Thursday, March 31, 2016

My homemade sac a tarte

French Village Diaries community sewing sac a tarte
My first sac à tarte with peach and almond tarte

I did it! With the help, guidance and patience of my friends, I am no longer a sewing machine virgin and I’ve not only made my own sac à tarte (twice) but a matching tote bag too.

French Village Diaries community sewing sac a tarte
Cutting the fabric
After my strange shopping expedition to la friperie, I mentioned that my Mum’s old sewing machine had been sitting abandoned in our dining room for years and that I was looking forward to learning how to use it. However, although we managed to get it working, it proved to be too heavy for me to carry down the road to my friend’s cosy stone cottage where four of us meet once a week to stitch (and bitch – in French and English). The next problem with Mum’s machine was adjusting the tension and I got more than a little frustrated with thread snapping and stitch slipping issues. My friend kindly let me use her machine and explained in simple French how to use it. I took my time, enjoyed myself and although not quite perfect, after two mornings of work, chatter and coffee I had a beautiful sac à tarte.

French Village Diaries community sewing sac a tarte
My first sewing session
The timing was perfect as once finished I had all afternoon to bake a peach and almond tarte, which I carefully placed in my sac and proudly carried to the Mairie for an early evening meeting. Our little sewing group and sac à tarte project had generated quite a bit of excitement in the village (not a lot goes on around here in winter), so it was with much pride and even a little curtsey that I presented my tarte in it’s sac to much oohing, aahing and congratulations. A few days later, I took my sac to the boulangerie where I proudly showed Bernadette before safely placing my bag of croissants, Ed’s black forest gateau and my purse inside, laying my baguette across the top and walking home without risking dropping anything. Usually I would stagger home with bags balanced on boxes and a baguette under my arm. I was delighted with it and made a special point of taking it to show my neighbour Pierrette later on that day. She is in her late 70’s and was a seamstress before she retired and although I knew it wasn’t perfect, I thought she’d like to see my first effort, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what happened next. She congratulated me, opened her fridge, removed a fruit tarte she’d ordered from the boulangerie and said we should test it out. No sooner had she placed the tarte in and exclaimed how clever the design was, she turned around, exited the house and placed the sac à tarte in her car, all ready to take to lunch with friends. It seems she’d misunderstood my ‘look what I’ve made and would like to show you’ for ‘look what I’ve made for you’. Although loosing my first creation hurt a little, I do know she will get lots of use from it and she is so kind and generous to us, I really don’t mind her having it. Thankfully I bought enough material from la friperie to make more than one and as I’m now also the proud owner of my very own sewing machine there is no stopping me now.

French Village Diaries community sewing sac a tarte tote bag
Matching sac à tarte and tote bag

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Monday, March 28, 2016

The South of France with author Jennifer Bohnet

I hope you have enjoyed the long Easter weekend. To finish it off in style I’d like to wisk you away to the south of France where you can enjoy some time in the pleasurable company of the novels of Jennifer Bohnet, one set in Cannes and one in Monaco.

French Village Diaries book review Rendezvous in Cannes Jennifer Bohnet
Rendezvous in Cannes


Rendezvous in Cannes is set amidst the excitement and glamour of the Cannes annual film festival. As you would expect it is full of the glitz of designer clothes and accessories, with diamonds sparkling in the light of the paparazzi flash bulbs and parties full of stars. Two of the characters in town for the event, Daisy and Anna, are both at a time in their lives when they have got new adventures to look forward to, but there are things in the past that need addressing first. There are secrets that have been buried for too long and although it may at first seem too late, the past isn’t quite ready to let them go just yet.

There is a lot of sadness surrounding Anna and without the love in her life from Leo she would have been very lost and alone, despite the crowds and buzz of Cannes. Her story is from a past where things were done differently and decisions were made in the belief they were for the best. I felt very sorry for the young Anna.

Daisy is young, single, energetic and keen to move her life and journalist career in a different direction, but unsure of where to start. I enjoyed getting to know Daisy and especially loved the little snippets from her daily reports, usually written outside a café, with a coffee and a croissant, where she was being paid to write and people watch, lucky thing. 

