Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Christmas Cookie Pause In Advent

Floss, over at Troc, Broc et Recup' is holding her "A Pause In Advent" event. Although I was unsure, I've decided to join in. But, this is my foodie/diety/exercisy (yeah, right...!) blog. So I'll direct any of you good folk who have come to visit me during Advent over to my other blog, at View from the Teapot

And anyone who would like an Adventy recipe, I direct you to The Pink Whisk from last year. I loved making these Christmas Lebkuchen biscuits...although I didn't have a star cookie cutter, so I cut them by hand. There were some fairly wierd stars last year! I'm thinking I might make these for my friends here in the village. I bought the family three (very cheap but not cheap-looking) cake tins, with "There's nothing better than a good friend...except a good friend with chocolate" on them. I've put sweets in the smallest, and I think I'll put a chocolate cake in the biggest, and Christmas cookies in the middle sized one. As it's Gerome's birthday on 23rd, he can have the chocolate banana cake as his birthday present!!!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Fun and Food!

First, here's a shameless plug for my other blog - with a link to a post about what we've been up to. Go to View From The Teapot to read about our two days in Paris, seeing Elbow. One thing I forgot to mention over in the Teapot is that we were really lucky to see the band in such a small venue. In the UK now they are Big, and play Big Venues, like arenas, and 50,000 seaters (well, maybe that's an exaggeration, I don't know...) but we saw them in a small intimate club, with about 1,500 people. It was great. Happy, happy smile. Read more about it over in the Teapot.

Here I think I shall give you a recipe for something delicious. This is Axoa, a Basque dish, in the recipe given to me by one of my students. Translation in italics; comments thus:


Ingrédients pour 4 personnes (ingredients for 4 people) :
-         1 kg d’épaule de veau désossée (shoulder of veal, boned.*  )
-         2 oignons (onions)
-         1 gros poivron rouge (big red pepper)
-         8 piments verts doux (green chillies. This was quite a lot. I think I used 4)
-         2 gousses d’ail (cloves of garlic)
-         2 feuilles de laurier (bay leaves)
-         piment d’espelette en poudre (cayenne pepper.  Piment d'Espelette comes from a particular area of the Basque region. But any old bog-standard Cayenne pepper would do. Use as much as you wish)
-         ¼ de litre de fond brun de veau lié (veal stock. Or equivalent)
-         1 dl d’huile d’olive (olive oil)
-         sel (salt)

1)      Tailler l’épaule de veau en cube de 1cm sur 1 cm ainsi que les oignons, le poivron rouge et les piments (cut the veal into cubes. And the onions, pepper and chillies)
2)      Faire revenir le veau à la poêle avec un peu d’huile d’olive jusqu’à l’évaporation de l’eau. Dans une cocotte, faire suer les oignons, le poivron, le laurier, les piments, l’al avec un peu de graisse (Cook the veal in the pan with a bit of olive oil until the water has evaporated.  This confused me...especially as the verb is "put back" - I'd not taken the veal out of the pan. But I browned it anyway, and then carried on. It tasted OK! I wonder if Angelique missed out an instruction about sweating the onions and garlic, as that isn't included in the recipe she gave me. Do as you think fit - you're a grown up and can make your own decisions!!!)
3)      Mélanger la viande dans la cocotte avec la garniture en assaisonnant avec le piment en poudre et du sel. Faire caraméliser le tout. (Mix the meat in a stove-top casserole dish, with the herbs and salt. Brown it all)
4)      Ajouter le fond brun (add the stock)
5)      Laisser cuire 40 minutes. (Cook for 40 minutes. Lowish heat was suggested)
6)      Servir avec des pommes de terre bouillies (serve with boiled potatoes)

* If veal offends your sensibilities, you could use pork, but I think veal in the UK , at least, is now seen as ethical (at least for carnivores!) as the standards of rearing are so much better. No more veal crates.)

I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

I WILL cycle today!

