This morning I said goodbye to a trusted old friend. We lived through the worst of times and through the best of times. She was a pillar and only now do I realize just how much she meant to me. When everybody else left , she stayed, ever willing to listen, giving without ever wanting something in return. Oh true, sometimes she drove me nuts! But when I needed her, she was there.
We spent a lifetime together. She was there when we raised our children in Tours, driving them to school every morning, picking them late afternoons on the dark winterdays. she knew the way to the trainstation where I dropped mon chéri off every morning and picked him up every evening. She kept me company while waiting at the deserted station in early morning hours when he had to stay late in Paris for meetings. She knows every chateau in the Loire valley by heart. We went to Venice for a quick 2 days holiday with the family. To Milan, to Verona. We drove to the north of France, to the South, to the ocean in the west, to the mountains for the snow. We did plein air painting together and still have the oil paint stains to show for it. She is witness to many of my art failures, but also to my successes, carrying paintings to galleries and exhibits. She drove us to the emergency with cut open heads and arms and migraine attacks.
When we bought our Loire house, she was the one who helped us faithfully restore it. Without complaining, she patiently helped loading and transporting bags of plaster and cement and planks and ceilings and tiles and gravel without ever complaining.
One of our favorite pastimes was brocante browsing and she loved it as much as I. She kept me on the right track, making me rethink unnecessary purchases. Isn’t it too heavy, or too big…is it worth paying extra for delivery..?
There were many occasions where she got me safely to the vet with my beloved little chicken, Omelette, who was almost devoured by the dogs, my lamb Marie-Meringue, who ate poisonous weeds.. our cats, who were poisoned..she never laughed or mocked me for going hysterical about a half eaten chicken which I want ed to save. She understood my fears, my tears, my anger. she witnessed them all, silently, without judgement. She was happy when I was happy and she was strong when I was weak.
She moved house for us and our daughters..to universities in Toulouse and then to Caen, and then to Paris and again to Toulouse and then to Corréze. Hooked up with remorques and loaded to the roof and beyond.
She came with us to Coin Perdu and continued being the friend she had always been. Here she became my best friend. We did everything together, sliding through the winter snowed-in roads, driving endlessly up and down for tools and material for the restoring the house. She was there for the marriage of our daughter. She drove to pick up guests at the airport, drop them off, take them sigh-seeing, transported chairs and food and clothes and people and flowers.
Then one day she didn’t perform as usual. Her movements were heavy, lethargic, tired. But she still gave it her all. We pampered her with a day at the spa, but it was clear that she felt worn. Tired. We took shorter trips to have her rest more, to make it easier on her tired limbs.
And finally this morning I said goodbye to her. A better friend I could not have asked for. Our Peugeot 307, 12 years, 350 000 km.
This is the last post of our menu and it is with a touch of sadness that I say goodbye for now… I enjoyed sharing this menu with all of you and I enjoyed all the comments and visits and stories, kindness and care. Thank you!
With this festive dessert I wish you all a very joyeux Noël. May you all be just as festive in spirit!
- Cut 4 apples in 4 slices.
- Melt butter and dip the slices in the melted butter.
- Marinate some dried raisins, nuts and cranberries in amaretto liqueur.
- Rollther apple slices in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon and restack the slices to form a turret of apple with fruit in between the layers.
- Place in an oven proof oven pan, top with a knob of butter and bake for 30 minutes.
- Sauce: Heat 150ml milk and 150 ml cream. Whisk together 3 egg yolks and 40g sugar until light and thick. Add to the warm milk while whisking and continue whisking the mixture until it thickens. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve.
- Add a tsp of amaretto liqueur. Sprinkle with sugar to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool.
- Serve an apple on a plate, decorate with star anise, cinnamon stick and a spooning of sauce. Sprinkle some gold leaf and serve.
serves 4 people
Joyeux noël…Merry Christmas…Geseënde Kersfees!!!
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!
Vin chaud definitely has its place in our home during the winter months..which haven’t shown up yet..but I will be ready! It infuses the home with wonderful December flavors and cupping your hand around the glass, sipping slowly, truly brings it home. even in the Southern hemisphere it can be enjoyed for a summer December evening, especially outside; or taken to the beach on a moonlit evening, or by the barbie fire..it can only be good..or better than good..?