Jennifer’s writing was not only sensitive in the emotional scenes, but also brought Cannes alive and I could feel the electricity of the festival. If you love the South of France don’t forget to pack this book for your holiday this summer.


French Village Diaries book review Follow Your Star Jennifer Bohnet
Follow Your Star

Follow Your Star has a real mix of different characters, all with their own story lines, and all entwined around the wealthy lifestyle of those lucky enough to live in Monaco. There are apartments with balconies and harbour side views, fine dining in the hills above Nice and the roar of Formula 1 that comes crashing into daily life, but there is also a secret from the past that seemed to have been forgotten.

Nanette was once part of the F1 circus as the PA and fiancée of racing driver Zac Ewart. She organised parties on his yacht and attended events on his arm before a car accident three years ago, that she can’t remember, left her ostracised and alone. Monaco, Zac and the privileged lifestyle were firmly in her past, until her best friend Vanessa asks her a huge favour. Her decision leads to many questions. Can she face returning to Monaco? Will it help to trigger her memory? How will she avoid bumping into Zac?

Although her life stopped abruptly with the accident, the Monaco social scene continued, but there are now new faces and it seems there are also dirty deals being done. This shady side of life in Monaco added suspense and tension. Who is involved and how risky it is will be something else for Nanette to discover as she attempts to move on with her life.

If the buzz of Formula 1 and the lifestyle of the rich and famous is where you want to be, if only on a short break, this book would be a perfect escape.


If you would like to make it a hat trick, I can also recommend You Had Me At Bonjour another novel by Jennifer also set in Provence. See here for my full review but this is an easy to read book that left me feeling happy.

All three novels can be purchased in ebook format from Amazon. I was sent review copies of Rendezvous in Cannes and Follow Your Star by Jennifer Bohnet.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter treats at the village boulangerie

French Village Diaries Easter France Cornuelles boulangerie patisserie
Cornuelles

Happy Easter and although here in France we only get a three-day weekend (unlike the four days given in the UK) there is still a sniff of holiday (and chocolate) in the air. Unfortunately for our boulangers it is a very busy weekend and by eight o’clock this morning Bernadette had been up and working for hours, was exhausted and she still had loads still to do. It didn’t stop her chatting away to me for a bit, not much does, but I did feel sorry for her, as they don’t get much time together as a family.

Last year as part of my patisserie challenge, I explained all about the tradition of the triangle shaped biscuit, La Cornuelle, that is eaten at the end of Lent (see here). This morning it was a lovely surprise to see puff pastry versions of the Cornuelle at the boulangerie, available filled with either whipped Chantilly cream and strawberries or vanilla crème patissière. It was a tough decision, but the strawberries and cream won.

French Village Diaries Easter France chocolate bells boulangerie patisserie
Easter bells
My next decision was what Easter chocolate to buy Ed. We prefer quality to quantity, so he only gets one Easter gift, but it is a boulangerie handmade, dark chocolate gift. The choice this morning was bells, chickens or eggs. In France it is traditional for church bells to stop ringing on Maundy Thursday and remain silent until Easter Sunday, when they will ring in celebration of the Resurrection. Somewhere along the line a sweet tale of the bells flying off to Rome and returning with the Easter chocolate for the good children, became tradition. It is therefore common to see chocolate bells with wings in boulangeries and patisseries at Easter. 

French Village Diaries Easter France chocolate eggs boulangerie patisserie
Ed's Easter Egg
This year I chose Ed the egg that was beautifully presented in a box complete with a raffia straw nest and two tiny chocolate chickens. When he cracked it open it was generously filled with dark chocolate fish, a nod to another French tradition at this time of year, poisson d’avril or April fish. Celebrated on 1st April it is considered great fun to stick colourful paper fish on the back of your friends, a bit like an April Fools Day joke.


