When your potager starts exploding with courgettes, it is time to come up with all sorts of ways to eat those courgettes without getting bored. But even so, by the end of summer, I feel like a courgette and can’t even look at one, let alone eat it. Courgettes are more flavorful when they are young and nothing needs to be added to give them moire flavor. These tartines can be served s a starter, a lunch with a salad, or as an apéro before dinner..and come to think of it, why not pack it for a pique-nique?
- Add some goat’s cheese or feta cheese to the tartines.
- Leave the toasts and serve as a tagliatelle pasta, topped with a fillet of fish of your choice and a salad.
- Make croutons instead of toasts and add along with the grilled courgettes to a salad. Top with dry roasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.
Les jardins de Colette is a large botanical garden at the foot of the chateau Castel-novel, where the French writer Colette lived with her 2nd husband Henry de Jouvenel and her daughter Bel-Gazou. The gardens were created in 2008 and depict her tumultuous life which centered around her insatiable desire for creating. You will surely know her for her novels Chéri in 1920 and of course Gigi from 1944, upon which the musical film was based and in which Leslie Caron played Gigi. Colette’s real name was actually Sidonie-Gabrielle , her last name/surname being Colette. But I’m her to show you the garden dedicated to her…so, to read about Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, you can pick and choose a site on Google.
Some trinkets in the store…and I found their little truck quite cute…and a rose named after Colette in 1995…
…Veronique flowers in abundance in the garden of her childhood in Bourgogne…and bees in abundance….
..le jardin de Rozven in Bretagne was bought by her friend, Missy, in 1910 and for 10 years afterwards Colette and her family still spent their summers at Rozven.
…a potager, part of remembering her childhood..
..a labyrinth in the shape of a papillon, where kiddies are told stories while finding their way to the end..
..some annuals planted in the jardin de Saint- Sauveur-en -Puisaye in Bourgogne...
..an english garden..”aussi libre qu’elle”..as free in spirit as she was…
…a little refuge for insects..
Colette with her brother in childhood…
…her love for animals clearly comes across in her books..
..la coccinelle and le papillon..les amis du jardin!
In the Correze gardin at Castel-Novel a little cabane/gloriettes was constructed from willow branches..
..The olive trees and lavenders from the Provence garden..
..a bit of freshness with a canal of water and fountain..
In the rose garden her favorite rose can be found…Cuisse de Nymphe
..as well as one of my favorites...Honore de Balzac…
And lastly, a lane of tilleuls trees to remind of her last years spent in Paris, where her windows opened onto the gardens of the palais Royal…
With something cool to drink, we finished this tour through the gardens of Colette and it was time to return to reality. I felt a vibrant kinship with her and her creativity, her desire to live to the full, her love for nature and animals and maybe one day I can retrace her steps to really experience what her life was like…
à la prochaine fois!
We are outside. Non stop. The weather couldn’t be more perfect. The days are wonderfully warm, sunny. The cigales are crazily announcing summer in the meadows. I am crazily happy.
Taking our meals outside in summer is a given. Preparing it outside is a given too. These tomato and goats cheese apéros ( appetizers)do it both ways. It is prepared by the barbeque fire. It is grilled on the fire. It is eaten by the fire. An ice cold dry rosé wine and life is crazily wonderful.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use feta cheese instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use feuille de brick, if available, which is not as thin and delicate as phyllo pastry.
- Add some flaked fish of your choice or add a sardine, in which case you can use dill or coriander instead of basil.
- Use other herbs of your choice..
- Leave out the tomato and add fresh spinach leaves and dry roasted pine nuts for a more Greek flavour.
- To serve as something sweet with coffee after barbeque…roll chocolates, chopped nuts of your choice and a mint leaf in the pastry sheets, treat the same way on the coals and enjoy with coffee around the fire.
Place at an appropriate distance above the coals on a grill.
Brush with a home made rosemary brush and olive oil.
We visited friends in Bretagne and were treated in typical Breton fashion to a wealth of cuisine Bretonne. Seafoods galore, vegetables, notably carrottes Nantaises( of which I have planted in my potager), crépes and galettes, sablés, far breton, quatre quart, kouign amann, cidre, beignets, butter, butter, butter… It is truly a good thing we don’t live in Bretagne for I would have rolled instead of walked. Fortunately, we did a lot of walking to fight the calories. I invite you now on some of our promenades around Rennes and the seaside villages of Tharon and Pornic.
Promenades en mer…boat trips.
The port of Pornic is quaint and with the perfect summer weather we had, the whole world crept out of their shells comme les escargots de leurs coquilles(like snails from their shells).
Le blanc du nil is a well known chain store in the French seaside villages. They sell only white cotton and linen clothes and I love it for the prices and the loose summer dresses, shirts and slacks and skirts. And of course the all white look makes you feel cool and light. And a little chic too…
The walkway was filled with people, basking in summer sun, seeking out some dappled shade and licking dripping ice creams. We did too.
A lonesome Canna lily adding some charm to an ordinary signpost indicating the way to the hotel de Ville of Pornic.
Back in Tharon, it was time for eating again, something we did too much of , but enjoyed so much! The boulangerie Tharonnaise is comfortably just a walk down the road where one doesn’t mind queuing for all the bakes delicacies I mentioned above.
One of those wonderful delicious sinful and dangerous cakes, is the kouign amann, for which Bretagne is known for. I DO plan on baking it, sharing it with you, I REALLY DO! But only after I lost the 3 kg I picked up after eating it in Bretagne! Typical Ronelle style, one slice was not enough…It is literally a butter cake and a little challenging on the making-side: made with bread dough and folded like puff pastry with loads of butter and sugar which, during the baking process, gives you a devilishly, deliciously, flaked caramelized cake.
One of our outings was also just down the road…a regular vide grenier in Tharon. As you can see below..one man’s junk becomes another man’s fortune. We found some fortunes there too…
Of course we visited the beach with its colourful cabanes which mostly belong to the inhabitants of Tharon and gets unlocked every season to let out the sunscreens and chairs and umbrellas and beachballs…
As is shown below…the beach umbrella and bags and towels and kiddies were let out of the colourful cabanes.. well, maybe not the kiddies…
A close up..
A lunch of langoustines, and lemon mayonnaise with baguettes from la boulangerie and accompanied by a crisp white wine.
In Rennes the géraniums on the windowsills paraded shamelessly in their beauty and gaiety.
