Thursday, 28 February 2008

Leap Year 2008 Ginger Roulade

Yummy Mummy's Spiced Ginger Roulade with an Apple or Pear Filling
Peel and core and chop or quarter 500g apples or pears. Melt 30g butter in pan, add & teaspoon cinnamon, 55g or less sugar or none ( maybe a little honey instead), and fruit. Cover and gently cook until a little pulp. You can beat it smooth but I prefer it with some soft chunks.
Prepare a Swiss Roll tin by greasing it then layering on greased greaseproof paper. I twist the corners together to make little walls! Dust with a little caster sugar.
preheat oven to 180°C or just under if it is a fan-assisted oven.
Sieve together 110g plain flour, about 1 teaspoon mixed spices ( could be nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, star anise, garam masala, ) plus 1 teaspoon or little more of ground ginger.
Melt about 70g butter, about 2 tablespoons of black treacle and the same of golden syrup in a saucepan. Then whisk in a beaten egg and about 150ml of milk of water or combination or instead of the water any of the fruit juice created from the filling. Beat well. Pour this into the dried ingredients and whisk together until thoroughly gooey.
Pour onto the greaseproof paper and spread evenly into the corners.. Bake for about 10to 15 minutes or until firm to the touch.
This is the tricky bit. Leave to cool for a little while but not until it is too cool or cold.
I roll it leaving the paper on , then unroll, cool completely, take off the paper, spread fruit (less the liquid) on as thickly as you dare but don't go too far near the edges as it will squeeze into those places! It might crack and distort! That is the fun bit! You have to try and keep it well formed. Then I roll it in some dry paper or I have re-used the used paper, twist the corners together to seal it and the refrigerate until you need to serve it or just before!! Dust with icing sugar to make it look more attractive!! You could serve it with cream. I have tried creme anglaise but I have decide this is not good!!
It really benefits from being made at least one day in advance. Cut into thick slices and arrange on a plate so that you can see the roulade spiral! It should serve at least 4 and probably 5 or 6 persons.
Serrve with a rich sweet white wine!!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

First signs of warmer weather 07-02-08

Heavy mist heralding the morning
burnt off with the mid-day sun
to reveal a crisp, clean, bluey-blue sky.
Luncheon of spicy lentil soup,
with warm bread
and old Cantal masking as a substitute for grated Parmaggiano.
Al fresco dining in France with 14°C.
The first butterfly, honey-bee and house-fly visit the table
There are no crumbs left!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Shrove Tuesday

In France and in other countries it's Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). However, it is Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) in England. There is a strong cold wind whining and all is very inclement for any Carnival parade. We stay indoors and eat pancakes.
We have run out of Sarrassin flour which is made with buckwheat (blé noir ) and is very good for making savoury galettes especially if ones uses farine fluide in the recipe.

So we are making crêpes with wheat flour. Usually in France these would have a sweet filling but in England we used to make savoury pancakes with the crêpe mixture. For our afternoon tea we had stewed dessert apples with a spoonful of last year's cherry jam and a glass of white Bergerac wine! For our evening meal we had a filling of sautèed onions and tomatoes in a cheese sauce. Mix the pancake mixture in the morning, beat well, leave in the fridge. Heat the special pan only ever used to make pancakes, cook the pancake, put your favoutite filling in the centre and fold. keep warm whilst you make some more before serving.

These are some photos from last year's village activity group. The weather was marginally better! We had spent several weeks helping the children to make masks and costumes and helping them to learn a farandole and another French folk dance called Les Lavandières. Not sure of the spelling on that one! The women were washing their clothes by the lavoir , gossiping and enjoying themselves when their menfolk called them home and were cross because their dinner had not been prepared!

The "bonne madame" was never burnt last year as it was too dangerous in the windy weather to have a bonfire.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

The Syrian and the Ice Skater

In January out came the beautiful brown leather boots made by Bottiers in St Moritz. The gold lettered name of the maker has almost disappeared. It looks like Lyberg Machers. They were bought from a Charity Shop in Beccles, Suffolk, England just after the Big Freeze of 1981 (?) when Sweetpea's family stood and skated on the River Waveney under the guidance and watchful eye of friends who had deemed the extremely thick ice to be safe. Then, it was a fantastic, eerie experience to listen to the creaking, cracking of the ice and the sploshing of the water beneath us and to know the proximity of danger.
In 2008 Sweetpea makes progress on the 2007 skating venture in more ways than one!!!

The attire doesn't change much, but a year ago she sported a wet bottom in front of Santa, and this year the Syrian converses in English!! ... and she only falls the once!
Meanwhile, on terra firma, Captain Sensible takes the camera, drinks "vin chaud" and visits the market stalls around the rink!

