Saturday, 21 February 2009

Les Fleurs de Safran

It is the first time we have been to 'La Foire au Safran' and this one was at Preuilly-sur-Claise.  Several  producers of this most expensive spice displayed their floral treasure in prettily labelled glass jars.   It was extremely interesting to see the slideshow of how the bulbs are planted and to listen to and understand information about this special crocus, how it is cared for through the seasons and how the pistils are collected to be used in culinary and medicinal recipes. The smell of the small crocus stamens is divine.  I could not resist purchasing one gram in a very pretty glass jar, thinking of Easter and making Saffron buns - a recipe which I have not used for some time.  We also saw the prized truffles but the budget will not extend in that direction.  There were about 40 exhibitors. In the arts and crafts area there were potters, woodturners and modelmakers.  Stalls were selling soaps, plants, breads, cheeses, duck products, olive oil products and cakes, confitures, chocolates and vinegars flavoured with saffron.  Too tempting!  Having met a few people we knew and heard some new French phrases to herald Springtime -  'faire revivre' et 'nouveau debut' - we continued for a circulatory walk around part of the town and home. The afternoon sunshine was giving way to the evening chill.

Go to for more information about the exotic powerful essence of this beauty.">

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A Dream Afloat

Out of the dry dock and splash!!!!!!!

Well done Wendy Ann 2 and Well done to all of the people who have supported this phenomenal project borne by the dream of two creative spirits. Not only have Seb and Becky worked solidly against the elements, but others have supported them from far and near, with physical, emotional, mental, financial, verbal and literary support. Some have given huge amounts of knowledge, skills and advice, some have donned their work clothes to give practical, manual labour and have experienced the sweat, toil, fun and drama to help the dream come true. At last she sits in the waters of the ocean, a new vessel. Bless her and bless all those aforementioned. Now there's just the kitting out to do!!!

My what a pretty sight!!!!!! 
Thank you to Tim Zim for going out on his dinghy to record the event. Well done you!!!!!   I hope you do not mind me making the link here.  My son telephoned tonight and is to say the least rather exhausted but I admire his tenacity and I think he, Becky and all of you who have been there have such a  lot to be proud of.
Tim Zim's record of Wendy Ann 2 launchAll other photographs supplied by Seb Pattenden

Sunday, 15 February 2009

When the Heart asks for Pleasure

I become enwrapped with emotion when I play THE PIANO. I want to play the pieces perfectly but I'm not performance level. The film was scary. When I initially saw the film, I screamed when Ada lost her silver finger and was found by my daughter as I sobbed in the cinema toilets. But being brave and intrigued about the story I returned to my cinema seat, hankie in hand. Recently, we watched the DVD of the film and this time I saw more, but again not the dread deed itself. Covering my face I listened and only opened "les yeux" when I thought it safe!  I close my eyes as I play THE PIANO.

Chicken with a Creole rice

We went to a St Valentine's supper but the repas (main meal) was not spicy enough to make your partner draw breath, so I thought I would create the recipe here for you to try with your loved ones!! I'm going to try it too, to see what effect it has on the Captain!

Remove the skin from chicken legs. Cover with olive oil and coat with a rub of "flour, paprika or cayenne pepper, chopped garlic, chopped dried chillies, thyme and salt". Roast, Barbecue or Grill for about 20–25 minutes until cooked thoroughly. Turn frequently.
For the Creole rice, heat olive oil, add chopped onions and garlic, roughly chopped red pepper and celery. Cook for about 2 minutes until softened. Stir in the paella rice, add the stock and canned kidney beans. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in lots of the chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper , Spoon the rice onto plates with some chicken, garnished with sprigs of parsley. I think it is important to have this dish creamy and saucy, just as one would prefer any dish ... of a man!!

If you eat this, I read that you will also digest protein (chicken), iron, niacin, selenium, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, zinc, calcium, copper, folate, potassium and phthalide from the celery which is believed to help lower high blood pressure. Not bad for the heart then!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

