Tablesettings

Old French story plates.

I call them story plates. Those who follow this site will know how much I love stories and storytelling. We all do, I’m sure. Why else would we read book after book, watch movies, read biographies, buy art..they all tell stories and we each interpret them in our own way. We see our own lives twisted in the words and images. Some of us are just more of a sucker for sentiment than others. I am one of those.

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These little plates that I find at the brocantes make me laugh, sometimes they are very simple, a poem, a line, a title, sometimes  razor sharp in irony, but they are always true to depicting the experiences and life of the moment, which is what makes a story, which is what history is made of, and which explains why a later generation is so taken with “old” and “antique” and “vintage”,  history and the ever popular French brocante.

I would like to share some of these story plates with you. Each time I use a plate, I laugh again at the story, even though I know them all by heart! They are every day plates and I am amazed at how I can sometimes be lifted up on a dreary day by just using one of these story plates.

N° 6, Mme Angot’s daughter: A later, more “modern” story plate:

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N° 12, En voyage: My first plate, bought many years ago,tells the joke/funny story of an old, distinguished gentleman taking the train and pulling the alarm, which had the train stop and all the police swarming to the train. Ever so innocent, he asked them why they stopped the train? He was sleeping and then took a bath and rang the alarm(bell) for some towels..!

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N° 5, Mauvaise farce (bad jokes): The story plates are usually in series and numbered in the series. This is the series about bad jokes… placing a bucket of water on a half opened door …

storyplates 2N° 11, Les déjeuners comiques(funny meals): This is my favorite little plate. it is so cunning! This one is titled Le déjeuner economique (cheap lunch).

storyplates 7-001N° 9, Rigolades(laughs): Then there are those plates which have the most beautiful borders, like this one and the following green plates. The little story is very simple. This series is called .

storyplates 9-001N° 4,  Les sports: I adore the border of this plate,it is so elegant. This series depict sports and of course ice skating on the frozen European lakes was a big pastime for men and women..I loved the clothes of the women of times gone by.. I just wonder how they got around on those skates…the way I fall definitely demands some trousers!

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Amusez vous bien en lisant ces petites histores et à bientôt!

Ronelle


Quick fleur de sel grissinis..and Past Decembers, chronicles 2: tables.

I like to nibble on a grissini with a glass of wine. It prevents the wine making me do stupid things.. Or dunk it in a cup of tomato soup, a gazpacho.. But frankly, the store bought grissini are awful. No matter how expensive or grand they are. They taste like compacted paper. Maybe you agree. Then you might enjoy this recipe which is so easy and so quick and so delicious and has absolutely nothing to do with compacted paper!

The recipe is so easy, I can do it in only two sentences…

  1. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry and cut into strips of about 15mm and divide each strip into two short strips. Brush the flat strips with one beaten egg.
  2. Take each strip at the ends and twist while you stretch a little at the same time . Place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fleur de sel, freshly ground pepper and crushed red pepper berries.
  3. Place under grill for 8 minutes until golden, remove from the oven, turn them over, return and grill for another 8 minutes until golden.
  4. Remove and leave to cool.
  5. Can be stored in an airtight container for a week.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on the flat strips, before twisting them. In which case you have to check your addition of salt, because the Parmesan is already very salty.
  • Use other interesting salts..vanilla salt, sea salt, saffron salt(see photo of ingredients), maldon salt…
  • Use some seeds of your choice. I’m not too fond of seeds like poppy seeds, which has no taste whatsoever and only embarrassingly sticks in between your teeth..
  • Take care not to over bake your strips so they too indeed become compacted paper.
  • Serve with a glass of wine or champagne or soup,  in summer with a cold gazpacho.
  • Sprinkle with sugar for something to serve with dessert or a champagne in summer.
  • Bake only with brushed olive oil and when out of the oven, still warm, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.
  • Brush with melted butter for more flavor instead of olive oil.

..ingredients..

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As is the case all over the globe, December is family time. A time to snuggle in front of fires or laze on beaches and close to Christmas, we get together with families to open tins of cookies and traditional foods and drinks. Of course. It is Christmas. A time to remember. A time to forgive and forget. A time for peace..there is a song that says it all…

Its a time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease..”

Mistletoe and wine -Cliff Richard

Getting together with families, whether only one or ten, we do it around tables and food than matter to us. After all, food is more than just nourishment for our bodies. It also feeds our senses.  Our  sensitive souls. Yes, a soul is a sensitive thing, we fight and cry and love with our souls.When we sit around a table and taste our apple pie, we remember our parents, our childhood, our children. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. It is all good. We are feeding our souls.