French Village Diaries Easter France Cornuelles boulangerie patisserie
Cream filled Cornuelle

After lunch we carefully cut our cornuelle in two, although Adrian accused me of choosing the bigger half, and tried to eat it without making a mess. The thin and crispy flaky pastry shattered with every mouthful, while the cream did it’s best to ooze out the sides and escape. It was messy and delicious, not too sweet, creamy but not too rich, with flavour-packed fresh strawberries and as light as air. I’ll be looking out for another one, as I think it may be one of my favourites, but I’ll have to wait until next year. Never mind, as I like to say, less is more and I know I will enjoy it more for only eating it once a year.

There are many different food traditions in the world for Easter, including eating fish instead of meat on Good Friday and the simnel cake with it’s eleven balls of marzipan on the top, one for each of the Apostles except Judas. I baked a tasty fish pie for dinner on Good Friday and if I’d had more time I would have tried a batch of Hot Cross Buns, as I do miss them here in France. I’m also doing lots of cooking with eggs as true to form and thanks to Mother Nature, the goose, the ducks and the chickens are all laying aplenty. A roast lamb meal is often served in UK today, but we have a leg of goat, tucked up in the slow cooker as I write, that will have fallen off the bone by dinnertime and already smells delicious. What are your favourite Easter food traditions?

French Village Diaries Easter France food traditions fish pie
Fish pie (with egg) waiting for mashed potato topping

This post has been linked to Paulita's Dreaming of France blog link. Click here to read more.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Purple Day 2016 Talking about Epilepsy

French Village Diaries Epilepsy Action Purple Day 2016 Ride London Surrey 100 Just giving
French Village Diaries Epilepsy Action Purple Day 2016 Ride London Surrey 100 Just giving


French Village Diaries Epilepsy Action Purple Day 2016 Ride London Surrey 100 Just givingToday is Purple Day; an international day dedicated to increasing Epilepsy awareness and get the world talking about epilepsy, so here goes; despite rarely talking about it, here is my story of life with Big E.

Three times you have unexpectedly leapt into my life. Each time ripping my self-confidence to shreds, just when I was in a happy place and thinking things were going so well. Your timing Big E, sucks.

The first time, I was only five and enjoying being at school and  doing my first afterschool activities. One Saturday morning at my dance class, while practising for a tap show, you struck. I can still remember the wracking sobs I cried, cuddled into my Mum as the dance teacher tore strips off me. She had taken my partial absence seizure as a hesitation, thinking I didn’t know my steps. Even with medication, so disgusting it always made me gag, these absences continued up to 20 times a day, singling me out at school as different and odd. My confidence suffered and some of the other kids picked on me. Statistics show 50 million people in the world and 600,000 people in the UK live with epilepsy, but that doesn’t stop the stigma of being treated differently.

By ten or eleven, it seemed you had gone. I came off the medication and was signed off by the doctor. Life moved on and I pushed you to the back of my mind. I sailed through puberty without your interference and at 17 started to learn to drive, just like my friends. However, two weeks before my driving test you popped back into my life. This time absence seizures weren’t enough for you and you took me down with a full seizure. I was out alone and walking down a road. I don’t remember it being a particularly bright day, but I do remember suddenly not being about to see where I was going. Things weren’t dark or out of focus, but the images my brain was seeing were not what was in front of my eyes. The next thing I remember is sitting in an ambulance and seeing Mum and Dad’s car pull up behind it. I was now back to hospital visits, medication and most annoyingly, no driving for two years. I should have been gaining my independence and confidence, but one glance from you and it had all gone. I was told it was Photosensitive Epilepsy (only three in every hundred people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy) and wearing polarised sunglasses that cut out the glare would reduce my risk; although back then they were never the most stylish of sunglasses. I was different from my peers, again.

You left me alone during my twenties. I got my driving licence, I got married and I had a baby, all without your interference, although my pregnancy was treated as risky because of you. In my head I’d gone from thinking of myself as someone who has epilepsy to someone who had epilepsy and grew out of it.

