Roasted peaches with honey and thyme.

At the end of every summer I have the disappointed feeling that I haven’t had enough of the summer fruits and then I go into a frenzy to get my qoata for the season in. And so we have a last chance to indulge in all the summer fruits, especially the peaches and nectarines, the watermelons and melons. All of them my favorite fruits.

If you haven’t had roasted fruit before, you are truly missing out on a great experience. It is so simple so make and brings out the best of a fruit in a different way.

There is no formal recipe for this dessert. I used a mix of peaches and nectarines.

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  • Use 2 peaches per person. Wash and cut each peach in half. You can remove the seed or leave some in.
  • Place the peach halves in a roasting tin.
  • Spoon some honey into the peach hamlves, drizzle liberally with lemon juice, sprinkle some fleur de sel and add lemon slices to the peaches.
  • Add lemon thyme branches to the peaches.
  • Roast at 200 degr C for about 15 minutes. Stick under the grill fora further 3 minutes if they aren’t browned enough to your liking.
  • Serve warm with créme fraîche of vanilla ice cream.

Pincée de sel:

  1. Use plums or figs instead of peaches.
  2. Use brown sugar or maple syrup instead of honey.
  3. Make a vanilla syrup of 1/2 cup water, vanilla pod and 3TBSP sugar . Leave to boil down to a syrupy consistency and add to the peaches along with cream. Omit the herbs.

Oil chocolate cake

This is probably the best chocolate cake recipe out there. It is from the south African huisgenoot winning recipes and is truly a winner every time.

Baked with oil, it is easy, quick, light and fluffy and of course delicious. Someone also gave me the advice to bake it as cupcakes and freeze for up to six months without the icing. That way you can take out as many as you need and decorate as you wish.

Oil chocolate cake

  • 250 ml boiling water
  • 125 ml cacao
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 375 ml sugar
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 125 ml sunflower cooking oil
  • 450 ml all purpose flour
  • 15 ml baking powder
  • 2 ml salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Oil 2 cake tin of 20 cm.
  2. Add the cacao powder tot the boiling water and leave aside to cool off.
  3. Beat the egg yolks and the sugar until fluffy and light and creamy.
  4. Add the sunflowr oil, vanilla extract and colled down cacao mix to the egg and sugar mixture.
  5. Sift the dry ingredients and add to the egg mixture.
  6. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.
  7. Divide the batter between the two cake tine and bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees C.
  8. Leave to cool, remove and decorate with a butter icing.

My garden is in a state of drought and we aren’t allowed to water. But that is summer for you and fortunately I have planted drought resistant plants, because this happens every year.

…The iceberg roses just keep on flowering profusely…

…In the potager, the agapanthus are lush against the backdrop of washing on the drying line…

…My chickens enjoy the potager far too much…so much so that I have no crop of radishes left…

…White petunias in the white garden, such a grateful summer annual..

A bientôt

Ronell

Carrot, apple and cumin soup.

I saw a post on Instagram a while back. It was a recipe and I can’t remember what it was. What I do remember, is that it had an enormous list of ingredients, which probably explains why I can’t remember the dish. Sometimes I think my food is totally boring and déja vu, but when I see friends and family dig into my meals with gusto, I realize that they enjoy the simplicity of my meals. Or they must be starving.

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There is a certain flair to preparing a meal or a dish and it has nothing to do with the amount of ingredients. You really don’t need much to serve a delicious meal. The main ingredient of course is always the love with which you prepare ita very kitsch and Facebook- favorite ingredient, but it holds true nonetheless.  

I have my own flair in the kitchen. First and foremost, is chaos. No matter how well I prepare beforehand, it finally turns into chaos. I start off very well, very organized and I can even keep it up for a while. My working surface stays clean, I keep an eye on the food brewing on my stove, I watch my oven, I rinse used utensils to keep my sink clean and empty, I have hot water at hand to add to hot foods. Suddenly it all goes wrong. Bowls are everywhere, I have no room to put hot oventrays, I have no clean wooden spoons left, the sink is filled to the beams, the fridge door is open, I can’t find the band aid, the stove is rattling with lids bouncing up and down. The tempo in the kitchen is now on full speed. Somehow though, I am still in control. And I am enjoying all this havoc around me. Chaos is not always a bad thing.

kitchen-chaos

Another character of my “personal kitchen flair” is my attention to serving a meal, a dish, or even just a simple sandwich. I believe a dish can’t leave the kitchen without that last personal touch. I always serve a meal with colour.  A dull and colorless dish in front of me, robs me of all envie.. desire. There are gazillions of ways to add colour to a dish. The easiest and most available to everybody, is a sprig of herb, usually one that you have used in your dish. What? You don’t use herbs in your food? You should start right away! It is one of the most sensual flairs in food…chopping and chipping herbs, smelling and tasting it.

food-styling

Having all the ingredients for a dish exhibited on the counter, gives me such a kick and it incites one of my biggest flairs in my cooking. When deciding on a dish, I gather all my ingredients and place them on my working surface. I remember my mother doing it very differently, which is why her kitchen was neat and there was always enough space, even though she had a small kitchen.  She fetched every ingredient as she needed it. For a carrot soup, she fetched an onion, cut it and added it to  her casserole. While the onion fried, she fetched 6 carrots, cut it and added it to her soup. Step by step, she continued and by the end, the table was set, the kitchen clean and we sat down for a delicious meal of soup and bread. I,  on the other hand, fetch my whole potager (vegetable garden), all the herbs I might possibly want to add and everything else in between.I am like an orchestra conductor. I want to see my whole ensemble in front of me and then I lift my hands and the music begins. I love seeing all those fresh produce before me, deciding on the go what I would like to do to my soup, ( I think the Americans call it “cooking from the hip”?), Always keep the tune in mind though and, just like an orchestra, never allow a dish to become cacophonous.

