Red lentil, carrot and pancetta soup.. and a garden in February.

Garden work starts around February. It is trimming of the roses and lavenders and planting fruit trees and just general cleaning up of the garden. As it is still cold even though it is is uplifiting to fiddle in the garden, a nice thing to come back to inside the house, is a warm soup! This soup is one of the nicest lentil soups, in my mind…unpureed, thick and great with the subtle flavor of the fried pancetta ham.  It is very quick and easy and very tasty. It even beats the lentil/red pepper soup I usually make.

  1. Heat some olive oil in a big casserole pot. Fry 10 slices of pancetta, torn into pieces. Add 2 chopped shallots, 3 sticks of chopped celery, 2 diced carrots. Cook together for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add about 200g of red lentils along with 3 cups of vegetable stock.
  3. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes over gentle  heat until the lentils and carrots are tender.
  4. Remove from the heat and add one TBSP of tomato paste and some lemon juice to taste.
  5. Season with salt and freshly milled pepper.
  6. fisnish off with some freshly chopped parsley leaves.
  7. Serve warm.

Serves 4 people

Suggestions:

  • The soup can be served as a starter if you have a light meal.
  • Use smoked bacon instead of pancetta.
  • Add 2 chopped tomatoes for a more watery  soup.
  • Add more stock or less, depending on how thick you want your soup.
  • Stir in a TBSP of cream at the end for a heavier, creamier soup.
  • The parsley can be replaced by freshly chopped coriander.
  • The soup is even better the day after.

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The month in a year that I like the least, is January. I’m an ostrich and I hide my head, hoping no one will see me. Or I’m a bear, hybernating and I’m mean when disturbed. But I’m also the seed lying and waiting to push through the cold and the wet soil and bloom in the first rays of  sunshine. When February hits, I’m usually back among the living, with a strong desire to be outdoors. We have had some beautiful days in February and the garden is winking at me. When wandering through the February garden, there are small delights which makes a colorless Tourangelle  garden in February beautiful in its own way.

“L’hiver, c’est la saison du recueillement de la terre, son temps de méditation, de préparation.” – Lionel biosseau (winter is the time for the earth to meditate and prepare itself.)


All things cold and wintry, with emtpy potager cloches  and emtpy watering cans, a dry lemon verbena whcih awaits some sun to push its leaves and 2 pretty pebbles from La Loire to add some ambiance in this “jardin en Fevrier”.

The rosehips are starting to show signs of weariness and fatigue, the monnaie du pape and dry hydrangeas are delicate in their white paper thin petals and in stark contarst with the dark berries of the “gloire de versailles”- Cyanothus.

The buddleia already has new growth on its woody stems, the hellebores are flowering in white clumps close to the dark wet soil, while the faithful Italian Arum sees to lush green vegetation in the garden, perfect to pick and stick into a vase along with a hellebore flower.


The rouge gorges et charbonnieres et mesanges charbonnieres feed happily on the fruit balls and seed bowl hanging under the arch and the chickens enjoy the freshly turned over soil.


A lot of green moss on the terrace and stairs and around pots, while the rustic old chains that my husband so patiently aged for me, just gains more charm as the winter turns into spring.

Upturned terracotta pots everwhere in the garden, for protection and for housing/hybernating of “friendly” insects like the Forficule(earwig).

And of course…leaves and leaves and leaves!

Few things compare to enjoying that first  drink outside and munching on some clementines, even though you have to jump up and down to keep warm!

The gargoule fountain is quiet, as are several corners in the garden.

Next time I’ll tell about my seeding and planting process in my brand new potager(vegetable garden) at Coin Perdu, our farm in Correze,  the espalier of fruit trees I plan and just life in general in a March garden. We’ll be going to Coin Perdu more and more from now on, so much of the garden stories will happen there, where everything is still bare and new and in the raw!

a la prochaine fois!

Ronelle

Butternut velouté..and fragrance in the home

Butternut soup is probably my most favorite soup. Keeping it simple brings out the natural sweetness of the butternut and warm comfort of its creaminess.  Don’t hide its wonderful autumn flavors behind all sorts of funny additions…sometimes something has to be left alone to speak in its own voice. Like the velvety butternut.

Suggestions:

  • Any other pumpkin of about 1 kg can be used in the same way.
  • Add a knob of butter when sauteing the shallot…it adds more flavor.
  • Use home made vegetable stock if possible, or else an organic vegetable stock. Water can be used instead.
  • See here for a bouquet garni.
  • Add about 2 tsps orange zest for a more pronounced orange flavor.
  • If the soup is too thick, add cream for a richer version and milk for a lighter version to your taste.

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..and fragrance in the home..

Isn’t it nice to step into a home and smell the most subtlest of fragrances…not an overwhelming smell, but just enough to have you wonder what it is, where it comes from.

There are many ways to bring fragrance into your home. But always remember the first golden rule: always keep it soft, gentle and subtle. Nothing is as sickening as a sweet and overpowering smell. It is much like an old woman seeking youth in powder and perfume.  Or like a guy who fell into a bottle of Old Spice. The second rule is to never have a perfumed candle at the dinner table or around food.

..candles: héliotrope, wild rose and green tea..

To prevent a room from being invaded with scent, a perfumed candle should burn only for a short while. The small tealight tops are a favorite of mine to burn on winter evenings when it gets dark in the afternoons. They are very gentle in flavor and I leave them to burn the whole evening…romance and ambiance for all, even on week nights…everybody loves it!

