Apples and spices…only two words necessary to express winter. And the festive season. The markets groan under the weight of all the apples available and we are used to eating varieties picked recently here in our own region. We don’t even consider buying imported apples and pears when we can pick and choose between many varieties home grown. Which is exactly what I did to make this festive apple, pear and date compote. You can’t get it any easier than this..quick, simple, but so flavorful. It goes to show just once again that you don’t need complicated ingredients to get flavour into your dishes. The golden phrase in cooking is always…keep it simple and use quality ingredients.
- Peel and cut 3 firm pears and 3 firm apples into cubes.
- Place in a saucepan and drizzle liberally with the juice of 1 lemon.Add to the fruit mixture: 6 dates halved and seed removed, 1 vanilla pod with its seed scraped into the mixture, the grated peel of 1 lemon, 1 star anise, 1 bark of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of Szechuan pepper(crushed in mortar and pestle, a tiny pinch of salt, 1 TBSP of maple syrup and 1tsp of cane sugar.
- Simmer on gentle heat for about 30 minutes or until the fruit is tender, but NOT PUREED. The fruit must still have a slight bite. Strain the compote and remove the cinnamon and star anise. Keep aside.
- Replace the juice on the heat and reduce to syrup.
- Serve the compote in bowls and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds for a fresh crunch. Drizzle with the syrup and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche.
Serves 6 people (dessert)
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Instead of serving the compote as a dessert, it can be served as an accompaniment to meat like porc or veal.
- As an accompaniment, omit the pomegranate seeds and chop a red onion into small dice. Add some of the meat juices to the onion and compote to make it more suitable for an accompaniment.
- the compote can be served at room temperature or warm.
- Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream instead of créme fraîche.
- It can be prepared a day ahead and reheated at a gentle temperature.
This year has passed by so quickly, totally without my permission. I have the feeling I wasn’t even present at times. I am definitely present today, the 1st of December 2014…a day I usually enjoy, because it is the day day we put up our Christmas tree, decorate it, drink vin chaud and listen to our first Christmas carols.
Every year, since Myfrenchkitchen’s first December in 2007, I have posted on 1 December showing our Christmas tree for that year. It has just been a delight being able to share it with you these 7 years. Little has changed in these 7 years. From the beginning I had a recipe and then rambled on about some subject with words and images and bored you with my art. the only change is probably that I don’t write from Montlouis any more, but from a barn on a farm in the south west of France.
Some years I wrote a lot and some years my presence was few and far between. there were times I even thought of quitting. But My little blog(s) has become such a part of me, I don’t think I could let it go. I have many friends who gave it up for Facebook and Instagram, but finishing a post on my blog, still gives me such a big kick, every time.
I hope I can be more present in the near future, but if not, then that will be OK too. I am not going anywhere and I won’t desert this baby of 7 years. This is my own little “corner”, where I write for myself and for those readers and friends who have walked alongside me all this time. It is still fun.
And so, our Christmas this year is all in white and silver, my favorite colours for the festive season. the dry branch with moss from the garden, a pot filled with sand, candles and tea lights we burn every night for those gone, far away or just simply those we love. Birds are omnipresent on/in our trees. and there they are again this year, perched high on the branches I chose to hang a large brightly coloured painting behind the tree. I love the contrast of the simple tree in white and silver against the abundant colour of the painting. The painting depicts a scene in a church, which is quite fitting too. I wish you all a wonderful month of December. This is not the last you’ll see of me for the month, so I greet you as usual:
à la prochaine fois!
Baguette aux fruits rouges et jambon de Parme(baguette with red berries and Pama ham)..and a sign for every shop.
It happens to all of us: that day when the house is empty but the people hungry. If you have a baguette at hand(like all French homes do), some kind of fruit, like red berries(which you should have, because they are packed with health benefits!) and some ham somewhere( if you dig deep enough, I’m sure you’ll find a substitute!)…well, then you have a meal and a great one at that. Good enough for a snack or a lunch or a brunch or a light dinner.
I am not giving any formal recipe for this baguette aux fruits rouges, it is all up to you own imagination. see the pincée de fleur des sel for some guidelines..
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use baguettes and cut in half so you have a solid “base” which helps prevent the bread from going soggy.
- I used a cheese with walnuts as a spread , added the red berries of my choice, drizzled with olive oil maple syrup and a little lemon juice, topped with thin slices of parma ham and grilled quickly in the oven for a minute or two. Serve warm with extra chopped walnuts and maple syrup.
- Serve with a green salad if preferred.
blueberries, black currants, red gooseberreis, raspberries, blackberries
..a sign for every shop..
I am sure you marvel at all the interesting sign shops wherever you go. Well, me too! The most exciting ones to the most boring ones. sometimes a boring one will actually push me to enter, just to have me praise my perception of the shop being as uninteresting as its sign. Or maybe to prove myself wrong and that I might just find some treasure…
Whichever way, a sign outside a shop lures us inside. And yes, there has surely also been the disappointment in a store’s interior with a charming sign flirting outside. Still, we enter a store with expectation after looking up and seeing its sign…
Some are brightly colored, tongue in cheek, funny… will they invite you in?
