I wrote an article for LEEF, an Afrikaans magazine in SA, about our life here in France. Their February summer issue was devoted to all things French and I was asked to do a contribution. I called it “In the shade of the walnut tree”. This is our favorite spot in summer time where we enjoy our apéros and amuses bouches, long lazy lunches and philosophical discussions.
So…for the Afrikaans readers out there; the February issue of LEEF magazine is still available on the shelves. For my English and other readers I will soon translate the article into English and post it here.
In the meantime, here in the French countryside we are enveloped in the blankets of winter with misty days, rain, and cloudy skies. It makes for an ambiance filled season and we all enjoy gathering in the bistros around cups of coffee or chocolat chauds. Those more daring go for a glass of Ricard. We talk about the cold and the rain congested soil and what we’re having for dinner. Nestled in the misty hills, the chimneys have trails of smoke. The kitchens smell of les potages, soupes et veloutés and long sauce bourguignons. Our animals are safely sheltered in the stables while the fields are left bare for regrowth. We are cocooning.
à la prochaine fois!
These past 3 weeks were spent entirely on packing up our Loire home. We wrapped and packed, and stored and transported furniture, cartons. We sorted, threw away, gave away and tried to keep only what we really love and need. It felt great to lighten the load, both in terms of material stuff and mind stuff. Never do I want to own so much stuff again. Since living here in the barn at Coin Perdu with the bare necessities, I have come to realize with how little we can actually be comfortable. I think in this modern age we live with far too much unnecessary “stuff”.
When we locked the door behind us of our Loire home to get into the truck with the last few things on its way to coin Perdu, I took a walk through my garden. I absolutely loved my little “jardin de curé”. I worked so hard in that garden, changing it every so often and I loved every minute of it. I am posting a few images…I have so many, not possible to show them all and of course they will have much more meaning for me, but I hope you can see a little of the joy I’ve experienced in my Loire garden.
…a typical “Tourangelle maison” on the banks of the Loire river.”
..I adored the Loire house’s windows. I couldn’t wait for summers to keep them open morning noon and night..
We only closed the “volets” at night when sleeping..sometimes…
..and flowerpots on the windowsills…what else!..
..the “garguile” peeked through white climbing iceberg roses, close by “un olivier” in a pot..
..on the terrace – urn planted with boxwood..
..the “jardin de curé” was filled with everything I loved..and still love. Originally I tried to stick to white and blue, but as always, what we plan what eventually realizes aren’t the same…most of the time it turns out better..
..corners are a favorite of mine..whether in the gardne, the house, the fields…
..I adored my atelier! I will definitely miss it. It was the old stables of the hopuse which mon chéri turned ito the atelier for me, complete with fireplace, keeeping the old beams and features of the stables intact..To the left of the collage down below, is my galery, which was one of the old caves we turned into my galery.
..during summers, we pragmatically lived outside in the garden..
I hope you enjoyed this trip through the garden during 12 years of living in our Loire home. . I hope you’ll join me in writing our new chapter here at Coin Perdu.
I will soon start posting recipes again, as soon as I can get some order in the chaos here . Bear with me..!
I wish you all a great 2014!
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)..
*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.
- Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
- Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
- 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.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
- 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..
...spring walnut branches..
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.
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.
..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..
..I found my bonheur(happiness)..
..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..
..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)
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!)
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!
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…
..mon cheri preparing the potager for me..along with his very willing assistants..
..early morning by the potager and the mist slowly lifting..while I slowly sip my coffee…oh, that first morning coffee..sooo good..mince!
..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..!
..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…
..eh bah voila..there you are, mon café..!
..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..
..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…
..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…
* 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,
et à bientôt!
I spent a wonderful few days in Paris, staying with our children, dining with mon cheri at Atelier Maitre Albert for Valentines day and meeting up with a friend for a day’s browsing and lunching.
Unfortunately I am presently struck down with an excruciating painful tennis elbow..can’t lift a glass, can’t brush my teeth, can’t sketch, can’t cook, can’t paint, changing the gears when driving is a huge challenge, working on the computer is impossible.. the slightest twist of my wrist shoots up an incredible pain into my arm… I have to depend on my other clumsy arm to help with my daily tasks, which loads quite a bit of stress on that arm too. I do get this tennis elbow from time to time and the only real solution is..REST. So I am taking a few weeks break, especially from the computer, to rest my arm.
