December ambiance 2014…and Apple, date and pear compote.

Apples and spices…only two words necessary to express winter. And the festive season. The markets groan under the weight of all the apples available and we are used to eating varieties picked recently here in our own region. We don’t even consider buying imported apples and pears when we can pick and choose between many varieties home grown. Which is exactly what I did to make this festive apple, pear and date compote. You can’t get it any easier than this..quick, simple, but so flavorful. It goes to show just once again that you don’t need complicated ingredients to get flavour into your dishes. The golden phrase in cooking is always…keep it simple and use quality ingredients.

Apple, pear and date compote -002 La recette:  Apple, pear and date compote:

  1. Peel and cut 3 firm pears and 3 firm apples into cubes.
  2. Place in a saucepan and drizzle liberally with the juice of 1 lemon.Add to the fruit mixture: 6 dates halved and seed removed, 1 vanilla pod with its seed scraped into the mixture, the grated peel of 1 lemon, 1 star anise, 1 bark of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of Szechuan pepper(crushed in mortar and pestle, a tiny pinch of salt, 1 TBSP of maple syrup and 1tsp of cane sugar.
  3. Simmer on gentle heat for about 30 minutes or until the fruit is tender, but NOT PUREED. The fruit must still have a slight bite. Strain the compote and remove the cinnamon and star anise. Keep aside.
  4. Replace the juice on the heat and reduce to syrup.
  5. Serve the compote in bowls and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds for a fresh crunch. Drizzle with the syrup and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche.

 Serves 6 people (dessert)

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Instead of serving the compote as a dessert, it can be served as an accompaniment to meat like porc or veal.
  • As an accompaniment, omit the pomegranate seeds and chop a red onion into small dice. Add some of the meat juices to the onion and compote to make it more suitable for an accompaniment.
  • the compote can be served at room temperature or warm.
  • Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream instead of créme fraîche.
  • It can be prepared a day ahead and reheated at a gentle temperature.

Apple, pear and date compote……………………………………………………………………………………………….

This year has passed by so quickly, totally without my permission. I have the feeling I wasn’t even present at times. I am definitely present today, the 1st of December 2014…a day I usually enjoy, because it is the day day we put up our Christmas tree, decorate it, drink vin chaud and listen to our first Christmas carols.

Noël 2014-010

Every year, since Myfrenchkitchen’s first December in 2007, I have posted on 1 December showing our Christmas tree for that year. It has just been a delight  being able to share it with you these 7 years. Little has changed in these 7 years. From the beginning I had a recipe and then rambled on about some subject with words and images and bored you with my art. the only change is probably that I don’t write from Montlouis any more, but from a barn on a farm in the south west of France.

Noël 2014-001

Some years I wrote a lot and some years my presence was few and far between. there were times I even thought of quitting. But My little blog(s) has become such a part of me, I don’t think I could let it go. I have many friends who gave it up for Facebook and Instagram, but finishing a post on my blog, still gives me such a big kick, every time.

Noël 2014-014

I hope I can be more present in the near future, but if not, then that will be OK too. I am not going anywhere and I won’t desert this baby of 7 years. This is my own little “corner”, where I write for myself and for those readers and friends who have walked alongside me all this time. It is still fun.

Noël 2014-002 And so, our Christmas this year is all in white and silver, my favorite colours for the festive season. the dry branch with moss from the garden, a pot filled with sand, candles and tea lights we burn every night for those gone, far away or just simply those we love. Noël 2014-003 Birds are omnipresent on/in our trees. and there they are again this year, perched high on the branches Noël 2014-004 I chose to hang a large brightly coloured painting behind the tree. I love the contrast of the simple tree in white and silver against the abundant colour of the painting. The painting depicts a scene in a church, which is quite fitting too. Noël 2014-005 Noël 2014-015 Noël 2014-006 Noël 2014-007 Noël 2014-008 Noël 2014-009 I wish you all a wonderful month of December. This is not the last you’ll see of me for the month, so I greet you as usual:

à la prochaine fois!

Ronelle

Noël 2014-013

Rustic apples in puff pastry(bourdelots aux pommes)..and l’hotel de ville.