My life moved on, my family and I settled into our village life in France, learning the language and getting involved in our local community. It’s ironic really that just as things were going so well; my blog was becoming popular and the villagers did me the honour of asking me to stand for election to the local council, your black shadow once again crept over me. One of my favourite things about our new life is our vegetable garden and orchard, and working outdoors to produce our own food. But one February morning whilst chopping the pruned wood into smaller pieces, I realised my eyes and brain were once again at odds. What I was looking at wasn’t what I was seeing, but at first I couldn’t work out why. It wasn’t a particularly sunny day, but I admit as the years had gone by I wasn’t as vigilant at wearing my sunglasses as I should have been, especially as when working in the garden they would often slip down my nose. Making my way indoors to get my sunglasses, you caught up with me once more. The next thing I remember was sitting on a bench with my husband and two neighbours all watching over me and asking me how I was feeling.

Your reappearance was a wake up call that made me realise I’m not as invincible as I thought I was. Thinking back over my life I now recognise other times when I’ve had the visual wobbles but thankfully they came to nothing more. I no longer class myself as someone who had epilepsy, but someone who is photosensitive and that can lead to a seizure if I am not careful. Now I never go out of doors without my polarising sunglasses on, but I still don’t find it easy going out alone. It is the anxiety of the not knowing and the what-ifs that I’ve found the hardest thing to come to terms with. I’m more cautious and my self-confidence has dipped, despite reaching a time in my life when I am fitter than I’ve ever been. I’m not going to let you take away my cycling, but I have accepted that like swimming in our pool, cycling is something I won’t go out and do alone. Even gardening has limitations for me and it is very frustrating that an hour spent weeding is all I can manage. However like any mother, I’m happier to have you back in my life if it means you will leave my son alone. I also consider myself very lucky not to have had many seizures and to now be over two years since my last one, lucky to know my triggers and how to avoid them and lucky to have friends happy to walk the dog with me.

I am also very lucky to have an amazing husband, who has not only had to pick me up (literally) after a seizure, but his strong arms have held me tight when the visual wobbles have reared up and despite us both feeling my body twitching, he kept a full seizure away. I trust him with my life.

This July Adrian will be cycling 100 miles (160kms) in one day when he takes part in the Prudential Ride London Surrey 100. Much as I love cycling, this would be one step too far for me, but while Adrian cycles the route wearing the Epilepsy Action jersey and raising money to help others live their lives with epilepsy, I will be in London volunteering on their stand and cheering on their riders. If you want to know more about the work Epilepsy Action do you can visit their website here. If you would like to donate to Adrian’s Just Giving Page to help make a difference to the lives of people living with epilepsy, click here, thank you.

£10 could give 50 people information about first aid for seizures – helping people with epilepsy be safe in public. 
£20 could equip a new volunteer with resources to raise awareness of epilepsy in their local community. 
£30 could help the Epilepsy Action experts support five people newly diagnosed with epilepsy, providing one-to-one advice when it’s needed most.

Please do share this post. Thank you.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Carnival in Melle

Music at the carnival

It is carnival time. Towns and cities across France are in party mood and children are parading the streets in fancy dress. There is music, laughter, fun and the smell of crepes and popcorn is in the air. Last weekend Melle, one of our local towns was celebrating, but we were not in the best of spirits and it was a quiet car journey as we made our way there.

Crepes and bonbons
Originally, the plan had been to drop Ed and his guitar off, head on to the airport to drop Adrian off, and then return to hopefully catch some of the action and bring Ed home. However this winter has shown us that plans are not something that can be relied on. Ed was suffering a nasty cold/flu bug that had kept him in bed the day before with a very high temperature, so despite his music group playing at the carnival it was touch and go as to whether he would be well enough to join them. A good nights sleep and his (and the thermometer’s) assurances that the fever had gone and I was happy (so long as he wrapped up warmly) to let him go – the show must go on as they say! The next hiccough was a French Air Traffic Control strike that had been hanging over us all weekend. Despite crossed fingers, a text from the airline (a mere two hours before departure time) confirmed our worst fears, the flight had been cancelled. The expenses for the job had been paid, but now half the work (and the money for it) would go to someone else.

