vegetables…
…eat more fish..
- drink enough water every day…about 6 to 8 glasses.
- eat smaller and varied portions.
- have an extra light hand on the salt, sugars, butters and creams.
- Cut off fat from your meat.
- when and if choosing bread, then choose whole wheat…whole wheat rice, grains, lentils, wild rice, quinoa..
“The Bathing Suit (by a middle-age woman unknown).
When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure
was-boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They
were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.
Today’s stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a
figure carved from a potato chip.
The mature woman has a choice, she can either go up front to the
maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away
looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney’s Fantasia, or she
can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make
a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent
What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and
entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first
thing I noticed was the extraord ina ry tensile strength of the stretch
Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to
launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that
if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be
protected from shark attacks. Any shark taking a swipe at your passing
midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.
I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder
strap in place I gasped in horror, my boobs had disappeared!
Eventually, I found one boob cowering under my left armpit. It took a
while to find the other. At last I located it flattened beside my
The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature
woman is meant to wear her boobs spread across her chest like a speed
bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a
full view assessment. The bathing suit fitted all right, but
unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it.
The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I
looked like a lump of Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.
As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the
prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, “Oh, there
you are,” she said, admiring the bathing suit. I replied that I wasn’t
so sure and asked what else she had to show me.
I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of
masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an
oversized napkin in a serving ring.
I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and
came out looking like Tarzan’s Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a
I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in
I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would
have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.
Finally, I found a suit that fitted, it was a two-piece affair with a
shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap,
comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it.
My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured.
When I got it home, I found a label that read, “Material might become
transparent in water.”
So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water
this year and I’m there too, I’ll be the one in cut-off jeans and a
You’d better be laughing or rolling on the floor by this time. Life
isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain, with
or without a bathing suit!”
Until next time,
from the middle aged, dieting, but laughing diva.
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!
Can we ever get enough of strawberries? Of course not! Right off the vine, directly out of the basket, sliced with cream, sorbet, panacotta, tarts, salads…every which way. And as a lunch with fresh country bread, goats cheese and basil? Simply delicious.
- The strawberries can be used fresh instead of sautéed, o cut and marinated in some white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Add a bit of olive oil to the marinade and use as a vinaigrette.
- Use some soft cottage cheese instead of the goats cheese with freshly chopped chives and basil the and salt and pepper mixed into the cottage cheese.
- Omit the cheese completely and make a sandwich of fresh strawberries, basil, chopped chives and add a drizzle of maple syrup.
- Another version could be to top the bread with strawberries and lastly add some goats cheese, put under the gril for two to three minutes and add the basil and a drizzle of honey just before serving.
- Use other sliced fruit in season instead of the strawberries.
We stopped our restoration here at Coin Perdu for a day of fun. With aprons. And three delightful, playful models. They chopped and chirped, giggled and grated, peeled and pestered, mocked and mixed, all the while performing with an apron chosen from the heap. So.. can an apron be fun? Judge for yourself…
I grew up seeing my mother in her apron every day. While she was doing her morning’s work; the washing, ironing, cleaning, kitchen work, she faithfully wore her apron. And after lunch, it would be removed until dinner time, when preparing dinner and cleaning up would demand an apron again.
Unlike those days, when aprons at home were more of a necessity to protect the small wardrobe of clothes, we have a multitude of aprons today for adding to that special ambiance of an occasion or activity. It partially serves to also show our domain of expertise as well as our our fun loving side. But some habits haven’t changes over the years…the butcher still wears his butcher’s apron/outfit, the boulanger(baker) is still clearly recognized by his apron, the fishmonger wears his proudly, the blacksmith is never without his leather aprons, the “garcon” serving your “panache” at the bar wears his with French flair… an apron is there for our barbecues and for our kitchens , our gardens, for playgrounds, yes, it is fun equally for men, women and children.
So, do you have a fun loving side…?
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.
- 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.
…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)…
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.
à la prochaine!
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)
- 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.
…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…
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!
As said before, I’m not fond of cucumber. But it is a handy vegetable to use as a basis for a cold summer soup, or a summer sorbet or as in this case, here in a European winter…a cup with a filling. The combination of shrimp and goat’s cheese , dill and capers, seasons the watery cucumber. And even though cucumber is not in season at the moment, I feel like fresh foods after the heavy holidays.
- The quantities are only approximate, use to your own taste.
- The filling can be varied to your taste too.
- Decorate the skin of the cucumber by scraping shavings off with a peeler, or use a fork or a small lemon scoop to scrape off strips..
- Use sardines instead of shrimps, or shredded white fish or chopped smoked salmon.
- Use fromage frais with chopped herbs or diced seasonal vegetables.
- Add mustard or pesto to ricotta and mix with shredded ham.
- Consider chopped almonds with a finely chopped chicken filling.
