winter

“In the shade of the walnut tree” featured in a magazine.

I wrote an article for LEEF, an Afrikaans magazine in SA, about our life here in France. Their February summer issue was devoted to all things French and I was asked to do a contribution. I called it “In the shade of the walnut tree”. This is our favorite spot in summer time where we enjoy our apéros and amuses bouches, long lazy lunches and philosophical discussions.

leef 10001-001So…for the Afrikaans readers out there; the February issue of LEEF magazine is still available on the shelves. For my English and other readers I will soon translate the article into English and post it here.

Nonards 2563x1895.NEF

In the meantime, here in the French countryside we are enveloped in the blankets of winter with misty days, rain, and cloudy skies.  It makes for an ambiance filled season and we all enjoy gathering in the bistros around cups of coffee or chocolat chauds. Those more daring go for a glass of Ricard. We talk about the cold and the rain congested soil and what we’re having for dinner. Nestled in the misty hills, the chimneys have trails of smoke. The kitchens smell of les potages, soupes et veloutés and long sauce bourguignons.  Our animals are safely sheltered in the stables while the fields are left bare  for regrowth. We are cocooning.

chocolat

Correze country side

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à la prochaine fois!

Ronelle


Country onion soup(Soupe à l’oignon champêtre)

Winter has suddenly hit us with a bang and out came the soups of which onion soup is a favorite. The secret of a good onion soup rests on a good stock (preferably homemade) and of course the slow, deep caramelizing of the onions. If you want a quick soup for dinner, this is not it. But no doubt, for a cold day, an onion soup, topped with a melted cheese crouton, is pure heaven.

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soupe l'oignon recette-001

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • The longer you can caramelize your onions, the more flavorful they will be. It is a myth that onions can be caramelized within 10 minutes.
  • I cut my onions in quarters and then slice the quarters finely, because I don’t like long strips dripping soup  from my spoon.
  • To serve country style, serve the soup in a tureen with the croutons on top and serve each portion from the tureen.
  • It can also be served individually by placing a slice of bread on the soup, top with cheese and grill for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
  • Don’t be skimpy with the thyme as it adds to the flavor.
  • To really serve a soup and not soaked bread, don’t serve too much bread in the soup, for it soaks up a lot of the liquid and you will be left with only onions and soaked bread.
  • Serve the soup hot in warmed  bowls.

..a variety of onions..

Onion soup 1 3314x3096 3314x3096

..onions cut into quarters and sliced thinly, cooked until translucent and caramelized until dark and soft…

soupe a l'oignon

countrybread, called a tourte here inCorréze, sliced and torn into smaller portions..

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..Vieux Cantal( aged Cantal cheese) broken into small chunks and sprinkled on the bread and soup for a country dinner..

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To all my American friends and readers…have a Happy Thanksgiving!

..à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle


Velouté de butternut..and footprints in the snow.

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“Un rideau de flocons blancs ininterrompu miroitait sans cesse en descendant vers la terre; il effaçait les formes, poudrait les choses d’une mousse de glace; et l’on n’entendait plus, dans le grand silence de la ville calme et ensevelie sous l’hiver, que ce froissement vague, innommable et flottant de la neige qui tombe, plutôt sensation que bruit , entremêlement d’atomes légers qui semblaient emplir l’espace, couvrir le monde.” Guy de Maupassant, boule de suif.

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“It was early autumn, then, before the snow began to fly. –(There’s an expression for you, born in the country, born from the imaginations of men and their feeling for the right word, the only word, to mirror clearly what they see! Those with few words must know how to use them.) Men who have seen it, who have watched it day by day outside their cabin window coming down from the sky, like the visible remorse of an aging year; who have watched it bead upon the ears of the horses they rode, muffle the sound of hoofs on the trail, lie upon spruce boughs and over grass – cover, as if forever, the landscape in which they moved, round off the mountains, blanket the ice in the rivers – for them the snow flies. The snow doesn’t fall. It may ride the wind. It may descend slowly, in utter quiet, from the grey and laden clouds, so that you can hear the flakes touching lightly on the wide white waste, as they come to rest at the end of their flight. Flight – that’s the word. They beat in the air like wings, as if reluctant ever to touch the ground. I have observed them coming down, on a very cold day, near its end when the sky above me was still blue, in flakes great and wide as the palm of my hand. They were like immense moths winging down in the twilight, making the silence about me visible.” – Howard O’Hagan Tay John

…Voilà coin Perdu in January! Quiet and silent behind its curtain of white…

neige 2013-023..Our barn, where we are living until the house is finished..

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..A view on the bench, where I dream and plan, except in winter. Then I dream and plan by the fire..

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..Forgotten socks …

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..and terracotta pots waiting to be cleaned..

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..Two adorable faces, waiting for fresh hay..

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..The Eiffle tower, a bit askew in the potager..

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..Old barrel rims, waiting to become arches in the potager..

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..The wine bottle rack, serving some different purpose every so often..

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..The road to la toilette requires snow boots..

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..”La toilette” in snow attire..

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..Velouté de butternut..

velouté de butternut 1Recipe:

  1. Clean and chop and onion and fry in some olive oil.
  2. Add some cleaned Butternut, cut into chunks.
  3. Cover with vegetable or chicken stock until vegetables are completely covered. simmer until very tender.
  4. Mix to a puree and put back on gentle heat.
  5. Add coconut milk to the soup according to your preference.. Season and leave to simmer gently on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the juice of 1 orange, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve warm with freshly grated nutmeg and crusty bread.

So, on this quiet, hushed snow note, I leave you..

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Un Noël à la campagne 5: Apple turrets with amaretto sauce…and joyeux Noël!

This is the last post of our menu and it is with a touch of sadness that I say goodbye for now… I enjoyed sharing this menu with all of you and I enjoyed all the comments and visits and stories, kindness and care. Thank you!

apple turret with amaretto sauce large

With this festive dessert  I wish you all a very joyeux Noël. May you all be just as festive in spirit!

