Red peppers are synonym with the Mediterranean and it is one of my favorite vegetables, raw or otherwise. We grow them in our potager(vegetable garden) rows of them..and they find their way to our table in every way possible. Une petite tarte, using ready made puff pastry or home made if you are so handy or ordered from your boulanger, which is how I prefer to do it, is one way of serving these delicious vegetables.
- Wash 4 red peppers.
- Remove the seeds and cut them into thin strips. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and milled black pepper. Add three twigs of fresh rosemary and two lemon wedges.
- Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Roll out 4 rectangles of puff pastry to about 1mm thick and 8x16cm long. Roll the sides to the inside to form a little rolled side. Prick the inside with a fork, cover with some baking paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake in a preheated oven at 200° C for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Arrange the roasted peppers on the prepared pastry shells. Add some cubed or crumbed feta cheese and dry roasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with red pepper corns and drizzle the pan juices from the roasted red peppers over the filling. Add some rosemary twigs and place under the grill for about 7 -10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve warm with a dollop of créme fraîche and a large green salad.
Serves 4 people
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use courgettes instead of red peppers, or a mixture of both.
- Add some halved spring onions to the red peppers before roasting.
- Use goats cheese instead of feta cheese.
- Serve with homemade balsamic sorbet.
- Spoon some pesto on the base of the pastry shell before adding the red peppers.
- Turn into a dessert by spooning some sweetened mascarpone cheese on the bottom of the pastry shell, cover with red peppers and drizzle with honey and chopped mint.
..the lavenders of Provence..
Mon chéri treated me to a couple of days in Provence. I don’t have to say anything, except that it was pure joy. It was so short, but my senses were alive to its maximum every minute.
Apart from the wonderful Provencal sun, the delicious meals on sunny terraces, the Provencal rosé wines, I did indeed manage to complete 7 sketches, while mon chéri patiently waited and used the time to play chess. Since our time was so short, I didn’t want to spend too much time on sketching though, so all I wanted was to capture a bit of the ambiance of our short stay. I think I achieved that and I am so chuffed. So chuffed indeed. If you’d like to see the sketches, you can pop over to Africantapestry.
I love lavender. Just simply love it. Not in foods. Not in soaps. Not in perfumes. not in my closets. But in pots and in the fields and gardens. That is the only place I can appreciate its fragrance, which is too strong and overpowering anywhere else. But the joy of lavender and its fragrance in a field or in a garden…nothing else comes close.
If only I could pass along the fragrance with these images…but it is all up to you and your imagination. Stretch out your hand and touch the blooms, hear the bees, see the butterflies, sniff the air, feel the sun and dwell in the heady fragrance…
The soil varies between the different fields, but they all have three things in common…altitude, sun and poor soil.
A lavender field snaking over the hill into a row of Provence cypress.
At the abbaye de Senanque, the lavenders aren’t fully open yet, it being a different variety. But I love the faded blue which harmonizes with the gentle quietude of the abbaye and the greys of its old stone building.
Small fields, larger, tiny, among wheat, beside the roads…everywhere.
Where there is lavender, there you’ll find bees and butterflies!
Green vines, purple lavenders and red soil…the colours of Provence.
One of my favorite photos with a scene of all my favorite things..nature with its rocky area, the olive grove, the lavender, the hills, the colors, the smells..
A quilt of color in the valley just below Bonnieux; lavender fields, wheat fields and vineyards.
*Keep an ear to the ground for the next post on Provence..until then..
Unimaginable that nettle soup can be delicious and yet, it is! Once cooked, the stinging effect disappears completely and all that is left, is a dark green, flavorful soup. Stinging nettle grows everywhere, the sign of fertile soil, and costs nothing. So why not make use of it? It reminds me somewhat of watercress, of which I often make soup too. Along with the spring petit pois pesto, it makers for a typical spring lunch or dinner or even a starter. See the Pincée de fleur de sel below for more ideas. I do hope you’ll try it.
Nettle soup with petit pois pesto
- Pick nettle leaves, wearing a pair of leather or other thick gloves. Separate the leaves from the stems, keeping only the tender leaves and stems. Harvest about 3 large colanders full of leaves for 4 people.
- Rinse the leaves in cold water to get rid of sand and grit. Don’t forget using the gloves, or switch to tongs.
- Clean and chop two spring onions and sauté in coconut oil(not to be confused with palm oil)or olive oil. Add 5 stems of garlic along and its flowers.(optional)
- Mix the nettle leaves with the onion and add enough vegetable stock to JUST cover the nettle/onion mixture. Adding too much liquid will result in a watery soup.
- Simmer on medium heat for about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and mix with a hand mixer to a creamy soup.
- Add 3/4 can of coconut milk and 1 large TBSP of mascarpone cheese to the soup. Stir and leave to simmer very gently over low heat for another 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- Leave aside until needed.
Petit pois pesto:
- Boil 1 large cup of freshly shelled petit pois for 2-3 minutes and rinsed under cold water. Leave to dry.
- Mix together in a mortar and pestle with 5 sprigs chives, 2-3 TBSP olive oil and 1 TBSP pine nuts.
- Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar.
- Don’t overwork to a puree.
To serve: Serve the soup warm OR cold with a quenelle of petit pois . Finish off with sprinkling of milled pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Pick nettles with a pair of leather or other thick gloves!
I picked the leaves(with gloves of course) early morning, separated the leaves from the harder stems, kept the softer ones, rinsed it very well and kept it in the fridge until I started the preparation.
Rinse very well!
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Remember to pick the leaves with gloves, rinsing and adding to the casserole, working with gloves or tongs all the time.
- Like spinach, nettle must be rinsed well, preferably under running water. Catch the water in a bowl and add to you plants.
- It resembles spinach when cooked.
- Use watercress, or spinach leaves instead of nettle.
- If you fear the nettle to be too “wild” to your liking, add 1 large peeled, boiled and mashed potato, OR add some spinach leaves along with the nettle.
- Don’t add too much stock or else the soup will be watery. It is always possible to add some stock afterwards.
- Serve the soup cold in glasses or cups, topped with a room temperature pesto, or serve warm in bowls with room temperature pesto.
- If using frozen petit pois, boil longer than fresh peas..about 4 minutes. Stop the cooking process by placing in ice cold water.
- For a nice apéro, make a cuppacino – Place a layer of petit pois a the bottom of a small glass,pour over some soup and finsih off with whipped cream. sprinkle with grean matcha tea powder.
