Monday, 24 February 2014
The cake did make it to the UK intact and was enjoyed after Christmas. Phew!
Things have been a bit busy around here the past few months. I have been doing a few hours a week at the village school, and with my other usual committments it has been a whirlwind of activity. School holidays this week, so I have been back to my old schedule and catching up with friends.
Today was gardening club, and it was great to see everyone and talk gardens. It was also gloriously sunny, so a pleasure to be out and about.
Our gardening club, Les Amis du Jardinage, meets at a local pépinière called Arbres et Abeilles (trees and bees). It is a lovely nursery near Civray and in a very pretty spot. They have a website also www.arbres-et-abeilles.eu and you can check out the dates for upcoming workshops and gardening club meetings, as well as order your plants. There are bee keeping courses available, and gardening accessories. Anne, the owner, also has chickens. One of my favourite animals!
Luckily I had the fore thought to email Anne a week ago and ask if she had any eggs available for eating.... you do need to specify this as she also has eggs for hatching.... could be an interesting mix up... So today I came home with a dozen lovely fresh eggs. Half brown and half blue. Yes, blue!!!
One of the chicken breeds that I am keen to own is the legbar. They lay the most pretty coloured eggs you have ever seen. A pale tourquise blue colour. Gorgeous. ...and yes, before anyone asks... the insides are normal looking - not blue...lol
First thing I had to do was take them out of the egg carton and put them into an antique dish filled with straw. They looked so lovely, I could have quite happily made them an ornament for the dining table.
Unfortunately, our neighbours' chickens were killed by a stray dog, so we have not had nice farm eggs for weeks. These blue eggs, whilst very pretty, will be eaten not admired.
Well, maybe they will be admired for a few days, then eaten.
I cannot wait till my hens and rooster are big enough to come live here. Can you imagine eating these beautiful eggs every day. What a joy to enter the coop each morning and find these gems waiting for you to collect.
Friday, 20 December 2013
A lot of frustration, and wondering WHY I chose a square shape (tricky business), but in the end it all came together.
Mind you, the kitchen is coated in icing sugar dust, and the cats are walking through sneezing and looking disgusted. No appreciation for things that are not tummy rubs, cat food or warms....
Lets all hope it tastes good, and travels well! It is going to London with us next week, so here's to no sudden braking incidents on the way...lol
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year where ever you are in the world next week.
Thursday, 12 December 2013
No, I did not run amock in a garden centre with an unlimited budget!..... I went to a cake decorating workshop.
What a great way to spend the afternoon! We had so much fun and finished the session with mince pies and mulled wine and a cup of tea. Lots of laughter and chatting as well as exploring our artistic side in icing.
Before I went, I had said I wanted to do snowflake patterns, but after seeing a cake with holly on top changed my mind and wanted to do something similar. A girl is allowed to change her mind.
We started with fruitcakes made by Bev,
Aren't we a clever bunch?! Three completely different ideas starting with the same basic cake and icing techniques.
Bev is running classes at her home this week and next, so book in quick. A great Christmas present for a family member or friend, or just a nice treat for yourself. You can find her at www.cheztantemabel.com
Classes will also be available next year with other themes (ie; Easter etc). Check out her website, some of the cutest things ever can be found there.
My holly decorated cake will be raffled to support the Combined Services Support Group this saturday lunchtime in Fenioux at Café des Belles Fleurs.
Thursday, 5 December 2013
I hope it is clear skies and no rain whilst there. Last trip it rained miserably and was very windy. Am hoping for good weather so I can stroll around, and to enjoy a chocolat chaud sitting outside a café people watching.
Lots of catching up and eating out will be done. Think I am going to need a holiday to get over my short break..... this little country mouse isn't used to the fast paced city mouse lifestyle anymore!
Back this time next week with an update on the big city life.
Thursday, 28 November 2013
When I arrived home I ran out the back and took this shot looking down towards the river.
The colours were extraordinary and it felt warm - even though it definately wasn't!
