Cakes and tarts

Scottish shortbread.(Sablés ecossais)

I love sablés. with coffee or tea or on their own. You can’t go wrong with having sablés in your pantry/cookie tin. These round Scottish shortbread bring back happy memories, especially baked in these rounds and broken into triangles. Hope you like them too..

sablés écossais &

sablés écossais recette

Pincée de sel:

  • It can also be baked as squares, by rolling/pressing into a rectangular pan and cut into squares.
  • Piercing with a fork is tradition.
  • Try adding fresh thyme leaves or the tiny flowers(no hard stems) to the dough before rolling.
  • Try adding lavender flowers to the dough. (Be careful, as lavender can be very powerful.

..pinching a scolloped edge with the fingers, piercing with a fork and scoring into segments..

sablés écossais 2

..sprinkle with castor sugar..

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Recipe adapted from Cuisiner! 280 recettes: Larousse

A great film for other movie lovers like me…even though it isn’t weekend yet. Keep this film in mind. I am not sure whether it is available in English or with  subtitles, but it is truly a great film with great acting, great script, great directing.

..La source des femmes..

2013-10-23

..à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle


Rustic apples in puff pastry(bourdelots aux pommes)..and l’hotel de ville.

Autumn is the time of year we eat rustic food. Finish are the dainty salads and light desserts..we now go for rustic, unadorned meals. Apples are in abundance and it will be a shame to allow the time to pass and not use them to their full. I saw these apples in pastry somewhere in a magazine and I only remember they were called by the melodious name of Bourdelots and it looked much prettier than mine. I made them just on feeling, and I can’t imagine the magazine version being tastier, because they are so delicious with the puff pastry and brown sugar and apricot jam…and don’t they look pretty rustic too..(good excuse, n’est pas)?

..Rustic apples in puff pastry..

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La Recette:

  1. Clean and peel 4 apples, remove the inner core and drizzle with lemon juice.
  2. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry, cut into quarters. Place 4 quarters on a baking paper on a baking sheet.
  3. Place an apple on each quarter. Fill the apples with a teaspoon of apricot jam, a knob of butter and sproinkle with brown sugar.
  4. Wrap the pastry around the apples and brush with beaten egg.
  5. If you have puff pastry left, cut strips and stick it around the apples from top to bottom.
  6. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  7. Reheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  8. Remove the apples from the fridge, brush again with beaten egg. Sprinkle again with brown sugar.
  9. Place on sprigs of rosemary  and bake in the hot oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 25 minutes.
  10. If the apples get too dark on top, cover with brown paper.
  11. Serve warm, or at room temperature with a big dollop of whooped cream or a scoop of créme fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

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Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Bring the dough right up to the edge of the apples which will ensure that the apples are covered more fully with pastry.
  • In order for puff pastry to rise high and crispy, the dough must be cold and baked in a hot oven for the first 10- 15 minutes.
  • Serve the apples as a side dish with a meat roast, like pork or venison.
  • Fill the apples with spices of your choice or with dried fruit like raisins and nuts.

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The mairie or hotel de ville is an important part of every city, town and village in France. It can be as tiny as a hamlet, but it will have a mairie and an eglise. The hotel de ville is usually bigger and houses the  mairie and houses several administration departments. But they both hop-use the office of the mayor of a town and the administration offices as well as an école of the commune. So it is no strange sight to see kiddies run around at lunchtime in part of the grounds of the mairie.

The mairies of the campagne has nothing to do with the elaborate and grand hotels de ville of the cities, like Paris or Tours, Lyon. Some are so small, you even pass by it without knowing.

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..the mairie in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne..

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..with its administration offices around the corner..

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..the little hotel de ville in Bétaille, just alongside he main road through the village..

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..the very typical stone hotel de ville of Biars-sur-Cere, with its lovely surroundings,dressed each season in different vegetation..

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..le mairie of Biars sur Cere.

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..the mairie is still wearing its summer ballgown and pretty soon, with Toussaint at 1 November, it will change to Fall Chrysanthemes..

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..In Bretenoux, the hotel de ville is obscured by lovely trees..

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..and right opposite it, is the traditional memorial of the soldiers who fought in the war..

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..the quaint, typically Corrézien mairie of Le Pescher where our eldest got married..

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..and next to it, the mémorial of Le Pescher..

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..the mairie of Marcillac la Croze is one of those you pass by without knowing..it sits up on a hill, all alone. The day I looked for this mairie I drove up to its pretty eglise, full of history and asked a gentleman who was raking the  leaves, where I could find the mairie. We got caught up in a 30 minute conversation. I had to cut the motor of the car after a while, because he just couldn’t stop talking..

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..Of course I can’t leave our own sweet village of Puy d’Arnac behind. Our mairie has recently had a makeover and is now a chic gathering point in the village where the mayor has her offices and I often have to drop in for keys for  the garbage points or documents or this or that..

  les hotels de villes - Puy d'Arnac

..and right next to the mairie, its école

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..in Vayrac, the hotel de ville is huge with a big spacious place in front of it..

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..and to the side, village life continues..

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..Altillac has a beautiful building and I pass it almost every day to buy baguette and cheese..The pride of India trees  in front complement the building so beautiful in high summer…I always slow down and admire this mairie.. les hotels de villes -Altillac 1

..the mairie of la Chapelle aux Saints, is really out in la campagne and stands all alone among green fields..

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This is a prehistoric area, a very important sightseeing site in our area and the mairie forms part of the site..the ecole is at the back of the mairie..

   les mairies les mairies1

There is still so much to show and so much to be said about the hotel de ville in France and every town’s mairie is special.. Once you have found a town’s hotel de ville, you have also found its centre ville. I will certainly explore and show more at a later stage. These ones are all in a radius of 20 minutes from home. And like the hotels de villes, there are also the fascinating eglises, which I’ll save for another time.

So, with the theme of hotel de ville and French admin , I want to share the Marseillaise, sung by my favorite artist…Edith of course! We celebrated her life in PAris, as she died 50 years ago this October. I just LOVE her..and the song – I sing along with her just as loud as she does! Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lu3eSNi__4w#t=33

..à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle


Roasted red pepper tart..and lavenders of Provence I..

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.

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La recette:

  1. Wash  4 red peppers.
  2. 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.
  3. Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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..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…

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The soil varies between the different fields, but they all have three things in common…altitude, sun and poor soil.

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A lavender field snaking over the hill into a row of Provence cypress.

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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.Provence 2013 28-06-2013 14-22-24 4928x3264

Some homes with their “designer entrances”.Provence 2013 29-06-2013 10-27-12 4928x3264

A beautiful salmon coloured mas with its field of lavender and adjacent vineyard.Provence 2013 29-06-2013 10-50-08 4928x3264

Small fields, larger, tiny, among wheat, beside the roads…everywhere.

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Where there is lavender, there you’ll find bees and butterflies!

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Green vines, purple lavenders and red soil…the colours of Provence.

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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..

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A quilt of color in the valley just below Bonnieux; lavender fields, wheat fields and vineyards.

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*Keep an ear to the ground for the next post on Provence..until then..

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Walnut tart …and a marché aux plantes(plant market) at Curemonte.

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I decided to make a walnut tart, even though it is actually an autumn dish which we make when our walnuts are harvested after summer. But here, we eat it throughout the year, because we love it. Tout simple. That’s it.

Coming home from the marché aux plantes in Curemonte last week, with my confiture de noix and my chutneys and oils and vinegars and dandelion syrup under my arm, I thought it would be appropriate to make a walnut tart to accompany this reportage on the plant day at Curemonte. I’ve never made a walnut tart myself and it is only recently that I started eating it. I never thought it could be something special, until that one day that I took a slice at a friend’s house. It was delicious and it still is. It tastes like autumn. It is a rather heavy tart (which makes sense for fall and winter comfort), so I make it in a small tart tin, to have small slices…a good idea in any case for all tarts and cakes and goodies!

Our walnut trees are always late off the mark. They start off late in spring with these nice “flowers”, which are then rapidly followed by the leaves. With 4 huge trees, we always have a large supply of walnuts, perfect for Noël.

..tarte aux noix (walnut tart)..

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La recette:

*Pastry base: Recipe here.   Bake the pastry shell blind( without filling, but filled with dry baking beans to weigh down the pastry). Bake at 200 ° C for about 10 minutes. Remove the beans.

*Walnut filling:

  1. Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
  2. Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
  4. Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with skewer and the tart is done when the skewer is removed clean when piercing the tart.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
  6. Leave to cool, decorate with dusted icing sugar and some whole walnuts and serve with some créme fraîche or whipped cream.

