Friday, 25 April 2014

Let them bake and eat cake…

On Wednesday we joined in the Clandestine Cake Club meeting at Le Grand-Pressigny, organised by Jean.

IMG_8412 Tim baking his first ever cake.

His favourite, date and walnut. All went well until the cake came out of the oven. He believed the recommended cooking time, and had faith in our oven thermostat!


It came out very slightly singed, but he took it along anyway! It tasted rather good, and in retirement he will be assigned the role of i/c date and walnut cake baking!

I am altogether more experienced at baking, but even so my cake also had it’s problems! My favourite cake would have to be carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. I decided to use a recipe that I’d never used before. My good friend, Sue, gave me a Paul Hollywood recipe book for my birthday. The book is in the UK, so I found his carrot cake recipe online and adapted it to include some of my favourite ingredients, and to fit in with the contents of my store cupboard and fridge!


IMG_8423  Grating carrots is an awful task! Usually I would assign such a task to Tim, but he was busy with the fosse!




In honour of the inaugural Loire Valley CCC event my cake became a Carrot, Cointreau and Clementine cake. 

A big thank you to Jean and Nick for setting up a Loire Valley branch of the CCC and for hosting our first, very successful event.

A few other photographs of the event…

IMG_8442 Jean.

IMG_8441 A wonderful array of ‘favourite cakes’.

IMG_8445 Tim and Elizabeth.

IMG_8443 Waiting for the tasting to commence.


And we all did… eat cake,eat cake and eat cake!!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014



Angles_panorama A panorama of the chateau and river at Angles-sur-l’Anglin.

On the past couple of Sunday mornings we’ve indulged in a very French pastime. Brocanting. At Azay-le-Ferron and Angles-sur-l’Anglin.

IMG_8344 The chateau at Azay.


IMG_8347 Some beautifully dressed dolls.

IMG_8343 Would you buy this doll?

It’s a bit like car-booting in the UK (which we very rarely do, probably no more than a handful of times in the 35 years I’ve known Tim!) We did sell at one, once, and have regretted giving away classic vinyl albums for 50p. They just walked off our stall!

We’ve loads of stuff that we could sell, and certainly need to get rid of, but it’s always preferable to take it to a charity shop. I remember when my parents died I couldn’t face someone haggling over an item was worth 50p or £1 so I gave all but a few sentimental, or items of greater value away. I remember the newly opened Hospice of the Valleys charity shop was completely kitted out!

We never buy very much, but usually find something, useful or otherwise, to buy. It’s also fun bumping into people you know and checking out their purchases, or pointing out where that special something they are trying to find might be located!

IMG_4030_640x427 The paintings were very expensive!



At Azay we bought six glasses and four blackcurrant bushes for a total of 16 Euros. However, at Angles I picked up a beautiful leather bag which I am still feeling rather guilty about. A little old lady was selling a number of items. I picked up the nearly new leather bag which she said had been expensive, but would sell it for 20 Euros. When I hesitated she asked me whether it was too expensive and asked how much I would pay. I mentioned 10 Euros, expecting her to negotiate up to 15, but she agreed. I’ve worried about it ever since!



My second purchase was probably worth exactly what I paid for it!


Not for sale.



On second thoughts, the man might be…

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A birthday lunch…

Daniel was soon to reach the ripe old age of 30.


To celebrate we had lunch at Au Croissant, in Buzançais, with our friends John and Maureen, Daniel’s very proud Mum and Dad. Lately I’ve become far more cautious about taking photographs of the food in a restaurant, but we assured the waiter that these photographs were being taken because we were impressed with the food! We mostly ate off the 25 Euro menu.


We had a delicious meal and would thoroughly recommend the restaurant. Market day in Buzançais is Friday.

Our starters…


IMG_8374 IMG_8375









Our main courses…










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The consensus was that we’d had an excellent meal with only a couple of slight gripes. Although the lamb was cooked to perfection, and absolutely delicious, it could have done with a little more in the way of vegetables. Perhaps another couple of the tomatoes with pea puree would have done the trick and provided a contrast with which to savour the tasty lamb. Having said that, with the other courses there was more than enough to eat. The other gripe was that one of the cheeses (the one with the yellow rind, which unfortunately I can’t remember what it was called) was certainly an acquired taste!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Touraine Trekkers and Simnel cupcakes…HAPPY EASTER..