Keep an eye out though, because when I get back, it will be in full spring swing..with some posts on my growing garden with my new olive trees, my masses of lavenders and santolines, the planting of the potager, the plans for my “serre” (greenhouse), the new staircases built from stone in the garden, the olive terrace and barbeque terrace, the kitchen terrace and the walnut terrace. I will also show the beauty of our region exploding with spring fever. I will take up my plein air painting again, work on some shows hopefully and I will share some new recipes, where I focus more on recipes from the south of France, which is after all, my favorite foods.
Even though I enjoy a trip to Paris, I have to admit that the campagne and especially the campagne du sud stays my ultimate favorite place, which is why I adore our little forgotten corner here in the south west, Coin Perdu. For that reason, mon cheri is taking me to Provence in June and to Toscane for August, so I can touch up on my Mediterranean garden and cooking skills. Any suggestions for these two upcoming trips????
So you see..a busy, busy spring is awaiting me..tune in in a few weeks to roller coaster along!
To quote Edith Piaf in her song, Les amants de Paris
….A Paris, les amants s’aiment à leur façon.
Donnez-moi des chansons
Pour qu’on s’aime à Paris…
…la musee Jacquemart-Andre..
..l’interieur: Le jardin d’hiver, la chambre de Madame, le salon..
…la femme q’u a l’sac..
I also went to see the 9 new cloches awaiting to be hung, each named after a saint. It made me a little sad to see thse new onesI couldn’t help but think of victor Hugo’s Quasimodo; what would he think of the new bells? Emmanuel was the big bourdon, which was originally Jacqueline, but renamed Emmanuel by Louis XIV..I suppose it was quasimodo’s favorite bell..and now the big bourdon is called Marie(bottom right). the other bells are named Marcel, Etienne, Gabriel, Jean-Marie, Maurice, Denis,Anne-Geneviéve
I always play a game when I go to Paris…I don’t feel truly at home before having said salut to the Eiffel and I can’t leave without saying à la prochaine fois!
and so to all my virtual friends here, I also say for the time being
..a la prochaine fois, très bientôt!
“Un rideau de flocons blancs ininterrompu miroitait sans cesse en descendant vers la terre; il effaçait les formes, poudrait les choses d’une mousse de glace; et l’on n’entendait plus, dans le grand silence de la ville calme et ensevelie sous l’hiver, que ce froissement vague, innommable et flottant de la neige qui tombe, plutôt sensation que bruit , entremêlement d’atomes légers qui semblaient emplir l’espace, couvrir le monde.” Guy de Maupassant, boule de suif.
“It was early autumn, then, before the snow began to fly. –(There’s an expression for you, born in the country, born from the imaginations of men and their feeling for the right word, the only word, to mirror clearly what they see! Those with few words must know how to use them.) Men who have seen it, who have watched it day by day outside their cabin window coming down from the sky, like the visible remorse of an aging year; who have watched it bead upon the ears of the horses they rode, muffle the sound of hoofs on the trail, lie upon spruce boughs and over grass – cover, as if forever, the landscape in which they moved, round off the mountains, blanket the ice in the rivers – for them the snow flies. The snow doesn’t fall. It may ride the wind. It may descend slowly, in utter quiet, from the grey and laden clouds, so that you can hear the flakes touching lightly on the wide white waste, as they come to rest at the end of their flight. Flight – that’s the word. They beat in the air like wings, as if reluctant ever to touch the ground. I have observed them coming down, on a very cold day, near its end when the sky above me was still blue, in flakes great and wide as the palm of my hand. They were like immense moths winging down in the twilight, making the silence about me visible.” – Howard O’Hagan Tay John
…Voilà coin Perdu in January! Quiet and silent behind its curtain of white…
..A view on the bench, where I dream and plan, except in winter. Then I dream and plan by the fire..
..Forgotten socks …
..and terracotta pots waiting to be cleaned..
..Two adorable faces, waiting for fresh hay..
..The Eiffle tower, a bit askew in the potager..
..Old barrel rims, waiting to become arches in the potager..
..The wine bottle rack, serving some different purpose every so often..
..The road to la toilette requires snow boots..
..”La toilette” in snow attire..
..Velouté de butternut..
- Clean and chop and onion and fry in some olive oil.
- Add some cleaned Butternut, cut into chunks.
- Cover with vegetable or chicken stock until vegetables are completely covered. simmer until very tender.
- Mix to a puree and put back on gentle heat.
- Add coconut milk to the soup according to your preference.. Season and leave to simmer gently on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add the juice of 1 orange, season with salt and pepper.