In discussion we identify that this father of two girls studied English literature in Syria but had lived in France for 15 years. He thinks that "The world is already a sad place without any of us adding to it's darkness".
After afternoon tea in the newly smoke free bars we watched the polychromie images on Notre Dame Poitiers. Very beautiful.

Frosty morning windows

We have never had old fashioned frosted windows quite like this before! Well, not since we were children living in un-centrally heated houses! Our windows have "double-vitrage", that is they are double glazed and there on the outer pane of glass of the windows facing North, in the upstairs shower room and in the second bedroom behind the black-out roller blind, were two very pretty canvases of intricate, lacy, leafy branches that would take an artist hours and hours to reproduce. They were so stunning, we tried to experiment with the digital camera!

2008 begins as busy as ever!

The year begins as busy as ever!
French Time is absorbed with what others think is "taking life easy" and "pottering about" and enjoying French life. On many occasions it has been physically demanding especially for building the verandah, keeping the woodburner alight and tidying our constant mess from cooking and just living! How do people manage to keep a "showhouse"?

Epiphany continues and even our walking group have a splendid ending to the 13 km walk as we sit down to Epiphany cakes, warm cider or red wine, tea or coffee!

It's a pre-birthday treat for Captain Sensible.
Mention Leigné-les-Bois to locals who enquire where we live and they all wax lyrical about Chez Gautier. When we decided to treat ourselves to a meal at this restaurant we had forgotten that it is four years since we arrived at this hameau and therefore four years since we came to this restaurant! Now the language barrier is less of a problem. In the past one of the "gaffes" was to refer to the below zero temperature as "trois froid" meaning "trés froid" very cold!
This year the mild weather enabled Sweetpea to wear a long black dress with a small black cardigan and heeled shoes! These she changed into from her flat walking shoes! The pink scarf was unnecessary for the chic, classique restaurant which was warm and ambient. Captain Sensible decided to wear his courting tie and a shirt. Getting dressed up was fun!
We were late on account of Sweetpea not being ready. She was still deciding which coloured scarf to wear! More importantly the car would not start. So, we walked the mile into the village with a slipper of a moon hanging in the sky awash with bright shining stars. A tawny owl screeched from afar. Monsieur et Madame Gautier greeted us surprised at our nocturnal promenade! He had misunderstood the telephone message thinking that we were waiting for the breakdown vehicle to repair our car!
First an aperitif - white wine with mango juice accompanied by six "mise en bouches". The first was a miniature onion tart, the second a smoked salmon spiral sandwiched with creamy cheese, the third a tuna stuffed choux pastry. After this was a small choufleur soup avec oeufs d'harengs to whet the appetite. This does not appear on the menu. We like to smell the foods as well as the wine. We want to know what it is called and what the ingredients are and how it is made and observe how the foods are presented. We ask questions and make favourable comments. There are the standard plates with tortoiseshell coloured borders and rectangular wavy glass plates for the fish entrée or white square plates for the sandre fish main course. An assiette with a coloured border showing game of deer and pheasants carry the pigeon main course in it's deglacé sauce. Pretty plates for des fromages - a spoonful of Gorgonzola resting on the plate like a little mouse served with an onion marmalade and apricot bread. Pretty plates also for the desserts entremet des poires pour David et flambéed cerises with vanilla ice cream pour moi! The salt is held in a tiny wooden basket with handle. The butter is hidden in a tiny terrine pot. All sophisticatedly simple. We listen to Bach, Beethoven, "True Love" and "A Whiter Shade of Pale"whilst we finished our meal with coffee and pralines and after four hours enjoying a magnificent menu the sommelier, a lovely young man, taxied us to our door. "Eat your heart out!" - we say to the likes of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingsall!
We are interested to see that the cheese waiter tries to cut and serve cheeses with two knives in one hand whilst carrying the tray with his other hand!! Precarious moment indeed! He assures other guests that M. Gautier is indeed using Italian cheeses such as Parmesan, Dolcelatte, Gorgonzola and Pecorino in his restuarant.

A few days later and the weather had changed so dramatically that it was too cold and wet to set off on any Magical Mystery Tour. Also many of the places identified as potential visits were closed on a Tuesday! However, we put on a brave face, but not the waterproof walking gear, and set off on a 7km walk. It was muddy and fun. The heavens opened and we got soaking wet!

The actual birthday meal was celebrated with a soup of St Jacques Scallops in a Saffron Cream Sauce followed by Baked Red Mullet marinated in Sage and Rosemary served with Purèed Potatoes and Broccoli . We then had St Maure goat cheese, renowned in this area. Then the birthday boy blew out candles on a chocolate birthday gateau!

