Tartiflette…and a Siberian blanket.

I’m not a very big potato fan, but with our extremely cold temperatures here in Europe and especially here at Coin Perdu in the barn, I take comfort in a hearty true mountain tartiflette. It does wonders for my cold body…and spirit! It is a favorite in my family and we make it different every time. It is a recipe that can be played around with, except for the cheese..that can NOT be replaced. It won’t be a tartiflette without that strong flavoured creamy cheese.

There aren’t any specific quantities for making a tartiflette…I can only tell you more or less what I do:

  1. Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
  2. Rinse, leave to cool aside.
  3. Fry 2 large onions in a pan, add a handful of sliced champignons de Paris and a packet of bacon pieces. Season to you taste.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
  5. Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
  6. Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
  7. Cut a Reblochon cheese(or another soft cheese of your choice) through the middle so you have two thin rounds.  I used a Montagnard des Vosges. Place cut side down on the potatoes.
  8. If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has become dry and brittle. Remove from the oven and remove the crust from the dish. Sprinkle with some paprika or “piment d’Espelette” and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nicely caramelized.
  10. Serve warm with some slices of smoked ham and a large fresh green salad on the side with a pungent vinaigrette.

Serves 4 as a meal.

Europe had been covered in a Siberian snow blanket for the past week or so…freezing cold, hyper dangerous, but spectacular! It is exceptionally cold here at Coin Perdu and I have a rough time keeping warm, seeing to fresh water for the horses with all the plumbing frozen rock solid. Warming up the barn to a comfortable temperature has also been a challenging task as of late and the only solution is to dress Inuit style, shuffling  around in multiple layers and moving with less agility than a polar bear. don’;t even mention femininity.. We were snowed in without snow chains for the car and couldn’t get up the hill. the small French country roads are not made for snow and tiny cars and evidence of  this is seen all around the countryside with cars in ditches off the roads.

..our/my home for now…

..bringing the horses in for the night, feeding them, carrying hay from the e other barn and water from the swimming pool..

…an unfinished home – what would I give to be all snug in my home..

…VERY c..c..c..c0ld visits..!!

…the boxwoods are still standing and showing off their beauty against a white background…

..first time snow for Mimolette…

…discovering this all-white-business…

..a white potager(vegetable garden) with the eiffel tower empty, a garden cloche looking quite pretty and last year’s cherry tomatoes…

Mésanges bleues(blue tits and a mésange charbonniére(Great tits) are all too playful in this cold. Between them and the red robins and the pies and the horses and the chickens and the cats and the rabbits and whoever else…; I just can’t keep up with feeding everybody!…

…just some prettiness…

Last, but not least: THANK YOU to everybody who has sent me emails and messages expressing concern for our staying here in the barn at Coin Perdu during this cold, wondering how we/I’m holding up and whether we/I’m surviving.  It is very much appreciated.!! I’m still here, even though I have to admit it is a bit tough lately.  Thank you for caring!

à bientôt

the polar bear(ess)!

White bean salad with anchovies and Muscat grapes…and remembering a garden by the Loire.

Very few people enjoy white beans. I’m actually not one of those few. But a salad…that’s something I always enjoy, and with bean salad, it is no different. Not a cold salad though. Slightly warm.  And not a mushy one either. Fresh and crispy. That’s how I like all my salads. Try it, you might like it too.

Suggestions:

There can be so much playing around with this recipe:

  • Use a mixture of white and red beans.
  • Do yourself a favor and use either the fresh pods or dry beans from the organic store, but not the canned beans…there is just no comparison between beans freshly cooked…just, just tender with still some bite…and those overcooked, bleak, mushy, floury canned stuff.
  • Keep the colors and flavors in your recipe simple.
  • Add other grapes of your preference, or try figs, which are also in season now.
  • Use chervil along with the parsley, which will compliment the anchovies.
  • The anchovies can be left out or replaced by another fish like sardines.
  • Use red onion for its sweetness.
  • Add some freshly grated ginger for extra piquancy and flavor, in which case one would leave out the chervil.
  • This little salad can be used as an aperitif, which is very “tendance” at the moment – serve a helping on pretty spoons with a cold wine, or serve on a small toast triangle, or in a verrine(small glass), or serve in a bowl with slices of baguette so each person can serve him/herself.
  • Add the grapes cold and just before serving, so as to have nice crisp and cool contrast with room temperature.

Here at the end of summer, I am remembering a garden by the Loire. One I haven’t seen in almost 6 months. A garden I miss for its beauty. Its tranquility. Its animal life. For the many memories it gave birth to.

I remember the hard work, shaping something from nothing. I remember the many mistakes made. But  mostly I remember the small but significant successes. The bounty in flower and foliage, the madness of rambunctious herbs, the unforgiving heat of summer sun, the many surprises and no less , the stubborn, but amusing persistence of the weeds. This all shaped my garden, gave it a rich and full life… gave me a rich and full life… season after season.

I remember being too ambitious. Having too little space and planting far too much. I My little garden turned into a forest by the end of summer…the roquette sweeping through the pebbles, the fennels reaching for the skies, the lavenders dancing wild sambas in the beds, the Pierre de Ronsard  climbing rose playing out a Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The boxwoods’ constant demand for pruning, the long shoots everywhere, the new shoots everywhere, the dead heads waiting paitiently…

I remember how the garden could change as often as I can change my mind. Each seasons’ corners were plentiful and changed from one year to the next. Or even more. There was a corner for reflection, for morning coffee,  one for sipping a coolness in midday. There was  room to bask in the sun and of course a spot chosen somewhere for the meal of the evening. And how romantic were these summer evenings in this garden by the Loire, accompanied by the heady fragrances of  jasmines and roses, lavenders and lilies! These lazy dinners lasted long into the night, lit up by candles and lanterns, handmade especially for me by a lover.