- Serve warm with freshly grated nutmeg and crusty bread.
So, on this quiet, hushed snow note, I leave you..
I initially thought I would post a recipe for “du vin chaud” (mulkled wine), to celebrate the last of my fall colour posts. But then I “fell” upon this recipe..red cabbage..beetroot…apples…pork fillet..and it won me over. So here I give you the voluptuous, dark reds of beetroot and purple cooked cabbage, lazy late-fall plums instead of apples and a juicy, tender pork fillet.
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used late season red plums, but use apples if you prefer.
- Use cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar if you use apples.
- Add a handful of dry Gobi berries.
- Avoid cooking the cabbage to death… remove from the heat when it still has a bite, because it continues cooking, reaching the perfect stage while standing a bit.
- Also good with veal.
- If you are vegetarian, the pork can be replaced by large roasted or stuffed mushrooms, or fish fillets.
- Can also accompany a frittata or boiled eggs.
Recipe adapted from “Filet mignon de porc, chou poêlé; des recettes pour reçevoir; le grand livre Hachette.”
Yesterday was Beaujolais Thursday, the day when new Beaujolais and le vin primeur of the season are sold worldwide. It is tradition in our house to have a meal somewhere with a glass of Beaujolais. It is a day I always look forward to and this year was no different. It is also the last post of my autumn color inspiration and I can’t think of a better way to end it than to toast the wine reds of nature with a young Beaujolais 2012..
And so, with a touch of sadness I say good bye to the splendour of fall. It is time to move on.
à trés bientôt!
Once again, I had to scratch my head to think of a recipe that would accompany the stunning ochre colours of fall. Of course not only in colour, but also in taste, spirit, ambiance..Of course..cheese. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this simple salad yet. It can be manipulated and changed according to the seasons and is always a winner with its warm toast, cheese and apple and fresh green salad.
- Place the apple rounds and goat’s cheese on toasted bread before putting under the grill.
- Take care to slice your apples, bread for toast and cheese more or less the same size.
- Use slices of Camembert instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use pears or quince instead of apples.
- Use brown sugar to caramelize the pears or quince instead of honey and serve with a helping of quince jam/jelly.
- Play around and make your own combinations to serve a melted cheese and apple/pear/quince salad.
..stillife nicked by a chicken..
..stillife with Royal Gala apples..
..walnut oil, walnut vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle vinegar..
Our fall colors have only now really reached their peak and the ochres are in abundance. I don’t have much to say, except that nature is at the moment an explosion of magnificence..
à la prochaine!
I have been like these butterflies the last few weeks…fluttering left, right and center! Our eldest daughter’s wedding is a week from today and I’m in top gear, working to get everything done. Truth be told, up until now most of the organizing had been done by the two themselves. My work only really started these last few weeks and being true to my very bad self, I left everything until the very last minute, which now means a mean scuffling of feet to be on top of things. But I’m almost there…on top of things!
..Inachis Io(Paon du jour) Peacock butterfly..
Every now and then I get distracted by my animals or the garden…the flowers, the vegetables and my potager, a coffee…before finding my rhythm again to move along with wedding stuff. One such a pleasant distraction was the seductive butterflies in my summer garden.
.. le petit nacré (Issoria lathonia) ..
..Iphiclides podalirius – scarse swallowtail (le flambé)..
..la belle dame (Vanessa cardui)..
..(papillons satyrinae (satyre)..
..Colias alfacariensis (Fluoré)..
A last sip of cool and calm Provencal Rosé at sunset with mon chéri before friend and family start arriving from tomorrow onfor the wedding. And so with these images of my summer butterflies here at Coin Perdu and two cold glasses of Rosé, I leave you until I resurface after the wedding!
Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.
In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!
Une petite pensée:
- I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
- Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
- Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
- Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
- Use a celery branch to stir.
- Add cubes of ice in each glass
- Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.
A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.
From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!
Sunday was a real “Dimanche à la campagne” at Coin Perdu. Our children from Toulouse visited the weekend, the sun was shining, we stopped working on our house for the day and we had a great brunch outside under the Tilleul tree. What made it really perfect was that Mon Chéri made lunch! I just sat in the shade, sipped my Rosè and enjoyed the company of the people I love. This frittata/tortilla/ omelette is the brainchild of Mon Chéri and it changes every time he makes it which course is typical of a frittata…you use whatever is available and to your liking!
..frittata/tortilla/omelette on the barbecue..
..the assistant earns her lunch..