It had been fun to travel to London and briefly see the new developments of 21st century architecture and design at the transformed Spitalfields Market. Travelling on the underground and overground trains between London Stansted and Epsom was also exciting! The commonly heard phrase "Mind the Gap" held particular significance when I battled to get off the crowded train onto a platform of passengers waiting to squeeze into the little space that I had created! "Excuse me, I wish to get off this train." People parted as I lifted the suitcase onto the platform. One foot managed to follow it and land on the platform but the other leg disappeared down the gap! The nearest people helped me to stand up and checked I was OK. Looking down I could see that someone else had lost a shoe but thankfully I was still wearing mine! Laughing I mentioned the need to "Mind the gap" and took stock of my faculties before moving with the flow of people!
I enjoyed myself in various ways:-
1. I went to The France Show at Kensington Olympia .
Q . Why did I go when I live in France?
A. I went on a fact finding, inspiration seeking mission. In reality, once the queue had surged through the doors, I wanted to avoid most of the folk and even be back in real France. However good an exhibition of this kind is, it cannot represent or reflect the true heart of a country and that is the fraternity within the hearts of the French people! The British are not the same!
2. I stayed with my son and Becky who work their socks off! I watched her achieve success jumping hurdles in her riding lesson. I also spent several hours sweeping dust and rust from the newly painted surfaces on Wendy Ann 2 and particularly from the floor around the tug. At the stern there is no steel to keep out the sea!! (See
3. The roads were more of a challenge. I hired a car to avoid the National Express bus service which I actually enjoy if I am not pressed for time.
4. I demonstrated the method of marmalade-making to my daughter and with 6 weeks to the birth of her baby it reminded me of how thirty years ago whilst in labour I was determined to finish the labour of love I had started and jar the marmalade before she was born on 28-01-78. Happy Birthday Felicity!
5. Having swum more than 20 lengths of the pool, I also independently tried the aerobic exercises as my daughter participated in the ante-natal natation class.
6. At the homes of my son and my daughter I enjoyed some excellent cuisine. Fish pie, roast chicken, butter beans, kidney beans, vegetable soup, apple crumble, beef stir fry, chicken in a seville orange sauce, lamb also in a seville orange sauce and chocolate torte.

Returning to France requires a small re-adjustment to a rural lifestyle.
Getting back to reality meant catching up on sleep but within a day or two I was re-accustomed having walked along the roads and disused railway of La Roche Posay. Feeling invigorated, the French sunshine then invited the pruning of the laurel bush by at least a metre! I had just finished wielding the electric saw having been successful in keeping my balance on the tall ladder when I asked for "just a little help from my friend" as I had broken the blade! Lo, down the lane here come our neighbours on their tractor who stop and offer to cut in half the one metre logs which they delivered last week. We offer coffee or afternoon tea and receive facial grimaces. One of the brothers suggests a "coupe de rouge". Ah, the red wine! After all they HAVE finished logging and the sun is still in the sky as the afternoon proceeds towards the early evening. We discuss the construction of the verandah and how "le pat-ron" (her) is not letting her friend (him) take any more rest. It's part of the humour understood between our two cultures! We also discuss our requirement for assistance in ploughing and rotavating an extra vegetable plot! After much frowning, umming and sighing it is agreed that despite being a small plot demanding "beaucoup"of effort to get the machinery into our field they are prepared to do the work before May. We agreed to allow a passageway through our field for the sheep to pass from one grazing pasture to another, allowing us the opportunity to plant trees or wild flowers, if we wish, in our field, knowing that in future the sheep will not eat them!!! Then having discussed our role to remove the piles of a) good soil, already acquired from the same neighbour, b) decent sized and useful stones / rocks, c) gravel , and d) sand, I wander down the lane to collect the empty wheelie bin and by chance meet the relative of Marguerite, our former neighbour, who at the age of 95, sadly died last Easter. Bernadette arrives everyday to feed the numerous chickens and cats. She wishes us Bonne Santé et Bonne Année and we discuss her health and that of her husband and cousin whilst behind her the triplet of lambs leap in unison amusing me! Before I extract myself she rummages in the back of her car and produces a "cadeau - un petit cocotte pour vous". I am humbled and kiss her on both cheeks. Such a kind gesture. Smiling and chuckling, I return home to tell a story and reveal the gift concealed under my jacket - a box of chocolates gift-wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper!
Within a few hours much had happened in our little hameau to confirm that we live on "La Balade des Plaisirs"!

This month the doctor has confirmed that Captain Sensible has osteoarthritis in the vertebrae as well as wear and tear in the spine. This diagnosis accounts for the increased pain he has been experiencing and will significantly affect any further building projects. It is time for more re-adjustment.


The skies are full of mist, cloud and torrential rain as we end the month. the monthly temperatures have included minus 5°C yet when the sun shone it had been sufficiently warm to discard coats and jackets.