Some are not very indicative of what its store is all about, but that could be good tactics…
Some are regional and they have to really be original to stand out..
Some plays on our desire to remember the past…
Some very elegant …
And those with a personal name has you want to discover more…
then there are those you have no clue what might await inside but you love what the name represents…
And there are those for special customers…
And some are so often hidden in lovely greenery, it comes with the profession…
Proof goes to show…hidden in the foliage…
Sometimes though, high and clearly marked in old script..!
And then there are the handmade ones to suit every occasion…(so by the way, this was mine many years ago with an exhibition in my gallery at home)
Mine again…in the atelier…just to distinguish between the art studio and the “pretty”art exhibition!
In the wine area a multitude of signs direct you to the multiple domains and cellars and wine shops. This is the grande grappe de raisin just opposite from where we lived and was always a beacon.
These following ones were all in close proximity when we lived in Montlouis sur Loire.
Cave of course meaning in this case wine cellar….the bunch of grapes is there to make sure you don’t arrive with your climbing gear.
An oringal way of luting passers by to a wine cellar and regional products.
With this sign I had a personal affair….right behind it is a parking where I always went through to get into the main road. this sighn always blocked my view to check for oncoming traffic, so I had to get out and move it back as you see it standing now, got back into my car, checked my left and rights and into the traffic I went. Not quietly and patiently, but rather doorslamming and sighing and armslinging and a lot of ZUT, ZUT, ZUT! It happened every day for the whole time we lived there. It is just one of those things. Instead of going over to the cellar and fixing it, I just moved the thing each time with a French attitude. I miss it.
These cute board signs are just simply fun.
“I Invite you in to dine and wine, don’t mind my strict appearance!”
At the boucherie in Beaulieu you can even buy salads…
With all these signs, I always sign a salut to you
We have harvested some delicious nectarines from our newly planted nectarine tree. Our first apricots and cherries were stolen by someone..I will have to take stronger measurements against the feathered folk next year…
This rustic tart is prepared in a jiff, bakes 40 minutes, just enough time to get the coffee ready, clean up and call everybody to the table under the old oak tree.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use other fruits like apricots, or apples, pears, peaches, plums…
- Use pine nuts or pistachios instead of almonds.
- Be careful not to use too strong a honey like lavender honey which will completely overpower the tart.
- Serve warm with a dollop of créme fraiche, or a dollop of ice cream on hot days.
- When the flesh of the nectarines stick to the seed, place the nectarine on its stem side and cut a cheek on each wide side of the nectarine from top to bottom, close to the seed. Cut each cheek in half to get neat quarters. Cut off the rest of the flesh on each narrow side of the seed which already resembles en quarter.
Yesterday it was time for the new mother hens and their chicks to be upgraded to the chicken coop. When the chicks are born, I always take them and mamans from the chicken coop and keep them aside in a basket with me where I know they are safe and I get to enjoy the chicks more as well. Every moring they are taken outside and the flap lifted and they scurry out, happy to see light(and me, I hope) and every evening they move into their beds themselves, I close the flap and bring them inside. After a three weeks or so, when the chicks are strong enough and they start walking with the rest of the flock, I walk them to the chicken coop late afternoons, have them investigate and integrate en find their spot among the others. This takes a few evenings, because the rankings have now been disturbed in the poulailler and new ones have to be established. Never a dull moment.
..les deux mamans et leurs petits poussins..
..la poulailler “secondaire” ou elles partent en “vacances” (the holiday home where they spend their vacation)…
..le gardien devant la poulailler (guarding the chicken coop)..
In “le jardin de Ronelle” everything is a bit wild in July. The weeds win me over a bit, the lawns need constant mowing and trimming and deadheading drag behind. The chicks appear and begs for attention, the rabbits multiply and eat my salads… the tomatoes are growing like Jack’s beanstalk and we can keep up with the abundance of courgettes! Not to forget my constant desire to plant more and change again and again.
..les lapins n’attendent pas une invitation, elles sont trop à l’aise déja(the rabbits don’t await an invitation , thye just make themselves at home)..
At times like these, I just sit back and start focusing on the corners and little details that work together to make a garden. Some small corners and moments that give me pleasure. They tell a story in their own way.
..mais mignons quand même (but so cute)…
.Quelques morceaux de porcelaine voisinent un pelargonium odorant dans la mini serre ( old pieces of porcelain next to a scented géranium in a mini greenhouse)..
..les chaises et les lanternes (chairs and lanterns)…
..mon chéri picking some nectarines..
..J’adore mes pelargoniums odorants sur la table ( I love my scented geraniums on our outdorro table)..
Ice cream is a big favorite in our home. Usually I have my one or two scoops in a little bowl and mon chéri takes over the rest of the contaziner. As you see here, Carte d’or being very popular here. Apparently Carte d’Or saw the light in 1978 in France with only 5 flavors and their latest flavors arr absolutely just to die for..I am close to not handing over the container to mon chéri! See Carte d’Or here.
