Winter has suddenly hit us with a bang and out came the soups of which onion soup is a favorite. The secret of a good onion soup rests on a good stock (preferably homemade) and of course the slow, deep caramelizing of the onions. If you want a quick soup for dinner, this is not it. But no doubt, for a cold day, an onion soup, topped with a melted cheese crouton, is pure heaven.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- The longer you can caramelize your onions, the more flavorful they will be. It is a myth that onions can be caramelized within 10 minutes.
- I cut my onions in quarters and then slice the quarters finely, because I don’t like long strips dripping soup from my spoon.
- To serve country style, serve the soup in a tureen with the croutons on top and serve each portion from the tureen.
- It can also be served individually by placing a slice of bread on the soup, top with cheese and grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
- Don’t be skimpy with the thyme as it adds to the flavor.
- To really serve a soup and not soaked bread, don’t serve too much bread in the soup, for it soaks up a lot of the liquid and you will be left with only onions and soaked bread.
- Serve the soup hot in warmed bowls.
..a variety of onions..
..onions cut into quarters and sliced thinly, cooked until translucent and caramelized until dark and soft…
…countrybread, called a tourte here inCorréze, sliced and torn into smaller portions..
..Vieux Cantal( aged Cantal cheese) broken into small chunks and sprinkled on the bread and soup for a country dinner..
To all my American friends and readers…have a Happy Thanksgiving!
..à la prochaine fois..
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!..
Don’t you just love it when a recipe says in its first line..easy and quick? I definitely do! With these last three daily posts, I had to think of very quick and easy but still delicious recipes and it being a time of nostalgia, this little recipe came to mind…It is not a stunner, but still a delicious little snack. It is even easy enough for young children to make….keeping them busy during the upcoming holidays.
My sister made this treat regularly so many years ago when she was living in her tiny apartement during university years. I loved visiting her on weekends with my parents, sure in the knowledge that this delicacy would be waiting in her fridge. It is sort of one of those treats that was part of a certain era and then disappeared. It was great for students to make on their desks in their rooms, without the need for cooking facilities.
You need only 2 ingredients: 2 packets of butter biscuits and a can of caramelized condensed milk. If you live in SA or a country which has “tennis biscuits”, then that is exactly what you will use. It has a slight coconut taste and it absorbs the caramel nicely to go all tasty soft and flavorful. Here I used le grand petit beurre from St. Michel, which is a nice square shaped biscuit. I also used confiture de lait by Bonne Maman (what will we do here in France without Bonne Maman?).
- Place two biscuits next to each other on a sheet of baking paper.
- Spread the caramelized condensed milk thickly over both biscuits.
- Place two more biscuits on top of the caramel layer.
- Continue until you have about 9 to 10 layers of biscuits.
- Close up tightly with the baking paper and wrap tightly(without crushing the biscuits!) in tin foil.
- Leave overnight.
- Will keep about a week or even longer in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Cut in slices and serve with a coffee or tea.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Try using nutella instead of caramelized condensed milk.
- The longer it stand, the better the flavor and softer the biscuits become.
Backstage. If there is one thing we all have in common, it is that “fun” behind the scenes. But, I am unfortunately not Jacky Chan, so my behind the scenes will probably only have significance for me and no one else. It is a bit like the friend who comes back with photos from Russia, taken with his expensive Canon and ten lenses, and entertains you with great enthusiasm to his hundreds of touristy cathedrals and fountains and bridges and museums, while your jaw aches from biting back your yawning. But just maybe seeing a bit of my backstage scenes, will have you run to your photos to remember your own backstage times with loved ones.
We are always in our total number represented in the kitchen, stretching over one another, reaching over heads for a tool, tasting, licking, nibbling, fighting. It is amazing the busyness only 4 people can cause in a kitchen..
These are truly precious memories..
Not everything that came out of the kitchen was that big a success, but that didn’t matter in the least..we made our flops together, that is what counts.
Even guests had to pitch in, and they did it with enthusiasm… for that reason I have plenty of tabliers(aprons).
One thing to be found in practically all our scenes, is the opening of oysters. It is the task of mon chéri. I will probably lose all my fingers, because I have never opened an oyster! and mon chéri and our youngest daughter always have to get into a dish cloth fight..in the kitchen!
We normally start off our evening of Réveillon with some vin chaud et apéritifs in the living room. then we start warming up and finish off our menu and seat ourselves at the table where an amuse bouche is awaiting us. I always have something ready at the table when guests seat themselves..it adds to the expectation and while everybody start eating their amuse bouche and have their wine poured and just simply settle at the table, it gives me the time to finish off the starter. Our entrée(starter) is plated in the kitchen.
