Autumn with chestnuts, walnuts and prunes.

Autumn is the most melancholic time of year for me. It is also the most beautiful. Every time, when I drive off the road in my efforts to admire the colours, I think this year is the most beautiful I have seen. Then comes the next autumn and the same thoughts go through my mind. As well as driving off the road.

chestnuts, walnuts and prunes for autumn.

All over the villages in France, les fêtes d’automne are celebrating with enthusiasm ..well…autumn. With stalls of food and bric and bracs, dancing in the streets and musicians sounding with loud self confidence their sometimes false chords into the air. But who cares! Everybody is having fun.

Fete de la chataigne3One such a fete was la fête de chataigne at Beynat, close to home. An atmosphere of vivacity reigned..for me in any case.  Everything was there; Trophies for the best chestnut harvest. Traditional artisans who made their sabots and combed their wool, embroidered their linens and wove their baskets the old fashioned way. By hand, of course.You could buy roasted chestnuts, apples by the crate, walnuts, nutcrackers(of which I bought one, simply because I am too lame to say no!) the meal of the day was home made boudin(blood sausage) with…frites. The French love their frites at markets. The usual crepe a la nutella was ever popular.

Fete de la chataigne1 Fete de la chataigne

I have to admit that I love to go to all these markets, and fairs and fêtes and foires and brocantes. I love browsing and tasting, having coffee(but of course!) I love the atmosphere of exuberance and fun, touching stuff, turning it upside down. I love the smells of food finding its way to my nose. I love the excitement of finding a tiny something for a tiny price; a pot of home made confiture, a piece of sauccisson with walnuts(my favorite), or an old coffee cup or two…simply just for remembering a great morning.

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So, did I buy a tiny something for a tiny price. Oh yes I did! Chestnuts.  For this delicious accompaniment. I ‘m not a big fan of chestnuts, but this dish is divine. I can eat it by the spoonful. It only consists of chestnuts, walnuts and prunes. Some butter(salted) and some chicken stock, or if you prefer, vegetable stock, in which case, it is completely vegetarian. The most fascinating aspect of this dish is that it is autumn at its best. It smells and looks and tastes like forest. OK, you might  need a little imagination and heaps of enthusiasm, but autumn is short. Enjoy it.

La recette:

  1. A handful of cleaned, cooked chestnuts. (It is much easier to buy the vacuum packed cleaned and cooked ones, just ready for use. It is quite an ordeal to clean and cook them. I will show how in a next post for this one is already starting to resemble a marathon.)
  2. A handful of prunes, seeds removed.
  3. A handful of walnuts, removed from the shells with the help of your fancy nutcracker.
  4. A big knob of butter
  5. A drizzle of  olive oil.
  6. A TBSP honey.
  7. Fresh thyme, milled black pepper and mixed spices.
  8. About 1 full cup of chicken stock(or vegetable stock for vegetarians)

Heat the olive oil and salted butter in a frying pan. Add the chestnuts, prunes, mixed spices, milled pepper and fresh thyme (stripped from the stems). Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the walnuts, honey and the chicken stock to the mixture. Leave to gently simmer on low heat just until the juices turned to a thick sauce. Remove from the heat. Serve with roasted chicken, rabbit or venison.

Serves 4 people as accompaniment.

cooking 2014

à bientot


Sorrel, kiwi and cucumber gazpacho…and April greens in Corréze.

I love sorrel, especially with salmon. This time round, I thought a sorrel gazpacho could be nice too with its slightly sour characteristic. Topped with some apple brunoise and croûtons, it could only be gorgeous. So, why not try it and see if you love it as much as I did and still do. I tried it out on mon chéri and he devoured  two bowls, practically licking them out. A sure winner for this spring and summer.

Sorrel, cucumber and kiwi gazpachoLa recette:

  1. Peel and cut 3/4 cucumber and 5 kiwis in cubes.  Place in mixer/blender.
  2. Wash 1 large handful of green sorrel leaves(or mix of green and red sorrel) and remove the hard stems.  Add to the blender.
  3. Blend together until a puree.
  4. Remove to a bowl.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and chopped tarragon.
  6. Cut 1 apple and the other 1/4 cucmber (with peel) into small dice(brunoise). Drizzle with apple cider vinegar.
  7. Cut 3 slices of stale country bread in small cubes, drizzle with olive oil, season with fleur de sel and chopped tarragon and roast in the oven until crisp.
  8. Serve the gazpacho in individual glass bowls, top with the cubes of apple, cucumber, croutons and tarragon.
  9. Drizzle with olive oil and a drop of french mustard and serve at room temperature with extra toppings on the side.

Serves 3-4 people

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use a mix of sorrel and a green with a more peppery taste, like watercress, or even young spinach leaves, some  salad leaves with a pronounced taste, lamb’s ears salad leaves(which are sweet and mild), even radish leaves could be delicious.
  • Add some green tomato(peeled) and for those with strong digestive systems, greenpepper.
  • Stick to crispy toppings which contrast beautifully with the gazpacho.
  • Don’t serve directly from the fridge…too cold a temperature kills the  taste , room temperature or just below is the best.

ingredients gazpacho

The greens in April are quite special with all its new shoots, young leaves and colourful buds, while some trees and branches are still bare. Below some photos of the area with its greens, from dark to yellow to almost white.

April greens April greens-001 April greens-002 April greens-003 April greens-004In the garden, the tulipes dentelle “Snow valley” are in full bloom, my favorite tulip. The bees are back, the Jack Frost is happy with its little blue flowers and the strawberries are plentiful.

Garden April 2015I couldn’t resit playing around with all the greens from the market and the greens from the fields…the greens in April, wild or cultivated, beautiful in their own right.

..asparagus and dandelion seedhead..

asparagus & dandelion seedhead

..avocado and forest fern..

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..cucumber and dandelion seed head..

concombre et jonquille

..peas and forget-me-nots..

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..Until next time, enjoy your last week of April..


“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.

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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.


Correze country side

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à la prochaine fois!


Walnut tart …and a marché aux plantes(plant market) at Curemonte.

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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)..

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La recette:

*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.

*Walnut filling:

  1. Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
  2. Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
  4. 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.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
  6. 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..

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...spring walnut branches..

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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.

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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.

curemonte collage 4 5120x4096..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 simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..

curemonte collage 2 5120x3544…a plate or a table, a bowl or a tea towel..just browse..

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..I found my bonheur(happiness)..

bol 1 4419x3076..and a lot of strolling

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..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..

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..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)

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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!)