Une petite pensée:
- Make a frittata to empty the fridge at the end of a month.
- Normally a frittata is done on the stove and placed under a grill for a few minutes before serving. I is firm enough to cut into slices.
- If you want it creamier, add a TBSP of crème fraîche just after you’ve added the eggs and stir .
- Always add a sprinkling of freshly cut herbs before serving for a fresh appeal.
- Place your frittata under the grill for a few minutes to have it puff up, melt the cheese if added and brown nicely.
- To make it vegetarian, omit the left over meat.
- Be creative with your frittata.
- Serve with fresh green salad, toast or country bread and fruit.
..dèjeuner à la campagne..
But back to the moment: ..the strawberries try desperately to produce one last crop… I sure did something wrong, because my garlic went to seed and is even smaller than when I planted them!… I lost all my newly planted carrots by simple neglect unfortunately (I didn’t water them…too lazy?)…my basil dried up too, but I still have some new leaves pushing, so I’m not completely hopeless!…My onions are all dug up…my young leeks look a bit frail…
..an empty late summer potager..
But on the other hand…my maize (corn) looks beautiful, although few…my pumpkin is coming along beautifully and already have little pumpkins all over…I am in love with all my grey foliaged herbs like the Absinthe(Artemisia absinthium), the santolinas, the grey potent curry plants..
..absinthe, french marigolds, tomatoes, maize, pumpkin herbs..
My artichokes are late, but I’m happy, even though I have only one plant carrying buds…next year I will have plenty of artichokes..enough to leave for flowering and enough for eating!…
One thing I don’t fail at, is growing beets…deliciously sweet, small and big, the young leaves delicious in salads. We have feasted this season on fresh beets and I’ve just planted some more and I’m already picking the leaves for colour in my salads – of course beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I pretend they are very difficult and I’m just soo good!…
..young beetroot peeping through the lavender..
A lovely green view on my potager..I have to add that this photo was taken just after some hard work, like weeding and digging-in horse manure(with the help of sweet Mon chéri of course) and pruning and all the labour a potager asks for…but still… quite pretty with the bright tansy and gay French marigolfds, the cloches and yellow pots, tomato forest… heh?…
..bright yellows for a potager..
Now just look at my maize (admitting again in a whisper that Mon Chéri sees to it being watered…?). In France maize is not eaten “corn on the cob” wise. On the contrary, it is seen as animal food and frowned upon as human food..but once they try it our way..on the BBQ.. with butter and fleur de sel..they are converted!…
..maize(corn on the cob)..
Of course I have camomile, as everubody does…how can one not have Camomile…such an easy growing, abundant and gratifying herb! Don’t trust the marker…nothing is what it seems here at Coin Perdu…
rosemary…oops non, camomile..
Aha…the tomatoes – last year I was conscientious and my tomatoes were properly staked and all the necessary pinching and mulching were religiously done and they were beautiful! This year, it is more of a tomato war with cherries and grapes and rondes and ovals fighting for air and power and it is an ordeal to harvest, but when we succeed, we have nice sweet abundant crops; I’ll be perfect again next year!…
As said…I love the santolinas…the greens and the greys…mixed with lavender, I can dwell there for hours. Hopefully I’ll have a whole field of mixed santolinas and lavenders next year – it all comes down to efficient planning?…
The visitors are bountiful and it rewards the hard work of gardening without pesticides! This young lady goes by the pretty name of le Nacré de la ronce(Brenthis daphné)…
..Nacre de la ronce..
Without planning it, my potager developed and grew towards the yellows. And I love it! Yellows, oranges, greens, whites and grey. Beautiful. But only in my garden. and only in the potager. The rest stays all white. And definitely not on my body! Look at these cheeky marigolds, bursting with energy!… and they get picked when they start to wilt, the petals are dried and used in salads..Nothing goes to waste .
Salads. A potager isn’t a potager without its salads. A leaf here and a leaf there, a handful f tomatoes, a basil leaf, a beetroot leaf … voilà, a salad for lunch….
salads (feuille de chène)
I’m one of those crazy gardeners… I am greedy, I plant too much, I plant too close together, I sow too many seeds… And so I planted far too many courgettes for our household and we ended up having these giants…pretty to look at, not as tasty as the young sweet courgettes though. But I always reason that life must be pretty too, not only practical and sensible, and that same reasoning goes for a potager…pretty has its place too in a potager. So here they are, my pretty giants!…
I hope you enjoyed walking with me through my potager at the end of the summer…almost.
