Montlouis sur Loire

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.





Mackerel paté and creative recycling.

When a cup breaks, or we empty the orange juice bottle, or scrape out the last sardine,  the first thing we do, is decide in which recycling bin it has to go into; paper, glass, cartons or the normal trash.  There is a fifth option . The “creative recycling basket.

A mackerel pate, made from either fresh or smoked or canned mackerel and served in a recycled sardine can, makes  for fun summer entertaining.

Suggestions:

  • Use any other fish of your choice; salmon, tuna, sardines…
  • Add the creme fraiche/sour cream/thick cream little by little until you are happy with the consistency.  You don’t want too much cream and no fish.
  • For a slight tang, you can add some chopped green chili or some piment d’espelette.
  • Capers can be chopped and added.
  • Take care not to mix to an unrecognizable horrible pulp without any texture. Always mix lightly with a fork.
  • Lime zest can be used instead of lemon zest.

Don’t we tend to be a bit more frivolous and playful in summer? Using empty food cans can be different and interesting outside on the patio, for teenagers parties, or simply just to lose the seriousness and have fun.  Use them for serving food in as starters or appetizers, for serving olives with your white wine or tapenade with bread, or fill them colourful sands and tealights, prop a small container(recycled) into the sand and add a cute flower or two – perfect for some interest on the table or in corners of the garden or even the kitchen. It is nothing but fun.

The most magical recycling comes from glass containers and here in France, we get the cutest yoghurt and petit dessert glass bottles, not to mention the confiture bottles, and whatever else bottles. I recycle them all, meaning I reuse  a lot of them. They serve in my atelier for my paints, for flower vases all over the garden, for holders of all sort. Use some wire and string them together to make  “fairy lights”, using tealights. Or use some wire and make a hanging little vase for your windows and door knobs.

Fill them with small pebbles and hang like small lanterns in the garden on hooks stuck in the ground. Use them  en masse to achieve the best effect. Fill them with moss and stick flowers in, fill with sea shells, coloured sand. Use them for starters or appetizers. And when they get too “used up”, dump them into the glass recycle bin and start recycling into your creative recycle basket again. No guilt about breakage or expensive losses.

Unless you have a huge garden, few of us can afford masses of beautiful fresh flowers throughout the house.  And even a tiny vase costs more than it is worth. Why spend money when you can find something quirky and differ3nt  in your creative recycling basket? A chipped cup or teapot or glass is perfect to brighten corners right throughout the house, from the bedroom to the guest bathroom to the kitchen to the laundry. It can carry a flower or a leaf or a fern or the dead endings you do on your shrubs, or the daffodil you “pick” on your daily walks… Nothing gives so much pleasure and lifts a room like something fresh from nature, however small it may be.

Instead of throwing away the broken cup, save the pieces of porcelain and use them to mosaic a small table that has lost some life, or a vase or a pot or simply display in a bowl outside in the garden. Use a cup, or teapot, or bowl that isn’t completely broken and plant a small flower or sow a seed or two for colour in a corner somewhere – on the windowsill, on a small table, on your bed table,  next to the bath by the toothbrush, on a weathered chair in the corner, on a big stone, by the fish pond, on an old tree stump…

Don’t forget about sturdy small boxes which can be covered in colourful fabric or paper and used as  gift boxes or storage boxes, especially shoe boxes. Fill with shredded paper and add chocolates, or homebakes cookies, or an assortment of jams, or seedlings for the summer garden, or a pretty old chipped cup planted with a pansy… Recycle the balsa wooden holders from your cheeses,the baskets from the strawberries, fruit; line them with a napkin, use as a bread and biscuit  basket, or to serve your silverware for a barbeque. I use my camembert holders in my atelier for all my art things…pen nibs, sharpeners, erasers, one serves as a little table bin, another holds a lemon scented candle, another holds stamps…

In the kitchen, I use a recycled maple syrup bottle for my washing liquid by the sink. I added an oil spout and it works beautifully. I recyle other nice bottles for oils and use some for candles…fill with sand and stick a long “dripping” candle in. The wax that melts down the bottle makes for lovely “sculptures”.

If you don’t have a creative recyling basket or cupbard yet, consider it. It is cheap and creative, interesting and different, not to mention environmentally friendly.


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.

Celeriac salad with pears and pomegranate and a special parcel.

A refreshing salad..full of crunch and texture…a delight on the taste buds with the soft sweetness of the pears and the tart exploding sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. Fitting for a special parcel…

Suggestions:

  • Red cabbage ribbons can be added for more colour.
  • Add the pomegranate seeds last if you want you salad to be “unstained”.
  • A yoghurt dressing with lemon and honey is great too.
  • If you want a more “sustainable ” salad, add some coarsely grated hard  cheese of your choice.
  • Good with fish.
  • Can be served on its own as a starter or accompaniment as a side.
  • A good salad for losing weight  and/or detox.

Some days are sometimes unexpectedly special. Like a Tuesday when the post lady knocks on your door and with a broad smile hands you a parcel: “Voilá! Toujours Noël!” (still christmas for you!)

A lovely surprise from the extraordinary Monique at A la table de Nana. After opening up the very well wrapped outer box and fixing my eyes upon the beautiful first layer, I found myself working softer and more delicate with each unwrapping;  lingering, feathering and stroking my fingers deliberately over each wrapping, wonder what hides underneath, trying to prolong the seconds to minutes, enjoying the feeling of excitement and yielding to the pleasure of feeling special.

…opening up onto creative bookmarks and cards...