Freshly shelled petit pois.
Last, but not least..the pea shells are off to the compost heap!
*Note: I have finally gotten the chance to redo my photos for the Washing day post and if you would like to see and read my thoughts on a washing day..just follow this link to Coin Perdu -Laundry day!
* Thank you to everybody who shared their laundry stories either on Facebook, in an email or on the blog..I loved reading them..if there are more of you who want to share..please do so, I would love to hear your washing day stories and I know others would like to read them too!
Bon appétit et à la prochaine!
The entrée (starter) for this menu is A topinambour (Jerusalem artichokes) and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croûtons. It has a wonderful woodsy flavor and finished off with a shaving of black truffle on the chanterelles mushrooms, it transports you into a winter forest.
- Clean 1 onion and cut in slices. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent.
- Clean 5 large Jerusalem artichokes, cut into small, even chunks and add to the the onion.
- Add a tin of peeled chestnuts (210g) to the mixture.
- Add a bouguet garni and 350 ml water or stock (vegetable) to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Add a handful of washed parsley and mix with an electrical hand mixer until the soup is creamy. If you want the soupy perfectly creamy, you can push it through a sieve.
- Add some cream, or stock, or milk to bring it to the right consistency (like thick cream). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Serve warm with some freshly grated nutmeg and a mushroom croûton.
- Mushroom croûton: Toast three thick slices of bread. cut into fingers and brush with truffle oil on all sides. Clean some some mushrooms of your choice with a brush and fry quickly in olive oil. Add some chopped parsley , season and place on top of the toast fingers. Finish off by placing two shavings of black truffle on the mushrooms and serve immediately with the soup.
- This soup can also be served as an amuse bouche, served in small glasses, with small fingers of toast.
Serves 4 people as a starter.
Une pincée de fleur de sel:
- Don’t add too much liquid in the beginning..you can always thin with some milk, or stock or water towards the end to the thickness you prefer.
- Replace the mushrooms with plain button mushrooms or with crispy Spanish ham.
- Replace the Jerusalem artichokes with pumpkin.
- Toast the croutons in a toaster or dry toast in a pan to keep it light.
- Finish the soup with a twirl of truffle oil.
- Never wash mushrooms with water, clean them with a brush.
- Fry mushrooms in a hot pan ..I prefer to fry mushrooms in duckfat(a little) which can be heated to very high heat without becoming toxic. Afterwards I drizzle a little Olive oil. In a hot pan, you don’t need much fat, because the mushrooms fry very quickly.
- I don’t push the soup through a sieve, because I like the tiny pieces of parsley which gives a nice 3speckly” effect to the soup.
The Christmas market in Meyssac was very quaint and I especially loved the lovely church with its display of nativity scenes in all the alcoves. Each nativity scene depicted a country…Brazil was there, France of course, Italy, Africa. Even Peru was there, each little figurine dressed in typical clothing. I adored it and planned on going back to Meyssac to take pictures of all the scenes. When I finally went back, it was gone! Of course, it made sense..it was on display only for the weekend of the market..all those precious figurines couldn’t be left unattended for the whole season. I can kick myself! So I lost out on the lovely nativity scenes..you will have to wait until next year.
But the little église of Meyssac is still adorable and here are some photos…
…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…
..the interior towards the altar with Chrismas lights hanging above the aisle…
..the altar from close up..
..and the only nativity scene left for the season..
..un lustre lighting up one of the many figurines the Catholics so love..
- Tomorrow will see the plat principal (main meal): Beef tournedos with bone marrow in a wine sauce and steamed vegetables.
- A nice DVD to get you in a French vintage mood…La plus belle histoire des femmes.
.. alors, à demain!..
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…
When I was in Hawa’i I searched everywhere for a nice tropical dessert with local fruits, but all in vain. Probably because of a lack of fruits in season? Back here at home, I still want a fruit salad, so I made this salad Not completely a tropical one, but with some well known fruits. Next time I’ll make a real tropical salad with lesser know fruits and give my verdict.
- Cut some tropical fruits of your choice into brunoise(small cubes). I used mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, kumquat, pomegranate, green Granny smith apple.
- Use fruits that are ripe, but still firm, so that you don’t end up with a soggy fruit salad…awful!
- Cover the apple with lemon juice to prevent coloring.
- Don’t use banana, it is too strong and overpowering for a fruit salad.
- Use a tiny melon ball scoop for the papaya to add some difference in shapes. I also cut the pineapple in little triangles.
- Keep the fruits separate and mix lightly just before serving, OR set in layers in a pretty glass.
- Make a syrup of 4 passion fruit pulp, 1 TSP of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Let it boil down to a syrupy consistency and pour over the salad just before serving.
- Serve with a small scoop of lemon sorbet. (recipe following in a next issue)
- Decorate with some fresh flowers or a little umbrella for fun, lime strips, or add mint leaves or small basil leaves.
- Serve cold, but NOT so cold that you can’t taste the fruit!
Hawai’i is always a good place to unwind, even if you just do nothing, which is exactly what I did this time around. Reading by the pool, watching people(one of my favorite pastimes) while imagining their stories. On one such a day, this lovely Hawaiian woman gave some Hula lessons and of course I don’t have the same pretty hips for swaying along, but I could at least capture some nice hips!
The Hula is not just pretty hip swaying, but tells a story. With the hands and arms and face, a tale is mimicked with sensuality and sensitivity. One does get involved and captured and can’t help but wish more stories were told this romantic way.
I was too far away to hear this story, but I imagine it could be something like this:
“The goddess Pele, who owns the sea and oceans and the mountains, saw that Hiania who lost a child, was absorbed by sadness. Hiania hid from the world and her tears filled the rivers. Pele cares passionately for her children of the islands and she heaved the winds and stirred the waves with a message to Haina.
“Cry no more“, she said.
“Look up to the sun and see your child in the skies. He is smiling upon you and asking you to set free your sadness and prepare your womb to receive the child the winds will bring you.”
Hiania looked up and saw the smile of her son. She gave her sadness to the mountain who took it deep into the earth to feed its fire and she was set free to wait with anticipation upon her keiki (little one).
Until next time and with swaying hips(in private!),
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.
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!
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!
I am writing from Coin Perdu in Puy d’Arnac, Correze, where we’ve opened up the house and restarted the restoration process.
