Monday, December 22, 2014

W is for Walnuts

French village diaries Walnuts advent calendar a to z french food
French food alphabet advent calender

Welcome to my French Food Alphabet Advent Calendar where I am working my way through a selection of delicious food posts; some are regional specialities, some are my personal favourite foods, some posts include recipes, but all are linked to French food and drink. I hope you are enjoying your virtual tastings.

It’s the 22nd December and W is for Walnuts.

I love everything about walnuts; from the size and shape of the two old trees we have in our orchard, to the smell of their leaves and of course their delicious taste and versatility in the kitchen. Even the raking of the damp leaves on a chilly winters day is good exercise for the body and the mind too, when the air is heavy with their fragrance. Walnuts are reported to be a super food with one portion of nuts (about 14 halves) providing your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids that may help to lower blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease.

The Dordogne region is famous for it’s walnut (noix) production and I can still remember the taste of a delicious walnut crème brulée in Argentat-sur-Dordogne, when on one of our road trips that also saw us following the Route des Noix and the Dordogne River.

Some of my favourite things to make and bake with our walnuts are pesto, bread, coffee and walnut cake, Christmas mincemeat and we even add them to our terrine de porc. There are also some lovely recipes in Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne by Kimberley Lovato, a beautiful book that is so much more than just a cookbook.

Don’t forget to pop back tomorrow for the letter X. If you have missed my previous advent posts you can catch up by clicking on the letters ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP, Q, R, S, T, U and V.




Sunday, December 21, 2014

U is for Uh Oh but V is for Vin

french village diaries food a to z advent calendar vin wine
French food alphabet advent calendar


Welcome to my French Food Alphabet Advent Calendar where I am working my way through a selection of delicious food posts; some are regional specialities, some are my personal favourite foods, some posts include recipes, but all are linked to French food and drink. I hope you are enjoying your virtual tastings.

It’s the 21st December and U is for Uh Oh! I can’t think of anything, so when in doubt pour a glass of wine and move on to V is for Vin.

Well, what can I say about France and wine other than they really know their thing when it comes to producing the many varieties of wine from their different regions and when talking about wine, we must not forget that all important French concept of terroir. This is the complex relationship between the geographical and environmental conditions that are unique from one vineyard to another and therefore produce unique tasting wines where flavour, quality and price can vary dramatically from one side of a road to the other. The main wine growing regions in France are the Alsace, which produces some very nice dry and fruity white wines, Bordeaux, one of the big boys for red wine production, Burgundy, also celebrated for it’s red wines, Champagne, home of the party-girl fizzy wine, Côtes du Rhone, where you find the famous Chateauneuf du Pape, the Languedoc, the largest producing region in terms of volume, the Loire Valley where white and the rosé d’Anjou are produced and Provence, home to my favourite rosé.

We live in fairly dry area, in terms of wine production, but we don’t have to drive more than about twenty minutes before we are amongst the rolling Cognac vineyards. There is also our local wine, the Vin du Pays Charentais, which we enjoy although production is not celebrated quite like the famous Bordeaux region, which we can reach in a couple of hours. Something I have noticed on our travels through France (and her wine regions) is that every area has a different preference when it comes to pruning their vines. I’m guessing this has a lot to do with their local terroir.

There is so much more to be said about French wine, and I can highly recommend reading Caro Feely’s two memoirs set on her organic vineyard, Grape Expectations: A Family's Vineyard Adventure in France and Saving Our Skins: Building a Vineyard Dream in France or Patrick Moon's Virgile's Vineyard: A Year in the Languedoc Wine Country if you want to learn more about producing wine in France.

At this time of year, my favourite wine is Vin Chaud, or mulled wine and you can find my recipe here.

Don’t forget to pop back tomorrow for the letter W, we've nearly reached the end now. If you have missed my previous advent posts you can catch up by clicking on the letters ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP, Q, R, S and T.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

T is for Tomatoes

French village diaries tomato recipe advent calendar a to z French food
French food alphabet advent calendar
Welcome to my French Food Alphabet Advent Calendar where I am working my way through a selection of delicious food posts; some are regional specialities, some are my personal favourite foods, some posts include recipes, but all are linked to French food and drink. I hope you are enjoying your virtual tastings.