We have already had one snow fall, and a few frosts (some light, some hard), with the frost last night turning the fish ponds on my journey into patinoires. Lucky I have pretty much finished up in the garden for the year. Will put some extra straw around my rhubarb and strawberry plants tomorrow, then I am done till late january when it is time to prune the apple trees.
A few of the locals have said it is going to be a hard winter this year..... let's see what eventuates. In any case, I am ready with full store cupboards and freezers. Chimneys cleaned and emergency candles in place. Plenty of "projects" to keep me busy, and lots of lovely friends in walking distance to share a cup of tea and a walk in the brisk sunshine.
Life is good here.
Monday, 25 November 2013
Yes, I know, they are ugly and a bit weird. Hard as rocks and completely inedible raw..... but cooked they become the most incredible edible imaginable.
Applying heat to these ugly ducklings transforms them into aromatic jewel toned swans. It is a true culinary magic.
There is an old quince tree in the orchard, and it was laden with fruit. I gave away bags of it to friends and acquaintances. The rest I cooked into jelly and paste.
For days the kitchen - whole house in fact - smelt heavenly.
My hands, however, felt like they had been through a few sessions with the inquisition and lost out.... badly lost out.
There are many tricks and hints on the internet for preparing quince. Before you go ahead and try them out, let me tell you that they DO NOT WORK. Save yourself some heart (and hand) ache. You can thank me later.
The only thing that makes it easier is to wash the fruit in a sink of hot water and let them rest a good half hour before trying to prep them. The water needs to be hot enough that you can just barely put your hands in it. This seems to soften the skin slightly and makes it a bit easier to peel them. Cutting and coring is still hard work, sorry.
To make jelly from quinces is the simplest recipe there is. Quinces are very high in pectin, so they don't need to much heat or sugar to reach a jelling point.
First, wash, peel and cut into chunks about a kilo or so of quinces.
Put in large pot with about a cup or so of water (I actually cooked them in a pressure cooker to save time) and bring to simmer. Cook till fruit is rose pink and tender.
Drain off liquid into a measuring jug. Hopefully you have about a litre of liquid. If not rest fruit in a strainer over jug and let all the juice drip out till the fruit pulp is fairly dry. A jelly bag is great for squeezing out the liquid without getting pulp into it (pulp makes the jelly cloudy when it is set). If still a bit short, top up with water.
A litre of liquid needs about 600g of sugar. Put liquid and sugar into a saucpan and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Once setting point is reached bottle and use prefered method of preserving.
The leftover pulp is now going to be turned into quince paste. You know the stuff that you spend a fortune to buy at the deli.... yes that stuff. It is delicious served with wild boar (or any game meat for that matter!) and most people think it belongs on a cheese board. Personally, I prefer it with meat, and take my cheese plain or with a little salad as the French do.
Place reserved fruit pulp (which looks a bit revolting at this stage - see photo above) into a large saucepan add about 500-600g sugar(depending on sweetness of fruit) and heat. You must stir constantly!!! You want to cook off the remaining moisture and turn it into a claggy, gluey mess.
Once this texture is reached, turn out into a baking paper lined tray and smooth surface.
Place in a slow oven (100celcius) for a few hours till it takes on a solid feel. Think of a rubber ball and you are aiming for slightly softer...lol. You should be able to push on the surface and it rebounds instead of leaving a divot. I leave the oven door slightly ajar so any moisture escapes and it dries faster.
When cool, slice and put into a lined container with a tight fitting lid and put into fridge. Will keep for months if you don't cross contaminate with an unclean knife (yes I am talking about you double dippers who reuse a knife that has been used on something else!).
Perfect for bringing out at Christmas or for gifting to foodie friends and family.
I always add half a lemon to the fruit when I first cook it. There is no need for the lemon, I just like the hint of flavour that it adds and the balance that it brings to the finished jelly and paste. You could add spices to the jelly such as cinnamon etc if you wish to have a real wintery warmth and perfume.
Thursday, 7 November 2013
I would love to have something as pretty as that pictured above, (gardens at Invalides in Paris), but think it will turn out more rustique and organic.... oh well, c'est la vie as they say here.