- Serve with a vinaigrette of your choice.
…a life around bicycles…
“Do you remember all the times we got pulled over by the policemen for me carrying you on the handles of my bicycle? “, he asked.
She laughed. “Oh yes! … such fun and carefree, irresponsible years!”
That happened of course in the university years of this couple. They relived these moments while reminiscing over past times and paging through all the old photo albums. They remebered the times when they both grew up in their childhood homes, each with their bicycle, driving to different schools in different towns. Then they met at university and continued cycling everywhere together…to class, to tennis matches, to university functions, to town, to the movies, to dances, to river picnics. Those years, most of the student population owned bicycles rather than cars. It was cheaper. And easier. And if yours got “borrowed”, you would just “borrow” the next one. Then after a while it got more romantic for the guy to carry his girl in front of him on the bicycle handles…his ox, as his bike was called…that way he could smell her hair waving in his face and have her close to him, and she enjoyed her Titanic-moment in front on the handles, with her guy doing all the pedalling work. So it happened many times that study hours were to be spent at “the dam”.She would ride in front on the handles, carrying their books and he would pedal for death to reach the top of the bridge crossing the rail road track so they could free down on the other side at an exhilirating speed. Suddenly a siren would honk beside them, forcing them to stop at the foot of the bridge and obediently and humbly they listened to the policemen’s rant about their criminal act of lifting on the bike handles. But when the stern officer of law disappeared in the distance, they continued on their course, unperturbed by the mean little piece of paper in the pocket. It is just what a student does in a university town. Laws don’t apply to students of course…which is why they carry student cards..
When this guy finally married this girl and entered the professional career world, they continued their cycling ways for a while, until they couldn’t hide behind their student faces any more.the fines started burning a hoole in their pocket, so they decided it would be cheaper for the girl, now a grown-up wife, to pedal her own bike again. Gone were the carefree riding on bicycle handles.
..the first cycles..
When two daughters enriched their lives, the tricycles and bicycles started taking up more and more space in the garage… The young guy was now a father and he trained his girls on thier bikes in the garage where it was safe, thenmoved into the garden andfinally he pedalled beside them to pre school across the big, scary main road. And on their firm demand, he watched them pedal the last two metres to school, where they turned and waved a proud little hand back at him. It continued for many years, and they enjoyed every minute on their bikes… doing their tricks, racing their father, chasing the dog, racing around the pool, falling into the pool…where the safety net proved its worth by allowing only their behinds to get soaking wet.
As young students, the girls too depended on their bicycles to get around and now, as young adults, they race their bicycles up and down mountains and in the challenging traffic of Paris and Toulouse. And the young student-couple of years ago, still ride their bicycles too…of which one is still a black ox and the other a cute pink velo with a basket for fruit and a flask of coffee and two old leather bags for art stuff. And like in their student years, the guy still holds the back line, and although he can’t feel her hair waving in his face as he did so long ago, he can now appreciate her cute derriére as she pedals frantically in front of him.
..riding my bicycle..
Voiçi my very first starter I made in my mother’s house as a child. With a few changes here and there, it is better served now as a small amuse bouche before dinner. It is still very light and fresh and I’m still proud of my very first attempt! The little glasses it is served in (in the photos), are the original glasses from my mother that I used about 40 years ago for my starter of clementines and litchis. So, les verrines is not something new…it was already a successful concept 40 years ago!
- Marinate the fruit in the vinaigrette for about an hour, but not longer.
- Use mandarins or orange segments instead of clementines.
- Try serving it as a bigger salad by placing the fruit on a bed of salad greens and add some shredded smoked salmon.
- Can be used as a fruit salad…replace the vinaigrette with a sauce: clementine juice, sugar, a little water, few drops of lemon juice, zest of a clementine…simmer untul reduced to a syrup. Add a few drops of Clementine liqueur just before serving.
- Replace the raspberries with a small scoop of raspberry sorbet.
…and a sous-chef..
To me, December is a month of remembrance, memories, reflections. Many memories surface during this time…some of which are funny, some sad, some without any particular significance and because memories aren’t always honest, I remember them all as dear, solely because they have brought me to this point where I am today and who I am today.
Christmas was a time in our house where things happened according to my mother’s schedule. She was a formidable woman who had the ability to organize an army into baking cookies. So, under her hand, Decembers were very busy in our house and all the while she hoaxed me into thinking chores were fun! Baking cookies, cleaning the silver, polishing floors, washing curtains, ironing the Christmas tablecloth, decorating the living room, cooking jams, preparing for holidays…these were the things that filled up our month, with my mother holding the reigns firmly in her hands and me a close step beside her.