I like to think there is always an upside to an upset and as the rain dried up, the clouds parted and the sun came out, I have to admit it started to look like a nice afternoon for a carnival. With no flight to catch Adrian and I were able to watch Ed perform and enjoy the fun and we weren’t disappointed. I hope you enjoy these pictures.

Streamers and stilts

The carnival parade
The theme was the sea, so there were lots of pirates, a family of sharks, a giant octopus and the narrow streets were hung with strips of fabric to give a moving water illusion.

The water effects
An octopus 

Walking the back streets





This post has been linked to The Dreaming of France link up at Paulita's blog. Click here to see more.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Book review of Broken Faces by DM Carr

French Village Diaries book review Broken Faces DM Carr Brook Cottage Book Tours

Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: 15 December 2015
Publisher:  Green Shutter Books

SYNOPSIS

Freddie Chevalier, a wealthy farmer’s son, suffers a life-changing disfigurement in the Great War. He’s in love with his best friend’s fiancé and is determined not to miss out on the excitement of the Great War. Soon his life changes from one of idyllic days spent with his friends, Charles, Meredith and Lexi, staying at the Baldwyn’s ancestral home in Shropshire and working on his father’s farm in Jersey, to one of horror, pain and betrayal.
It doesn’t take long for Freddie to discover that the life he enjoyed before the war has vanished and that he is going to have to find a way to live with the consequences of the choices he and Charles have made.
Broken Faces beat 7000 other entrants to be a runner-up in the Good Housekeeping Magazine Novel Writing Competition (2012) they described DM Carr as as ‘one to watch’, They also added, ‘In Deborah Carr’s Downton-esque tale, Broken Faces, a soldier suffers a life-changing injury in the Great War’. The book also received a special commendation in that year’s Harry Bowling Prize.

EXCERPT

Prologue
1918
As the weight of the plaster of Paris slowly increased on his face, he tried to steady his breathing and not give in to claustrophobia. It would be worth it in the end. He concentrated on the gentle American accent of the woman clasping his hand. She had a kind face. Her lack of shock when he’d been unmasked was admirable. Or was it simply she had grown used to seeing men such as he? They told him she was a sculptor. Someone overheard her say she saw beauty in the men she helped and that those men with missing noses and shattered faces were like the sculptures she created.
All he could think about, apart from the suffocating pressure on his nose and mouth, was a poem he’d heard someone recounting back at Les Invalides. Was it by Yeats? He wasn’t sure. He recalled it was about Easter in 1916, but not referring to the Front, even so the words still resonated. How did it go? He couldn’t quite remember. He was now one of the gueules cassées. One of the broken faces and his life would never be the same again.

MY REVIEW

I really enjoyed this book with it’s likeable characters, emotional scenes and plot twists, which gave quite a few will-they-won’t-they moments and as always with a novel set during the war you can never be sure of happy endings.

The main characters; Charles, his sister Lexie and friends Freddie and Meredith are off-spring of the wealthy classes who are used to a privileged lifestyle in the early 1900’s, but that doesn’t stop them all wanting to do their bit for the war effort. The men are keen to sign up for the Cavalry, but soon find that the ways of war have changed and life in the trenches of Northern France is worse than anyone imagined. The girls volunteer at hospitals in France and in London, where they too experience the horrors of war and images that will never leave them. I thought these aspects of the book were sensitively written and well researched.

Freddie finds it difficult learning to live with his war injuries and the way he is now seen by those around him, but with support from friends comes confidence, acceptance and love. The love in this novel is mostly portrayed in a restrained and 'proper' way, as you would expect of this period, but when things do get out of control it invariably ends in tears and betrayal. I was frustrated at times as they were all so stubborn and if they had listened to each other, it would have saved so much pain. I was satisfied with the ending and found myself wondering what the future has in store for them.