Serves 6 people

Une pincée de sel:

  • The brown sugar and coffee gives a nice dark colour to the filling; but the coffee can be omitted if desired.
  • For a winter tart, try adding some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or cacao instead of coffee.
  • Pecan nuts can be used instead.
  • Keep the portions small as it is a rich and heavy tart.
  • Make extra pasty for the base and keep in the freezer for another tart.

…defrosting the pastry for the base..

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...spring walnut branches..

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Marché aux plantes à Curemonte

Curemonte is a quaint little village, 10 minutes drive from us. This past week saw the annual marché aux plantes (plant market) at Curemonte, an occasion I look forward to every year. Not only do they have plants, but also food, artwork  and some bric a brac..a vide grenier. Everything sold and presented, is local. The bread is made locally, the beer is from the local brasserie, the plants and vegetables are local, the bees and honey, the walnut delicacies and walnut tarts are made locally , the wine is local and the vide grenier and brocante are from les Curemontais themselves.

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I love the country side, whether it is a French one or an American one or and English one. I prefer the ambiance and laid back ambiance of les campagnards, country folk..of which I am one of course. Strolling the small streets, peeking around each corner, stroking the dilapidated doors and windows, enjoying the laisser faire gardens( gardens just seem to happen by themselves, relaxed..). the world just comes to a standstill in the countryside where chatting to your neighbour is still a pleasure, almost an obligation and something that can even happen on the road, simply expecting traffic behind to wait..everybody waits. Beauty is all around you, simple, nothing is ostentatious. Glamor has no place in the countryside. Nature isn’t glamorous. It is simple. Honest. sometimes hard and challenging. Always beautiful. I thus hope I pass a bit of the beauty of Curemonte and its marché aux plantes on to you by these images.

curemonte collage 4 5120x4096..and plenty of food for hungry visitors; 8 euros for a plateau repas, which consisted of a glass of rosé wine, rillettes with bread for a starter, steak frites and cheese to finish..so simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..

curemonte collage 2 5120x3544…a plate or a table, a bowl or a tea towel..just browse..

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..I found my bonheur(happiness)..

bol 1 4419x3076..and a lot of strolling

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..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..

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..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)

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I hope you enjoyed this day with me in the French country side! I of course loved every minute of it and I relived it all by sharing it here with you.

until very soon( à trés bientôt!)

Ronelle

Ron


Biscuit de Savoie (cake)..and a handful of spring lilacs.

..biscuit de Savoie..

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My hens, tiny as they are, provide us with a plenitude of eggs. As if that is not enough, the two geese, Sidonie et Aglaé, add their daily quota as well. I donate eggs left and right and we still end up with a surplus! I don’t complain..an old Paysanne told me that laying hens are happy hens. So how can I deprive a happy poule from laying a happy egg?

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The goose eggs are perfect for baking. They are far too rich for eating on their own, too rich  even for an omelette or mixed with chicken eggs. Seeing that I have these basket fulls of goose eggs, I found this delicious Biscuit de Savoie that asks for 14 eggs. Yes, you read right – FOURTEEN eggs. It may seem expensive to you, but the cake is worth it. To me of course, it is a bargain, because I only dig into my basket for 7 goose eggs and I have a perfect cake. Mon chéri, who is not a cake lover, now asks for the 14- eggs-cake, as he calls it. I hope you try it…you will like it!

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La recette:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 °C.
  2. Separate the yolks and whites of 14 eggs into 2 bowls.
  3. Add 500g castor sugar and the seeds of 1 scraped vanilla pod to the egg yolks. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk/beat until stiff peak stage.
  5. Sift together 185 g Flour and 185 G Maizena(cornflour/cornstarch).
  6. Add 1/3 of the stiff egg whites to the creamed yolk and sugar mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites into the mixture, alternating with the sifted dry ingredients. Don’t over mix! Always stir/fold in by going in the same direction.
  7. Pour the batter into 2 buttered and flour dusted  cake tins of 26cm in diam. each. Fill the cake tins only 2/3 with batter, as the cake rises high while baking.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer is removed clean when piercing the cake.
  9. Leave to cool and dust with sifted icing sugar or top with a vanilla  butter icing.
  10. Serves about 8 people or more.

Une pincée de sel:

  • Remember that 2 large chicken eggs = 1 goose egg.
  • The lightness of the cake is due to the 14 beaten egg whites.
  • Fill the cake tins only 2/3 with the cake mixture..the cake rises high in the oven.
  • The cake is baked when a knife blade is retracted clean when piercing the cake.
  • From this recipe I get 2 cakes (26cm diam. and 24 diam.). Half the recipe to get only 1 cake of about 26 diam.
  • Use eggs at room temperature.
  • Flavour with almond essence instead of vanilla.
  • Dust only with sifted icing sugar, or top with a butter icing, or drizzle with a runny milk icing.
  • Replace the vanilla pod with a packet of vanilla sugar (7.5g) or a tsp of vanilla essence.
  • Serve (without the topping of butter icing) as dessert with strawberries, whipped cream and a strawberry coulis.

I am still old school. I love my metal cake tins. I have succumbed to the silicone stuff, but now I’m handing them all out as gifts and I am reverting back to my old tins, some of which still come from my mother. Maybe it is what happens when one gets older..you revert back to the things that once gave you joy, in spite of new trends and “fashionability”. By oiling my tins with butter and giving it a dusting of flour, sticking to the pan is not a problem. But of course..freedom of choice is what makes the world go round, so by all means use whatever you fancy!

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The biscuit de Savoie was adapted from the book Pâtissier, Petit Larousse.

…a handful of spring lilacs..

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Spring is awakening very slowly this year, causing the garden to be in a slow rising too. but nonetheless, colour is everywhere. The glycine (wisteria) is absolutely gorgeous in the gardens and of course, we all have lilas..of all colours. I only have the light lilac, of which the colour fades beautifully as it ages. And they fit into all pots and vases and tittles and cups. For tables and bathrooms and shelves and corners to enjoy to the full. They don’t last too long once picked, but for the day or two they provide me with such satisfaction and my barn house smells like spring, even on a cool rainy day! It is true. The biggest happiness comes in small doses.

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*Our little poulain (faul) is a week old today and getting just more cute by the day. If you would like to see some pics of her and her equally adorable maman, make a stop at  A spring poulain! on my blog Coin Perdu, to read and see how things went last Friday night with the birth! Very exciting, it was!

*Have a great Sunday tomorrow..I will be off to a brocante, make a stop at the jardinerie for some tomato plants and  do some weeding at home…

So, as always..

à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Lemon cake… and an Easter spring is in the air.

Easter  is spring time. Or spring is Eastertime.Whichever way, that is of course for us here in the Northern Hemisphere. Down south everybody is preparing for winter with their days beautiful and lazy with fall colors entering the scene.

Because I am so busy in the garden(every minute the skies give me a chance!) I don’t get to the stove much, and when I pass the stove per chance, I am too tired to the bone to cook and bake….so….. I am re-posting this delicious little cake from a past post; Lemon cake and writing our stories. I might just make a stop with my tired bones next to the oven and put it together for us too on Sunday afternoon to enjoy with English tea! I have never come across someone who didn’t fall in love with it right after that first bite..and just look at the recipe down below.. really….this is as easy(yet delicious) as it gets!

lemon cake

Lemon cake recipe

Pincée de sel:

  • Use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of lemon juice.
  • Add some grated lemon/orange rind to the mixture.
  • Top with some icing sugar of your choice, or serve without. I prefer without, since icing sugar makes it too sweet for me.
  • Decorate with fresh edible flowers.
  • The cake is even more flavorful the next day.
  • Use for dessert: break into pieces and serve, topped with strawberries, whipped cream and a berry coulis, OR serve with warm caramelized peaches and crème frâiche.

Here at Coin Perdu, I am fervently planting and digging and dividing,  as much as my arm allows, that is. It is just wonderful to be back in the garden. The rains are still coming down very regularly, but the moment it stops, I charge outside to do a little something. A new garden is such hard work, especially in the preparation thereof, because planting in bad soil makes for even harder work the next season! It might look like nothing at the moment, BUT in a few weeks…!

..passion fruit juice for our break…

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..mon cheri preparing the potager for me..along with his very willing assistants..

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..early morning by the potager and the mist slowly lifting..while I slowly sip my coffee…oh, that first morning coffee..sooo good..mince!

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..when taking a pause the chickens are there to “pause” along – this day I had un fraisier(strawberry cake) which I shared with them(of course!) and they loved every morsel! for the rest of the time, they scuffle around my feet in the soil, just coming up for some air every now and then..!