Recette:

  1. Cut 4 apples in 4 slices.
  2. Melt butter and dip the slices in the melted butter.
  3. Marinate some dried raisins, nuts and cranberries in amaretto liqueur.
  4. Rollther apple slices in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon and restack the slices to form a turret of apple with fruit in between the layers.
  5. Place in an oven proof oven pan, top with a knob of butter and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Sauce: Heat 150ml milk and 150 ml cream. Whisk together 3 egg yolks and 40g sugar until light and thick. Add to the warm milk while whisking and continue whisking the mixture until it thickens. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve.
  7. Add a tsp of amaretto liqueur. Sprinkle with sugar to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool.
  8. Serve an apple on a plate, decorate with star anise, cinnamon stick and a spooning of sauce. Sprinkle some gold leaf and serve.

serves 4 people

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Joyeux noël…Merry Christmas…Geseënde Kersfees!!!

à bientôt

Ronelle


Un Noël à la campagne 4: Beef tournedos with bone marrow and steamed vegetable parcels.

Et voilà! Le plat principal ( the main dish)! Beef tournedos with bone marrow and steamed vegetable parcels. The beef is local, from our Limousin department and couldn’t be more tender..it is cut from the filet and enjoyed with the marrow served on top, sprinkled withmy favorite fleur de sel..wonderful…I am a hypocrite, I can’t be a vegetarian! The sauce is made from a shallot, red wine, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a few cubes of ice cold butter, whisked into the reduced wine sauce. If you have never made a simple red wine sauce like this, you are missing out on a succulent slice of life!

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beef tournedos & marrow recette1

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Tournedos cut from beef filet is the most tender pieces and need quick cooking.
  • Order of preparation to serve your tournedos/ 1. Prepare the vegetable parcels. 2. Bard the tournedos. 3.Cut the shallots for the sauce. 4.Cook the marrow. 5.Cook the meat. 6.Cook the vegetables. 7.Reduce the sauce. 8.Serve.
  • The cooking foil can withstand  temperatures of up to 220degr. C.
  • The marrow can be removed from the whole bone beforehand and poached in stock for 3-5 minutes, instead of frying in a pan.
  • Replace 1 cup of wine with 1 cup veal stock for a lighter sauce.
  • Instead of cooking the vegetable parcels in the microwave, it can be baked in the oven at 180 degr. C for about 15 minutes.
  •  Choose other vegetables, but keep to a maximum of three.
  • You can find professional cooking foil here and a demo on one way to use it.
  • Have fun!

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Our Christmas this year is once again in the barn with  dry mossed branches from the woods, stuck in a pot, assisted with rocks and stones from the “building site” ( the house area)..pampilles from Marinell’s wedding, rusted keys, and last but not least..our little owls. I am also somewhat off faerie lights and went for tiny lanterns instead, burning with a tealight every evening till late night. It sort of replaced our candle we usually burn for December in memory of everybody we love.

1noël 2012

16noël 2012

13noël 2012

14noël 2012

11noël 2012

18noël 2012

Isn’t it great to just for once in a year let the child in us loose, whichever way you choose it…? I hope by now your tree is up, how simple or elaborate..I hope you have a tiny something with a bow under your tree for someone else…I hope you have a candle burning…I hope you have love for someone around you, and I hope your heart is filled with hope..

19noël 2012

  • Tomorrow we will end our menu with an apple turret for dessert with a touch of amaretto..I just love dessert! One should enjoy dessert, small quantity, but it resounds off a meal beautifully..I can’t wait for tomorrow..why? Because I get to eat the dessert after I photographed it, of course!
  • I have to pass on another good French film; if you think you would like the previous ones I advised, you would like this too _ I am a sucker for vintage French films...La tranchée des espoirs.

à demain mes chers amis

Ronelle


Un noël à la campagne 1: Marinated herring and litchi cups, and foie gras with mango toasts.

It is a crazy time, the end of the year. Whether winter or summer, it is Christmas, gifts, parties, holidays, celebrations…and food. thank goodness it only happens once a year. I have decided to propose a menu over the following 5 days. A series of posts covering “Un Noël à la campagne“. (And non, it is NOT our Christmas menu.) I’ve chosen light food, a little bit more creamy, warm, cold, great French cheese and a showstopper dessert. But don’t fret. Most of the dishes can be made ahead of time and others without fuss or long processes. I hope it inspires you to play around with ideas of your own. The secret to a Christmas dinner is always… keep it simple and small and DON’T WASTE!

menu-un noël à la campagne
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..Apéritif :
..marinated herring and litchi cups and foie gras and mango bites..
litchi cups and foie gras bites
..recette..
apéritif recette
Pincée de fleur de sel:
  • Use any other fish you prefer, even tartare de poisson(raw fish).
  • Cut the litchis on the opposite sides of the stem to make for pretty “lids”.
  • Use small kiwis instead of litchis and crab meat instead of fish.
  • Eat with small demitasse spoons.
  • Keep in fridge until served.
  • Use ham or other preferred cold meat instead of foie gras.
  • When using cold beef, add some mustard between the layers.
  • Use other firm slices of fruit in season instead of mango.
  • Work on five helpings of each per person to leave room for the rest of the dinner to follow.
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Noël window displays in Paris:
On a cold evening last week in Paris, I grabbed mon chéri and my camera at 23:00 to go snap some images of Lafayette and Printemps, famous for their Noël window displays. Here are somze images and just for that child in you, click on the following images to see the displays in action.. These displays always make me giggle with pleasure!
..vitrine Luis Vuiton..
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..ball..Dior- Printemps..
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..Dior – Printemps..
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..my favorite vitrine!..ice skating – Printemps..it reminds me of myself..on the ice, wrong way up and wondering how to camouflage my embarrassment in the most elegant way!
lights 7
..at the ball – Printemps..
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..la Fayette house..
lights 3
..table exhibits;.
lights 12
..Lafayette house vitrine
lights 9
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  • The menu will continue tomorrow with the amuse bouche: Two salmon and avocado terrine.
  • A nice French film for December – Tous les matins du monde with Gèrard Dépardieu ane Anne Brochet. It won the Louis Delluc prize for best film and the César for best music in 1992.
  • Some links of the window displays:

à demain

Ronelle


Easy and quick caramel squares..and December chronicles 3: Backstage.