I have started work in the vegetable garden, where the process is much slower than I would like, but like with art, it should be about the process and not only about the end result. so I’m slacking down and enjoying the stiff muscles and backaches and bruises and blisters…or am I? Be it as it may; life here in the green valleys of Correze doesn’t care for haste and speed(except on the roads). Days are long and start and end in their own time. People stop in the roads to talk to the neighbour. Chickens and ducks waddle lazily by the roadsides and the cattle just graze without thought in the hills. how can I push on with my vegetable garden when the rest of the world around me is taking time to enjoy the present moment. So I suggest a break from our hectic programs…stop by the market, buy a bunch of radishes, call some friends for a sundowner and catch up on that friendship while you munch on fresh radishes with real butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. It is what we do often. It is what all French do. Often.
- Use any herbs of your choice, but stick to a maximum of three. I used parsley, chives and lemon peel, with a drop of lemon juice.
- Serve mayonnaise for those who don’t eat butter.
- Instead of Fleur de sel, use Maldon salt flakes.
- Don’t throw the leaves of the radishes away, use to make a soup, like you would use spinach.
- Serve with a cold rose or cold dry white wine as an aperitif.
…and a magazine feature.
I’ve had the big honor of being featured in the spring issue of the elegant magazine Where women cook, by the very creative team of Jo Packham. See the magazine cover on my sidebar.
In continuation of this article, everybody who is featured in this issue is also featured on the Where women cook – blog, Amuse bouche. I can promise you will enjoy Amuse bouche…it is full of inspiration with ideas and good reads about interesting people with exciting adventures and projects and stunning photography!
I will be featured on Amuse Bouchefrom Monday 18 April to Thursday 21 April with:
- Monday – On the frontburner
- Tuesday – Tools, tips and tricks
- Wednesday – Recipe
- Thursday – Photography
Please drop by and say hi…I hope you enjoy!
And last but not least: A BIG thank you to Jo Packham from the magazine Where women cook, for this invitation and to Loralee Choate who does such a fantastic job on Amuse Buche!
Eat seasonal. It is cheap, delicious and it is harmony with the ryhythm of life. Winter root vegetables don’t have to be dull and bleak and tasteless. Steam them, roast them, pan fry them, cut in different shapes, add some separated laeves of brussels sprouts, a few broccoli fleurettes, add some chooped herbs, fry thin strips of leeks, turn them into a puree then scoop balls onto an oven pan and bake in the oven until brown….so many ways to bring colour…and nutrients to winter meals. See suggestions for more .
- Use other vegetables, but keep in mind the time each cooks and start off with the harde vegetables and add the softer veggies like mushrooms later, like 15 minutes before the end of baking time.
- Vegetables can also be steamed and use the butter lemon sauce for all the vegetables.
- Add other herbs of your choice…add towards the end.
- The butter and lemon juice breaks the bitterness of the brussels sprouts.
- A browned butter sauce can be used too.
- Add some chopped walnuts when serving the vegetables or a mixture of chopped parsly and nuts.
- Serve with any meat or fish dish or serve on its own with pasta.
- Fry some thinly sliced leeks(in the length) until brown and crispy and place a small handful on the vegetables to finish off when serving.
- Cut the vegetables in different sizes and shapes…matchsticks, cubes, rounds, curls…and remember to cook acoording to the thickness of the vegetables…ex. carrot curls cook much faster than carrot sticks.
…and Toulouse, la ville rose…
One can truly be considered fortunate when you have a daughter living in Paris and another living in Toulouse. Two equally amazing cities, each so unique and different…like the daughters themselves! And still in the theme of December memories, a visit to Toulouse, sleeping over in a quaint Toulouse apartement with the fairie lights of a first christmas tree and fresh foods from the market welcoming us…new memories and experiences enrich my life…those of being loved and spoiled by family.
..toulouse in all her splendor..
.. Sundays are market days…for all in France and those in Toulouse…as evidenced..
.. and having an outing in winter without pausing for a crêpe au nutella…unheard of!..
..and going home…tired, happy and with old glass crystals in a bag..
..à la prochaine fois..
Voiçi my very first starter I made in my mother’s house as a child. With a few changes here and there, it is better served now as a small amuse bouche before dinner. It is still very light and fresh and I’m still proud of my very first attempt! The little glasses it is served in (in the photos), are the original glasses from my mother that I used about 40 years ago for my starter of clementines and litchis. So, les verrines is not something new…it was already a successful concept 40 years ago!
- Marinate the fruit in the vinaigrette for about an hour, but not longer.
- Use mandarins or orange segments instead of clementines.
- Try serving it as a bigger salad by placing the fruit on a bed of salad greens and add some shredded smoked salmon.
- Can be used as a fruit salad…replace the vinaigrette with a sauce: clementine juice, sugar, a little water, few drops of lemon juice, zest of a clementine…simmer untul reduced to a syrup. Add a few drops of Clementine liqueur just before serving.
- Replace the raspberries with a small scoop of raspberry sorbet.
…and a sous-chef..
To me, December is a month of remembrance, memories, reflections. Many memories surface during this time…some of which are funny, some sad, some without any particular significance and because memories aren’t always honest, I remember them all as dear, solely because they have brought me to this point where I am today and who I am today.
Christmas was a time in our house where things happened according to my mother’s schedule. She was a formidable woman who had the ability to organize an army into baking cookies. So, under her hand, Decembers were very busy in our house and all the while she hoaxed me into thinking chores were fun! Baking cookies, cleaning the silver, polishing floors, washing curtains, ironing the Christmas tablecloth, decorating the living room, cooking jams, preparing for holidays…these were the things that filled up our month, with my mother holding the reigns firmly in her hands and me a close step beside her.
I was sous-chef from a very young age, whether it was washing the curtains or cooking a meal or baking the cookies. A very important position…the sous-chef! Without me, how could she have hung the wet heavy curtains on the line to catch the sun…without me, how could she have polished the silver in time for Christmas,…without me being in charge of the cookiemaker, we would have no coffee cookies for December? It would be disastrous…scandalous! How would the maizena cookies have jamfilled centres without me? Christmas would be sad and lonely, if I hadn’t had the responsibility of lavishing it in swirls of silver and gold streamers and glitter and shining stars!
It is of course one of the big secrets…the complete confidence of a chef in his/her sous-chef! My mom trusted me with many things, so much so that I was allowed the responsibility for the starter at a big dinner. This was my first ever solo contribution to a dinner. She also allowed me the key to her dinnerware cabinet where I could choose something for my starter. Such an important position…the sous-chef!