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..still a lot to be done: the dalles(paving stones) must be laid on the terrace and partly into the lawn at the bottom, the wrought iron pergola must be constructed for the white glycine(wisteria), a stone bench under the small window. To the right I have planted kitchen herbs which I hope will grow under the walnut tree, since not many things grow under a walnut…

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..eh bah voila..there you are, mon café..!

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..my tulips are slow in the rising, but they are coming on steady..pretty soon they will be spectacular in their show off! I am so chuffed, because all my  bulbs I brought back from Amsterdam, (see post here) is pushing through, except for 3 Allium bulbs I lost to mischievous rabbits.. 

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..a lot of planting still awaits me – 60 lavenders, (lavande angustifolia, lavande intermedia, white lavenders) 20 santolinas, agapanthus, cistes,  4 olive trees, 6 Cypres de Provence,  buddleias, kniphofias, ceaonothe de Versailles,  100 Siberian irises, then a lot of Iberis, Eryngiums, ficoides…

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..In between all the pathways and staircases and dry hot corners, I stick in some thym serpolet and  succulents like the ever popular sedums, sempervivums and jovibarbas, which grow beautifully in all those sunny spots…

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* I am working on a series on tartes, tourtes, quiches et cakes, which I will combine with some table setting in white with silver, yellow with pottery, red with vintage and blue with rustic.

*So stick around..if I can just get my act togehter and organise my organising better..i will be back soon with the series on tartes, tourtes, quiches et cakes,

Joyeux Paques

et à bientôt!

Ronelle


La madeleine de Marcel Proust

Who doesn’t know les madeleines de Marcel Proust..? Those well-known shell shaped petits gateaux with their particular little hump on the one side and the ribbed shell opposite side.

Recipe translation:

  1. 90g butter and a little more for the pans
  2. 90g flour
  3. 75g sugar
  4. 10g honey
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 2 eggs

*Melt the butter. In a bowl, whisk  the eggs,  sugar and salt for 5 minutes. Add the flour. Stir in with a wooden spoon. Add the cooled off melted butter and the honey. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes. Melt the extra butter and brush the insides of madeleine pans. Fill the pans with the dough, about 1 tsp into each cavity. Bake for 10 minutes(5 minutes for the mini madeleines). Remove from the pans before completely cooled.

Extract from Proust, la cuisine retrouvé, Le Chêne, 1991. the recipe is created by Alain Senderens, who was inspired by the cooking of Proust.

Suggestions:

  • Add the lemon zest of 1/2 lemon
  • To get the nice hump on your madeleine, it is necessary to have the dough cool and the oven temperature high.
  • Bake the mini Madeleines only 5 minutes.
  • I prefer the real old fashioned metal pans. The ribbed shell effect is much more pronounced than when using the silicone pans.

******************************************************************************

-My chickens produce small eggs with large egg yolks and I have to use 2 of them to replace 1 normal egg-

-Zest from a lemon to flavor les madeleines-

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Il etait une fois…La madeleine, histoires et recettes d’un produit d’exeption lorrain - Michel Caffier

(book to be found at Amazon.fr)

Marcel Proust said: (roughly translated from below) “One winter’s day, when I came home; my mother saw how cold I was and offered me a cup of tea. I didn’t usually drink tea and I refused, but then I changed my mind. she brought me some small cakes called madeleines which seemed to be molded in a scallop shell. Still overwhelmed by the sad day I had and the sad day that lay ahead , I mechanically brought a teaspoon of tea, in which I softened a piece of madeleine, to my lips. At that moment, when it touched my palate, I trembled, suddenly very aware of something extraordinary happening to me. I was overcome with  a deilcious pleasure; isolated, without notion of its cause..I ceased feeling mediocre, ordinary, mortal. Where could this powerful joy have come from? I sensed it had something to do with the tasting of this tea and cake.”

This wonderful little book is all about la madelene, how this delicious French petit gateau was born, how it got its name, how it is labelled;, sold at the stations by young maidens, the influence of St Jacques de Compostelle and it ends with the traditional recipe, which is the ones I used, and a list of additions to change the madeleine with some chocolate, hone,  lemon and more.

Legend has it that one day, at the chateau de Commercy of Stanislas, in the middle of a beautiful meal, the maître d’hotel reported an incident to the prince: out of anger towards his chef, the assistant chef took out his anger on the serving of the dessert. It is unsure in which form this revenge was, but the fact was, that there was no dessert to be served. A maidservant, witnessing the distress of the maître d’hotel, offered him a solution.Tender petits gateaux, the way her grandmother made it. Necessity reigns and Madeleine Paulmier was given permission to present her little cakes for dessert. Of course it was a huge success and so la Madeleine was born.

A typical scene at the station of Commercy: young women selling madeleines to travelers. In a poem, Jacques Prévert  recalls these little cakes so often bought by the soldiers of Verdun with their last trip. (postcard dated beginning XXth century).

At Commercy, the sign the bell ringer was created by the Colombe family, a line of bakers for over 150 years.From the 1780′s, Claude Colombe used the secret recipe of Madeleine Paulmier.

à la prochaine

Ronelle


Rustic pumpkin tart with onions and goats cheese.. and autumn gives us umber and sienna.

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.

..ingredients..

..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!

à bientôt

Ronelle


Sophie’s crêpes for la Chandeleur…and all kinds of french chateaux.

Today, 2 February is la Chandeleur( a  commemoration of the presentation  of the baby Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem and the purification process: (Luke 2:22 – When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”) . But mostly this day in France is devoted to eating crêpes.  I’m sharing a traditional Breton recipe, a favorite of our daughter’s  friend, who is Bretonne.

…crêpes de Sophie…

I feel a little like Paula Deen advocating this butter and sugar, so maybe I should warn...DANGER! One can’t have too many of these and in any case, we French only eat one or at the most, two crêpes(if they are small) at a time! Hope you enjoy your one crêpe.

…exploding sugar crystals”..(pumping candies)…

The basic recipe for the crêpes can be found here: A classice crêpe recipe and feasting the Mardi Gras way.

Suggestions for Sophie’s Bretonne crêpes.

  • When serving your crêpes, heat a pan with a small knob of butter.
  • Add one crêpe at a time, turn and warm/fry the other side.
  • Add a little sugar to the crêpe in the pan, allow it to melt, fold the crêpe in half and fold again so you end up with a small envelope.
  • Slide onto a plate and serve hot.
  • For fun I added some “exploding sugar crystals” just before serving. They will “explode” in your mouth, adding a surprise to each bite. I see they are called “pumping candies”…?Her is one address in France where they can be ordered from: Meilleur du chef.com

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When we hear the word château, we immediately dream up an image of Le Roi Louis XIV, the sun king of France. And yes, it is spot on. It is those beautiful country residences of royalties like le château de Versailles, or Fontainebleau, or those found in La vallee de la Loire, like the majestic Chambord and Chenenonceau, or Villandry and Uzé and others, more or less known.

…Fontainebleau…

…Chambord…

…Bourdaisiére…

…Chinon…

…Chaumont sur Loire…

 But then we also have the smaller French country house, also called  un château which might be inhabited by a noble Frenchman or not. Lately many châteaux here in France are bought up and restored by foreigners and run as bed and breakfasts or luxury hotels. And yes, stories rich in deception, love and intrigue still abound in all these châteaux, even the luxury château hotels…how can you silence the voice of a place?

…a locked up country château…

.. you want to hear the mysterious story of this small château…no, not now? OK next time…

…no entry, only mystery…

There is a third kind of château…my chickens are of noble heritage…owing not only one, but two châteaux of which I am the butler and the maid and housekeeper. Their fancy heated one in Tours is at the moment up for sale, and they are living in an old dilapidated château here at Coin Perdu which we inherited when we bought the property. But, as royalty runs deep in the veins and isn’t determined by  surroundings, my chickens reign with dignity and class from their ruins.

…the entrance to the chateau de Plumes…

…a dilapidated château de Plumes..

As soon as my vegetable patch is finished, the château de Plumes will move to the potager. I have the plans all set up for a cute and regal château de Plumes with turrets and all, still rustic, but worthy to be home to Their Royal Hignesses. As it is very cold here at night, I bring them into the barn at night,  in their baskets, where they sleep next to my bed and we all snore in sync and cozy warmth. At 5:30, when Camembert announces the day(how does he know it is day, when all is still spitting dark??), I turn on my other side and cover my ears.