As I said last time, I'm not a keen cyclist. But the weather today is gorgeous - blue sky, cloudless,  with a slight autumnal chill in the air - and I really think I should haul my lazy a*se onto the bike. I'm not going to go out with the Cycle Club though. I've not been out for three weeks, so I will be far too slow for them: last time I'm sure the young lads in the group had to wait at least ten minutes for me to get my way up the hill. So I've planned a 20 km round trip for me to do - one I've done many times before, and used to find very easy. I suspect today it might be a bit of an effort! 14h30 is the start time. Honest....!

However, in December, it is the Téléthon, which is, I guess, a French equivalent of the UK's Children In Need, a day when people all over the country do mad things to raise money for various charities/good causes.

The  Cycle Club always do a joint ride with the Club from St Germain Laval. This year we cycle to St Germain, they feed us, and then we cycle back. Last year the ride was from St Germain to here, and back to St Germain, but  it was too icy and snowy, so the ride was cancelled. The food wasn't (of course!), and was  provided by the St Just Club...Mr FD told me about the planned route for this year, and quite frankly I can't help hoping that it'll be cancelled this year! There appears to be a lot of hills, so I need to have at least a bit of fitness in my legs! Or else....

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Remembering Paul

This is an important post for me and so I've done another cheaty cut-and-paste. But I wanted those who read this blog but not my other (can be found at !) to read this.

For the last few weeks our weekly market has been more colourful than usual, because of the stalls selling both artificial flowers and real pots of chrysanthemums and winter pansies . Winter pansies are called Pensées here in France, which can also, I think, be translated as “Thoughts” – which is very appropriate – because the reason these have been for sale is in preparation for today: Toussaint, All Saints Day.
Here are the real flowers
...and here are the artificial ones
Gradually the cemetary becomes more and more colourful as families arrive to lay flowers or  to put plants on the graves of their loved ones. Usually by 11th November, most of these have blown over in the Autumn winds, so before the ceremony at the War Memorial my friend, her children and I spend 15 minutes or so replacing them! We’re usually early for the ceremony of remembrance, as we don’t go to the Church service before, so uprighting all the blown-over plants keeps the children well-occupied.

Here's the cemetary from my study window
If you click on the photo to enlarge it you should be able to see the blobs of colour that are appearing.
I’ve blogged about this before here when I remembered my Father. But today, Mr D and I went up to the cemetary and laid a pebble each on the grave of our dear friend Paul. He died at the beginning of the year. Paul was a scientist, and in particular a physical scientist, with a love of nature and rocks. He was an incredibly generous man, with his possessions, his time, his heart, and he truly loved God. We rejoice that we knew him, but regret the time that we knew him was too short, and that so much of it was shadowed by the cancer that he bore so bravely and, although it sounds strange, almost joyfully. He never showed his fears to us – in fact, he once said to me “I’m not afraid of my death for myself. I’m only afraid of what it might do to Daniele” . A lovely, selfless man.

We didn’t want to lay flowers, or put a plant. For me, that is the family who does this – and, because Toussaint is really a Catholic “festival” and Paul was staunchly Eglise Reformée, I’m not sure the family would want this anyway – but both Mr D and I decided seperately that we wanted to place a pebble on his grave. It seems appropriate that a man who loved geology would like a stone. So we each picked one from my collection: mine was a biggish, orangey colour, about the size of a duck egg, with a hole which, I guess, another stone wore away over hundreds of years, while Mr D chose a small grey pebble, with stripes of white quartz. We walked up together, and stood for a few minutes remembering our dear friend…and then we went a shared a cup of tea with Gilles, another of our good friends here in St Just.

Thank you Lord for the love and friendship of friends and family, here and gone before. May we remember those who have left us with joy and gladness, and may we appreciate those who are our friends in the here and now. It is so easy to take them for granted. Help us to show our appreciation for all they have done for us, and all they give us.