Saturday, 26 September 2015

For fun and food and friendship...

...we give you thanks, O Lord.

Hello to my dear Readers - good to have you here, Peeps!

This week has been reasonably calm, although I do marvel at how I manage to while away hours and have not-a-lot to show for it! Still, I have (so far) made 24 Thanksgiving cards to sell for church funds - we have ca lot of Americans in the congregation, & I thought I'd get in early, in case they were thinking of having family send packs of cards from the States! They are fairly simple, either using a zentangled design of pumpkins from last year (photocopied, stuck on cards and fancied up a bit) or some Thanksgiving themed designs I bought cheap about 3 years ago, which I hadn't used.

Planning for next week has been completed. I know I keep banging on about how busy I'm going to be - which for you full time workers is probably producing the reaction "So what?" but it's a long time since I've done anything approaching full time work!! It was never in the plan. Still, I know it's only till Christmas, so I should just be very grateful, and save up the pennies while they're coming in!

Food has been as planned, although I swapped a few things round. Lots of meals put in the freezer to aid Mr FD in preparing meals. He's a perfectly able cook, but I feel that, as he's working too (although not full time) I want to make things relatively easy for him - because I'm so kind-and-nice!

I'm slow-cooking another meal at the moment - for tomorrow and for a future couple of meals - then I'll prepare tonight's meal (plus two for the freezer) this afternoon. I really need to
(a) defrost the freezer
(b) complete an inventory of what's in there.

Anyway. This week's meals are:
TODAY: Chicken Tagine - this  links to another recipe, which, I think I will use instead of the one I was planning on using. The one I'd planned on using is another of the trumpeted "5 ingredients only" recipes, burt quite frankly, what's the point of it being only 5 ingredients if it lacks taste?! I'll go for more ingredients, I think!!

SUNDAY: Paprika Beef. I'm actually at a Church Parish Away-Day where a meal is to be provided. Last year's meal was a bit of a disappointment, in this land of good food - a ham-and-cheese puff, tinned ravioli, a wedge of camembert and a choc-ice. However, I suppose we are helping to keep the Diocesan Centre going (it's a facility we hire from the RC diocese), so we should not complain. But let's hope tomorrow's offering beats tinned ravioli into the proverbial cocked hat! So Mr FD will have paprika beef stew for his main meal, and the rest will go in the freezer for another time.

MONDAY: Turkey ragu sauce - in the freezer - with pasta.

TUESDAY: Lamb pilaf from last week. I'd planned to eat it twice, but instead we had the postponed chorizo/sweet potato/egg hash yesterday. The pilaf went in the freezer. It will come out again.

WEDNESDAY: Hairy Dieter's "smashed up chicken"  This is a full-on Mr FD will have to prepare it meal. Once a week won't hurt him!!

THURSDAY: Thursday is my only planning day, but I have two phone lessons to give as well. And we go shopping at 4.00. I've invited Alison & her children for apèro-diner...that is to say, apèros with slightly more to eat than just nibbles. I may do some puff pastry bits, and maybe some pizza and barbecue-sauce-sausages. We'll see what we can buy that's quick to prepare!

And on that note, I have a 3 hour pause - today is the "Classe" of St Just . Everyone (who wants to join in) whose birthday this year starts with a 0 has their Classe today. It starts with Mass, then a procession through the streets with a band, and everyone wearing hats with a certain colour band (or, this year, feather boas for the ladies). The procession goes up to the Maison de Retraite (old folks' home) to fete the people there (a 70, an 80 and a 90 year old this year). It's my friend Alison's classe plus her daughters (10 and 50) so I went to wave and join her as the procession passed the house. There was kir flowing, and so everyone was already a bit wobbley on their feet. Alison suggested I went with them for the Apèro - everyone welcome! - so I did. Several plastic cups full of vin-peche and some dancing later I too am a bit wobbley on my feet! I've had lunch though, so I'm feeling slightly better now. A slice of nut meusli cake & my cup of coffee and I should be fine (ish!). The Classe people have gone on for a long and no doubt very boozy lunch at the Salle des Fetes. Mr FD is off being fit-and-healthy and riding in a bike race with Louis. 
 Part of the procession 2012
and 2014
2014 again - the 60 year olds.

So again I thank you for your comments from the last couple of posts...

POM POM wanted to come for dinner last Thursday - any time, Pompom. You'll be welcome! We had the pasta/pesto combo as planned. It was nice; we had it with gnocchi, rather than pasta.

Thank you FISHCAKE RANDOM for best wishes on my healoth. By Friday I was almost back to as-normal-as-I'll-ever-be.

KEZZIE asked my opinion on the first Doctor Who episode. I enjoyed it, & look forward to the resolution, but I am a bit bored with the Daleks now, and would be happy with a break from them. But I don't do a lot of heartsearching and comparing with the "story arc" or whatever lots of people do. I enjoy the episode and then move on! The Thai chicken was good, although I did change the recipe, which left me with quite a lot of coconutty sauce, which went into a butternut/sweet potato soup. Nomnom.

MAGGIE - I know what you mean about being careful getting out of bed. I'm rather nervous still while in bed, as that's when my vertigo appears to start!