…dignified royalty…

Enjoy your ONE crêpe!!! 

and until next time..

from your devoted servant, Ronelle


Ginger and lime tartlet…and crosses and crossroads.

A very popular tart/cake/sweetness in our home is this little lime tart…sometimes made with lemon. It has a tartness without being overwhelming sweet or soury, like lemon tarts can sometimes be. It reminds a little of a cheesecake…just perfect for those particular tastebuds.

Suggestions:

  • Use lemons instead of limes.
  • Use other biscuits of your choice for the base.
  • Serve cream on the side or decorate each tartlet with a whipped cram dollop.

*A recipe adapted from Atelier tartes, salé +sucré by Catherine Kluger.

Doesn’t fascination come in so many forms? One of them is the beautiful old crosses(las crotz) standing at the carrefours (crossroads) in France and especially here in the Limousin. I have to admire them every time I pass them, because somehow they grab my sentiments and transport me back to a time when life was so different from how we live it now. Standing in the heart of the countryside all over the Limousin, I can still feel their eternity, hear their stories, their silence, even despite the fact that I now break that calm of the past with the cruel blare of modern transport.

These beacons served once upon a time as road signs. Sometimes elaborate, but most of the time very simple and very often as plain as one huge exceptional stone. After Christianity la croix de chemin took on the shape of a real cross…in wood or carved from the best stone of the region, elaborate, in wrought iron, on pedestals, or freestanding.

Today these crosses are only reminders  of what was once a landmark for the peasants, roadsigns and parish, places of pilgrimage. They  were also objects of religion and devotion and sometimes commemoration of events, like La croix des femmes, which was created in commemoration on a corner where a blind horse caused the death of two women.

The photos were all taken just around the area, 30 minutes’ drive around our home, Coin Perdu in Correze.

These two crosses stand at the entrance of the village Beaulieu sur Dordogne and the other at the entrance to Puy d’Arnac. It was custom that a cross indicates the beginning and ending of a village.

At the crossroads the crosses also serve during snow periods in winter where the four roads came together. People gathered at these crossroads, mostly for religious ceremonies and blessing of the crop and the land And prayers. They were important landmarks, not only of the land, but also of the lives of the peasants.  It is not a strange thing then when we speak of standing at a crossroad in our lives. We should stop frequently and check if we still see our beacon/landmark. Can we still recognize it? Has our direction changed? Maybe it is necessary to change the course of our pilgrimage from time to time. A next landmark will always be there to guide us. Crossroads will always be there. They are timeless. Create your own las crotz. Let it guide you.  Let it tell your story.

…à bientôt…

Ronelle

All photos: Ronell van Wyk

Bibliography: Mémoires de la Corrèze,  Jean- Pierre Lacombe.


Ambiance 6/1/12

It is epiphany weekend and here in France we have  “les galettes des rois” tempting us around every corner! I almost gave in, but I held my ground firmly and walked past.

Safely here at home, I can now proudly boast about my steadfast self discipline! After a season of nibbling on all the festive foods, I want to get back on track with healthy eating. Doesn’t that sound quite boring? NOTE TO SELF: Keep the healthy eating exciting! Tall order, since I have become a bit lazy in the cooking department. Proof…I haven’t even baked a galette this this year! But that is no problem. I have links up this lazy sleeve!

First: My own galette des rois from last year…oops…not last year, but 2010!

How did a year pass without me knowing about it?

Ronelle’s (that’s me..)galette des rois

And here is Monique’s galette des rois:

and Chriesi’s galette des rois:

So this is what dictionary.com has to say about epiphany:

“epiphany

   [ih-pif-uh-nee]

noun, plural -nies.

  • 1. ( initial capital letter ) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
  • 2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
  • 3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
  • 4. a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.”

I hope your weekend will be filled with all the meanings of the word epiphany; eat a galette on 6 January, experience a pleasant appearance, receive that sudden insight we all need so desperately, and present your epiphany by means of a piece of work…maybe by baking a galette, even if only this once in your life?

Enjoy the weekend, stay warm in the north, stay out of the sun in the south,  eat “healthy”, and enjoy your epiphany.

“Epiphany”. I have to say it again.

“Epiphany“.

Such a nice word.

ciao ciao!

Epiphanic epiphanist.


“Sablés” aux graines..et la Touraine pittoresque

A while ago, my daughter bought a packet of  sablés des près from Bonne Maman and it was so good. So I looked at the ingredients and decided to create my own. Et voilà mes sablés aux graines!… if ever I can be allowed to blow my own horn, this would be it! These sablés turned out delicious and I’ve decided it will be my Christmas gift to friends this season. I’ve done half of the quantity with the addition of poppy- white sesamé- and sunflower seeds and the other half with only fennel seeds, which have a more “herb” taste and are as delicious. With a cup of tea or tisane…late night…before bed…pure comfort! The only problem? How to stop at two  sablés..!

Suggestions:

  • Whole wheat flour can be used instead of white flour.
  • When using whole wheat flour, use light brown sugar instead of white sugar for more rustic coloured cookies.
  • Replace 1/2 c flour with 1/2 c rice flour.
  • Replace the three seeds with 3 TBSP of fennel seeds.
  • If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the dried ingredients.
  • Use a stencil to flatten the cookies…with a letter of the alphabet, or another design that you like.
…sablés aux graines..la farine de blé, tipe 55…sablés des près de Bonne Maman..

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…la touraine pittoresque…

I’m saying goodbye to a breathtaking autumn…! Our rains have arrive this weekend…pouring down non stop! And so the warm splendor of autumn has now been forced to make way for  the abstract art of stark winter impressions.

With silly excitement, I will now trot along November deeper into winter, all the while  planning our Christmas tree, which will be put up on 1 December, like tradition dictates. (Keep an eye on the watch it you’d like to see..) And to keep the winter blues at bay, I will be planning our outings and visits to chateaux and places of interest for this season….the chateaux have such different ambiance in December…in Chenonceau for example, a huge fire crackles in the massive fireplace…and after such a visit, it will be off to warm ouselves around a chocolat chaud in a cozy brasserie. It is also the time to go to shows and chorals and music concerts in the catedrales. But more about all of this later. For now, a last tribute to la Touraine pittoresque!

...houses on the loire...

..je vous souhaite une bonne semaine!..

Ronelle


Apple cake..and “le marché des douceurs à Montlouis s/L”.

Our youngest daughter loves apple-anything and she started baking this cake when she was only knee high. It is from The Australian woman’s weekly home librabry – Cakes and slices. We’ve changed it only  a little . The recipe directs to cut apples in quarters and then cut 3/4 trhough in slices and then press into the dough. It gives a beautiful cake, but makes the slices too big(to include apples in each slice) so we cut the apples in slices and spread them through out the cake, which gives a less attractive cake, BUT much more moist and of course delicious!

PS: forgive the bad photo..I was being pushed on with the photo, because my daughter didn’t want the cake cold…and after all, she DID bake the cake..!


Suggestions.

  • Pears could be used instead of apples.
  • Instead of inserting the apples slices all over the top of the cake, the apples can be cut into courters and then sliced only 3/4 way through. Press into the cake at the edges. I gives a prettier cake, but the slices won’t be spread through out the cake.
  • Gelatin powder can be used…1 tsp.
  • Best when served slightly warm with a spoonful of whipped cream on the side…or my ever trusting naughty crème fraîche!
  • It can be stored for two to three days.

Last weekend, Montlouis held its yearly, autumn “marché des douceurs. A lot of eating and drinking, socializing and selling marks the day and if one arrives home hungry you have only yourself to blame!

Le week-end dernier etait le marché des douceurs en centre ville de notre petit village si sympa, avec des rencontres de  Montlouisiens si sympa. C’est la fête automnale annuelle et on y mange et on y boire. On discute dans les rues, on vends et on achète .   Si, après tout ca, on rentre à la maison sans un sourire ou encore affamé… eh bien, c’est pas à cause d’un manque de  la nourriture ou un manque de divertissement!

...local organic vegetables...

..directions to Montlouis..

..en vélo..

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..poduits Basques..

..crépe au nutella..

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...fondants chocolats, macarons and nougats from Tours...

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...fun for the kiddies...

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la fameuse Géline de Touraine

..la barbe à papa..

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..tumbling flowers..

..menu de la loire à 15 euros..

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...the fish from les Animalis...

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..."M le fermier" and his vegetable "sculptures"...

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

…à la prochaine…

Ronelle


Lemon cake and writing our stories.