So here I am presenting my first starter, then as a sous-chef in my mother’s kitchen. The only difference is that now I’ve been promoted to chef. I have my own kitchen. And the starter is now served as an amuse bouche.
..May your December memories be as dear as mine!..
..à la prochaine..
Ratatouille is such a versatile dish – there are more ways than can be counted to do it nowadays and everyone swears by his/her way. The traditional way takes takes far too long(for me in any case!) and the vegetables are too soft and juicy to my taste. So I do it the quicker and crunchier way and so far, nobody has complained…on the contrary…everybody finds it fresh and enjoys the crunchiness still present and the appearance pleasant. It is a perfect little vegetable starter for the festive meals that await us!
La ratatouille est un plat assez commun et pourtant, chacun fait sa ratatouille a sa façon. La façon traditionnelle veut que ce soit cuit longtemps, comme tout les ragout. Pour ma part, je trouve ça pénible! Et de toute façon, je préfère mes légumes toujours plus croquants avec ces couleurs encore vive! Donc, je fais ma ratatouille vite et croquante et personne ne s’en plaint. Au contraire! Tout le monde la trouve très bonne!Voilà une bonne petite entrée aux légumes pour les fêtes qui nous approchent.
- Ratatouille can be used as a startert or an amuse bouche or as a side accompanying chicken, fish or red meat. If it is to accompany a meat dish, cut the dice a little bigger…perhaps 6×6 mm.
- Don’t overcook, so the texture can still be crunchy, which makes it different from the traditional ratatouille which is simmered for a longer time to have the vegetables really tender with more sauce than I have here.
- Add some garlic and provencal herbs to the ratatouille like thyme, marjoram, oreganum.
- It can be served warm or at room temperature.
- Serve with freshly shredded basil over the top for a nice fresh appearance.
- Serve on a canape(small slice of bread) for an amuse bouche, or serve in a little bowl or glass and toast some brioches to serve with it.
- If you want more special flavour to your ratatouille, add some chilies and spices to give it a kick.
- Add some langoustine, cut in chunks or mussels, oysters or shrimp to your rataouille along with chervil or dill.
..and hand me the scissors!..
I don’t have any fond feelings aboutf scissors, in fact, I pretty much associate them with pain and blood, of which I have first hand experience.
But then again, if I think of life without them..?
I had a pretty little old one from my mother which I kept in my handbag and forgot to take out before we had to board at the airport. I still have another one left, a very ancient model, frequently used by her and even though it lacks performance, its beauty stays unsurpassed. No psychedelic colored plastic in sight and the handle shows signs of hard use and yes, the blade is full of rust spots, but the lines are sleek and graceful and the grip allows for good comfort. Just a simple but beautiful, old pair of scissors from my childhood, one that came from my mother’s sewing kit and is now not so much a utility as a connection to the past.
And let’s not forget the garden scissors…those very important pruning tools and the small scissors for bonsai that I use to cut string for tying and staking in the garden. Do you keep your garden scissors clean and oiled? Not? shame on you!! the same goes for cutting flowers for the house…clean them, oil them and they will serve you a lifetime.
It seems I can actually conjure up some images of pleasure and so maybe I do have fond memories of scissors after all….
…à la prochaine!..
Butternut soup is probably my most favorite soup. Keeping it simple brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut and warm comfort of its creaminess. Don’t hide its wonderful autumn flavors behind all sorts of funny additions…sometimes something has to be left alone to speak in its own voice. Like the velvety butternut.
- Any other pumpkin of about 1 kg can be used in the same way.
- Add a knob of butter when sauteing the shallot…it adds more flavor.
- Use home made vegetable stock if possible, or else an organic vegetable stock. Water can be used instead.
- See here for a bouquet garni.
- Add about 2 tsps orange zest for a more pronounced orange flavor.
- If the soup is too thick, add cream for a richer version and milk for a lighter version to your taste.
..and fragrance in the home..
Isn’t it nice to step into a home and smell the most subtlest of fragrances…not an overwhelming smell, but just enough to have you wonder what it is, where it comes from.
There are many ways to bring fragrance into your home. But always remember the first golden rule: always keep it soft, gentle and subtle. Nothing is as sickening as a sweet and overpowering smell. It is much like an old woman seeking youth in powder and perfume. Or like a guy who fell into a bottle of Old Spice. The second rule is to never have a perfumed candle at the dinner table or around food.
To prevent a room from being invaded with scent, a perfumed candle should burn only for a short while. The small tealight tops are a favorite of mine to burn on winter evenings when it gets dark in the afternoons. They are very gentle in flavor and I leave them to burn the whole evening…romance and ambiance for all, even on week nights…everybody loves it!
Winter chases us inside earlier and for longer…we cook inside more, we make fires in the fireplaces and receive more visitors inside than in any other season. It is important to have fresh fragrance in the house as well…flowers, diffusers, lamp bulbs with rings and dotted wih essential oils, some envelopes in drawers or in hidden corners, some light house sprays, pillow sprays, sachets hanging on door knobs, incense burning after an open fire in the fireplace. Again…keep it light and stay away from the sweet and strong flavors, like vanilla and fruits. I sometimes use cedar incense to get rid of the smoky smell of our open fireplace. I never use potpourii, because it only gathers dust.
When using a diffuser and a tealight, take care to drop only a little 0il and burn the candle only a short while. The fragrance quickly disperses throughout the room.
In the bedroom, room sprays and pillow sprays are gentle enough..spritz on the bed rather than the pillow and a light spritz in the air with a room spray leaves a gentle frangrance.
My favourite fragrances are rose, heliotrope, amber, citrus, all tea leaves and cotton flower. Some of these tiny bottle below go back many, many years and I can’t get rid of them. They still carry the smell of essential oils…and sweet memories.
A drop of essential oil on a bulb ring, made from terracotta or balsawood on a bulb and the heat of the bulb disperses the fragrance through the room. The balsa wood works great on the new economy bulbs which don’t get as hot.
Although the scented envelopes are meant for drawers, I place them in bowls in corners in the house. They aren’t strong and overpowering and only give off a flavor when you pass them. And of course, nothing is easier than making your own envelopes: Use white envelopes and paint them in your favourite olours, drip the paint, flow it on the envelope, write, scribble, hand paint…whichever you feel like doing. Fill your handpainted envelope with clean catsand or wooden shavings, add a drop of soft essentail oil, glue your envelope and place in a corner where it can be admired as well as give off its gentle fragrance in the room.