I remember how different this love affair with my little garden was to what I have now here at Coin Perdu, where our eyes follow the fall of the sun every evening to far beyond the horizon. It flames up the skies and we are woken up much later by the brightness of a moon and a starlit sky. In the garden by the Loire,  sunsets were rare, cut off early evenings by the shadows of the cliffs and the welcome coolness of the caves. The small garden enfolded our evenings in a soft dusk pashmina,  a warm embrace of  familiarity and comfort. We lit up our candles and made fires in the summer kitchen. With herbs from the garden we stuffed meats and marinated vegetables. Our summer days began and ended in this little garden.

We lived and worked close together in this tiny “jardin de curé”...the cats, the chickens, the people…we all crowded in the summer cave, or in the working “cave” or in my “ atelier“…purring on cushions, lounging on daybeds, playing guitar, listening to music, reading, talking deep talks, speaking deep thoughts, painting, eating, sleeping…

It was nice.

No. It was magical.

It was mine.

This tiny garden by the Loire.

Stuffed courgette flowers..and painting in Provence.

My courgette is taking over my potager here at Coin Perdu…beautiful and healthy with enormous bright green leaves and underneath those cheeky yellow flowers peeking through. The male flowers are starting to fall of and I’m picking them up and drying them to use as dried flowers for sprinkling over my salads…my latest craze; if you keep still long enough, I sprinkle you with dried flowers

The female courgettes are the only ones carrying fruit and I’ve picked some of both to stuff with a crab filling. Both male and female flowers are edible. If ever you can get hold of some courgette flowers…they are absolutely divine, from another world and savored slowly and deliberately…well, I’m a lady, I can’t say what I really think, but you’ll know what I mean when once you’ve enjoyed one!


Suggestions:

  • Serve the flowers stuffed, without steaming.
  • OR make a batter of some flour and add some fizzy water, mix until a thick cream . Dip the courgette flowers wth filling into the batter until coated and deep fry quickly, one by one, turning each once once. Remove, drain and serve sprinkled with fleur de sel and a few drops of lemon juice, or a light yoghurt/mint sauce (natural yoghurt, chopped mint, seasoning, lemon juice..)Make your own filling by choosing ingredients you like and by mixing flavor which compliment each other. Keep it light.
  • Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves with a vinaigrette.

********************************************************************************

Myfenchkitchen is off to Provence for a week of painting with 3 artist buddies. We’ll be staying in the Vaucluse home of well known painter of Postcards from Provence, Julian Merrow Smith and his wife Ruth Philips, while they will be in England where Ruth will be playing cello at the Garsington festival. We even have our own blog, Four go painting in Provence and you’re invited to follow us every step of the way on this trip if you’re interested in seeing all our adventures…which of course will be mostly painting…and eating…and painting again…and then visiting the markets and painting them …and eating…and having some wine perhaps and eating again… or is it painting…in any case, a lot of everything! you can read a little more on my art blog too: Africantapestry is off to Provence for a crazy painting experience!

I’m leaving on Sunday for a week..the other three artist buddies, Katherine, Sarah and Robyn will be there for 3 weeks. unfortunately I have some exciting obligations to tend to here at Coin Perdu, which I’ll share with you once I’m back! So don’t go away…keep well and in the meantime…keep those pots sizzling!

à bientôt!

Ronelle

Radishes with butter and fleur de sel..and a magazine feature.

I am writing from Coin Perdu in Puy d’Arnac, Correze, where we’ve opened up the house and restarted the restoration process.

I have started work in the vegetable garden, where the process is much slower than I would like, but like with art, it should be about the process and not only about the end result. so I’m slacking down and enjoying the stiff muscles and backaches and bruises and blisters…or am I? Be it as it may; life here in the green valleys of Correze doesn’t care for haste and speed(except on the roads).  Days are long and start and end in their own time. People stop in the roads to talk to the neighbour. Chickens and ducks waddle lazily by the roadsides and the cattle just graze without thought in the hills. how can I  push on with my vegetable garden when the rest of the world around me is taking time to enjoy the present moment. So I suggest a break from our hectic programs…stop by the market, buy a bunch of radishes, call some friends for a sundowner and catch up on that friendship while you munch on fresh radishes with real butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. It is what we do often. It is what all French do. Often.

Suggestions:

  • Use any herbs of your choice, but stick to a maximum of three. I used parsley, chives and lemon peel, with a drop of lemon juice.
  • Serve mayonnaise for those who don’t eat butter.
  • Instead of Fleur de sel, use Maldon salt flakes.
  • Don’t throw the leaves of the radishes away, use to make a soup, like you would use spinach.
  • Serve with a cold rose or cold dry white wine as an aperitif.

…and a magazine feature.

I’ve had the big honor of being featured in the spring issue of the elegant magazine Where women cook, by the very creative team of Jo Packham.  See the magazine cover on my sidebar.

In continuation of this article, everybody who is featured in this issue  is also featured on the Where women cook – blog, Amuse bouche. I can promise you will enjoy Amuse bouche…it is full of inspiration with ideas and good reads about interesting people with exciting adventures and projects and stunning photography!

I will be featured  on Amuse Bouchefrom Monday 18 April to Thursday 21 April with:

Please drop by and say hi…I hope you enjoy!

And last but not least: A BIG thank you to Jo Packham from the magazine Where women cook, for this invitation and to Loralee Choate who does such a fantastic job on Amuse Buche!

à bientôt

Ronelle