Ambiance – Paris

I’m say ciao ciao to you for I’m driving up to Paris for a few days. The weather looks promising with sunshine an I hope to do a lot of reading and sketching in my most favorite corner in Paris..le Jardin du Luxembourg. Maybe mon chéri will join me for lunch there where he can play a game of chess, while I cut up the cheese and baguette…

I leave you with one of my many images of L’eiffel...the little game I play with the Eiffel tower…always a salut on arrival and always a salut on leaving.

..Paris..

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And just to keep you busy this week…one of my favorite movies –la vie à la campagne film, because that is where I will always come back to; la campagne.

..Le passager d’été..

2013-10-07

 

Roasted red pepper tart..and lavenders of Provence I..

Red peppers are synonym with the Mediterranean and it is one of my favorite vegetables, raw or otherwise. We grow them in our potager(vegetable garden) rows of them..and they find their way to our table in every way possible. Une petite tarte, using ready made puff pastry or home made if you are so handy or ordered from your boulanger, which is how I prefer to  do it, is one way of serving these delicious vegetables.

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La recette:

  1. Wash  4 red peppers.
  2. Remove the seeds and cut them into thin strips. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and milled black pepper. Add three twigs of fresh rosemary and two lemon wedges.
  3. Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. Roll out 4 rectangles of puff pastry to about 1mm thick and 8x16cm long. Roll the sides to the inside to form a little rolled side. Prick the inside with a fork, cover with some baking paper and weigh down with baking beans. Bake in a preheated oven at 200° C for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for another 5 minutes.
  6. Arrange the roasted peppers on the prepared pastry shells. Add some cubed or crumbed feta cheese and dry roasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with red pepper corns and drizzle the pan juices from the roasted red peppers over the filling. Add some rosemary twigs and place under the grill for about 7 -10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve warm with a dollop of créme fraîche and a  large green salad.

Serves 4 people

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use courgettes instead of red peppers, or a mixture of both.
  • Add some halved spring onions to the red peppers before roasting.
  • Use goats cheese instead of feta cheese.
  • Serve with homemade balsamic sorbet.
  • Spoon some pesto on the base of the pastry shell before adding the red peppers.
  • Turn into a dessert by spooning some sweetened mascarpone cheese on the bottom of the pastry shell, cover with red peppers and drizzle with honey and chopped mint.

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..the lavenders of Provence..

Mon chéri treated me to a couple of days in Provence. I don’t have to say anything, except that it was pure joy. It was so short, but my senses were alive to its maximum every minute.

Apart from the wonderful Provencal sun, the delicious meals on sunny terraces, the Provencal rosé wines, I did indeed manage to complete 7 sketches, while mon chéri patiently waited and used the time to play chess. Since our time was so short, I didn’t want to spend too much time on sketching though, so all I wanted was to capture a bit of the ambiance of our short stay. I think I  achieved that and I  am so chuffed. So chuffed indeed. If you’d like to see the sketches, you can pop over to Africantapestry.

I love lavender. Just simply love it. Not in foods. Not in soaps. Not in perfumes. not in my closets. But in pots and in the fields and gardens. That is the only place I can appreciate its fragrance, which is too strong and overpowering anywhere else. But the joy of lavender and its fragrance in a field or in a garden…nothing else comes close.

If only I could pass along the fragrance with these images…but it is all up to you and your imagination. Stretch out your hand and touch the blooms, hear the bees, see the butterflies, sniff the air, feel the sun and dwell in the heady fragrance…

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The soil varies between the different fields, but they all have three things in common…altitude, sun and poor soil.

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A lavender field snaking over the hill into a row of Provence cypress.

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At the abbaye de Senanque, the lavenders aren’t fully open yet, it being a different variety. But I love the faded blue which harmonizes with the gentle quietude of the abbaye and the greys of its old stone building.Provence 2013 28-06-2013 14-22-24 4928x3264

Some homes with their “designer entrances”.Provence 2013 29-06-2013 10-27-12 4928x3264

A beautiful salmon coloured mas with its field of lavender and adjacent vineyard.Provence 2013 29-06-2013 10-50-08 4928x3264

Small fields, larger, tiny, among wheat, beside the roads…everywhere.