Like the Chronicles 1 I have decided to also show our family tables, because it has now changed too…our Christmas table for the last 7 years at home  has seated only  our small family of 4. We have now grown to a wonderful 6 around the table! An exciting new chapter!

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I’ll leave you in peace to browse if you like or skip top the bottom if you don’t.

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  • More photos of Decembers past can be seen in my gallery on the sidebar..Joyeux Noël.
  • Music to add to your December playlist..Une Nuit à Versailles – Vanessa Paradis. I am quite the fan. Sure, there are some songs I skip, but mostly I enjoy them all. this is her  4th live album..hope you enjoy. Here is one of the songs..Il Y A
  • Tomorrow I will see you with the last walk through memory lane… Easy caramel squares..and Chronicles III, backstage.

à plus!

Ronelle


Ambiance – Art et Décoration magazines and books.

I am preparing a post on Pierrot Gourmand, our very popular and well known “clown” associated with lollipops and ‘bonbons’ here. While I am/was busy writing and making lollipops and driving everywhere to photograph Pierrot and his lollipops all over town, I ran into a book which found it’s way(all on its own, believe me) into my basket(that one that fills up far too quickly in a book store…!). Jardins a vivre, from Art et Décoration. Since my post on “cher Pierrot” is taking quite long,  I thought I would share some images of this book and of two others,  with you in the meantime. I don’t know if they are available in English, because it is books based on the magazine, Art et Décoration, a French magazine I’ve been buying for more than 16 years, on and off. Apart from my most favorite magazine Campagne Décoration, which was born in 2000 and of which I haven’t missed a single issue since 2001, Art et Décoration is the magazine I’ve been buying the longest, albeit sporadically…browse through it in the store and then decide if it has enough tips to own it. But more about Décoration Campagne later, let’s talk about Art et Décoration for now.

The latest trend for magazines is to capture their articles and particularly the images into hard bound  pretty coffee table books. Art et Décoration did exactly that. Very nice books to browse, have on your coffee table or fall asleep with!

So, let’s indulge in some of the magnificent images from the three following books:

1. Jardins à vivre;  Karine Villame, Collectif; Massin

..a rustic shower by the pool..

crédits photograpiques: B. Boigontier

…a rustic garden gate…

crédits photographiques: A Réty

..a water feature with an oeil de boeuf..

crédits photographiques: P. Smith

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Recevoir; Art et decoration; Massin

…entertaining in the garden under the “tonnelle”…

Crédites photographiques: B. boigontier.

…open kitchen with a “piano  La Cornue“…

Crédits photographiques: B. Boigontier

…entertaining on the terrace…

Crédit photographique: B. Boigontier

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Maisons de famille,  Karine Lalbatry; Massin

I love the chapter on the “marquises” over the doors. Just a little protection from the rain without having a whole veranda or entrance.

crédit photographique : O. Hallot

..bathroom with “paniers” for storage…

crédit photographique: C Erwin

..simply decorated bedroom with clean lines…

crédit photographique: P. Binet

…courtyard with old stables turned into bedrooms…

crédit photographique: P. Smith

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I hope you enjoyed this short tour with me.

Other books from Art et décoration:

*Recup & brocante; Karine Villame, Collectif; Massin.

*Maisons de Provence; Art et Decoration; Massin

Until we meet next time with a succette(lollipop) and Pierrot Gourmand!

Ronelle


Les oeufs Mimosa(deviled eggs) for an Easter brunch.

Easter weekend is around our tables.. Families are preparing for visitors, or are preparing to hit the road to family.. We’re doing neither, but we prepare for an Easter brunch le Lundi de Pacques, just the two of us, mon chéri et moi. I have sent a sweet message Upstairs asking for a sunny day, so we can enjoy our lunch outside . But if I don’t get my wish, we will still have our brunch, albeit in the barn. Just as perfect.

