Saturday, 10 September 2011

HORSES AND FOOD (no connection whatsoever here!)

The headquarters of the horse welfare organization that has been taking care of Shahdlou for the last few years since I left le Mée is now in Daoulas, which is only 30km away from me. Before it was near Lille! So I went up there at the beginning of the week with my cheques to take care of his keep until the end of the year, rather than sending them by post. I was able to meet the person in charge, and had a good chat about how often his feet are done, and how often he sees the dentist. I came away satisfied with the care he is getting. It's just a shame that he's so far away, in Nozay, just above Nantes. An all day journey there and back, for a quarter of an hour of cuddles (he gets tired of cuddling very quickly!).

The first two pictures above I took when I last visited, he is with the very nice farmer who takes care of him. And the last photo was taken by the organization this winter, he's all fuzzy in his winter coat. He is considerably thinner than when he was with me, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and has lost muscle, which is not surprising as he is now 25. Looks good doesn't he?!

So lets catch up on food! I have lots of food pictures to show you, things I have cooked, recipes I have picked up on the web.

Seared beef bento! I marinated a chunky piece of beef (quite a small piece) in grated garlic, grated ginger and Kikkoman soy, and seared it in a very hot heavy frying pan for about a minute on either side. Served topped with fresh red chili, fresh spring onions and toasted sesame, over pink sushi ginger and some raw peas, with on the side cucumber salad with sesame and a chunk of lime. A nice ripe apricot for dessert.

The makings of broad bean and nasturtium salad. Just add vinaigrette and chopped chives!

Live spider crabs

Cooked spider crabs
 In June my neighbour gave me a couple of small spider crabs he had just fished. I cooked them, made a mayonnaise, and had them for my supper!

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this pastis gascon when it came out of the oven. The recipe? You put two sheets of filo pastry, at right angles to each other in a tart dish. Brush all over with melted butter. Peel core and slice 6 to 8 apples. Slice a couple of apples over the filo. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of demerara sugar (or any sugar actually), and a tablespoon of armagnac (I used Fine de Bretagne, an apple alcohol similar to Calvados, but it should be armagnac). Put another couple of pieces of filo, paint with butter. And so on to three layers of apple. Gather up the filo that is hanging over the edge of the dish, crumple it delicately like tissue paper, add another couple of pieces of filo in the centre to form a rose (no apple should be showing). Brush all this liberally (very liberally) with melted butter. And put it in the oven for half an hour or so. Just be careful the filo only goes golden and does not burn. Serve with a little cream. It's very spectacular and quite easy. And always produces oohs and aahs!

When I pruned my vine in May, I used the leaves to make dolmades, something I have been meaning to do for years, but never had time in Le Mée. My vine, in fact my whole garden, never sees any weedkiller, bug killers, or anything that is not totally natural. So I'm not afraid to use any leaves for food. I first blanched the leaves quickly in boiling water and spread them on a tea towel to dry. I then made a stuffing, with onion, garlic, raw rice, raisins, olive oil, lots of herbs like parsley, thyme, spring onion tops, salt, pepper, and a skinned tomato all pulped up.

I placed a teaspoonful of the mixture in the centre of each leaf and made envelopes (far easier than making spring rolls, the vine leaves are not at all fragile).

And packed them into the bottom of a saucepan with more olive oil and a little chicken stock, about half way up the little packets. Simmered for half an hour.

Quite a lot of trouble, and actually if truth be told, I don't like dolmades all that much, but you get a sense of having something for nothing which is pretty cool!

For one of my summer vegetarian lunch parties, I did a tatin d'aubergine. You cut about three or four aubergines into 0.5cm slices, sprinkle them with salt, and leave for an hour. Rinse very well under running water and squeeze out like a dish rag. Fry in a little olive oil. Brown some pine nuts and sprinkle them in the bottom of a tart dish. Put one sundried tomato in the very middle of the dish, and a layer of aubergine slices overlapping to cover the bottom. Then sundried tomatoes to fill up all the gaps and quite a lot more over the aubergine, then another layer of aubergine slices. You can add squeezed garlic over the aubergine, or dried oregano. DON'T salt. Then top the lot with some ready rolled out puff pastry, tucking in the edges. Oven for half an hour or so, until the pastry is nice and golden. Put a large plate on top of the tart dish and turn the whole thing over so that the pastry is on the bottom and the aubergine on the top. It should be served warm or hot, and should not be turned out until you are ready to eat or the pastry goes soggy. I serve it with green salad. Everyone is always very impressed by this dish, even people who are not fond of aubergine.

I think that's it foodwise.

Some nice fresh salad from the garden
and some raspberries and fraises des bois

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Katharine Hepburn has been my role model for years. Someone less like me I think you couldn't find. But I keep trying in little ways! Those of you who know me well might find one definite similarity, but it wouldn't be politically correct to spell it out here!

This is part of an interview of her conducted in 1979. Thirty years ago... I wish I could get access to the whole interview. Anyone know how I might do that?

Time to catch up on friends and social!

In April, May and June I did quite a few ovs Sunday lunches, where I decided the theme and provided the main course (and sometimes either starter or dessert) and the people who wrote their names down brought wine, cheese, nibbles, dessert or starter. This was a good way to really get to know people, just 5 or 6 around the table. And of course the weather was glorious so most of the time we could eat outside.