After the starter, we bring the plat principal(main course) arranged on a large platter to the table, where we keep it warm over a flame. It is normally fish and a vegetable accompaniment, all arranged on one platter. We follow that up with a cheese board..
..and end of course our dinner with la piéce de résistance….le dessert! Byt that time, we are close to midnight,; which is the time we pass around our gifts. But before that, we go for a late pre-midnight walk..or rahter that is what we used top do in the Loire house – we went for a walk by the Loire, just to walk down some calories. On arriving back home, we warm ourselves by the fireplace, make coffee and start opening up gifts..slowly, deliberately, lingering on each moment.
Christmas day followed about the same pattern, except that we ate earlier and afterwards we walked up to the DVD store and rented a DVD while we had coffee and chocolates a and fell asleep before halfway through the movie..
Thank you for sharing this trip down memory lane with me. If nothing else, I hope it took you on your own roads back, remember with tenderness all the good and I hope it inspires you to make many new memories this December and note them down, either in words or in pictures.
- Some nice music again which I listen to lately: Opéra rouge – Vincent Niclo/les choeurs de l’Armée rouge. Here is one song you can listen to..Ameno
Merci et à bientôt!
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!!
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)!
I’ve been struggling with this koulibiac for two full days. The first one was far too dry, so I took on a second one. Terrifying colors! The third tasted complicated..and by that time, I couldn’t trust my judgement any more either! Tasting the same thing for two days…the same salmon, the same spinach, the same onion mix etc, truly numbs the taste buds. Finally I came back to the first effort with a few changes here and there. It is how it works with my painting as well. The first effort is always the most spontaneous, most honest rendering. Writing too. Those first thoughts should never be changed…only polished maybe, but never changed.
Just for interesting sake, here is the last effort..remember…the one with the complicated flavors?
Salmon and spinach koulibiac(pie)recipe
- Clean about 700g of fresh salmon fillet and poach for about 10 minutes or until flaky, but not dry and colorless. Leave to cool. Flake, remove all skin and the bones. Add lemon juice and zest of 1 lemon, season to taste and mix lightly. Add alittle poaching liquid to the flaked salmon to prevent it from being dry.
- Sautée 2 small onions in olive oil. Add about 1 cup(250 ml) white arborio risotto rice, add salt, and 500 ml water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the rice is creamy. Stir in 1 TBSP of butter. Remove from the heat and leave aside(covered) to cool.
- Rinse and dry 2 large handfuls of fresh young spinach leaves. Chop roughly.
- Finely chop 2 large bunches fresh dill. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C.
- Grease a bread tin with butter, (12cx24cm).
- Roll out 500g puff pastry, (pre ordered from your baker).Cut a rectangle large enough to line the bottom and sides of your bread tin(about 1/3 of the 500g). Keep in the fridge until needed along with the rest of the pastry.
- Fill the puff pastry base with some rice, cover with spinach leaves, the chopped dill, the flaked salmon, chopped dill again, some spinach leaves, and end with a layer of rice.
- Roll out the rest of the puff pastry and cut a rectangle a little bigger than the bread mould. Place over the rice topping and wet the fingers to glue the sides of the top neatly together with the pastry base.
- Roll out the rest of the pastry into shapes of your desire and decorate the top as you wish. Replace in the fridge for an hour to get cold.
- Brush the top with 1 egg and make a hole in the top of the pastry with some baking paper to serve as a “chimney” and let heat and steam escape.
- Bake for abut 40 minutes. Cover with a sheet of baking paper or brown paper if the top browns too dark.
- Bake a sauce of Bulgarian yogurt and crème fraiche, season with salt and pepper, a spoonful of mustard and lemon juice.
- Serve sliced with a fresh green salad and pungent vinaigrette.
Serves 8 people
- When poaching the salmon, add a carrot, an onion, lemon slices, dill and parsley stems to the poaching water to flavor the salmon. Strain afterwards and save the water for a soup.
- The rice should be slightly sticky which will keep the rice layer together for better cutting of your koulibiac.
- The success of puff pastry depends on as little handling as possible, working with cool hands, and being put very cold into a hot oven. The temperature can be lowered afterwards.
- Don’t layer too much rice so you end up having a whole lot of rice and a lot of too little salmon! I tend to add too much rice to my layers..
- Try whole wheat rice, wild rice or quinoa instead of white rice for a more healthy option.
- Add a sprinkling of dried yellow/orange flower petals between the rice and spinach layer for a colorful version…zinnia petals, nasturtium, begonia, geraniums, marguerites, sunflowers, nasturtiums…
- Have fun creating your own versions!