We had a schedule to follow in Rennes, a to-do list that kept us on a quick run. Nonetheless we found the time for a pit stop in the centre ville to have un café créme et un allongé, while we drooled at seeing the bar à crépe which was just opening its doors early morning. Next time.
Centre ville in Rennes.
Hope you had fun on this promenade. And I hope you on your turn drooled at the tomato and goat’s cheese apéro’s. Maybe enough to make them. I should probably have given you an exciting recipe from Bretagne, as the post asks for….but what are rules made for, if not to be broken? I greet you as always….
…à la prochaine fois…
I have a few risotto recipes that I adore. One is made with sweet potato, another with saffron, yet another with wild mushrooms and then…asparagus. In this case I used wild asparagus with a very short season, but delicious while they last.
- Asparagus, lemon and sage:
- Sauté the asparagus for only 3 – 4 minutes, in a large pan with olive oil, lemon wedges, a sprinkling of white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove and keep aside. they should still be crunchy. Saute the lemon wedges a bit longer to caramelize.
- Heat enough olive oil in a small frying pan to cover the base.
- Add some sage leaves and fry until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.
- Sauté 1 chopped shallot in a little olive oil. Add about 1 cup of arborio or carnarolli rice and sauté for another 3 minutes top release the nutty flavors of risotto rice.
- Add 1/2 cup white wine and 1TBSP of white balsamic vinegar. Stir. Add about 500ml of hot vegetable stock, ladle by ladle to the risotto, stirring all the while over medium high heat.
- Chop a few leaves of fresh sage in thin ribbons and add to the risotto.
- Taste the risotto…the rice should still have some bite and not be mushed to a porridge.
- Add 1 TBSP of créme fraiche, 1 knob of butter and 2 TBSP of grated parmesan cheese and the grated rind of 1 lemon. Turn off the heat and stir through.
- Taste for seasoning.
- Serve immediately – spoon the risotto onto individual plates. top with the asparagus en finish off with the crisp oil fried sage leaves.
- Sere with extra Parmesan on the side.
Serves about 4 people.
- Use garden asparagus or string beans instead of wild asparagus.
- Combine with tarragon instead of sage.
- Leave out the creme fraiche and use a soft goats cheese instead.
- Leave out the creme fraiche and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese just before serving.
- The risotto should be creamy and not dry at all.
When the bumps on the road get too disconcerting, I always pull off the road, switch off the engine, empty my mind and drift off to that world where I know giggles and laughter are plentiful. And smiles. That place where we run off to when life is too blue and we want it more colourful. They are our private corners where we deal with these road bumps in our own unique ways so we can be able to turn the ignition key and continue on the bumpy roads. I thought I would share some of the things I run to for a smile or a hearty laugh or a tickling giggle.
- I adore that first coffee of the morning.It turns me inside out with happiness.
- I love watching someone enjoying a meal with gusto and joy(and good manners of course), someone who has a visible appreciation for the goodness of good quality products and for the preparation that goes into a meal.
- I love people who can fold double with laughter, enjoying laughing so much you can hear it right in the pit of their stomach! It is contagious and I might not know what the laughter is about, but I have to join in, just for the sake of the joy it brings.
- I love that good sharp which some people have. Not jokes. Jokes are flat and boring. Wit is something completely different. It is an art. That ability to be able to catch a moment and react to it with just the perfect touch of irony and humor.
- I love the smell of horses…their sweat, their manes, the oil on their skin..
- I love playing tennis; running for every ball, sweating, groaning like a pro, stretching, running, sliding…all of it..
- I love my chickens’ eager trot-run when they see cheese in my hand, it makes me burst out in spontaneous laughter.
- I love watching the geese’s rhythmic swaying from behind.
- I adore our apéros at sunset. If heaven doesn’t have that, I don’t want to go there…
- I love swimming..not lengths or any fashionable style, but splashing and diving and twirling and drowning… like a dolphin. I just love being in the water.
- I love waking up early morning to blue skies and sunshine..I can just burst with happiness.
- I love the smell of oil paints on my palette.
- I love a scalp massage when I go to the hairdresser.
- I love walking barefoot.
- I love walking in the rain.
- I love walking in my garden endlessly throughout the day, hoping I’ll see something new every time.
- I love having coffee and croissant with mon chéri in town and we talk about everything and anything, especially since he is a man of few words.
- I love my perfumes..I splash it on when I go to dinner, when I go to town, when I go to bed or when I go work in the garden. M favorite, you ask? But Coco , eau de perfum, Chanel of course.
- I love burying my face and kissing the soft belly of my cat Ayiani…she grabs my head gently with her paws and it makes me giggle with pleasure…although I have had the occasional scratch of her fury when she’s not in the mood…
- I adore my bed and I adore slipping into crisp linen smelling of sunshine. I fall asleep with a content smile.
I hoe I have touched some of your soft spots or at least made you pull off the road to find your private world where laughter and giggles abound!
…my favorite perfume; Coco, from Chanel…
(for more sketches of perfumes, see my art blog Africantapestry)
à a prochaine fois
Spring is a month of greens. From sprouting to adult leaf and branch. From bud to flower. From seed to fruit. It bursts with health and it begs for salads. Green asparagus is at its peak at the moment and will only last one more month before it comes to rest for whole year. Assemble your salads. Feast on your asparagus. There are no limits to pure goodness.
- Boil some pasta of your choice to al dente and keep aside.
- Clean and cut an onion into slices. Sauté in a pan with some olive oil. Add 3 or 4 small potatoes cut into rings, cover and cook over low heat until soft.
- Rinse some asparagus. Rinse some pois gourmande. Steam together until just tender. Add to the onions and mix lightly. Add freshly chopped herbs of your choice…basil is nice.
- Grate 2 or 3 carrots and mix lightly with some olive oil, lemon juice and a drizzle of flowered honey.
- Assemble the salad by adding the warm onion mixture to the pasta; Season with salt and pepper, leom juice and olive oil.
- Top with the cool, fresh carrot salad, sprinkle dry roasted pine nuts and drizzle with the carrot juices.
- Serve a good mayonnaise and baguette on the side.
Pincée de sel:
- Sauté the asparagus beforehand in olive oil, herbs and lemon butter and then add to the pasta…tastier.
- Use other vegetables like spring peas, or beans.
- Keep the variety of vegetables to a minimum to avoid a confusion of flavours.
- Omit the potatoes and add a meat of your choice, like chicken. add more sauce in that case to avoid a dry salad.
- Omit the carrot salad and use grated beetroot instead with a pungent vinaigrette which goes well with the potaoes and pasta.