…then a next surprise…

…even more delicate and beautifully wrapped…

…so many unfolding surprises in such a small box…

…a notebook, beautiful chcolate transfers, even more beautiful cookie transfers…

Few things in life give us that warmth around the heart than caring, attention, a spontaneous compliment…a little act of some kind making you feel special. This little parcel did exactly that. It had something of everything…

…a little bit of romance, a touch of personal creativity, a hint of refinement, a sprinkling of originality, a taste of beauty…finished off with drizzlings of warmth and  presented with care and delicate attention…

Have you sent a small parcel to someone? Wrapped with care and attention to small détail, adding a little note here and a chocolate there, a smile, a giggle, a wish…not a Christmas gift. Not a birthday gift. Just something to say someone else is special. No? So…let’s just do it!

Trucs et astuces de nos grands-mères:

To substitute for crème fraîche to make whipped cream, beat an egg white to meringue phase(stiff) and add in 1 teaspoon of melted butter.


Urgent need in Haiti and many others…

Please make a donation to the relief of the awful  disaster in Haiti, but be careful of online donations. There are already many scam emails going around asking for donations. The safest way is to make a donation to a well known organisation or do it by mail or phone to a known organisation in your area.

And please, don’t forget other countries that are also in need of help.  Make it a habit to give a little something maybe every month? There are so many who need help out there..a little drop each time leads to a full bucket…

The Red cross is a good example, they can also be contacted to find your nearest branch.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies

British Red Cross

Croix Rouge Francaise

Fondation de France

American Red Cross

South African Red Cross society

Australian Red Cross

Medecins sans frontieres, which is an excellent organisation…….thanks to Kate at Serendipity for adding it!

How to help Haiti

UNICEF


Lentil salad with apples and red onion and a vitamin boost.

We all know our list of vitamins and minerals, but it is especially in this stretch of witer here in the North, that we need to dig it out again and check our daily nutrient intake. Like so many people in the North, I am also overcome by a bad fatigue. So I am turning to nutrients even more to boost my energy and morale. Anti-fatigue foods. Like lentils and apples and kiwis, loaded with vitamin C. And many short walks during the day.  It is the getting out, getting the metabolism going and feeling the cold, which revives the mind and the body.

Suggestions:

  • Make enough lentils for a salad the next day to take to work for lunch.
  • cook lentils until tender, but still with a bite.
  • See how to make a bouquet garni at Velouté de topinambours.(Jerusalem artichokes)
  • Add walnuts for some protein.
  • Use kiwis for vitamin C and add pumpkin seeds for crunch.
  • Use the lentils warm in winter for a feeling of comfort and cold in summer for coolness.
  • soak the red onion in luke warm water for 5 minutes to remove some of the pungency.
  • Use whole grain rice if you don’t like lentils.

Tips to fight fatigue

Choose food containing vitamin C, which is the main energy stimulating vitamin. It is active in the production of energy in the cells, it protects the cells agains free radicals and it assists in the absorption of iron and calcium.

Vitamin E diminishes the feeling of fatigue. Along with vitamin C and A, it acts against free radicals and protects agains the effect of pollution.

Vit B group facilitates the transformation of proteins into energy, they regulate mood and intellectual energy and they improve the absorption of iron, assists with carrying oxygen in the blood.

Foods high in vitamin C: kiwi, parsley, cassis, raw red pepper, chercil, watercress, citrus fruits…

Vitmain B1(thiamine): liver, whole grains, seafood…

Vitamin B2(Riboflavin): REd meat, poultry(dark meats)dark green lefy vegetables…

Vit B3(Niacin): Liver, poultry, seafood, seed and nuts…

Vitamin B6(Piridoxine): Meat, fish poultry,legumes,  spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas…

Vitamin B12(cyanocobalamin): oysters, sardines, tuna, turkey chicken, eggs…

Some of the most important minerals to fight fatigue, would be selenium, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Calcium: Dairy products, dark green vegetables, sardines with bones…

Magnesium:  dark chocolate, almonds, dried beans, walnuts, wholegrain rice, lentils, dark green vegetables, meat, fish poultry, nuts…

Potassium: Meat, fruits, legumes…

Selenium: fish, organ meats, grains…

Good foods to fight fatigue: lentils, brown rice, fennel, sweet potatoes, endives, fish, chicken, petit pois, cauliflower, apples, dates, papaja, citrus fruit, berries…

This is by no means a complete list or complete information on nutrients. There are many complete health books on the subject…this is only an inspiration to get reaquainted with our daily nutrients to give us a boost during the dark and cold days of winter.

Drink eight glasses of water per day. Cut out milk products and wheat to avoid all sorts of allergies. Cut out cafeine and all sodas. Take regular walks during the day and do some exercize. Turn the heating inside your house a little lower during the day, which forces to body to work harder at energizeing itself. Move more during the day, get up often from behind the desk and take a walk, instead of keeping water by your desk, get up and go fetch a glass of water, do some stretching, open the window and breathe in the cold fresh air…

Bibliography: Live longer cookbook – Reader’s digest; New optimum nutrition bible – Patrick holford; La Methode Montignac – Michel Montignac; Ma cuisine anti-fatigue – Marie Borrel; Total health program  – Dr. Mercola; Eating well for optimum health – Andrew Weil, MD.

Be sure to drop in at Kalyn’s kitchen, where you will always find a healthy recipe with fresh ingredients, great ideas loaded with nutrients but light on the hips and with appetizing photos.

Trucs et astuce de grands-meres:

Throw your used coffee grains on youir plants in the garden, it is a good fertilizer for plants.



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.


Oysters with a pomegranate vinaigrette and Vatel.

Oysters lead to digging up old favourite films. Like Vatel, by Roland Joffé. A wonderful gastronomically seductive film.

But before taking up your place under the blanket… clean some oysters and make a vinaigrette and chill a bottle of white wine in the fridge. Or better yet, in the spirit of Vatel, let’s make it a sparkling one.

