Clementine and litchi amuse bouche..and a sous-chef.

Voiçi my very first starter I made in my mother’s house as a child. With a few changes here and there, it is better served now as a small amuse bouche before dinner. It is still very light and fresh and I’m still proud of my very first attempt! The little glasses it is served in (in the photos), are the original glasses from my mother that I used about 40 years ago for my starter of clementines and litchis.  So, les verrines is not something new…it was already a successful concept 40 years ago!

Suggestions:

  • Marinate the fruit in the vinaigrette for about an hour, but not longer.
  • Use mandarins or orange segments instead of clementines.
  • Try serving it as a bigger salad by placing the fruit on a bed of salad greens and add some shredded smoked salmon.
  • Can be used as a fruit salad…replace the vinaigrette with a sauce: clementine juice, sugar, a little water, few drops of lemon juice, zest of a clementine…simmer untul reduced to a syrup. Add a few drops of Clementine liqueur just before serving.
  • Replace the raspberries with a small scoop of raspberry sorbet.
..clementines, licthis and old tools from childhood..

…and a sous-chef..

To me, December is a month of remembrance, memories, reflections. Many memories surface during this time…some of which are funny, some sad, some without any particular significance and because memories aren’t always honest, I remember them all as dear, solely because they have brought me to this point where I am today and who I am today.

Christmas was a time in our house where things happened according to my mother’s schedule. She was a formidable woman who had the ability to organize an army into baking cookies. So,  under her hand, Decembers were very busy in our house and all the while she hoaxed me into thinking chores were fun! Baking cookies, cleaning the silver, polishing floors, washing curtains, ironing the Christmas tablecloth, decorating the living room, cooking jams, preparing for holidays…these were the things that filled up our month, with my mother holding the reigns firmly in her hands and me a close step beside her.

..chef et sous-chef..

I was sous-chef from a very young age,  whether it was washing the curtains or cooking a meal or baking the cookies. A very important position…the sous-chef! Without me, how could she have hung the wet heavy curtains  on the line to catch the sun…without me, how could she have polished the silver in time for Christmas,…without me being in charge of the cookiemaker, we would have no coffee cookies for December? It  would be disastrous…scandalous! How would the maizena cookies have jamfilled centres without me? Christmas would be sad and lonely, if I hadn’t had the responsibility of lavishing it in swirls of silver and gold streamers and glitter and shining stars!

It is of course one of the big secrets…the complete confidence of a chef in his/her sous-chef! My mom trusted me with many things, so much so that I was allowed the responsibility for the starter at a big dinner. This was my first ever solo contribution to a dinner.  She also allowed me the key to her dinnerware cabinet where I could choose something for my starter. Such an important position…the sous-chef!

So here I am presenting my first starter, then as a sous-chef in my mother’s kitchen. The only difference is that now I’ve been promoted to chef. I have my own kitchen. And the starter is now served as an amuse bouche.

..May your December memories be as dear as mine!..

..amuse bouche in old childhood glasses..

..à la prochaine..

Ronelle

An introspective last three days of 2009.

We have about three days left for remembering the old year and planning for the new year. Dreaming up new dreams. Setting new heights. Asking simple questions. Struggling with honest answers.

Part of dreaming new dreams and setting new goals, is a desire to give back more to life than receiving. Looking back on this year, I’ve seen our human soiety grasped in the claws of spending. We were/are admired for our talents. For our beautiful homes. And our beautiful blogs. For our wonderful recipes. Our creativity. We have friends across the globe, praising us for our kindness, gentleness, goodness. It has driven me to ask some simple questions during this time.  A time  which inspires real hope and renewal. Change. Growth..

Have you been grateful this past year, content with what you have? Without a desire for what you don’t yet have?

Have you given back more than you received?

Have you brought fresh vegetables to the grumpy old lady/man down the street whenever you brought back your own loaded bags? Do you even know a grumpy old lady for whom you could have dropped a fresh bread?

Have you dropped a coin in the hands of the beggar, or have you justified your simply walking past that it would have just be going for alcohol anyway…could you have helped in some different way…something that took more trouble, more effort…started making a difference? Have you even given it any thought after just walking on? Or have you just turned your head and started thinking of dinner?

Have you done anything consciously for charity, effort, planning, effort – just as you would do it for yourself? Or were you very busy.

Have you ever spent some of your precious time to go an old age home to read to the elderly? Do you know any elderly people? Do you know their fears? Their fascinating stories? Their needs? Or do you only hope to not grow into such an old sour prune?

Have you contributed in any way positively to our environment? Have you ever been to the dump yard? Talked to the people working there? Have you ever taken a pie and shared a coffee with them? Have you ever woken up early to thank the garbage workers for the work they do?

Could you have  cared more in an unspending way for your dear ones? Without the aid of money. Without the aid of material things. Just you and your time. Your effort.

Could you have cared more in an unspending way for friends? For your community?

Did you run to the store to buy something to make you feel better, to rid you of depression, to lift your mood? Did you run to an stock full  pantry to indulge in foods of all choices and flavours to wallow in your awful life?

Have you given a shoulder to someone in need?  Reached out to a complete stranger?

Have you taken a dinner for someone at  her/his home who was just simply tired, worn out, or just because you wanted to?

Have you done something special for someone, not so YOU could  feel good afterwards, but because he/she needed it? Without receiving a thank you, without caring about a thank you?

Have you complained constantly about your circumstances and then got into a warm bed, luxurious bedlinen, having had a hot meal, even having sipped a glass of wine? Or complained about your misfortune…or about being misunderstood….or neglected?