Spring greens come in many shades (and tastes as well). For now, we will stick to the shades and tones. for this excercise I stuck to pure greens straight from the tube., painting some ribbons of greens on paper and walking around in the garden, trying to match the colour on the paper to the greens I can find in the garden.
Another fun project would be to do it with food…matching greens to what one can find in the fridge. Or doing it with summer yellows, reds, aubergines. Colour makes the world go round…at least for me.
Maybe in the next post I’ll set a spring green table..;paint some greens on paper ribbons and try to find matching greens for the table.
..grass green chives…
..young tilleul leaves with golden greens, brown greens and ochres..
..a young olive branch in olive greens and earth green..
..and my favorite green in the garden is Sennelier grey – the santolinas, some lavendins, curry plants, stachys, armoises, ballotas, convolvulus(image below), cérastiums…
..and lastly the lovely dark rich greens of ceanothes with its overflowing purple flowers..
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Red peppers are synonym with the Mediterranean and it is one of my favorite vegetables, raw or otherwise. We grow them in our potager(vegetable garden) rows of them..and they find their way to our table in every way possible. Une petite tarte, using ready made puff pastry or home made if you are so handy or ordered from your boulanger, which is how I prefer to do it, is one way of serving these delicious vegetables.
- Wash 4 red peppers.
- Remove the seeds and cut them into thin strips. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and milled black pepper. Add three twigs of fresh rosemary and two lemon wedges.
- Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Roll out 4 rectangles of puff pastry to about 1mm thick and 8x16cm long. Roll the sides to the inside to form a little rolled side. Prick the inside with a fork, cover with some baking paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake in a preheated oven at 200° C for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Arrange the roasted peppers on the prepared pastry shells. Add some cubed or crumbed feta cheese and dry roasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with red pepper corns and drizzle the pan juices from the roasted red peppers over the filling. Add some rosemary twigs and place under the grill for about 7 -10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm with a dollop of créme fraîche and a large green salad.
Serves 4 people
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use courgettes instead of red peppers, or a mixture of both.
- Add some halved spring onions to the red peppers before roasting.
- Use goats cheese instead of feta cheese.
- Serve with homemade balsamic sorbet.
- Spoon some pesto on the base of the pastry shell before adding the red peppers.
- Turn into a dessert by spooning some sweetened mascarpone cheese on the bottom of the pastry shell, cover with red peppers and drizzle with honey and chopped mint.
..the lavenders of Provence..
Mon chéri treated me to a couple of days in Provence. I don’t have to say anything, except that it was pure joy. It was so short, but my senses were alive to its maximum every minute.
Apart from the wonderful Provencal sun, the delicious meals on sunny terraces, the Provencal rosé wines, I did indeed manage to complete 7 sketches, while mon chéri patiently waited and used the time to play chess. Since our time was so short, I didn’t want to spend too much time on sketching though, so all I wanted was to capture a bit of the ambiance of our short stay. I think I achieved that and I am so chuffed. So chuffed indeed. If you’d like to see the sketches, you can pop over to Africantapestry.
I love lavender. Just simply love it. Not in foods. Not in soaps. Not in perfumes. not in my closets. But in pots and in the fields and gardens. That is the only place I can appreciate its fragrance, which is too strong and overpowering anywhere else. But the joy of lavender and its fragrance in a field or in a garden…nothing else comes close.
If only I could pass along the fragrance with these images…but it is all up to you and your imagination. Stretch out your hand and touch the blooms, hear the bees, see the butterflies, sniff the air, feel the sun and dwell in the heady fragrance…
The soil varies between the different fields, but they all have three things in common…altitude, sun and poor soil.
A lavender field snaking over the hill into a row of Provence cypress.
At the abbaye de Senanque, the lavenders aren’t fully open yet, it being a different variety. But I love the faded blue which harmonizes with the gentle quietude of the abbaye and the greys of its old stone building.
Small fields, larger, tiny, among wheat, beside the roads…everywhere.
Where there is lavender, there you’ll find bees and butterflies!
Green vines, purple lavenders and red soil…the colours of Provence.
One of my favorite photos with a scene of all my favorite things..nature with its rocky area, the olive grove, the lavender, the hills, the colors, the smells..
A quilt of color in the valley just below Bonnieux; lavender fields, wheat fields and vineyards.
*Keep an ear to the ground for the next post on Provence..until then..
Unimaginable that nettle soup can be delicious and yet, it is! Once cooked, the stinging effect disappears completely and all that is left, is a dark green, flavorful soup. Stinging nettle grows everywhere, the sign of fertile soil, and costs nothing. So why not make use of it? It reminds me somewhat of watercress, of which I often make soup too. Along with the spring petit pois pesto, it makers for a typical spring lunch or dinner or even a starter. See the Pincée de fleur de sel below for more ideas. I do hope you’ll try it.
Nettle soup with petit pois pesto
- Pick nettle leaves, wearing a pair of leather or other thick gloves. Separate the leaves from the stems, keeping only the tender leaves and stems. Harvest about 3 large colanders full of leaves for 4 people.
- Rinse the leaves in cold water to get rid of sand and grit. Don’t forget using the gloves, or switch to tongs.
- Clean and chop two spring onions and sauté in coconut oil(not to be confused with palm oil)or olive oil. Add 5 stems of garlic along and its flowers.(optional)
- Mix the nettle leaves with the onion and add enough vegetable stock to JUST cover the nettle/onion mixture. Adding too much liquid will result in a watery soup.
- Simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and mix with a hand mixer to a creamy soup.
- Add 3/4 can of coconut milk and 1 large TBSP of mascarpone cheese to the soup. Stir and leave to simmer very gently over low heat for another 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- Leave aside until needed.
Petit pois pesto:
- Boil 1 large cup of freshly shelled petit pois for 2-3 minutes and rinsed under cold water. Leave to dry.
- Mix together in a mortar and pestle with 5 sprigs chives, 2-3 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP pine nuts.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.
- Don’t overwork to a puree.
To serve: Serve the soup warm OR cold with a quenelle of petit pois . Finish off with sprinkling of milled pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Pick nettles with a pair of leather or other thick gloves!
I picked the leaves(with gloves of course) early morning, separated the leaves from the harder stems, kept the softer ones, rinsed it very well and kept it in the fridge until I started the preparation.
Rinse very well!
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Remember to pick the leaves with gloves, rinsing and adding to the casserole, working with gloves or tongs all the time.