..et surtout la glace!..
..mes agapanthes bleue..
..dipladania blanc et les lavandes à l’arriére plan ( dipladenia agains a backdrop of lavenders)..
..L’heure de siésta!
..un verre de vin, une magazine et la tranquilité (a glass of wine a magazine and calm)..
à la prochaine fois
Autumn is the time of year we eat rustic food. Finish are the dainty salads and light desserts..we now go for rustic, unadorned meals. Apples are in abundance and it will be a shame to allow the time to pass and not use them to their full. I saw these apples in pastry somewhere in a magazine and I only remember they were called by the melodious name of Bourdelots and it looked much prettier than mine. I made them just on feeling, and I can’t imagine the magazine version being tastier, because they are so delicious with the puff pastry and brown sugar and apricot jam…and don’t they look pretty rustic too..(good excuse, n’est pas)?
..Rustic apples in puff pastry..
- Clean and peel 4 apples, remove the inner core and drizzle with lemon juice.
- Unroll a sheet of puff pastry, cut into quarters. Place 4 quarters on a baking paper on a baking sheet.
- Place an apple on each quarter. Fill the apples with a teaspoon of apricot jam, a knob of butter and sproinkle with brown sugar.
- Wrap the pastry around the apples and brush with beaten egg.
- If you have puff pastry left, cut strips and stick it around the apples from top to bottom.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Reheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Remove the apples from the fridge, brush again with beaten egg. Sprinkle again with brown sugar.
- Place on sprigs of rosemary and bake in the hot oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 25 minutes.
- If the apples get too dark on top, cover with brown paper.
- Serve warm, or at room temperature with a big dollop of whooped cream or a scoop of créme fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Bring the dough right up to the edge of the apples which will ensure that the apples are covered more fully with pastry.
- In order for puff pastry to rise high and crispy, the dough must be cold and baked in a hot oven for the first 10- 15 minutes.
- Serve the apples as a side dish with a meat roast, like pork or venison.
- Fill the apples with spices of your choice or with dried fruit like raisins and nuts.
The mairie or hotel de ville is an important part of every city, town and village in France. It can be as tiny as a hamlet, but it will have a mairie and an eglise. The hotel de ville is usually bigger and houses the mairie and houses several administration departments. But they both hop-use the office of the mayor of a town and the administration offices as well as an école of the commune. So it is no strange sight to see kiddies run around at lunchtime in part of the grounds of the mairie.
The mairies of the campagne has nothing to do with the elaborate and grand hotels de ville of the cities, like Paris or Tours, Lyon. Some are so small, you even pass by it without knowing.
..the mairie in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne..
..with its administration offices around the corner..
..the little hotel de ville in Bétaille, just alongside he main road through the village..
..the very typical stone hotel de ville of Biars-sur-Cere, with its lovely surroundings,dressed each season in different vegetation..
..le mairie of Biars sur Cere.
..the mairie is still wearing its summer ballgown and pretty soon, with Toussaint at 1 November, it will change to Fall Chrysanthemes..
..In Bretenoux, the hotel de ville is obscured by lovely trees..
..and right opposite it, is the traditional memorial of the soldiers who fought in the war..
..the quaint, typically Corrézien mairie of Le Pescher where our eldest got married..
..and next to it, the mémorial of Le Pescher..
..the mairie of Marcillac la Croze is one of those you pass by without knowing..it sits up on a hill, all alone. The day I looked for this mairie I drove up to its pretty eglise, full of history and asked a gentleman who was raking the leaves, where I could find the mairie. We got caught up in a 30 minute conversation. I had to cut the motor of the car after a while, because he just couldn’t stop talking..
..Of course I can’t leave our own sweet village of Puy d’Arnac behind. Our mairie has recently had a makeover and is now a chic gathering point in the village where the mayor has her offices and I often have to drop in for keys for the garbage points or documents or this or that..
..and right next to the mairie, its école…
..in Vayrac, the hotel de ville is huge with a big spacious place in front of it..
..and to the side, village life continues..
..Altillac has a beautiful building and I pass it almost every day to buy baguette and cheese..The pride of India trees in front complement the building so beautiful in high summer…I always slow down and admire this mairie..
..the mairie of la Chapelle aux Saints, is really out in la campagne and stands all alone among green fields..
This is a prehistoric area, a very important sightseeing site in our area and the mairie forms part of the site..the ecole is at the back of the mairie..
There is still so much to show and so much to be said about the hotel de ville in France and every town’s mairie is special.. Once you have found a town’s hotel de ville, you have also found its centre ville. I will certainly explore and show more at a later stage. These ones are all in a radius of 20 minutes from home. And like the hotels de villes, there are also the fascinating eglises, which I’ll save for another time.
So, with the theme of hotel de ville and French admin , I want to share the Marseillaise, sung by my favorite artist…Edith of course! We celebrated her life in PAris, as she died 50 years ago this October. I just LOVE her..and the song – I sing along with her just as loud as she does! Enjoy!
..à la prochaine fois..