Pincée de sel:
- Serve the mulled wine warm to hot.
- Peel the orange very thin, so only get the outer skin and not the white which tends to add bitterness.
- Add or remove spices as your taste dictates.
- Start with less sugar , you can always add more later if needed.
- The flavors develop with standing..leave to stand at least 30 minutes for the flavors to infuse.
- Always pour the hot liquid onto a spoon into glass to prevent cracking.
- Cut the orange slices into quarters and remove the skin when adding to each glass..it is easier to drink without having an enormous slice of orange suddenly spilling the wine all over your chin! And the small quarters can be eaten after the glass is emptied, wonderfully gorged with the spiced wine.
When I packed up our Loire home in Montlouis a little while back, I came across our photo albums which stretch over years and years. I saw all Christmases past and was excited to realize that I captured them ALL on film or digital. My Christmas photos date back 26 years, to that very first year we became a family. Except for 2003, every Christmas the last 26 years is on film or digital…the preparations, the decor, our tree and our dinners. Unfortunately my photo albums are in storage, so I can’t show those Christmases. Maybe next year.
Our tradition had always been to decorate our tree on 1 December… we have a nice dinner by a candle we light every evening with dinner for the whole of December; in gratitude, remembering friends and family and for the love we have for one another. This has never changed, even now that our nest is empty. Our tradition also demands a different tree each year. Some years it was a live tree, some years a fake one, others were handmade, some were dry branches, it depended on the year’s flavor.
I have collected quite a few pieces over the years and I always kept in mind that we have 2 daughters who will one day have to share these decorations, so I saw to it that each of them will have the same of everything..a memory of Christmases in their childhood home. I hope it will give them and their children big pleasure one day to hang these little decorations on their own trees.
So, here we are; last week of November, but because I love Noël…and because I paged through albums…and because I am a sucker for sentiment and memories…and because we are starting a new chapter in our book of life stories… I want to share snippets of our Christmases-past until Saturday night, when we will see our 2012 tree up and candle lit for December 2012. ***************************************************
This year was the first year we had a dry branch, which had become a favorite in our home. We used only white decorations: a white rose in small vases(which were still unavailable and I had to bribe a florist to sell me some of hers). Large bells and fabric angels completed our tree and a group of snowmen around the base of the tree…oh yes of course, faerie lights!
To continue the white theme, I added white coloured chocolates and cookies on the table..not a good idea!
This year’s tree was supposed to be an “angel” tree. I added some quotes I wrote on handmade paper, which we still use today..
Some détail on the angels and their quotes..
A traditional tree was our choice for this year. I added some old postcards and voilà a very full tree.
Dry branches in une vieille jarre, decorated in silver, grey and white. I added rusted wired hearts and crosses. This year’s tree was a bitloaded and chaotic, but even that is OK, a good memory, because there were always a lot of hands helping, decorating, adding!
..a little détail corner I loved..
Once again, an all white tree, but more modern with large balls of white cotton wool depicting snow and the cutest poilar bears, white baubles and small mirrors catching reflections. Even though it is a fake tree and the whole tree had a modern look, I was very happy with our tree..
..a favorite corner with old books..“La chatte, by Colette”. I somehow always have to add books to the tree..it goes hand in hand, doesn’t it..books and Christmas trees..
This tree is my all time favorite tree..I loved this year’s tree! Fresh moss from my garden in Montlouis, the tree from the Loire, the dry hydrangeas were directly from the garden too..and books, books, books!
..my two favorite crosses that I found in Helsinki..
.a détail corner with silver baubles and grey felt reindeer, also a favorite decoration..
This was one of only two years that we bought a tree..It was also the second time that I felt very very sad at the en of Christmas, when the tree was so dry and triste and it matched my tristesse. I really didn’t like the feeling of taking down decorations from a sad tree.. But while it was there…it was trasitional and pretty.
..with more traditional red and green and gold decorations..
And finally, our first tree from last year at Coin Perdu. We have moved on. Montlouis is in the past. This tree came from our forest and I had our eldest daughter who helped me in searching for it and dragging it back home. The Noël agains the wall was quickly put together by things I found lying around and I added a few stars and mushrooms. I wanted to tell a story with this tree, because it is a tree depicting life here at Coin Perdu..the deer, the forest, the owls..