I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for an historical read where romance and history are nicely combined.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


French Village Diaries book review Broken Faces DM Carr Brook Cottage Book Tours

D.M Carr lives in Jersey with her husband and three noisy but adorable rescue dogs. She writes romances for Accent Press under the pseudonym Georgina Troy. Broken Faces is her debut novel in her own name. You can find and follow her here:



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French Village Diaries book review Broken Faces DM Carr Brook Cottage Book Tours

Broken Faces is available in ebook format from Amazon, link below.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Some days are cycling days, some days are not.

French Village Diaries cycling gardening France
Behind the peloton

Some days are cycling days and some days are not. Yesterday was a non-cycling day, despite our best plans.

Saturday morning was a flurry of activity; I baked a cake, sorted the washing and ironing, Adrian walked the dog and planned our cycle route, we had morning coffee in the garden, Ed had a lie in and after a quick-cook pasta lunch we were ready to set off. It is not a given these days that Ed will want to come with us, but it was our lucky day, or so we thought, and we were all looking forward to a forty kilometre family bike ride.

The first spanner in the works was having driven 7km towards our start point Adrian realised he had left his clever gadget-thingy at home. His Garmin not only has all the route information on it, but also records all our data whilst out on the bikes, enabling us to see how far, how fast, how many calories etc. It is impossible to cycle without one (so I have been told), so we turned around and went back for it. The next issue found us when we turned off the main road to cut across to the village of Sainte Soline, but found ourselves stuck behind the peloton of a local cycling club, as it seemed we weren’t the only ones who’d thought about heading out on our bikes. On a small road, where overtaking would be impossible, we crawled along behind them for a few kilometres but eventually arrived, unpacked the bikes and were ready to go.

The weather was pretty good with plenty of sun, although cool when the wind blew, but we were happy to be out in the sunshine. Unfortunately less than four kilometres later and with a creak and a clunk as he changed gear to cycle up the first hill, the chain on Adrian’s bike snapped and fell to the ground. If it had been a puncture he could have fixed it, but without the necessary tool it was the end of the road for his bike. I selflessly volunteered to sit on a bench, which when the wind dropped was almost warm, while he valiantly hopped on my bike to return to the car with Ed. I wish I had taken a picture of him on my bike as it was quite funny to see to his knees hitting the handlebars and it did look rather like he was riding a child’s bike. At least it isn’t bright pink!

The Garmin data proudly told us we had burned off a meagre 124 calories, so when we got home it was all hands on deck (except Ed) to mow the lawns and carry on with the cutting back, pruning and shredding. It was a disappointment, but if we had have completed our route the garden wouldn’t look quite as nice as it does and we would also have missed seeing our neighbour who has small plot of land next to ours. She is in her late sixties and only comes to the village about ten times a year to spend time in the garden where she grew up. It is her little souvenir and all that is left as her family home was demolished many years ago. This was her first visit this year and she needed Adrian’s help to fix a gate that was damaged in the recent winds, so I have a feeling we were meant to be at home after all.

Adrian also managed to fix his chain, so we’re hoping to get some cycling done this week; unfortunately it has been rather too windy today. We both have quite ambitious projects planned with our bikes this year, so we do need to get some practice in very soon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Book review of The Sword of the Maiden by Kathleen C. Perrin

The Sword of the Maiden
The Sword of the Maiden
 

The Sword of the Maiden by Kathleen C. Perrin

(historical fiction) Release date: December 3, 2015 Self published at Langon House 515 pages ISBN: 978-0692576922 Website | Goodreads  

SYNOPSIS

After being abruptly separated from Nicolas le Breton during the battle to save Mont Saint Michel in 1424, Katelyn Michaels finds herself back in her normal twenty-first century life as an American teenager. Depressed and anxious to be reunited with Nicolas, she is comforted when a series of events and impressions lead her to believe she is being prepared for another mission as a Watchman. When her beloved mentor, Jean le Vieux, comes to her in a dream and gives her the injunction to Learn of the Maiden and take her the sword, Katelyn understands that her mission involves assisting one of the most iconic figures in all of French History. Katelyn is once again whisked back to the turmoil of medieval France during the Hundred Years' War and to Nicolas. However, before the two can consider the future of their relationship, they must first complete their mission to take the sword to the Maiden. Little do they know that their old nemesis, Abdon, is already on their trail and will do everything in his unhallowed power to stop them.