Don’t you just love it when a recipe says in its first line..easy and quick? I definitely do! With these last three daily  posts, I had to think of very quick and easy but still delicious recipes and it being a time of nostalgia, this little recipe came to mind…It is not a stunner, but still a delicious little snack. It is even easy enough for young children to make….keeping them busy during the upcoming holidays.

My sister made this treat regularly so many years ago when she was living in her tiny apartement during university years. I loved visiting her on weekends with my parents, sure in the knowledge that this delicacy would be waiting in her fridge.  It is sort of one of those treats that was part of a certain era and then disappeared. It was great for students to make on their desks in their rooms, without the need for cooking facilities.

You need only 2 ingredients: 2 packets of butter biscuits and a can of caramelized condensed milk. If you live in SA or a country which has “tennis biscuits”, then that is exactly what you will use. It has a slight coconut taste and it absorbs the caramel nicely to go all tasty soft and flavorful. Here I used le grand petit beurre from St. Michel, which is a nice square shaped biscuit. I also used  confiture de lait by Bonne Maman (what will we do here in France without Bonne Maman?).

  1. Place two biscuits next to each other on a sheet of baking paper.
  2. Spread the caramelized condensed milk thickly over both biscuits.
  3. Place two more biscuits on top of the caramel layer.
  4. Continue until you have about 9 to 10 layers of biscuits.
  5. Close up tightly with the baking paper and wrap tightly(without crushing the biscuits!) in  tin foil.
  6. Leave overnight.
  7. Will keep about a week or even longer in an airtight container in the fridge.
  8. Cut in slices and serve with a coffee or tea.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Try using nutella instead of caramelized condensed milk.
  • The longer it stand, the better the flavor and softer the biscuits become.

caramel squares_ collage

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Backstage. If there is one thing we all have in common, it is that “fun” behind the scenes. But, I am unfortunately not Jacky Chan, so my behind the scenes will probably only have significance for me and no one else. It is a bit like the friend who comes back with  photos from Russia, taken with his expensive Canon and ten lenses, and entertains you with great enthusiasm to his hundreds of touristy cathedrals and fountains and bridges and museums, while your jaw aches from biting back your yawning. But just maybe seeing a bit of my backstage scenes, will have you run to your photos to remember your own backstage times with loved ones.

We are always in our total number represented in the kitchen, stretching over one another, reaching over heads for a tool, tasting, licking, nibbling, fighting. It is amazing the busyness only 4 people can cause in a kitchen..

These are truly precious memories..

Not everything that came out of the kitchen was that big a success, but that didn’t matter in the least..we made our flops together, that is what counts.

Even guests had to pitch in, and they did it with enthusiasm… for that reason I have plenty of tabliers(aprons).

One thing to be found in practically all our scenes, is the opening of oysters. It is the task of mon chéri. I will probably lose all my fingers, because I have never opened an oyster! and mon chéri and our youngest daughter always have to get into a dish cloth fight..in the kitchen!

We normally start off our evening of Réveillon with some vin chaud et apéritifs in the living room. then we start warming up and finish off our menu and seat ourselves at the table where an amuse bouche is awaiting us. I always have something ready at the table when guests seat themselves..it adds to the expectation and while everybody start eating their amuse bouche and have their wine poured and just simply settle at the table, it gives me the time to finish off the starter. Our entrée(starter) is plated in the kitchen.

After the starter, we bring the plat principal(main course) arranged on a large platter to the table, where we keep it warm over a flame. It is normally fish and a vegetable accompaniment, all arranged on one platter. We follow that up with a cheese board..

..and end of course our dinner with la piéce de résistance….le dessert! Byt that time, we are close to midnight,; which is the time we pass around our gifts. But before that, we go for a late pre-midnight walk..or rahter that is what we used top do in the Loire house – we went for a walk by the Loire, just to walk down some calories. On arriving back home, we warm ourselves by the fireplace,  make coffee and start opening up gifts..slowly, deliberately, lingering on each moment.

Christmas day followed about the same pattern, except that we ate earlier and afterwards we walked up to the DVD store and rented a DVD while we had coffee and chocolates a and fell asleep before halfway through the movie..

Thank you for sharing this trip down memory lane with me. If nothing else, I hope it took you on your own roads back, remember with tenderness all the good and I hope it inspires you to make many new memories this December and note them down, either in words or in pictures.

Merci 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


Vin chaud..and Decembers past, chronicles I: trees

Vin chaud definitely has its place in our home during the winter months..which haven’t shown up yet..but I will be ready! It infuses the home with wonderful December flavors and cupping your hand around the glass, sipping slowly, truly brings it home. even in the Southern hemisphere it can be enjoyed for a summer December evening, especially outside; or taken to the beach on a moonlit evening, or by the barbie fire..it can only be good..or better than good..?

Pincée de sel:

  • Serve the mulled wine warm to hot.
  • Peel the orange very thin, so only get the outer skin and not the white which tends to add bitterness.
  • Add or remove spices as your taste dictates.
  • Start with less sugar , you can always add more later if needed.
  • The flavors develop with standing..leave to stand at least 30 minutes for the flavors to infuse.
  • Always pour the hot liquid onto a spoon into glass to prevent cracking.
  • Cut the orange slices into quarters and remove the skin when adding to each glass..it is easier to drink without having an enormous slice of orange suddenly spilling the wine all over your chin! And the small quarters can be eaten after the glass is emptied, wonderfully gorged with the spiced wine.

When I packed up our Loire home in Montlouis a little while back, I came across our photo albums which stretch over years and years. I saw all Christmases past and was excited to realize that I captured them ALL on film or digital. My Christmas photos date back 26 years, to that very first year we became a family. Except for 2003, every Christmas the last 26 years  is on film or digital…the preparations, the decor, our tree and our dinners. Unfortunately my photo albums are in storage, so I can’t show those Christmases.  Maybe next year.

Our tradition had always been to decorate our tree on 1 December… we have a nice dinner by a candle we light every evening with dinner for the whole of December; in gratitude, remembering friends and family and for the love we have for one another. This has never changed, even now that our nest is empty. Our tradition also demands a different tree each year. Some years it was a live tree, some years a fake one, others were handmade, some were dry branches, it depended on the year’s flavor.