January is a month of diets and soups. Since I am utterly hopeless at diets, I opt for soup. In our home, carrot, apple and cumin soup is a favorite with all ingredients healthy enough to not feel bad about indulging.

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Carrot, apple and cumin soup.

  1. Fry 1 chopped shallot and 1 tsp cumin seeds for few minutes until the shallot is transparent. Don’t burn the mixture.
  2. Add about 8 big carrots, peeled and cut.
  3. Add 3 cups of home made chicken stock, or 3 cups of  water with one cube of chicken stock.
  4. Bring to the boil.
  5. Peel 1 large Granny smith apple and remove the core. Cut into chunks and add to the soup.
  6. Leave to simmer over medium heat until the carrots are very tender.
  7. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool a bit.
  8. Mix the soup to a creamy consistency. Pour the soup through a sieve to get a smooth velvet soup.
  9. Pour into a clean pot and reheat gently.
  10. Season with salt and pepper and add créme fraîche to taste. The soup must have the consistency of cream…it is soup, not a puree. If it is too thick, add some full cream milk or cream.
  11. Serve the soup warm in bowls with a small quenelle (dollop)of créme fraîche and a spoonful of apple salsa.  Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle some olive oil.

Apple and cumin salsa:

  1. Cut 1 granny smith apple in brunoise,(small dice), add lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 chopped spring onion . Season with salt and pepper and mix.

Serves 4 people

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PS: You can follow me on Instagram for more regular short posts at ronellesatelier

à bientôt

Ronell

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Life in a barn

In the previous post I did a show and tell on our Loire home from which it was time a couple of years ago to move on and exchange the Loire valley for the Dordogne valley.

All those who have done some restoration on a house will know the toll it can take on mind and body. Repainting a wall is easy, restoring a whole house by lifting beams, removing floors, adding windows and doors…not easy. But the satisfaction on completing a difficult task  is enoug inspiration to continue. In the meantime, while knackering away at the restoration of the old stone farmhouse, we needed to sleep, eat and bathe, probably in that order. We are lucky in that we have several barns on the farm and so one of them became our home for the next 7 years. At first it was only during summer holidays and 2years later it became permanent home.

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In between working on the house, we equipped the barn for easier living. A stove, a kitchen sink, cooking tools,  table…we are a family who love our food.. what is a space without some bling? A chandelier or two were hung from the make-do insulated “ceiling”. A wood burning stove provided heat in winters. We had an elegant shower made from an old tin tub we found in the barn and we used an old wagon wheel rim for the shower curtain. From an old wooden ladder we constructed a frame for a bathroom sink , also found in the old house.And yes, running hot water! We even had a bit of privacy by constructing a screen from two wooden doors from the old house., hiding a little dressing room behind it. Madame Pompadour in stylish attire,  kept guard by the bathroom/shower/dressing room.

Living in the barn 2016

Below is a view on the dressing room behind the two doors, forming the screen for privacy..Living in the barn 2016-004

Unfortunately  la toilette stayed outside, a good 200 meters away, which is fine on good days, but got a little complicated on cold and wet wintry days. Today, 7 years later, we can recall some funny stories around our outside toilette which by the way, was brought up to modern standards without the wasps and stacks of newspaper.

Our very first night in the barn in 2008…just a sweep with a broom, a bed for us and our girls and a dinner by candlelight.

However many little luxuries we had in the barn, life was  basic and challenging and we lived with the minimum to which we adapted fairly easily. Today I am convinced more than ever that the human race is spoiled and we live in luxury far beyond necessity. I can honestly say we didn’t miss television for those first years, we ate great food on only a wood burning stove/coal stove. We bought fresh produce every day in small quantities for years until we got a fridge a few years later. We washed dishes by hand in a tin bowl for many of those 7 years.  I soaked our washing every night, rinsed the next day and hung out on the clothes line…I honestly admit though; that was a backbreaking task and far from  adventurous! .

The first few years were bare and adventurous. The barn with its high roof was open and windy with the normal inhabitants you find in old stone walls and we shared the barn with an owl family, who lived there long before us and they weren’t eager to give up their loft for a few humans.

Our barn home in its early years: Drapes of old linens found at brocantes to hide the back part of the barn. A couch or two, cooking corner and always wild flowers. I loved those first years!

The beginning of barn life.. view on the shower corner-20

Of course, at some point,true to human nature, we, or shall I admit…I  longed for more comfort.. So the barn started filling up up with cabinets and armoires and commodes and all my art stuff, brought over from the Loire home. I got tired of living out of a suitcase so the dressing room was invented. We started inviting some friends over, so we needed more than 4 cups and plates.

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My art corner took up almost half of the barn, which I enjoyed..living and sleeping and working all in one spot. This concept is carried over into our house we are restoring.

 

Windows and doors got dressed up a little…our souls do need to see some beauty around us..?

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These 7 years  we had a barn for a home is one of the most precious periods of my life and an experience that I will never forget. It is a book full of stories, one that I might write someday, even if only for my family who can relate and will remember all these tales.Living in the barn 2016-007Living in the barn 2016-005

To be continued….

Until next time

Ronelle