…doesn’t look too bad when goinginto the oven(remember that I’m at coin Perdu, baking in the wood burning stove…I’m sooo good!!)…
…and the sortie out of the oven after 40 minutes doens’t look too bad either(except for some bad photography!)…
Why do I prefer the first effort?
*The flavors are clean and simple and along with the sauce it combines into perfect harmony. The biggest challenge of this effort is to make sure your koulibiac isn’t dry. So my tips would be to: add some poaching liquid to the salmon, make sure the rice is moist and sticky, but still white and plump(chicken stock tends to color your rice).
In the next two efforts?
*I added roasted fennel, combined it with the dill and added as an extra layer. The result was that the flavors were just too complicated and overpowering for the whole ensemble. Much like an electrical guitar playing in a symphonic orchestra…
*I also added chopped red onion to the salmon, which ended up with some ugly purply spots between the delicate pink of the salmon.
*Oh, and don’t forget that wobbly silicone bread pan-business-thing which I’ve tried for the first time…cost me an arm and a leg! It “stretched” in the middle so the bread shape plonked out…you can see it in the first image. I was a very unhappy woman… In the second image I used my ole trusted normal bread tin and just look at the difference…a lovely square shape.
The lesson: Simple ALWAYS works! You may have to adapt a little here and change a little there, but staying on the simple road is to be on the success road.
No sketch with the recipe today…too tired, too fed up with salmon, too heavy from all the tasting…a good chef alwasy tastes his food, they say. I did that and look where I am now…?
No story from my side either…aren’t you happy!? I have no first thoughts left after these two days.
And now please..
“Please don’t feed me no more salmon…
I could do with a little bit of famine…
My kitchen makes me ill…
for lack of clean… plates and place to chill..
and I am now ready for that thing they call in French…”régime”?
Oh man…how to lose these salubrious omega 3’…sss
So I can again be the lanky woman of my man’s dream…sss!”
a bientôt … from the gleaming omega omnivore!!
We were in Singapore for a few days and with a food repertoire stretching from East to West, you could enjoy anything you desired. My prime choice of course was sushi! It was wonderful. I couldn’t get enough , but did put several other foods to the test, especially at the “hawkers stalls”, where you could choose to your heart’s delight between Malay and Indian, vietnamese and Indosian and Cambodian, thai and chinese…the list goes on…
…scattered sushi( chirashi sushi)..
- There are many different types of sushi, of which the most known would be the rolled sushi. But if you shy away from making rolled sushi at home, becasue of the effort and time consuming aspect, (or you are too tired, like I am since being back!), try making the scattered sushi, which is quick and easy and just as tasty.
- Use fillings and accompaniments that you have in the house…fresh vegetables, fruit…
- Make that extra little effort to cut the vegetables into attractive shapes…it is what Japanese cooking is all about.
- Keep the portions small and serve several small helpings of servings, like a broth, a fresh simple salad, and fresh fruit.
- Keep attractive bowls and small dipping bowls in the kitchen, square plates, oblong plates and mix and match for an interesting table setting.
- Serve extra soya sauce(shoyu) in an attractive small teapot.
…Jamae mosque in chinatown…
…colonial civic district – firestation…
…the indian cricket club, the city hall and old supreme court…
..more of the civic district…
..chinese chamber of commerce,
…modern singapore …
…Kampong glam(malay district)…
…behind the scenes…
…Architecture in Kampong glam…
…Street scene in little India…
**My Singapore sketches are on Africantapestry.
**All uncollaged photos of Singapore can be seen on Travels
I always think of lasagna as a true homy meal…served with a fresh green salad and a pungent vinaigrette and of course a crusty bread to sweep your plate…It can be served in a large oven-to-table dish, which is what I prefer with a lasagne. It can also be served in portion dishes, which makes it of course a bit more elegant.
- You can use any vegetable, but don’t use too big a variety. The same Golden three rule, as for any other decoration-, architect-, flower arranging- subject applies here too. Less says more.
- Frozen spinach can be used instead of fresh. There is no exact measure…check your dish and measure how much veggies and sauce and cheese you would need.
- Pasta sheets: Fresh or dried pasta sheets can be used but make sure to use enough liquid in the tomato/vegetable mixture for the pasta sheets to absorb. Pasta sheets can be cooked beforehand, which means more work!
- I prefer only two layers of pasta and I end with a third layer of vegetbale and béchamel sauce. But if you like more pasta in your dish, make as many layers as you like by spreading the layers thinner.