I have collected quite a few pieces over the years and I always kept in mind that we have 2 daughters who will one day have to share these decorations, so I saw to it that each of them will have the same of everything..a memory of Christmases in their childhood home. I hope it will give them and their children big pleasure one day to hang these little  decorations on their own trees.

So, here we are; last week of November, but because I love Noël…and because I paged through albums…and because I am a sucker for sentiment and memories…and because we are starting a new chapter in our book of life stories… I want to share snippets of our Christmases-past until Saturday night, when we will see our  2012 tree up and candle lit for December 2012.  ***************************************************

Noël 2004:

This year was the first year we had a dry branch, which had become a favorite in our home. We used only white decorations: a white rose in small vases(which were still unavailable and I had to bribe a florist to sell me some of hers). Large bells and fabric angels completed our tree and a group of snowmen around the base of the tree…oh yes  of course, faerie lights!

To continue the white theme, I added white coloured chocolates and cookies on the table..not a good idea!

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Noël 2005:

This year’s tree was supposed to be an “angel” tree. I added some quotes I wrote on handmade paper, which we still use today..

Some détail on the angels and their quotes..

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Noël 2006:

A traditional tree was our choice for this year. I added some old postcards and voilà a very full tree.

..and some détail..small balck and white photographs of our family in small silver frames..still used today. and the cutest little pink angel cards I found in an antique store in Paris.

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Noël 2007:

Dry branches in une vieille jarre, decorated in silver, grey and white. I added rusted wired hearts and crosses. This year’s tree was a bitloaded and  chaotic, but even that is OK, a good memory, because there were always a lot of hands helping, decorating, adding!

..a little détail corner I loved..

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Noël 2008:

Once again, an all white tree, but more modern with large balls of white cotton wool depicting snow and the cutest poilar bears, white baubles and small mirrors catching reflections. Even though it is a fake tree and the whole tree had a modern look, I was very happy with our tree..

..a favorite corner with old books..“La chatte, by Colette”. I somehow always have to add books to the tree..it goes hand in hand, doesn’t it..books and Christmas trees..

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Noël 2009:

This tree is my all time favorite tree..I loved this year’s tree! Fresh moss from my garden in Montlouis, the tree from the Loire, the dry hydrangeas were directly from the garden too..and books, books, books!

..my two favorite crosses that I found in Helsinki..

.a détail corner with silver baubles and grey felt reindeer, also a favorite decoration..

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Noël 2010:

This was one of only two years that we bought a tree..It was also the second time that I felt very very sad at the en of Christmas, when the tree was so dry and triste and it matched my tristesse. I really didn’t like the feeling of taking down decorations from a sad tree.. But while it was there…it was trasitional and pretty.

..with more traditional red and green and gold decorations..

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Noël 2011:

And finally, our first tree from last year at Coin Perdu. We have moved on. Montlouis is in the past. This tree came from our forest and I had our eldest daughter who helped me in searching for it and dragging it back home. The Noël agains the wall was quickly put together by things I found lying around and I added a few stars and mushrooms. I wanted to tell a story with this tree, because it is a tree depicting life here at Coin Perdu..the deer, the forest, the owls..

…these two owl represent the family of owls who loved in the barn and are now in the woods, because we now live in the barn..temporarily!

..and a favorite corner from last year’s tree..

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  •  And to add some new music to your December repertoire...Bach, fifteen classical holiday favorites. Beautiful to listen to, even though it isn’t December and Christmas yet. They can all be found on Deezer if you prefer to listen there..
  • Continuing tomorrow: Quick fleur de sel grissini…and Decembers past, chronicles 11: table decor.

More photos can be seen in my gallery on the sidebar, Joyeux Noël.

à demain alors!

Ronelle


Cherry and bacon rolls..and happy Valentine!

I suppose everyone thinks “chocolate” when in February and especially around the 14th. I’m breaking the rules a bit here…these small cherry and bacon rolls are much more popular in our home under my loved ones than chocolate. In fact, I’m the only chocolate fan around here! So, when I make my people these little rolls, they know it says something about my love for them.

Very easy, so much so that it doesn’t require any recipe. I’ve had this “recipe” for as long as I can remember. It is sort of my “signature” snack and I have not yet come across a single person who sticks to only one or even two.

  1. Simply roll some sweet “cake cherries” as we used to call them in strips thin bacon. Secure with a toothpick
  2. Bake in a 200 degrees C (356 degr F) oven until the bacon is caramelized. In a preheated oven, this won’t take longer than 12-15 minutes.

Suggestions:

  • Use some prunes or apricots instead of cherries.
  • Use a leaner ham, like prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut in think slices and roll around the cherries. I’ve tried them all, but our favourite stays bacon strips.
  • The bacon rolls can be fried in a pan(without oil), but they are crispier and tastier(and healthier) baked in the oven.
  • Use simple toothpicks.. fancy ones will burn in the oven.
  • Eat warm from the oven.

…cherries in syrup, strips of bacon, toothpicks…

…May you all have  a cherry sweet Valentine’s day!..

…à bientôt

 from Chérie here in Corréze!


Tartiflette…and a Siberian blanket.

I’m not a very big potato fan, but with our extremely cold temperatures here in Europe and especially here at Coin Perdu in the barn, I take comfort in a hearty true mountain tartiflette. It does wonders for my cold body…and spirit! It is a favorite in my family and we make it different every time. It is a recipe that can be played around with, except for the cheese..that can NOT be replaced. It won’t be a tartiflette without that strong flavoured creamy cheese.

There aren’t any specific quantities for making a tartiflette…I can only tell you more or less what I do:

  1. Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
  2. Rinse, leave to cool aside.
  3. Fry 2 large onions in a pan, add a handful of sliced champignons de Paris and a packet of bacon pieces. Season to you taste.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
  5. Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
  6. Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
  7. Cut a Reblochon cheese(or another soft cheese of your choice) through the middle so you have two thin rounds.  I used a Montagnard des Vosges. Place cut side down on the potatoes.
  8. If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has become dry and brittle. Remove from the oven and remove the crust from the dish. Sprinkle with some paprika or “piment d’Espelette” and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nicely caramelized.
  10. Serve warm with some slices of smoked ham and a large fresh green salad on the side with a pungent vinaigrette.

