Archive for November, 2008

Food, food, food, and drink

dscf2299It has been a cracking week so far for receiving lots of country goodies.  It started with Henri popping round with some salade and a rabbit paté that Monique had just made. People keep rabbits for food, the wild ones are few and far between due to some disease years ago which almost wiped them out.

This patè was almost like a meatloaf in texture, very well seasoned and full of pieces of meat.  We had it on a brown baguette and the leftovers we had like meatloaf with leftover cauliflower but in a really delicious recipe I came across.  Strictly speaking this is not a french recipe but I am including it anyway as it was so darn good.  The caulis were on promo, it must have been a good year for them, it was huge and as there are only two of us there was always going to be too much for one meal.  So take your leftover cooked cauli and cut into small pieces, put in a large bowl and add 1 cup of sour cream, I used creme freche as I had some leftover, 3 tablespoons of cream cheese, again I used boursin cuisine with chives as I had some left, 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese, I used a local cheese that is a bit like cheddar and a chopped onion. salt and pepper to taste
Stir all of this together- then get a large oven proof dish and butter the bottom and put the cauli concoction in, grate a goodly amount of cheese over the top, place in a hot oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the top is melting and there you are.

As I mentioned previously, the mobile apple juicer has bee doing the rounds and when we went for the milk, Alain gave us a bottle of the freshly squeezed apple juice, we quoffed it down with the pork sausages we had for dinner and it was awesome.

The next day I visited another farm not far out from the village.  The family here produce free range chickens for a well known french brand.  I went in my capacity as computer repairer or the docteur as Alain calls me.  I went as a favour for Francoise and for my trouble was given the biggest guinea fowl(pintade) I have ever seen, it was the size of a good sized turkey and is now residing in our freezer.

Since we have lived here, we appreciate the changing seasons a lot more than in a big city or even a small market town like we used to live in the UK.  Although the weather at the moment is not that nice, we still noticed the trees are particularly colourful this year.  We took some photos the other day and I would like to share these with you.

dscf2305near the chateau


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The story so far

Our first fruit and veg

Our first fruit and veg

This was a selection of the fruit and veg which we harvested in our first full year, since then we have added asparagus, raspberries, blueberries and a domesticated blackberry plant which has no thorns.

We were going to keep chickens but as all our neighbours keep them we rarely are without chicken eggs so there was no need.

It seems it is always  a year of plenty for different fruit each year, the first it was plums and cherries that everyone was trying to give away, freeze or bottle, then it was peaches and this year it is apples. 

Apart from chicken eggs we have also been given by our generous neighbours, a pike, crayfish, both out of the same lake, pheasants and rabbits, chickens, homemade patè, duck eggs, goose eggs, geese, the list goes on and each has a story attached to it which I will reveal over the next few weeks, christmas  permitting.

On Bastille day, we were invited to lunch by some french friends.  Jacquie is from the basque country and had prepared poulet basquez, This uses the red, green and yellow peppers, as per the basque flag I think, onions, chicken portions and a large tin of tomatoes and lots of garlic.  The idea is that the dish is cooked slowly for a long time so that the peppers eventually become almost a sauce with the tomatoes and onions.

I had a go and I started by browning the chicken, I used thighs which seemed perfect, sweating down the onion and peppers with the garlic, transferring them to the slow cooker, add a decent amount of white wine, tin tomatoes, salt and pepper, then just leave for as long as it takes, we like our chicken falling off the bone so we just switch on and forget until we smell the delicious aroma.  I served it with the red, white and green spiral pasta. 

Give it a try.

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The story so far 3

Sit down and relax

Sit down and relax

Our neighbours have these brilliant outdoor seats which were made by Francoise’s father.  They are old oak barrels which used to have cider or calvadosin them but are now passed their sell by date.  this brings me neatly on to the big event at the moment here in St Thomas.  As you drive around the countryside, or preferably walk, you will see huge mountains of apples in gardens and farmyards everywhere. these are being collected ready for when the mobile apple press arrives.  I actually saw this at Henri`s house .  Tons of apples were shovelled from the tractor trailer and the press went to work.  As the juice came pouring  out we filled used water bottles in order to sample the fresh juice, delicious, of course the rest was put into oak barrels and would be left to become cider.  Later the mobile still would arrive to make last years leftover cider into calvados or eau de vie, the water of life as it is called.

The weather has been really strange, on thursday it snowed so much it was touch and go whether we would get out of the drive and yesterday we had school at Henri and Moniques house, the english help the french to learn and in turn the english learn french.  Afterwards we went out to their vegetable plot which is huge, and the sun beat down, I picked some raspberries and we were given some salade and swiss chard which I have used in tonights casserole together with some turnips which we were also given.

Finally I must describe the meal we had on wednesday lunchtime at probably my favoutite french restaurant.

Throughout the villages and towns in France there are restaurants which provide really good basic food for the workforce and at ridiculously low prices.  The one near us is The Bonne Table at Champgeneteux.it is very plain both inside and out, there are no pretentions here to haut cuisine but it is the very frenchness of it which is so enjoyable.  Invariably you will be greeted by the owner and chef with a firm handshake on your arrival, ushered through the tiny bar/tabac and into the main dining room where the owners wife will greet you and sit you down at a table with a carafe of red wine and a basket of freshly baked baguette from the bakers next door.  You will be offered cider if you want it instead of wine and then it is on to the buffet.  The variety here is staggering, from patè to rillette, smooth duck, coarse country and patè en crut, it looks like thin slices of pork pie.  There are several takes on tuna, my favourite is just with mayonnaise, there is cucumber in cream and couscous with peppers, rice salad, hard boiled eggs, raw grated carrot in vinaigrette and much more.  In the interest of good blogism?  I will go again soon and get the definitive list with photos.

The main course was as always steak frite, but there is always another choice and for once I went for it.  This was sautè of bison with a gratin of legumes.  This was superb, large chunks of tasty bison, very french with a combination of potatoes, vegetables baked in the oven in a cheese sauce.  The wine carafe is refilled as soon as you have emptied it as is the bread and the cheese course arrived, a quite young brie, a mild goats cheese and port salut.  The desert choices as I recall were floating islands, great meringues floating in creme anglais, my wifes choice,  chocolate tart, my choice, chocolatey top, crisp, buttery pastry, tart tatin and fromage blanc.

Finally a tiny cup of hot, black bitter coffee rounded off a very enjoyable meal.

All this for 11.50 Euros each, we did not eat again till the following day!

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