May your winter days…and for otheres, summer days…be filled with the softt fragrances of cotton flower, and your evenings be cozy around the flicker of a cedar scented candle.
…à la prochaine!..
Spaghetti squash makes for an quite an interesting meal…served with a homemade tomato sauce, or with oven baked tomatoes. Especially great for those who want to cut down on carbohydrates…and calories..
- Don’t overcook the squash, or else it won’t shred off in strands, but be mushy.
- The squash can alos be cooked in the microwave oven – prick all over with a knife and microwave for about 15 minutes or more until the skin is tender but not soft. (whole squash of about 1 kg)
- The squash on its own is fairly tasteless and bland, so take care to make your tomatoes/sauce flavorful.
- Instead of oven baked tomatoes, a tomato sauce can be made by sauteing some onions, adding chooped tomatoes and reducing at low heat until thick anad flavorful. Season with salt and pepper, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and add shredded basil leaves.
- Chopped olives and parmesan cheese can be added when serving the dish.
- Marinate tomatoes are tomatoes that have been dried in the oven until semi dry and still holds juice. It must be refrigerated and doesn’t keep as long as dried tomatoes, but is much more flavorful.
- This spaghetti with sauce can be served as an accompaniment to any kind of fish.
I don’t do a lot of fall decoration, but I do like a little pumpkin and some fresh autumn fruit here and there. Some leaves… Nothing very whoo haa. Just a little something. A little autumn flavor brought inside.
Normalement je ne fais pas trop de décoration d’automne, à l’exception d’une courge çà et là. J’aime aussi les fruits saisonnales en abondances , comme des poires, de jolies pommes de saison et n’oublie pas de délicieux coings! Et bien sur, les belles feuilles mortes, que je ramasse quotidiennement partout sur mon passage, remplacent les bouquets de fleurs estivales. Je ne fais rien en grande pompe, mais tout ça donne juste un petit gout d’automne dans la maison et ses alentours.
Flowers get replaced by autmn leaves and greenery, picked up on walks by the Loire..in vases, in bowls.
White pumpkins make for attractive decor everywhere in the house. place some small ones on a stack of books, or on top of some dried moss, stack them in urns and pots…
Their shapes and smooth whiteness harmonize well with the rustic texture of outside walls and pots, urns and wooden surfaces.
Outside they can stand quietly beside a pot planted with white cyclamen. Or even inside keeping a vase of drying hydrangeas company. Alongside apples, they seduce us with color and form. A still life.., there.., to admire and enjoy the quietness of autumn.
I always think of lasagna as a true homy meal…served with a fresh green salad and a pungent vinaigrette and of course a crusty bread to sweep your plate…It can be served in a large oven-to-table dish, which is what I prefer with a lasagne. It can also be served in portion dishes, which makes it of course a bit more elegant.
- You can use any vegetable, but don’t use too big a variety. The same Golden three rule, as for any other decoration-, architect-, flower arranging- subject applies here too. Less says more.
- Frozen spinach can be used instead of fresh. There is no exact measure…check your dish and measure how much veggies and sauce and cheese you would need.
- Pasta sheets: Fresh or dried pasta sheets can be used but make sure to use enough liquid in the tomato/vegetable mixture for the pasta sheets to absorb. Pasta sheets can be cooked beforehand, which means more work!
- I prefer only two layers of pasta and I end with a third layer of vegetbale and béchamel sauce. But if you like more pasta in your dish, make as many layers as you like by spreading the layers thinner.
- Béchamel sauce: Heat 500 ml milk along with 5 parsley stems, 4 whole peppercorns, a small carrot, branch of thyme and 1 celery stick. Leave to infuse and to cool completely. Make a roux in a saucepan by melting 1 heaped TBSP butter. Whisk in 1 heaped TBSP flour. Leave to cook on medium heat unitl it becomes frothy…about 3 minutes. Remove the herbs from the milk and add slowly to the butter mixture, while whisking the whole time. Leave on low heat and stir until thick. If your sauce is too thick, add a little milk. I like my sauce like thick cream. I definitly don’t want to plaster a house! Season to taste.
- This is not a recipe where exact amounts are necessary. Add a little more spinach or less, add more courgettes or less..be interested in what you’re doing, taste and taste again.
- I serve with a drizzling of olive oil…just to give that bit extra mediterranean touch…
…1001 garders’ secrets - Jean-Michel Groult…
As mentioned before, I love garden b0oks…well, all books for that matter…new ones, old ones, worn ones, impeccable ones, thick ones, thin ones, beautiful ones, ordinary ones and all topics…but for today I’ll stick to a little book that gives so much advice on simple gardening. Just 1001 tips to make work in the garden a pleasure. there are many books on the market, worldwide, in all languages, presenting the same. We have all come to a stage where we are forced to do simplify work, whether in a garden or elsehwere. And we have come to a stage where we are forced to consider healthier ways of gardening…letting go of the pesticides in favour of more natural ways…plants, prevention, insects, animals…
My garden is all set for autumn. I’m just waiting for the colours to deepen a bit more before taking some photos. And in a few weeks, I’ll be setting the garden up for winter – wrapping the pots and some plants, wrapping and storing all garden furniture, setting out some winter decorations. But more about that later. For now there is still a lot of garden reading and writing going on and here is a little taste of a book that inspires gardening all year round.
So, why not get out to the bookstore and find a similar little book that inspires you to go for a greener, healthier but still beautiful and delighful garden, filled with colour and harvests, buzzing animal life and quiet moments of reflection.
All images below taken from the book, 1001 secrets de jardiniers.
…Simple and easy garden care…
* gone are the times where gardening was hard work to keep in tip top condition, even when being a natural garden. After all, we visit a garden to sow happiness, not difficulties. *
…à la cuisine…
* flavour above all else, wild plants, make vinegar!, store dried, cordon-bleu tricks *
…enhance your space…
* keep your garden seasonal, some interest in every seaon. let it breathe some freedom by breaking hard lines with freeflowing and -growing plants, leave some shrubs to grow high and shape onto arches hwich will give as much charm as climbing creepers. *
…baskets full of fruit and vegetables…
* what can be more gratifying thatn harvesting your own fresh fruit and vegetables? but it can be hard work and tiring as well if not simplified and made easy for yourself. *
… a green view…
* See the garden as you wouild see the interior of your home….walls with furniture and decorations and wall hangings. apply the same to your garden…not only a green lawn in an empty garden. See trees and shrubs and creepers and garden furniture as the decorations of your garden and keep it as aestethic as you would your house. *
…348 pages of secrets for a healthy, interesting and inspiring garden, simplified to do it the easy and environmently friendly way…
…à la prochaine!..