- Béchamel sauce: Heat 500 ml milk along with 5 parsley stems, 4 whole peppercorns, a small carrot, branch of thyme and 1 celery stick. Leave to infuse and to cool completely. Make a roux in a saucepan by melting 1 heaped TBSP butter. Whisk in 1 heaped TBSP flour. Leave to cook on medium heat unitl it becomes frothy…about 3 minutes. Remove the herbs from the milk and add slowly to the butter mixture, while whisking the whole time. Leave on low heat and stir until thick. If your sauce is too thick, add a little milk. I like my sauce like thick cream. I definitly don’t want to plaster a house! Season to taste.
- This is not a recipe where exact amounts are necessary. Add a little more spinach or less, add more courgettes or less..be interested in what you’re doing, taste and taste again.
- I serve with a drizzling of olive oil…just to give that bit extra mediterranean touch…
…1001 garders’ secrets – Jean-Michel Groult…
As mentioned before, I love garden b0oks…well, all books for that matter…new ones, old ones, worn ones, impeccable ones, thick ones, thin ones, beautiful ones, ordinary ones and all topics…but for today I’ll stick to a little book that gives so much advice on simple gardening. Just 1001 tips to make work in the garden a pleasure. there are many books on the market, worldwide, in all languages, presenting the same. We have all come to a stage where we are forced to do simplify work, whether in a garden or elsehwere. And we have come to a stage where we are forced to consider healthier ways of gardening…letting go of the pesticides in favour of more natural ways…plants, prevention, insects, animals…
My garden is all set for autumn. I’m just waiting for the colours to deepen a bit more before taking some photos. And in a few weeks, I’ll be setting the garden up for winter – wrapping the pots and some plants, wrapping and storing all garden furniture, setting out some winter decorations. But more about that later. For now there is still a lot of garden reading and writing going on and here is a little taste of a book that inspires gardening all year round.
So, why not get out to the bookstore and find a similar little book that inspires you to go for a greener, healthier but still beautiful and delighful garden, filled with colour and harvests, buzzing animal life and quiet moments of reflection.
All images below taken from the book, 1001 secrets de jardiniers.
…Simple and easy garden care…
* gone are the times where gardening was hard work to keep in tip top condition, even when being a natural garden. After all, we visit a garden to sow happiness, not difficulties. *
…à la cuisine…
* flavour above all else, wild plants, make vinegar!, store dried, cordon-bleu tricks *
…enhance your space…
* keep your garden seasonal, some interest in every seaon. let it breathe some freedom by breaking hard lines with freeflowing and -growing plants, leave some shrubs to grow high and shape onto arches hwich will give as much charm as climbing creepers. *
…baskets full of fruit and vegetables…
* what can be more gratifying thatn harvesting your own fresh fruit and vegetables? but it can be hard work and tiring as well if not simplified and made easy for yourself. *
… a green view…
* See the garden as you wouild see the interior of your home….walls with furniture and decorations and wall hangings. apply the same to your garden…not only a green lawn in an empty garden. See trees and shrubs and creepers and garden furniture as the decorations of your garden and keep it as aestethic as you would your house. *
…348 pages of secrets for a healthy, interesting and inspiring garden, simplified to do it the easy and environmently friendly way…
…à la prochaine!..
Salmon and avocado aperitif and an old brown suitcase(aperitif de saumon aux avocats et la vieille valise)
It is time to start baking cookies for Christmas. Time to think about the menu and order your meats. time to think about some aperitif to toast with your champagne. And time to dig up the old memories.
Salmon and créme frâiche with blinis and topped with some caviar is an old favourite for high occasions. And loved by all. By changing and adapting it a little, we can still enjoy tradition ; bringing in some new without throwing out the old. Spark it up a bit, freshen it up.
- Serve the aperitif with some blinis on the side.
- It can be made in bigger portions and served as a starter.
- Créme frâiche can be added to the mayonnaise to make it creamier…add to your taste.
- Before topping the glasses with the mayonnaise/créme frâiche mixture, leave for about an hour in the fridge to become a bit more firm, or else it will be too runny.
- Instead of the smoked salmon a tartare of good raw salmon can be used.
- Use tomatoes instead of salmon if you are a vegetarian.
- Don’t use an expensive caviar for the topping..a lumpfish caviar works fine.
- To make a quenelle of lumpfish caviar: use two spoons and slide a dollop of lumpfish caviar alternatively between the two spoons until you have an olive shaped quenelle. Slide the one spoon from front to back on the second spoon under the quenelle. Repeat once or twice until you are happy with the shape. See photos above.