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Where there is lavender, there you’ll find bees and butterflies!

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Green vines, purple lavenders and red soil…the colours of Provence.

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One of my favorite photos with a scene of all my favorite things..nature with its rocky area, the olive grove, the lavender, the hills, the colors, the smells..

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A quilt of color in the valley just below Bonnieux; lavender fields, wheat fields and vineyards.

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*Keep an ear to the ground for the next post on Provence..until then..

à bientôt!

Ronelle

Autumn in Amsterdam..and a lamb tajine.

Once again, a great time spent on my feet. This time round I spent my days leisurely strolling around. Gone are the days I fly on my feet and hyperventilate to catch all museum doors open. Now I simply enjoy the different culture which I find myself in for a few days, the different lifestyle and the habits of the pedestrian passing me by, and I fall in with each moment as it presents itself. And I still have a lot of fun..like getting lost.

I thought I knew Amsterdam by now, but I got so lost this time I almost ended up in Antwerpen! I walked for 2 hours before admitting I am lost and then spent almost another 2 to get out of my predicament and to some familiar ground. I have a good sense of direction(usually) and very  rarely use a map and I have (usually) some great experiences with getting a bit  lost. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those occasions where one falls upon treasures on your lost road, on the contrary, it was a bit challenging. Maybe because it started getting dark and the streets I wandered started getting empty, or maybe because I saw so many black dogs lying outside the doors, or could it be the barred doors and windows I passed? With a dead phone battery and a very fertile imagination I continued walking. When I saw a young woman with a black Doberman on a leash, I decided this was my saving line..I followed her, not having the slightest idea where she was going, but I hoped if something happened, maybe she would unleash that black dog. I also had the good hope that she would get me to a less scarier corner. It worked.  Following her brought me back to where I could at least see the church tower and I started breathing easier again.

By that time, my feet burned from wearing winter shoes my feet aren’t used to yet, I was hungry and thirsty and exhausted from visualizing the end of my life. A tiny Turkish eating corner and its beautiful young owner with her long dark black hair came to my rescue. I plonked my tired body into one of her chairs and ordered a chicken tajine with yellow rice and dried fruits and beetroot and a large glass of mint tea. That was the best meal I’ve ever had and I could see a future ahead of me again!

So, in commemoration of that wonderful reviving tajine, here is my version of it…delicious if I may say so myself..or maybe it lies in the memory..

..Tajine d’agneau(lamb tajine)..

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use whichever meat you prefer, just adjust the cooking time. White meat like chicken cooks quicker than red meat like lamb and beef.
  • ALWAYS brown your pieces of meat before making a stewing dish..it enhances flavor.
  • Don’t drown your meat with liquid when braising. Adding a little liquid thorough the cooking time makes for a more flavorful and thicker, caramelized sauce.
  • Add fruits towards the end if you want whole pieces of fruit in your meal. Adding them earlier will break up the fruit and thicken and naturally sweeten the sauce
  • A tajine served the next day is even better in flavor. Just add a little water to reheat because the sauce thickens when standing.

Everybody knows Amsterdam for its tulips and canals and of course bicycles. And so, like all tourists, I also took some typical touristy shots, depicting Amsterdam in its daily habit. Of course there is much more to a buzzing city like Amsterdam apart from its colorful dress code. There is its poverty and illness, its age and constructional city problems, the crime and simply mean people, as I’ve had the misfortune of discovering.

..My soup bench and the surprise element..

But there is also the surprise element like when I was taken aback by a young man, staggering towards me and my soup on a bench(above). With a half empty bottle in his one hand and a full one in the other, he asked me in Dutch for a cigarette; I shook my head and pulled up my shoulders, suggesting I don’t understand. He switched to English and again I shrugged my shoulders. Being convinced he would understand no word of French, I answered him and satisfied with myself, I turned my attention to my soup. In perfect French, he addressed me again and even paid me an askew compliment, while holding out his hand to me in greeting.  I almost swallowed my soup cup. What are the odds of a street bum speaking 3 languages fluently? Of course I had to take his sweaty hand in acknowledgement of him checkmating me in my own game.

