Friday 29 May 2015

Busy in the kitchen..

**Apologies for the font size, line adjustment and spacing caused by the problems with Windows Live Writer and Blogger. The problems aren't visible on the edit too and I've spent too long fiddling now to waste any more timel!**

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…

We forgot to take the photograph of the assembled stack, sandwiched with apricot jam with added rosewater and covered with berry jam – the apricot having run out!!

Rolling the marzipan…

Covering the cake…

The recipe was enough for three cakes, which were all of identical size, but with different levels of ‘finish’.

The finished cake ready for eating…


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.

Monday 25 May 2015

A pique-nique chez le Vigneron to remember…

With special thanks to Jim Budd for suggesting the idea.




Together with our friends Jean & Nick and Elizabeth and Colin we went along to the pique-nique at the Domain de la Mariniere, at Panzoult, near Chinon. We had a wonderful time, beginning with a vineyard tour by Boris Desbourdes complete with wine, pate, goat's cheese and bread part way round. A few people were encouraged to carry a hoe, and to put it to work part way round, although in the whole scale of the task the efforts were pretty feeble.



A little retirement job, perhaps…


I was at the limit (and often beyond the limit!) of my understanding, but I picked up that they manage the parcels of vines in different ways; some are machine-sprayed with insecticide and the weeds below with herbicide, others are done by hand. Some parcels are managed by horse. There were old and newer vines and Boris showed us how new vines can be grafted on to old root stock.


On our return to the house we were settled on long tables for our pique-nique. Although we’d discussed beforehand who would contribute what to our meal – we’ve all been to joint picnics where there are plenty of nibbles, bread, lettuce and tarte tatin, but little else to hold it together! - it turned out very well indeed.




We were served a delicious aperitif of rose wine mixed with strawberry, raspberry and caramel, rose wine, white wine, reds from 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2004. There was also another red made from the parcel with the dead tree!


I couldn’t quite keep up with my friends and had the wines lined up! To finish (us!) off out came the bottles of pear and plum eau de vie, and some of Madame's delicious flan.




Note the name of this bottle of sparkles.

We were then treated to a tour of the extensive underground quarry system dating back to the 6th century, from which the stone for sarcophagi were cut, and shown a meadow rich in beautiful orchids. You can read more about that here



A Lady Orchid…


A Monkey Orchid…


A Pyramidal Orchid…


Thanks to Susan and Elizabeth for the identification.

Overall it was a fantastic event with very generous and hospitable hosts. Of course we showed our appreciation by buying a few cases of wine, but there wasn't any kind of hard sell or expectation that we should buy.

Thanks to Jim for publicising the event, to Elizabeth for choosing this particular vineyard to visit and for liaising with the owners to book our places. Also to the Desbourdes family for their generous hospitality and to my fellow pique-niquers for making the day such a success.  You can be sure we shall all be looking out for the next one.

The ‘selfie’, taken by Nick…


Happy days…

Monday 11 May 2015

Wednesday? Then it must be Loches market…

 If I need to do some market shopping I often find myself in Loches, on a Wednesday. Sometimes Tim comes with me, but mostly I go without him- which is the way I prefer it to be. I like to wander around, seemingly aimlessly, although the trained eye will realise that this is a sham. I know exactly where I'm going and what I'm looking for, but like to check out the rest before I buy. Tim just doesn't get shopping. Rhiannon and I despair of him, especially when we plan a girlie day out and he suggests that he might come too. Having our own personal, credit card carrying porter does occasionally come in handy! Anyway, I digress.


Last week WE went to Loches. We usually park near the cinema and walk in past the Palais de Justice. As we did we spotted a little Italian restaurant called Amoremio which we hadn't come across before. It later transpired that it opened last September.


We usually have coffee and sometimes a snack lunch at Le Presbytère near to the Eglise St Ours (one of my favourite places) but as we arrived the heavens opened and the prospect of sitting in the lovely garden lost its appeal. We decided to finish our shopping and give Amoremio a try.