…these two owl represent the family of owls who loved in the barn and are now in the woods, because we now live in the barn..temporarily!
..and a favorite corner from last year’s tree..
- And to add some new music to your December repertoire...Bach, fifteen classical holiday favorites. Beautiful to listen to, even though it isn’t December and Christmas yet. They can all be found on Deezer if you prefer to listen there..
- Continuing tomorrow: Quick fleur de sel grissini…and Decembers past, chronicles 11: table decor.
More photos can be seen in my gallery on the sidebar, Joyeux Noël.
à demain alors!
I initially thought I would post a recipe for “du vin chaud” (mulkled wine), to celebrate the last of my fall colour posts. But then I “fell” upon this recipe..red cabbage..beetroot…apples…pork fillet..and it won me over. So here I give you the voluptuous, dark reds of beetroot and purple cooked cabbage, lazy late-fall plums instead of apples and a juicy, tender pork fillet.
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used late season red plums, but use apples if you prefer.
- Use cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar if you use apples.
- Add a handful of dry Gobi berries.
- Avoid cooking the cabbage to death… remove from the heat when it still has a bite, because it continues cooking, reaching the perfect stage while standing a bit.
- Also good with veal.
- If you are vegetarian, the pork can be replaced by large roasted or stuffed mushrooms, or fish fillets.
- Can also accompany a frittata or boiled eggs.
Recipe adapted from “Filet mignon de porc, chou poêlé; des recettes pour reçevoir; le grand livre Hachette.”
Yesterday was Beaujolais Thursday, the day when new Beaujolais and le vin primeur of the season are sold worldwide. It is tradition in our house to have a meal somewhere with a glass of Beaujolais. It is a day I always look forward to and this year was no different. It is also the last post of my autumn color inspiration and I can’t think of a better way to end it than to toast the wine reds of nature with a young Beaujolais 2012..
And so, with a touch of sadness I say good bye to the splendour of fall. It is time to move on.
à trés bientôt!
Once again, I had to scratch my head to think of a recipe that would accompany the stunning ochre colours of fall. Of course not only in colour, but also in taste, spirit, ambiance..Of course..cheese. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this simple salad yet. It can be manipulated and changed according to the seasons and is always a winner with its warm toast, cheese and apple and fresh green salad.
- Place the apple rounds and goat’s cheese on toasted bread before putting under the grill.
- Take care to slice your apples, bread for toast and cheese more or less the same size.
- Use slices of Camembert instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use pears or quince instead of apples.
- Use brown sugar to caramelize the pears or quince instead of honey and serve with a helping of quince jam/jelly.
- Play around and make your own combinations to serve a melted cheese and apple/pear/quince salad.
..stillife nicked by a chicken..
..stillife with Royal Gala apples..
..walnut oil, walnut vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle vinegar..
Our fall colors have only now really reached their peak and the ochres are in abundance. I don’t have much to say, except that nature is at the moment an explosion of magnificence..
à la prochaine!
I am very rarely inspired by a recipe. It almost never happens happens that I eat something great and I want the recipe. Of course I enjoy it, but my true inspiration to create a recipe comes from “things” of everyday life. At the moment I am inspired by colour. Every day as I watch nature, I witness colours deepen and darken, fade and disappear. I am mesmerized by the dark of wet wood.. the doors, the windows, the wood piles along the country roads ready for winter fires, the deep beiges of dry fields, the soft creams of the sheep grazing the green hills..and then I remember that recipe saw in a magazine, or the one I tasted at a friends home, and I’m inspired to create the same. This time - A chocolate mendiant tart I saw in a magazine at the hairdresser. I can’t remember the magazine, or theexact ingredients, except for the addition of the Nutella and the icing sugar roasted nuts. And yes, the chocolate colour perfect to accompany the browns I see around me. And the taste..perfect for the cold rainy days..or any other day!
Une Pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used orangettes(candied orange strips). See crystallized orange strips how to make them. It is worth making them yourself to buying those tasteless ones in the supermarket.
- Other dried fruits I used: Dried figs cut in slices and dried cranberries.
- Nuts I used: Freshly shelled walnuts and pistachios.
- I didn’t use a sweet pastry, because the chocolate is sweet enough.