A potager is hard work…all that weeding, the watering, the planting and seeding, the harsh summer sun, fighting the slugs and the deer, the rabbits and snails……it IS hard work and I am fa..aar from being the most effective gardener. Around us, everything grows and wanders like it wishes(animals included, people included) and when the worms devour my artichokes, I break into an instant fit and man and animal flees, but then calm down and casually start over again. We pretty much believe in laisser faire, so you will never see perfection around here, but I believe that it is a stress free way of gardening. What is a few weeds after all? And insects do more good than harm, and if the snails feed on your salads, just plant a few more.. or plant some sorrel to keep them away from your salad(snails adore sorrel)..or cover the soil with broken eggshells, or ash from the barbecue…live and let live..
OK. I have to shower and clean my nails and go find my gloves, which stayed behind somewhere in the potager…
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 !
Today is Grandmothers’ day here in France. everywhere “les Mamies” were taken out to lunches, flower shops were open(normally closed on Sundays) and husbands and children walked around with small bouquets for their sweet “Mamie” I wish I had a “Mamie” who I could spoil today, but the best I could do, was join in the fun at out Cecile’s bar, “le café du Centre” in Beaulieu sur Dordogne, where everybody gathered in happy spirit for coffee and croissants!
Of course that is something just up my alley, for I adore my coffee and I adore my croissant. I’m not a very routine and organized focused person, but not a day goes by that I don’t routinely start my day with my black “café allongé, un verre d’eau, un croissant and the day’s journal, La Montagne.
..my habitual café et croissant..
And so…right there, this morning, next to mon Chéri, among our cafés and croissant crumbs, camera, lenses and writing carnets and laughter of Cecile’s clients, the idea was born for a new blog. I am up for change!
..le café du centre..
So maybe I will move over from Myfrenchkitchen to Café & croissant, which will just be about everything I encounter in my everyday life…I suppose not much different from what I’ve done on Myfrenchkitchen. and of course food is included….man can’t live on croissants alone! I am considering having only the one blog…for my art, for our coin Perdu and its country life and restoration and all things that I find brings sense to this challenging life we live. But maybe I won’t move…I will of course lose many of my readers and will have to start all over and my URL will change which is always a complicated story for all involved. But where is a will, is a way. I need to move on to something new…some new juice! The future will lead me.
I’m also leaving this week for a week or two in Hawaii with mon Chéri. All tech stuff will stay behind, except for my camera. I’m taking only my bathing suit, sketching tools and little black number…for all those dinners awaiting me! I want to switch off and indulge in nature the sun and surroundings, let my senses treat me every day. Can you tell I’m excited?
And to round off this post…I made a curry chicken tagine for dinner..
- Chicken cut into portions, browned in olive oil and madras curry. Added potatoes cut in cubes, onions cut roughly, a handful of organic dried apricots, chopped preserved lemon, a tablspoon of wild flower honey and some homemade chicken stock from the freezer. Bring to the boil and slowly simmer until you have a thick sauce and tender vegetable and chicken.
- Add some spices of your taste…I used cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and crushed juniper berries.
- Serve with couscous.
- Bon appétit!!
Welcome to today, Mardi gras 2012!!
A little Mediterranean flavour to celebrate this feasty day…the last day on which we “fatten up” before we start our 40 day fast up to Pâcques. What else do we eat than crêpes…again?! Only, this time a bit different…made with semolina flour and yeast, it is left for an hour to rise before baking in a pan. The yeast may scare you off, but it is not at all difficult…no kneading involved, and while you wait on the raising of the yeast, you can clean up the kitchen. It is traditionally served with soft butter and warm honey in the Middle East….delicious I tell you!
…served with warm panfried clementines and honey and butter…
…served with soft butter and drizzled with warm honey…
- Add 4 tsp dry yeast to 125 ml lukewarm water. Add 3 TBS flour and leave aside in a warm place for about 15 minutes until the mixture begins to foam.
- Sift 250g flour, 250 fine semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl and shape a hole in the middle of the flour.
- Beat 2 eggs with 125 ml lukewarm milk and add into the hole made in the flour. Add the foamed yeast mixture and another 350 ml lukewarm water. Work the flour gently from the outside towards the centre, mixing it with the yeast/milk mixture in the middle. Whisk briskly until the mixtrue is smooth with the consistency of thick cream. cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for and hour unil the mixture becomes foamy and doubles in volume.
