Noël at Coin Perdu.

This December was busy. It was filled with sadness of saying goodbye to loved ones. But happiness made its appearance too, as life always tosses a coin with two sides.

As always, I love Christmas. This was out first year alone without the children, but it was just as much fun. I love Christmas and this year was no different, in spite of us being without out children. We prepared as if we were about to receive the whole world at out house. Of course our door stayed open to whomever wanted to enter.We made it warm and welcoming with our yearly Christmas tree, many candles to light for those we love and those we  share the world with. And we gave special attention to our Christmas meals, preparing what we love and sat at our candle lit tables with so much gratitude in our hearts for all we receive in such abundance, especially the love.

33 years-002

We drove around to all the marchés de Noël and the fêtes de chataigne, the apple festival, the  brocantes de Noël. We had coffee and croissants at our special places, we had a fantastic meal for our 33rd anniversary. We went for an apéro on horseback and stayed so late that we rode back in the dark, trusting the horses to find the road. We started a new tradition: handing a little cadeau de noël to our neighbours down the road. We cried crocodile tears listening to sad music while we remember, just because that’s what we do on Noël…in short, we had so much fun and laughter..I felt like a  teenage girl with jumping emotions! Life was good to us this December.

Noël at coin Perdu

Noel 2015

December 2015

Christmas eve in white.

Diner de Noel 2015-002

Scallops with parsnips and parsley sauce.

Diner de Noel 2015-003

Lobster with beurre blanc and black truffle risotto.

Diner de Noel 2015-004

Pavlova with mint cream and caramelized clementines.

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Christmas evening was our winter forest.

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My faves at the borcante de Noël.

Gramat et brocante (1)Gramat et brocante (2)

GramatChristmas lights in the alleys of Gramat.

Gramat et brocante (3)

Marché de Noël at Meyssac

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Leftover dessert is always a good thing.

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Enjoy the arrival of 2016.

à bientôt

Ronell

coq.NEF

December ambiance 2014…and Apple, date and pear compote.

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.

Apple, pear and date compote -002 La recette:  Apple, pear and date compote:

  1. Peel and cut 3 firm pears and 3 firm apples into cubes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Replace the juice on the heat and reduce to syrup.
  5. 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.

Apple, pear and date compote……………………………………………………………………………………………….

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.

Noël 2014-010

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.

Noël 2014-001

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.

Noël 2014-014

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.

Noël 2014-002 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. Noël 2014-003 Birds are omnipresent on/in our trees. and there they are again this year, perched high on the branches Noël 2014-004 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. Noël 2014-005 Noël 2014-015 Noël 2014-006 Noël 2014-007 Noël 2014-008 Noël 2014-009 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!

Ronelle

Noël 2014-013

Un noël à la campagne 2: Two-salmon and avocado terrine.

We are at the amuse bouche of our Noël à la campagne menu…a two salmon and avocado terrine with a cream herb sauce. When hosting a dinner for guests or on special occasions like our Christmas dinner, I like to have an amuse bouche, a  little surprise awaiting at the table when my guests seat themselves. We usually enjoy our aperitif somewhere else..outside or in another room, or even around the kitchen table. Then we move to the dining room for the rest of the dinner. It looks very welcoming when guests enter the dining room with candles burning at the table and an amuse bouche  waiting on each plate.. When we are all seated and I leave the table to quickly get my entrée(starter) ready, the guests can enjoy the amuse bouche at their leasure and by the time they are finished, I am ready and there with my starter, without them noticing my absence, since the amuse bouche kept them quite busy! To present such an amuse bouche ready at the table, you will have to keep to something that can be prepared beforehand and can stand a few minutes without melting, drying out, falling over etc.

Two salmon and avocado terrine

two salmon terrine recette

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Keep the amuse bouche small and decorated attractively.
  • This salmon terrine can also be served as a starter or as a summer lunch with a salad on the side.
  • Replace half of the poached salmon with shrimp meat.
  • Add some crushed red pepper berries for a different taste.

salmon terrine 2

Brocante à Bordeaux:

Bordeaux has 2 huge brocantes on the place Quinconce every year…end of autumn and beginning of spring. I missed the spring brocante, but one doesn’t make the same mistake twice! On Saterday morning very early we jumped into our four wheels and took the road to Bordeaux, about two hours drive from us. We arrived in the cold, in the mist, just as les exposants were opening up their stalls. It was still quiet and calm and after our coffee and croissant(of course!!), I shifted my bag properly over my blades, pulled back my shoulders, rubbed my hands together, took a deep breath and advanced with  that first step into this other world where I lose touch with reality and modern life and lose myself completely in the beauty of dust and rust..

Le coq de la France greets the visitor at Place Quinconce. I have a coq like that here at Coin Perdu..he thinks the whole of France belongs to him..attitude, attitude..!

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Greeted by mist, but not at all disturbed by it!

bordeaux brocante - coillage 1

Wouldn’t I love to have these drawers for my atelier! I hinted and hinted with puppy eyes lifted to mon chéri, but it is true what they say..no one as deaf as those who don’t want to hear… ah well…

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Old postcards make my knees jello too, especially the ones with old towns and streets  life from years back: I imagine seeing myself roaming about, or maybe cycling about…everybody cycled those days..

