Carrot, apple and cumin soup.

I saw a post on Instagram a while back. It was a recipe and I can’t remember what it was. What I do remember, is that it had an enormous list of ingredients, which probably explains why I can’t remember the dish. Sometimes I think my food is totally boring and déja vu, but when I see friends and family dig into my meals with gusto, I realize that they enjoy the simplicity of my meals. Or they must be starving.

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There is a certain flair to preparing a meal or a dish and it has nothing to do with the amount of ingredients. You really don’t need much to serve a delicious meal. The main ingredient of course is always the love with which you prepare ita very kitsch and Facebook- favorite ingredient, but it holds true nonetheless.  

I have my own flair in the kitchen. First and foremost, is chaos. No matter how well I prepare beforehand, it finally turns into chaos. I start off very well, very organized and I can even keep it up for a while. My working surface stays clean, I keep an eye on the food brewing on my stove, I watch my oven, I rinse used utensils to keep my sink clean and empty, I have hot water at hand to add to hot foods. Suddenly it all goes wrong. Bowls are everywhere, I have no room to put hot oventrays, I have no clean wooden spoons left, the sink is filled to the beams, the fridge door is open, I can’t find the band aid, the stove is rattling with lids bouncing up and down. The tempo in the kitchen is now on full speed. Somehow though, I am still in control. And I am enjoying all this havoc around me. Chaos is not always a bad thing.

kitchen-chaos

Another character of my “personal kitchen flair” is my attention to serving a meal, a dish, or even just a simple sandwich. I believe a dish can’t leave the kitchen without that last personal touch. I always serve a meal with colour.  A dull and colorless dish in front of me, robs me of all envie.. desire. There are gazillions of ways to add colour to a dish. The easiest and most available to everybody, is a sprig of herb, usually one that you have used in your dish. What? You don’t use herbs in your food? You should start right away! It is one of the most sensual flairs in food…chopping and chipping herbs, smelling and tasting it.

food-styling

Having all the ingredients for a dish exhibited on the counter, gives me such a kick and it incites one of my biggest flairs in my cooking. When deciding on a dish, I gather all my ingredients and place them on my working surface. I remember my mother doing it very differently, which is why her kitchen was neat and there was always enough space, even though she had a small kitchen.  She fetched every ingredient as she needed it. For a carrot soup, she fetched an onion, cut it and added it to  her casserole. While the onion fried, she fetched 6 carrots, cut it and added it to her soup. Step by step, she continued and by the end, the table was set, the kitchen clean and we sat down for a delicious meal of soup and bread. I,  on the other hand, fetch my whole potager (vegetable garden), all the herbs I might possibly want to add and everything else in between.I am like an orchestra conductor. I want to see my whole ensemble in front of me and then I lift my hands and the music begins. I love seeing all those fresh produce before me, deciding on the go what I would like to do to my soup, ( I think the Americans call it “cooking from the hip”?), Always keep the tune in mind though and, just like an orchestra, never allow a dish to become cacophonous.

January is a month of diets and soups. Since I am utterly hopeless at diets, I opt for soup. In our home, carrot, apple and cumin soup is a favorite with all ingredients healthy enough to not feel bad about indulging.

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Carrot, apple and cumin soup.

  1. Fry 1 chopped shallot and 1 tsp cumin seeds for few minutes until the shallot is transparent. Don’t burn the mixture.
  2. Add about 8 big carrots, peeled and cut.
  3. Add 3 cups of home made chicken stock, or 3 cups of  water with one cube of chicken stock.
  4. Bring to the boil.
  5. Peel 1 large Granny smith apple and remove the core. Cut into chunks and add to the soup.
  6. Leave to simmer over medium heat until the carrots are very tender.
  7. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool a bit.
  8. Mix the soup to a creamy consistency. Pour the soup through a sieve to get a smooth velvet soup.
  9. Pour into a clean pot and reheat gently.
  10. Season with salt and pepper and add créme fraîche to taste. The soup must have the consistency of cream…it is soup, not a puree. If it is too thick, add some full cream milk or cream.
  11. Serve the soup warm in bowls with a small quenelle (dollop)of créme fraîche and a spoonful of apple salsa.  Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle some olive oil.

Apple and cumin salsa:

  1. Cut 1 granny smith apple in brunoise,(small dice), add lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 chopped spring onion . Season with salt and pepper and mix.

Serves 4 people

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PS: You can follow me on Instagram for more regular short posts at ronellesatelier

à bientôt

Ronell

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Galette des rois aux pommes…and January ambiance at Coin Perdu.

And so we have come to the end of 2016. May we all have a year of good health and a good dose of adventure.

Last year had seen very little of me here on my blog. Even though blogging is mostly  n “ancient” practice and replaced by Instagram, I still love my little blog very much, going on 10 years this year. I have set one important goal for myself and it is to get back to my foodblog. I hope you will walk along side me. It is always more fun to have company!

Just as we think we have had enough of eating after Christmas and new year, les galettes de rois land on our plates. We love our galette des rois. Made of a fluffy puff pastry and filled with a variety of fillings, the most popular being almond cream, it is served around a table  with coffee and tea…and friends. If you find the trinket in your helping, you have the honours of presenting the next galette des rois…wearing the crown of course, in this case, a twined olive branch.

And so I invite you to my table. Let s serve the coffee and slice our galette. Bon appetit!

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You can find the recipe for my galette des rois aux pommes(with apples) at this link…galette des rois. It is the basic recipe of puff pastry, filled with an almond cream. This time round, I added some apples for some change.

This is what I did:

  1. Peel and cut 3 Granny smith apples in chunks and caramelize in a TBSP of butter, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and about 2 TBSP of sugar. Add 2 tsp lemon juice and the rind of 1/2 lemon. Add 2 TBSP of currants. Caramelize until the apples aare soft and caramelized. Leave to cool.
  2. Follow the basic basic recipe for galette des rois up to step 8. (Spread the almond cream in the center and place a trinket in the filling.)
  3. Spoon the cool apple filling on top of the almond cream.
  4. Cover with the second circle of pastry and squeeze the ends together.
  5. Baste the top with egg yolk and draw a pattern of your choice with a knife on the top.
  6. Leave for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes at 200 degr C. Lower the heat to 180 degr C and bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown.

Serves 6 people

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Last year we had a gentle winter and even though it made life easier, it wasn’t what nature needed, or what we needed for that matter.Our winters need to be cold for new life in spring. And so we have our cold again this year with white, frosty mornings which are so magical, I feel like I have been transported to a different world.

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A few images from my garden from this sudden very cold January.  It reminds me how fortunate I am to live in a country which have four spectacular seasons.

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à bientôt

Ronell

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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…

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à la prochaine

Ronell

 

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.

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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

Ronelle