- Wipe a pan with a little buttered or oiled paper and heat it up on the stove until hot. Drop a small ladle full of mixture into the center of the pan(about 3 TBSP). Bake until the top is dry and makes small holes/bubbles. don’t turn over. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a plate over hot water. Cover with a damp towel.
- Repeat until all the mixture is used up.
- Serve warm on a plate with warmed honey and soft butter OR some clementine slices, slightly caramelized in butter and honey.
- Serve warm.
Makes about 16 crêpes.
- Add a drop of orange flower water to the crêpe mixture OR add it to the clementines.
- Arrange the crêpes after baking each one in overlapping fashion rather that on top of each other.
- Butter the pan between baking if you don’t use a non stick pan.
…eggs, semolina, flour, yeast and a scale..
..acacia honey, fresh seasonal clementines and many books..
* Recipe adapted from “crêpe à la semoule” de Le Meilleur du MAroc, by Tess Maloss, Larousse.
I hope you have a festive Mardi Gras and that your fasting from tomorrow on stays motivated and on the right track… ahem ahem…!
I suppose everyone thinks “chocolate” when in February and especially around the 14th. I’m breaking the rules a bit here…these small cherry and bacon rolls are much more popular in our home under my loved ones than chocolate. In fact, I’m the only chocolate fan around here! So, when I make my people these little rolls, they know it says something about my love for them.
Very easy, so much so that it doesn’t require any recipe. I’ve had this “recipe” for as long as I can remember. It is sort of my “signature” snack and I have not yet come across a single person who sticks to only one or even two.
- Simply roll some sweet “cake cherries” as we used to call them in strips thin bacon. Secure with a toothpick
- Bake in a 200 degrees C (356 degr F) oven until the bacon is caramelized. In a preheated oven, this won’t take longer than 12-15 minutes.
- Use some prunes or apricots instead of cherries.
- Use a leaner ham, like prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut in think slices and roll around the cherries. I’ve tried them all, but our favourite stays bacon strips.
- The bacon rolls can be fried in a pan(without oil), but they are crispier and tastier(and healthier) baked in the oven.
- Use simple toothpicks.. fancy ones will burn in the oven.
- Eat warm from the oven.
…cherries in syrup, strips of bacon, toothpicks…
…May you all have a cherry sweet Valentine’s day!..
from Chérie here in Corréze!
I’m not a very big potato fan, but with our extremely cold temperatures here in Europe and especially here at Coin Perdu in the barn, I take comfort in a hearty true mountain tartiflette. It does wonders for my cold body…and spirit! It is a favorite in my family and we make it different every time. It is a recipe that can be played around with, except for the cheese..that can NOT be replaced. It won’t be a tartiflette without that strong flavoured creamy cheese.
There aren’t any specific quantities for making a tartiflette…I can only tell you more or less what I do:
- Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
- Rinse, leave to cool aside.
- Fry 2 large onions in a pan, add a handful of sliced champignons de Paris and a packet of bacon pieces. Season to you taste.
- When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
- Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
- Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
- Cut a Reblochon cheese(or another soft cheese of your choice) through the middle so you have two thin rounds. I used a Montagnard des Vosges. Place cut side down on the potatoes.
- If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has become dry and brittle. Remove from the oven and remove the crust from the dish. Sprinkle with some paprika or “piment d’Espelette” and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nicely caramelized.
- Serve warm with some slices of smoked ham and a large fresh green salad on the side with a pungent vinaigrette.
Serves 4 as a meal.
Europe had been covered in a Siberian snow blanket for the past week or so…freezing cold, hyper dangerous, but spectacular! It is exceptionally cold here at Coin Perdu and I have a rough time keeping warm, seeing to fresh water for the horses with all the plumbing frozen rock solid. Warming up the barn to a comfortable temperature has also been a challenging task as of late and the only solution is to dress Inuit style, shuffling around in multiple layers and moving with less agility than a polar bear. don’;t even mention femininity.. We were snowed in without snow chains for the car and couldn’t get up the hill. the small French country roads are not made for snow and tiny cars and evidence of this is seen all around the countryside with cars in ditches off the roads.
..our/my home for now…
..bringing the horses in for the night, feeding them, carrying hay from the e other barn and water from the swimming pool..
…an unfinished home – what would I give to be all snug in my home..
…VERY c..c..c..c0ld visits..!!