LIfe is GOOD

The piano has been tuned and what a difference that makes. "The Piano" film soundtrack sounds harmonic and doesn't go "waoh waoh waoh!" Such a nice man was M. Gilbert and I can highly recommend him to anyone who needs an accordeur. He vacuumed the piano inside, pointed out the humidity, tried to repair the sticky keys, and did not complain about my very old piano, but when I said I'd waited all my adult life for a new piano he said how the years are passing! Don't I know it if I look in the mirror! Oh to have a new grand piano with a view of the mountains.
Then we made onion, walnut and green olives (all combined) bread as well as some yummy date bread with wholemeal flour and fresh yeast. I roasted a red pepper, stuffed with fresh fenouil, fennel seeds and goat's cheese.  I made shortcrust pastry. David made an onion quiche and I made a French tart to die for. We don't normally have dessert.  It is Nadine's recipe though she used shop pastry (which is an anathema to me), chocolate, pears, eggs , crême fraïche and lurve. Mmmm. Only in France and in my kitchen!
Full Moon after The Tempest

My cousin Dot and art at plush 5

My cousin Dot lives in Dorset, England and for 5 years she has presented art@plush . She has also battled with breast cancer. Please go to her website is beautifully presented and extremely elegant, to view details of the exhibitions of the works of chosen artists that she has promoted in her own home. She, with the support of her family and friends have contributed the profits to Cancer charities. Congratulations!
This is the interior of the exhibition and living area.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Great Spotted Woodpecker

It has been quite exciting to have our second sighting of the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), a visitor in our garden. Now what is it a male or a female?

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Oyster Shell - a Poem

I wrote this some time ago whilst on a flight to uk. I have no idea why the initial words popped into my head, except that a few days before that we had experienced for the first time eating raw oysters whilst dining with Dutch acquaintances. I would not choose to learn to prepare to eat them but if ever I am in a situation where they are presented in a meal I know I could swallow two or three and not lose my dignity or manners! I quite like the way these words have appeared. Do pause after SHELL.......

Shell...Alive in oyster bed
Shall I disturb thee?

Shell...I take thee from the sea
Shall I praise thee?

Shell...I prise thee with a knife
Shall I eat thee?

Shell...Within thee is a pearl
Shall I wear thee?

Shall I keep thee?

Shell ...Not for posterity.
Shall I discard thee?

Shell... Hermaphrodite
Shall she be he?

Shell...she'll be a mollusc
In the oyster reef
Shall shell be sorry?


Thrifty Kitchen Tips

Save crusts and slightly stale bread and reduce to crumbs in the food blender.

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Use as follows:¨

- Add to hot soups just before serving.

- Sprinkle on blind baked pastry, cover with golden syrup beaten with egg or cream or milk.

How come I was vegetarian for 27 years?

A little chicken sat on my kitchen work table bottom up and I robbed it of its self. Following instructions to debone it, as I had done on several earlier occasions I became dismayed. How could I roll disjointed flesh without the skin being rolled up with it. I decided to remove the skin, arranging the flesh on greaseproof paper, making a kind of rectangular jigsaw. The skin went to the compost bin which rarely has meat put into it. I could have fed the skin to the birds but at the time I could not solve how to suspend the pieces from the branches of the tree. The bones made chicken stock. Little is wasted in this kitchen!
Place it on it's breast on a chopping board and thwack the backbone with a sharp knife or chopper. Work with a sharp knife down each side, leg and wing to cut the flesh from the bones. Use scissors if necessary.
Sauté together lots of finely chopped onion, chopped garlic, deseeded, chopped red pepper and chopped apples. Then add destoned black olives, basil leaves, breadcrumbs and one egg and a handful of pine nuts with salt and pepper, mixing to a thick paste.
Spread the paste over the chicken flesh. Sprinkle lemon juice over all and add a goodly splash of something 40% alcoholic. Use the greaseproof paper to push the chicken into a roulade without trapping the paper. Press firmly then wrap the paper around the chicken roll. Tie the ends with string or raffia like a Christmas Cracker. I think it is possible to use cling film. A chef we have known told us that as long as the cling film stays in contact with a moist surface it will not burn!!

200°C for one hour in a covered roasting dish with potatoes beneath, Then another half hour with the lid off. Baste throughout cooking period.
Carve it. We served it with crinkly crankly savoy cabbage balance atop with julienne carrots, individual pommes dauphinoise and a white sauce made with the roasted chicken juices. I would have like to serve it with a zigzag decoration of red pepper coulis over the chicken roll and cabbage but I didn't think that one through!

You could more simply .... serve with just the roasted veggies and some watercress.

Before this we had FRENCH ONION SOUP with a CHEESY TOAST (no photo)

and because it was a few days after Captain Sensible's birthday we indulged in Opèra chocolate mousse gateau which only cost us 6 euros. We were still eating the minutest portion with coffee almost one month later. It was rich and probably filled with chemical ingredients!!