I was sous-chef from a very young age, whether it was washing the curtains or cooking a meal or baking the cookies. A very important position…the sous-chef! Without me, how could she have hung the wet heavy curtains on the line to catch the sun…without me, how could she have polished the silver in time for Christmas,…without me being in charge of the cookiemaker, we would have no coffee cookies for December? It would be disastrous…scandalous! How would the maizena cookies have jamfilled centres without me? Christmas would be sad and lonely, if I hadn’t had the responsibility of lavishing it in swirls of silver and gold streamers and glitter and shining stars!
It is of course one of the big secrets…the complete confidence of a chef in his/her sous-chef! My mom trusted me with many things, so much so that I was allowed the responsibility for the starter at a big dinner. This was my first ever solo contribution to a dinner. She also allowed me the key to her dinnerware cabinet where I could choose something for my starter. Such an important position…the sous-chef!
So here I am presenting my first starter, then as a sous-chef in my mother’s kitchen. The only difference is that now I’ve been promoted to chef. I have my own kitchen. And the starter is now served as an amuse bouche.
..May your December memories be as dear as mine!..
..à la prochaine..
Foie gras is a traditional favourite in our home for Christmas. Along with oysters and “vin chaud” (or gluhwein), it always appears on our menu. Some years will see our foie gras home made in a terrine, served cold and some years it will be fried, served with warm mango and toasted brioche.
- Cut raw foie gras into escalopes of about 1.5-2mm thick. Dust lightly with flour and leave in the fridge until needed.
- Peel and cut a mango in thin slices. Heat a pan with a knob of butter and add the mango slices. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and fry until caramelized.
- Keep warm.
- Cut some brioche in slices, toast and cut on the diagonal into two halves.
- Heat non stick pan to hot, add the escalopes of foie gras and fry on one side until caramelized. Turn over and tquickly touch the other side. Remove from the heat and serve immediatly.
- To serve: Place one half of the brioche on a plate. Place a slice of fried foie gras on top. Finish off with slices of mango and place the second half of the brioche askew. Serve immediately.
…My own space…
“Well, I’m fed here, all kinds of goodies and I like it, so why not? You enjoy it out here on the terrace with your cheesecake, why can’t I…. and don’t be so selfish with it by the way, share some! See the German tourists over there? No selfishness at that table!”
“No, you can’t have cheesecake. I’m a human, this is what we humans do. You’re an animal, a duck, you don’t eat cheesecake and you don’t belong on a terrace. And by the way, where are your ducklings?”
“Oh, smarten up! We’re not in the Middle Ages any more! And my ducklings are fine, they’re in good hands. They’re with the nanny. I need my own space too, you know!”
- Have your pan hot before putting in your escalopes of foie gras.
- Sear on one side and turn over for a quick touch on the other side and serve immediately.
- Other fruit like plums, peaches, apple, pear and figs can be done the same way and served warm with the foie gras.
…and December ambiance 2010
And here we are again in the special month of December, with its cold and dark days, bright lights, snow and frost, snuggling in front of fireplaces and cupping our hand around a cup of hot chocolate, indulging in our nostalgias and reflecting on christmas dinners.
Our christmas tree gets decorated on the 1st day of December and for the rest of December we light a candle ever night to rememeber those who we loved or still love. And decorating the christmas tree means more than Santa Claus and Noel and gifts and the three kings, or the crib and a baby…it is a witness to our memories and tender sentiments which come to us in this month, the end of a year, when reflection on the past and pondering on future dreams travel with us towards the new year.
…May your December be whatever you wish it to be and may happiness be your biggest wish…
..à la prochaine..
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!..
Butternut soup is probably my most favorite soup. Keeping it simple brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut and warm comfort of its creaminess. Don’t hide its wonderful autumn flavors behind all sorts of funny additions…sometimes something has to be left alone to speak in its own voice. Like the velvety butternut.
- Any other pumpkin of about 1 kg can be used in the same way.
- Add a knob of butter when sauteing the shallot…it adds more flavor.
- Use home made vegetable stock if possible, or else an organic vegetable stock. Water can be used instead.
- See here for a bouquet garni.
- Add about 2 tsps orange zest for a more pronounced orange flavor.
- If the soup is too thick, add cream for a richer version and milk for a lighter version to your taste.
..and fragrance in the home..
Isn’t it nice to step into a home and smell the most subtlest of fragrances…not an overwhelming smell, but just enough to have you wonder what it is, where it comes from.
There are many ways to bring fragrance into your home. But always remember the first golden rule: always keep it soft, gentle and subtle. Nothing is as sickening as a sweet and overpowering smell. It is much like an old woman seeking youth in powder and perfume. Or like a guy who fell into a bottle of Old Spice. The second rule is to never have a perfumed candle at the dinner table or around food.
To prevent a room from being invaded with scent, a perfumed candle should burn only for a short while. The small tealight tops are a favorite of mine to burn on winter evenings when it gets dark in the afternoons. They are very gentle in flavor and I leave them to burn the whole evening…romance and ambiance for all, even on week nights…everybody loves it!
