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.

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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.

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Scallops with parsnips and parsley sauce.

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Lobster with beurre blanc and black truffle risotto.

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Pavlova with mint cream and caramelized clementines.

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Christmas evening was our winter forest.

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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

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Leftover dessert is always a good thing.

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Enjoy the arrival of 2016.

à bientôt

Ronell

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.

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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

Basil stuffed strawberries..and bubbles at la fête de la fraise.

In the spirit of the fraise season and it being the fruit of our region, I trumped up these little strawberry helpings. Very versatile, they can be served as part of a buffet, or an ending to a meal as dessert, or with a cheese platter, or even an apéritif  for an al fresco dinner. Won’t hurt to try them, non?

Basil stuffed strawberries

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Recette:

  1. Rinse and dry a handful of large strawberries.
  2. Cut the stem side off each strawberry to form a lid and keep aside. Cut the tip off to make the strawberry stand up straight.
  3. Use a small melon scoop and hollow out the inside to form a little cup.
  4. Cut the remove strawberry flesh into small pieces.
  5. Add to the chopped strawberry flesh: Some chopped  berries of your choice(blueberries, blackberries, mulberries…), a few drops of balsamic vinegar, a few drops of a fruit coulis of your choice, a few shredded fresh basil leaves. Mix together gently and spoon into the empty strawberry cups.
  6. Sprinkle some chopped pistachio nuts over the tops and replace the strawberry lids.
  7. Serve individually on a plate or on a large platter for a buffet and accompany with fruit coulis(which you have used in the strawberry cups)
  8. Decorate with berries and sifted icing sugar, basil leaves..

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • I used blueberries and raspberries with a raspberry coulis.
  • If the berries aren’t in season yet, combine with another fruit like kiwi, which will also see to a nice filling.
  • Remember that the bigger the strawberries, the less flavor and sweetness they have, So choose youraccompanying fruit accordingly.
  • Pomegranate can make for a nice crunchy filling.
  • For an sweet/salty apéro(amuse bouche), try a filling of quinoa, chopped spring onion and chervil with a drizzling of lemon juice, olive oi, and serve on some salad leaves..mmm, superb! Serve with a cold rosé wine by the barbeque fire..
  • Don’t serve directly from the fridge..too cold temperatures kill the strawberry taste..in facet, I never serve anything, except ice cream and the likes, directly from the fridge. The fridge kills all flavours.
  • Serve as part of a cheese platter..fill with a small cube of feta cheese, a shredding of dill and add a little piment d’espelette jelly(or another piquant jelly) and a drop of olive oil.
  • Play around with your own preferences.

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This year’s fête de la fraise happened in the rain. Although the number of visitors were lower than previous years, there were still many brave ones..like mon chéri and me. The fraises were as usually in abundance, but I missed the taste of sunshine..it is clear that our fruit and vegetables aren’t what they usually are. All the rains and grey and rainy days are taking its toll. But nonetheless, going to la fête de la fraise is what we just do and we  strolled the streets and nibbled on strawberries all day long.

..a cool fête de la fraise

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..This was my attraction all day long..

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..Strawberries, smoothies, meringues, crèpes..it was all there..

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..just a few names under so many varieties..

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..and the traditional giant tarte aux fraises, a combined effort by the patissiers of Beaulieu..

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..I was as as fascinated by the bubbles as the kiddies were..

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..How I wish we could hang on to that uninhibited spontaneity..

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..just like the strawberries, bubbles of all sizes and shapes..

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..and this is where the bubbles originated from..a complicated vintage machine..

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..As usual, mon chéri had to discuss  the engineering principles behind the bubbles with Monsieur bubble machine..

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..And..forgive me..more bubbles!..

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..such a pity I have no more daughters; musicians and bands galore throughout the day…

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..and with this last image I want to say:

“Gros bisous à toutes les mamans et à ceux et celles qui les entourent..

bonne fête des mamans!!”

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**Note: the washing day post is postponed to later date due to loss of images(total computer clumsiness on my part!!)..I have to await a sunny day to redo it all…my apologies!

à la prochaine fois,

Ronelle

Walnut tart …and a marché aux plantes(plant market) at Curemonte.