Serves 4 as a meal.

Europe had been covered in a Siberian snow blanket for the past week or so…freezing cold, hyper dangerous, but spectacular! It is exceptionally cold here at Coin Perdu and I have a rough time keeping warm, seeing to fresh water for the horses with all the plumbing frozen rock solid. Warming up the barn to a comfortable temperature has also been a challenging task as of late and the only solution is to dress Inuit style, shuffling  around in multiple layers and moving with less agility than a polar bear. don’;t even mention femininity.. We were snowed in without snow chains for the car and couldn’t get up the hill. the small French country roads are not made for snow and tiny cars and evidence of  this is seen all around the countryside with cars in ditches off the roads.

..our/my home for now…

..bringing the horses in for the night, feeding them, carrying hay from the e other barn and water from the swimming pool..

…an unfinished home – what would I give to be all snug in my home..

…VERY c..c..c..c0ld visits..!!

…the boxwoods are still standing and showing off their beauty against a white background…

..first time snow for Mimolette…

…discovering this all-white-business…

..a white potager(vegetable garden) with the eiffel tower empty, a garden cloche looking quite pretty and last year’s cherry tomatoes…

Mésanges bleues(blue tits and a mésange charbonniére(Great tits) are all too playful in this cold. Between them and the red robins and the pies and the horses and the chickens and the cats and the rabbits and whoever else…; I just can’t keep up with feeding everybody!…

…just some prettiness…

Last, but not least: THANK YOU to everybody who has sent me emails and messages expressing concern for our staying here in the barn at Coin Perdu during this cold, wondering how we/I’m holding up and whether we/I’m surviving.  It is very much appreciated.!! I’m still here, even though I have to admit it is a bit tough lately.  Thank you for caring!

à bientôt

the polar bear(ess)!


Ambiance – a French name or two.

Some of our villages have some real tongue twister names here in the Correze countryside. Just because it is weekend, I’m leaving you with one or two to struggle with and see if you can figure out their pronunciation. When you’re done, put up your hand and I’ll pass on the advanced challenge..

I’m also a kind person, so to lift your spirit after all the hard work at practicing your French…a great movie with some great actors;  Julie Andrews, who will always be one of my favorites, Colin firth OF COURSE…now whose legs don’t go jello by the delicious sight of this cute man?? Mine certainly do! The only one, I have to say frankly I’m no fan of, is Jeanne Tripplehorn, but fortunately the rest of the cast makes up for her . Be warned, it is British humor and if you don’t like British… well, then rather go for Terminator!

..and on this French/British  note I wish you a very pleasant weekend, my dears…

à la prochaine fois

 from a freezing cold barn in Correze!


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

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

…crêpes de Sophie…

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

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

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

Suggestions for Sophie’s Bretonne crêpes.

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

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

…Fontainebleau…

…Chambord…

…Bourdaisiére…

…Chinon…

…Chaumont sur Loire…

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

…a locked up country château…

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

…no entry, only mystery…

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

…the entrance to the chateau de Plumes…

…a dilapidated château de Plumes..

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

…dignified royalty…

Enjoy your ONE crêpe!!! 

and until next time..

from your devoted servant, Ronelle


A sweet mustard sauce…and the end of 2011.

This is a very popular recipe from “Winning recipes from Huisgenoot wenresepte” a great south African recipe book. I can’t imagine a south African household without this recipe. I make it only at end of the year as a dip with some warm cocktail sausages or some shaved green beans, since it is a bit too sweet for me to use with a meal. It is very quick and easy and ideal for that last minute “bring something to eat along”. Even the French, who guard their mustard with sacré dignité, stumble over their principles for more than one dip into the sweet mustard bowl! Hope you enjoy it.

Suggestions:

  • Be sure to use white vinegar, or else the mustard sauce will be coloured an unappetizing dark colour.
  • Serve as a dip with warm cocktail sausages, or cold slices of meat or add to sliced green beans as an accompaniment.

…and some last days of 2011

Before I get into the stream of the new year’s living…I greet you with a last view on the end of the 2011. (Don’t worry, this will be the last post about ME!!)

I promise the next posts will not be about me but be more exciting for you all…some book researches, some give-aways, some restaurant reviews, some courses, some kitchen stories, some tips and tools, some new foods on the market, some how-to’s, some travel stories around food, some visits to French homes, some visits to boulangeries and bucheries and chocolateries…and more!

But for now…saying goodbye to 2011 with images of time spent STILL at coin Perdu..

..gathering moss for our Christmas eve dinner with my daughter’s mate, Sponge Bob tagging along…

..some tête de moine cheese..?

…and enjoying some champagne and oysters on our walks in the forest..

..oysters with a mango vinaigrette..

..a set table for Christmas eve- resembling our forest with its owls and birds and wild heather, moss..

..a courgette and smoked espuma as amuse bouche for Christmas eve..

..christmas day table resmebled the stream running through our forest, with pebbles, the ever present owls, some winter snow, ice crystals hanging from branches, birds and the silver stream with the moonlight reflecting by means of tiny tealights and candles..

…grey moss and stars surrounding the moon and stream and pebbles…can you hear the water trickling..?

…and Sponge Bob brought along some sparkles for our starter of scallops with a parsley sauce and chanterelles mushrooms…!

..reveling in the colours and moons of Jupiter..

..a winter ascending moon and evening star at twilight(Venus)..

..and of course sun sleeping…!

..lots of riding..

..some whispering..

..and trotting..

..early morning training..

..isn’t this beautiful…man and his horse..?

..moving as one..

May we all ride into this new year as one with our dreams and ideals, our goals, our principles, beliefs and hopes..

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Creamy curd cheese dessert with red berry coulis…and December ambiance 2011

Et voilà! Another year flat on its back and only a few days left for a last effort to check off our 2011 list. And while we do it, we can delight in some December ambiance, eat some dessert and then go for a long walk afterwards to start a new healthy habit. This dessert is extremely easy and quick, loaded with Calcium and can be adapted to your taste and presented in every which way you like it.