…shaping a quenelle…
During Decembers I have a habit of digging up all old things and remembering. That is what I think winter is for after all. Reflection. Reminiscence. I reorganize drawers and closets, throw out old magazines, go pick them back up an hour later…Browse until early morning hours through old photo albums, discover old letters….like my own and those of my parents. The ones we dug up in our cave in the garden. Photos and letters are stories. They make us cry. They take us back on distant roads and make us laugh. They make us glance in the mirror to see the traces time had left.
…good wishes and happy writings…
…an old brown suitcase for embracing old memories…
How will we be remembered and looked upon one day? Will someone have an old filled suitcase somewhere where our picture dwells? Or will our picture appear in a virtual realm in a hyper contemporary room…or not at all. Will someone also look at us and cry and laugh at once upon a time…
…once upon a time…
Somewhere old becomes mingled with the new and we wonder…when is old really old. Memories have no sense of time. Yesterday can be long ago and tomorrow can still be far away.
…a mix of old and not so old…
May I never forget. May my brown suitcases never be empty.
Do you have an old brown suitcase?
*Truc et astuces de grand-mére:
I sometimes serve individual cheese platters for the cheese course after the plat principal. I find it is easier to serve cheese this way, than having a heavy cheese board or platter going around at the table with each person having to find a place to rest the platter and cut his cheese. Along with the individual portions, I keep the platter close by, for those who want an extra helping and so the cheeses and their names can be seen.
…plat du fromage…
..st, marcellin, corsu vecchiu, tete de moine, morbier, fourme d’ambert, mango, kiwi and quince paté…
- Serve small helpings of diced fruit in season along with your cheese. It is optional. In France you will very rarely be served some fruit with your cheese, but I find that most people enjoy a hint of fruit on the cheese plate, eevn if only for its uplifting colour!
- DON”T forget a good red wine!
- I prefer to serve simply une baguette tradition with the cheese, simply becasue the slices are small and crusty and aren’t overwhelmingly heavy and is just perfect with any cheese.
- NO butter!
- NO crackers!
- Honey is also a good accompaniment to some cheeses as well as a quince paté.
- Serve a variety of cheese – start from a hard cheese, a soft and creamy one, a blue cheese and a goat’s cheese as basis and add to that maybe an unknown cheese or exotic or an artisan cheese, or your favourite.
- Round cheeses are normally sliced from the middle outwards. Triagular cheeses are easiest to lay flat and sliced from the thin end upward to the thickest. A pyramid is sliced from the top to the bottom.
- Serve a tete de moine (the frilly cheese in the photo below) on the shaving board(if you have one), as it always pleases the guests to shave some for themselves.
- You can serve thse individual cheese platters as a starter, or as a small aperitif before the meal, but then skip the cheese course after the main dish.
…tete de moine, pouligny st pierre, st. marcellin, fourme d’ambert, morbier, corsu vecchiu, …
* I can’t walk past anything that has a story. I own broken cups, and burnt linen and chewed up books and mildewed paintings – all because they have stories behind them. My wooden floorboards still have patches of old paint drippings. I left part of a wall unpainted, because we discovered abeautiful old frieze. I refuse to replace the old glass of some of our windows with double glaze, because it is still the original glass and you can see the tiny bubbles and other defects.
…chewed up old medicine journals and letters, dug up from our garden…
..porcelaine pieces dug up from our garden in Montlouis sur Loire…
And so I have this beautiful antique linen tablecloth with its complete set of napkins, whih I only bought because it made me cry. It belonged to an old lady, who grew up in a typical bourgouise family. She received beautiful lines for her trousseau as a young girl, one of which was this set of table linen. She used it for her fromal dinners and one evening when entertaining guests, one napkin was dropped on the floor, the family dog got hold of it and chewed it to get to the meat juices on the napkin. So the elegant old Madame gently washed the napkin by hand, repaired it with needle and thread by hand, ironed it and placed it back with the set. When she got old alone, she went to an old age home, but had no children to pass her linens on to. So she gave it up to be sold. I was heartbroken when hearing this sad tale and couldn’t leave the brocante without it. I trust it is the truth, because I know Madame aux Brocantes, who specializes in old linens, very well. She always keeps some things aside for me, especially when they have a story behind them.
…tablecloth with a story…
Each time I set my table with this beautiful linen set, I fold the chewed up serviette for myself. I think of old Madame and hope she looks onto me from wherever she is, with happiness.
* Always interested in how people lived in all ages, I recently got this cute calendrier for 2010, not for the calender but for the content, which holds tips and tales from days gone by. Some are real good advice and some make you giggle…for you to decide which!