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And of course, chairs – we do need to sit, don’t we. Sitting on chair that tell a story…isn’t that special? I think I might come back for these chairs in spring…will mon chéri fall for these I wonder..?

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And a cutie..no, don’t ask me what outomobile this is. I knew, but  forgot again..and mon chéri is in Paris, I can’t ask him…

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It just keeps going on…and on…and on…, with something for everyone and every budget..

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I also found mon bonheur…..a real trouvaille(bargain)! Mon chéri was happy too…I came home with only 11 small books and I have already finished reading  one!

livres anciens

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  • So, while the amuse bouche was enjoyed, the entrée has been siummering away..yes… topinambours and chestnut velouté with wild musqhroom croutôns.
  • Another holiday French movie: l’orange de Noël

Alors mes amis…

à demain

Ronelle

Easy and quick caramel squares..and December chronicles 3: Backstage.

Don’t you just love it when a recipe says in its first line..easy and quick? I definitely do! With these last three daily  posts, I had to think of very quick and easy but still delicious recipes and it being a time of nostalgia, this little recipe came to mind…It is not a stunner, but still a delicious little snack. It is even easy enough for young children to make….keeping them busy during the upcoming holidays.

My sister made this treat regularly so many years ago when she was living in her tiny apartement during university years. I loved visiting her on weekends with my parents, sure in the knowledge that this delicacy would be waiting in her fridge.  It is sort of one of those treats that was part of a certain era and then disappeared. It was great for students to make on their desks in their rooms, without the need for cooking facilities.

You need only 2 ingredients: 2 packets of butter biscuits and a can of caramelized condensed milk. If you live in SA or a country which has “tennis biscuits”, then that is exactly what you will use. It has a slight coconut taste and it absorbs the caramel nicely to go all tasty soft and flavorful. Here I used le grand petit beurre from St. Michel, which is a nice square shaped biscuit. I also used  confiture de lait by Bonne Maman (what will we do here in France without Bonne Maman?).

  1. Place two biscuits next to each other on a sheet of baking paper.
  2. Spread the caramelized condensed milk thickly over both biscuits.
  3. Place two more biscuits on top of the caramel layer.
  4. Continue until you have about 9 to 10 layers of biscuits.
  5. Close up tightly with the baking paper and wrap tightly(without crushing the biscuits!) in  tin foil.
  6. Leave overnight.
  7. Will keep about a week or even longer in an airtight container in the fridge.
  8. Cut in slices and serve with a coffee or tea.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Try using nutella instead of caramelized condensed milk.
  • The longer it stand, the better the flavor and softer the biscuits become.

caramel squares_ collage

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Backstage. If there is one thing we all have in common, it is that “fun” behind the scenes. But, I am unfortunately not Jacky Chan, so my behind the scenes will probably only have significance for me and no one else. It is a bit like the friend who comes back with  photos from Russia, taken with his expensive Canon and ten lenses, and entertains you with great enthusiasm to his hundreds of touristy cathedrals and fountains and bridges and museums, while your jaw aches from biting back your yawning. But just maybe seeing a bit of my backstage scenes, will have you run to your photos to remember your own backstage times with loved ones.

We are always in our total number represented in the kitchen, stretching over one another, reaching over heads for a tool, tasting, licking, nibbling, fighting. It is amazing the busyness only 4 people can cause in a kitchen..

These are truly precious memories..

Not everything that came out of the kitchen was that big a success, but that didn’t matter in the least..we made our flops together, that is what counts.

Even guests had to pitch in, and they did it with enthusiasm… for that reason I have plenty of tabliers(aprons).

One thing to be found in practically all our scenes, is the opening of oysters. It is the task of mon chéri. I will probably lose all my fingers, because I have never opened an oyster! and mon chéri and our youngest daughter always have to get into a dish cloth fight..in the kitchen!

We normally start off our evening of Réveillon with some vin chaud et apéritifs in the living room. then we start warming up and finish off our menu and seat ourselves at the table where an amuse bouche is awaiting us. I always have something ready at the table when guests seat themselves..it adds to the expectation and while everybody start eating their amuse bouche and have their wine poured and just simply settle at the table, it gives me the time to finish off the starter. Our entrée(starter) is plated in the kitchen.

After the starter, we bring the plat principal(main course) arranged on a large platter to the table, where we keep it warm over a flame. It is normally fish and a vegetable accompaniment, all arranged on one platter. We follow that up with a cheese board..

..and end of course our dinner with la piéce de résistance….le dessert! Byt that time, we are close to midnight,; which is the time we pass around our gifts. But before that, we go for a late pre-midnight walk..or rahter that is what we used top do in the Loire house – we went for a walk by the Loire, just to walk down some calories. On arriving back home, we warm ourselves by the fireplace,  make coffee and start opening up gifts..slowly, deliberately, lingering on each moment.

Christmas day followed about the same pattern, except that we ate earlier and afterwards we walked up to the DVD store and rented a DVD while we had coffee and chocolates a and fell asleep before halfway through the movie..

Thank you for sharing this trip down memory lane with me. If nothing else, I hope it took you on your own roads back, remember with tenderness all the good and I hope it inspires you to make many new memories this December and note them down, either in words or in pictures.

Merci et à bientôt!

Ronelle