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!
A beetroot velouté, or creamy beetroot soup, is apart from delicious, also beautiful. Served as a starter in the way of a cappuccino, is a beautiful way to kick off an autumn or winter dinner. It is actually a good idea to always eta small starter of soup with any home dinner..it is healthy and helps fill one and so prevents over eating.
Pincée de sel:
- Younger beetroots give a deeper colour, are sweeter and softer. If possible, use small beets.
- Raw beets cab be replaced by ready cooked vacuum packed beets.
- add different spices for a more wintery touch…cardamom seeds, star anis, cinnamon, croriander – add together in a small muslin bag so it can be removed afterwards.
- To make froth with a machine: whisk a small amount(about 150 ml) milk in a high microwave proof) container. whisk vigorously until it starts foaming. Place in the microwave immediately. Heat the milk while keeping your eye on the milk all the time. The froth will start to rise high. Remove from the microwave and scoop the froth from the milk.
- Use vegetable stock to make it a vegetarian soup.
- A scoop of créme fraìche, or a scoop of whipped cream can be used, which will make the soup creamier and heavier.
- Ideal for a starter.
…and November in reds.
The artist in my appreciates November as the most beautiful month in the year. It is the most challenging and gratifing time of the year for painting, photographing, hunting for mushrooms in the woods, watching the leaves turn form green to yellow to red to purple to brown and finally float to the ground. No other season gives us this fast forward motion action of change in nature and it passes before your eyes from one minute to another.
…The stinky mushroom, Anthurus d’archer in bright autumn/winter red…
..la vigne vierge with its leaves turning red in autumn and a artistic spiderweb blinking in the morning light..
..foliage of vigne vierge, the attractive seedheads of Cleramtis vitalba, and stinging nettle in their natural environment..
..the stunning reds of hydrangea leaves in November..
..Ivy hugging a fallen vigne vierge red leaf..
à al prochaine fois
A big hello to all! I took a break, longer than intended, but summer kept me busy in several ways. As is the habit with summer, it is over before you know it and October sets in with all kinds of challenges: digging for warmer clothes….rain, bulb planting, cleaning garden tools to store away, facing weeds that have grown undisturbed, working vegetables from the “potager“, picking up walnuts and rushing to get to the chestnuts before the squirrels do.
I love the fall colours of the hydrangeas…the blues turn to greens and the pinks and whites turn to an old, faded pink. The Maroccan mint is still a deep green which peeps through the pinks of the hydrangeas.
After the rain.
A bottle of wine forgotten outside….
The “potager” delivered a bounty of vegetables this year and is still going strong even though the weeds are flourishing right there along with the vegetables.
A yellow rose in the yellow garden..
Cleaning up is not a favorite passtime of mine. I love to make a mess..and I love to have someone else doing the cleaning up. Unfortunately, I am that “someone else”… Evidences of unfinished spring work still staring me incriminatingly in the face.
The mornings stay darker longer and the evenings turn darker earlier..lighting candles and chandeliers and lanterns make for atmospheric evenings, which is what autumn and winter should be about, after all.
Our windows are in and I revel in the reflections!
Reading asks for blankets…
Bright yellow nasturtiums in the yellow and orange garden add a blast of sunshine to cloudy days.
Apart form the beautiful colours of autumn which is so obvious, many other scenes of October beauty can also be found in: the disarray of garden chairs, a chicken hiding in a flowerbed, walnuts bursting, a dilapidated rattan chair for the chickens, an enamel jug, a garden tap, a garden cloche…
Work in a garden is never ending, no matter which season. And beauty in a garden is never ending, no matter which season.
…à la prochaine!..
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