Pinch of salt:

  • The cream adds some lightness to the heavier  curd cheese, also called “faisselle”
  • Substitute cream cheese for the curd cheese (fromage blanc.)
  • Use a fruit coulis in season…pineapple, melon, peach, apricot…
  • Use the berries whole, slightly sautéed in sugar  for a warm sauce.
  • In summer, add a drop of rose water instead of the violet syrup.
  • Taste for sweetness and add more or less sugar.

She wakes up in the darkness of the night. Sitting straight up in her bed, she holds her breath, tilts her head…hears it… and falls back on her pillow. The owls are back. With a smile lingering on her face, she drifts off, snug under the warmth of a heavy down duvet.

Outside in the cold of the night, the fog lies thick in the valley, wrapping all sounds in a silent cloak of mystery. All is quiet. The forest is dark and austere and the large oaks stand solemn and still. Unflinching in their guard. Then the  owl calls.  An answer breaks the heavy silence with an echo in the valley.  A twig snaps in the woods.  A deer bellows. Eyes gleam. A snort stifles. Silence. The mist rolls thicker over the hills into the forest, relentless in protecting her womb and the life she hides.

The owl calls. An answer. An echo.  Silence.

Have an atmospheric December!

Ronelle


Red lentil, carrot and pancetta soup.. and a garden in February.

Garden work starts around February. It is trimming of the roses and lavenders and planting fruit trees and just general cleaning up of the garden. As it is still cold even though it is is uplifiting to fiddle in the garden, a nice thing to come back to inside the house, is a warm soup! This soup is one of the nicest lentil soups, in my mind…unpureed, thick and great with the subtle flavor of the fried pancetta ham.  It is very quick and easy and very tasty. It even beats the lentil/red pepper soup I usually make.

  1. Heat some olive oil in a big casserole pot. Fry 10 slices of pancetta, torn into pieces. Add 2 chopped shallots, 3 sticks of chopped celery, 2 diced carrots. Cook together for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add about 200g of red lentils along with 3 cups of vegetable stock.
  3. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes over gentle  heat until the lentils and carrots are tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and add one TBSP of tomato paste and some lemon juice to taste.
  5. Season with salt and freshly milled pepper.
  6. fisnish off with some freshly chopped parsley leaves.
  7. Serve warm.

Serves 4 people

Suggestions:

  • The soup can be served as a starter if you have a light meal.
  • Use smoked bacon instead of pancetta.
  • Add 2 chopped tomatoes for a more watery  soup.
  • Add more stock or less, depending on how thick you want your soup.
  • Stir in a TBSP of cream at the end for a heavier, creamier soup.
  • The parsley can be replaced by freshly chopped coriander.
  • The soup is even better the day after.

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The month in a year that I like the least, is January. I’m an ostrich and I hide my head, hoping no one will see me. Or I’m a bear, hybernating and I’m mean when disturbed. But I’m also the seed lying and waiting to push through the cold and the wet soil and bloom in the first rays of  sunshine. When February hits, I’m usually back among the living, with a strong desire to be outdoors. We have had some beautiful days in February and the garden is winking at me. When wandering through the February garden, there are small delights which makes a colorless Tourangelle  garden in February beautiful in its own way.

“L’hiver, c’est la saison du recueillement de la terre, son temps de méditation, de préparation.” – Lionel biosseau (winter is the time for the earth to meditate and prepare itself.)


All things cold and wintry, with emtpy potager cloches  and emtpy watering cans, a dry lemon verbena whcih awaits some sun to push its leaves and 2 pretty pebbles from La Loire to add some ambiance in this “jardin en Fevrier”.

The rosehips are starting to show signs of weariness and fatigue, the monnaie du pape and dry hydrangeas are delicate in their white paper thin petals and in stark contarst with the dark berries of the “gloire de versailles”- Cyanothus.

The buddleia already has new growth on its woody stems, the hellebores are flowering in white clumps close to the dark wet soil, while the faithful Italian Arum sees to lush green vegetation in the garden, perfect to pick and stick into a vase along with a hellebore flower.


The rouge gorges et charbonnieres et mesanges charbonnieres feed happily on the fruit balls and seed bowl hanging under the arch and the chickens enjoy the freshly turned over soil.


A lot of green moss on the terrace and stairs and around pots, while the rustic old chains that my husband so patiently aged for me, just gains more charm as the winter turns into spring.

Upturned terracotta pots everwhere in the garden, for protection and for housing/hybernating of “friendly” insects like the Forficule(earwig).

And of course…leaves and leaves and leaves!

Few things compare to enjoying that first  drink outside and munching on some clementines, even though you have to jump up and down to keep warm!

The gargoule fountain is quiet, as are several corners in the garden.

Next time I’ll tell about my seeding and planting process in my brand new potager(vegetable garden) at Coin Perdu, our farm in Correze,  the espalier of fruit trees I plan and just life in general in a March garden. We’ll be going to Coin Perdu more and more from now on, so much of the garden stories will happen there, where everything is still bare and new and in the raw!

a la prochaine fois!

Ronelle


Cucumber cups filled with shrimp and goats cheese…and a life around bicyles.

As said before, I’m not fond of cucumber. But it is a handy vegetable to use as a basis for a cold summer soup, or a summer sorbet or as in this case, here in a European winter…a cup with a filling. The combination of shrimp and goat’s cheese , dill and capers, seasons the watery cucumber. And even though cucumber is not in season at the moment, I feel like fresh foods after the heavy holidays.

Suggestions:

  • The quantities are only approximate, use to your own taste.
  • The filling can be varied to your taste too.
  • Decorate the skin of the cucumber by scraping shavings off with a peeler, or use a fork or a small lemon scoop to scrape off strips..
  • Use sardines instead of shrimps, or shredded white fish or chopped smoked salmon.
  • Use fromage frais with chopped herbs or diced seasonal vegetables.
  • Add mustard or pesto to ricotta and mix with shredded ham.
  • Consider chopped almonds with a finely chopped chicken filling.
  • Serve with a vinaigrette of your choice.

…a life around bicycles…

Do you remember all the times we got pulled over by the policemen for me carrying you on the handles of my bicycle? “, he asked.

