Life in a barn

In the previous post I did a show and tell on our Loire home from which it was time a couple of years ago to move on and exchange the Loire valley for the Dordogne valley.

All those who have done some restoration on a house will know the toll it can take on mind and body. Repainting a wall is easy, restoring a whole house by lifting beams, removing floors, adding windows and doors…not easy. But the satisfaction on completing a difficult task  is enoug inspiration to continue. In the meantime, while knackering away at the restoration of the old stone farmhouse, we needed to sleep, eat and bathe, probably in that order. We are lucky in that we have several barns on the farm and so one of them became our home for the next 7 years. At first it was only during summer holidays and 2years later it became permanent home.

Living in the barn 2016-024

In between working on the house, we equipped the barn for easier living. A stove, a kitchen sink, cooking tools,  table…we are a family who love our food.. what is a space without some bling? A chandelier or two were hung from the make-do insulated “ceiling”. A wood burning stove provided heat in winters. We had an elegant shower made from an old tin tub we found in the barn and we used an old wagon wheel rim for the shower curtain. From an old wooden ladder we constructed a frame for a bathroom sink , also found in the old house.And yes, running hot water! We even had a bit of privacy by constructing a screen from two wooden doors from the old house., hiding a little dressing room behind it. Madame Pompadour in stylish attire,  kept guard by the bathroom/shower/dressing room.

Living in the barn 2016

Below is a view on the dressing room behind the two doors, forming the screen for privacy..Living in the barn 2016-004

Unfortunately  la toilette stayed outside, a good 200 meters away, which is fine on good days, but got a little complicated on cold and wet wintry days. Today, 7 years later, we can recall some funny stories around our outside toilette which by the way, was brought up to modern standards without the wasps and stacks of newspaper.

Our very first night in the barn in 2008…just a sweep with a broom, a bed for us and our girls and a dinner by candlelight.

However many little luxuries we had in the barn, life was  basic and challenging and we lived with the minimum to which we adapted fairly easily. Today I am convinced more than ever that the human race is spoiled and we live in luxury far beyond necessity. I can honestly say we didn’t miss television for those first years, we ate great food on only a wood burning stove/coal stove. We bought fresh produce every day in small quantities for years until we got a fridge a few years later. We washed dishes by hand in a tin bowl for many of those 7 years.  I soaked our washing every night, rinsed the next day and hung out on the clothes line…I honestly admit though; that was a backbreaking task and far from  adventurous! .

The first few years were bare and adventurous. The barn with its high roof was open and windy with the normal inhabitants you find in old stone walls and we shared the barn with an owl family, who lived there long before us and they weren’t eager to give up their loft for a few humans.

Our barn home in its early years: Drapes of old linens found at brocantes to hide the back part of the barn. A couch or two, cooking corner and always wild flowers. I loved those first years!

The beginning of barn life.. view on the shower corner-20

Of course, at some point,true to human nature, we, or shall I admit…I  longed for more comfort.. So the barn started filling up up with cabinets and armoires and commodes and all my art stuff, brought over from the Loire home. I got tired of living out of a suitcase so the dressing room was invented. We started inviting some friends over, so we needed more than 4 cups and plates.

Living in the barn 2016-017

My art corner took up almost half of the barn, which I and sleeping and working all in one spot. This concept is carried over into our house we are restoring.


Windows and doors got dressed up a little…our souls do need to see some beauty around us..?

Living in the barn 2016-014

Living in the barn 2016-013

Living in the barn 2016-010

These 7 years  we had a barn for a home is one of the most precious periods of my life and an experience that I will never forget. It is a book full of stories, one that I might write someday, even if only for my family who can relate and will remember all these tales.Living in the barn 2016-007Living in the barn 2016-005

To be continued….

Until next time


From Touraine to Corréze…and a spring salad with asparagus and quail eggs..

We have finally reached a stage in the renovation of our farmhouse that we could move in.  We have temporarily lived in the barn for almost 7 years. So it is understandable that this was, and still is, a big occasion. The work is still plentiful, but it is absolutely wonderful being in our house! It floods with natural  light and I fall asleep at night with the stars in my eyes.

tulips at dusk

A sunny spring salad is just the thing to initiate this story of ours from the move from Tours, to our life in the barn to finally our chapter which begins now in our house.