MY REVIEW


I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series and couldn’t wait to get back into Katelyn’s world where medieval history becomes daily life. I would suggest starting with book one, The Keys of the Watchmen, to understand how a 17-year-old American receives her calling to become a Watchman and helps to save the future of France.

In this second adventure, Katelyn Michaels again travels back in time to Mont St Michel at the end of 1428. Once there she must prepare to journey on to the east of France, with Nicolas le Breton, another Watchman, to fulfil their mission to give a sword to a young maiden trying to save France from the English. This time Katelyn is more willing to help, more prepared and most importantly more confident in her ability to succeed. Her only doubts seem to be about her future with Nicolas, but their dedication to the mission means for the moment they have no time for or to themselves. Once again they are thrust into a country at war and must ensure the correct decisions are made to save France without rewriting history.

This is a very readable book that takes you to the heart of the action and all the grime and hardship of life in medieval France and I really felt history coming alive. I loved the preparations Katelyn makes before her journey, to ease the pain of her mission and the clever twists where modern day gizmos make sly appearances to help things along. Although with their archenemy, the evil Abdon, who will stop at nothing to halt them, Nicolas and Katelyn can never be sure who to trust or what might be lurking around the next corner. The little cliff-hangers at the end of the chapters frequently had me thinking ‘Oh no!’ and I often had my fingers crossed as I was reading. Not since Harry Potter have I been so captivated by a Young Adult novel and I had no idea French medieval history could be so interesting. I loved it and can’t wait for more from Kathleen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Sword of the Maiden Kathleen C Perrin Kathleen C. Perrin holds bachelors degrees in French and Humanities from Brigham Young University and is a certified French translator. Besides being the author of The Watchmen Saga, she has published several non-fiction articles, academic papers, and a religious history about Tahiti. Kathleen has lived in Utah, New York City, France, and French Polynesia. She and her French husband have spent years investigating the mysteries and beauties of his native country where they have a cottage and have taken tourist groups to France. The Perrins have three children and currently reside in Utah.

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Nutty Chocolate Cake Recipe

French Village Diaries Nutty Chocolate Cake recipe
Nutty Chocolate Cake

Last weekend my neighbour gave me some hazelnut flour and oil from a local producer and as I have been experimenting with reduced flour cakes, these were the perfect ingredients for this nutty chocolate cake I have been working on. This recipe is a mutation from the Hazelnut Chocolate Cake found in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Light and Easy: Healthy Recipes for Every Day cookbook, which is delicious with ground hazelnuts or almonds, but with a large number of butternut squash to use this winter, I had to have a play.

I think the grated butternut squash (courgette or carrot could be used instead) add moisture and the hazelnut flour and oil add flavour, ensuring this nutty chocolate cake is moist, rich, full of flavour and has a good firm texture. I can assure you it is not just me who thinks it is delicious as it has also been a hit with Adrian and Ed.

French Village Diaries Hazelnut oil and flour Huilerie Lepine
Huilerie Lepine hazelnut oil and flour
Ingredients
200g ground almonds
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
1 heaped tablespoon hazelnut flour
Baking powder (I used one 11g sachet of French levure chimique)

50g brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs

100g grated butternut squash

50ml of oil (I used 40ml of sunflower mixed with 10 ml of hazelnut)

Line a round baking tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat the oven to gas 4.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.
Beat the sugar, honey and eggs until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add in the grated butternut squash and beat.
Add in the dry mix and beat and then slowly drizzle in the oil while continuing to beat.

Pour into baking tin and bake in a moderate oven (I use gas mark 4) for about half an hour until springy to touch. Leave to cool in tin for ten minutes and then remove.

It can be eaten alone for afternoon tea or served with a dollop of natural yoghurt for dessert, but you could also add a buttercream topping if you fancied.