- Like spinach, nettle must be rinsed well, preferably under running water. Catch the water in a bowl and add to you plants.
- It resembles spinach when cooked.
- Use watercress, or spinach leaves instead of nettle.
- If you fear the nettle to be too “wild” to your liking, add 1 large peeled, boiled and mashed potato, OR add some spinach leaves along with the nettle.
- Don’t add too much stock or else the soup will be watery. It is always possible to add some stock afterwards.
- Serve the soup cold in glasses or cups, topped with a room temperature pesto, or serve warm in bowls with room temperature pesto.
- If using frozen petit pois, boil longer than fresh peas..about 4 minutes. Stop the cooking process by placing in ice cold water.
- For a nice apéro, make a cuppacino – Place a layer of petit pois a the bottom of a small glass,pour over some soup and finsih off with whipped cream. sprinkle with grean matcha tea powder.
Freshly shelled petit pois.
Last, but not least..the pea shells are off to the compost heap!
*Note: I have finally gotten the chance to redo my photos for the Washing day post and if you would like to see and read my thoughts on a washing day..just follow this link to Coin Perdu -Laundry day!
* Thank you to everybody who shared their laundry stories either on Facebook, in an email or on the blog..I loved reading them..if there are more of you who want to share..please do so, I would love to hear your washing day stories and I know others would like to read them too!
Bon appétit et à la prochaine!
Nothing makes a better salad than leftovers.During spring, when all attention is focused on the garden and restoration work on the house, all sorts of salads with leftover meats and fish and vegetables make life so much easier. It is also a time when I stock my pantry heavier than usual with some interesting condiments to add zest to the salads without spending hours in the kitchen in the evenings. It is typically additions like sundried tomatoes, ready made pestos and tapenades, marinated mussels and oysters, canned sardines and anchovies, mackerels, beans and split peas.
For this easy peezy, light and delicious salad, I used the left over salmon and steamed potatoes from the previous evening’s dinner and turned it into a salad with all sorts of other goodies coming from the pantry and the fridge. I served it with toasted pita bread and a cream and dill sauce. What can I say…“cetait un régal tout simple”!
Salmon, potato and mussel salad.
- Heat some leftover salmon(flaked) and potatoes(cut into chunks). Add some chopped spring onions and a handful of currants.
- Arrange a mix of fresh salad leaves and herbs on a large platter.
- Sprinkle with nuts and marinated mussels and sliced marinated tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
- Make a cream sauce of a finely chopped small shallot, handful of chopped dill, a cup of cream or créme fraîche and a TBS of mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice.
- Top with the warm(not hot) salmon mix. Sprinkle with chopped dill.
- Serve immediately with pita breads or a country bread and some extra sauce on the side.
Une pincée de sel:
- Use a good mixture of herb salad leaves.
- Use mushrooms instead of the fish, if you don’t like fish.
- When using chicken, replace the dill int eh sauce with basil pesto or freshly sliced basil.
A contribution to Pie•ography..
Last year I’ve been asked by the creative Jo Packham, creator of Where women cook, to contribute, along with 38 other women, a recipe to her book, Pie•ography. The project was to create a pie which best described each author and write a short biography along with it. I found it quite a challenge, because talking about myself isn’t something I am comfortable with. Nothing wrong with revealing a little bite here and a little pinch there, but sitting down and directly saying: “..and so, his is who I am…” – THAT is tough. BUT…I finally got something on paper and created my pie..so I can tap myslef on the shoulder and say ;..“not too bad, Ronelle, not too bad at all..!”
For fun, I listed 30 tongue in cheek- things you don’t know about me. Read at the bottom if you’re interested.
Thank you to Jo for inviting me to join in..it is a great book and I am honoured to be in the company of highly talented and educated and ambitious women in this book, of whom Jo is of course one. Her creativity is never ending. for me it was a fun and exciting project to be part of!
30 things you don’t know about me:
- My worst characteristic is impatience.
- My best one is enthusiasm.
- I can lift my one eyebrow and drop the other at the same time.
- My ankles are rather thick
- My feet are quite cute.
- I used to trust people easily.
- I now put my trust rather in animals.
- I am impulsive and it gets me into trouble.
- I don’t fit into my wedding dress any more, but it doesn’t bother me.
- I don’t fit into my bathing suit and that bothers me.
- I still want to do parachute jumping, but I hate flying.
- I don’t like sharing the licking bowl when baking.
- I hate washing dishes. I also hate stacking the dishwasher. I see no light.
- My mom used to say my bladder is situated just under my eyes. It takes very little to make me cry.
- I laugh easily and loudly.
- I have perfected the puppy eye flutter. Mon chéri is completely defenseless against it.
- I hate conflict of any kind.
- I don’t believe the truth has to be told at any cost. Sometimes the truth serves no purpose..
- I have a great sense of humour. It is my life line.
- I love to learn, but I hate to be taught.
- I don’t mind making a fool of myself, but I don’t like to be made a fool of by others.
- It only takes one glass of wine to have me make a fool of myself.
- I don’t answer a telephone.
- I am a coffee snob.
- I have two experiences in my past which I can’t forgive and forget. They still influence my self image to this day.
- I am a nomad, I have to move on every few years.
- Autumn makes me sad.
- When I am upset I get into bed and cover my head.
- I am a Leo.
- The sun is my oxygen.
You can find the recipe and how I worked my way to it here.
Pi•ography can be ordered from Amazon.com.
If you want more information, don’t hesitate to contact me(details in my sidebar)
So, until next time…
Amusez vous bien et soyez sage sage!
(Have fun and stay out of trouble!)
“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..
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!
Autumn asks for rustic food. Because some days are sunny and mild, meals can still be enjoyed outside and as such a homey, rustic meal can add warmth and cosiness. A rustic meal also falls in step with the colours of the season, as the pumpkin tart shows. So what can be better than being right in the spirit of the season!
***Errata: 3. PASTRY: .. “Use a bit MORE water if too dry and add more flour if needed…”
Une pincée de sel:
- Sweet potatoes are just as good instead of pumpkin..treat the sweet potatoes the same way.
- Use wholewheat flour instead of plain flour.
- Drizzle some herb honey over the pumpkin just before serving, or caramelize the pumpkin with some honey.
- Make individual servings of tartlets instead of one large tart.
- Use leeks instead of red onion.
..and autumn gives us umber and sienna..