I gave a lunch party for part of my pottery group beginning of July (I cut one of the party out of the photo! Sorry Monique!)

My friend Marcelle, my pottery teacher Cléa and her mother, Ariane, also a potter
And Ellie enjoyed the sun and the flowers!

I had another visit from my couchsurfer friend Tim, who upset a martini that I had just made him and did penance by slurping it up off the counter... (I don't think he'll be happy with me for posting this photo, but then maybe not, he has a good sense of humour...),

and a quick visit from Naresh and François-Xavier who are now settled in Normandy (after Delhi, quite a change in climate and the view out of the window).

My brother Steve came for a couple of days and treated me to not one, but two Michelin starred restaurants! Both were excellent. One in Loctudy, the other Pont Aven. The weather was lovely and we were able to eat outside on the terrace at home (when we ate in, which was not much!), but I only managed to get one very bad photo to prove he was here.

Can you see, he's having toast and Bovril for breakfast!

Svenja, whom I met last year in India, and again in Geneva when we had a reunion of some of the group who had been at the ayurveda boot camp together, came from Berlin for a week in August, her first time in Brittany:

And Yves was here for almost two weeks in August, a record! The weather was not magnificent, but we did manage to get out into central Finistère (Pont Coblant, montagne St Michel (not to be confused with Mont St Michel) and the burial chamber at Castell Ruffell, Coat Pincoat, just above Roudouellec, Finistère, of which a picture below, but when we went it had been nicely cleared and there was grass all around. Yves did a really good drawing of this.

We also went to the Chapelle de Beuzec a lot,

a really beautiful spot and quite quiet compared to the rest of the area, with a chapel and a calvaire, and nearby a piece of land for sale that I would really really like to buy (if I won the loto!). There is also a holy well (quite a long way from the chapel) which has been renovated very successfully.

Yves did another good drawing of this. I say "we" paint and draw, but in fact I walk the dog most of the time. I'm not good at drawing, and my sort of painting has to be done in my studio, not outside. Still, I have gathered lots of material to work on at home this winter.

Monday, 5 September 2011


I haven't posted for months. I'm sorry. The whole point of a blog is to post regularly. The whole summer has gone by. Lots has happened. I'll catch up subject by subject.

First of all, I've started a new blog just for creative stuff, please go and have a look, and sign up in the column on the right to receive it regularly. The more people sign up, the more visible I am, so please do it (that includes family and friends PLEASE!). Do the same for this blog. It's not the same as "stuff" in your mailbox, it's ME, you'll get a little bit of my life every morning!

Let start with the garden.

Have a look at this link. It's the most beautiful film of a rose blooming.

With the rain we had in July and August, the garden has taken on jungle-esque proportions. My neighbour's son came round in June to cut back my apple tree which had grown so large as to be shading a good half of the garden and cutting out all the morning sun. Not a good month for dealing with trees, but when you have someone on hand to help you, you don't ask them to come back in December! To begin with he was very careful where the branches fell, but it soon became impossible (it is a very large tree) and my lovely little flowerbed underneath was crushed to pieces. And the pile of branches in the middle of my garden enormous. He did offer to get rid of them, but I wanted to get as much firewood as I could from the pile. Two months of rain later, the pile has only just disappeared (well not disappeared really, I threw it down a level to be burned soon), but I do have a growing stack of little logs and kindling wood! (it is the gry green tree in the middle in the photo below)

Although it has been very pretty in Spring, it is at least 40 years old and produces loads of apples that fall off early in their career and rot on the ground. So maybe cutting it back will also do the tree some good.

My veg garden has benefitted from the rain of course and my water bill won't have grown as large this summer as it did in the spring, but the rain has also revived all the slugs and snails that I didn't see earlier on and they have wreaked havoc just about everywhere. They completely ate all the salads that were almost ready, baby courgettes, pumpkins, beans, strawberries, you name it...

But I have managed to harvest quite a lot of stuff. A few blueberries (the birds here don't seem to notice them, or maybe there were too few for them to bother!), lots of raspberries (which are now preparing a second crop), a steady trickle of strawberries. Cherry tomatoes galore, and a few large old variety tomatoes which ripened early. A few courgettes, lots of broad beans  artichokes, rhubarb, and yesterday I harvested my garlic, not spectacular, but enough to keep me going for about 6 months... The rest was still to come: potimarrons, one spaghetti marrow, aubergines, peppers, beans and tons of tomatoes. And one very large apple from my new espalier apple trees!

But, then, mid August, with all the wet and mist (and, I have to say, I did plant things much too close together) all my tomatoes, literally tens of kilos of them, began to blacken and rot and I had to pull them all out. I was stricken, after all the work I had put into them, and the promise of tomatoes all summer and autumn. None left. My aubergines never got pollinated, there are few bees around here at the best of times, but what there were must have drowned in the deluge. The weeds overgrew my strawberries and it was too wet to go and pull them out. Of my row of french beans, only two plants produced, so I had about two succulent helpings. You wonder whether it was all worthwhile...

All my terrace plants suffered terribly from the heat in the spring, no amount of watering seemed to really satisfy them (I have a lot of little trees, a crab apple, buddleias, maples and bamboos), and although the rain has done them good, they are not looking on fine form and I shall have to plant some of them out in the garden, goodness knows where, in the autumn to resuscitate them.

So there we are, that is the "gardening" bit of my blog brought up to date. I'll catch up on another subject tomorrow!