Friday, March 23, 2018

Springing back into life

French Village Diaries Springing back into life courgette
Courgette seedlings
When I look back on photos taken or blog posts written at this time of year, I find there are lots of similarities. The first fruit tree blossoms, the first flowers in the hedgerows, the first swallows on the telephone lines and the first vegetable seeds germinated, all signs of new life that make an appearance every year.

It is also a time of year when I feel like I am springing back into life once more, even though I hadn’t actually realised I was hibernating. Slowly my desire to write has come back as well as my need to get my fingers dirty and sow some seeds (although sadly the need to get out and weed hasn’t arrived just yet). I have washed the winter sofa throws, that smelled of dog, and even cleaned the kitchen windows, although the main spring cleaning so far has been limited to a bit of sprucing up of the blog, adding a few new bits here and there. My new Lazy Sunday in France feature is proving to be really popular and I have plenty of guest posts from exciting authors lined up for the coming months, and in other bloggy news, I was delighted to be included in the Top 100 French Blogs and the Top 45 Europe Expat Blogs.

The extra hours of daylight, the warmer temperatures and the fact my first courgette seeds have germinated, all makes me feel better. The lawnmower is primed with fuel and just waiting for the perfect afternoon to make the first cut. I always think there is something quite soothing and comforting about the distant hum of lawnmowers around the village; a sound of summer even if I know the cold and wet days are not quite finished with us yet.

Cycling is another thing that has been neglected this winter and the few rides we have done have been cold and slow ones that I haven’t really enjoyed. I am waiting for a bit more warmth in the air before I venture out again, but I had to laugh when I read a post I’d written exactly five years ago today. It was an early spring bike ride and although many things have changed in five years; my bike, my cycling clothes and my helmet, it would seem my fitness hasn’t improved at all. You can read the full post by clicking here, but this was the bit that made me laugh:

“Mr Super-Ski-Fit was quite a nag; "Do you think you can go any faster?" (No, or I would be!). "If I go any slower I will fall off" (Oh well). "Keeping up OK?" (Yes thanks, so long as I can go at my pace). Nothing in my life is measured on how fast I can get somewhere or do something - life for me is all about the journey. How I managed 80km in a day on Ile de Ré last year I have no idea. But I do know I have a long way to go before I could do that sort of distance again. Oh winter I hate that you make me wobbly and unfit.”

To be fair I did ensure Adrian was well aware that just buying me a new (and better) bike, wouldn’t magically turn me into a new and better cyclist, but the last time we went out cycling, the conversation we had was pretty much identical and I certainly feel wobbly and unfit once again.
French Village Diaries Springing back into life
Baby Ed 2001

Despite many things staying the same, 2018 is already proving to be a year of changes. Ed is now on the final countdown to his Bac exams and finishing school, his university application file has been completed and we are already looking at accommodation for him for September. The real world is beckoning and as luck would have it real work has come knocking at my door, so it seems appropriate that after over 17 years, my life as a stay-at-home Mum will come to an end next week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Je cuisine Francais #GoutdeFrance

#GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance French Village Diaries Taste of France day
#GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance 

Today, 21st March, is #GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance or taste of France day; an annual event where chefs of the world are encouraged to celebrate French food, with the emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local produce. I love French food and I am loving the play on words here too! Goût de, translated, means taste of, but rather than #TasteofFrance we have Good France day – get a Frenchman to say, “goût de France” and “good France” and they will sound the same.

This year it is our Region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, that is being given the honour of having its produce showcased and what produce there is to choose; from the wines of Bordeaux to Cognac, from the Gâteau Basque to the Tourteaux, from Atlantic oysters to Charentais melons and not forgetting goat cheese, we have something for all palates and all occasions.

My only problem with this fête was that none of the 3000 restaurants taking part, from high-end (haute gastromomie) to modest (bistrot de qualitié), are anywhere near me. My only option to make the most of this grand évènement festif, was to cook French at home, or as they say on their website “Je cuisine français!” And why not, but what to cook? There is too much choice.

#GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance French Village Diaries Taste of France day
Mes Premières Recettes Alsaciennes

My first stop was a tasty looking cookbook from the village library, Mes Premières Recettes Alsaciennes, yes, it is a first-cook-for-kids book, but that just ensured it would be simple enough for me to follow, but I still couldn’t make up my mind and anyway it’s an Alsace cookbook, not a Nouvelle Aquitaine one. 

#GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance French Village Diaries Taste of France day
Maxi Cuisine
Next, I decided to look through the cookery magazines my French friend Claudine gave me. Each one more delicious than the next and again, so much to choose from, I just ended up making myself hungry.

#GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance French Village Diaries Taste of France day
A safari of local food
As part of my research I stumbled upon a real gem of a book in a local library that I can’t wait to read. Artist and illustrator Glen Baxter takes us on his historical food safari of the Poitou-Charentes, in a bilingual English/French book that looks just my thing.
#GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance French Village Diaries Taste of France day
Courgette and goat cheese savoury cake
In the end I chose something I consider to be very French. It is a cake, and yes, I mean cake, not gâteau. You see cake in French means a savoury loaf, most often served as the finger food nibbles that accompanies the very French tradition of the apéro, or pre-dinner drinks; a fun and sociable moment designed to whet the appetite for the main meal. Seeing as we live in an area where goat cheese (chèvre) is big, my savoury cake is made with courgette and chèvre and despite making it this week (with a shop bought courgette – quelle horreur) while the snow swirled outside the kitchen window, this recipe will really come into its own later in the year when the courgette comes fresh from my potager, and it is served outside on a sunny evening with a chilled glass of my favourite local apéro. It will then tick all the criteria of fresh, seasonal, local and most definitely French.

Courgette and Chèvre Cake

I large courgette
A 200g log of goat cheese
100g grated cheese
3 eggs
150g plain flour
80ml sunflower oil
125ml milk
A little butter
Freshly chopped parsley 
1 sachet of levure chimique (11g baking powder)
Salt and pepper

Cut the courgettes into rings, without peeling, then sauté in the butter until soft and then drain on a piece of kitchen paper.
Mix the beaten eggs with the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper and then a little at a time add the sunflower oil, and then the warm milk.
Add the grated cheese, the courgettes and the goat cheese, broken into pieces, then add a pinch of nutmeg and the chopped parsley.
Pour into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper and cook for about 45 mins at gas 6, then leave to cool before turning out.

#GoutdeFrance #GoodFrance French Village Diaries Taste of France day
Ready for aperos

With 300g of cheese to 150g of flour, this is a cheese feast in a loaf that makes my mouth water before it is even out of the oven, and once it is risen and golden, and smelling of warm cheese, allowing it to cool before tucking in is torture.

Bon appetit and I hope you get to enjoy some delicious French food today.