…the boxwoods are still standing and showing off their beauty against a white background…
..first time snow for Mimolette…
…discovering this all-white-business…
..a white potager(vegetable garden) with the eiffel tower empty, a garden cloche looking quite pretty and last year’s cherry tomatoes…
Mésanges bleues(blue tits and a mésange charbonniére(Great tits) are all too playful in this cold. Between them and the red robins and the pies and the horses and the chickens and the cats and the rabbits and whoever else…; I just can’t keep up with feeding everybody!…
…just some prettiness…
Last, but not least: THANK YOU to everybody who has sent me emails and messages expressing concern for our staying here in the barn at Coin Perdu during this cold, wondering how we/I’m holding up and whether we/I’m surviving. It is very much appreciated.!! I’m still here, even though I have to admit it is a bit tough lately. Thank you for caring!
the polar bear(ess)!
A very popular tart/cake/sweetness in our home is this little lime tart…sometimes made with lemon. It has a tartness without being overwhelming sweet or soury, like lemon tarts can sometimes be. It reminds a little of a cheesecake…just perfect for those particular tastebuds.
- Use lemons instead of limes.
- Use other biscuits of your choice for the base.
- Serve cream on the side or decorate each tartlet with a whipped cram dollop.
*A recipe adapted from Atelier tartes, salé +sucré by Catherine Kluger.
Doesn’t fascination come in so many forms? One of them is the beautiful old crosses(las crotz) standing at the carrefours (crossroads) in France and especially here in the Limousin. I have to admire them every time I pass them, because somehow they grab my sentiments and transport me back to a time when life was so different from how we live it now. Standing in the heart of the countryside all over the Limousin, I can still feel their eternity, hear their stories, their silence, even despite the fact that I now break that calm of the past with the cruel blare of modern transport.
These beacons served once upon a time as road signs. Sometimes elaborate, but most of the time very simple and very often as plain as one huge exceptional stone. After Christianity la croix de chemin took on the shape of a real cross…in wood or carved from the best stone of the region, elaborate, in wrought iron, on pedestals, or freestanding.
Today these crosses are only reminders of what was once a landmark for the peasants, roadsigns and parish, places of pilgrimage. They were also objects of religion and devotion and sometimes commemoration of events, like La croix des femmes, which was created in commemoration on a corner where a blind horse caused the death of two women.
The photos were all taken just around the area, 30 minutes’ drive around our home, Coin Perdu in Correze.
These two crosses stand at the entrance of the village Beaulieu sur Dordogne and the other at the entrance to Puy d’Arnac. It was custom that a cross indicates the beginning and ending of a village.
At the crossroads the crosses also serve during snow periods in winter where the four roads came together. People gathered at these crossroads, mostly for religious ceremonies and blessing of the crop and the land And prayers. They were important landmarks, not only of the land, but also of the lives of the peasants. It is not a strange thing then when we speak of standing at a crossroad in our lives. We should stop frequently and check if we still see our beacon/landmark. Can we still recognize it? Has our direction changed? Maybe it is necessary to change the course of our pilgrimage from time to time. A next landmark will always be there to guide us. Crossroads will always be there. They are timeless. Create your own las crotz. Let it guide you. Let it tell your story.
All photos: Ronell van Wyk
Bibliography: Mémoires de la Corrèze, Jean- Pierre Lacombe.
The summer fruits are winking at the markets, enticing us with their plump “rondeurs” and their rosy cheeks. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, dark velvety red cherries, flirty strawberries and mischievous blueberries and raspberries, blackberries and all kinds of beady berries. The best way of course is to enjoy the summer fruits right from the tree, picking with one hand and eating with the other. Or buy the red cheeked nectarine at the market stand and have the juices run down the palm of your hand right there while you pay Monsieur his few centimes. But should he complain about your bad manners and sticky money, you can place your peaches elegantly in your basket and hurry home, take out your pan, cut up your summer fruits, call your friend and tell her/him to come over with some creme fraiche and quickly pan sautée your cut fruit in a caramelized vanilla syrup. Sit down under the walnut tree with your friend and scoop up a spoonful of fruit with a dollop of cream and imagine what paradise must be like.
Pan sautéed summer fruits
- Melt some butter in a big pan, add some sugar and melt over low heat. Add a good serving of white balsamic vinegar to the syrup.
- Clean summer fruits of your choice: peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries…
- Remove the seeds and cut the bigger peaches, nectarines and apricots into quarters. Leave the strawberries and other berries whole. Remove the seeds of the cherries.