Instead of showing Easter chocolate and with our two little hens being so prolific in their egg producing, I decided to do some deviled eggs, or as we call them here in France, Les oeufs Mimosa, reminding of the mimosa flowers which are of the first signs of spring here and it happens all around Easter. I had to do a search about why it is called deviled eggs…

According to Wikipedia it originated in ancient Rome…go figure. Apparently “deviled” referred to the spicy nature of the food.  The deviled egg gourmet has a description of the origin of the term deviled which you can read for some more info. I prefer to call them eggs Mimosa, like we do here in France. We push the hard boiled egg yolk through a fine sieve, having it look like the Mimosa flowers of early spring, which we sprinkle over the filled egg halves, so it looks like we have sprinkled some Mimosa petals over our egg halves. It is a little bit of old French cooking  but still sort of romantic, don’t you think? I revisited the “egg halve” -presentation, serving it with a salad of green vegetable brunoise.

So, without any further ado, I present some Easter Oeufs Mimosa revisités to you!

Suggestions:

  • If you have a rectangle inox shape, it works easy to shape it in the rectangle, I don’t have rectangle ones, but I do plan on getting, they work fantastic!
  • The Mimosa eggs can also be served in “petites verrines“, small glasses. Start off with toasted croutons at the bottom, follow with egg white, then the egg yolk cream en finish by decorating with the “mimosa”( the fine grated egg yolk).
  • OR make an egg sandwich , adding some of the salad to the filling too.
  • OR serve the egg whites and egg yolk cream and salad in small bowls, with toasted bread rounds separately for an aperitif i summer outside by the pool and each one serves himself/herself a small piece of toast with a scoop of whatever he/she feels like  topping up with.

Serves 4 people for starter

..large geese eggs, ordinary chicken eggs and small eggs from my little bantam hens…

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A spring brunch and geese and chicken chronicles.

I’d like you to meet our two new feathered children…Sidonie et Aglaé. They are named after a 70′s French television show, called Sidonie et Aglaé.

They showed up last Sunday and after a week of discovering the farm, they already have their favorite spots and they continue roaming about, following me or the chickens or the cats. They love company and I , of course, love their company too!!

Sidonie et Aglaé

Since I am still in the process of constructing our little lake for the geese and the ducks and the peacocks and….and…, they have to make do with two large bowls for some swimming. Do they complain? On the contrary, looking at the photos below, they are having a ball! Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we all could be happy with so little…?

Camembert, Mimolette et Ciboulette are not disturbed by the newcomers. They do their thing tranquilement, happy as always – the amount of tiny eggs I have at the end of a week, is proof enough! I used their eggs to make some oeufs Mimosas for Easter, to be seen at Myfrenchkitchen, Les oeufs Mimosa, for an Easter brunch.

…Camembert..

…Ciboulette…

…Mimolette…

..and a very simple spring brunch last week with two good friends..

I am showing off my very simple but very wonderful day here…far too many photos of the same thing! But, it was such a glorious midday in early spring and we lingered lazily  under the still-leafless walnut and tilleul trees. I can’t stop reveling in the colors of the spring sky and the sun and the greens of the fields, the color of the air…everything…spring gives me such a kick!

Today is Vendredi  saint, which means for the roman Catholics that it is the Friday of fasting just before Pacques, of spiritual day of rest, peace, restrain from eating and alcohol and just quiet reflection. Many places were closed today, depending on the prefecture of the region. the death of Christ on the cross is celebrated and even Christians are invited to join in this “chemin du croix“. Because we have many friends in the Catholic religion, we too will respect this tradition and we will spend a quiet evening, with salmon, some salad and water and reflection.

 I wish you a wonderful Easter weekend !

à bientôt

Ronelle


Chocolate mousse..and memories of christmas dinners.

Christmas time is chocolat time. A feather light chocolate mousse. The perfect ending to a magical christmas dinner. And in January we’ll go on a diet.


This is a recipe from Chocolate desserts by Pierre Hermé. I’ve been making this mousse for many years and haven’t found a recipe that is so light and delicious as this one…it is a true winner !!

Suggestions:

  • This is a basic mousse recipe…add some flavor the your mousse by infusing the milk with grated orange zest, or a tsp of coffee, or a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, any other Christmas spices.
  • Using milk makes for a lighter mousse, but if you want it richer and creamier, use cream instead of milk. I even go so far as tu use 2 percent milk.
  • The longer the mousse stands, the creamier and denser it becomes, but it is still good. I prefer to make my mousse nothing more than 12 hours in advance…having a beautiful feather light chocolat mousse.
  • It can be kept up to two days in the fridge.
  • Cover the mousse when chilling it in the firdge to prevent it from absorbing other flavors in the fridge.
  • Serve as individual portions in glasses, or scoop quenelles from a glass dish onto a plate.
  • See how to make quenelles.
  • Decorate with chocolate shavings or a touch of edible gold leaf.