…astuce de grand-mére:
*For whiter teeth – dip your finger in olive oil, rub it against your teeth and keep it for several minutes in your mouth before rinsing, OR, rub a sage leaf against your teeth once a week.
These cornes de boeuf peppers from Spain lend themselves ideally to stuffing and they are fascinating with their long and twisted shapes.
…cornettes de boeuf…
- Any filling can be used…mushrooms, onions, peppers, courgettes, cheese, berries, broccoli florets, tomatoes, dried fruits, breadcrumbs, left over chicken, ground beef, quinoa, rice, lentils…
- Ordinary sweet peppers or courgettes can be used instead of the peppers. Or more piquant peppers.
- Can be served as a starter or a vegetable accompaniment, or even a whole meal served on a green salad with a mustard vinaigerette.
- When stuffed tightly with a crumbs filling, it can be sliced and served as an aperitif on canapés, with a moelleux wine, (a sweet, fruity white wine).
In Octobre I had an art friend visiting France and she stopped through here in Touraine, where we met for the first time after being blogging friends for a long time. See both her sites, Making a mark(in which she covers much more information than just art – her latest post is about Technorati and blogosphere…have a look) Travels with a sketchbook is all about her sketching and travelling.
Katherine and her sister and niece had dinner with us at home on their last night here and they brought me a beautiful book – Boire et manger that I wish to share with everybody. It is such an inspiration, seeing how food and art have walked hand in hand through all ages, depicting the habits and cultures and changes of the times and the different symbolisms of different foods, some of which we still hang onto today; cherries being a symbol of love and volptuousness, bread being the symbol of the body of christ, the apple seen as the origin of sin. I wish I could share the whole book with you, but here are a few excerpts. I hope they delight you as much as they did me and inspire you to be creative with food, not that I mean to paint it, but to “paint with it”! And above all, to respect it!
You can see more examples on Africantapestry at Food sketches and a book on dining a painting.
…jeunes garcons mangeant des fruits: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo(1645-46)
Le melon-meaning: Sweetness, earrthly pleasure, friendship.
- Maybe look between the two boys could be interpreted as a silent dialogue between them to decide which fruit they prefer; the grapes or the melon, both having existentially different symbols.
- In the mythical sense the melon symbolically represents the earthly sweetness and pleasures of the flesh.
- the melon is always not only the cosen sweet ness of both adults and children, but a symbol of friendship, because the quality of the kin of the melon can determine the quality on its flesh.
- Grapes, givng birth to wine, could be reference to the spiritual path and the need to follow it.
…la table d’office: Siméon chardin(1756)…
Olive and oil – meaning: Grace of the Holy Ghost, conscience, clemency and charity.
- The European porcelain soupterine accentuates the refinement of the table.
- Two coilcans are presnt- one for oil and one for vingar, the usage of both these condiments togheter would be reaffirmed during the ages.
- The rustic terrine had a specific culinary function, which was the making of paté and was typically French cuisine.
- This still life present a contrast between elegance and rustic in the display of the kitchen tools and refined tableware. Chardin was fascinated by the culinary arts and gastronomy and used both at the same time to create his art.
- The silver warmer with silver seen as a noble metal, was part of the refined table and added to the elgance of the piece.
…nature morte avec des fruits et un homard: Jan Davidsz de Heem(1648-49)
- The fruit represent the earthly pleasures and in deeper context they represent the joy of the spirit/mood.
- The ornate decoration on this pure precious metal container represents its excellence and gives it a symol of saintly spirituality.
- The lobster is a symbol of resurrection.
- The peeled lemon represents life; which gradually “peels” off the outer earthly layers to finally arrive at the soul.
…le mangeur de haricots:Annibale Carrache(1583-84)…
Dried beans- meaning: humility, poverty, continence
- the borken windeow represent the negligence of this humble environnement.
- The man eating the beans was a subject reintroduced to painting at beginning of the XVI century. Up until then this theme was only kept to the indignant.
- The dried bean was condidered the most humle of the starch food and and represents the everyday food of the common peasant.
…l’enfant gaté: Jean Batiste Greuse(1865)
Cutlery- menaing: Elegance, finesse, treason, word of God.
- The presence of the cauldron emphasizes the popular character of the represented scene.
- The little boy holds a silve spoon, which contrasts with the humble and diorganized environnement. During this era, a silver spoon was given to children, because silver was believed to have antibiotic properties.
Topinambours counts under “the old vegetables/foods” which have been making a come back the last few years. Previously I made a Velouté de topinambour which is great. This time it is is cut into chunks, sprinkled with powdered espelette pepper and baked in the oven on a bed of fresh thyme.