We will always have to eat. Even if it is just something quick and simple. A bruschetta is just that. Quick and simple.
I cut a baguette into slices, spooned some tomato paste on top with a slice of cemembert cheese, and lastly added a slice of semi dried tomato in olive oil and freshy shredded basil. Place onto a grill for a few seconds and serve with freshly milled pepper and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.
Last year, when we arrived back home, I wrote about my little village Montlouis sur Loire in this post: Scorpion fish with citrus salad. We are now back again from our time in correze and this morning I took my camera and sketching stuff and headed for our bigger town Tours, a place I really love for its architecture and green parks, tree lanes, fresh markets and yes, its shops and people. I wanted to show what I see. But it started raining. I ran for cover and enjoyed a coffee and croissant while waiting for the skies to clear. When that didn’t happen, I bought a cake and on impulse decided to drive to Montsoreau where there is a “puce”(fleamarket) on today. It is a quaint little village on the Loire and it just feels like holiday being there. The spirit today was one of holiday indeed. The clouds made room for the sun, which had me take out my purse way more than initially planned.
…a large platter…
…my weak spot – story plates, and tasses de cafés…
…les puces de montsoreau…
…à la prochaine!..
Tomatoes can be used in so many forms and a small tartlet is one of them. Combined with some goats cheese, a few chopped olives, some torn basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, served in a pastry cup and voila, you have a starter, or amuse bouche, or even a main meal served with a green salad.
VF: Avec une tomate on peut toujours s’amuser dans l’esprit estival – mettre ensembles dans une coupe de pâtisserie, les tomates avec un morceau de fromage de chèvre, des olives, des feuilles de basiliques, un filet d’huile d’olive et on sert pour une amuse bouche ou une entrée ou même un plat principal, accompagné d’une salade verte.
- Use any other cheese, like mozzarella or a piece of camembert or brie.
- Use a puff pastry instead of Phyllo pastry. Adapt the baking time(longer).
- Instead of marinated tomatoes, cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes can be used in which case the tomatoes should be halved, the seeds removed and slightly sautèed before hand to soften them.
- Add some chives or finely sliced spring onions to the tartlets.
- Taste for seasoning, before adding any. The goats cheese and marinated tomatoes add enough flavor and salt.
- Adapt the size of the tartlet for a starter. for an amuse bouche, a 5 cm size is good, for a starter, move to a 7 cm size and for a meal with a green salad make it even a little bigger, depending on the size of muffin pan/tart pan available.
- To make a lighter version for health/diet…use a thin phyllo pastry, spread lightly with melted butter, use fresh cherry tomatoes and substitute mozzarella cheese.
If I say that I love white in the kitchen I know there will be quite a few readers out there who will eagerly say the same.
Je sais qu’il y a plein de gens qui, comme moi, adorent utiliser le blanc dans la cuisine.
White in the kitchen is, apart from being practical, also beautiful, economical and fun. A white plate is a showcase for all foods, from a simple sandwich ton elaborate cooked leg of lamb. Combine different whites with different textures on the same table.
Utiliser le blanc dans la cuisine est pratique, beau, économique et n’oubliez pas..amusant! Une assiette blanche est une façon parfaite de faire une ravissante présentation.
…don’t overlook a little humor(un peu de gaieté dans l’assiette)…
My mother had the most beautiful complete tea sets; the teapot, sugar bowl, milk jug, cups and saucers, the cake stand and dessert plates. They were white tiny pink flowers, white with blue forget-me-nots, white with colored musical notes, pretty and feminine. She used a whole set at a time, especially on Sunday afternoons for tea; serving a tart on the cake stand, sprinkling colored sugar in the sugar bowl and warm tea leaves in the teapot with a tea strainer on the side. That is how it was in those days.
Today we mix and match. In our clothing and on our tables. I sometimes wonder whether I’m disturbing he3r peace in her hereafter life with my massacring her tea sets by mixing and matching; the teapot for flowers, the cake stand for soaps in the bathroom or the cups for mints by the side table…or maybe she is watching me with a smile, shaking her head and thinking…”how much my little girl loves my tea sets!’…
Je me souviens des sets à thé complètes de ma mère…très féminines, très belles. Les théières, les bols de sucre, les assiettes de dessert, les tasses et ses soucoupes. Elles était blanches avec des petites fleurs en roses, des petites fleurs du myosites. Elle servais du thé et une tarte les dimanches après-midis à l’heure de goûter..comme d’habitude a l’époque.
Aujourd’hui ça change. On fait un mélange de styles et de couleurs, il n’y a pas de règles. Je me demande parfois si ma mère me regarde de si lointaine avec l’horreur quand j’emploie sa théière pour une vase de fleurs, ou l’assiette de gâteau pour les savons dans la salle de bain, ou les tasses de thé pour les menthes dans la chambre…ou peut-être elle me regarde souriante, surprise par ma créativité, et contente de voir que j’aime ses sets à thé..!
…”the hare and the tortoise”(le lièvre et la tortue) – jean de la fontaine…
…every day (quotidien)…
…fish days(les jours du poisson)…
…and mixed days(mélangé)…
…à la prochaine..!
Sprouting seeds is so easy. Healthy. Available to everybody. If you have a kitchen, you can have some sprouted seeds. Wonderful to use in salads and on sandwiches and it can serve as edible decoration on summer soups.
VF: Les graines germinées sont très faciles à faire. Tout le monde peut y arriver. Si on a une cuisine, si petite soit- elle, on peut toujours trouver un coin pour un germoir. C’est sain, délicieux en salade ainsi que sur une tartine et même comme une décoration comestible sur une soupe froide.
- Shave your cucumber in thin strips with a potato peeler.
- Use also other vegetables, like carrot strips, courgette strips or fennel and combine with thin apple slices or pear slices.
- When using pear or apple, consider using a soft blue cheese.
- Use a real country style bread, with a hard crust and soft interior, giving you that nutty taste. Please don’t eat those “plastic bread loaves” which just have no taste or flavor or texture!
- Use some nuts and accompanying oil to finish off your sandwich.