Spring salad 2016

la recette:

A spring salad of which I don’t have to give a recipe for. Just choose from the magnitude of spring vegetables available and assemble in individual plates with a nice vinaigrette.In my salad:

  1. Place a handful of young salad leaves in individual plates.
  2. Blanche some asparagus until JUST tender but still with bite.(drop in boiling water for about 3 minutes, remove and stop the cooking by placing the asparagus in cold water).
  3. Wash and clean  baby carrots, chop the spring onions, boil 5 quail eggs per person for 2 minutes, remove from heat and leave in boiling water for another minute. Place immediately in cold water. Remove the shells and add to the salad.
  4. Cut stale bread in small cubes, sprinkle with olive oil and chopped herbs and oven roast until golden.
  5. Make an anchoide (recipe here) and add spoonfuls to the salad.
  6. Assemble the salad and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil, sprinkle with fleur de sel and milled pepper.
  7. Serve with chunks of rustic country bread.

la loire from the top of the hill

In Tours we lived right on the banks of the Loire with lovely views from our house onto the river. I loved the river and I loved our house.

The house was old and in constant need of attention and repair. If it wasn’t a leaking roof, it was a leaking pipe. We repaired the fireplaces; just to start working on the wooden floors. We tore off meters of wallpaper an then discovered moisture in the walls. It continued non-stop. But nonetheless, the memories are only good ones.

memoris of the loire house

I remember: Our cats, my first chickens, the swallows that came back to the caves every year, the history of the house that we dug up in the caves.Germinating seeds

I remember: The many cooking workshops that finally led to starting Myfrenchkitchen.

cooking workshop

La Loire was the first thing we saw when we opened up our shutters every morning and the last thing we saw when closing up our shutters for the night.The river followed the cycle of the moons and we followed the cycles of the river.

I remember: We walked along the river with a morning coffee in hand, cycled the small footpaths and pique-niqued with champagne..We threw skipping stones on the surface and canoed downstream. We watched the birds leave for winter and come back in spring to nest on the islands. I sketched and painted by the river more than I can count.

Memories of la Loir

Sometimes our plans and goals change completely and sometimes those changes turn out to be far better than our original plans. One day we decided to get a tiny cabin in the mountains. We ended up in the green hills of Correze, la vallée de la Dordogne, on the border of Quercy.  We ended up with land and animals and woods. We ended up with an 1860’s stone house which needed impressive renovation. A dramatic change from our original little cabin in the mountains.

coin perdu week

But once again… I love our hills. I love our house. And so the story began, from Touraine to Corréze.

To be continued…


à la prochaine



Autumn with chestnuts, walnuts and prunes.

Autumn is the most melancholic time of year for me. It is also the most beautiful. Every time, when I drive off the road in my efforts to admire the colours, I think this year is the most beautiful I have seen. Then comes the next autumn and the same thoughts go through my mind. As well as driving off the road.

chestnuts, walnuts and prunes for autumn.

All over the villages in France, les fêtes d’automne are celebrating with enthusiasm ..well…autumn. With stalls of food and bric and bracs, dancing in the streets and musicians sounding with loud self confidence their sometimes false chords into the air. But who cares! Everybody is having fun.

Fete de la chataigne3One such a fete was la fête de chataigne at Beynat, close to home. An atmosphere of vivacity reigned..for me in any case.  Everything was there; Trophies for the best chestnut harvest. Traditional artisans who made their sabots and combed their wool, embroidered their linens and wove their baskets the old fashioned way. By hand, of course.You could buy roasted chestnuts, apples by the crate, walnuts, nutcrackers(of which I bought one, simply because I am too lame to say no!) the meal of the day was home made boudin(blood sausage) with…frites. The French love their frites at markets. The usual crepe a la nutella was ever popular.

Fete de la chataigne1 Fete de la chataigne

I have to admit that I love to go to all these markets, and fairs and fêtes and foires and brocantes. I love browsing and tasting, having coffee(but of course!) I love the atmosphere of exuberance and fun, touching stuff, turning it upside down. I love the smells of food finding its way to my nose. I love the excitement of finding a tiny something for a tiny price; a pot of home made confiture, a piece of sauccisson with walnuts(my favorite), or an old coffee cup or two…simply just for remembering a great morning.

chestnuts, walnuts and prunes for autumn.-005

So, did I buy a tiny something for a tiny price. Oh yes I did! Chestnuts.  For this delicious accompaniment. I ‘m not a big fan of chestnuts, but this dish is divine. I can eat it by the spoonful. It only consists of chestnuts, walnuts and prunes. Some butter(salted) and some chicken stock, or if you prefer, vegetable stock, in which case, it is completely vegetarian. The most fascinating aspect of this dish is that it is autumn at its best. It smells and looks and tastes like forest. OK, you might  need a little imagination and heaps of enthusiasm, but autumn is short. Enjoy it.