Suggestions:

  • Open the oysters about an hour before eating, because they form some liquid whilst standing. Throw off the first quantity of liquid jsut after opening and leave the secoind forming of water if you like it. Or throw it off as well.
  • Use the liquids for cooking in the case of cooked oysters.
  • Serve on a bed of rough salt orcruched ice to keep them in place and the cruched icve will keep them cold too.
  • Always serve with extra lemon slices.
  • When eating raw oysters, choose the smaller size and the big sizes for cooked/baked oysters. the smaller the number, the bigger the oyster. The favourites size for eating raw, are 5, 4 and 3. Use 2, 1 and 0 for cooked oysters.
  • don’t forget to serve a warmed wet napkin when serving any kind of seafood. I usually fold a wet, warm napkin into a small square, insert a lemon slice and cover it in foil to keep the warmth insied a little longer – place on the side in a small glassbowl.

In spring and summer, time doesn’t allow watching movies. Life is to be lived ouitside, drinking up the sun during the day and the moon and stars by night. On the rainy days you can do  a little vacuming…

Winter, and especially January after the festive season,  is  time for nesting. Reading in front of the fire. Catching up on a new movie and then on those old ones you so love.

Vatel. Or Babette’s feast. Or how about Like water for chocolate, Or Woman on top … Mostly Martha(Bella Martha), or the recent c0py of it,  No reservations

For those living in the hemisphere where summer is at its peak now, well…keep on enjoying the sun and summer evenings the way you do and remember this for when the cold starts chasing you inside…

Vatel is one of those movies where the beauty  lies in the scenes behind the scene…the kitchen and the grounds of the chateau de Chantilly de prince de Condé , where Gerard Depardieu is the Maitre d’hôtel, FrancoisVatel, responsible for the entertaining and gastronomic pleasures of the le roi Louis XIV and his entire shallow entourage.The preparation of the exquisite foods is a feast on its own. The creations for  entertainment. The movie itself is total splendour at the chateau with all its indulgence and frivolity that would disgust, were it not a movie. Although, truth it is, or was…thankfully, now we can only find it entertaining and amusing and a pleasure for the eye…

ENJOY!

…chocolat chaud…

…une poire cristallisée…

…canard roti…

…fruits cristallisées…

…fleurs cristallisées…

…paté…

…Louis XIV lui mème…

…plat de fruits de mer…

Trucs et astuces de nos grand-méres:

Don’t throw out the water you have boiled your eggs in. It is rich in mineral saltsd. Use it to water your green leaf plants.


An introspective last three days of 2009.

We have about three days left for remembering the old year and planning for the new year. Dreaming up new dreams. Setting new heights. Asking simple questions. Struggling with honest answers.

Part of dreaming new dreams and setting new goals, is a desire to give back more to life than receiving. Looking back on this year, I’ve seen our human soiety grasped in the claws of spending. We were/are admired for our talents. For our beautiful homes. And our beautiful blogs. For our wonderful recipes. Our creativity. We have friends across the globe, praising us for our kindness, gentleness, goodness. It has driven me to ask some simple questions during this time.  A time  which inspires real hope and renewal. Change. Growth..

Have you been grateful this past year, content with what you have? Without a desire for what you don’t yet have?

Have you given back more than you received?

Have you brought fresh vegetables to the grumpy old lady/man down the street whenever you brought back your own loaded bags? Do you even know a grumpy old lady for whom you could have dropped a fresh bread?

Have you dropped a coin in the hands of the beggar, or have you justified your simply walking past that it would have just be going for alcohol anyway…could you have helped in some different way…something that took more trouble, more effort…started making a difference? Have you even given it any thought after just walking on? Or have you just turned your head and started thinking of dinner?

Have you done anything consciously for charity, effort, planning, effort – just as you would do it for yourself? Or were you very busy.

Have you ever spent some of your precious time to go an old age home to read to the elderly? Do you know any elderly people? Do you know their fears? Their fascinating stories? Their needs? Or do you only hope to not grow into such an old sour prune?

Have you contributed in any way positively to our environment? Have you ever been to the dump yard? Talked to the people working there? Have you ever taken a pie and shared a coffee with them? Have you ever woken up early to thank the garbage workers for the work they do?

Could you have  cared more in an unspending way for your dear ones? Without the aid of money. Without the aid of material things. Just you and your time. Your effort.

Could you have cared more in an unspending way for friends? For your community?

Did you run to the store to buy something to make you feel better, to rid you of depression, to lift your mood? Did you run to an stock full  pantry to indulge in foods of all choices and flavours to wallow in your awful life?

Have you given a shoulder to someone in need?  Reached out to a complete stranger?

Have you taken a dinner for someone at  her/his home who was just simply tired, worn out, or just because you wanted to?

Have you done something special for someone, not so YOU could  feel good afterwards, but because he/she needed it? Without receiving a thank you, without caring about a thank you?

Have you complained constantly about your circumstances and then got into a warm bed, luxurious bedlinen, having had a hot meal, even having sipped a glass of wine? Or complained about your misfortune…or about being misunderstood….or neglected?

Have you complained about your circumstances and then had had the luxury of  ice in your drink or a cool glass of water to quench your thirst…turning the tap and having had water running freely to fill a bath to your heart’s content?

Have you written down at the end of each day how many good things life had handed you during the course of the day? Have you even noticed it?

On a bad day, have you even tried to find something good in your life?

Have you sat quietly and really listened to someone’s else’s fears, dried her/his tears without thinking of your own hurt, or comparing to your own hurt, but could only feel the sadness of this person?

