Monday, 31 March 2008

Le Jour de Poisson

I would welcome constructive comments please?

Two years ago, in Vicq-sur Gartempe we marvelled at the fish sculptures decorating the square. We thought some of these would be great for our fishy barbecue. After I had drawn the outline of fish shapes onto hardboard, Captain Sensible cut them out. I painted them with poster acrylic paints. It was magical for me to be creative under the shade of the plum trees. It reminded me of former days in the classroom when I so enjoyed art with the children. The nearest I got to making something for myself was the quickie demonstration before the lesson either in front of the children or before school or whilst they were at lunch! I now remember that I enjoyed those creative days so much. Under the plum trees I developed simple designs that dried quickly in the sunshine. One design was musical. The fish became mobiles in the trees, swinging in the breeze. When the winds increased they oscillated violently and when the mini-tempest returned we took them down so that they would not get damaged! Maybe my fish can swim through the trees this summer because I can't find a photo of them !

To do a Delia

To do a Delia
This is a new expression of my own invention but I am sure it has been in existence for many years. The definition is:
To quote a brand name of a producer or merchant when indicating where to purchase the ingredients of a recipe and to use those commercially produced items in the making of the recipe instead of using freshly made ingredients.

We have in the past admired the lovely lady for often her recipes have been perfect and delicious. Unfortunately we think she has muddied her principles in her new approach!

Here, we do a Delia! See items in BOLD.

This is a meal that can be eaten on a day when you have leftover meat after a roasted lunch!
You will need leftover roasted lamb which has to be chopped very very finely. The amount you require has to be judged by eye - you will need enough to stuff into the four pitta-type pockets!! If you have more leftovers after this meal then you can use the lamb, salads, etc in a sandwich for tomorrow or make a lamb lasagne.
To add to the finely chopped lamb, add several crushed and then finely chopped garlic cloves. I also added about one add lots of lemon juice from a plastic Jif bottle (or an equivalent) or from a freshly squeezed lemon, and if you have the latter some grated zest. Add also a goodly lot of dreid oregano and a few crushed finely dried bay leaves (remove the spiky stalks) and of course some salt and pepper for seasoning. Cover and leave to marinade for an hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
Make a freshly made French dressing with olive oil, lemon juice and some white balsamic vinegar (or buy a bottle!!)
Slice tomatoes and marinade in olive oil , salt and thyme overnight in the refrigerator.
Grate a fresh courgette or cucumber into a bowl, add sufficient fromage frais, yoghurt or crême fraiche torn or chopped fresh or diried mint leaves, lemon juice and salt. Leave in the refrigerator to marinade.
Wash fresh green salad lettuce of your choice. (You could have it ready prepared in a packet! )and put in a bowl to leave in the refrigerator for about an hour to plump up! Before serving toss in the dressing or serve that separately.
Take a 325g packet of Sharwoods Naan Mix (or an equivalent) from a shop of your choice!
It will make 4 large flat breads. An hour or two before you wish to eat the bread follow the instructions on the packet. Mix 170ml of water with the flour mix and knead together until a good moist dough. Leave covered with a cloth in a warm place to rise. Then knead again and roll into four or five oval shapes. Lift each one and whilst it is hanging turn with a circular motion with your fingers so that the oval stretches a little more. Place them on a large greased metal platter, leave to rest for about 20 minutes and grill for about 2 minutes. Make sure there is a good distance from the source of the heat as the flatbreads will rise!
How to eat.
Just before cooking the breads form the meat into patties or warm the meat in a stir fry pan.
Arrange the bowls of food. Take a flatbread, make a pocket and fill it with lettuces, tomatoes, courgette, meat and ENJOY.

However, we would like to thank Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for his Meat Book and his inspiration for the Greek lamb souvlaki.

Friday, 28 March 2008


I have just been trawling through photos which are on our hard drive and CDroms. They all have to be sorted and stored on the external drive now that I am more expert at re-arranging the folders! It has been a journey down Memory Lane of Life in France demonstrating that the digital world has opened up parameters of history that we could never have envisaged in our youth! So there may well be some flashbacks occurring on this blog to remind us of the fun, food events and marvellous experiences that we have had with many of our good friends here at Village de Vaux.

This was the Simnel Cake from last year! I love marzipan!

These are the beautiful cowslips that blanket the hedges and banks along the La Balade des Plaisirs. They have just begun to bloom with a promise that Spring is just beyond the winds and rains that are battering the window today! .... and these are the little Spring lambs that were born last year, to give us joy... and meat on a plate! This year's lambkins are yet to arrive!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter Cakes

Lizzie's Chocolate Cake and Sweetpea's Simnel Cake and Paschka

SIMNEL CAKE Cream 170g butter and the same of caster sugar and then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time with a little of the 170g plain flour to avoid curdling. Fold in the rest of the flour and 1 small teaspoon of baking powder, 2teaspoons of mixed spices, 450g dried fruit previously soaked in a little alcohol or cold black tea if you wish, and 55g chopped candied peel.

You could use self raising flour instead of the plain flour and baking powder, you could use candied cherries or another substitute. This year I used candied papaya. Dried fruit should be raisins and sultanas , but currants could be used. I like to use a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground mace and ground anise. You can make your own almond paste but I buy it quite cheaply in France.

So into a greased and floured cake tin, preferably with spring released loose base add half of the cake mix. Then a rolled out circle of almond paste and then the rest of the fruit mixture.