When I think of winter think of black and white, grey, mystery, design.. Spring makes me think of flowery pinks, blues, lavenders, whites..In summer it is the exuberance of reds and yellows, that come to mind… Autumn gives us siennas and umbers, rich, embracing us with its warmth. I always think that it is the season for artists.
I wish you a lovely artist’s season!
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…
I make only easy, simple and quick food. I have done the difficult, intricate thing, but now I enjoy doing relaxed cooking. This is another very simple, very versatile recipe, which I’m sure many a home has in its possession. Only the presentation differs from the one occasion to the next and the one family to the next.
- Use any other white fish.
- Instead of folding the pastry in rolls, fold them in triangles.
- serve as a cold apéritif before dinner with a cold dry white wine.
- The same recipe can be used in different ways: as a crumble with a breadcrumb, butter and oats topping and baked in the oven. OR topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven, OR with flour and butter and eggs added for some fish cakes…
- Can be served small as a starter or larger as a light lunch with a big mixed salad.
Some Koi images. I’m not truly a fish person, but Koi can fascinate me with their movements, their colors and their behaviour. they really have personalities, which I didn’t believe until I saw it for myself. I have done some paintings and some studies of them, but find it very difficult…it is much easier to capture the personality of a person than a fish!
Have a great weekend!
Easter weekend is around our tables.. Families are preparing for visitors, or are preparing to hit the road to family.. We’re doing neither, but we prepare for an Easter brunch le Lundi de Pacques, just the two of us, mon chéri et moi. I have sent a sweet message Upstairs asking for a sunny day, so we can enjoy our lunch outside . But if I don’t get my wish, we will still have our brunch, albeit in the barn. Just as perfect.
Instead of showing Easter chocolate and with our two little hens being so prolific in their egg producing, I decided to do some deviled eggs, or as we call them here in France, Les oeufs Mimosa, reminding of the mimosa flowers which are of the first signs of spring here and it happens all around Easter. I had to do a search about why it is called deviled eggs…
According to Wikipedia it originated in ancient Rome…go figure. Apparently “deviled” referred to the spicy nature of the food. The deviled egg gourmet has a description of the origin of the term deviled which you can read for some more info. I prefer to call them eggs Mimosa, like we do here in France. We push the hard boiled egg yolk through a fine sieve, having it look like the Mimosa flowers of early spring, which we sprinkle over the filled egg halves, so it looks like we have sprinkled some Mimosa petals over our egg halves. It is a little bit of old French cooking but still sort of romantic, don’t you think? I revisited the “egg halve” -presentation, serving it with a salad of green vegetable brunoise.
So, without any further ado, I present some Easter Oeufs Mimosa revisités to you!
- If you have a rectangle inox shape, it works easy to shape it in the rectangle, I don’t have rectangle ones, but I do plan on getting, they work fantastic!
- The Mimosa eggs can also be served in “petites verrines“, small glasses. Start off with toasted croutons at the bottom, follow with egg white, then the egg yolk cream en finish by decorating with the “mimosa”( the fine grated egg yolk).
- OR make an egg sandwich , adding some of the salad to the filling too.
- OR serve the egg whites and egg yolk cream and salad in small bowls, with toasted bread rounds separately for an aperitif i summer outside by the pool and each one serves himself/herself a small piece of toast with a scoop of whatever he/she feels like topping up with.
Serves 4 people for starter
..large geese eggs, ordinary chicken eggs and small eggs from my little bantam hens…
A spring brunch and geese and chicken chronicles.
I’d like you to meet our two new feathered children…Sidonie et Aglaé. They are named after a 70′s French television show, called Sidonie et Aglaé.
They showed up last Sunday and after a week of discovering the farm, they already have their favorite spots and they continue roaming about, following me or the chickens or the cats. They love company and I , of course, love their company too!!
Sidonie et Aglaé
Since I am still in the process of constructing our little lake for the geese and the ducks and the peacocks and….and…, they have to make do with two large bowls for some swimming. Do they complain? On the contrary, looking at the photos below, they are having a ball! Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we all could be happy with so little…?
Camembert, Mimolette et Ciboulette are not disturbed by the newcomers. They do their thing tranquilement, happy as always – the amount of tiny eggs I have at the end of a week, is proof enough! I used their eggs to make some oeufs Mimosas for Easter, to be seen at Myfrenchkitchen, Les oeufs Mimosa, for an Easter brunch.
..and a very simple spring brunch last week with two good friends..
I am showing off my very simple but very wonderful day here…far too many photos of the same thing! But, it was such a glorious midday in early spring and we lingered lazily under the still-leafless walnut and tilleul trees. I can’t stop reveling in the colors of the spring sky and the sun and the greens of the fields, the color of the air…everything…spring gives me such a kick!
Today is Vendredi saint, which means for the roman Catholics that it is the Friday of fasting just before Pacques, of spiritual day of rest, peace, restrain from eating and alcohol and just quiet reflection. Many places were closed today, depending on the prefecture of the region. the death of Christ on the cross is celebrated and even Christians are invited to join in this “chemin du croix“. Because we have many friends in the Catholic religion, we too will respect this tradition and we will spend a quiet evening, with salmon, some salad and water and reflection.
I wish you a wonderful Easter weekend !
I’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!!
Very few people enjoy white beans. I’m actually not one of those few. But a salad…that’s something I always enjoy, and with bean salad, it is no different. Not a cold salad though. Slightly warm. And not a mushy one either. Fresh and crispy. That’s how I like all my salads. Try it, you might like it too.
There can be so much playing around with this recipe:
- Use a mixture of white and red beans.
- Do yourself a favor and use either the fresh pods or dry beans from the organic store, but not the canned beans…there is just no comparison between beans freshly cooked…just, just tender with still some bite…and those overcooked, bleak, mushy, floury canned stuff.
- Keep the colors and flavors in your recipe simple.
- Add other grapes of your preference, or try figs, which are also in season now.
- Use chervil along with the parsley, which will compliment the anchovies.
- The anchovies can be left out or replaced by another fish like sardines.
- Use red onion for its sweetness.
- Add some freshly grated ginger for extra piquancy and flavor, in which case one would leave out the chervil.
- This little salad can be used as an aperitif, which is very “tendance” at the moment – serve a helping on pretty spoons with a cold wine, or serve on a small toast triangle, or in a verrine(small glass), or serve in a bowl with slices of baguette so each person can serve him/herself.
- Add the grapes cold and just before serving, so as to have nice crisp and cool contrast with room temperature.