- This dough is enough for 2 tarts. I always make a double quantity so I have a spare pastry ready to roll out in the freezer.
- Consider using this pastry recipe..Omit the cheese, thyme and peppercorns in the recipe. It is much more buttery, delicious of course, but also richer.
- Leave the tart/tartlets to stand for a day to develop flavor.
- It is important to leave the dough to rest. I always leave my dough overnight, it prevents shrinking. This time I was too hurried and in the photo you can see the result..shrinkage!
..an old dilapidated, but charming door contrast beautifully with white stone walls..
..typical Corréze country-with light cream stone houses and dark roofs, dark shutters, rusted barn equipment, nestling in the green hills..
green Corréze hills with brown soil prepared for new fields, dry cornfields of the past season and stark, late autumn trees..
..happy, creamy white sheep roaming the green hills..
..two friends, a familiar Corrézien sight..
..this is a time of year I love to sketch. At the moment, I am truly inspired by the browns and the shapes, especially those of leaves, branches and everything else I find on my walks..
..the stacks of wood ready for the fast approaching winter..
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!
Armed with my camera and macro lens, my boots and hat, I headed for the woods.
But…champignons of course!!
..my favorite hat..
Note: I’m not a mushroom expert, except when it comes to eating them, in which case I do have a strong opinion. So I may be wrong in my classification of these mushrooms. It is very difficult to identify them, since some are so close in appearance and character. See the end of the post for the sources I tapped into. The photos are of course my own.
..Entoloma lividum - toxic, under leaves
.. Hypholoma fasciculare – a poisonous mushroom, very common, grows on dead wood..
..Polypore feutré (Inonotus cuticularis)- a parasite that live on the damaged parts of live trees..
..armillaria gallica – toxic, grows on dead branches and leaves
..dacrymyces microsporus -grows on dead branches and tree trunks..
..Clavaire etroite – common on dead leaves and rotting wood..
..Russules Maculée – common under leaves on alcalic soil..
- More photos can be seen in my gallery in the sidebar: Champignons d’automne.
- Le nouveau guide des champignons – Cécile Lemoine
- Champignons -Polesse Jean Marie
- Les champignons de France – Hervé Chaumeton
I will soon have to go back into the woods, because I haven’ captured even half of what is still out there; And some of my photos didn’t turn out good enough which I’ll have to redo. So, until such time…
♥ don’t eat mushrooms which haven’t been identified by an expert..
♥ keep unidentified mushrooms apart for the others..
♥ clean your hands after touching a strange mushroom..
♥ don’t forget your camera..
Once again, a great time spent on my feet. This time round I spent my days leisurely strolling around. Gone are the days I fly on my feet and hyperventilate to catch all museum doors open. Now I simply enjoy the different culture which I find myself in for a few days, the different lifestyle and the habits of the pedestrian passing me by, and I fall in with each moment as it presents itself. And I still have a lot of fun..like getting lost.
I thought I knew Amsterdam by now, but I got so lost this time I almost ended up in Antwerpen! I walked for 2 hours before admitting I am lost and then spent almost another 2 to get out of my predicament and to some familiar ground. I have a good sense of direction(usually) and very rarely use a map and I have (usually) some great experiences with getting a bit lost. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those occasions where one falls upon treasures on your lost road, on the contrary, it was a bit challenging. Maybe because it started getting dark and the streets I wandered started getting empty, or maybe because I saw so many black dogs lying outside the doors, or could it be the barred doors and windows I passed? With a dead phone battery and a very fertile imagination I continued walking. When I saw a young woman with a black Doberman on a leash, I decided this was my saving line..I followed her, not having the slightest idea where she was going, but I hoped if something happened, maybe she would unleash that black dog. I also had the good hope that she would get me to a less scarier corner. It worked. Following her brought me back to where I could at least see the church tower and I started breathing easier again.
By that time, my feet burned from wearing winter shoes my feet aren’t used to yet, I was hungry and thirsty and exhausted from visualizing the end of my life. A tiny Turkish eating corner and its beautiful young owner with her long dark black hair came to my rescue. I plonked my tired body into one of her chairs and ordered a chicken tajine with yellow rice and dried fruits and beetroot and a large glass of mint tea. That was the best meal I’ve ever had and I could see a future ahead of me again!