- Sauté some apple chunks in butter, add a bit of cassonade(brown sugar) and fry until nicely caramelized. Mix gently with the baked topinambours and serve warm.
- The piment d’espelette can be replaced by any other chili of your choice, either dry and in powder form, or finly chopped.
- Cook the topinambours in water on the stovetop until almost tender and then add to an oven pan with the seasonings to caramelize. It shortens the baking time.
- Serve the topinambours on a bed of salad greens or as an accompaniment to any meat.
- By adding créme frâiche after baked in the oven, you can serve it with a pasta or add it to a saffron risotto.
- Be sure to have it nicely tender or else it has a “burning” taste, much like raw potato.
- It is a healthy alternative to potatoes, seeing that it has a lower glycemic index than potatoes.
Piment d’espelette is a variety of pepper, with a light “bite” that is produced in the Basque region of France. Because of its fragrant flavour and taste, it is frequently used instead of pepper. We also find a beautiful fleur de sel d’espelette, which is powdered espelette mixed with a good quality fleur de sel, which is what I used on my baked topinambours)
For Liandri’s birthday in beginning of Octobre, we had dinner le chateau de Beaulieu here in Tours. A nice quaint hotel with a menu gastronomique; we could choose between foie gras, turbot, pigeon, filet de boeuf, magret de canard, carré d’agneau… A small dinng room, a local wine list as well as some distant cousins, nice dessert, coffee and olde worlde ambiance. A charming place to stay and dine when you visit our area.
…chateau de beaulieu…
…Olde world memories for olde world foods…
I thought eating would be over now after the indulgence of the holidays. But hunger still shows up. And the colder the days, the more we turn to soups and stews. Boeuf bourguignon is just one of those old classics that never disappoint.
…man and his beast…
In summer, we daily see a small promise of smoke appearing over a rooftop in the area, evidence of a barbecue taking off, with whiffs of onion and chicken, beef and brochettes teasing our senses. As if receiving a signal, we all run to our barbecues and soon the smoke is trailing all over the rooftops.
In the cold of winter, there is a different trail of smoke coming from snug fireplaces. Except over our rooftop. We are practically enveloped in smoke clouds…from our chimneys as well as our barbecue. We are alone outside, dressed in snow gear, cold, but firm in tantalizing with our canard a l’orange in the “fired oven”, côte de boeuf over coals with a mustard butter, chicken tagine, lamb curry, and yes, even vegetables en cocotte. We snuggle up to the flames, drink red wine to warm our bodies and we delight in the warmth of the moment.
With our weather being somewhat cooler and the rain pouring down constantly, our bones are in need of some warmer nourishment. The grey skies whispered lemon chicken. So we had the old classic, lemon chicken with herbs. An ever popular meal, so easily done in the oven and sliced at the table, which leaves you with ample time to indulge in that book you just glance at every time you speed past it.
Oven baked lemon chicken with herbs
Do I need to give the recipe?
- Take a chicken, clean it. Flee into your garden and cut herbs to heart’s delight…tarragon is a must. Lemon cut into chunks is a must. As is some butter, salt and pepper and two or three shallots. Then just stuff the chicken with all ingredients, rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake in a 180 deg. C oven for about an hour or until you have clear juices running when piercing the chicken into the thick flesh of the thigh next to the bone, normally the part which takes the longest to cook. Turn the chicken over and drizzle often with the pan juices.
- In the meantime prepare some vegetables. I used green asparagus, of which I snapped the ends off and some cherry tomatoes. Clean and dry them.
- When the chicken is done, remove from the pan and cover with foil on a serving platter. Skim off the excess fat from the pan.
- Arrange the asparagus in the pan and roast at 200 deg. c until nicely caramelized. Add the tomatoes 10 minutes before the asparagus is done and roast until the tomatoes start shrinking.
- Serve on the platter alongside the chicken, drizzle with the pan juices and serve the rest of the sauce on the side.
*for more about herbs and it’s uses, see “In my herb garden”
…the more you pick, the better I grow…
Ham spring rolls
There is no formal recipe for this. See what your fridge and pantry comes up with and take the road to fresh and seasonal.
- Cut some vegetables into matchsticks. I’ve used carrot, cucumber, mango, rocket leaves and chives. Place a slice of ham on a chopping board and stack some vegetables onto the one end. roll up tight and secure with a toothpick or tie with a chive(softened in boiling water for a second or two).
- Serve with a dipping sauce made of natural joghurt and chopped herbs and splashed with a swirl of lemon juice.
- Or serve with a lime ginger sauce: A tablespoon of each – freshly squeezed lime juice, rice wine vinegar, mirrin, soja sauce and some grated ginger and chopped lemon grass. Taste and adjust.