Here at the end of summer, I am remembering a garden by the Loire. One I haven’t seen in almost 6 months. A garden I miss for its beauty. Its tranquility. Its animal life. For the many memories it gave birth to.
I remember the hard work, shaping something from nothing. I remember the many mistakes made. But mostly I remember the small but significant successes. The bounty in flower and foliage, the madness of rambunctious herbs, the unforgiving heat of summer sun, the many surprises and no less , the stubborn, but amusing persistence of the weeds. This all shaped my garden, gave it a rich and full life… gave me a rich and full life… season after season.
I remember being too ambitious. Having too little space and planting far too much. I My little garden turned into a forest by the end of summer…the roquette sweeping through the pebbles, the fennels reaching for the skies, the lavenders dancing wild sambas in the beds, the Pierre de Ronsard climbing rose playing out a Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The boxwoods’ constant demand for pruning, the long shoots everywhere, the new shoots everywhere, the dead heads waiting paitiently…
I remember how the garden could change as often as I can change my mind. Each seasons’ corners were plentiful and changed from one year to the next. Or even more. There was a corner for reflection, for morning coffee, one for sipping a coolness in midday. There was room to bask in the sun and of course a spot chosen somewhere for the meal of the evening. And how romantic were these summer evenings in this garden by the Loire, accompanied by the heady fragrances of jasmines and roses, lavenders and lilies! These lazy dinners lasted long into the night, lit up by candles and lanterns, handmade especially for me by a lover.
I remember how different this love affair with my little garden was to what I have now here at Coin Perdu, where our eyes follow the fall of the sun every evening to far beyond the horizon. It flames up the skies and we are woken up much later by the brightness of a moon and a starlit sky. In the garden by the Loire, sunsets were rare, cut off early evenings by the shadows of the cliffs and the welcome coolness of the caves. The small garden enfolded our evenings in a soft dusk pashmina, a warm embrace of familiarity and comfort. We lit up our candles and made fires in the summer kitchen. With herbs from the garden we stuffed meats and marinated vegetables. Our summer days began and ended in this little garden.
We lived and worked close together in this tiny “jardin de curé”...the cats, the chickens, the people…we all crowded in the summer cave, or in the working “cave” or in my “ atelier“…purring on cushions, lounging on daybeds, playing guitar, listening to music, reading, talking deep talks, speaking deep thoughts, painting, eating, sleeping…
It was nice.
No. It was magical.
It was mine.
This tiny garden by the Loire.
I’ve been back from Provence for some time, but very busy at my gallery(which I’ll talk about in a next post).
I’ve suddenly come down with a terrible gastro and I’ve been like a limp fish the last two days. but I need to get up an just move a little, so I thought it good to recall some moments from my painting trip.
I can’t face food at the moment, but I can show you the lovely desserts we had at Le vieux Four, in Crillon le Brave.
…French cheesecake with red berry coulis…
…red fruit sorbets…
More photos can be seen here in my gallery, Beauty of la France and Paintings can be found on Africantapestry…posts More paintings from Provence, Paintings from Provence and Two oil paintings and a gouache.
Our home away from home…the lovely home of artist, Julian Merrow Smith from Postcard from Provence.
…the view on Mont Ventoux from my room…
...early mornings in pj’s around painting, coffee and croissants…
…Sarah’s early morning oil painting in progress…
…Robyn’s watercolor in progress…
..a gathering of Provenceaux in Bédoin…
…when the market is quiet…
…The closest I got to lavender…
…au revoir et à bientôt!…
My courgette is taking over my potager here at Coin Perdu…beautiful and healthy with enormous bright green leaves and underneath those cheeky yellow flowers peeking through. The male flowers are starting to fall of and I’m picking them up and drying them to use as dried flowers for sprinkling over my salads…my latest craze; if you keep still long enough, I sprinkle you with dried flowers
The female courgettes are the only ones carrying fruit and I’ve picked some of both to stuff with a crab filling. Both male and female flowers are edible. If ever you can get hold of some courgette flowers…they are absolutely divine, from another world and savored slowly and deliberately…well, I’m a lady, I can’t say what I really think, but you’ll know what I mean when once you’ve enjoyed one!
- Serve the flowers stuffed, without steaming.
- OR make a batter of some flour and add some fizzy water, mix until a thick cream . Dip the courgette flowers wth filling into the batter until coated and deep fry quickly, one by one, turning each once once. Remove, drain and serve sprinkled with fleur de sel and a few drops of lemon juice, or a light yoghurt/mint sauce (natural yoghurt, chopped mint, seasoning, lemon juice..)Make your own filling by choosing ingredients you like and by mixing flavor which compliment each other. Keep it light.
- Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves with a vinaigrette.
Myfenchkitchen is off to Provence for a week of painting with 3 artist buddies. We’ll be staying in the Vaucluse home of well known painter of Postcards from Provence, Julian Merrow Smith and his wife Ruth Philips, while they will be in England where Ruth will be playing cello at the Garsington festival. We even have our own blog, Four go painting in Provence and you’re invited to follow us every step of the way on this trip if you’re interested in seeing all our adventures…which of course will be mostly painting…and eating…and painting again…and then visiting the markets and painting them …and eating…and having some wine perhaps and eating again… or is it painting…in any case, a lot of everything! you can read a little more on my art blog too: Africantapestry is off to Provence for a crazy painting experience!
I’m leaving on Sunday for a week..the other three artist buddies, Katherine, Sarah and Robyn will be there for 3 weeks. unfortunately I have some exciting obligations to tend to here at Coin Perdu, which I’ll share with you once I’m back! So don’t go away…keep well and in the meantime…keep those pots sizzling!
Can we ever get enough of strawberries? Of course not! Right off the vine, directly out of the basket, sliced with cream, sorbet, panacotta, tarts, salads…every which way. And as a lunch with fresh country bread, goats cheese and basil? Simply delicious.
- The strawberries can be used fresh instead of sautéed, o cut and marinated in some white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Add a bit of olive oil to the marinade and use as a vinaigrette.
- Use some soft cottage cheese instead of the goats cheese with freshly chopped chives and basil the and salt and pepper mixed into the cottage cheese.
- Omit the cheese completely and make a sandwich of fresh strawberries, basil, chopped chives and add a drizzle of maple syrup.
- Another version could be to top the bread with strawberries and lastly add some goats cheese, put under the gril for two to three minutes and add the basil and a drizzle of honey just before serving.
- Use other sliced fruit in season instead of the strawberries.
