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!
When your potager starts exploding with courgettes, it is time to come up with all sorts of ways to eat those courgettes without getting bored. But even so, by the end of summer, I feel like a courgette and can’t even look at one, let alone eat it. Courgettes are more flavorful when they are young and nothing needs to be added to give them moire flavor. These tartines can be served s a starter, a lunch with a salad, or as an apéro before dinner..and come to think of it, why not pack it for a pique-nique?
- Add some goat’s cheese or feta cheese to the tartines.
- Leave the toasts and serve as a tagliatelle pasta, topped with a fillet of fish of your choice and a salad.
- Make croutons instead of toasts and add along with the grilled courgettes to a salad. Top with dry roasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.
Les jardins de Colette is a large botanical garden at the foot of the chateau Castel-novel, where the French writer Colette lived with her 2nd husband Henry de Jouvenel and her daughter Bel-Gazou. The gardens were created in 2008 and depict her tumultuous life which centered around her insatiable desire for creating. You will surely know her for her novels Chéri in 1920 and of course Gigi from 1944, upon which the musical film was based and in which Leslie Caron played Gigi. Colette’s real name was actually Sidonie-Gabrielle , her last name/surname being Colette. But I’m her to show you the garden dedicated to her…so, to read about Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, you can pick and choose a site on Google.
Some trinkets in the store…and I found their little truck quite cute…and a rose named after Colette in 1995…
…Veronique flowers in abundance in the garden of her childhood in Bourgogne…and bees in abundance….
..le jardin de Rozven in Bretagne was bought by her friend, Missy, in 1910 and for 10 years afterwards Colette and her family still spent their summers at Rozven.
…a potager, part of remembering her childhood..
..a labyrinth in the shape of a papillon, where kiddies are told stories while finding their way to the end..
..some annuals planted in the jardin de Saint- Sauveur-en -Puisaye in Bourgogne...
..an english garden..”aussi libre qu’elle”..as free in spirit as she was…
…a little refuge for insects..
Colette with her brother in childhood…
…her love for animals clearly comes across in her books..
..la coccinelle and le papillon..les amis du jardin!
In the Correze gardin at Castel-Novel a little cabane/gloriettes was constructed from willow branches..
..The olive trees and lavenders from the Provence garden..
..a bit of freshness with a canal of water and fountain..
In the rose garden her favorite rose can be found…Cuisse de Nymphe
..as well as one of my favorites...Honore de Balzac…
And lastly, a lane of tilleuls trees to remind of her last years spent in Paris, where her windows opened onto the gardens of the palais Royal…
With something cool to drink, we finished this tour through the gardens of Colette and it was time to return to reality. I felt a vibrant kinship with her and her creativity, her desire to live to the full, her love for nature and animals and maybe one day I can retrace her steps to really experience what her life was like…
à la prochaine fois!
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