Bake in a pre-warmed oven 170°C in a fan-assisted oven, otherwise 180°C for about 2 hours, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool for a short while, then remove the cake from the tin. Run a knife around the tin if the cake is stuck. Spread some honey or apricot jam on top of the cake. Roll a second circle of almond paste to fit the top of the cake. Make 11 small equally sized balls, about 12g each. Using egg white stick the balls around the edge of the cake. Decorate using some cleaned eggshells, or models of chicks and chickens, rabbits or flowers. Tie with a ribbon. Voila! Joyeuses Pâques!

This year I have discovered this wonderful dessert from

Cream 100g butter and 100g caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add 400g curd cheese. I used fromage frais!, 2 tablespoons lemon juice; 2 teaspoons vanilla essence, 100g chopped blanched pistachios, 100g dried cranberries but I used dried raspberries, 100g chopped candied peel but I used dried papaya and fold in 200g thereabouts of whipped double cream. I used crème entière.
Then put this into a muslin cloth inside a sieve or colander and leave in the fridge overnight to drain. Use the whey in soups. You can press the paschka into a heart shaped mould if you wish but I left the paschka as a semisphere and decorated it with broken pistachios and fresh strawberries. This amount would serve 8 to 10 persons.

Naming our granddaughter

We are delighted with her names which are particularly apt as we are living in France!!!

The name Francesca has Germanic roots and derives from the Latin masculine name Franciscus or Francisco meaning from France or a Frenchman. So the feminine form, Francesca means a French woman, a free woman, a free spirit. German tribes who invaded France were called Franks . For the history of The Franks please look at
Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order of friars, was the son of a wealthy merchant who renounced his father's wealth and devoted his life to the poor. Later in his life Francis apparently received the stigmata. Another saint of this name was Saint Francis Xavier, a missionary to eastern Asia.
Famous women with this name were 15th century Roman noblewoman St Francesca Romana (St Frances of Rome), and a British actress Francesca Annis.Saint Day March 9th St Francesca Romana
The name Millicent was brought to England by the Normans in the French forms Melisent and Melisande or Melusine. It is derived from the obsolete Old German name Amalaswinth, composed of the elements "amal" (labour) and "swinth" (strength).It is the name of several historical figures, including the 12th-century queen of Jerusalem, daughter of Baldwin II.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Francesca Millicent

She is Bella! She is beautiful!
Here she is at 6 days old!
Mick chose the name Francesca
Felicity chose the name Millicent.

And here she is again between 6 and 10 days old:

Friday, 7 March 2008

Another milestone in life

Je suis une grandmama et David il s'appelle un beau-grandpapa.

Felicity gave birth to a little girl on 6th March 2008, weighing 5lb 5oz at 9.29 a.m. Her partner Michael Balfour says that the little one is cute! Felicity says the little babe is perfect with flat ears, a button nose and a button chin! She is yet to be named. Malheureusement, Sweetpea is still in France but as soon as we have photos we will post them here!

And today is the Feast day of St Felicity. So Happy Feast Day to my daughter.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

St David's Day in France

It's the weekend of March 1st and so we celebrate Wales whilst being in France. We ate leek and potato soup for lunch. The little Welsh cakes, they really are drop scones, were eaten like hot cakes during the tea break of the dancing lesson!! And my cousin Heather's Damson Jam was outstandingly excellent and earned the praises of our French friends! We have eaten the toasted slices of Fruit Loaf served with the damson jam or Edna's Marmalade for breakfast! I have had to translate the recipes into French!

Rub together the 125g butter and 250g of self-raising flour. Put the 75g castor sugar, Pinch of cinnamon, 100g raisins into the mixture. Add 1 egg or milk to form a dough. Cover and refrigerate for about half an hour. Roll out the mixture until it is about 1cm thick. Cut out circles.Cook the cakes in a dry frying pan or on a bakestone WITHOUT using oil or butter until they are browned on both sides. Serve alone or with butter, confiture, honey, cream .... as you wish!

I found a recipe which seems to be the same as for Bara Brith, an Irish tea bread. The recipe was for a huge quantity so I have adapted it! Even this makes two smallish round loaves! This is my version.
375g plain flour
1 good teaspoon dried yeast mixed with 1 tsp sugar and a little warm water
125ml approximately of warm milk or mix of milk/yoghurt/water (your choice)
50g sugar
200g butter
half teaspoon vanilla powder/essence and the same of salt and the same of cardamom seeds (not the pods) which could be crushed/ground
75g ground/chopped/flaked almonds
125g chopped candied citrus peel
150g raisins
zest and juice of lemon / orange (I added some fresh plum juice!!)
Add the yeast mixture to a well in the centre of the sieved flour. Cover with some of the flour and leave somewhere warm for about 15 minutes. Melt the butter and add this and the rest of the ingredients to the floury mix. Knead the dough until it feels like a good texture. If it is a bit dry add a little more liquid. If it is too wet add a little more flour as you knead it. Form inot two round balls and place ona greased baking tray. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to stand in a warm place until risen. Brush with some milk. Bake in a pre-heated oven 190°C or 180°C if fan-assisted for about 45 minutes. Some raisins may get a little burnt and fall from the bread. Leave to cool. Eat whilst warm. Use butter, confiture or honey, cream as you wish!!
You could use cinnamon instead of cardamom.
You could soak the raisins in brandy or tea for several hours before you make the recipe.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Friends in February

Mirror mirror in the garden, Qui est la belle de notre jardin?

The Plasterboard goes up in the verandah despite Captain Sensible's back screaming at him... and I as we scale ladders to fix the heavy weights to the ceiling! For a gentler occupation he has been making bird boxes with the kiddywinks!!

We eat economically! Six splendid sardines for 2 euros with marinated tomatoes! Our neighbours gifted us large leeks and carrots "in conversation" for winter soup!