Summer delivers an abundance of wonderful moments. One such a moment is enjoying a cake or tart with tea late afternoon. Outside, under the walnut tree. There was a time that I baked a cake or tart every Friday afternoon for the weekend. Everybody was very impressed with this tradition, believing it would never end, but as the girls grew older and finally left home, so did the cake and tarts on Friday leave too. A pity. Change isn’t always a good thing, I say. Now everybody has to wait for a whim on my side to have a cake on Friday. Yesterday was a whim day. Unfortunately I’m alone at home and me alone with cake is bad news for the hips. So I called a friend this morning. “Come pick up a whim cake“, I said… “You may never get this lucky again“..

Suggestions:

  • Use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of lemon juice.
  • Add some grated lemon/orange rind to the mixture.
  • Top with some icing sugar of your choice, or serve without. I prefer without, since icing sugar makes it too sweet for me.
  • Decorate with fresh edible flowers.
  • The cake is even more flavorful the next day.
  • Use for dessert: break into pieces and serve, topped with strawberries, whipped cream and a berry coulis, OR serve with warm caramelized peaches and crème frâiche.

We all have stories to tell. Our own stories. The ones we are living each day. Stories with all the seasonings that make for a good read. It has sadness and happiness,  heroes and villains.  It has drama and suspense and it unfolds into unforeseen endings. We write “The end”, sign our name and start a new story.

We write on instinct, improvise while waiting for life to dictate the next chapter,  to channel our decisions and choices. Sometimes we plan ahead and witness  as it changes and adapts on the page, perhaps  taking a direction better than we originally envisioned. Sometimes writers’ block gets in the way – we stop and get trapped in I- don’t- know- how-to-live. Those are the times we need to let go and allow life to formulate its own phrases.  And every so often we get mixed up and confused with which story we are living and the past and future become the present.

Our life manuscripts are raw, unedited, original. Often unfinished,  with no ending. In a time where authors don’t write “The End”  anymore, the door is always open to the sequel.  We chew over our own lives. We brood over the last page which leaves only questions and an uncertainty about where the story is heading…can it continue to an end which all mankind is looking for; happiness….  contentment…a reassurance that all is well…that all will be well with our lives tomorrow…?

And so we continue writing because we exist. In search of recognition. Because we want to live a bestseller. And our bookshelves become filled with rows and rows of drafts and manuscripts, fresh starts and sequels…completed works; our stories…and somewhere in one of them will be an ending that assures us that all will be well. It will be our bestseller.


…the end..


Mini carrot loaves and Easter spirit.

Here we are. Easter.

It is actually not about  Easter bunnies and eggs and chickens. But to lighten the heaviness of  “La Passion” a bit, we bring some pastel blues and pinks and yellows into our house, letting our children search for eggs behind trees and prop a chocolate egg ourselves into our cheeks.

So I also spent some playful time around the house and in the kitchen, using my good friend Karin’s microwave carrot cake to bake individual carrot loaves. It is SO moist and quick…I don’t know why I don’t bake it more often. Maybe because I’ll eat more often..?

I baked it in mini loaf pans(brown carton and silicone) and it took only about 8-10 minutes to bake. I also didn’t have cream cheese, so I used a soft goats cheese, which was as delicious, of not more delicious than cream cheese!

Suggestions:

  • Use the recipe and bake mini individual loaves or cakes.
  • Add some dried currants for variation.
  • Add  a tsp of mixed spice along with the cinnamon.
  • Use soft goats cheese instead of cream cheese.
  • Bake in a glass pyrex bowl or in a microwave ring pan.

…bunnies in chocolate, young Prunus trees in blossom just before they go off to Coin Perdu next week to be planted in the garden. They are simply decorated in their black plant containers with old lace and some chocolate eggs and tiny glass vases with an Easter chicken feather…

.. a white wooden basket filled with anything and everything – an ostrich egg, some fresh moss from the garden, tulips, cute bunnies crawling all over, old lace, fresh eggs from the farm, a big heart and time that runs out quick…

…”will this work never end”…?

…peeping in the kitchen, or perhaps smelling the tulips?…

…”I knew I was good, but I never thought I was THIS good?”…

…a full tummy…

…le livre des mères parfaites by Alison Maloney…

(Fun extracts from what mothers tell their children…)

Mother: “If you swallow your chewing-gum, it will stay in your stomach for seven years!”

Fact: Chewing-gum, like any other food, will be in the digestive system for  round about 20 hours.





Orange and almond cupcakes and first impressions.

I was in Paris the past week and unfortunately couldn’t get around to  “les cupcakes de Chloe“. So on arriving home, I couldn’t wait to bake a cupcake to satisfy that lust for a sweet, icing topped helping. Of course mine isn’t even close to Chloe’s, but it is still delicious. I am done now. For quite some time.

While taking the metro to and fro(urgh) I made use of the time, staring at people, thinking and wondering about them. Making up stories about them. Scribbling notes and drawings in my notebook. Who they are, what they do, where they come from, their life stories. How they look. First impressions. Based on what we see and hear and feel.

A recipe from Cupcakes, cookies and macarons by Marabout chef.

Suggestions:

  • I prefer baking mini cupcakes, since the big ones are too much for one helping. And if you like a second, it still doesn’t make one full cupcake…leaving you with no guilt for this indulgement!
  • OR bake different sizes of cupcakes for an interest on the cake platter. In which case you will bake the different sizes at different times..the smaller the cupcake the quicker the baking time.
  • The cranberries can be left out.
  • Use lemon or lime juice and lemon zest instead of orange juice and zest.
  • Add a tablespoon of ricotta or mascarpone in the butter icing sugar
  • For lighter cupcakes, omit the butter icing sugar and simply sprinkle the cupcake with some sifted icing sugar.
  • Serve with fresh fruits like strawberries and a coulis, or caramelized orange slices and an orange coulis.

First impressions. That instinctive first thought or opinion about something or someone. How many times have you said just after meeting someone…”I like him, he seems nice”, or I don’t think I like her, there is just something about her…”  A house, a school, a country, new neighbours, a restaurant… That first impression is something a “con artist” relies on to entrap his victims. It is that “thing” that makes you stare at a person walking into a room with a certain presence…that makes you keep quiet when a deep voice  speaks on the other side of the room.

I have had an occasion where the vegetable man at the market asked me whether I’m a historian. On my surprised: “why?”,   he pointed at my handbag and the pencil holding my hair up. To him, I had the look and manner of an historian, with my Indiana Jones leather bag and pencil in my hair(which I used to keep my hair from falling into my painting back at home..).

Another time we lived in SC and I used to visit Books a million close by early some mornings to get some drawing and writing done in a corner with a coffee. One day a woman approached me, sat down next to me and started chatting. I’ve seen her often as well as many other regulars, but they never approached me, thinking I was working with all the books and paper around me. It turned out that they all had their impression too…wondering  who I was, where I was from, wondering about my foreign accent,  my keeping to myself in a corner, my soft-spokennnes, ( I have a voice that just doesn’t carry!) Along with my dark hair and dark complexion, not fogetting the hereditary dark circles under my eyes, they decided I had to be Arabic.

Once I was reading a book in a coffee shop  while waiting for Hartman to arrive at the station. At some stage I burst out laughing for some funniness in the book.  A while later, a man sitting opposite me started speaking to me, fascinated by my laughing out loud all by myself, and asked me if I was a teacher revising a novel… I read with a pencil in hand, my reading glasses low on my nose and a little notebook on the side.

Hartman, in his university years, somewhat resembled a young Mick Jagger – very tall, very slender, sinewy, with thick long disorderly hair, constantly wearing his favourite thick old army coat, his grandfather’s hat and his guitar slung around his shouders.  My mother trusted him nothing!! Today, much older and wearing black woolen coats and hats,  Mick Jagger made way for a  Francois Mitterrand strictness and formality, leaving some  people with a slight apprehension to approach him.

First impressions. Truth…or deception…or a little bit of both…?

Truc et astuces de nos grands-méres:

To make raw onions esier digestable, cut in slices and leave to marinate a week in olive oil.



Crystallized orange strips and mothers and daughters.

When thinking of mothers and daughters, I think of  oranges and coffee. Oranges recall childhood days with my mother and coffee recalls intimate talks with my daughters. SO. Let’s first pour ourselves a coffee with a snack while we ready ourselves for stepping into the relationships of mothers and their daughters.

As young girl, my mother regularly peeled an orange and then broke it in half, one half for me, the other for her…and another orange…peel…one half for me…one half for her…It continued this way even after I have become a mother myself. So I decided these sugared orange strips would be a fitting accompaniment to the endless cups of coffee and girl talk I have had(and still have) with my daughters over the years.