It’s the 20th December and T is for Tomatoes.

Tomatoes are a very important part of our semi-self sufficient life in France; from the seed sowing in March, to looking after the tender seedlings in April, to planting out in May, to watering, weeding and side-shooting in June, to (hopefully) starting to harvest from July. That is when the fun in the kitchen begins. We try to grow at least three different varieties and usually have around fifty tomato plants each year. Some will be small and sweet cherry tomatoes, some are pretty and colourful varieties that are perfect for salads and some are grown for their size, quantity and flavour and are ideal for roasting, puréeing and freezing. This delicious red elixir is then used in pasta dishes, casseroles, soups and as pizza toppings throughout the year.

It is obvious that I love tomatoes, but I have a secret, I only eat home grown tomatoes. Out of season I never buy them as I just don’t like the taste, in fact as a child I didn’t think I liked them at all. It was only when someone gave us some tomato seedlings about 15 years ago that I realised they could taste nice and were worth eating. Now I couldn't imagine a summer without them.

Here are some links to my favourite tomato recipes: tomato ketchup, tomato chutney and tomato and chilli jam.

T is also for Terrine de porc and Tourteau, a cheesecake speciality of our local area.

Don’t forget to pop back tomorrow for the letters U and V (well there are 26 letters and only 24 days). If you have missed my previous advent posts you can catch up by clicking on the letters ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP, Q, R and S.




Friday, December 19, 2014

S is for Seafood Platter

french village diaries advent calendar a to z of french food seafood platter
French food alphabet calendar

Welcome to my French Food Alphabet Advent Calendar where I am working my way through a selection of delicious food posts; some are regional specialities, some are my personal favourite foods, some posts include recipes, but all are linked to French food and drink. I hope you are enjoying your virtual tastings.

It’s the 19th December and S is for Seafood Platter.

A seafood platter is a dish of celebration for the French and is often served for the Christmas Eve or New Years Eve Reveillon meal. Until a week ago I was a seafood platter virgin. I had sampled some of its delights individually, but never had the courage (or budget) to order the full theatre of sitting in a restaurant with a dominating platter hovering above the table. This was something that needed addressing and at a pre-Christmas meal with French friends I was initiated. As you can see from the photo this was one loaded platter with oysters, prawns, langoustines, crab and sea snails. It was a lovely relaxing evening, everyone just dug in and munched away at their own pace, stopping every once in a while to show me how to remove the sea snails from their shells and attack the crab. It was a great fun evening with good food and lovely company.

Don’t forget to pop back tomorrow for the letter T for another tasty post. If you have missed my previous advent posts you can catch up by clicking on the letters ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP, Q and R.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

R is for Ratatouille

French Village Diaries Ratatouille recipe advent calendar a to z french food
French food alphabet advent calendar


With less than a week to go, I can’t believe how quickly advent is rushing by and I hope you are more organised for Christmas than I am! Here is the letter R for my French Food Alphabet Advent Calendar series - a foodie’s countdown to Christmas Day sharing posts including French regional specialities, my personal favourite foods, and some new recipes. I hope you are enjoying your virtual tastings.

It’s the 18th December and R is for Ratatouille.

This is one of my favourite summer recipes when the potager is generously giving and the kitchen often groaning under the weight of produce.

Ingredients
2 onions, diced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large peppers (red if possible), diced
2 large courgettes (zucchini) diced
1 medium aubergine, diced
2 tablespoons tomato purée
4 tomatoes, chopped

Soften the onions and thyme in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, without letting them colour. Add the garlic, courgettes, peppers, aubergine, salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes longer. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato purée, cook over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. This is delicious as the vegetable accompaniment to any meat dish, but if like me you make it in bulk it will freeze too. I then use it as a summer flavoured soup in the winter.


Don’t forget to pop back tomorrow for the letter S, a celebration platter. If you have missed my previous advent posts you can catch up by clicking on the letters ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP and Q.