She laughed. “Oh yes! … such fun and carefree, irresponsible years!”

That happened of course in the university years of this couple. They relived these moments while reminiscing over past times and paging through all the old photo albums. They remebered the times when they both grew up in their childhood homes, each with their bicycle, driving to different schools in different towns. Then they met at university and continued cycling everywhere  together…to class, to tennis matches, to university functions, to town, to the movies, to dances, to river picnics. Those years, most of the student population owned bicycles rather than cars. It was cheaper. And easier. And if yours got “borrowed”, you would just “borrow” the next one. Then after a while it got more romantic for the guy to carry his girl in front of him on the bicycle handles…his ox, as his bike was called…that way he could smell her hair waving in his face and have her close to him, and she enjoyed her Titanic-moment in front on the handles, with her guy doing all the pedalling work. So it happened many times that study hours were to be spent at “the dam”.She would ride in front on the handles, carrying their books and he would pedal for death to reach the top of the bridge crossing the rail road track  so they could free down on the other side at an exhilirating speed. Suddenly a siren would honk beside them, forcing them to stop at the foot of the bridge and obediently and humbly they listened to the policemen’s rant about their criminal act of lifting on the bike handles. But when the stern officer of law disappeared in the distance, they continued on their course, unperturbed by the mean little piece of paper in the pocket.  It is just what a student does in a university town. Laws don’t apply to students of course…which is why they carry student cards..

When this guy finally married this girl and entered the professional career world, they continued their cycling ways for a while, until they couldn’t hide behind their student faces any more.the fines started burning a hoole in their pocket, so they decided it would be cheaper for the girl, now a grown-up wife, to pedal her own bike again. Gone were the carefree riding on bicycle handles.

..the first cycles..

When two daughters enriched their lives, the tricycles and bicycles started taking up more and more space in the garage… The young guy was now a father and he trained his girls on thier bikes in the garage where it was safe, thenmoved into the garden andfinally he pedalled beside them to pre school across the big, scary main road. And on their firm demand, he watched them pedal the last two metres to school, where they turned and waved a proud little hand back at him. It continued for many years, and they enjoyed every minute on their bikes… doing their tricks, racing their father, chasing the dog, racing around the pool, falling into the pool…where the safety net proved its worth by allowing only their behinds to get soaking wet.


As young students, the girls too depended on their bicycles to get around and now, as young adults, they race their bicycles up and down mountains and in the challenging traffic of Paris and Toulouse. And the young student-couple of years ago, still ride their bicycles too…of which one is still a black ox and the other a cute pink velo with a basket for fruit and a flask of coffee and two old leather bags for art stuff. And like in their student years, the guy still holds the back line, and although he can’t feel  her hair waving in his face as he did so long ago, he can now appreciate  her cute derriére as she pedals frantically in front of him.

..riding my bicycle..

Bonne 2011 et à la prochaine fois!
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


Winter root vegetables with lemon butter..and Toulouse, la ville rose.

Eat seasonal. It is cheap, delicious and it is harmony with the ryhythm of life. Winter root vegetables don’t have to be dull and bleak and tasteless. Steam them, roast them, pan fry them, cut in different shapes, add some separated laeves of brussels sprouts, a few broccoli fleurettes, add some chooped herbs, fry thin strips of leeks, turn them into a puree then scoop balls onto an oven pan and bake in the oven until brown….so many ways to bring colour…and nutrients to winter meals. See suggestions for more .

Suggestions:

  • Use other vegetables, but keep in mind the time each cooks and start off with the harde vegetables and add the softer veggies like mushrooms later, like 15 minutes before the end of baking time.
  • Vegetables can also be steamed and use the butter lemon sauce for all the vegetables.
  • Add other herbs of your choice…add towards the end.
  • The butter and lemon juice breaks the bitterness of the brussels sprouts.
  • A browned butter sauce can be used too.
  • Add some chopped walnuts when serving the vegetables or a mixture of chopped parsly and nuts.
  • Serve with any meat or fish dish or serve on its own with pasta.
  • Fry some thinly sliced leeks(in the length) until brown and crispy and place a small handful on the vegetables to finish off when serving.
  • Cut the vegetables in different sizes and shapes…matchsticks, cubes, rounds, curls…and remember to cook acoording to the thickness of the vegetables…ex. carrot curls cook much faster than carrot sticks.

..brussels sprout leaves and fried leek strips..

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…and Toulouse, la ville rose…

One can truly be considered fortunate when you have a daughter living in Paris and another living in Toulouse. Two equally amazing cities, each so unique and different…like the daughters themselves! And still in the theme of December memories, a visit to Toulouse, sleeping over in a quaint Toulouse apartement with the fairie lights of a first christmas tree and fresh foods from the market welcoming us…new memories and experiences enrich my life…those of being loved and spoiled by family.

..toulouse in all her splendor..

..Toulouse in December..

.. Sundays are market days…for all in France and those in Toulouse…as evidenced..

..buying clementines at the marché in toulouse..

..fresh vegetables..

..paella..

..oysters..

..le marché de dimanche..

..toujours des fleurs..

..empanadas..

..browsing the brocante..

..old pampilles(crystals) for lustres (chandeliers)..

..old books, paper, magazines, newpapers..

..a covered head and a bust..

..silver..

.. and having an outing in winter without pausing for a crêpe au nutella…unheard of!..

..eating crêpe au nutella at the borcante in toulouse..

..and going home…tired, happy and with old glass crystals in a bag..

..going home..

..à la prochaine fois..

..Ronelle..


Foie gras with mango .. and December ambiance 2010.

Foie gras is a traditional favourite in our home for Christmas. Along with oysters and “vin chaud” (or gluhwein), it always appears on our menu. Some years will see our foie gras home made in a terrine, served cold and some years it will be fried, served with warm mango and toasted brioche.