Were you quick to rationalize and justify your own reasons or motives, your jealousy, your envy, your anger, your hurt…

Were you spiteful…were you critical…were you judgmental…were you righteous…

Were you deeply sorry after harsh words…did you admit it, say it out loud?

Were you ashamed after harsh behaviour…did you acknowledge it, say it out loud?

Have you sat down and wondered, marvelled at this wondrous thing called life?

What small things have you done,  unnoticed by your friends and family, society… just because?

….And so these simple questions are never ending. One leads to another. Looking us straight on with raised eyebrows. Awaiting a response.  Can we meet the straight stare? Can we be be honest in our answers? Do they make us look ahead differently? Will they change anything?

May 2010 be less about ourselves.

May we care more about the world around us. Our community.The bigger picture.

May we use our talents and our good fortunes to make the world better for everyone.

May we live each day with a long list of gratitudes. Small ones. Important ones.

May we give more attention to the small, insignificant aspects of life. May they grow and become life changing.

May we give in abundance. Love. Time. Attention. Care. Empathy. Understanding…

May we receive with grace. Love, Teachings. Lessons. Help. Advice…

May we ALL grow in wisdom and get to that place which is called peace. Contentment. Happiness. Understanding.

Bliss.

A Wonderful, rich 2010 to all.


Christmas wishes 2009

Be at peace with life, stay faithfull to your hopes and keep a smile on your face.

Have a wonderful Christmas!


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.

Maybe you would also be interested in :

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.


A creative sandwich and recipe inspiration

We all need inspiration. For everything we do. Whether it is for hanging on when life is difficult or getting out of bed when we are depressed… Even when times are good, we flourish even more when inspiration hits us from a different angle. I believe we can’t sit and wait for inspiration, but we need to constantly be in search of it. We need to be open to it.

Something as simple as a sandwich can be created from a burst of inspiration and sometimes from the most unexpected source. Read further down below about the following sandwiches, created by MArinell and Liandri, 12 and 10 years old at the time.

…”arnie” sandwich – jingle all the way

My humble way of being open to inspiration, is to always have a pencil  and note-book in hand. I even read a book with a pencil, underlining even the simplest phrase if it means something to me. I write down things I hear people say in the bar that I find has meaning for me. I write down a saying that I read on a bill board or an advertisement. I pull off the road and grab the pencil in the door pocket to write down something that has just “hit” me.  I wake up at night and write down a dream or a thought, I scribble when I drink coffee in town, I never take a walk by the Loire without a pencil and paper…in short, every moment is a pencil and note-book moment! A moment for a fresh idea. For a flare of inspiration. Do I act on them…all these ideas and inspiration? Sadly no, not always immedaitely, but I have them somewhere scribbled down in a little note-book in my house and I will fall upon it some time or another.

If you don’t have a pencil and note-book, get one soon and take down all your thoughts and ideas, colours you see, shapes you see, things you hear. Have little notebooks in as many corners of your house and office and car and bag and bicycle as possible, hands on, just for the taking. And stick ons. To mark the pages of books you read, articles, recipes, ideas. Our bookshelves are marked with books and their little colourful “flags”…people come over and they choose a book with a little flag, wanting to see what page is marked! Some interesting conversations have followed from that.

When our daughters were about 12  and 10 years, we were watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie one evening. They then decided to make sandwiches  for dinner and they named them  “Arnie” sandwiches…so we have Terminator  sandwiches and Jingle all the way, and Predator and Kindergarten cop. Their own creations, their own work, their own handwriting in my recipe book….the inspiration? A wild man with a heavy accent in a silly movie! And the sandwiches? Absolutely divine!

In your little note-books of inspiration, you can makelittle sketches of what you would like your dish to look like(no Picasso necessary, for your eyes only!) play with ingredients, colours, layers, flavours. Fill a basket by the television with books and stick-ons and pencils, so you can just reach out and grab a notebook and pencil to pen down some ideas, scribble…don’t just watch television zombie-like!

Keep cards of restaurants and recipe cards and photos of food and all kinds of memorabiliathat can trigger some inspiration, in some nice old tins or boxes or drawers – a place where you “visit” often and can dig for some fresh ideas and originality.

Hang and pin your inspirations on notice boards…in your pantry, above your desk, in your bedroom by your bed, by the telephone, by the computer, in your bathroom…

Inspiration and ideas are as alive as we make them be. They are ever-changing. They have wings and will fly away if we, the creators, don’t pin them down. Have fun in creating new recipes…your own!

Trucs et astuces de nos grand-mères:

pour dorer un gâteau si vous manquez d jaune d’œuf, vous pouvez le badigeonner de lait.

Milk can be used instead of an egg white to paint over a tart crust or cookies or cake in order to have it baked golden brown.


Duo de chocolate and December ambiance 2009

Time again for some  December ambiance!

After putting up our tree we enjoy a candle lit dinner with music and good wishes for the season. It has been our family tradition for many years to put up our tree on the first day if December and light a candle every night for the whole month of December for someone  – people who aren’t with us any more, people who are still with us…This year is no exception. We finish our evening with a small and light dessert. A white chocolate panacotta and dark chocolate mousse – a combination of light dark chocolate mousse and the contrasting white panacotta with smoother texture.  The mousse is the only chocolate mousse I’ll ever make and it comes from the collection of chocolate desserts from Pierre Hermes. I’ve been making it for years and haven’t yet come across any better, any lighter, any more delicious! the panacotta is simple and classic with some white chocolate added.