It turned out to be a treat. We chose the 12€90 menu du jour which we really enjoyed. It was typical lunch time fare, but tasty and very nicely presented and served. We liked the decor and we heard the jazz artist Zaz for the first time. All in all a very pleasant lunch.


If you haven’t come across the music of Zaz before you can check her out here.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Pampas …

In 2012 I wrote about how we cut our Pampas grass back. The time had come for another, long overdue, haircut.
This is the after…
And the before…I’m afraid that will need to be left to your imagination as I forgot to take the photograph! Suffice to say that it was around three times the size of the 2012 one.

Friday 8 May 2015

Thank you…

Today we had planned to visit the Vide Jardin at Faye la Vineuse, but the weather forecast has put us off. We’ve become fair weather ‘goer outers’, especially now that we have more time to go out. As is often the case, the weather will probably clear and we shall have missed a real treat!

When I opened the blog this morning I noticed that I had just passed the 100,000 views. It was, in fact, 100,002, but Tim was able to work his magic to turn back the clock! I know that in comparison to other blogs I read this is but a mere drop in a very large ocean, but it is my drop.


I think the time has probably come for a much needed and long overdue revamp. You’ll notice that although I retired nine months ago my profile doesn’t reflect this, so reaching this milestone will lead to a rethink.

Thank you to everyone who has read and commented over the past four years. The blog has led to us meeting and becoming friends (both actual and virtual) with some really interesting, knowledgeable, caring and helpful people. Spending time with them (or you!) has made our new lives here so much richer than we ever hoped that it might be. There is never a dull moment and we value their (your) support and friendship.

I’ve written a couple of times that blogging is a bit like ‘Wikipedia, but with soul’ and I stand by this.


Thank you…

Try this link which takes me back to the mid 1970’s. You may have to suffer the advertising first

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Quelle surprise (2)…

Aire Bro open for business!

This is the first year we’ve ever seen the clematis in full bloom. We either catch it just before it flowers at Easter or the tail end in May.


We arrived in Le Petit-Pressigny at the end of last week and for three days it rained, and it rained and it rained! The journey was a bit hectic, as we came out in both cars which meant we weren’t able to share the driving and the spray on the roads made for poor visibility. Added to that the toll tag only worked intermittently.

Anyway we were beginning to get a bit stir crazy in the house so as soon as there was a small, brighter window in the clouds I thought I’d make a start at sweeping up the clematis petals and cleaning the terrace, ready to be power washed and sealed. We spend a lot of time on the terrace so this is a job which needs to be done early in the holiday before the assorted tables, chairs, planters etc are put out.



I thought I could hear someone talking, but generally this is Tim talking to himself, or to me, so ignored it. Then I realised that he was talking to someone with the familiar Stoke-on-Trent accent. To our delight Dave, a friend and ex colleague of Tim’s, had called in. Tim knew he was coming to France at sometime this summer, but not when. Dave’s phone wasn’t working properly so he wasn’t able to call in advance. However none of this mattered as we were absolutely delighted to see him. The beauty of this stage of our lives is that there is very little which we plan to do today which cannot be done tomorrow.


Planning his route to the next Aire.

We’ve spent a lovely couple of days chatting, laughing, going for very long walks and sharing memories of the past nearly 30 years. Dave was the perfect house guest. In fact he was so perfect he brought his own house with him. It truly was a mobile home!

Old Guys Rule…or so they would like to think. Mo and I, of course, know better!



Dave’s washing line.

We were very sorry to see him go but he was heading back towards Dunkirk, to Mo (who hasn’t yet retired) and to finish writing his Father-of-the-Bride speech for his daughter Charlotte’s wedding. He shared a few snippets from an early draft so it should go down well – we laughed! If we were in the UK we would be heading to the church to see him in his top hat and tails!

So…back to the gardening, but the sweeping can wait. It is so breezy that as fast as I can clear the terrace of petals, more fall to take their place.