On Mondays dinner is simple. It depends on what the fridge and vegetable basket deliver. Tonight will see a tomato salad and turkey breast on the menu. And since it is Monday, we’ll pass on the glass of wine and start off with a glass of Perrier and of course…an apron.
Turkey breast filet with warm tomato salad
- 4 turkey breasts filets
- a variety of tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- a lemon, sliced
- a handful of basil leaves
- a green chili of your choice
- 2 spring onions, shredded on the diagonal
- tomato vinegar/sherry vinegar
- Sautee the turkey breasts along with the lemon slices in some olive oil until nice browned. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cut the tomatoes in chunks, leaving the smaller ones whole and leaving some cherry tomatoes on the vine.
- Shred the spring onion on the diagonal.
- Sautee the smaller tomatoes, the cherry tomatoes on the vine and the spring onions in some olive oil until warmed through and the tomatoes begin to burst. Keep the cherry tomatoes on the vine aside for decoration.
- In a bowl, lightly mix the tomato chunks, the tomato- and onion mixture, the basil leaves and the chopped chili. Season with salt and pepper.
- Deglaze the tomato pan with the vinegar.
- To plate: Serve the turkey breast on a serving of salad. Top with a slice of caramelized lemon and the cherry tomato on the vine.Drizzle with the pan juices, a sprinkling of freshly milled pepper and to finish off, a last drizzling of olive oil.
- Serve immediately
- Serves 4
To finish off our meal, we’ll indulge in a handful of fresh cherries.
Everything looks and sounds great – I’m absolutely going to make this meal one day this week.
–>Ronell! How in the world did I miss this fabulous cooking blog of yours!! Ohmygoodness, one of my passions is cooking and I will be a frequent visitor here.
–>Thanks for the comments…happy you that you like it.
Sunday was a glorious day and one of only a few since April. We were outside the whole day, absorbing the beauty of this summers day, the warmth, the clear skies. The trail of smoke from our neighbor, preparing lunch on the barbeque, prompted us to change our plans and to have lunch instead of dinner over the open fire.
Butterflied chicken with an orange/honey glaze.
- One organic chicken, butterflied
- The juice of about 3 oranges
- The zest of one orange
- A good teaspoonful of honey
- Some thyme
- Salt and fresh milled pepper
- A Gracious knob of butter
- A few branches of rosemary tied into a glazing brush
- A spoonful of Cointreau for the flambé
- Light a fire, first for good ambiance and then for good heat.
- In a mug that can take the heat, mix the juice of the oranges, zest, honey, thyme and butter. Melt on the side of the grill over gentle heat.
- While the chicken is slowly grilling over the coals, you glaze frequently with your rosemary brush and orange butter. Salt and pepper the chicken right after that first glaze.
- When the chicken looks good, smells good, and the juices run clear when pierced into the thickest part, it is reoved from the heat and placed on a platter.
- Heat the Cointreau in a big spoon, light and pour over the chicken.
- Cut into portions at the table and serve with slices of orange, lightly caramelized for a minute or two on the grill.
- Serves about 4.
Onions in the skin
- About 4 big onions, unpeeled
- Chopped chives, sage and marjoram
- Knob of butter
- Juice of half a lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Cut a cross in each onion at the top without cutting right through. Fill with piece of butter, the chopped herbs, salt and pepper and sprinkel with the lemon juice.
- Place inside a dish which goes inside a big pot/casserole that can go onto the fire. Place the lid on and “bake” inside the pot for until soft. Some new potatoes can be added along with the onions. Another alternative would be to wrap in foil and place in the coals, but we prefer doing it this way.
- Serve, sprinkled with some fresh herbs and a sprinkling of black pepper.
- Serves 4
Grilled melon with caramel sauce
- Two small lemons
- Caramel sauce
- Vanilla ice cream
- Cut each melon in half, remove the seeds
- Place each half upside down on the grill over meduim heat. When the flesh is nicely caramelized, turn over.
- Drizzle some caramel sauce into the cavity. Leave for a minute or two on the heat.
- Remove from the heat and serve immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
- Alternative: the caramel sauce can be replaced by a lavender honey, and a lavender ice cream, sprinkled with some lavender flowers.
–>hello there, i like to stuff onions (also in their skins) with polenta and parmesan – a lovely side for a steak for example. the melon and caramel sounds divine… i must try this when i am back from holidays and have my weber at my disposal again!
–>Oh, yea. Your idea to use the rosemary as a brush to baste is brilliant. Please, tell the story behind the idea? I love it.