Autumn is the time of year we eat rustic food. Finish are the dainty salads and light desserts..we now go for rustic, unadorned meals. Apples are in abundance and it will be a shame to allow the time to pass and not use them to their full. I saw these apples in pastry somewhere in a magazine and I only remember they were called by the melodious name of Bourdelots and it looked much prettier than mine. I made them just on feeling, and I can’t imagine the magazine version being tastier, because they are so delicious with the puff pastry and brown sugar and apricot jam…and don’t they look pretty rustic too..(good excuse, n’est pas)?

..Rustic apples in puff pastry..

bourdilots de pomme 17-10-2013 15-56-56 3461x2904

La Recette:

  1. Clean and peel 4 apples, remove the inner core and drizzle with lemon juice.
  2. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry, cut into quarters. Place 4 quarters on a baking paper on a baking sheet.
  3. Place an apple on each quarter. Fill the apples with a teaspoon of apricot jam, a knob of butter and sproinkle with brown sugar.
  4. Wrap the pastry around the apples and brush with beaten egg.
  5. If you have puff pastry left, cut strips and stick it around the apples from top to bottom.
  6. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  7. Reheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  8. Remove the apples from the fridge, brush again with beaten egg. Sprinkle again with brown sugar.
  9. Place on sprigs of rosemary  and bake in the hot oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for another 25 minutes.
  10. If the apples get too dark on top, cover with brown paper.
  11. Serve warm, or at room temperature with a big dollop of whooped cream or a scoop of créme fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

bourdilots aux pommes 3 17-10-2013 12-28-05 4004x3000

bourdilots aux pommes 3 17-10-2013 12-42-28 3689x3147

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Bring the dough right up to the edge of the apples which will ensure that the apples are covered more fully with pastry.
  • In order for puff pastry to rise high and crispy, the dough must be cold and baked in a hot oven for the first 10- 15 minutes.
  • Serve the apples as a side dish with a meat roast, like pork or venison.
  • Fill the apples with spices of your choice or with dried fruit like raisins and nuts.

bourdilots aux pommes 3 17-10-2013 12-53-54 3633x2980

The mairie or hotel de ville is an important part of every city, town and village in France. It can be as tiny as a hamlet, but it will have a mairie and an eglise. The hotel de ville is usually bigger and houses the  mairie and houses several administration departments. But they both hop-use the office of the mayor of a town and the administration offices as well as an école of the commune. So it is no strange sight to see kiddies run around at lunchtime in part of the grounds of the mairie.

The mairies of the campagne has nothing to do with the elaborate and grand hotels de ville of the cities, like Paris or Tours, Lyon. Some are so small, you even pass by it without knowing.

les hotels de villes - Beaulieu 1

..the mairie in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne..

les hotels de villes - Beaulieu 2

..with its administration offices around the corner..

les hotels de villes - Beaulieu 3

..the little hotel de ville in Bétaille, just alongside he main road through the village..

les hotels de villes - Bétaille &

..the very typical stone hotel de ville of Biars-sur-Cere, with its lovely surroundings,dressed each season in different vegetation..

les hotels de villes - Biars sur Cere 2

..le mairie of Biars sur Cere.

les hotels de villes -Biars sur Cere 1

..the mairie is still wearing its summer ballgown and pretty soon, with Toussaint at 1 November, it will change to Fall Chrysanthemes..

les hotels de villes - Puy d'Arnac  4928x3264 3832x2924

..In Bretenoux, the hotel de ville is obscured by lovely trees..

les hotels de villes - Bretenoux 1

..and right opposite it, is the traditional memorial of the soldiers who fought in the war..

les hotels de villes - Bretenoux 2

..the quaint, typically Corrézien mairie of Le Pescher where our eldest got married..

les hotels de villes - Le Pescher 1

..and next to it, the mémorial of Le Pescher..

les hotels de villes - Le Pescher 2

..the mairie of Marcillac la Croze is one of those you pass by without knowing..it sits up on a hill, all alone. The day I looked for this mairie I drove up to its pretty eglise, full of history and asked a gentleman who was raking the  leaves, where I could find the mairie. We got caught up in a 30 minute conversation. I had to cut the motor of the car after a while, because he just couldn’t stop talking..