Suggestions:

  • Let the peel  strips cool down in the syrup before dipping them in the sugar.
  • They can be dipped in melted chocolate instead(or as well)
  • Store them in a cool and dry place.
  • Use as decorations on cakes or desserts.
  • Use also lemon and grape fruit peel
  • Try and use biological fruit.
  • Always wash and dry the fruit before using.

I came across a lovely book which was the trigger for these pondering thoughts: Histoire des mères et filles, by Gabrielle Houbre. (The history of mothers and daughters) (Editions de la Martinière). It covers social paradoxes, intimate journals, choosing husbands, the role of the grandmother, motherhood judged by the law and the public, and beautiful images, paintings and drawings.  I enjoyed the history of this special relationship through the decades, comparing it with what we have today in our contemporary world, seeing how much it had changed, yet how much it is still the same..

Histoires des mères et filles.

…alice in wonderland, 1879, (george dunlop leslie)…

“…God, You who can do everything, give me the strength to make my family happy, You can do with me as You wish, I belong to You. You know how hard I work: keep me from evil, and save me from mine. Mother! Mother! Please come to me. Speak to me! I am suffering!…” Laure Frémont, 17 years old, Journal, Besancon.

  1. left: edith kingdon gould et sa fille marjorie, 1903(Théodore mace)…
  2. right: mme collas et sa fille gisélle, 1903 (théobald chartran)…

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  1. left: c’est ma fille monsieur”(it is my daughter, sir)…
  2. right: chagrin d’amour, 1908 (ferdinand von reznicek) – “don’t be so unhappy from love, my child, it will ruin your complexion!!”

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“Je t’embrasse ma chérie, de tout mon coeur. Mais ne perds pas ton temps! Les consignes, les punitions, les réprimandes, les bouderies, les rancunes, tout ca c’est du temps gâché. La vie est si courte…De tout mon coeur je suis Ta Maman et ton amie, Colette”. (I embrace you my darling, with all my heart. Don’t waste your time!  all the instructions, the punishments, the reprimands, moods and resentments are a waste of time. Life is so short…With all my heart I am your mother and your friend, Colette.) Letters from Colette to her daughter, 1916-1953)

  1. left: Mme Vigée-Lebrun et sa fille Jeanne Lucie Louise dite Julie, 1789(Elizabeht Vigée-Lebrun)…
  2. right: Soins tyranniques, 1840 (Frédéric Bouchot) ” – ” Chère enfant, tu es en âge de te marier, l’agitation de ton esprit, tes émotions inquètes et vagues; tout m’annonce que ton coeur s’éanouit…J’ai fait pour toi le choix d’un èpoux qui te rendras[sic] heureuse”(dear child, you are of age to be married, your agitation, your nervousness, your emotional spirit; all tells me that your heart is blooming…I made a choice of husband for you who will make [sic]you happy).

******************************************************************************************************

As for my own two daughters …each phase was wonderful. Sometimes hard and sometimes tiring, difficult and challenging. But still wonderful. I think I learnt more from them than I taught them in these past  22 and 24 years. I learnt acceptance, patience(a lot!). I learnt about honesty, humility, I learnt that hope is a neccessary part of each day. I learnt that you can’t have daughters without a sense of humour. I learnt to understand, or at least to make an affort to understand. I learnt to be strong when I wanted to be weak. I learnt to move on when I wanted to rest. I learnt about history and chemistry and architecture and tennis and biology and sex education. I learnt about broken hearts and tantrums and slammed doors and locked away journals.  I learnt that gentlesness goes a far way. I learn that too much kindness can lead to disappointment. I learnt that discipline gives security. I learnt that giving love is more rewarding than receiving. I learnt that no sadness or hurt or disappointment can break this love.

…mère et filles…

Now, as they have become young women, I look onto them with pride and love. I can’t do it any other way. Is it perfect…our mother/daughter relationship? Far from! I irritate them. They work on my nerves. They mess up my kitchen. Thjey find me”high maintenance”. They make pasta this way. I make mine that way. I ask too many questions, they tell me too little.  They don’t make their beds. I make mine too perfect. I yell at them.  They ignore me. They get angry with me.  I get upset with them…..is it perfect? This relationship of ours? Of course it is! It is as it should be! They have become individuals.  They have grown into human beings…funny, witty(sometimes too much!), intelligent(every now and then!) , caring, wise(sometimes?), cute, understanding, accepting…Time has forced us all to grow into human beings. We are friends. But first and foremost, we are mère et fille.

…fini…




A classic crêpe recipe and feasting the Mardi Gras way.

Today is Mardi gras. 16 Fevrier. According to Catholic tradition, it is the last day of indulging in the “fat of the land” before taking on the fasting of the 40 days to Pacques(Easter). It is celebrated by crazy feasting, carnivals…so, in the fun spirit of Mardi gras…let’s feast and carnival today, for tomorrow the world ends!

And the way to do it…crêpes of course. Every which way you want it. Stacked, rolled, folded in parcels, folded in triangles, aumoniéres, flambéed, caked, salty, sweet, natural…you name it.

My husband’s favourite crêpe is sprinkled with softly flavoured cinnamon sugar, drizzled with lemon juice and rolled. He folds it double and whops it into his mouth, crunching on the still crackling sugar, while he starts sprinkling and rolling the next one.

We have a good friend who spreads his crêpe with butter, sprinkles liberally with sugar, folds it into a little parcel to entrap the butter and there you go…warm, melted butter and sugar…. every bite.

Then there are those individuals more deliberate. I am one. Open up the crêpe on a plate, very warm, spread a loaded knife with nutella over one half, fold over and then again to form a triangle, pick it up ever so dainty with your hands and then with closed eyes, dig those teeth into the crêpe, all the while feeling the warm chocolate trickling down your fingers. Pure heaven.

Suggestions:

  • I always use 2 eggs for 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and 20g of butter. It makes it easy to multiply for big batches of crêpes.
  • I use water instead of milk for lighter crêpes, that way I can eat one extra!
  • The baking soda adds to a ligher crêpe.
  • Leave the batter to stand and “develop” a while…like a good relationship.
  • Don’t keep the crêpes warm over hot water or on astove, it dries out with heat. Keep the crêpes close by your baking process and turn the stack often to keep warm. If necessary they can be quickly reheated in small batches if too  cold.
  • Don’t sprinkle with sugar just after baking, unless you want syrupy crêpes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar individually when eating for crunch.
  • DO make some oopsedaisies…and enjoy them while baking!!
  • When using Nutella, warm a little in the microwave to soften for easier spreading.

Of course there are many ways to indulge when feasting on a crêpe: drizzlings of canadian maple syrup and sprinkled with chopped nuts; mountain honey;  a scoop of vanilla ice cream with dark decadent chocolate sauce…

Or how about some caramelized fruit – crêpe Suzette with flambéed oranges; apples and currants  with a hint of cinnamon, lemon juice and oven roasted almonds, drizzled with a trickle of thick balsamic syrup, red berries with créme frâiche; tropical caramelized mango with passionfruit; banana with caramel sauce and fleur de sel… endless possibilities!

Don’t forget the salty fillings;  smoked salmon, drizzled with lemon juice and mixed with capers and some chopped spring onions or chioves, parsley or dill,  and served with a greek tzatziki made from fromage blanc, lemon juice and  cucumber and finshed off with a sprinkling of lump eggs.

Or my favourite…spinach sauteed with onion and thyme, sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, s touch of lemon juice and a generous helping of créme frâiche and lastly sprinkled with crumbled goats cheese…

But crépes are not only about the filling and eating. On days like Mardi gras, when the world is a little crazy, baking crêpes should be a little crazy too. A little flopping and flipping, whirling and twirling and of course, countless oopsedaisies!!

And so, as this day ends… and our tummies call to a halt… and the craziness turns to mellowness… only one thing remains…..

Trucs & astuces de nos grands-méres:

To remove a rust stain…rub the stain with the pulp of a lemon and iron afterwards with a hot iron.

May the following forty days be light and healthy and when we eat again at Easter, may it not be Mardi Gras crêpes…


Coconut and passionfruit cake and little details.