Following discussions with friends Elizabeth and Jean it was decided that what the Touraine needed was another walking group! Elizabeth came up with the name, so all that remained was to canvas interest and organise our first trek or randonnée.

Over thirty trekkers expressed an interest, and twenty five intrepid souls and two dogs fastened their laces for our inaugural walk around Le Petit-Pressigny.

We’d planned a couple of walks of 7k and 10k and could offer a choice part way round. We were a bit worried that given the hot afternoon sun that we had chosen the wrong time of day for the walk, but luckily(?) Friday dawned cool and cloudy. However the sun eventually come out, and more importantly, it didn’t rain!

Copy of IMG_4011_640x427 Checking in.

Copy of IMG_4014_640x427 Susan and Liselle, the back markers.

Copy of IMG_4015_640x427 Nick, Rieja, Sally and Elizabeth.

IMG_8394 Sam, Chris, Sally and John.

IMG_8395 Simon, Colin and Elizabeth.

IMG_8397 Pauline and Liz, just after the sun came out!


Jim, stopping for a rest!

It seemed like a great idea to offer refreshments at Le Pré Vert after the walk, and a big thank you to everyone who generously brought a delicious array of quiches, cheese straws, focaccia, cakes, brownies, biscuits, flowers and wine.Tim, i/c photographs, completely failed in his duties to photograph the food! Friends who were unable to make the walk joined us for the refreshments.

Copy of IMG_4017_427x640 Poppy, performing her party trick for a dog treat! Ann, Maureen and Kay, her appreciative audience.

Copy of IMG_4020_640x427Sally, Chris and Gail.

Copy of IMG_4018_640x427

Copy of IMG_4021_640x427 Jean, Nick and Edna.

Copy of IMG_4023_640x427

Antoinette, Niall and Susan.Copy of IMG_4024_640x427

Elizabeth, how lucky are you to still have that lovely pink cardigan?

The idea is that we become an informal group who enjoy exploring our beautiful countryside together, and that on a rota basis someone will volunteer to organise the next walk. Thanks to everyone who took part in this inaugural trek. I think Tim was worried that I would have my whistle at the ready to chide those who fell out of line or failed to keep up. Worse still, to expect people to walk in pairs, holding hands and wearing fluorescent walking bus tabards!! Once a teacher…

If you are reading this, live in the area and would like to join in then drop me an email or a comment and I’ll contact you.

We certainly enjoyed ourselves and it provided an ideal opportunity to persuade some guinea pigs to sample my first attempt at baking Simnel cupcakes. The recipe is loosely based on one in the Hummingbird baking book.



300g (10 ½ oz) mixed dried fruit

100ml (3 ½ fl oz) Armanac and Cointreau mix

200g (7oz)  softened, unsalted butter,

200g (7oz) soft dark brown sugar

4 large eggs

160g (5 ½ oz) plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp mixed spice

½ ginger

60g (2oz) ground almonds

For the topping:

60g (2 oz) marzipan

Chocolate mini eggs

Melted white chocolate

Makes 12-15clip_image004


·        Place the dried fruit in a bowl, cover with the alcohol and leave to soak for about an hour.

·        Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/ 375°F/ Gas Mark 5, and line a tin with muffin cases.

·        Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Break in the eggs, one at a time with a teaspoon of flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl after adding each egg and mixing.

·        Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger and mixed spice, then add to the creamed mixture and whisk slowly until all the ingredients are incorporated. Add the ground almonds, followed by soaked fruit, and mix until combined.

·        Divide the mix between the paper cases.

·        Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the cupcakes have risen and spring back when you gently press them. Let them cool in the tray for a short while, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

·        Form the marzipan into small balls and press into a circle. You could roll out the marzipan and use a cutter but this was too fiddly for me!

·        Place on to the top of the cupcakes and using a small amount of melted white chocolate add the chocolate egg.

I had intended to put a small amount of marzipan inside but don’t really think it is necessary.These cupcakes are deliciously boozy! They also lend themselves to lots of variations, and I can see how they could easily become a Christmas cupcake.