La recette:

  1. A handful of cleaned, cooked chestnuts. (It is much easier to buy the vacuum packed cleaned and cooked ones, just ready for use. It is quite an ordeal to clean and cook them. I will show how in a next post for this one is already starting to resemble a marathon.)
  2. A handful of prunes, seeds removed.
  3. A handful of walnuts, removed from the shells with the help of your fancy nutcracker.
  4. A big knob of butter
  5. A drizzle of  olive oil.
  6. A TBSP honey.
  7. Fresh thyme, milled black pepper and mixed spices.
  8. About 1 full cup of chicken stock(or vegetable stock for vegetarians)

Heat the olive oil and salted butter in a frying pan. Add the chestnuts, prunes, mixed spices, milled pepper and fresh thyme (stripped from the stems). Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the walnuts, honey and the chicken stock to the mixture. Leave to gently simmer on low heat just until the juices turned to a thick sauce. Remove from the heat. Serve with roasted chicken, rabbit or venison.

Serves 4 people as accompaniment.

cooking 2014

à bientot


Sorrel, kiwi and cucumber gazpacho…and April greens in Corréze.

I love sorrel, especially with salmon. This time round, I thought a sorrel gazpacho could be nice too with its slightly sour characteristic. Topped with some apple brunoise and croûtons, it could only be gorgeous. So, why not try it and see if you love it as much as I did and still do. I tried it out on mon chéri and he devoured  two bowls, practically licking them out. A sure winner for this spring and summer.

Sorrel, cucumber and kiwi gazpachoLa recette:

  1. Peel and cut 3/4 cucumber and 5 kiwis in cubes.  Place in mixer/blender.
  2. Wash 1 large handful of green sorrel leaves(or mix of green and red sorrel) and remove the hard stems.  Add to the blender.
  3. Blend together until a puree.
  4. Remove to a bowl.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and chopped tarragon.
  6. Cut 1 apple and the other 1/4 cucmber (with peel) into small dice(brunoise). Drizzle with apple cider vinegar.
  7. Cut 3 slices of stale country bread in small cubes, drizzle with olive oil, season with fleur de sel and chopped tarragon and roast in the oven until crisp.
  8. Serve the gazpacho in individual glass bowls, top with the cubes of apple, cucumber, croutons and tarragon.
  9. Drizzle with olive oil and a drop of french mustard and serve at room temperature with extra toppings on the side.

Serves 3-4 people

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use a mix of sorrel and a green with a more peppery taste, like watercress, or even young spinach leaves, some  salad leaves with a pronounced taste, lamb’s ears salad leaves(which are sweet and mild), even radish leaves could be delicious.
  • Add some green tomato(peeled) and for those with strong digestive systems, greenpepper.
  • Stick to crispy toppings which contrast beautifully with the gazpacho.
  • Don’t serve directly from the fridge…too cold a temperature kills the  taste , room temperature or just below is the best.

ingredients gazpacho

The greens in April are quite special with all its new shoots, young leaves and colourful buds, while some trees and branches are still bare. Below some photos of the area with its greens, from dark to yellow to almost white.

April greens April greens-001 April greens-002 April greens-003 April greens-004In the garden, the tulipes dentelle “Snow valley” are in full bloom, my favorite tulip. The bees are back, the Jack Frost is happy with its little blue flowers and the strawberries are plentiful.

Garden April 2015I couldn’t resit playing around with all the greens from the market and the greens from the fields…the greens in April, wild or cultivated, beautiful in their own right.

..asparagus and dandelion seedhead..

asparagus & dandelion seedhead

..avocado and forest fern..

avocado and fern-001

..cucumber and dandelion seed head..

concombre et jonquille

..peas and forget-me-nots..

peapod and forget-me-nots-001

..Until next time, enjoy your last week of April..