- the vegetables can first be made into a little salad, sprinkled lightly with your favorite vinaigrette and spooned on to some sliced country bread.
- Serve with an ice cold dry rosé wine.
…moutarde blanche et roquette(white mustard seeds and rocket)…
Tips for sprouting seeds:
- Rinse the seeds/grains under cold water and leave to stand for an hour or three, depending on the size and type of seeds.
- Rinse again and spread in a sprouter or in a glass jar, covered with muslin.
- Rinse the seeds/grains twice a day and even more on hot days.
- Leave in a dark corner, or in direct light if you want your seeds to turn green. Seeds left in the dark will be crunchier than those exposed to light.
- Use a special sprouter for seeds/grains which has a gel when it gets wet…mustard seeds, rocket, lambs lettuce…
- Spread your grains which form a gel onto some wet cottonwool if you don’t have a special sprouter.
- It takes from about 3 days to 10 days to have grains ready for your use.
- When the grains are ready, remove them from the tray, dry on a piece of toweling and store in the fridge.
- My favorites – trefle rouge, radis noir, cressonnette, oignon, chou rouge, moutarde, broccoli, adzuki
- Some sites to read for sprouting your own grains: Natur santé, Handy pantry sprouting, Primal seeds.
…the containers also vary from affordable to glamorous and expensive. But even plain can fruit bottles turned on their side will do the trick…fill them with about 2 TBSP of seeds, rinse, cover with muslin and turn onto its side...
…some are just plain difficult and I don’t even bother with them any more…like beetroot seeds. I’ve tried every which way, but can only succeed in sprouting 5 seeds out of a whole handful…and I DO have a pretty green finger…!
…some seeds sprout faster than others. Transfer those quick sprouting one to a container in the fridge and start fresh with new seeds. That way there will always be a variety of seeds for your salads in the fridge…
..une boîte a graines pour donner l’inspiration..
Amusez vous bien avec votre germoir, quelques graines, un peu d’inspiration et beaucoup d’enthousiasme!
…à la prochaine…
I always keep in mind something a great chef once told me: “Asparagus are at their best until June 22″. This is my perfect excuse to luxuriate in asparagus morning noon and night. By June 22 I then cross the finish line and can’t look an asparagus straight on. But for now, I am still running the course!
- Instead of making a vinaigrette…simple drizzle the asparagus with some oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt an pepper just before serving.
- Add a little bundel of sprouted seeds for some crunch and good health.
- Use some green beans instead of aspaaragus.
- The same can be done with purple or white asparagus, but be sure to cook them long enough to avoid struggling with stringy asparagus.
- Green asparagus don’t need to be peeled, only break them at the ends(they will break easily at the most vulnerable point) and rinse.
- Boil them in only enough water to cover the end parts and halfway up the asparagus. The top leafy parts must cook in the steam of the water, or else you will eb stick with mushy asparagus or without any tops.
- Don’t overcook asparagus, they need to by JUST tender and still have some bite.
- Serve them immediately if served on their own. If served in a salad, they can stand a while.
- this recipe could be finished off with a perfectly poached egg on top of the asparagus, my ultimate favorite way of enjoying asparagus!
- Use nigella seeds or mustard seeds or poppy seeds instead of the black lava crystals(from Hawaii) and sprinkle only a little fleur de sel.
I fly violently out of bed, hit my hand hard agains the bedside table, instantly feeling the pain in tears. Simultaneoulsy the two cats screech off the bed, run into each other and dive for cover. A shrill squawk just outside the window, like that of a disorientated rooster, have us all in shock. In a haze of pain and confusion, I make it down the stairs, all the while fearing my chickens are hurt; my two eight weeks old poulettes, who conversate in dainty chirping twitters, much like young débutantes giggling on their first public appearance. Very girly. Very excited.
Ah non! There it goes again! The false shriek. We soar down the last two stairs, anxious to see what affaire is stirring outside.
There they are. Petronella and Stephanie. Happily sitting on my chair in the shade of the big umbrella. Ecstatic to see me, they storm closer in a flurry of chirps and feathers, look eagerly into my eyes and wait for our usual intelligent conversations.
But first I pour a strong morning coffee, just to suddenly hear a blasting shriek again, right behind me. The cats dart off to safety leaving me standing there alone and barefoot in my pyjamas, hand bruised and aching, staring dumbfounded at my two grinning poulettes…could it be that I have a gay chicken….or have I been duped?
…à la prochaine!…
It is time for nature. For long walks. For the garden. Double digging and planting. For pruning and sowing. And for observing. After a hard winter, nature is on the verge of exploding into its exuberant spring plumage. To harmonize with the new growth and hope springing up all around, I wanted something green. Petits pois came to mind with its vibrant green . I call it a dip, but it is a spread, a paté, a guacamole, a tapenade too… I added Maroccan mint, some freshly sprouted seeds, soft goats cheese; it is early spring on a bruschetta. Nothing more can be said.
- In a next post, we’ll talk a little about sprouting seeds, which is something we all should be doing at our homes!
- Instead of serving the dip on bread, it can be served in individual small glasses or bowls and eaten with a spoon as a starter and some bread on the side.
- Or serve as a little salad on a bed of young spinach leaves.
- Add some dried currants for a little sweetness.
- Use other vegetables like fava beans or a mixture of the two.
- Consider also crushed steamed broccoli or steamed courgettes.
- Don’t skimp on the mint.
- Some mayonnaise or cream can be added to the mixture to give it more of a dip texture. Serve with carrot and celery sticks.
- Serve with toasted bread slices or fresh crusty baguette slices.
Let’s put winter with its deep conversation and full bodied Cabernets and hypnotic fireplaces behind for a while. Let’s move outside to the stories of nature. To the optimistic nesting of the gulls on the Loire islands. To the plunging flights of the swallows. The fearless circling of the eagles. Let’s focus on the delicate entrance of the apple blossom. The almond blossom. Let’s admire the elegance of the magnolia and not shy away from the shameless flirtation of the sweeping wildflowers.
From the beginning of time, man had been entranced by nature. Living by it, dying by it. Cursing by it, loving by it. We live by it force every day.
