Archive for February, 2012

A French country cemetery and no dessert because it burned!

I drive past Nonard’s cemetery almost every day. Never have I stopped and entered it. Never had the desire to. I never go to a funeral, so why would I want to go to a cemetry?  But today I stopped at Nonard’s cemetery and pushed open the wrought iron gate…..oh dear, do I see some frowns out there??

PS: I made a riz au lait to accompany this post, because I thought an old traditional dish like rice pudding would go well with the traditional cemetery and add a little bit of sweetness to an otherwise grim subject. But then my chickens were so cute today, the sun was so wonderful, the cats so playful  that I forgot about the rice inside on the stove and burnt it to oblivion! So…only cemetery and no pudding..

… three stones, one family…

Les cimetiéres in France are very different to those I grew up with…they are almost..pretty? I love a cross…not for religious reasons, just because, and in the French cimetiére there is no shortage of spectacular crosses. But let me not talk too much, I might just say inappropriate things, since I do sometimes have a wicked mind.

…through the open gate…

So, while walking through Nonard’s cimetiére , I heard all the stories being whispered around me…people who once were fathers and mothers, sons, grandchildren, sisters…If there is one place you can sit and be surrounded by stories, it is the cemetery. I thought of my own story, way back, when my father died  and I was a young and vulnerable teenager of fifteen.

…abandoned sites..

I can remember my mother’s black dress she wore for the funeral and for weeks after.  I remember her beautiful brooches she always wore with her dresses. A scarf. Black shoes. I always thought she looked very elegant in black with her black hair, dark eyes and olive skin. I have no idea what I wore. After that day, it became custom for my mother and I to visit the cemetery every Sunday afternoon with a bottle of water, a cloth and a bunch of flowers. Our sweet, sweet neighbour across the road always came by the morning with flowers she picked from her garden, knowing our ritual by heart.  On arrival, my mother walked around the stone, inspected it and and found  fault  here with the stone that chipped, and there with marble that moved…it is after all a thing that stands on ground that move? I think that was her way of just controlling her emotions. My task was always to empty  the dry flowers, fill the vase with  fresh ones, wipe the dust from the marble and then I  joined my mother, where she just stared at my father’s name. I stared too. In silence. We continued that ritual for years, every Sunday afternoon, until I left home to university.

..to my grandpa, to my mother, to my father, to our friend, to my cousin, with sorrow,..

…age old plaques, broken, worn, sad…

I  have no doubt that it is one of the reasons why I hate a Sunday and why I feel depressed for a whole Sunday, especially the afternoon. But I suppose there is no difference between Sunday rituals at the cemetery; flowers, a cloth, fresh water, staring. Wondering. And remembering. A cemetery has its stories.  Touching. All the same, yet so different.

…a private family…

…two families resting together – what would their story be?..

..and finally, to lift the dark veil a bit and to reveal the wicked side of my character – 2 statues I would love to have in my garden and 4 vases for my home!…

…and dare I bring in a little humor  with the abandoned stone reminding me of the Titanic (bottom left), and a Jesus about to fall out of his vase any minute(bottom right)? Of course I can! In the saddest moments lies the biggest humor…that is what keeps us going. In fact, there is very little difference between laughing and crying…?

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Pinch of salt:

 Inspiration: 2 star chef Jean Sulpice:  His restaurant, Oxalys is the highest in Europe, at 2 300 m above sea level where he serves food of the highest quality and ingenuity. What inspires me is his devotion to his passions: his work, his family and  his mountains. He watches the weather every day from his window high up in Val Thorens to see how his clientele will turn out. He rises every morning at dawn for his exercises in the mountains with his skies in winter and hiking in summer. He takes his son to preschool and serves lunch to the school:  healthy vegetable soups and delicious chocolate mousse, which leave the kiddies with broad chocolate covered smiles! A young man full of joie de vivre and a vivid passion for what he loves!

What inspiration!

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Rest in peace until next time

..from your wicked, Nonard cemetry intruder..