Suggestions:

  • Don’t overwork any mousse! Always stir gently until just mixed.
  • Never boil chocolate, melt at gentle heat in the microwave or over simmering water until just melted. It melts from the inside outwards, so ti will still hold its shape, but the inside will already be melted. Stir often.
  • Use older egg whites for better lightness(as well as nicer meringeus).
  • Use egg whites at room temperature.
  • Mix egg whites into the chocolate mixture as follows: Scoop a third of the beaten egg whites into the chcolate and whisk to make the mixture lighter and easier to fold in the rest of the egg whites. Fold in the egg whites with a big whisk in a figure eight shape, without whisking. Fold in until JUST mixed. don’t overwork!
  • A mousse gets heavier the longer it stands. I usually serve a mousse within a day. Of course it can be eaten afterwards, but it is more creamier and has lost that lightness that is so typical of a mousse.
  • Decorate with some chcolate petals or sprinkle some golden flakes over the top.

I took my husband and his saw down to the Loire and we came back with with some tree brances covered with moss. It was to be our tree for this year. I enjoy a live tree, and this year was one made fom some dried brances from our own river across the road. It always feels special to go and pick up some branches by the Loire, come back home, stick them into a garden urn and hang them with decorations and fairy lights.

See previous years are at First day of December and December ambiance 2008 with cinnamon dumplings

…noël 2009…

…reading and looking…

…some glitter…

…moss from the garden and old postcards…

…just some prettiness…

…colour from dried hydrangeas…

…christmas dinner from 2008…

…Tokala and Ayiani in the snow…

…la neige au bord de la loire…

…la loire and two of us…

… chocolat chaud devant la cheminée…

* Trucs et astuces de grand-mères.

* To ice a cake easier – dilute a bit of smooth apricot jam(without chunks of fruit) with a little water, warm, add a noisette of butter and cover the cake before covering with icing.


Stuffed cornes de boeuf peppers and a book on food and painting.

These cornes de boeuf peppers from Spain lend themselves ideally to stuffing and they are fascinating with their long and twisted shapes.

…cornettes de boeuf…


stuffed cornes de boef recipe

Suggestions:

  1. Any filling can be used…mushrooms, onions, peppers, courgettes, cheese, berries, broccoli florets, tomatoes, dried fruits, breadcrumbs, left over chicken, ground beef, quinoa, rice, lentils…
  2. Ordinary  sweet peppers or courgettes can be used instead of the peppers. Or more piquant peppers.
  3. Can be served as a starter or a vegetable accompaniment, or even a whole meal served on a green salad with a mustard vinaigerette.
  4. When stuffed tightly with a crumbs filling, it can be sliced and served as an aperitif on canapés, with a moelleux wine, (a sweet, fruity white wine).

In Octobre I  had an art friend visiting France and she stopped through here in Touraine, where we met for the first time after being blogging friends for a long time. See both her sites, Making a mark(in which she covers much more information than just art – her latest post is about Technorati and blogosphere…have  a look)  Travels with a sketchbook is all about her sketching and travelling.

Katherine and her sister and niece had dinner with us at home on their last night here and they brought me a beautiful book – Boire et manger that I wish to share with everybody. It is such an inspiration, seeing how food and art have walked hand in hand through all ages, depicting the habits and cultures and changes of the times and the different symbolisms of different foods, some of which we still hang onto today; cherries being a symbol of love and volptuousness, bread being the symbol of the body of christ, the apple seen as the origin of sin. I wish I could share the whole book with you, but here are a few excerpts. I hope they delight you as much as they did me and inspire you to be creative with food, not that I mean to paint it, but to “paint with it”! And above all, to respect it!

You can see more examples on Africantapestry at Food sketches and a book on dining a painting.

boire et manger

…jeunes garcons mangeant des fruits: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo(1645-46)

Jeunes garcons mangeant des fruits - bartolomé esteban Murillo(1645-46)

Le melon-meaning: Sweetness, earrthly pleasure, friendship.

  1. Maybe  look between the two boys could be interpreted as a silent dialogue between them to decide which fruit they prefer; the grapes or the melon, both having existentially different symbols.
  2. In the mythical sense the melon symbolically represents the earthly sweetness and pleasures of the flesh.
  3. the melon is always not only the cosen sweet ness of both adults and children, but a symbol of friendship, because the quality of the kin of the melon can determine the quality on its flesh.
  4. Grapes, givng birth to wine, could be reference to the spiritual path and the need to follow it.

…la table d’office: Siméon chardin(1756)…

La table d'office -Jean Baptise Chardin(1756)

Olive and oil – meaning: Grace of the Holy Ghost, conscience, clemency and charity.

  1. The European porcelain soupterine accentuates the refinement of the table.
  2. Two coilcans are presnt- one for oil and one for vingar, the usage of both these condiments togheter would be reaffirmed during the ages.
  3. The rustic terrine had a specific culinary function, which was the making of paté and was typically French cuisine.
  4. This still life present a contrast between elegance and rustic in the display of the kitchen tools and refined tableware. Chardin was fascinated by the culinary arts and gastronomy and used both at the same time to create his art.
  5. The silver warmer with silver seen as a noble metal, was part of the refined table and added to the elgance of the piece.

…nature morte avec des fruits et un homard: Jan Davidsz de Heem(1648-49)

Nature morts avec des fruits et un homard - Jan Davidsz de Heem(1648-49) containers- meaning: the human condtion, refers to the content held within container

  1. The fruit represent the earthly pleasures and in deeper context they represent the joy of the spirit/mood.
  2. The ornate decoration on this pure precious metal container represents its excellence and gives it a symol of saintly spirituality.
  3. The lobster is a symbol of resurrection.
  4. The peeled lemon represents life; which gradually “peels” off the outer earthly layers to finally arrive at the soul.

