Thursday, 27 September 2007

Memories of Autumnal days

Well ... after the initial inspiration for starting this blog, factors such as energy and stimulus have recently appeared to be lacking in the literary direction. In wishing to create an interesting website as well as a positive portrayal of living in France, it is also for my pleasure that I like play with words. It takes time to write.

Seasons disappear. Autumn will become Winter. The nights will draw in, the days will shorten, the temperatures will fall. I predict a cold winter because the berries have been on the bushes since late August. The elder flowers and berries were too early.

Captain Sensible is fighting a valiant battle with the inclement weather that we have recently had. Having worked with old oak and green oak for the first time, he says he feels frustrated because it is slow progress especially with the rains we have recently had. Sweet Pea thinks his work is excellent... but as she cannot even use a hammer correctly she would never have dared to start such a project.

And now ... we are approaching the end of October. The days have clear, blue skies with a crisp, fresh air quality. There have been at least two mornings with below zero temperatures and hence frost.

And now, still with this article not yet published, December arrives!!! It will be published in retrospect!

Let's go back to August...

The first weekend had been the hottest and the most humid weekend of the year! We rocked in the hammocks. Our garden provided us with haricot beurre beans and mirabelle plums.

After mid August Family and Friends arrived. The warm weather enabled us to enjoy an evening barbecue, sitting in front of the fire until just after midnight.

At Angles-sur-Anglin we re-discovered a fabulous street theatre group - artistes in the Soup Kitchen were in action but as it was late afternoon they were making hot chocolate drinks, toast and jam. Musicians, actors and actresses entertained us as we sipped our kir in the centre of the town.

The weather turned colder, the hirondelles collected on the telegraph wires. We thought they had migrated but later in the month they returned to wheel in the blue skies. On the 22nd of the month we celebrated our second anniversary of leaving England and moving to France.

Six Friends in France - August 2007
Captain Sensible and his Sweet Pea entertained two friends and their two friends in our two bedroomed cottage, sleeping ourselves downstairs on the sofas/settees. Given the recent cold winds, rain and early autumnal weather we rejected the idea of sleeping under canvas in the garden preferring the warmth of an indoor lifestyle. It was cosy and comfortable.

Day One
Warm winds and sunshine enabled us to welcome the evening arrival of our guests on the unfinished verandah. It was good to see such friends as if we had seen them only yesterday!

LASAGNE BOLOGNESE for 6 persons.
In a wide based pan sauté 2 medium onions, 4 small shallots and 2 chopped garlic cloves in olive oil until soft. Empty from the pan. Add chopped courgettes and chopped red pepper to your liking and sauté in more olive oil. Empty from the pan once cooked.
Saute 450g quality Steak Haché (minced beef). Use a wooden spatula to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Whilst this is cooking, add salt and pepper, fennel or celery seeds, dried or chopped fresh herbs, bay leaves and a good pinch of cinnamon. Once cooked stir in a little flour until absorbed, then add some white or red wine, tomato purée or tomato sauce to make a moist mixture. Add the vegetables and more sauce or wine as necessary. Stir until the mixture is like a thick chunky sauce.
In another pan make a roux of 75g hot butter and 75g flour. Add a little milk and stir continuously to beat the roux. Gradually add more milk and beat until it is a thick creamy sauce. Add some grated hard cheese and seasoning.
In a large oven proof dish (I used a 30cm square brown earthenware dish), put in a layer of
good quality ready to cook lasagne pasta, the mince mixture, a little creamy sauce mixture and repeat until the dish is full, ending with a layer of pasta and then creamy cheese sauce. Scatter with grated hard cheese and maybe grated mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes 190°C Gas 5. Remove from the oven if you are not ready to dine. Cook for another 15 minutes approximately when the top should be nicely golden brown.
Cut into portions and serve in the centre of individual plates with a glass of red or white wine or water.
Measure 150 g butter, 75 g sugar, and 225 g plain flour into a bowl and with your fingers mix lightly together until it is a crumbly mixture.Add a small pinch of edible lavender flowers. This is optional. Continue using your fingers and press the mixture into a 20cm diameter glass flan dish. Break an egg into a cup and whisk with a fork and pour over the shortcake. Bake in oven 190°C for about 5 minutes. Take out and arrange the pre-stoned mirabelle plums on the top leaving no gaps. Scatter with a very light sprinkling of caster sugar, and for the courageous a small smidgen pinch of dried lavender flowers. Bake in the centre of an oven for about 30 minutes, however, depending on the fruit it may take longer. You can serve it warm or cold as it is, or with a dollop of crème fraîche, yoghurt or cream. As a variation you could use fresh stoned apricot fruits.
Day Two
International Chefs presented their cookery school in their own home. We enjoyed good company whilst being shown how to create a most magnificent meal. Our menu was:

Tarte Fine of Aubergine, Tapenade and Mozzarella
Chargrilled Snapper with A Mango, Prawn and Chilli Salsa
St Maure's Cheese Soufflé
Tiramisu Boat with Three Sauces

It is an understatement to say how delicious this was. This unique experience of first class world cuisine was sheer delight.

In Angles-sur-Anglin we explored the Low Town insearch of the Stone Loges. These are ancient, small, dry walled, stone constructions where workers in the vineyards, fields and woodlands would once have sheltered from the rain, wind and sun.

Day Three

It was our second visit to Les Flaveurs de la Terre, un Caviste-conseil at Loches. Jean-Christophe LAPLANCHE was a fantastic host. Our picnic menu was:
Anchovy and Vegetable Tart,
Cheeses with Batavia lettuce,
Fresh strawberries with Lemon Cheescake.
There is a deep science to wine tasting AND there is a deep science to the matching of food and wine. Somehow, we have not yet got this right!!! I think our caviste was unimpressed with the challenge of choosing wines to serve with the combination of different tastes, smells and flavours of the ingredients in our menu! Woops.
However, he was absolutely charming, explaining his reasons for choosing certain wines for us to taste, and explaining his philosophy of food and wine. It was a unique experience.
Montresor- un Plus beaux Village de France. Whilst it is quite pretty it does not have the magic and ambience of Angles-sur-Anglin.

Day Four
A rest, computer maintenance, wine shopping and a walk along La Balade des Plaisirs preceded
delicious cuisine from Le Petite Auberge, a restaurant which we highly recommend marred only by losing the car key which several days later was retrieved from the most property section at the Mairie. Marvellous!
Day Five
On the last day of August our guests travelled to a gite in Brittany. We proceeded with nettoyage and a rest from our holiday with friends! My Mother asks if we "potter about". Is THAT what we do? We had an extraordinarily brilliant time, exceeding all our expectations.

No comments: