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.
So…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.
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.
à la prochaine fois!
I decided to make a walnut tart, even though it is actually an autumn dish which we make when our walnuts are harvested after summer. But here, we eat it throughout the year, because we love it. Tout simple. That’s it.
Coming home from the marché aux plantes in Curemonte last week, with my confiture de noix and my chutneys and oils and vinegars and dandelion syrup under my arm, I thought it would be appropriate to make a walnut tart to accompany this reportage on the plant day at Curemonte. I’ve never made a walnut tart myself and it is only recently that I started eating it. I never thought it could be something special, until that one day that I took a slice at a friend’s house. It was delicious and it still is. It tastes like autumn. It is a rather heavy tart (which makes sense for fall and winter comfort), so I make it in a small tart tin, to have small slices…a good idea in any case for all tarts and cakes and goodies!
Our walnut trees are always late off the mark. They start off late in spring with these nice “flowers”, which are then rapidly followed by the leaves. With 4 huge trees, we always have a large supply of walnuts, perfect for Noël.
..tarte aux noix (walnut tart)..
*Pastry base: Recipe here. Bake the pastry shell blind( without filling, but filled with dry baking beans to weigh down the pastry). Bake at 200 ° C for about 10 minutes. Remove the beans.
- Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
- Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
- Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with skewer and the tart is done when the skewer is removed clean when piercing the tart.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
- Leave to cool, decorate with dusted icing sugar and some whole walnuts and serve with some créme fraîche or whipped cream.
Serves 6 people
Une pincée de sel:
- The brown sugar and coffee gives a nice dark colour to the filling; but the coffee can be omitted if desired.
- For a winter tart, try adding some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or cacao instead of coffee.
- Pecan nuts can be used instead.
- Keep the portions small as it is a rich and heavy tart.
- Make extra pasty for the base and keep in the freezer for another tart.
…defrosting the pastry for the base..
...spring walnut branches..
Marché aux plantes à Curemonte
Curemonte is a quaint little village, 10 minutes drive from us. This past week saw the annual marché aux plantes (plant market) at Curemonte, an occasion I look forward to every year. Not only do they have plants, but also food, artwork and some bric a brac..a vide grenier. Everything sold and presented, is local. The bread is made locally, the beer is from the local brasserie, the plants and vegetables are local, the bees and honey, the walnut delicacies and walnut tarts are made locally , the wine is local and the vide grenier and brocante are from les Curemontais themselves.
I love the country side, whether it is a French one or an American one or and English one. I prefer the ambiance and laid back ambiance of les campagnards, country folk..of which I am one of course. Strolling the small streets, peeking around each corner, stroking the dilapidated doors and windows, enjoying the laisser faire gardens( gardens just seem to happen by themselves, relaxed..). the world just comes to a standstill in the countryside where chatting to your neighbour is still a pleasure, almost an obligation and something that can even happen on the road, simply expecting traffic behind to wait..everybody waits. Beauty is all around you, simple, nothing is ostentatious. Glamor has no place in the countryside. Nature isn’t glamorous. It is simple. Honest. sometimes hard and challenging. Always beautiful. I thus hope I pass a bit of the beauty of Curemonte and its marché aux plantes on to you by these images.
..and plenty of food for hungry visitors; 8 euros for a plateau repas, which consisted of a glass of rosé wine, rillettes with bread for a starter, steak frites and cheese to finish..so simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..
..I found my bonheur(happiness)..
..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..
..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)
I hope you enjoyed this day with me in the French country side! I of course loved every minute of it and I relived it all by sharing it here with you.
until very soon( à trés bientôt!)
I am very rarely inspired by a recipe. It almost never happens happens that I eat something great and I want the recipe. Of course I enjoy it, but my true inspiration to create a recipe comes from “things” of everyday life. At the moment I am inspired by colour. Every day as I watch nature, I witness colours deepen and darken, fade and disappear. I am mesmerized by the dark of wet wood.. the doors, the windows, the wood piles along the country roads ready for winter fires, the deep beiges of dry fields, the soft creams of the sheep grazing the green hills..and then I remember that recipe saw in a magazine, or the one I tasted at a friends home, and I’m inspired to create the same. This time - A chocolate mendiant tart I saw in a magazine at the hairdresser. I can’t remember the magazine, or theexact ingredients, except for the addition of the Nutella and the icing sugar roasted nuts. And yes, the chocolate colour perfect to accompany the browns I see around me. And the taste..perfect for the cold rainy days..or any other day!
Une Pincée de fleur de sel:
- I used orangettes(candied orange strips). See crystallized orange strips how to make them. It is worth making them yourself to buying those tasteless ones in the supermarket.
- Other dried fruits I used: Dried figs cut in slices and dried cranberries.
- Nuts I used: Freshly shelled walnuts and pistachios.
- I didn’t use a sweet pastry, because the chocolate is sweet enough.
- This dough is enough for 2 tarts. I always make a double quantity so I have a spare pastry ready to roll out in the freezer.
- Consider using this pastry recipe..Omit the cheese, thyme and peppercorns in the recipe. It is much more buttery, delicious of course, but also richer.
- Leave the tart/tartlets to stand for a day to develop flavor.
- It is important to leave the dough to rest. I always leave my dough overnight, it prevents shrinking. This time I was too hurried and in the photo you can see the result..shrinkage!
..an old dilapidated, but charming door contrast beautifully with white stone walls..
..typical Corréze country-with light cream stone houses and dark roofs, dark shutters, rusted barn equipment, nestling in the green hills..
green Corréze hills with brown soil prepared for new fields, dry cornfields of the past season and stark, late autumn trees..
..happy, creamy white sheep roaming the green hills..
..two friends, a familiar Corrézien sight..
..this is a time of year I love to sketch. At the moment, I am truly inspired by the browns and the shapes, especially those of leaves, branches and everything else I find on my walks..
..the stacks of wood ready for the fast approaching winter..