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I decided to make a walnut tart, even though it is actually an autumn dish which we make when our walnuts are harvested after summer. But here, we eat it throughout the year, because we love it. Tout simple. That’s it.

Coming home from the marché aux plantes in Curemonte last week, with my confiture de noix and my chutneys and oils and vinegars and dandelion syrup under my arm, I thought it would be appropriate to make a walnut tart to accompany this reportage on the plant day at Curemonte. I’ve never made a walnut tart myself and it is only recently that I started eating it. I never thought it could be something special, until that one day that I took a slice at a friend’s house. It was delicious and it still is. It tastes like autumn. It is a rather heavy tart (which makes sense for fall and winter comfort), so I make it in a small tart tin, to have small slices…a good idea in any case for all tarts and cakes and goodies!

Our walnut trees are always late off the mark. They start off late in spring with these nice “flowers”, which are then rapidly followed by the leaves. With 4 huge trees, we always have a large supply of walnuts, perfect for Noël.

..tarte aux noix (walnut tart)..

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La recette:

*Pastry base: Recipe here.   Bake the pastry shell blind( without filling, but filled with dry baking beans to weigh down the pastry). Bake at 200 ° C for about 10 minutes. Remove the beans.

*Walnut filling:

  1. Crush 200 g walnuts, but not completely into powder. Keep some whole for decoration.
  2. Whisk 2 eggs and 70 g brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence, 50 ml TBSP strong black coffee, 2 TBSP flour and 150 créme fraîche ( or thick cream). Mix gently together.
  4. Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with skewer and the tart is done when the skewer is removed clean when piercing the tart.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of walnut liqueur.
  6. Leave to cool, decorate with dusted icing sugar and some whole walnuts and serve with some créme fraîche or whipped cream.

Serves 6 people

Une pincée de sel:

  • The brown sugar and coffee gives a nice dark colour to the filling; but the coffee can be omitted if desired.
  • For a winter tart, try adding some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or cacao instead of coffee.
  • Pecan nuts can be used instead.
  • Keep the portions small as it is a rich and heavy tart.
  • Make extra pasty for the base and keep in the freezer for another tart.

…defrosting the pastry for the base..

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...spring walnut branches..

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Marché aux plantes à Curemonte

Curemonte is a quaint little village, 10 minutes drive from us. This past week saw the annual marché aux plantes (plant market) at Curemonte, an occasion I look forward to every year. Not only do they have plants, but also food, artwork  and some bric a brac..a vide grenier. Everything sold and presented, is local. The bread is made locally, the beer is from the local brasserie, the plants and vegetables are local, the bees and honey, the walnut delicacies and walnut tarts are made locally , the wine is local and the vide grenier and brocante are from les Curemontais themselves.

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I love the country side, whether it is a French one or an American one or and English one. I prefer the ambiance and laid back ambiance of les campagnards, country folk..of which I am one of course. Strolling the small streets, peeking around each corner, stroking the dilapidated doors and windows, enjoying the laisser faire gardens( gardens just seem to happen by themselves, relaxed..). the world just comes to a standstill in the countryside where chatting to your neighbour is still a pleasure, almost an obligation and something that can even happen on the road, simply expecting traffic behind to wait..everybody waits. Beauty is all around you, simple, nothing is ostentatious. Glamor has no place in the countryside. Nature isn’t glamorous. It is simple. Honest. sometimes hard and challenging. Always beautiful. I thus hope I pass a bit of the beauty of Curemonte and its marché aux plantes on to you by these images.

curemonte collage 4 5120x4096..and plenty of food for hungry visitors; 8 euros for a plateau repas, which consisted of a glass of rosé wine, rillettes with bread for a starter, steak frites and cheese to finish..so simple, but so delicious in the atmosphere of camaraderie with people joining in at the long tables..

curemonte collage 2 5120x3544…a plate or a table, a bowl or a tea towel..just browse..

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..I found my bonheur(happiness)..

bol 1 4419x3076..and a lot of strolling

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..fascination comes in the form of dilapidated doors and shutters, railings, gates-my fettish..

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..à l’année prochaine..salut!(until next year, cheerio!)

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I hope you enjoyed this day with me in the French country side! I of course loved every minute of it and I relived it all by sharing it here with you.

until very soon( à trés bientôt!)

Ronelle

Ron