Have you complained about your circumstances and then had had the luxury of  ice in your drink or a cool glass of water to quench your thirst…turning the tap and having had water running freely to fill a bath to your heart’s content?

Have you written down at the end of each day how many good things life had handed you during the course of the day? Have you even noticed it?

On a bad day, have you even tried to find something good in your life?

Have you sat quietly and really listened to someone’s else’s fears, dried her/his tears without thinking of your own hurt, or comparing to your own hurt, but could only feel the sadness of this person?

Were you quick to rationalize and justify your own reasons or motives, your jealousy, your envy, your anger, your hurt…

Were you spiteful…were you critical…were you judgmental…were you righteous…

Were you deeply sorry after harsh words…did you admit it, say it out loud?

Were you ashamed after harsh behaviour…did you acknowledge it, say it out loud?

Have you sat down and wondered, marvelled at this wondrous thing called life?

What small things have you done,  unnoticed by your friends and family, society… just because?

….And so these simple questions are never ending. One leads to another. Looking us straight on with raised eyebrows. Awaiting a response.  Can we meet the straight stare? Can we be be honest in our answers? Do they make us look ahead differently? Will they change anything?

May 2010 be less about ourselves.

May we care more about the world around us. Our community.The bigger picture.

May we use our talents and our good fortunes to make the world better for everyone.

May we live each day with a long list of gratitudes. Small ones. Important ones.

May we give more attention to the small, insignificant aspects of life. May they grow and become life changing.

May we give in abundance. Love. Time. Attention. Care. Empathy. Understanding…

May we receive with grace. Love, Teachings. Lessons. Help. Advice…

May we ALL grow in wisdom and get to that place which is called peace. Contentment. Happiness. Understanding.

Bliss.

A Wonderful, rich 2010 to all.

Old fashioned jamdrop cookies and an old fashioned wedding.

Some people are cooks. Some people are bakers. Some do a little bit of everything. I’m not a baker at all, but I do try my hand a little at everything…

Suggestions:

  • Add a little water/cream if the dough is too stiff or add a little flour if it is too sticky.
  • The dough needs to be a little sticky to cling to the baking sheet when pressed through the cookie press. It is not as stiff as dough which is rolled out.
  • Use butter at room temperature.
  • Use smooth jam which is fairly thick and sticky, too runny jam will bake out. Don’t overfill!
  • to avoid losing a first batch, always check baking time and temperature beforehand with only a few cookies to determine the right time and temperature, as ovens differ.

Twenty seven years ago a bride tried her hand at everything too. Her own wedding. All of it. From each individual handwritten invitation to the last flower in her hair and on the tables.

Baking her own wedding cake was the biggest challenge of all. With no money in her pocket and a generous friend living on a farm with a huge kitchen, she took it on. A rich and dark  fruit cake, covered with a “tablecloth” made from marzipan and finished off with a simple smaller cake shaping a bible and a bouquet of marguerites. All the while learning and compensating as she went along. The marzipan “tablecloth” turned out to be a bigger nightmare than than the organic chemistry she was obliged to take. Maybe the roots for not loving baking was established while wrestling with that marzipan tablecloth…

…a first and last self baked wedding cake……

Long evenings in between university exams were spent on writing the invitations in calligraphy with a pen and nibbs and golden ink that got thick every 30 minutes.  Making the confetti was an ordeal – many a hand helped  cutting and tying tiny bunches of dried flowers with long thing strips of ribbon which had to fill 4 baskets…

…handwritten invitations…

No hairdresser or make-up artist for this bride – there was no money for such luxury and too much work to be done on the wedding day…like arranging flowers.  An early wedding gift was put to good use as vases for the table flowers –  champagne glasses,  of which five have withstood the test of twenty seven years and are still in use today….! They carried simple bunches of red roses and some white gypse…all romance…

…roses in champagne glasses…

Persistant on designing her dress herself and having it made by a seamstress, she saw her dress show up unfinished and wore it on the day with some  spots carefully held together by pins and quick hand stitching.  But beautiful and dreamy it was and now it is waiting for a daughter or granddaughter or even a next generation who might  someday just like it enough…

…for a daughter or granddaughter perhaps…

The photographer arrived, just to find the  bride  still in working clothes, wrestling to make the wreath for the veil. Time was running short and with the help of a creative and loving sister, the wreath of roses was finally attached to the veil. Her long hair was hastily shaped by many hands in a large chignon to hold the wreath and veil, while quick daub of lipstick had to suffice for some colour on the face. An antique cameo rounded off the picture.

…roses for a wreath…

Time ran out and it was off to church in the red rover, driven by her brother. Flying low, they arrived at the entrance to the church a couple of minutes early. The nerves and emotions in the rover were raw and the throats were dry. So the bride and her brother took off again in the red rover, stopped at the nearest roadhouse, rolled down the windows and ordered two milkshakes. A bride always makes passers-by stop and enjoy,  dream, fantasize…This time was different. Passers-by stopped and anjoyed and giggled at the sight of a bride with a straw in the mouth.

The red rover pulled up 20 minutes later back at the church, the door was flung open and with a few trippling steps, the bride was ready to glide down the aisle. Late but happy.

…an old fashioned wedding…

*Trucs & astuces de grands-méres.

For a successful soufflé(salty or sweet), place the soufflé mold with the prepared soufflé for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before baking.

“Pour reussir un soufflé, placez la preparation pour 15 minutes au refrigerateur avant d’enfourner.

An entry for Eat Christmas cookies by Susan at Foodblogga.

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