…and memories of christmas dinners…

How can we dwell on our past, delight in experiences long ago and not remember past years spent around a christmas table. Always special, however small or simple. Each table has a story of its own…one year a daughter arrived long after midnight from a long and problematic journey, one year there was a last meal with an elegant and fragile neighbor, one year was spent in the company of a crazy crowd of friends , one year delivered an utterly chaotic and catastrophical dinner ..one year was sad with last goodbyes, one year was spent alone and tearful in a strange country…so many christmas dinners, so many stories, so many memories…

May you have great memories of past dinners…whether you were with family or friends, or whether you were alone, or whether they were sad times…whatever the case…they are yours, cherish them, becausethey give you a history. A past.

…à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle


A summer apricot soup amuse bouche and une fête d’été!

An apricot soup says SUMMER! in so many ways.In its bright yellow color we find the warmth of mid summer days. The flavor has us  smelling the shadows of big overhanging tree branches…that afternoon nap after the pic-nique. And the taste…the taste that makes us hear les cigales in the heat of the day, see les guêpes hoovering over all the sweet delicacies of our al fresco meals… So. If you’re in the mood for a little summer heat and holiday…take to an apricot soup, close your eyes and see yourself  stretched out in the fields, chewing on a grass sprig, dozing off  with a heavy summer laze and then just lose yourself in being the happiest soul walking this earth!

*Une petite soupe d’abricot est indispensable pour l’été. Sa couleur nous donne la chaleur des journées dorées. Dans son saveur on sent les ombres des rameaux d’un grand noyer et on a envie de  s’allonger et fermer les yeux pour un petit moment magique. Et le goût…le goût nous donne l’impression d’entendre les cigales, de voir les guêpes qui dérangent la tranquilité d’un repas al fresco. Alors. Goûtons cette petite soupe et laissons notre imaginaire nous transporter vers un champ où on s’allonge dans l’herbe et nos pensées disparaissent dans les nuages de rêves et de bonheur.



Suggestions:

  • Try this also with soft ripe peaches.
  • Use a rose wine instead of a white.
  • for a completely vegetarian dish, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Serve with a fresh traditional baguette, topped with some melted camembert cheese.

VF:

  • Substituez avec des pèches.
  • Remplacez le vin blanc par une rosé.
  • Pour la version végétarienne, replacer le bouillon de poulet par un bouillon de légumes.
  • Servez accompagnée d’une baguette ancienne et son camembert fondu.

…un brunch d’été…

With two weeks left before the summer holidays, it is now or never to have a fete d’ete with all our friends before they all take off with their straw hats  and tanning lotions. Let’s make it special. Make it fun. Make it beautiful and dreamy. Summer. Gay with color. Inviting.

*Dans deux semaines on arrive au début de vacances d’été. Il reste donc qu’un petit bout de temps pour se régaler une toute dernière fois avec nos amies, avant qu’on prenne la route, armée de nos crèmes solaires et les espadrilles! Allé! Faisons une fête spéciale. Gracieuse. Chaleureuse.  Merveilleusement habillée avec les couleurs gaies de l’été.

…rustic romance for a brunch…

Choose a corner in the garden.

On cherche un coin dans le jardin.

…a view on summer…

Go overboard on flowers and plants. Don’t spend money on buying flowers. Pick all kinds of greenery and even herbs and don’t overlook the beauty of weeds all around you. Ask a friend for trimmings which are happening now to pump new life into plants. Buy some seedlings or summer plants instead that can be planted afterward in the garden. They come at cheap prices everywhere now and buy them in trays. Set the trays as is on your tables and in your serving corners. Tie some rafia or some sisal around for a ristic garden look. And don’t forget to send a few plants in a cute container home with your friends, which they can plant in a pot or their own garden. And DON”T do what I did….have so much fun that you forget to give each friend her plants at going home time!

*Il y’a un choix exubérant de  fleurs et  de plantes. Ne dépensez pas d’argent sur les fleurs en commerce. Elles sont libres et abondantes tout autour de nous. Pensez aux herbes, aux feuillages, même les mauvaises herbes qui poussent sans cesse avec une beauté plus subtile. Surtout on a des voisins et des amis qui font une nettoyage de saison en ce moment, donnant une nouvelle vie saisonnier au jardin. Passez par la jardinerie et achetez des barquettes de fleurs d’été, qui peut servir pour la décoration de table et  comme cadeaux pour nos invités, voir plantée dans leurs propres coins du jardin.