So, in commemoration of that wonderful reviving tajine, here is my version of it…delicious if I may say so myself..or maybe it lies in the memory..
..Tajine d’agneau(lamb tajine)..
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use whichever meat you prefer, just adjust the cooking time. White meat like chicken cooks quicker than red meat like lamb and beef.
- ALWAYS brown your pieces of meat before making a stewing dish..it enhances flavor.
- Don’t drown your meat with liquid when braising. Adding a little liquid thorough the cooking time makes for a more flavorful and thicker, caramelized sauce.
- Add fruits towards the end if you want whole pieces of fruit in your meal. Adding them earlier will break up the fruit and thicken and naturally sweeten the sauce
- A tajine served the next day is even better in flavor. Just add a little water to reheat because the sauce thickens when standing.
Everybody knows Amsterdam for its tulips and canals and of course bicycles. And so, like all tourists, I also took some typical touristy shots, depicting Amsterdam in its daily habit. Of course there is much more to a buzzing city like Amsterdam apart from its colorful dress code. There is its poverty and illness, its age and constructional city problems, the crime and simply mean people, as I’ve had the misfortune of discovering.
..My soup bench and the surprise element..
But there is also the surprise element like when I was taken aback by a young man, staggering towards me and my soup on a bench(above). With a half empty bottle in his one hand and a full one in the other, he asked me in Dutch for a cigarette; I shook my head and pulled up my shoulders, suggesting I don’t understand. He switched to English and again I shrugged my shoulders. Being convinced he would understand no word of French, I answered him and satisfied with myself, I turned my attention to my soup. In perfect French, he addressed me again and even paid me an askew compliment, while holding out his hand to me in greeting. I almost swallowed my soup cup. What are the odds of a street bum speaking 3 languages fluently? Of course I had to take his sweaty hand in acknowledgement of him checkmating me in my own game.
..Pompadour chocolates and coffee..
I frequently stopped r for so,something to drink, which would be either a coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice. And it hit me how the little coffee shops differ so immensely from ours here in France. It could be anything from only one tiny table to a single wooden bench or a row of cushions. This is what I wanted to capture.
..Royal bagels and muffins..
..Greenwoods, with everything and anything..
..A single bench at LEF..
..Cushions and blankies at Kaldi..
..So many, many more coffee shops to choose from..
I skipped on museums this time, but I visited many an art gallery..some highly expensive, some interesting and some plain boring. But there is sure something for everyone. And with capturing a little of the art here in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist being a little kitschy in introducing a bicycle sweeping by in front of my lens…now that was fun!
Of course Amsterdam isn’t Amsterdam without its bulbs. I carried somewhat heavy on my plastic bag all the way back to Coin Perdu, where they await their planting. Bulbs, bulbs and bulbs..will they grow?
..Bulbs and bulbs and bulbs..
Too soon I had to say goodbye to my new friends and head back home. But there is always the prospect of seeing them again..I wonder what experiences will await me then..
When asked which is her favorite princess in a fairytale, Marinell always says Belle, from Beauty and the beast. On 15 September she really was Belle and she had her handsome blue eyed prince and her castle..and they danced in the sunset on “La vie en rose”, their own fairytale.
..Chateau du Doux..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..on the staircase in the chateau..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..in the library of the chateau..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
Both the bride and groom wanted a traditional wedding, from the word go. The challenge was to incorporate the traditions of three different cultures. As time passed and planning was done step by step(mostly by themselves), it all naturally fell into place. The finished result was a good and fun mix of 3 cultures and even the hands that helped stretched over continents; friends and family from SA to Australia, friends and family from the UK and of courseall those good friends from France. Everyboldy pitched in happily… preparing salds for the Friday evening’s barbecue, roaming the forest for ferns and moss and branches, loading and unloading tables and chairs and pots and urns, stripping leaves from ferns for confetti, arranging flowers, setting tables, folding napkins, sweeping floors, making coffees, taxying people from the airport…and finally we all sat down together for dinner in a candle lit room, surrounded by happy chat and laughter. This is exactly how I wanted their day to end. Happy.
..flowers in the church of Le Pescher..
..”supposed” to be singing..
..confetti made of Ferns we picked in our forest at Coin Perdu and many hands helped strip the leaves..
..Now where are you off to..?