  1. Cut raw foie gras into escalopes of about 1.5-2mm thick. Dust lightly with flour and leave in the fridge until needed.
  2. Peel and cut a mango in thin slices. Heat a pan with a knob of butter and add the mango slices. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and fry until caramelized.
  3. Keep warm.
  4. Cut some brioche in slices, toast and cut on the diagonal into two halves.
  5. Heat non stick pan to hot, add the escalopes of foie gras and fry on one side until caramelized. Turn over and tquickly touch the other side. Remove from the heat and serve immediatly.
  6. To serve: Place one half of the brioche on a plate. Place a slice of fried foie gras on top. Finish off with slices of mango  and place the second half of the brioche askew.  Serve immediately.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

…My own space…

“So what are you hanging around here for, Mrs duck? You belong on the beautiful lake out there, not here with the people, this isn’t your place…”

“Well, I’m fed here, all kinds of goodies and I like it, so why not? You enjoy it out here on the terrace with your cheesecake, why can’t I…. and don’t be so selfish with it by the way, share some!  See the German tourists over there? No selfishness at that table!”

“No, you can’t have cheesecake. I’m a human, this is what we humans do. You’re an animal, a duck, you don’t eat cheesecake and you don’t belong on a terrace. And by the way, where are your ducklings?”

“Oh, smarten up! We’re not in the Middle Ages any more! And my ducklings are fine, they’re in good hands.  They’re with the nanny. I need my own space too, you know!”

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Suggestions:

  • Have your pan hot before putting in your escalopes of foie gras.
  • Sear on one side and turn over for a quick touch on the other side and serve immediately.
  • Other fruit like plums, peaches, apple, pear and figs can be done the same way and served warm with the foie gras.

…and December ambiance 2010


And here we are again in the special month of December, with its cold and dark days, bright lights, snow and frost, snuggling in front of fireplaces and cupping our hand around a cup of hot chocolate, indulging in our nostalgias and reflecting on christmas dinners.

Our christmas tree gets decorated on the 1st day of December and for the rest of December we light a candle ever night to rememeber those who we loved or still love. And decorating the christmas tree means more than Santa Claus and Noel and gifts and the three kings, or the crib and a baby…it is a witness to our memories and tender sentiments which come to us in this month, the end of a year, when reflection on the past and pondering on future dreams travel with us towards the new year.

…May your December be whatever you wish it to be and may happiness be your biggest wish…


Previous years:

Duo de chocolat.. and December ambiance 2009

December ambiance 2008 with cinnamon dumplings

First day of December 2007

..à la prochaine..

Ronelle

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥


Butternut velouté..and fragrance in the home

Butternut soup is probably my most favorite soup. Keeping it simple brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut and warm comfort of its creaminess.  Don’t hide its wonderful autumn flavors behind all sorts of funny additions…sometimes something has to be left alone to speak in its own voice. Like the velvety butternut.

Suggestions:

  • Any other pumpkin of about 1 kg can be used in the same way.
  • Add a knob of butter when sauteing the shallot…it adds more flavor.
  • Use home made vegetable stock if possible, or else an organic vegetable stock. Water can be used instead.
  • See here for a bouquet garni.
  • Add about 2 tsps orange zest for a more pronounced orange flavor.
  • If the soup is too thick, add cream for a richer version and milk for a lighter version to your taste.

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

..and fragrance in the home..

Isn’t it nice to step into a home and smell the most subtlest of fragrances…not an overwhelming smell, but just enough to have you wonder what it is, where it comes from.

There are many ways to bring fragrance into your home. But always remember the first golden rule: always keep it soft, gentle and subtle. Nothing is as sickening as a sweet and overpowering smell. It is much like an old woman seeking youth in powder and perfume.  Or like a guy who fell into a bottle of Old Spice. The second rule is to never have a perfumed candle at the dinner table or around food.

..candles: héliotrope, wild rose and green tea..

To prevent a room from being invaded with scent, a perfumed candle should burn only for a short while. The small tealight tops are a favorite of mine to burn on winter evenings when it gets dark in the afternoons. They are very gentle in flavor and I leave them to burn the whole evening…romance and ambiance for all, even on week nights…everybody loves it!

Winter chases us inside earlier and for longer…we  cook inside more, we make fires in the fireplaces and receive more visitors inside than in any other season. It is important to have fresh fragrance in the house as well…flowers, diffusers, lamp bulbs with rings and dotted wih essential oils, some envelopes in drawers or in hidden corners, some light house sprays, pillow sprays, sachets hanging on door knobs, incense burning after an open fire in the fireplace. Again…keep it light and stay away from the sweet and strong flavors, like vanilla and fruits.  I sometimes use cedar incense to get rid of the smoky smell of our open fireplace. I never use potpourii, because it only gathers dust.

..diffusers with tea lights and incense..

When using a diffuser and a tealight, take care to drop only a little 0il and burn the candle only a short while. The fragrance quickly disperses throughout the room.

In the bedroom, room sprays and pillow sprays are gentle enough..spritz on the bed rather than the pillow and a light spritz in the air with a room spray leaves a gentle frangrance.

..home and pillow sprays..

My favourite fragrances are rose, heliotrope, amber, citrus, all tea leaves and cotton flower. Some of these tiny bottle below go back many, many years and I can’t get rid of them. They still carry the smell of essential oils…and sweet memories.

..bulb rings with essential oils..

A drop of essential oil on a bulb ring, made from terracotta or balsawood on a bulb and the heat of the bulb disperses the fragrance through the room. The balsa wood works great on the new economy bulbs which don’t get as hot.

..scented envelopes and handmade envelopes..

Although the scented envelopes are meant for drawers, I place them in bowls in corners in the house. They aren’t strong and overpowering and only give off a flavor when you pass them. And of course, nothing is easier than making your own envelopes: Use white envelopes and paint them in your favourite olours, drip the paint, flow it on the envelope, write, scribble, hand paint…whichever you feel like doing. Fill your handpainted envelope with clean catsand or wooden shavings, add a drop of soft essentail oil, glue your envelope and place in a corner where it can be admired as well as give off its gentle fragrance in the room.

May your winter days…and for otheres, summer days…be filled with the softt fragrances of cotton flower, and your evenings be cozy around the flicker of a cedar scented candle.

…à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


“Sablés” aux graines..et la Touraine pittoresque

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

Suggestions:

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

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

…la touraine pittoresque…

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

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

...houses on the loire...

..je vous souhaite une bonne semaine!..

Ronelle


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.


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