…le mangeur de haricots:Annibale Carrache(1583-84)…

Le mangeur de haricots-Annibale Carrache(1583-84)

Dried beans- meaning: humility, poverty, continence

  1. the borken windeow represent the negligence of this humble environnement.
  2. The man eating the beans was a subject reintroduced to painting at beginning of the XVI century. Up until then this theme  was only kept to the indignant.
  3. The dried bean was condidered the most humle of the starch food and and represents the everyday food of the common peasant.

…l’enfant gaté: Jean Batiste Greuse(1865)

L'enfant gaté -Jean Baptise Creuze(1765)

Cutlery- menaing: Elegance, finesse, treason, word of God.

  1. The presence of the cauldron emphasizes the popular character of the represented scene.
  2. The little boy holds a silve spoon, which contrasts with the humble and diorganized environnement. During this era, a silver spoon was given to children, because silver was believed to have antibiotic properties.

Baked topinambours with thyme(Topinambours aux thym)

Topinambours counts under “the old vegetables/foods” which have been making a come back the last few years. Previously I made a Velouté de topinambour which is great. This time it is is cut into chunks, sprinkled with powdered espelette pepper and baked in the oven on a bed of fresh thyme.

topinambours au four(baked topinambours)

Oven baked topinambours with thymSuggestions:

  1. Sauté some apple chunks in butter, add a bit of cassonade(brown sugar) and fry until nicely caramelized. Mix gently with the baked topinambours and serve warm.
  2. The piment d’espelette can be replaced by any other chili of your choice, either dry and in powder form, or finly chopped.
  3. Cook the  topinambours in water on the stovetop until almost tender and then add to an oven pan with the seasonings to caramelize. It shortens the baking time.
  4. Serve the topinambours on a bed of salad greens or as an accompaniment to any meat.
  5. By adding créme frâiche after baked in the oven,  you can serve it with a pasta or add it to a saffron risotto.
  6. Be sure to have it nicely tender or else it has a “burning” taste, much like raw potato.
  7. It is a healthy alternative to potatoes, seeing that it has a lower glycemic index than potatoes.
  8. Enjoy!

…topinambours…

topinambours - ingredients

Piment d’espelette is a variety of pepper, with a light “bite” that is produced in the Basque region of France. Because of its fragrant flavour and taste, it is frequently used instead of pepper. We also find a beautiful fleur de sel d’espelette, which is powdered espelette mixed with a good quality fleur de sel, which is what I used on my baked topinambours)

…piment d’espelette…

piment espelette

For Liandri’s  birthday in beginning of Octobre, we had dinner le chateau de Beaulieu here in Tours. A nice quaint hotel with a menu gastronomique;  we could choose between foie gras, turbot, pigeon, filet de boeuf, magret de canard, carré d’agneau… A small dinng room, a local wine list as well as some distant cousins, nice dessert, coffee and olde worlde ambiance. A charming place to stay and dine when you visit our area.

…chateau de beaulieu…

chateau de Beaulieu chateau de beaulieu 2

…Olde world memories for olde world foods…

old plates les carafes


Pork chops with spices and cherry tomatoes(Cotelettes de porc epicées aux tomates cerises.)

A simple family meal, using one of the secret spices of Zlamushka. See previous post on Zlamushka’s secret spices.

Pork cotelets with Zlamushka's spices 2

add secret spices, cherry tomatoes, serve with cooked wheat…

Pork cotelets with Zlamushka's spices secret spices 2

Corn  pork cotelets with cooked corn

pork chops with spices

Suggestions:

  • Any other meat can be used
  • Use these spices with oven baked winter root vegetables
  • Crush the mixture together in a mortar and pastle to a paste.
  • Serve with white/wholewheat rice, or cooked wheat or fluffy steamed potatoes.

…autumn…

autumn 2 autumn 1


Festival de la tomate 2009

September is the peak of the tomato season  in Europe. At the chateau de la Bourdaisiere, where le festival de la tomate is held every year,  tomatoes are found that is hardly ever seen on the street  with names as cute and funny  and original as you can get them; bloody  butcher, daxacan jewel, burrackers’ favorite, little monk, black zebra, black prince, banana legs….

…chateau de la bourdaisiére à Montlouis sur Loire…

fete de tomate 22

This sunny weekend in September had everybody out and about, dogs with their owners, mothers with daughters, grandparents, babies, toddlers, fathers carrying tired litle feet on their necks, tired pets carried in backpacks, photographers, writers, dreamers, painters. Le festival de tomate is an occasion to revel in the colours of the September garden. Having just entered la rentreé, where everybody is back to school and work, la festival de tomate provided that last occasion for us to soak up the warmth of the mellow September sun.  A last outing before we  slowly but surely creep into winter disguise and start our hybernation cycle with our red wines in front of the fireplace.

…walking – but not in the beds, please!…

fete de tomate 9 fete de tomate 30

…children, dogs..backpacks,  sunglasses

fete de tomate 8 fete de tomate 1 9-13-2009 10-53-40 AMfete de tomate 12

fete de tomate 17 fete de tomate 18 fete de tomate 19

The  late summer colours of the September garden, already whisper of autumn with reds and yellows, dark purples, greens and oranges, burgundies. The herb gardens are full, the basils are setting seeds, the fennels are standing high and whispy.  Pumkins abound in their plump autumn attires and burgundy cock’s combs take the lead to yet another bed, another colour, another discovery, another feast for the eye. Lavenders still stand high and full  with flavours whifting through the air.

