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!
This year we have only but un petit Noël. We are in the process of moving home and want to be finished by end of December. Typical. Waiting until the last minute to get a lot of things done. And so Noël will have to stand over to next year when I will make up for it in our new home here at Coin Perdu(hopefully restored and liveable by that time..)
To have at least some Christmas spirit in our current barn/home, I put up a branch with some decorations which weren’t packed away too deep. The result is a very rustic tree…and what do you know..without planning it, it turned into a story tree! I am now very chuffed with our impromptu story tree!
“One day…in a forest far, far in the cold North, was a large forest where the animals roamed gay and free. It was a magical world, undisturbed and quiet, with soft snowflakes sifting gently to the ground and covering the landscape in a coat of white glitter. There were three quaint little houses with strawberry red walls. Birds were visiting freely, dropping letters through the windows of the three strawberry houses, where Pére Noël and his elves would sort and read them; while laughing, singing and dancing and working. Then one silent night , the reindeer broke through the darkness with bells and glitter and song, a hearty laugh echoed through the forest as Pére Noël waved his hand to his family, on his way through a sky of shooting stars to deliver happiness and joy to an outside world.”
..the forest was filled with birds and ice and mosss and lichens..
…and the elves worked while they danced and sung merry songs..
..the reindeer were ready, waiting…
Three quaint houses with strawberry red walls..
..and the skies were bright with shooting stars..
May you all, on that dark night when the stars will be extra bright and you hear a hearty laugh, receive countless gifts of happiness and joy!!
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..
The regulars here on Myfrenchkitchen will by now know how much I love an apéro(apéritif), or amuse bouche, or the spanish tapas.. On weekends it is standard practice in our home to have a glass of wine before dinner with an apéro. I hope one day in heaven there will be some apéros awaiting me on weekends- that and good coffee-or else I will take my business elsewhere…
As all the regulars will alos know, is that everything on Myfrenchkitchen is simple, as these salmon amuses bouches clearly show. The only requisite is “l’envie”, the desire to make it and enjoy it.
- Cut 140 g smoked salmon into thin strips, about 2cm wide. If possible, use wild salmon, which is much stronger in flavour. If you have your own gravlax that you made, all the better. Wash and cut green 1 large Granny Smith apple(unpeeled) into matchtsticks. Drizzle liberally with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Wash a few branches of fresh dill.
- Roll about 5 matchsticks of apple and a tiny branch of dill in a strip of salmon.
- Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with freshly milled pepper and decorate with lemon slices, dill flowers and serve with cold white wine, rosé, sparkling wine or champagne.
- One large Granny Smith apple and 140g smoked salmon (4 slices) make about 14 amuse bouche.Provide for 3 – 4 helpings per person if it is the only apéritif served.
Serves 3-4 people.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use fresh fennel or fresh chertvil instead of dill.
- Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraìche when rolling the salmon.
- Serve with a bowl of mayonniase or crème fraîche as an accompanying dip.
- Use other fruits in season and use smoked ham instead of salmon.
Since we are in the greens today…the hydrangeas are beautiful at the moment with nuances of green and salmon. Two Granny smith apples complete the picture in the barn.
..Green is one of the colours I love for setting tables outside. And blue. And red. And of course white. And ochre. Well, for that matter, all colours! I have a few things here at Coin Perdu which we often use for dining on the terrace in summer: rustic green rimmed glasses, old bottles, green fun plates, green banana lreaf bowls, green pottery bowls..
..Some small wild apples live in harmony with berries and egglantine rosehips..
..the birds don’t shy away from digging into the small wild apples..
..and neither do the horses..
..when going through my artwork in search of painted apples, I realized I have almost nothing. I had to rectify that immediately with a sketch. Green is a difficult colour. So many shades of it in nature. The challenge lies in creating your own green from yellows and blues with touches of reds and purples. That way you get much richer and interesting greens than the greens directly from the tube.