We stopped our restoration here at Coin Perdu for a day of fun. With aprons. And three delightful, playful models. They chopped and chirped, giggled and grated, peeled and pestered, mocked and mixed, all the while performing with an apron chosen from the heap. So.. can an apron be fun? Judge for yourself…
I grew up seeing my mother in her apron every day. While she was doing her morning’s work; the washing, ironing, cleaning, kitchen work, she faithfully wore her apron. And after lunch, it would be removed until dinner time, when preparing dinner and cleaning up would demand an apron again.
Unlike those days, when aprons at home were more of a necessity to protect the small wardrobe of clothes, we have a multitude of aprons today for adding to that special ambiance of an occasion or activity. It partially serves to also show our domain of expertise as well as our our fun loving side. But some habits haven’t changes over the years…the butcher still wears his butcher’s apron/outfit, the boulanger(baker) is still clearly recognized by his apron, the fishmonger wears his proudly, the blacksmith is never without his leather aprons, the “garcon” serving your “panache” at the bar wears his with French flair… an apron is there for our barbecues and for our kitchens , our gardens, for playgrounds, yes, it is fun equally for men, women and children.
So, do you have a fun loving side…?
A salad is something that can be eaten at any time…mealtimes or snack times and even those times you feel like eating out of boredom. Go for a salad. It is safe. It is my ultimate favorite dish, summer through winter.
In our home we are always stocked to the brim with ingredients for a salad. Vegetables, greens, leaves, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, cheeses, flowers and herbs, essential oils, but even more so… an interesting vinaigrette and little “addition” to prevent a salad from becoming boring.
This time… a salad with broccoli and preserved ginger, a pungent ginger vinaigrette and a scattering of dried edible flowers for some interest.
- Use a mix of broccoli and cauliflowers florets.
- Use broccolini instead of broccoli.
- Omit the ginger and use a firm fruit in season. Use some juice or pulp of the same fruit in the vinaigrette.
- Try different herbal/flower teas or infusions as a base for a vinaigrette.
- Use fresh flowers instead of dry dried ones.
- Add some fried bacon pieces or thin strips of pancetta for a salty addition.
- Serve the broccoli still warm for a salad with more substance and sprinkle the dried flowers just before serving.
- Marinate the broccoli in the vinaigrette for 15-30 minutes before serving at room temperature.
…and edible flowers:
Nothing can be easier than making your own dried flowers to use in vinaigrette, salads, and sauces and any other food decoration, with only one rule to keep in mind: make sure the flowers are edible! sometimes the leaves can be used, but not the flowers or vice versa. Make sure you’re not allergic to some flower or pollen. Don’t use flowers from florists which may be sprayed with pesticides. Your own garden or nature is the place to gather your flowers. Whether you’re in summer or winter, you can always find some flowers around you to use in your foods and of course, so much the better, because you DO eat seasonal don’t you?
We all use herbs in our salads, dried and fresh and they are familiar to us. A few lesser known flowers for a vinaigrette are marigolds, lawn daisies, dandelions, pansies, clover, hibiscus, cornflower, mallow, zinnia, tulips, phlox, day lilies, begonia, gardenia, lilacs, magnolias, fuchsias…
and of course, the well known violets, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, sages, sunflowers,roses, camomile, marguerites, geraniums, honeysuckle, poppies, courgette…
I’m showing a few that I’m drying now which are in season:
I pick my flowers when I dead head them…snip off the drying ones. Pick them during midday, wash them, let dry. I then use a scissors to cut the flowers off right behind the petals, as to keep only the softer tips of the petals. I mostly use only the petals of the flowers to dry, except for the small lawn daisy which looks very cute scattered on a salad or sorbet. To keep its daisy shape, I let them dry face down with a little pressure to keep them open . The harder and tougher stems aren’t always enjoyable in a salad or sauce, so make sure all hard stems are removed. Spread the petals on a large tray, covered with a absorbing paper or kitchen towel. Leave in a dark, cool and dry place. The petals dry very quickly and can then be stored separately in small glass containers to use on different occasions and with different dishes. Store in cool dark spot.
…lawn daisy (paquerette)…
When you’re not in the mood for drying your own flowers, you can run off to the organic store or any herbalist where you will find interesting tea infusions and herbal infusions which you can buy.
à la prochaine!
In the spirit of this perfect spring , enjoying fresh asparagus with a balsamic sauce, topped with a poached egg fresh from my chickens, is a sin easily forgiven. It is a popular spring dish and with a twist here and there, you can enjoy it several times and each time have something different on your plate. (see suggestions below)
- Stem or boil the asparagus instead of sauteing in oil if you want to cut down on fat. Make a vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon juice and balsamic and drizzle when served.
- If the asparagus are too thick, cut in half.
- Use wild asparagus.
- Use thin green string beans instead.
- Instead of a poached egg, a soft boiled egg can be used.
- Chop a hard boiled egg finely, sprinkle on the asparagus and top off with a dollop of mayonnaise and fresh herbs, instead of the poached egg.
- Instead of balsamic vinegar, make a reduction of white wine and a few saffron strands: Remove the asparagus from the pan, add about 150 ml white wine, 1 tsp of white balsamic to the pan along with a few strands of saffron, let simmer until syrupy and drizzle over the asparagus.
- Use dry roasted almond flakes instead of pine nuts.
…and a brocante at Collonges la rouge.
Elsewhere it may be cold and rainy, but here in Correze, France, it seems we have skipped spring and jumped straight into summer. Browsing the brocante in Collonge la rouge this past Easter weekend, couldn’t have been more perfect, The brocantes are starting off with full force and every weekend one can pick and choose between several. I prefer the small town, more informal ones with jovial, hearty conversations and laid back country side ambiance.
Collonges la Rouge counts as one of “The most beautiful villages of France” and is a charming little 800′s village with its rustic red stone. In a next post I’ll show and tell more about it.
We can never do it any other way..always start off with a coffee!
…Wooden farm furniture at the brocante…
…and two sketchers…not buying, only observing…
…and Scruffy is keeping an eye from down below…
…bottles I would love to have, but can’t afford…
…and ditto for this beautiful white and black Gien pot…extremely expensive…
…such nice milk glass vases…
…and finally I found lovely lace curtains for the barn door at Coin Perdu…
As said before, I’m not fond of cucumber. But it is a handy vegetable to use as a basis for a cold summer soup, or a summer sorbet or as in this case, here in a European winter…a cup with a filling. The combination of shrimp and goat’s cheese , dill and capers, seasons the watery cucumber. And even though cucumber is not in season at the moment, I feel like fresh foods after the heavy holidays.