A deliciously moist and quick cake to satisfy some desire for sweetness. Mix all together and put into the oven and by the time you’ve wiped the counter and made a fresh pot of coffee, your cake will be ready. Dust swaggeringly with icing sugar, put onto a fancy platter and voila…an appealing and flirtatious invitation on a plate… a Valentine one…

Suggestions:

  • Don’t overwork the batter! It is a light mixing of all the ingredients together…NO creaming of the sugar and butter etc beforehand.
  • The amount of flour is CORRECT! The amount IS enough to bind the cake…It doesn’t have much flour, therefore the moistness of the cake. It is not a light, fluffy cake.
  • See to it that your butter is very soft.
  • Be careful of too much lemon juice, for the passion fruit already has some sourness.
  • One medium passionfruit gives about 30 ml (1,015 fl ounces) of juice.
  • Any other exotic fruit can used instead of passion fruit…pineapple coulis, mango coulis…
  • Use about 180 ml (6.09 fl ounces)of mango(or pineapple) puree/coulis for the equivalent of 6 passionfruit.
  • Don’t skip the dusting of icing sugar, it rounds off the cake and adds a little zing to the taste.
  • The cake can be served as a dessert as well, along with some fresh strawberries or a glass of fruit salad.
  • It is even tastier the next day.
  • It can be served slightly warm with a dollop of whipped cream…if the hips allow!
  • If the hips are struggling, lock the rest of the cake away and go leave the keys with your strictest neighbour.

This is a recipe from Meilleurs desserts from Marabout chef.

In a previous post I talked about my love for fabric napkins. A while ago Madame Brocante held these beautiful napkin holders aside for me at our local Sunday brocante. They were used for everyday fabric napkins. Every member of the family gets a napkin and a holder/pocket which belongs to him/her. Usually each family member’s name was embroidered on the holder to distinguish it from the other napking holders. With each meal you would get your same napkin and you would use it again until it is dirty enough to be washed. In ancient times, washing was a difficult and tiresome, not to mention long and elbow grease process, so it didn’t happen daily or even weekly like we are so used to today.These poches are still very much in use for everyday family meals at home here in France. Unless you are really a pig, you don’t smear a napkin so dirty in one meal, so keeping your own napkin for a next meal is economic on washing and wear and tear and easier on the environment. So each napkin pocket stores its individual napkin, reused for a meal or two or three, before being filled with a clean one for the next few meals. The table is set with a napkin in its napkin holder beside each plate. Handy and beautiful at the same time.

To make these little napkin/holders/pockets, are SO easy and the decoration can be played around with to your heart’s content. Use colourful fabrics, embroider your family members’ name on each , use lace or ribbons or do some cross stitching to give each owner his/her own pocket/holder. Make a double set of holders…one on the table and one in the wash. They make for good gifts as well, along with a set of napkins,  signed with your own little logo!

From the scribblings in my notebook you can get an idea of how they fold and stitch together. But go and sit and work it out yourself and make it according to your size napkins and your desires!

If you have a meal consisiting of food to be eaten with your hands, especially seafood, or maybe ribs, or chicken wings…then stay away from your lovely napkins! And definitely from paper napkins! Ususally your host or yourself will place a small bowl of water with a lemon slice or even a flower or mint next to each plate. But I have found that men with big hands tend to struggle with the little bowl of water and I am always afraid of splashing my water all over the table…. I prefer to serve a warm face cloth or dish cloth, wrapped in foil alongside each plate.

Wet your cloths with hot water, wring,  place a lemon slice with mint or another fresh herb, or a flower decoration on the cloth , wrap them warm in foil and keep in a warm oven until the meal is on hand. Decorate each parcel with a sprig of herb or flower or slice of lemon, depending on your season. Place each warm parcel in little bowls by each plate and thus providing each guest his/her own warm foil parcel. By the time they use it, the foil will have cooled down, but the cloth inside will still be warm. Guests, usually enjoy the little attention and detail and especially the warm cloth/napkin.

For entertaining outdoors, a good and fun idea can be to provide a stand or table or even chair with a bowl or any other interesting container of fresh water, filled with lemon, mint, flowers. Make a tap/faucet from a small watering can…..hang small towels close by…, some hand cream for the ladies….be creative and make it inviting and fun to rinse those hands after digging into a good al fresco meal!

Trucs et astuces de nos grands-mères.

  • To get your hortensias/hydrangeas blue, bury some rusted nails close by the roots. Do it early in the spring season.

La galette des rois and a slow start.

In France, as I suppose everywhere else in the North, January is a quiet month. Many businesses are closed  up to take their annual congé, now that they have quiet days. The days are long and grey and cold. A highlight of January is la galette des rois(cake of the kings). Epiphany.  On the twelfth day. 6 January.  Although we start eating la galette already on 1 January and the boulangeries are happy to provide les galettes right through the month of January.

…a home baked galette des rois…

A recipe from the book Pâtisseries maison, by Florence Edelmann.

Traditionally a galette was shared around the table, with the youngest  sitting under the table calling the name of each recipient of a slice. That would make the game fair in hoping for the féve(fava bean, but nowadays a trinket). The person finding the féve in his slice, would be king, wear the paper crown and provide the next galette on the table.

The boulangeries bake extraordinary galettes, much better than I could do. So I am happy to buy my galette at the corner up in Montlouis at Aux pains gourmands. The traditoinal galette  was a filling of crème d’amande, which is a mixture of ground almonds , sugar, butter and egg. Modern day finds the galette with a variety of fillings, from frangipane(sort of crème pâtissière with creamed butter and sugar and added almonds, flour and eggs), raspberry to apple to chocolate and more.

Suggestions:

  • Work with cold pastry to have it rise high and flaky.
  • Be careful not to cover with egg on the sides or else the pastry won’t flake.
  • Add a traditinal fava bean instead of a trinket for a real traditional touch.
  • Warm in the oven and not the microwave, to get the pastry crispy.
  • Leave the galette in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to have it very cold, before putting in the oven.

♪..J’aime la galette

Savez vous comment

Quand elle est bien faite

avec du beurre dedans…

tra la la la la la la la lére…♪

Along with the galette des rois come the thoughts and reflections of what to do with this new year. Personal goals and dreams. As for myself, I always feel a bit lost in early January.

With December and family gone and the days cold and grey, I fiddle around, searching for the start-off to take on my goals . It takes me a while to really get going and start moving in a definite direction. But I know time will push me out of the starting blocks soon…hopefully…

So in the meantime, while trusting in patient old Mr. Time, let’s put on our boots and stroll the garden(and the Loire)to find some January greenery for the house. A dried branch. A twig. A branch of bayleaf .

Maybe some rearranging of paintings and prints…moving those upstairs, down and others upstairs. A change is good for inspiration.

The bookshelves can do with some organising too and don’t forget the cleaning closet. I pride myself on a neat and organized cleaning cupboard, but after a houseful of people, even the most tidiest corner can be turned upside down.

Let’s not forget the rearranging and sorting of clothes, linen and adding fresh sachets to the linen cupboards, cleaning out read and unused magazines, freshen up the pantry, oil the wooden cutboards, remove containers with left overs from the fridge and stock  with fresh vegetables , clean out your desk, find a place for all those Christmas cards, reflect on the finances, put a lock on your purse….in short, a lot can be done whilst waiting for inspiration or rather, for Time  to push you off the starting blocks.

Les trucs et astuce de nos grands- méres:

A branch of parsley added to deep frying oil, will soften the heavy smell of fried food.


Old fashioned jamdrop cookies and an old fashioned wedding.

Some people are cooks. Some people are bakers. Some do a little bit of everything. I’m not a baker at all, but I do try my hand a little at everything…

Suggestions:

  • Add a little water/cream if the dough is too stiff or add a little flour if it is too sticky.
  • The dough needs to be a little sticky to cling to the baking sheet when pressed through the cookie press. It is not as stiff as dough which is rolled out.
  • Use butter at room temperature.
  • Use smooth jam which is fairly thick and sticky, too runny jam will bake out. Don’t overfill!
  • to avoid losing a first batch, always check baking time and temperature beforehand with only a few cookies to determine the right time and temperature, as ovens differ.

Twenty seven years ago a bride tried her hand at everything too. Her own wedding. All of it. From each individual handwritten invitation to the last flower in her hair and on the tables.

