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 enjoyed..living 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..?

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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

Ronelle

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.

Diner de Noel 2015-006

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

Marche noel meyssac 152

Leftover dessert is always a good thing.

pavlova aux clementines-003

Enjoy the arrival of 2016.

à bientôt

Ronell

coq.NEF

A scoop of yogurt mascarpone cream and grapes, flambéed with Armagnac bring total silence to the dinner table.

In my garden, we have delicious grapes growing all along our terrace and balcony. I have no clue what they are called, but I devour them.  I have planted my two favorites in the potager: Chasselas and Muscat; of which we had our first harvest this year. The wine grapes( the domaine of mon chéri) will hopefully be planted next year with proper fanfare when all our friends and children and their friends will show up(hopefully!) with muscle and vigour to help. They will be rewarded with great food…cooked by me of course!

grapes, fish -002

. I managed to grab the last two bunches of grapes of this  season for a dessert I  have been planning to post, but haven’t yet found the time to do it. I bought  the last of les raisins d’Italie, a nice green and firm grape, perfect for this dessert.

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.

What else can I say. I just simply love dessert. Leaving a restaurant without finishing my meal off with dessert, is…to say the least, sad, or better yet, depressing. It needn’t be a fancy affair. A yogurt. Or a fruit. A scoop of ice cream. In this case fruit and yogurt and a luscious cream. Oh, and a drizzle of Armagnac lit up to a pretty blue flame. Et voilà, c’est fait. Dessert is served.

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.-004La recette:

  1. 200 g Greek yogurt( the sour of the yogurt adds a nice flavour to the dish)
  2. 200 g mascarpone cheese
  3. 1 vanilla pod
  4. 2 TBSP castor sugar
  5. 500 g grapes , stems removed(You can use mix of black and green grapes, although the black grapes do do tend to lose their colour  during the cooking process.
  6. 2 TBS butter
  7. 3 TBSP brown sugar
  8. juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  9. 50 ml  Armagnac

► Whisk the mascarpone until light. Add the yogurt. Slit open the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the mascarpone/yogurt cream along with the castor sugar. Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed. Wash the grapes (of your choice) and remove the stems. There is need to remove the seeds, unless you can do it without breaking the grape. Melt the butter and sugar in a large pan. Add the grapes, lemon juice and grated rind. Let simmer over gentle heat for about 4 minutes. Be careful not to break the grapes open. Heat the Armagnac in a little saucepan, remove from the heat and light up with a match. Pour the flaming alcohol immediately and gently over the grapes. Leave to simmer for another 2-3 minutes until slightly syrupy. OR Pour the warm Armagnac onto the grapes  and flambée. Take care not to splash the flaming alcohol. Leave to cool down a little. Place a generous dollop of mascarpone in each bowl/plate and spoon in a helping of grapes. Finish off by drizzling  some   syrup over the grapes and cream. Enjoy.

► Serves 4 people.

To set food alight, is something everybody always enjoy. with ooh and aahs, mesmerized by the flames licking the food, we stare at the show. It can of course be very dangerous and not at all should children be allowed to do it. For those inexperienced, don’t do it like you see chefs doing it on television with big drama and whooshing  up to the ceiling.with 50 ml of alcohol, you already get a spectacular flame, so if you want to be on the safe side, split it up into two flambés. Don’t lean over the casserole you are about to flambé and stand far enough away, but still close enough to have control on what you are doing. You can pour a little alcohol into  stainless steel soup ladle with long handle to heat up directly over a flame and light up, then pour the burning alcohol over the pan for effect. Or you can add the alcohol to the warm grapes and then set alight. In both cases, switch off all other gas flames on the stove, stay away from candles and any other flames. If you feel unsure, skip the flambé step. just pour in the Armagnac alcohol over the grapes and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes for the alcohol to cook off. Enjoy and be safe above all else!

Yogurt marcarpone cream with armagnac flambéed grapes.-001cooking 2015à bientôt, Ronelle

coq.NEF

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

Ronelle