- The quantities are only approximate, use to your own taste.
- The filling can be varied to your taste too.
- Decorate the skin of the cucumber by scraping shavings off with a peeler, or use a fork or a small lemon scoop to scrape off strips..
- Use sardines instead of shrimps, or shredded white fish or chopped smoked salmon.
- Use fromage frais with chopped herbs or diced seasonal vegetables.
- Add mustard or pesto to ricotta and mix with shredded ham.
- Consider chopped almonds with a finely chopped chicken filling.
- Serve with a vinaigrette of your choice.
…a life around bicycles…
“Do you remember all the times we got pulled over by the policemen for me carrying you on the handles of my bicycle? “, he asked.
She laughed. “Oh yes! … such fun and carefree, irresponsible years!”
That happened of course in the university years of this couple. They relived these moments while reminiscing over past times and paging through all the old photo albums. They remebered the times when they both grew up in their childhood homes, each with their bicycle, driving to different schools in different towns. Then they met at university and continued cycling everywhere together…to class, to tennis matches, to university functions, to town, to the movies, to dances, to river picnics. Those years, most of the student population owned bicycles rather than cars. It was cheaper. And easier. And if yours got “borrowed”, you would just “borrow” the next one. Then after a while it got more romantic for the guy to carry his girl in front of him on the bicycle handles…his ox, as his bike was called…that way he could smell her hair waving in his face and have her close to him, and she enjoyed her Titanic-moment in front on the handles, with her guy doing all the pedalling work. So it happened many times that study hours were to be spent at “the dam”.She would ride in front on the handles, carrying their books and he would pedal for death to reach the top of the bridge crossing the rail road track so they could free down on the other side at an exhilirating speed. Suddenly a siren would honk beside them, forcing them to stop at the foot of the bridge and obediently and humbly they listened to the policemen’s rant about their criminal act of lifting on the bike handles. But when the stern officer of law disappeared in the distance, they continued on their course, unperturbed by the mean little piece of paper in the pocket. It is just what a student does in a university town. Laws don’t apply to students of course…which is why they carry student cards..
When this guy finally married this girl and entered the professional career world, they continued their cycling ways for a while, until they couldn’t hide behind their student faces any more.the fines started burning a hoole in their pocket, so they decided it would be cheaper for the girl, now a grown-up wife, to pedal her own bike again. Gone were the carefree riding on bicycle handles.
..the first cycles..
When two daughters enriched their lives, the tricycles and bicycles started taking up more and more space in the garage… The young guy was now a father and he trained his girls on thier bikes in the garage where it was safe, thenmoved into the garden andfinally he pedalled beside them to pre school across the big, scary main road. And on their firm demand, he watched them pedal the last two metres to school, where they turned and waved a proud little hand back at him. It continued for many years, and they enjoyed every minute on their bikes… doing their tricks, racing their father, chasing the dog, racing around the pool, falling into the pool…where the safety net proved its worth by allowing only their behinds to get soaking wet.
As young students, the girls too depended on their bicycles to get around and now, as young adults, they race their bicycles up and down mountains and in the challenging traffic of Paris and Toulouse. And the young student-couple of years ago, still ride their bicycles too…of which one is still a black ox and the other a cute pink velo with a basket for fruit and a flask of coffee and two old leather bags for art stuff. And like in their student years, the guy still holds the back line, and although he can’t feel her hair waving in his face as he did so long ago, he can now appreciate her cute derriére as she pedals frantically in front of him.
..riding my bicycle..
Ratatouille is such a versatile dish – there are more ways than can be counted to do it nowadays and everyone swears by his/her way. The traditional way takes takes far too long(for me in any case!) and the vegetables are too soft and juicy to my taste. So I do it the quicker and crunchier way and so far, nobody has complained…on the contrary…everybody finds it fresh and enjoys the crunchiness still present and the appearance pleasant. It is a perfect little vegetable starter for the festive meals that await us!
La ratatouille est un plat assez commun et pourtant, chacun fait sa ratatouille a sa façon. La façon traditionnelle veut que ce soit cuit longtemps, comme tout les ragout. Pour ma part, je trouve ça pénible! Et de toute façon, je préfère mes légumes toujours plus croquants avec ces couleurs encore vive! Donc, je fais ma ratatouille vite et croquante et personne ne s’en plaint. Au contraire! Tout le monde la trouve très bonne!Voilà une bonne petite entrée aux légumes pour les fêtes qui nous approchent.
- Ratatouille can be used as a startert or an amuse bouche or as a side accompanying chicken, fish or red meat. If it is to accompany a meat dish, cut the dice a little bigger…perhaps 6×6 mm.
- Don’t overcook, so the texture can still be crunchy, which makes it different from the traditional ratatouille which is simmered for a longer time to have the vegetables really tender with more sauce than I have here.
- Add some garlic and provencal herbs to the ratatouille like thyme, marjoram, oreganum.
- It can be served warm or at room temperature.
- Serve with freshly shredded basil over the top for a nice fresh appearance.
- Serve on a canape(small slice of bread) for an amuse bouche, or serve in a little bowl or glass and toast some brioches to serve with it.
- If you want more special flavour to your ratatouille, add some chilies and spices to give it a kick.
- Add some langoustine, cut in chunks or mussels, oysters or shrimp to your rataouille along with chervil or dill.
..and hand me the scissors!..
I don’t have any fond feelings aboutf scissors, in fact, I pretty much associate them with pain and blood, of which I have first hand experience.
But then again, if I think of life without them..?
I had a pretty little old one from my mother which I kept in my handbag and forgot to take out before we had to board at the airport. I still have another one left, a very ancient model, frequently used by her and even though it lacks performance, its beauty stays unsurpassed. No psychedelic colored plastic in sight and the handle shows signs of hard use and yes, the blade is full of rust spots, but the lines are sleek and graceful and the grip allows for good comfort. Just a simple but beautiful, old pair of scissors from my childhood, one that came from my mother’s sewing kit and is now not so much a utility as a connection to the past.
And let’s not forget the garden scissors…those very important pruning tools and the small scissors for bonsai that I use to cut string for tying and staking in the garden. Do you keep your garden scissors clean and oiled? Not? shame on you!! the same goes for cutting flowers for the house…clean them, oil them and they will serve you a lifetime.
It seems I can actually conjure up some images of pleasure and so maybe I do have fond memories of scissors after all….
…à la prochaine!..