..Pompadour chocolates and coffee..

I frequently stopped r for so,something to drink, which would be either a coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice. And it hit me how the little coffee shops differ so immensely from ours here in France. It could be anything from only one tiny table to a single wooden bench or a row of cushions. This is  what I wanted to capture.

..Royal bagels and muffins..

..Greenwoods, with everything and anything..

..A single bench at LEF..

..Cushions and blankies at Kaldi..

..So many, many more coffee shops to choose from..

I skipped on museums this time, but I visited many an art gallery..some highly expensive, some interesting and some plain boring. But there is sure something for everyone. And with capturing a little of the art here in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist being a little kitschy in introducing a bicycle sweeping by in front of my lens…now that was fun!

Of course Amsterdam isn’t Amsterdam without its bulbs. I carried somewhat heavy on my plastic bag all the way back to Coin Perdu, where they await their planting. Bulbs, bulbs and bulbs..will they grow?

..Bulbs and bulbs and bulbs..

Too soon I had to say goodbye to my new friends and head back home. But there is always the prospect of seeing them again..I wonder what experiences will await me then..

..dear friends..

..à bientôt..

Ronelle

Tropical fruit salad… and Hawai’i chronicles 1 – the hula.

When I was in Hawa’i I searched everywhere for a nice tropical dessert with local fruits, but all in vain. Probably because of a lack of fruits in season? Back here at home, I still want a fruit salad, so I made this salad Not completely a tropical one, but with some well known fruits. Next time I’ll make a real tropical salad with lesser know fruits and give my verdict.

  1. Cut some tropical fruits of your choice into brunoise(small cubes). I used mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, kumquat, pomegranate, green Granny smith apple.
  2. Use fruits that  are ripe, but still firm, so that you don’t end up with a soggy fruit salad…awful!
  3. Cover the apple with lemon juice to prevent coloring.
  4. Don’t use banana, it is too strong and overpowering for a fruit salad.
  5. Use a tiny melon ball scoop for the papaya to add some difference in shapes. I also cut the pineapple in little triangles.
  6. Keep the fruits separate and mix lightly just before serving, OR set in layers in a pretty glass.
  7. Make a syrup of 4 passion fruit pulp, 1 TSP of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Let it boil down to a syrupy consistency and pour over the salad just before serving.
  8. Serve with a small scoop of lemon sorbet. (recipe following in a next issue)
  9. Decorate with some fresh flowers or a little umbrella for fun, lime strips, or add mint leaves or small basil leaves.
  10. Serve cold, but NOT so cold that you can’t taste the fruit!

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Hawai’i is always a good place to unwind, even if you just do nothing, which is exactly what I did this time around. Reading by the pool, watching people(one of my favorite pastimes) while  imagining their stories. On one such a day, this lovely Hawaiian woman gave some Hula lessons and of course I don’t have the same pretty hips for swaying along, but I could at least capture some nice hips!

The Hula is not just pretty hip swaying, but tells a story. With the hands and arms and face, a tale is mimicked with sensuality and sensitivity.  One does get involved and captured  and can’t help but wish more stories were told this romantic way.

I was too far away to hear this story, but I imagine it could be something like this:

“The goddess Pele, who owns the sea and oceans and the mountains, saw that Hiania who lost a child, was absorbed by sadness. Hiania hid from the world and her tears filled the rivers. Pele cares passionately for her children of the islands and she heaved the winds and stirred the waves with a message to Haina.

“Cry no more“, she said.

Look up to the sun and see your child in the skies. He is smiling upon you and asking you to set free your sadness and prepare your womb to receive the child the winds will bring you.

Hiania looked up and saw the smile of her son. She gave her sadness to the mountain who took it deep into the earth to feed its fire and she was set free to wait with anticipation upon her keiki (little one).

Until next time and with swaying hips(in private!),

 Mahalo !

Ronelle