Sunday, 28 June 2015
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Every time we visit Le Pre Vert we try to do something, in and around the house and garden, which is beyond the usual cleaning, gardening and general maintenance. Last year it was to plant more soft fruit.
Fresh raspberries on our breakfast cereal…
Our priority this year will be to introduce more colour into the garden.
Although Tim is semi-retired he has been inundated with offers of work, which amount to much more than a full time job! He hasn’t accepted all of these offers, but in the short term we are pretty much certain that our lifestyle of choice will be to travel to France and back to the UK several times during the year, rather like we did when we were working, but staying in France for much longer periods. This has an impact on what we can plant in the garden that will not die when we are away during spells of hot, dry weather. In the UK our wonderful neighbours pop round most days to deal with our post and water the plants, although it has to be said that watering is less necessary, even in the summer!!
So, you will be thinking, what on earth does this have to do with mad dogs!
Well…around the house we have a huge expanse of gravel, and we planned to create a small herb garden. Having collected some large and small edging stones from our friends Chris&Sally and Jean&Nick, we set about digging into the rock hard soil under the gravel to make the bed. This was more of an effort than we imagined it to be as the soil was so compacted and full of stones and roots, but also working in full sun didn’t help! We mixed four large bags of compost with the soil in an effort to improve the quality.
The prepared herb bed looking a bit lonely…
With plants laid out, with more to come…
All that remains to be seen is whether they survive out next visit to the UK, and although I wouldn’t wish three weeks of rain on our many friends in the Touraine Sud, the odd bit of rain every now and again would be very welcome…
Thursday, 18 June 2015
I’ve made muffins (these made with my class in 2012 for the Jubilee) many times before with a variety of fillings, but usually these fillings have been sweet. Here in France we often have friends visit for aperos or we serve aperos before a meal. There are around a dozen items which I regularly serve a variation of, but sometimes the need arises to add to my repertoire.
Today I tried savoury muffins. I couldn’t find a recipe that I was completely happy with (basically because I didn’t have some of the required ingredients!) so based on my research I came up with my own recipe. My idea was to make two types of savoury mini-muffin which I would then freeze and warm up prior to serving. I hindsight I probably could have made three varieties.The two fillings I used were bacon, mushroom with onion and blue cheese with onion.
SAVOURY MINI MUFFINS CHEZ BROTHERHOOD
Makes: 72 mini or 24 large muffins
125g unsalted butter
400g plain flour
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Fresh chives or rosemary to decorate
· 100g lardons, small chopped onion and 4 mushrooms sauted
· 100g blue cheese and a small red onion fried gently
· 100g goat’s cheese and 50g chutney
· 100g smoked salmon and 50g cream cheese
· 100g chirizo and 50g sun dried tomatoes
· 100g mature cheddar and 50g olives
Preparation about 20 mins and cook 15+ mins, but in reality I needed to recycle my muffin tins so the overall cooking time was much longer.
· Preheat the oven to 200 C / Gas 6. Grease a muffin tins, or line with paper muffin cases.
· Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
· In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk then stir in the melted butter.
· Sift the flour into a mixing bowl then add the baking powder, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper, mix well. Gradually fold in the egg mixture until loosely combined. It may look a bit lumpy, but don’t overwork.
· Divide the mixture into two portions and add any two of the suggested fillings or come up with ones to your taste!
· Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and no more than up to 3/4 full (this allows room for the muffins to rise).
· Bake for 15-20 minutes for the mini muffins until golden brown, or longer for larger ones. ** Depending on your filling you may need to be flexible here**. You can afford to taste the odd one to check!!
· Remove from the oven and serve hot or cold.
These will freeze once cool. To serve warm for a few minutes.
It feels a bit odd because in my former life ‘method’ was always followed by ‘fair test’, ‘results’, ‘conclusion’ and evaluation.
No doubt the ‘evaluation’ will come fairly soon. As the old saying goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” and we await our next set of guinea pigs, or perhaps that should be ‘friends with taste’…
Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Saturday, 13 June 2015
Friday, 29 May 2015
The theme for the May meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club was ‘vintage cakes’. The venue varies, and this month was to be held at the beautiful home of David and Jane who were very generous hosts.
The Loire Valley branch, set up by Jean Lacey, is going from strength to strength. This time there were seventeen delicious cakes, many reminding me of my childhood.
Tim chose to make a Battenburg cake; mainly for the architectural and engineering nature of the construction and because it would be a challenge even for the most accomplished baker. It is fair to say that Tim is a novice baker, but nevertheless he remained undaunted by the task ahead.
His recipe was from the BBC Good Food website which he followed almost to the letter! The only exception was that we didn’t have the Squires rose food paste so used about 100 drops of pink food colouring – thank you, Jean. He also omitted the almond essence from the pink cake adding rose flavouring instead.
He cut some pieces of wood to the correct size so he could cut his cake perfectly to size and shape for stacking…
Covering the cake…
The recipe was enough for three cakes, which were all of identical size, but with different levels of ‘finish’.
My offering was Sachertorte, the original recipe is locked away in a vault somewhere in Austria, but Mary Berry was kind enough to lend me hers. You can find it on the BBC FOOD website. The only changes I made were to increase the quantities by half again, used gluten free flour and chocolate and added a couple of tablespoons of strong black coffee dissolved in warm water, which I’d read about in a different recipe and I thought would be a good addition.
Just some of the very impressive array of cakes on offer…
Thanks to Jane and David, Jean and to our fellow bakers and tasters for a wonderful afternoon.