..Resting on the bridge after walking with everybody through the little village of Le Pescher..
Like every mother, I was highly excited about this wedding of our first daughter.And like every mother, a little afraid too: of the costs, of not staying out of it( very hard!), of not being able to help them live their dream, of not being able to make the day only joyous and happy.To keep the costs down we did everything ourselves and worked quite hard, I did indeed succeed in staying out of it(sometimes), and it was a beautiful joyous and happy day on which they truly lived their dream by saying “I do”
..Striped paper straws for old fashioned coke bottles, mailbox for letters, signing the guestbook, pouring oil into torches, lanterns and chandelles..
..Flowers, urns and sitting corners in the garden..
Pampilles(crystals), hanging from tree branches – to find your seat..
..some fun in the garden..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..A first dance to Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose”..
..Two pretty smiles..
(photo: W van Wyk)
..the dining room is ready..
..table decorations: moss and ferns and foliage from our forest at Coin Perdu; hydrangeas and grey foliage from the garden with accents of chardon and Chrysanthemum and camomiles among lanterns and some silver for sparkle.
..Entering for dinner..
(photo: Lisa Allen photography Toulouse)
..Bon appetit et bonne nuit!..
***Photos: All images Ronelle van Wyk, unless otherwise stated.
***I have just recently started a Facebook page, which I call Café des artistes. It is an extension of my three blogs and on it I do exactly what one would do in a café around coffee..talk about art and life and food and photography..if you are interested in some of these short snippets, you can find my link in the sidebar to join. You will also find more photos of the wedding on my facebook page..as always, Ronelle
I have been like these butterflies the last few weeks…fluttering left, right and center! Our eldest daughter’s wedding is a week from today and I’m in top gear, working to get everything done. Truth be told, up until now most of the organizing had been done by the two themselves. My work only really started these last few weeks and being true to my very bad self, I left everything until the very last minute, which now means a mean scuffling of feet to be on top of things. But I’m almost there…on top of things!
..Inachis Io(Paon du jour) Peacock butterfly..
Every now and then I get distracted by my animals or the garden…the flowers, the vegetables and my potager, a coffee…before finding my rhythm again to move along with wedding stuff. One such a pleasant distraction was the seductive butterflies in my summer garden.
.. le petit nacré (Issoria lathonia) ..
..Iphiclides podalirius – scarse swallowtail (le flambé)..
..la belle dame (Vanessa cardui)..
..(papillons satyrinae (satyre)..
..Colias alfacariensis (Fluoré)..
A last sip of cool and calm Provencal Rosé at sunset with mon chéri before friend and family start arriving from tomorrow onfor the wedding. And so with these images of my summer butterflies here at Coin Perdu and two cold glasses of Rosé, I leave you until I resurface after the wedding!
Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.
In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!
Une petite pensée:
- I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
- Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
- Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
- Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
- Use a celery branch to stir.
- Add cubes of ice in each glass
- Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.
A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.
From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!
Sunday was a real “Dimanche à la campagne” at Coin Perdu. Our children from Toulouse visited the weekend, the sun was shining, we stopped working on our house for the day and we had a great brunch outside under the Tilleul tree. What made it really perfect was that Mon Chéri made lunch! I just sat in the shade, sipped my Rosè and enjoyed the company of the people I love. This frittata/tortilla/ omelette is the brainchild of Mon Chéri and it changes every time he makes it which course is typical of a frittata…you use whatever is available and to your liking!
..frittata/tortilla/omelette on the barbecue..
..the assistant earns her lunch..
Une petite pensée:
- Make a frittata to empty the fridge at the end of a month.
- Normally a frittata is done on the stove and placed under a grill for a few minutes before serving. I is firm enough to cut into slices.
- If you want it creamier, add a TBSP of crème fraîche just after you’ve added the eggs and stir .
- Always add a sprinkling of freshly cut herbs before serving for a fresh appeal.
- Place your frittata under the grill for a few minutes to have it puff up, melt the cheese if added and brown nicely.
- To make it vegetarian, omit the left over meat.
- Be creative with your frittata.
- Serve with fresh green salad, toast or country bread and fruit.
..dèjeuner à la campagne..