…pétunias in trays and all things garden…

…serving corners…

…umbreallas at the ready…

Have some colorful umbrellas close by for that urgent run in that rain to the bathroom! And in the same thinking frame…remember some suncream for those who prefer sitting in the sunny side, have an ecofriendly trap for the “gueppes” so you can  lunch in peace and provide lots of cool water if you are lucky to have a blasting hot summers day, but if not…a cozy little throw can provide some body heat if your day is cool and cloudy like we had on Friday!

*N’oubliez pas les jolies parapluies pour les courses sous la pluie ou pour se rendre à la maison. Et pourquoi pas une crème solaire pour ceux qui adorent s’installer en plein soleil. Une piège bio pour les omniprésentes guêpes sera un petit geste attentionné. Voir dans le cas d’une canicule, l’eau fraîche à boire nous éviterons de tomber dans un sommeil impolie. Pourtant, dans mon cas ce Vendredi dernier…cette scenario était impossible, car on est ici en France toujours capturé dans l’âge de glace!

..knee blankets and flowers do go together…

…cherries, freshly picked from a friends garden, a garden hat and pretty flower…

…garden tools and a warming fire…

Have your guests bring their favorite dish to the table. We had delicious quiches and gorgeous salads, which I hope to bring to you soon with the permission of my friends, we finished with magnificent  cheese a friend got fresh from the market earlier the morning and we feasted on local rose’s and homemade moelleux wine with our strawberry soup.

*Les amies apprécient toujours contribuer à la table, n’hésitez pas à demander une bonne quiche ou une salade gourmande, comme elles sont faites pour notre brunch. Puis, on a terminé le brunch avec du fromage du marché, une soupe de fraises pour un dessert et ce festin était accompagné par une bonnes rosé d’Evres et un moelleux fait maison par ma gentille voisine Claudine!

A fete d’ete indeed. More than that. An uplifiting 5 hours spent with lovely ladies, funny ladies, creative ladies. Friends. Summer. Good food. And so traditionally french,  we tasted, examined, commented, complimented, changed the recipe, suggested alternative ingredients, discussed accompanying wines, and simply savored each helping. 

*Voila une vraie fete! En fait, beaucoup plus que ça. C’était quelques 5 heures passées dans la compagnie de femmes très sympas, drôles et créatives. Les amies. L’été. Une bonne table. Et comme la tradition dicte toujours en France, nous avons goûté et fait des propositions de différentes  ingrédients. On a testée, examinée, changée les recettes, discutée les vins comme des pros… bref…un après-midi savoureux et chaleureux!

Then we said our goodbyes and gave our “bisous” with promises of outings to chateaux…and a lunch.. To show gardens…and a lunch. To walks around town…and a lunch. To hiking trails…and a lunch. To painting days…and a lunch. to music concerts…and a lunch. The moral of the story? We have to seize the moment.
So c’mon! Deck the garden, load the table with fresh produce! Call up your friends! Chill the wine! Life is short…grab onto it with in a fork in the one hand and a joie de vivre in the other!

*Nous avons faites nos bisous avec de sacrées promesses de se réunir en visites des châteaux…et un lunch. Des promenades en ville…et un lunch. Des rencontres Van goghe-esques…et un lunch. Les concerts musiques…et un lunch. Alors. On comprend qu’une chose. Il faut profiter de chaque moment!

Allez! appelons nos amies!Ouvrons le portail! Faisons le marché! Décapitons le champagne! La vie passe trop vite…profitons-en avec une fourchette et un joie de vivre triomphant!

…passez une bonne été et à la prochaine!…


December ambiance 2008 with cinnamon dumplings

…a message…

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Like last year, it is time for a little December ambiance. On the 1st December, we dress up our tree and charm up some corners, put on music, light candles, drink wine and end the day with a special meal. It puts us in the mood for winter, brightens the grey days, stalks the blues, lifts the spirits, welcomes the rain and the frost and if we’re lucky, brings on some snow. Just as they do in the Northern countries, we burn tea lights every evening, light lanterns outside and finish the evenings with a hot chocolate by the fireplace. This year saw some cheating in decorating the tree, which had been a few days earlier…but that’s OK; it’s always good to break tradition a bit!

A traditional dessert of cinnamon dumplings, finishes off this 1st of December. May your December 2008 be as spirited and bright and gay as you want it to be.