- Add the harder fruits like the peaches and apricots tot the butter mixture. Simmer gently in the syrup for a few minutes.Add the rest of the fruit, keeping some berries aside to add fresh just before serving.
- Stir over the heat for a few minutes more.
- Add a handful of torn basil leaves and fresh mint.
- Pour into serving bowls and serve while warm with ice cream or cream on the side.
- Any mixture of fruits can be used.
- Vary the sizes of the fruits for interest in texture and visual appeal.
- Don’t overcook the fruit…keep it still with some crunch.
- Serve while still slightly warm.
- Collect interesting small pans to serve outside.
- It can easily be prepared on the barbecue.
- Add vanilla seeds scraped from a vanilla pod and some fresh thyme for variation.
…Beaulieu-sur -Dordogne is a beautiful medieval town on the banks of the Dordogne river, situated in la vallée de la Dordogne in Corréze…
Even though we fall under the commune of Puy d’Arnac here at Coin Perdu, our mountain home, Beaulieu sur Dordogne is the village where we do our shopping…the marché, a morning cafe créme with croissants. It is also where Hartman regularly stops at Point P with his remorque to fill up on building material. Les Monsieurs just take out the book, have him sign and off he goes, back to Coin Perdu where the work is waiting. I might linger longer…have a coffee at Les voyageurs, chat with Cecile, walk around with my sketchbook and camera, buy strawberries and salad at the marché and pop in at the Antiquités.
…hôtel de ville…
…baron de Marbot Marcellin…
…une boulangerie et une boucherie – two places no french town can do without…
…la place du marché…
…where the Antiquités draws me in every time with its beautiful things of yesteryear…
…la bôite a lettre et l’eau potable – for those thirsty moments and the ever important letter or postcard to post…
…if’ like me, you love anything architectural, all these beautiful old lintels above the doors will keep you spell bounded, in awe of the craftsmanship and detail…
…and still more…
…few things can be as fascinating as watching people, making up stories about them, wondering about their hopes and dreams and then turn around to wonder about our own…
… never a dull moment when it comes to a little humor and interest…
…and beauty is always present…
…in the charm of old stone and wood, pretty lace and an unpretentious flower…
If ever you might be passing through our special area of Corréze, turn off at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, give me a call and drop in for un petit noir at our Coin Perdu, only 10 minutes away… where the world really comes to a standstill and like Peter Pan, we live extracts of life we never thought possible.
…à la prochaine..!
After almost five months here in the still undiscovered, secret countryside of Corréze, we are heading back home to Montlouis sur Loire. I will be exchanging my Corréze kitchen for my Montlouis kitchen!
…a barn kitchen in Puy d’Arnac…
We’re locking up Coin Perdu for the winter:
Setting aside the wheelbarrows and cement mixers. Emptying the pantry in the Corréze kitchen corner. Stripping the beds of linen. Storing books and magazines away from humidity. Packing my art stuff. Taking my art stuff off the walls. A last sweep.
A last stroll to our little bench to throw a last glance across the valley.
One more photo. Packing Tokala and Aiyani in our peugeot bleu.
Shutting la porte de la grange.
Au revoir notre petit Coin Perdu!
…our corner in Corréze…
…lovely Cecile at Les voyageurs…
May the owls be kept warm once again in the barn for this winter, may les vaches roam content on our hils, may les buses continue circuling the skies, may les chevreuils graze undisturbed down by the poplars and may the wild flowers welcome us bright and jovial on our return in the spring.
…working or fiddling…
We enjoyed two birthdays, many sunsets and starry skies. We had good friends visiting us, staying with us in the barn. We had a surprise visit from good friends in South Africa. We got to know our neighbors, Jean Pierre and Michéle and Yvonne, 86 years old and along with her chickens, as fit as a fiddle! We became regulars at the bar in Beaulieu, enjoyed icy cold péche melba on hot afternoons, sipped aperitif at 17:00 along with all the other regulars.
We did lots of hard work: Turned the barn into a living home. Turned the old homestead into a construction site with ladders and cement and beams and trucks. There were tears and frustration. Arguments. Difference of opinions. Anger, irritation, misunderstandings. We had blisters and bruises and still have. We rushed off to emergency with a slashed open head, got stitched up and continued working. But we also went for long strolls in the forest, nibbled on peaches and oranges.
…Liandri & Marinell…dreaming?…
We became part of the heart beat of Corréze and we are going home, replenished and with vivid memories, patiently awaiting spring to restart it all over again. Of course! Can’t wait!
…a last glance…