Crêpe à la semoule for Mardi Gras 2012.

Welcome to today, Mardi gras 2012!!

A little Mediterranean flavour to celebrate this feasty day…the last day on which we “fatten up” before we start our 40 day fast up to Pâcques. What else do we eat than crêpes…again?! Only, this time a bit different…made with semolina flour and yeast, it is left for an hour to rise before baking in a pan. The yeast may scare you off, but it is not at all difficult…no kneading involved, and while you wait on the raising of the yeast, you can clean up the kitchen. It is traditionally served with soft butter and warm honey in the Middle East….delicious I tell you!

…served with warm panfried clementines and honey and butter…

…served with soft butter and drizzled with warm honey…

  1. Add 4 tsp dry yeast to 125 ml lukewarm water. Add 3 TBS flour and leave aside in a warm place for about 15 minutes until the mixture begins to foam.
  2. Sift 250g flour, 250 fine semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl and shape a hole in the middle of the flour.
  3. Beat 2 eggs with 125 ml lukewarm milk and add into the hole made in the flour. Add the foamed yeast mixture and another 350 ml lukewarm water. Work the flour gently from the outside towards the centre, mixing it with the yeast/milk mixture in the middle. Whisk briskly until the mixtrue is smooth with the consistency of thick cream. cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for and hour unil the mixture becomes foamy and doubles in volume.
  4. Wipe a pan with a little buttered or oiled paper and heat it up on the stove until hot. Drop a small ladle full of mixture into the center of the pan(about 3 TBSP).  Bake until the top is dry and makes small holes/bubbles. don’t turn over. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a plate  over hot water. Cover with a damp towel.
  5. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.
  6. Serve warm on a plate with warmed honey and soft butter OR some clementine slices, slightly caramelized in butter and honey.
  7. Serve warm.

Makes about 16 crêpes.

Suggestions:

  • Add  a drop of orange flower water to the crêpe mixture OR add it to the clementines.
  • Arrange the crêpes after baking each one in overlapping fashion rather that on top of each other.
  • Butter the pan between baking if you don’t use a non stick pan.

…eggs, semolina, flour, yeast and a scale..

..acacia honey, fresh seasonal clementines and many books..

* Recipe adapted from “crêpe à la semoule” de  Le Meilleur du MAroc, by Tess Maloss, Larousse.

I hope you have a festive Mardi Gras and that your fasting from tomorrow on stays motivated and on the right track… ahem ahem…!

à bientôt!

Ronelle


Ambiance – Old bonbon jars.

I think the majority of people will never have enough storage space in the kitchen. I am no different. I’m also a firm believer of “out of sight, out of use” which means everything in my kitchen is in plain sight, ready for the taking. You can see some images of our Loire home kitchen here). But it means mean that  a lot of stuff can lie around in every nook and corner. And that of course…I hate too! It is always those small “tools” lying around in drawers that work on my nerves. So I prop them in old glass jars that I bought at the brocante, at the same time functional and nice to look at. The same goes for old apothecary jars, which I can unfortunately not show, since they are stored at the Loire house in Motlouis. They are SO beautiful!!you can see one filled with old porcelain pieces I pick up(bottom right image) These are old bonbon jars can now also be bought new, as reproductions from recycled glass, with the words engraved...bonbons, café, chocolats. Imagine how nice they would look on your shelves filled with petits gateaux over Christmas time, chocolats at Valentine or Oeufs de Pâques eggs during Easter? Any other sturdy glass jar can work too, just figure it big enough so you don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar!

..old glass bonbon jars and an old apothecary jar(the bottom right picture, left jar on the shelf)..

*Because it is still winter and too cold to hold a book …a movie with which you can cuddle up completely covered by blankets…Rabbit hole with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart and directed by john Cameron Mitchell (2010). The story of a couple coming to terms with the loss of their son.

…Rabbit hole…

…bon weekend…

..from the bonbon girl..


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!


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