…reds, oranges, purple, green, yellows…

fete de tomate 25 fete de tomate 24 9-13-2009 12-23-49 PM

fete de tomate 28fete de tomate 7

fete de tomate 2 fete de tomate 3 fete de tomate 6

fete de tomate 34

fete de tomate 13 9-13-2009 11-17-37 AMfete de tomate 16 fete de tomate 15

No festival can be really successful without eat and drink, with Le festival de tomate no exsception. From traditionally baked breads to confitures,  to jus de tomates, freshly squeezed, to small tomato appetizers, a variety of fleur de sels, to contemporary creations from l’ecole de la cuisine and last but not least in the eyes of la population Francaise – lunch at set tables under la grande tente marquise – booking essential!

la dégustation

fete de tomate 31 fete de tomate 23 fete de tomate 29

fete de tomate 32 fete de tomate 21

Even when experiencing this year after year, it is always fun. Maybe because it is tradition. Maybe because of the ambiance. Maybe because everybody does it. Maybe because we meet friends there. Maybe because the days are so beautiful. Maybe because…well, maybe just because.

… à l’année prochaine!…

fete de tomate 26


Scorpion fish with citrus salad(Rascasse aux agrumes)

Sun and summer are  still plentiful here in Montlouis. On arriving home, we opened the gates to a jungle of green. . Mosquitoes in the switched off fountain. Boxwood in pots dried and sad. Rosebushes hanging heavy with hips, spiderwebs in every corner, dust swirling around in the streams of sun light. Mail overflowing. Advertisements strewn over the entrance…does it sound familiar?

…bienvenue chez nous!…

chez van wyk

…entrez!…

fenetre chez nous 2 fenetre chez nous

fenetre chez nous 1 view to the loire

Back bending and hopeful we dug in. Into the garden. Into the house. Scraping, digging, pruning  shoveling. We drank water by the liters and turned to icy cold colas. We washed and rinsed, dusted and coughed, groaned and polished. Not to mention attacking the washing machine with vigour and gratitude! I forgot how to set the time on my microwave oven and wondered if I still needed it? I listened to the murmur of my dishwasher and wondered how on ever I got by for 5 months without! I now once agin appreciate my comfy and (for me), simple but luxurious kitchen and delighted in putting together a meal of fish and citrus fruit. Then we indulged in our dinner under the parasol, hearing the fountain, smelling the September bloom of jasmin, dreaming and planning for this second half of 2009.

…indulgement…

Citrus Scorpion fish

Citrus scorpion fish filets 1

Suggestions:

  • Scorpion fish is really delicious  and reminds somewhat of lobster flesh. But of course any fish can be used for this recipe and the method of cooking can be adapted as well. If on a diet and you want to stay away from sauteing, then go for poaching, or even roasting in the oven. Just make sure NOT to overcook the fish filets. In any case, fish should ALWAYS be done quickly, because a little standing time cooks the fish even further. Nothing is more off- putting than rubbered fish!! Another note on fish…do your guests the honour and favour, by  removing ALL the fish bones…the reason why many people shy away from fish!
  • Don’t raise the eyebrows for the amount of lemon segments…it really flavours the dish and it isn’t noticeable as..”eeuww…lemon!”
  • For a suggestion on  how a citrus fruit is segmented you can seethe slide show in a previous post here:  Citrus and carrot salad – how to segment an orange.
  • the orange flower water enhances the salad and it is a good idea to have it in your pantry as a few drops enhances many a dish. To harmonize with the citrus and orange flower flavour, the addition of a citrus honey would be perfect, but a flower honey is nice too, which is what I used. Try not to use acacia, since it competes with the orange flower water.
  • And lastly…DO have fun when cooking! Remember, cooking is all about Try, Test and Taste!!

…letting it marinate…

marinating the citrus salad 9-8-2009 4-17-59

Montlouis is situated on the banks of the wild, untamed Loire river in Touraine, 10 minutes from Tours, and on the route touristique…wines, chateaux, promenades, photograph tours and the special troglodytes of Touraines, where many people adore living in the caves. We also have 3 caves at the back in our property, going into the cliff. But more on that and les troglodytes and its lifestyles  next time. For now, a taste of la vie quotidienne d’une Montlouisienne(moi!)!

…je vous prèsente  Montlouis…

Approaching Montlouis

…then you turn right, then go up the hill, then.. then…

famous landmark of Montlouisup the hill to Montlouis

In the photo at the top left can be seen…an enormous bunch of grapes! Which at some stage was lit at night and it was a fountain, but now it only serves as the land mark of our little town. It forms part of every direction giving to deliveries and strangers and visitors:  “…et puis on va tout droit, et puis on tombe sur une horrible grappe de raisin, et puis on tourne à droite et puis….(then you go straight, then you will see a huge ugly bunch of grapes right next to the Loire, then you turn right up the hill, then…”)

Turning at this bunch of grapes takes you up a steep hill to la centre ville, where cars play second fiddle to walking and cycling, shopping and chatting.

…centre ville…

riding bicycle staircase

…walking and shopping…

centre ville hand in hand

It is a busy little town with festivals going on throughout the year..brocantes et vide greniers, jazz festivals in September, tomato festival at the chateau bourdaisiere in September, garden festival in april, bread festvals, wine festivals, food festvals, fresh market every Thursday. We have the jour de Loire, with all activities and actions circling around the river Loire. And just as we think  by the end of the year that the festivals are over, along comes the Christmas market, and we eat again, chat again, drink and buy wine again, shop for that star for le sapin noël

…religion, homes and war..

Montlouis church Madame Martin aux enfants de Montlouis

…need directions?…

Montlouis collage 9-9-2009 11-36-05 AM

Life is a hustle and bustle at Montlouis, while the Loire just nonchalantly continues snaking forward – silently  in summer and filling up with winterrains to a passionate and powerful flood..

Voilà a short introduction to the place we call home. There is more to come in follow ups- the festivals, the people of Montlouis, interviews with les vignerons(winemakers) and their pleasures, artists of the area, the caves and their history and all kinds of food, fun and flair! A bientôt!