…cinnamon dumplings…

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cinnamondumpl

*Recipe adapted from “Huisgenoot wenresepte 2 “, written by Annette human and  originally entered by Mrs. C. Ligthelm of Pretoria, SA.

…captured…

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…perfection…

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…shimmering crystals…

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…joyeux noël…

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…shh…

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…a frosty visit…

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…looking out…

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…let’s read..

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…les poêmes et le sapin…

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…where’s the snow?…

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…corners and candles…

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First day of December

The first of December is officially the day we “start” the festive season here in our home. Our tree gets decorated today, we switch on our fairy lights, hang a garland and listen to the first Christmas music. Then we end the day with a nice dinner by candle light.

To kickstart December 2007, a little ambiance…

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A full moon in Andorra…

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“I saw the angel in the marble and carved and set him free”, said Michelangelo…

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Shimmering crystals…

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Preparations…

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A portion of dessert…

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Nostalgia…

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Montlouis moelleux…

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Lanterns in the snow…

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A White Christmas…

After all the decorating and cleaning up afterwards on this first day of the season, an easy meal is the only option. This vegetable dish is quick, there are no measurements and the hardest work is just peeling some onions and poaching an egg or two, which can be left out of course! Open a bottle of wine, finish off with a scoop of ice cream and a sauce of your choice – I love a berry coulis, but when push comes to shove, I can enjoy a vanilla ice cream just on its own. Sit back with an espresso and enjoy the lights and music and spirit of Noël.

May your December be filled with gratitude and joy.

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Vegetable gratin

  • vegetables of your choice, cleaned or peeled and cut into chunks - in the photo: sweet potatoes, red onions, brussels sprouts, parsnips and mushrooms.
  • a pickled lemon, diced
  • 2 branches of fresh rosemary
  • 2 bayleaves
  • a  few slices of a creamy camambert cheese
  • a poached egg for each person
  • créme fraîche (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
  2. Place the chunks of vegetables in an oven pan and drizzle libereally with oil. Season.
  3. Tuck the bayleaves and rosemary inbetween the vegetables.
  4. Bake the vegetables until tender.
  5. Remove from the oven and serve a portion into an ovenproof bowl.
  6. Add a dollop of créme fraîche (optional)
  7. Cover with a slice or two of Camambert cheese and put under the grill until the cheese has melted and the vegetables have a nice caramelized appearance.
  8. Slide a poached egg onto the cheese and drizzle some olive oil and finish off with some ground fresh pepper.
  9. Serve warm with brown rice, quinoa or a whole wheat bread.

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A beautiful table

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A beautifully set table makes all the difference to a meal. Our good friends are leaving for Australia to visit their children for Christmas and we shared a lovely lunch this past weekend at their beautiful home in the French country side…saying our thanks for this year, our goodbyes as well as just sharing good home cooked food.

I present to you her gorgeous table.

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A cocktail was made by another friend, Carol, perfect to start our afternoon off with….Tequila sunrise: Mix about 3 parts of orange juice to 1 part of Tequila. Slowly pour in some grenadine to have it sink to the bottom and serve with a slice of lime or lemon, or dip the glass rim in lime and sugar.

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The demand was high for comfort food, so that was the menu for this sunny winter’s afternoon. Starting off with the Tequila sunrise got us into the mood to continue with a goat’s cheese amuse bouche in Joanna’s pretty rose coloured glasses.

Take some soft goats’ cheese, and roll into balls. Keep refrigerated until needed. Finely chop some black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, basil leaves. Add some olive oil,  syrupy balsamic vinegar, a dash of lemon juice and some grated lemon rind. Mix it all together. Place a spoonful of olive mixture in a pretty glass, top with a goats’ cheese ball and finish off with a sprinkling of the olive mixture, a drizzle of olive oil and a small basil leaf. No quantities are given…taste as you go along and add or leave out as your taste-buds dictate. Adapted from a recipe of Sharon.

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Then we followed up with a carrot and pineapple soup, lingered over heartwarming, old fashioned shepherd’s pie, creamed spinach and roasted parsnips with rosemary and maple syrup. A great wine and enthusiastic conversation brought us to dessert; steamed ginger pudding and a pumpkin flummery with rich, voluptuous home made custard.

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The end of a memorable afternoon; a fire crackling in the fireplace, music softly sounding up in the background, the sun playing frivolously on the glassware,  the intermingling of voices and laughter – like J.R.R Tolkien said: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.


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