But back to the moment: ..the strawberries try desperately to produce one last crop… I sure did something wrong, because my garlic went to seed and is even smaller than when I planted them!… I lost all my newly planted carrots by simple neglect unfortunately (I didn’t water them…too lazy?)…my basil dried up too, but I still have some new leaves pushing, so I’m not completely hopeless!…My onions are all dug up…my young leeks look a bit frail…
..an empty late summer potager..
But on the other hand…my maize (corn) looks beautiful, although few…my pumpkin is coming along beautifully and already have little pumpkins all over…I am in love with all my grey foliaged herbs like the Absinthe(Artemisia absinthium), the santolinas, the grey potent curry plants..
..absinthe, french marigolds, tomatoes, maize, pumpkin herbs..
My artichokes are late, but I’m happy, even though I have only one plant carrying buds…next year I will have plenty of artichokes..enough to leave for flowering and enough for eating!…
One thing I don’t fail at, is growing beets…deliciously sweet, small and big, the young leaves delicious in salads. We have feasted this season on fresh beets and I’ve just planted some more and I’m already picking the leaves for colour in my salads – of course beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I pretend they are very difficult and I’m just soo good!…
..young beetroot peeping through the lavender..
A lovely green view on my potager..I have to add that this photo was taken just after some hard work, like weeding and digging-in horse manure(with the help of sweet Mon chéri of course) and pruning and all the labour a potager asks for…but still… quite pretty with the bright tansy and gay French marigolfds, the cloches and yellow pots, tomato forest… heh?…
..bright yellows for a potager..
Now just look at my maize (admitting again in a whisper that Mon Chéri sees to it being watered…?). In France maize is not eaten “corn on the cob” wise. On the contrary, it is seen as animal food and frowned upon as human food..but once they try it our way..on the BBQ.. with butter and fleur de sel..they are converted!…
..maize(corn on the cob)..
Of course I have camomile, as everubody does…how can one not have Camomile…such an easy growing, abundant and gratifying herb! Don’t trust the marker…nothing is what it seems here at Coin Perdu…
rosemary…oops non, camomile..
Aha…the tomatoes – last year I was conscientious and my tomatoes were properly staked and all the necessary pinching and mulching were religiously done and they were beautiful! This year, it is more of a tomato war with cherries and grapes and rondes and ovals fighting for air and power and it is an ordeal to harvest, but when we succeed, we have nice sweet abundant crops; I’ll be perfect again next year!…
As said…I love the santolinas…the greens and the greys…mixed with lavender, I can dwell there for hours. Hopefully I’ll have a whole field of mixed santolinas and lavenders next year – it all comes down to efficient planning?…
The visitors are bountiful and it rewards the hard work of gardening without pesticides! This young lady goes by the pretty name of le Nacré de la ronce(Brenthis daphné)…
..Nacre de la ronce..
Without planning it, my potager developed and grew towards the yellows. And I love it! Yellows, oranges, greens, whites and grey. Beautiful. But only in my garden. and only in the potager. The rest stays all white. And definitely not on my body! Look at these cheeky marigolds, bursting with energy!… and they get picked when they start to wilt, the petals are dried and used in salads..Nothing goes to waste .
Salads. A potager isn’t a potager without its salads. A leaf here and a leaf there, a handful f tomatoes, a basil leaf, a beetroot leaf … voilà, a salad for lunch….
salads (feuille de chène)
I’m one of those crazy gardeners… I am greedy, I plant too much, I plant too close together, I sow too many seeds… And so I planted far too many courgettes for our household and we ended up having these giants…pretty to look at, not as tasty as the young sweet courgettes though. But I always reason that life must be pretty too, not only practical and sensible, and that same reasoning goes for a potager…pretty has its place too in a potager. So here they are, my pretty giants!…
I hope you enjoyed walking with me through my potager at the end of the summer…almost.
A potager is hard work…all that weeding, the watering, the planting and seeding, the harsh summer sun, fighting the slugs and the deer, the rabbits and snails……it IS hard work and I am fa..aar from being the most effective gardener. Around us, everything grows and wanders like it wishes(animals included, people included) and when the worms devour my artichokes, I break into an instant fit and man and animal flees, but then calm down and casually start over again. We pretty much believe in laisser faire, so you will never see perfection around here, but I believe that it is a stress free way of gardening. What is a few weeds after all? And insects do more good than harm, and if the snails feed on your salads, just plant a few more.. or plant some sorrel to keep them away from your salad(snails adore sorrel)..or cover the soil with broken eggshells, or ash from the barbecue…live and let live..