…la Loire en septembre…

la loire from the top of the hill

…sunset in September…

sunset in September 3


Back to my french kitchen..in Montlouis

After almost five months here in the still undiscovered, secret countryside of Corréze, we are heading back home to Montlouis sur Loire. I will be exchanging my Corréze kitchen for my Montlouis kitchen!

…a barn kitchen in Puy d’Arnac…

a working kitchen

…Montlouis kitchen…

new kitchen 1

We’re locking up Coin Perdu for the winter:

Setting aside the wheelbarrows and cement mixers. starting the work Emptying the pantry in the Corréze kitchen corner. Stripping the beds of linen. Storing books and magazines away from humidity. Packing my art stuff. Taking my art stuff off the walls. A last sweep.

le boss finishing up A last grand créme at the brasserie Les voyageurs at Beaulie where the charming Cecile always brightens my day with a smile.

A last stroll to our little bench to throw a last glance across the valley.

One more photo. Packing Tokala and Aiyani in our peugeot bleu.

Shutting la porte de la grange.

Au revoir notre petit Coin Perdu!

…our corner in Corréze…

water in le pescher 5fences of correze 8

fences of correze 7bells of nonards 2

…lovely Cecile at Les voyageurs

Cecile a Les voyageursbrasserie Les voyageurs

May the owls be kept warm once again in the barn for this winter, may les vaches roam content on our hils, may les buses continue circuling the skies, may les chevreuils graze undisturbed down by the poplars and may the wild flowers welcome us bright and jovial on our return in the spring.

…working or fiddling

work or watching working or fiddling

…birthdays…

relaxing with a cidre dinner under the stars

digging in with the handsWe enjoyed  two birthdays, many sunsets and starry skies. We had good friends visiting us, staying with us in the barn. We had a surprise visit from good friends in South Africa.  We got to know our neighbors, Jean Pierre and Michéle and Yvonne, 86 years old and along with her chickens, as fit as a fiddle! We became regulars at the bar in Beaulieu, enjoyed  icy cold péche melba on hot afternoons, sipped aperitif at 17:00 along with all the other regulars.our own ruines

We did lots of hard work:  Turned the barn into a living home. Turned the old homestead into a construction site with ladders and cement and beams and trucks.  There were tears and frustration. Arguments. Difference of opinions. Anger, irritation, misunderstandings. We had blisters and bruises and still have. We rushed off to emergency with a slashed open head, got stitched up and continued working. But we also went for long strolls in the forest, nibbled on peaches and oranges.

…Liandri & Marinell…dreaming?…

dreaming perhaps 5-9-2009 8-23-10 PMtime for dreamining too 5-9-2009 8-35-07 PM

We became part of the heart beat of Corréze and we are going home, replenished and with vivid memories, patiently awaiting spring to restart it all over again. Of course! Can’t wait!

…a last glance…

le petit banc 9-4-2009 4-19-46 PM



Ice cream versus salad

Ice cream versus salad

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How I love painting. And tennis. And I do love my garden, my house. Shopping. What else. Oh yes, and I love eating! Good food, healthy food, bad food, ordinary food, new food, traditional food, adventurous food…all food.

I am sitting here right now, licking a huge Magnum ice cream. A double caramel! Sweet and nerve rackingly rich, deliciously creamy, luscious, sticky, voluptuous and sensual…and far too small. While I am indulging in my ice cream I have a healthy menu for you, a great one for a long, lingering lunch on a hot summers afternoon around a huge table with great friends!

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To start off: make a tomato mozzarella salad, using nice small vine tomatoes, some buffalo mozzarella torn into bite size pieces… stuff some in your mouth while you’re at it. Tear some basil leaves and lastly, sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and mill some fresh pepper and then add a sprinkling of finely chopped sun dried tomatoes.To finish off, mix gently with your hands and then lick off those fingers, serve on a pretty plate and enjoy with crusty bread.

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For the main meal you dig your beautiful platter out of the back of the cupboard, give it a rinse and then fill it with…crispy green leaves of your choice, mesclun, spinach, rocket and other herbs and don’t forget somecrunchy red cabbage sliced finely for great color and crunch….

In the middle you stack some cooked quinoa, first sauteed in coconut oil with some red onions and then cooked until just done.

On top of that, beet cut into chunks, hand fulls of organic grated carrot and around the rim, little bundles of steamed asparagus wrapped in prosciutto or parma ham. And finish off with a little sweetness; a handful of golden raisins and pumpkin seeds and a Calamata olive or two. I like some green peppercorns sprinkled too. Finish off with a vinaigrette of your choice, some more crusty bread, a bottle of good Rose and you’re off to hear all the Oohs and Aahs from your hungry, anticipating guests waiting at the table! And do enter with flare…why else have you gone to so much trouble!

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Dessert. No can’t do without dessert. To keep to the theme of health, you take lots and lots of strawberries…do the usual, and cut them roughly into chunks. Using a large fork, you crush them until pulpy but not to a puree. Then you add a large handful of chopped mint, which you ventured into your garden for early morning, with your hat and herbs scissors and gloves…and of course you pulled out some weeds while you were there. OK, the mint..you add this generous handful of mint to your strawberries and follow up with some balsamic vinegar and if you like your strawberries a bit sweeter, add some honey. Just before you put this beautiful dessert in the fridge, take a big spoonful to taste…you should be able to just sigh with pleasure, if not, then start over. Serve it in some beautiful glasses where its beauty can be seen. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt, drizzle with some honey, a swirl of syrupy reduced balsamic vinegar, a dash of milled black pepper and of course, a small mint leaf…and please, don’t plant a tree!

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So, off I go to fetch another Magnum…enjoy your lunch!


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