We are outside. Non stop. The weather couldn’t be more perfect. The days are wonderfully warm, sunny. The cigales are crazily announcing summer in the meadows. I am crazily happy.
Taking our meals outside in summer is a given. Preparing it outside is a given too. These tomato and goats cheese apéros ( appetizers)do it both ways. It is prepared by the barbeque fire. It is grilled on the fire. It is eaten by the fire. An ice cold dry rosé wine and life is crazily wonderful.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use feta cheese instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use feuille de brick, if available, which is not as thin and delicate as phyllo pastry.
- Add some flaked fish of your choice or add a sardine, in which case you can use dill or coriander instead of basil.
- Use other herbs of your choice..
- Leave out the tomato and add fresh spinach leaves and dry roasted pine nuts for a more Greek flavour.
- To serve as something sweet with coffee after barbeque…roll chocolates, chopped nuts of your choice and a mint leaf in the pastry sheets, treat the same way on the coals and enjoy with coffee around the fire.
Place at an appropriate distance above the coals on a grill.
Brush with a home made rosemary brush and olive oil.
We visited friends in Bretagne and were treated in typical Breton fashion to a wealth of cuisine Bretonne. Seafoods galore, vegetables, notably carrottes Nantaises( of which I have planted in my potager), crépes and galettes, sablés, far breton, quatre quart, kouign amann, cidre, beignets, butter, butter, butter… It is truly a good thing we don’t live in Bretagne for I would have rolled instead of walked. Fortunately, we did a lot of walking to fight the calories. I invite you now on some of our promenades around Rennes and the seaside villages of Tharon and Pornic.
Promenades en mer…boat trips.
The port of Pornic is quaint and with the perfect summer weather we had, the whole world crept out of their shells comme les escargots de leurs coquilles(like snails from their shells).
Le blanc du nil is a well known chain store in the French seaside villages. They sell only white cotton and linen clothes and I love it for the prices and the loose summer dresses, shirts and slacks and skirts. And of course the all white look makes you feel cool and light. And a little chic too…
The walkway was filled with people, basking in summer sun, seeking out some dappled shade and licking dripping ice creams. We did too.
A lonesome Canna lily adding some charm to an ordinary signpost indicating the way to the hotel de Ville of Pornic.
Back in Tharon, it was time for eating again, something we did too much of , but enjoyed so much! The boulangerie Tharonnaise is comfortably just a walk down the road where one doesn’t mind queuing for all the bakes delicacies I mentioned above.
One of those wonderful delicious sinful and dangerous cakes, is the kouign amann, for which Bretagne is known for. I DO plan on baking it, sharing it with you, I REALLY DO! But only after I lost the 3 kg I picked up after eating it in Bretagne! Typical Ronelle style, one slice was not enough…It is literally a butter cake and a little challenging on the making-side: made with bread dough and folded like puff pastry with loads of butter and sugar which, during the baking process, gives you a devilishly, deliciously, flaked caramelized cake.
One of our outings was also just down the road…a regular vide grenier in Tharon. As you can see below..one man’s junk becomes another man’s fortune. We found some fortunes there too…
Of course we visited the beach with its colourful cabanes which mostly belong to the inhabitants of Tharon and gets unlocked every season to let out the sunscreens and chairs and umbrellas and beachballs…
As is shown below…the beach umbrella and bags and towels and kiddies were let out of the colourful cabanes.. well, maybe not the kiddies…
A close up..
A lunch of langoustines, and lemon mayonnaise with baguettes from la boulangerie and accompanied by a crisp white wine.
In Rennes the géraniums on the windowsills paraded shamelessly in their beauty and gaiety.
We had a schedule to follow in Rennes, a to-do list that kept us on a quick run. Nonetheless we found the time for a pit stop in the centre ville to have un café créme et un allongé, while we drooled at seeing the bar à crépe which was just opening its doors early morning. Next time.
Centre ville in Rennes.
Hope you had fun on this promenade. And I hope you on your turn drooled at the tomato and goat’s cheese apéro’s. Maybe enough to make them. I should probably have given you an exciting recipe from Bretagne, as the post asks for….but what are rules made for, if not to be broken? I greet you as always….
…à la prochaine fois…
I have a few risotto recipes that I adore. One is made with sweet potato, another with saffron, yet another with wild mushrooms and then…asparagus. In this case I used wild asparagus with a very short season, but delicious while they last.
- Asparagus, lemon and sage:
- Sauté the asparagus for only 3 – 4 minutes, in a large pan with olive oil, lemon wedges, a sprinkling of white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove and keep aside. they should still be crunchy. Saute the lemon wedges a bit longer to caramelize.
- Heat enough olive oil in a small frying pan to cover the base.
- Add some sage leaves and fry until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.
- Sauté 1 chopped shallot in a little olive oil. Add about 1 cup of arborio or carnarolli rice and sauté for another 3 minutes top release the nutty flavors of risotto rice.
- Add 1/2 cup white wine and 1TBSP of white balsamic vinegar. Stir. Add about 500ml of hot vegetable stock, ladle by ladle to the risotto, stirring all the while over medium high heat.
- Chop a few leaves of fresh sage in thin ribbons and add to the risotto.
- Taste the risotto…the rice should still have some bite and not be mushed to a porridge.
- Add 1 TBSP of créme fraiche, 1 knob of butter and 2 TBSP of grated parmesan cheese and the grated rind of 1 lemon. Turn off the heat and stir through.