OK. I have to shower and clean my nails and go find my gloves, which stayed behind somewhere in the potager…
Et voila…M Pierrot Gourmand, as promised!
We love our apéro (apéritif) before dinner. It can be many things and always quick and easy. Only with visitors do I try to do something more “travaillé” more elaborate. But most of the time it will be fresh tomatoes with some mozzarella, or a bowl of home marinated olives, or melted Camembert and baguette slices, or carrot sticks with vinaigrette dip, or brushcetta… These little tomato cocktails are very popular. Fresh from our tomato vines, they are dipped in caramel and in poppy seed and stuck into Pierrot and served with cold Provencal Rosé wine on the patio while Mon Chéri prepares his fire for our dinner… this is of course in summer where one can’t be anywhere else but outside!
- Dip the caramelized tips into any finish of your choice: dessicated coconut for a tropical touch; toasted seame seeds, finely chopped basil, or mixed fresh herbs; gremola; chopped dried tomatoes flakes, milled peppercorns, chopped nuts of your choice…
- Don’t make the caramel too dark or else it will taste burnt.
- Use wooden lollipop sticks for an authentic feel or use toothpicks and serve on wooden beard.
- Serve with cold white or Rosé wines along with a bowl of torn and seasoned buffalo mozzarella pieces.
The birth of Pierrot Gourmand:
At the end of the XIXth century, the famous actor Debourreau created and played his own pantomime on the melody of “Au clair de la lune“. The personage Pierrot inspired Adolphe Willette, an artist to create a poetic Pierrot. He was referred to as “le Pierrot de Montmartre“. In 1892 Monsieur Everard of Everard and Herbert industries gave birth to a marquette of Pierrot sitting on the moon, offering bonbons to children. And so Pierrot Gourmand was born.
The first lollipop was invented by Everard in 1924, made of barley sugar, fruit flavors, cola and caramel and shaped in the form of a spear head. The milky caramel was the first flavor on the market. Up until today Pierrot Gourmand lollipops still exist in both the round and original spear head shape. With a production of over 2000 tons of candy per year, the fifties was regarded as the golden years for Pierrot Gourmand. Today it is part of the Agro-industriel-andros group, well known for its Andros jams and juices.
More reading on Pierrot gourmand:
..à bientôt mes amis!..
I have been inactive here for a while now and it seems it will last a while longer before I’ll return to normal activity on Myfrenchkitchen.
So, while I’m taking my repos, I leave you with the promise to return, as soon as I can, with a post on cher Pierrot Gourmand, (as promised already a while back) along with some nice ideas and recipes for sweet and salty sucettes.! In the meantime, enjoy his sweet smiling face and sweet colorful sucettes , welcoming all children and even adults at les boulangeries, les tabacs, les supermarches, les bars… he is part of an age old tradition and culture in France and one can’t slip by life without the company of Pierrot.
à très bientõt!
…kayaking down the Dordogne..
Today, 22 April 2012 is Earth day.I would like to add my small contribution to help make the world conscious of the wonder of this planet we are privileged to inhabit. We have only one lifetime we to enjoy it and at the same time secure and preserve it for the future.
If we can teach our children from a young age to see nature from close-up, we will see a beauty deeper than just by scanning the surface: Taking walks in nature, having closer looks at what lies beneath a leaf or a branch, having them plant their own bean in a saucer lined with cotton wool, giving them their own corner in a garden to plant annuals, teaching them the benefits of insects and other crawling critters we normally flee from, having books on our shelves about nature, riding bicycle with them rather than transporting them to ballet in a car, teaching them the precious value of water, lie on our backs with them and discovering the stars, smelling wet earth, freshly cut grass…so much that we can learn from nature just by being present, so much nature can teach us when we pay attention…
..argiope brunechii female..
..Arion rufus(red slug)..
..Forest shield bug on Scottish thistle..
..wild flowers in correze…
..Bufo bufo, common toad..
..Mellicta Athalia, butterfly..
..Lacerta agilis, common lizard..
..water canal at Le Pescher..
..Birds of the Loire..
..La Loire in July..
Read about earth day 2012 here.