A scoop of yogurt mascarpone cream and grapes, flambéed with Armagnac bring total silence to the dinner table.

In my garden, we have delicious grapes growing all along our terrace and balcony. I have no clue what they are called, but I devour them.  I have planted my two favorites in the potager: Chasselas and Muscat; of which we had our first harvest this year. The wine grapes( the domaine of mon chéri) will hopefully be planted next year with proper fanfare when all our friends and children and their friends will show up(hopefully!) with muscle and vigour to help. They will be rewarded with great food…cooked by me of course!

grapes, fish -002

. I managed to grab the last two bunches of grapes of this  season for a dessert I  have been planning to post, but haven’t yet found the time to do it. I bought  the last of les raisins d’Italie, a nice green and firm grape, perfect for this dessert.

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.

What else can I say. I just simply love dessert. Leaving a restaurant without finishing my meal off with dessert, is…to say the least, sad, or better yet, depressing. It needn’t be a fancy affair. A yogurt. Or a fruit. A scoop of ice cream. In this case fruit and yogurt and a luscious cream. Oh, and a drizzle of Armagnac lit up to a pretty blue flame. Et voilà, c’est fait. Dessert is served.

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.-004La recette:

  1. 200 g Greek yogurt( the sour of the yogurt adds a nice flavour to the dish)
  2. 200 g mascarpone cheese
  3. 1 vanilla pod
  4. 2 TBSP castor sugar
  5. 500 g grapes , stems removed(You can use mix of black and green grapes, although the black grapes do do tend to lose their colour  during the cooking process.
  6. 2 TBS butter
  7. 3 TBSP brown sugar
  8. juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  9. 50 ml  Armagnac

► Whisk the mascarpone until light. Add the yogurt. Slit open the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the mascarpone/yogurt cream along with the castor sugar. Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed. Wash the grapes (of your choice) and remove the stems. There is need to remove the seeds, unless you can do it without breaking the grape. Melt the butter and sugar in a large pan. Add the grapes, lemon juice and grated rind. Let simmer over gentle heat for about 4 minutes. Be careful not to break the grapes open. Heat the Armagnac in a little saucepan, remove from the heat and light up with a match. Pour the flaming alcohol immediately and gently over the grapes. Leave to simmer for another 2-3 minutes until slightly syrupy. OR Pour the warm Armagnac onto the grapes  and flambée. Take care not to splash the flaming alcohol. Leave to cool down a little. Place a generous dollop of mascarpone in each bowl/plate and spoon in a helping of grapes. Finish off by drizzling  some   syrup over the grapes and cream. Enjoy.

► Serves 4 people.

To set food alight, is something everybody always enjoy. with ooh and aahs, mesmerized by the flames licking the food, we stare at the show. It can of course be very dangerous and not at all should children be allowed to do it. For those inexperienced, don’t do it like you see chefs doing it on television with big drama and whooshing  up to the ceiling.with 50 ml of alcohol, you already get a spectacular flame, so if you want to be on the safe side, split it up into two flambés. Don’t lean over the casserole you are about to flambé and stand far enough away, but still close enough to have control on what you are doing. You can pour a little alcohol into  stainless steel soup ladle with long handle to heat up directly over a flame and light up, then pour the burning alcohol over the pan for effect. Or you can add the alcohol to the warm grapes and then set alight. In both cases, switch off all other gas flames on the stove, stay away from candles and any other flames. If you feel unsure, skip the flambé step. just pour in the Armagnac alcohol over the grapes and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes for the alcohol to cook off. Enjoy and be safe above all else!

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.-001cooking 2015à bientôt, Ronelle


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.

chestnuts, walnuts and prunes for autumn.-005

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


Cottage(Quark) cheese with honey roasted tomatoes.

I love tomatoes baked to a confit in the oven.  I also love dessert. So serving tomatoes as a dessert is nothing strange  A creamy faisselle (quark/cottage cheese) locally made, some cherry tomatoes drizzled liberally with honey, sprinkled with chopped fresh mint and roasted in the oven to caramelize, is a perfect cheese/dessert to round off a meal. I added  in season cherries to add some seasonal spirit. It is a recipe with so many variations. I hope you’ll play around with it and come up with combinations that you love.

cottage cheese with roasted honey tomatoes-009


ffaiselle & honey tomatoes recip

cottage cheese with roasted honey tomatoes

cottage cheese with roasted honey tomatoes-001Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use enough cherry tomatoes, because it shrinks away a lot during the roasting process.
  • Use maple syrup instead of honey.
  • Add other red berries of your choice instead of cherries.
  • Serve the roasted tomatoes with a thick creamy yoghurt instead of the faisselle(quark/cottage cheese).
  • Serve the tomatoes in a little bowl on a cheese platter with an assortment of cheese for a buffet.

cottage cheese with roasted honey tomatoes-010     cottage cheese with roasted honey tomatoes-002

cottage cheese with roasted honey tomatoes-006

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..

avocado and fern-001

..cucumber and dandelion seed head..

concombre et jonquille

..peas and forget-me-nots..

peapod and forget-me-nots-001

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