Winter chases us inside earlier and for longer…we cook inside more, we make fires in the fireplaces and receive more visitors inside than in any other season. It is important to have fresh fragrance in the house as well…flowers, diffusers, lamp bulbs with rings and dotted wih essential oils, some envelopes in drawers or in hidden corners, some light house sprays, pillow sprays, sachets hanging on door knobs, incense burning after an open fire in the fireplace. Again…keep it light and stay away from the sweet and strong flavors, like vanilla and fruits. I sometimes use cedar incense to get rid of the smoky smell of our open fireplace. I never use potpourii, because it only gathers dust.
When using a diffuser and a tealight, take care to drop only a little 0il and burn the candle only a short while. The fragrance quickly disperses throughout the room.
In the bedroom, room sprays and pillow sprays are gentle enough..spritz on the bed rather than the pillow and a light spritz in the air with a room spray leaves a gentle frangrance.
My favourite fragrances are rose, heliotrope, amber, citrus, all tea leaves and cotton flower. Some of these tiny bottle below go back many, many years and I can’t get rid of them. They still carry the smell of essential oils…and sweet memories.
A drop of essential oil on a bulb ring, made from terracotta or balsawood on a bulb and the heat of the bulb disperses the fragrance through the room. The balsa wood works great on the new economy bulbs which don’t get as hot.
Although the scented envelopes are meant for drawers, I place them in bowls in corners in the house. They aren’t strong and overpowering and only give off a flavor when you pass them. And of course, nothing is easier than making your own envelopes: Use white envelopes and paint them in your favourite olours, drip the paint, flow it on the envelope, write, scribble, hand paint…whichever you feel like doing. Fill your handpainted envelope with clean catsand or wooden shavings, add a drop of soft essentail oil, glue your envelope and place in a corner where it can be admired as well as give off its gentle fragrance in the room.
May your winter days…and for otheres, summer days…be filled with the softt fragrances of cotton flower, and your evenings be cozy around the flicker of a cedar scented candle.
…à la prochaine!..
I had left over rabbit. And small chili peppers. Some goats cheese. Herbs. And guests for dinner. As un apéro, these would do perfectly.
But BEWARE: They are very hot. While I was preparing them, I took a tiny bite from one and it was fairly piquant, but not as I expected and I continued happily. BUT THEN… later the afternoon, I propped a smallish whole one in my mouth….well, I flounced desperately around the kitchen table, like a horse being backed for the first time. I fled outside in the rain for oxygen and help. Not finding it there, I scrambled back to the fridge and gulped down 6 joghurts… I think next time I will use the mild spanish red pepper instead…but oh, these look SO pretty on a platter…!
- Use left over chicken or duck or turkey instead of rabbit.
- When using duck, leave out the cheese and replace with balsamic vinegar and grated apple, sprinkled with lemon juice.
- Ricotta cheese or créme fraîche can be used in place of the goats cheese.
- Serve as a sterter with a small green salad, or serve as an apéritif with a cold white wine.
- If the chili peppers are too hot to your liking, use the long Spanish red peppers instead and cut them shorter from the thin point upward.
Apart from smelling freshly brewed coffee when entering a home, few other things can give a home that feeling of lived in comfort, cosiness , than seeing books…stacks of books, or shelves overflowing with a chaos of books. It doesn’t matter if it is a formal library or the living room where books are strewn on the table and couches. I’m not talking about the pretentious shelves and more shelves of beautiful books, only admired for their leather covers…No, I love entering a home and seeing books everywhere, inviting me to take on from a shelf or pick it up from a table or chair or even the floor….open it up and page through… read the end…the sinopsis and discover a little bit about the owner’s taste and likes and discover new titles…
We don’t have a libraryat home, only “corners” of books which I try in vain to keep neat. Now I look past it and only try to balance out the stacking in order to prevent a shelf from breaking. And I LOVE it when people come here and pick up a book…!
I bought this beautiful and inspiring book on libraries a while ago: BIBLIOTHEQUES – l’art de vivre avec des livres by Roland Beaufre and Dominique Dupuich..
*All the following images are borrowed from the book:
These next two libraries, are my most favorites in this book…if you leave me in either of these two, I’ll just happily disappear and you’ll never see me again!
Another wonderful treasure of books!
This library below is beautiful…too beautiful actually. I feel like someone’s is whispering…:”Don’t touch”!
Don’t you just love a space like this, with so much to see and look at and loaded with personality…except for that spider on the lamp shade of course…
This inviting couch and the lamp won me over!
A bit less chaotic, but still inviting with its couch and music station, the warmth of family photos, botanical prints…and of course…MANY books!!
I hope this kicked you into a mood of reading, like it did me…and instead of watching a good DVD this weekend, let’s make it one of reading those oldies we haven’t touched in a while!