Winter chases us inside earlier and for longer…we  cook inside more, we make fires in the fireplaces and receive more visitors inside than in any other season. It is important to have fresh fragrance in the house as well…flowers, diffusers, lamp bulbs with rings and dotted wih essential oils, some envelopes in drawers or in hidden corners, some light house sprays, pillow sprays, sachets hanging on door knobs, incense burning after an open fire in the fireplace. Again…keep it light and stay away from the sweet and strong flavors, like vanilla and fruits.  I sometimes use cedar incense to get rid of the smoky smell of our open fireplace. I never use potpourii, because it only gathers dust.

..diffusers with tea lights and incense..

When using a diffuser and a tealight, take care to drop only a little 0il and burn the candle only a short while. The fragrance quickly disperses throughout the room.

In the bedroom, room sprays and pillow sprays are gentle enough..spritz on the bed rather than the pillow and a light spritz in the air with a room spray leaves a gentle frangrance.

..home and pillow sprays..

My favourite fragrances are rose, heliotrope, amber, citrus, all tea leaves and cotton flower. Some of these tiny bottle below go back many, many years and I can’t get rid of them. They still carry the smell of essential oils…and sweet memories.

..bulb rings with essential oils..

A drop of essential oil on a bulb ring, made from terracotta or balsawood on a bulb and the heat of the bulb disperses the fragrance through the room. The balsa wood works great on the new economy bulbs which don’t get as hot.

..scented envelopes and handmade envelopes..

Although the scented envelopes are meant for drawers, I place them in bowls in corners in the house. They aren’t strong and overpowering and only give off a flavor when you pass them. And of course, nothing is easier than making your own envelopes: Use white envelopes and paint them in your favourite olours, drip the paint, flow it on the envelope, write, scribble, hand paint…whichever you feel like doing. Fill your handpainted envelope with clean catsand or wooden shavings, add a drop of soft essentail oil, glue your envelope and place in a corner where it can be admired as well as give off its gentle fragrance in the room.

May your winter days…and for otheres, summer days…be filled with the softt fragrances of cotton flower, and your evenings be cozy around the flicker of a cedar scented candle.

…à la prochaine!..

Ronelle

Sorrel and rocket cappuccino..and the chicken chronicles II.

When something is in abundance, we should make use of it…like the sorrel in my garden, which is growing profusely. Not to mention the rocket, which is close to taking over the garden. Combine the two in an early atumn soup, sprinkle with some pistachios and cut some baguette to accompany.

Suggestions:

  • Spinach and basil leaves can be used instead of the sorrel and rocket.
  • The green peas are added for a green color…don’t boil the peas so they lose their green colour.
  • Potatoes can be added for a more consistent soup.
  • Be sure to sauté the sorrel beforehand in a bit of oil to prevent a sour taste to the soup.
  • Use a cuppaccino frother to make milk froth for a light version, or use whipped cream instead.
  • My way of making a creamy milk froth: Use cold, half fat milk. pour up to the marked level of the frother and froth until creamy. warm in the microvwave until the froth rises to the top. (Keep an eye on it, it haapens very quickly).Remove from the microwave and stir with a metal spoon until the mixture is nice and creamy.Spoon onto your soup(or coffee). The froth will hold its shap for quite a long time. For a cold soup, omit the heating.
  • This soup is delicious warm or cold.

…bon appetit!…

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…while the soup is busy simmering… an update on the chicken chronicles...

I mentioned in a previous post: Asparagus with poppy vinaigrette and a confused chicken, that the one hen turned out to be a rooster, which forced me to give them to a friend living on a farm.  It broke my heart to see them go and I especially missed Petronella, the rooster terribly, with his wonderfully cockey attitude! But they are happy  where they are now and Petronella can crow to “his” heart’s delight without worrying about neighbours. Here they can be seen as cute tiny chicks…A simple salad and special corners.

After a while I got two new chickens…Tartelette and Omelette.  Two Pekin bantam little chickens in the colour of Touraine…a soft grey, called “porcelaine“. They soon filled the sad corners of my heart…isn’t it amazing how much love we have to give? They are two adorable little featherfooted friends and I couldn’t ask for better chatterboxes to bring fun and laughter to my days!

Early mornings begin with joghurt. Healthy chicken food the rest of the day and a gouter(snack) late afternoon is  their favorite joghurt again, some grated coconut and a few shreds of salami…yeah yeah…I know… chickens know nothing about joghurt and coconut…, but then I also think these  two chickens don’t know they are chickens!

Where Tokala and Ayiani(my two beautifully chic cats)ignore me for the better half of the day to live their royal life, Tartelette and Omelette are just too eager to follow in my every  fresh footstep, to entertain and be entertained all the way. They fiddle around under my easel in my atelier during the day, groom and massage their feathers by my feet  and slip into the kitchen when I’m not looking to nestle in “their” corner for a nap, while looking at me with flirty eyes and charmingly tilted heads, begging to be allowed to stay…now tell me…how can I refuse such seduction?

…à la prochaine!

Ronelle

Cold tomato and orange soup

Yesterday we had rain here at Coin Perdu in Corréze, where we are restoring our mountain home. So last night asked for something soupy. Because we are temporarily living in the barn for the next year or two, I don’t have an oven, only a stove. So a soup is quite easy. And quick. I am always joyful when hearing the word quick.

…cold tomato and orange soup…

tomato soup 2

cold tomato soup recipe.bmp

…summer says outside…

relaxing after the jobgreen plate