les hotels de villes - Marcillac la Croze

..Of course I can’t leave our own sweet village of Puy d’Arnac behind. Our mairie has recently had a makeover and is now a chic gathering point in the village where the mayor has her offices and I often have to drop in for keys for  the garbage points or documents or this or that..

  les hotels de villes - Puy d'Arnac

..and right next to the mairie, its école

les hotels de villes - Puy d'Arnac 2

..in Vayrac, the hotel de ville is huge with a big spacious place in front of it..

les hotels de villes -Vayrac 1

..and to the side, village life continues..

les hotels de villes - Vayrac 2

..Altillac has a beautiful building and I pass it almost every day to buy baguette and cheese..The pride of India trees  in front complement the building so beautiful in high summer…I always slow down and admire this mairie.. les hotels de villes -Altillac 1

..the mairie of la Chapelle aux Saints, is really out in la campagne and stands all alone among green fields..

les hotels de villes - la Chapelle aux saints 4

This is a prehistoric area, a very important sightseeing site in our area and the mairie forms part of the site..the ecole is at the back of the mairie..

   les mairies les mairies1

There is still so much to show and so much to be said about the hotel de ville in France and every town’s mairie is special.. Once you have found a town’s hotel de ville, you have also found its centre ville. I will certainly explore and show more at a later stage. These ones are all in a radius of 20 minutes from home. And like the hotels de villes, there are also the fascinating eglises, which I’ll save for another time.

So, with the theme of hotel de ville and French admin , I want to share the Marseillaise, sung by my favorite artist…Edith of course! We celebrated her life in PAris, as she died 50 years ago this October. I just LOVE her..and the song – I sing along with her just as loud as she does! Enjoy!

..à la prochaine fois..

Ronelle

Tarte fine aux pommes and a peek into a french home in Tours.

Why do Decembers ignite this uncontrollable desire for all things dessert? Just to have the hips show every inch of this desire flagrantly off in January.

It is a crisis. But in some crises the best thing to do is…have some dessert. Some apple tartlets. They are truly quick and easy and utterly delicious and very homey. They’re not fancy, rather rustic and no one will be offended if you pick one up by hand. They are meant to be enjoyed with a friend or someone you care about. And leave the plate with tartlets in the middle for a second helping.  One won’t be enough. Oh, and leave one secretly for yourself for tonight, when all is quiet and asleep.

So the hips in January will be even rounder. But that is OK. At least it will give us something to talk and write about in January!

…ingredients for tarte fine aux pommes

*Suggestions:

  • Choose an apple with a bit of sourness like a Granny smith.
  • The puff pastry can be replaced with another pastry of your choice.
  • Other fruit like pears, figs, peaches, apricots can be used.
  • It you find the top isn’t caramelized enough after baking, then sprinkle with a little brown sugar and caramelize quickly under a hot grill and keep your eye on it.
  • You can make the size of the tartlets as big or small as you like or even a single big tart.
  • Sage leaves are a good substitute for thyme.
  • Try sprinkling a tiny bit of  fleur de sel with vanilla over the top just before baking.
  • Can be enjoyed as dessert with an accompanying scoop of ice cream or créme frâiche, or as a late afternoon snack with tea, a goûter, as we call it in France.

…joanne’s home in Tours…

Joanne's home in Tours 2

My friend Joanne,  allowed me into her home with my camera a while ago. She lives in the centre of Tours, where it takes a few minutes and you can serve up a fresh baguette and croissant for breakfast. With a basket and some walking shoes, you can browse the market just around the corner from her to have fresh veggies on the table at dinnertime. Just down the road from her lives a musician whose melancholic saxophone melodies vagabond down the quiet street. Life is tranquil and beautiful in her home. It reflects the stillness of her character, yet reveals the brilliant colours of her spirited and optimistic nature. Always trying to see the bright side, always ready for a new project, enthusiastic about life with a strong belief that every minute counts. She loves good food and it is just a pleasure inviting her over for a meal and seeing her obvious joy in appreciating what is put in front of her.

Joanne's home in Tours 1

Joanne's garden in tours 3 Joanne's garden in Tours 4

* astuce de grand-mére:

truc et astuces de nos grand-méres

* Boil some vinegar on the stove for a few minutes to eliminate unpleasant kitchen odours.