- Taste for seasoning.
- Serve immediately – spoon the risotto onto individual plates. top with the asparagus en finish off with the crisp oil fried sage leaves.
- Sere with extra Parmesan on the side.
Serves about 4 people.
- Use garden asparagus or string beans instead of wild asparagus.
- Combine with tarragon instead of sage.
- Leave out the creme fraiche and use a soft goats cheese instead.
- Leave out the creme fraiche and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese just before serving.
- The risotto should be creamy and not dry at all.
When the bumps on the road get too disconcerting, I always pull off the road, switch off the engine, empty my mind and drift off to that world where I know giggles and laughter are plentiful. And smiles. That place where we run off to when life is too blue and we want it more colourful. They are our private corners where we deal with these road bumps in our own unique ways so we can be able to turn the ignition key and continue on the bumpy roads. I thought I would share some of the things I run to for a smile or a hearty laugh or a tickling giggle.
- I adore that first coffee of the morning.It turns me inside out with happiness.
- I love watching someone enjoying a meal with gusto and joy(and good manners of course), someone who has a visible appreciation for the goodness of good quality products and for the preparation that goes into a meal.
- I love people who can fold double with laughter, enjoying laughing so much you can hear it right in the pit of their stomach! It is contagious and I might not know what the laughter is about, but I have to join in, just for the sake of the joy it brings.
- I love that good sharp which some people have. Not jokes. Jokes are flat and boring. Wit is something completely different. It is an art. That ability to be able to catch a moment and react to it with just the perfect touch of irony and humor.
- I love the smell of horses…their sweat, their manes, the oil on their skin..
- I love playing tennis; running for every ball, sweating, groaning like a pro, stretching, running, sliding…all of it..
- I love my chickens’ eager trot-run when they see cheese in my hand, it makes me burst out in spontaneous laughter.
- I love watching the geese’s rhythmic swaying from behind.
- I adore our apéros at sunset. If heaven doesn’t have that, I don’t want to go there…
- I love swimming..not lengths or any fashionable style, but splashing and diving and twirling and drowning… like a dolphin. I just love being in the water.
- I love waking up early morning to blue skies and sunshine..I can just burst with happiness.
- I love the smell of oil paints on my palette.
- I love a scalp massage when I go to the hairdresser.
- I love walking barefoot.
- I love walking in the rain.
- I love walking in my garden endlessly throughout the day, hoping I’ll see something new every time.
- I love having coffee and croissant with mon chéri in town and we talk about everything and anything, especially since he is a man of few words.
- I love my perfumes..I splash it on when I go to dinner, when I go to town, when I go to bed or when I go work in the garden. M favorite, you ask? But Coco , eau de perfum, Chanel of course.
- I love burying my face and kissing the soft belly of my cat Ayiani…she grabs my head gently with her paws and it makes me giggle with pleasure…although I have had the occasional scratch of her fury when she’s not in the mood…
- I adore my bed and I adore slipping into crisp linen smelling of sunshine. I fall asleep with a content smile.
I hoe I have touched some of your soft spots or at least made you pull off the road to find your private world where laughter and giggles abound!
…my favorite perfume; Coco, from Chanel…
(for more sketches of perfumes, see my art blog Africantapestry)
à a prochaine fois
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!
These past 3 weeks were spent entirely on packing up our Loire home. We wrapped and packed, and stored and transported furniture, cartons. We sorted, threw away, gave away and tried to keep only what we really love and need. It felt great to lighten the load, both in terms of material stuff and mind stuff. Never do I want to own so much stuff again. Since living here in the barn at Coin Perdu with the bare necessities, I have come to realize with how little we can actually be comfortable. I think in this modern age we live with far too much unnecessary “stuff”.
When we locked the door behind us of our Loire home to get into the truck with the last few things on its way to coin Perdu, I took a walk through my garden. I absolutely loved my little “jardin de curé”. I worked so hard in that garden, changing it every so often and I loved every minute of it. I am posting a few images…I have so many, not possible to show them all and of course they will have much more meaning for me, but I hope you can see a little of the joy I’ve experienced in my Loire garden.
…a typical “Tourangelle maison” on the banks of the Loire river.”
..I adored the Loire house’s windows. I couldn’t wait for summers to keep them open morning noon and night..
We only closed the “volets” at night when sleeping..sometimes…
..and flowerpots on the windowsills…what else!..
..the “garguile” peeked through white climbing iceberg roses, close by “un olivier” in a pot..
..on the terrace – urn planted with boxwood..
..the “jardin de curé” was filled with everything I loved..and still love. Originally I tried to stick to white and blue, but as always, what we plan what eventually realizes aren’t the same…most of the time it turns out better..
..corners are a favorite of mine..whether in the gardne, the house, the fields…
..I adored my atelier! I will definitely miss it. It was the old stables of the hopuse which mon chéri turned ito the atelier for me, complete with fireplace, keeeping the old beams and features of the stables intact..To the left of the collage down below, is my galery, which was one of the old caves we turned into my galery.
..during summers, we pragmatically lived outside in the garden..
I hope you enjoyed this trip through the garden during 12 years of living in our Loire home. . I hope you’ll join me in writing our new chapter here at Coin Perdu.
I will soon start posting recipes again, as soon as I can get some order in the chaos here . Bear with me..!
I wish you all a great 2014!