Baking her own wedding cake was the biggest challenge of all. With no money in her pocket and a generous friend living on a farm with a huge kitchen, she took it on. A rich and dark  fruit cake, covered with a “tablecloth” made from marzipan and finished off with a simple smaller cake shaping a bible and a bouquet of marguerites. All the while learning and compensating as she went along. The marzipan “tablecloth” turned out to be a bigger nightmare than than the organic chemistry she was obliged to take. Maybe the roots for not loving baking was established while wrestling with that marzipan tablecloth…

…a first and last self baked wedding cake……

Long evenings in between university exams were spent on writing the invitations in calligraphy with a pen and nibbs and golden ink that got thick every 30 minutes.  Making the confetti was an ordeal – many a hand helped  cutting and tying tiny bunches of dried flowers with long thing strips of ribbon which had to fill 4 baskets…

…handwritten invitations…

No hairdresser or make-up artist for this bride – there was no money for such luxury and too much work to be done on the wedding day…like arranging flowers.  An early wedding gift was put to good use as vases for the table flowers -  champagne glasses,  of which five have withstood the test of twenty seven years and are still in use today….! They carried simple bunches of red roses and some white gypse…all romance…

…roses in champagne glasses…

Persistant on designing her dress herself and having it made by a seamstress, she saw her dress show up unfinished and wore it on the day with some  spots carefully held together by pins and quick hand stitching.  But beautiful and dreamy it was and now it is waiting for a daughter or granddaughter or even a next generation who might  someday just like it enough…

…for a daughter or granddaughter perhaps…

The photographer arrived, just to find the  bride  still in working clothes, wrestling to make the wreath for the veil. Time was running short and with the help of a creative and loving sister, the wreath of roses was finally attached to the veil. Her long hair was hastily shaped by many hands in a large chignon to hold the wreath and veil, while quick daub of lipstick had to suffice for some colour on the face. An antique cameo rounded off the picture.

…roses for a wreath…

Time ran out and it was off to church in the red rover, driven by her brother. Flying low, they arrived at the entrance to the church a couple of minutes early. The nerves and emotions in the rover were raw and the throats were dry. So the bride and her brother took off again in the red rover, stopped at the nearest roadhouse, rolled down the windows and ordered two milkshakes. A bride always makes passers-by stop and enjoy,  dream, fantasize…This time was different. Passers-by stopped and anjoyed and giggled at the sight of a bride with a straw in the mouth.

The red rover pulled up 20 minutes later back at the church, the door was flung open and with a few trippling steps, the bride was ready to glide down the aisle. Late but happy.

…an old fashioned wedding…

*Trucs & astuces de grands-méres.

For a successful soufflé(salty or sweet), place the soufflé mold with the prepared soufflé for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before baking.

“Pour reussir un soufflé, placez la preparation pour 15 minutes au refrigerateur avant d’enfourner.

An entry for Eat Christmas cookies by Susan at Foodblogga.

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Coffee cookies.                            

Trudie’s lemon squares


Tarte fine aux pommes and a peek into a french home in Tours.

Why do Decembers ignite this uncontrollable desire for all things dessert? Just to have the hips show every inch of this desire flagrantly off in January.

It is a crisis. But in some crises the best thing to do is…have some dessert. Some apple tartlets. They are truly quick and easy and utterly delicious and very homey. They’re not fancy, rather rustic and no one will be offended if you pick one up by hand. They are meant to be enjoyed with a friend or someone you care about. And leave the plate with tartlets in the middle for a second helping.  One won’t be enough. Oh, and leave one secretly for yourself for tonight, when all is quiet and asleep.

So the hips in January will be even rounder. But that is OK. At least it will give us something to talk and write about in January!

…ingredients for tarte fine aux pommes

*Suggestions:

  • Choose an apple with a bit of sourness like a Granny smith.
  • The puff pastry can be replaced with another pastry of your choice.
  • Other fruit like pears, figs, peaches, apricots can be used.
  • It you find the top isn’t caramelized enough after baking, then sprinkle with a little brown sugar and caramelize quickly under a hot grill and keep your eye on it.
  • You can make the size of the tartlets as big or small as you like or even a single big tart.
  • Sage leaves are a good substitute for thyme.
  • Try sprinkling a tiny bit of  fleur de sel with vanilla over the top just before baking.
  • Can be enjoyed as dessert with an accompanying scoop of ice cream or créme frâiche, or as a late afternoon snack with tea, a goûter, as we call it in France.

…joanne’s home in Tours…

Joanne's home in Tours 2

My friend Joanne,  allowed me into her home with my camera a while ago. She lives in the centre of Tours, where it takes a few minutes and you can serve up a fresh baguette and croissant for breakfast. With a basket and some walking shoes, you can browse the market just around the corner from her to have fresh veggies on the table at dinnertime. Just down the road from her lives a musician whose melancholic saxophone melodies vagabond down the quiet street. Life is tranquil and beautiful in her home. It reflects the stillness of her character, yet reveals the brilliant colours of her spirited and optimistic nature. Always trying to see the bright side, always ready for a new project, enthusiastic about life with a strong belief that every minute counts. She loves good food and it is just a pleasure inviting her over for a meal and seeing her obvious joy in appreciating what is put in front of her.

Joanne's home in Tours 1

Joanne's garden in tours 3 Joanne's garden in Tours 4

* astuce de grand-mére:

truc et astuces de nos grand-méres

* Boil some vinegar on the stove for a few minutes to eliminate unpleasant kitchen odours.


Red berry crumble and old wishes(Crumble fruits rouges à l’eau de rose et voeux anciens

Except for a scoop of ice cream from the fridge, I don’t think there is a quicker, easier and more delicious dessert than a crumble.

red berry crumble

I grew up with crumble in my mother’s house. Usually an apple crumble, made in her usual pyrex glass baking dish and she served it with fresh cream scooped from the full cream milk my father brought home from the farm every other day.

Crumbles have changed a little face today, being now made with all kinds of fruit, topped with all kinds of different toppings, either sweet or salty, served from a big dish or  as individually petite servings. It is popular with old and young and equally at home at the family table or finishing off an elegant meal.

…frozen berries whole year long…

fruit rouges picard frozen fruit roughes

I especially favour red berris for a crumble. I love the colour and I love the sweet/tartiness of the berries and now that we can have berries available the whole year in frozen form, I could’nt be happier. I don’t feel guilty for eating berries frozen out of season, for the simple reason that they are so healthy and low in sugars, and they add some welcome colour towards the end of winter when the root vegetables and bleak winter foods start getting a bit difficult to swallow down.

…slowly and deliberately…

red berry crumble 2

red berry crumble with rose water

Suggestions:

  • With a bag or two of frozen red berries in the freezer you have dessert at the tip of your spoon whole year. *Add beaten egg whites and some whipped cream and refrigerate for a feather light mousse. *Defrost in the firdge and add to a salad. *Mix to a puree and add to a vinaigrette. *Make a coulis for ice cream or a chutney for foie gras or roasted duck. *Bake a muffin on a sunday morning. *Simply saute with a bit of honey in a pan and spoon over french toast. *Make a sorbet to lift a heavy winter casserole. *Spoon over joghurt for an evening snack. *Simply defrost to room temperature and nibble on a handful. Any more ideas?

…old wishes…

une tasse ancienne

When I was born all those years ago, a neighbour further down our street came over to see the newborn baby, me.  She congratulated my parents and gave my mother this little cup and saucer with the wish that when I turn 21 one day, I should drink from this cup, and with it all the good wishes and happiness she wishes for me in life. So. I turned 21 and I did drink tea from this cup and I am a happy person!  I own this little cup today and it got damaged with all our moving around, but I carefully glued it all together and low and behold, it still holds a cup of tea without leaking…. and even in that I find solace. Our lives aren’t perfect either, but we can be happy and content, by opening up to it. Not that I dedicate my happiness to the drinking from the cup, but symbolically it means to me that every good wish we receive will eventually help fill our cup. Given of course that the wishes are really meant and not only empty words!

I love this little cup and saucer and have started carrying on the tradition.  This specific cup and saucer is promised to a little six year old girl named Karla, who will one day have her tea poured into this imperfect, but beautiful and unleaking cup. I have in the meantime started collecting my own special little anitique cups and saucers to pass onto my grandchildren one day and other new born babies who come into my life. My wish will also be that their cup be filled with happiness.

…ongoing tradition…

les tasses anciennes

LASTLY:  An update on the spices of Zlamushka:

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Montgolfière en France

I had the opportunity to do some hot air ballooning recently. A wonderful experience and one I’ll definitely want to repeat, especially in the Alps. We took off from the chateau de Fontainebleau and landed an hour later somewhere southwest from there, where we were treated to champagne by candlelight. In the spirit of ending our flight with une coupe,  I made a cake au fromage de chévre, avec olives et tomates. For when the knees get jittery after une coupe on an empty stomach!

cake au fromage de chèvre avec tomates et olives

 

If you’re interested in seeing two sketches of this flight, you can go to Aricantapestry.

bonjour!…

…anchoring…

…stretching out the toile…

…let in some air…

france montgolfière

…propane gas…

…80 days to go…

…into the sunset…

…selfportrait…

…smooth…

…handsome crew…

au revoir!


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