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!..
We have harvested some delicious nectarines from our newly planted nectarine tree. Our first apricots and cherries were stolen by someone..I will have to take stronger measurements against the feathered folk next year…
This rustic tart is prepared in a jiff, bakes 40 minutes, just enough time to get the coffee ready, clean up and call everybody to the table under the old oak tree.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use other fruits like apricots, or apples, pears, peaches, plums…
- Use pine nuts or pistachios instead of almonds.
- Be careful not to use too strong a honey like lavender honey which will completely overpower the tart.
- Serve warm with a dollop of créme fraiche, or a dollop of ice cream on hot days.
- When the flesh of the nectarines stick to the seed, place the nectarine on its stem side and cut a cheek on each wide side of the nectarine from top to bottom, close to the seed. Cut each cheek in half to get neat quarters. Cut off the rest of the flesh on each narrow side of the seed which already resembles en quarter.
Yesterday it was time for the new mother hens and their chicks to be upgraded to the chicken coop. When the chicks are born, I always take them and mamans from the chicken coop and keep them aside in a basket with me where I know they are safe and I get to enjoy the chicks more as well. Every moring they are taken outside and the flap lifted and they scurry out, happy to see light(and me, I hope) and every evening they move into their beds themselves, I close the flap and bring them inside. After a three weeks or so, when the chicks are strong enough and they start walking with the rest of the flock, I walk them to the chicken coop late afternoons, have them investigate and integrate en find their spot among the others. This takes a few evenings, because the rankings have now been disturbed in the poulailler and new ones have to be established. Never a dull moment.
..les deux mamans et leurs petits poussins..
..la poulailler “secondaire” ou elles partent en “vacances” (the holiday home where they spend their vacation)…
..le gardien devant la poulailler (guarding the chicken coop)..
In “le jardin de Ronelle” everything is a bit wild in July. The weeds win me over a bit, the lawns need constant mowing and trimming and deadheading drag behind. The chicks appear and begs for attention, the rabbits multiply and eat my salads… the tomatoes are growing like Jack’s beanstalk and we can keep up with the abundance of courgettes! Not to forget my constant desire to plant more and change again and again.
..les lapins n’attendent pas une invitation, elles sont trop à l’aise déja(the rabbits don’t await an invitation , thye just make themselves at home)..
At times like these, I just sit back and start focusing on the corners and little details that work together to make a garden. Some small corners and moments that give me pleasure. They tell a story in their own way.
..mais mignons quand même (but so cute)…
.Quelques morceaux de porcelaine voisinent un pelargonium odorant dans la mini serre ( old pieces of porcelain next to a scented géranium in a mini greenhouse)..
..les chaises et les lanternes (chairs and lanterns)…
..mon chéri picking some nectarines..
..J’adore mes pelargoniums odorants sur la table ( I love my scented geraniums on our outdorro table)..
Ice cream is a big favorite in our home. Usually I have my one or two scoops in a little bowl and mon chéri takes over the rest of the contaziner. As you see here, Carte d’or being very popular here. Apparently Carte d’Or saw the light in 1978 in France with only 5 flavors and their latest flavors arr absolutely just to die for..I am close to not handing over the container to mon chéri! See Carte d’Or here.
..et surtout la glace!..
..mes agapanthes bleue..
..dipladania blanc et les lavandes à l’arriére plan ( dipladenia agains a backdrop of lavenders)..
..L’heure de siésta!
..un verre de vin, une magazine et la tranquilité (a glass of wine a magazine and calm)..
à la prochaine fois