…it is only when you start to garden, probably after 50 – that you realize something important happens every day – Geoffrey B Charlesworth…
I can’t pass by a book on garden stories. Some day I’ll share one of my own stories from my garden journal. But for now, I’d like to share four of my favorite garden story books. (The lovely bookmarks you see in the following images, was a gift from la belle Monique)
…A growing gardener by Abbie Zabar. Delightful sketches about her garden on the rooftop, with delightful accompanying drawings, a feast for the eye and an enrichment for the soul!…
…Les affranchis jardiniers by Annick Bertrand-Gillen…..a couple living the simple way, providing for themselves from nature, doing it all the biological way. I adore this book.We experience a bit of their life with them, their garden and home and it gives us envy to follow in their footsteps. A beautiful life. A beautiful garden, open to the public in summer….
…Simple pleasures of the garden by Susannah Seton…...a collection of stories and recipes, quotes and tips for every season. This is a book to be read outside in the shade of the walnut, or curled up by the fireplace, or in the splendor of autumn by the riverside, it makes you love every season.
…True nature by Barbara Bash…..a writer/illustrator taking solitary retreats, living close to nature with only her thoughts and art and her journal. I received this as a gift from a good friend an fellow artist, the very creative Lindsay who sent it to me when I was not in the best of places. It was wonderful food for my thoughts then and still is!
… welcoming spring…
And last but not least…have a spring inspired look at Jain’s day inthe country!
Don’t throw outt the water you’ve used to boil your eggs in. They are rich in mineral salts…use it to water your plants with.
I am leaving for Oslo, Norway tomorrow. I decided to put up an old post before I leave which I had on Africantapestry two years ago. A little story. A sketch.
To accompany the ongoing saga of the soon-in-bloom-tulip, as well as the gardening folie that has me firmly in its hystyerical grip, I made a strawberry soup with the very first strawberries of the season. Not yet tasting of summer and sun though…! But who cares…! Using them in a summer/spring soup with added balsamic vinegar and handsfull of mint and pepper and rose water, is a great way to satisfy that ferocious desire for summer fruits.
Flinging soil and seedlings around in the garden (here in the northern hemisphere!) and serving early strawberries on our plates and sometimes even catching a warm glimpse of the sun…what more can we wish for?
- Add red berries like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries…
- Serve with a sprinkling of freshly milled black pepper.
- Use a handmixer instead of fork to break up the strawberries.
- Use Maroccan mint if you can find, which have a stronger flavour than ordinary garden mint.
- Or use some lemon verbena instead in high summer.
- Serve chilled on hot summer days, but at room temperature early in the season.
- Serve along with a slice of lemon poppyseed cake as accompaniment, or a herbed shortbread.
- Don’t be afraid to use a lot of mint!
- Use stevia, which is a herb sweetener, instead of sugar or honey.
…the red tulip…
“Like last year, this single red tulip once again made its appearance in my all white and blue garden. And like last year, I accept it and welcome it. It has become quite a game and I’m amused by the tulip’s proudness and dedication to defeat me. It reminds me of a guy I once knew at university who wouldn’t give up either.
He was madly in love with me, completely, head over heels..and yes, he was sort of cute too, I thought at that stage. I was staying in a hostel for girls on campus, fourth floor out of six, overlooking beautifully tended campus gardens. And he was staying in a hostel for boys, way off, on the other side of the campus. That’s how it was those days. No men allowed in the girls’ hostels and vice versa, which made for very exciting experiences! Except of course, for visiting hours in the lounge downstairs.
Very regularly, he would show up at my hostel, long after visiting hours, on nights when the moon was showing off in the sky and the stars were sparkling impatiently with anticipation. With his guitar and a red rose and his best friend, I would be charmed with unashamedly beautiful love songs from the garden under my window. Their strong, deep melodious voices, trained from years of singing, had every girl hanging out their windows along with me, losing ourselves in the charm and romance of “old world courting” from down below. Beautiful beautiful brown eyes, would always be on the list of songs and their voices would fade away in the distance with Goodnight ladies. My red rose, always stolen from an overflowing garden somewhere, would be left on the windowsill downstairs at the front door, for the hostel had already firmly been locked up for the night.
And so it happened that he got caught one night while stealing my red rose. He unfortunately chose the garden of the Professor of engineering, with whom he was very well acquainted…! He was allowed the rose, but had to work the Professor’s compost heap for two weekends. For a while, it was slow on the rose-serenading-scene and we all missed it..all the ladies, that is. Then one night there he was again, with a stolen red rose and guitar and his best friend. The cute guy I once knew. And who I still know. He is my husband.
I’ve never been a big fan of cucumber. I find them rather tasteless and watery. But it is those exact reasons that make them a perfect base for a cold summer soup. I use cucumber with different herbs, or combined with other fruits or vegetables to make a light soup, especially on a warm summers afternoon or dinner. In this case I used kiwi, an excellent source of vitamin C.
…cold cucumber and kiwi soup…
It may seem very “light” for a meal on its own, but we are eating way too much and our portions are way too big. This is an ample meal, if seved with some grilled seafood, like shrimps or langoustine tails, then followed by a cheese platter and a crusty grain bread and finished off with a seasonal dessert, or even only fruit.
It is custom in our house to eat “3 courses”. Now doesn’t that sound pretentious! But in fact, it is actually only “one course” that we serve seperately in 3 stages, or even more! A salad would serve as a starter, in it’s own bowl or plate, then followed up with maybe a fish/meat and a small vegetable, like a cherry tomato or two, or a bundle of french string beans tied with some tasty ham, and afterwards maybe a slice of 2 cheeses with baguette and finish off lastly with some dessert like a fruit, or joghurt. A small espresso. Maybe a chocolate. That’s it.
Another rule of thumb is: When you start light, you can go heavier OR start heavy and go lighter. And try to keep the portions small, served on small plates! That way, each serving gets centre stage, each flavour is appreciated on its own – no fighting flavours and colours all on one plate. With all the money you save on buying smaller quantities of food, you can invest in some interesting plates, making meals attractive and appealing. The stomach(and brain) is also cheated into thinking he has been given a five course meal, so the feeling of satiety and satisfaction is still rich! Serve the food on plates each individually as well, so you don’t get seduced into second helpings when the bowls stare longingly at you on the table, right in front of you! Men are usually resistant to get up to serve themselves and women are embaressed to have everybody see them get up for MORE FOOD!
So. Let’s eat less. Smaller portions. Around a table. Attractive table ware. Colourful. Light. Lets’ talk about our food. About its colours. The tastes and smells and flavours, textures. Let’s enjoy it and rise from the table, still having room and energy left for a brisk walk.
…the sunflower; Micheln 3 star restaurant…