MICHELLE: I'm not sure quite how encouraging my stories are re faith...but if they help you (or others) then more power to them!! 

Then lots of people commiserated on my failed bread making attempt.

JO suggested no-knead bread, which I may try. My soda bread isn't too bad, though I say so myself! But slow cooker bread may be left as a one-off (failed) experiment!

JANE-AND-CHRIS thought that maybe the bread knew I was afraid of it. I'm not sure I was afraid, but certainly I was sceptical. Maybe it knew that!!

POMPOM was resolutely sympathetic. Thank you.

MICHELLE has given me a recipe to try (when I'm feeling less sceptical, perhaps!!) Thank you, Michelle, let's hope I'm as successful as you are at it.

KEZZIE joins me in the ranks of disaster bread makers, and FISHCAKE RANDOM, thank youi for your kind encouragement!

SANDRA (at THISTLECOVE) - Mr FD had half of it toasted and said (through a mouthul of toast-and-plum-jam) that it wasn't too bad. I crumbed the rest, and have to say that claggy bread makes wonderful crispy breadcrumb topping!!

Have a good week, peepos. I'll see you next weekend (as I doubt if I'll have time midweek)

Monday, 21 September 2015

First Foray into breadmaking... unmitigated disaster!!

I had read about slow cooker bread, so attempted to make it. There were several contradictory recipes on t'internet, so I kind of mixed them up. (Possibly first error)

I used bread flour plus baker's yeast. Following the instructions on the back of the bread flour I mixed the flour, yeast, salt and water. While kneading, I read the back of the yeast packet which said I should have mixed the yeast with milk and left it to ferment for 10 minutes before use. (Possibly second error)

I put the bread in the slow cooker on "low" and after about half an hour went back to see what was going on. Yipee! It's rising beautifully! Switched onto "Auto" then after 10 minutes changed my mind and switched to "high" (possibly 3rd error)

Went back after about an hour - Opened lid to have ca look (Possibly 4th error) But, all looking good. The edges are starting to bake/become crisp, the top is becoming more breadlike, the rise is good. After another hour I went back - opened lid again, and the centre had dropped - or did it drop when I opened the lid? Started to look stodgey...

Removed and put into mini-oven for 20 minutes. (Possibly 5th error)
Took it out when browned. Cut open and had a slice (definitely an error - I have a lump of it stuck in my gullet!!) Stodgey, looking most unappealing.

We now have a lot of breadcrumbs to use up, and no bread for lunch!!

Paul Hollywood would definitely be very disappointed in me!

I'm not sure whether to try again or not! Any advice from better breadmakers than I?

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Fish fingers and custard? Not tonight!

Hello dear Peeps! Thank you for your good wishes/comments yesterday. The vertigo continues to improve, being better in the afternoon than the morning, and things here in the Dormousehold are generally good.

 Mr FD is currently working part-time back at Sh-Carrefour, where he was last year. This is because the guy who had taken over as manager got fed up of waiting for our friend Gilles to retire as owner, and walked out, taking his girlfriend-assistant with him. Gille's girlfriend Sylvie gave up her job to take over as manager, but needed Mr FD's computer skills + shelf-stacking at least at the present time. This is good for us, as, while I have 240 hours of work between now and Christmas it doesn't begin to kick in until the beginning of October. Without Mr FD's paycheck this month could be a bit thin-on-the-ground. I am grateful for God's provision.

Food last week was a bit hit-and-miss, as I wasn't up to cooking between Sunday and Tuesday, and rather uninterested after that! Still, Butternut  Boulangère Baked Chicken was simple and enjoyable. It was from a series in Good Housekeeping which trumpeted the fact that all the recipes only needed 5 ingredients. A bit of a gimmick though I think, as I had the feeling that it could have done with something else. Not sure what though!

1 butternut squash
Small bunch of thyme
400 ml chicken stock
4 chicken breasts
350g goats cheese (I used soft garlic/herb cheese as Mr FD considers goat's cheese to be the food of the Devil)

1. Peel, dessed & slice the squash. Reserve the seeds (I didn't)
2. Layer the slices in a baking dish. Scatter the thyme leaves & seasoning. Pour over the chicken stock. Roast for 15 mins at 200°C
3. Make a pocket in each chicken, breast & put the cheese in the pocket. Rub chicken breasts with oil.
Put the chicken breasts on top of the squash. Sprinkle with the seeds.
4. Cook for a further 30 minutes or so. Serve.

We had this with some baked potato and braised endives.

This week's meals are planned thuswise:

TONIGHT: Chorizo One Pot - another 5 ingredient recipe. However we are being tempted away from this towards pizza from the van. Supporting local enterprises, don't you know?! All the ingredients are tinned/preserved so nothing will be wasted through not being used.

SUNDAY: Church picnic/barbecue. I've gone mad and bought a steak, which I will put in a bag with a marinade. I've also made coleslaw to take and a white chocolate and ginger cheesecake. 
Mr FD can have his steak with coleslaw, salad and chips (He won't come to the picnic). I have prepared 3 small cheesecakes for his puds through the week.

MONDAY: Thai chicken with coriander coconut rice

TUESDAY:  Pasta/aubergine/courgette bake-y thing. Possibly in the slow cooker. Possibly made up on the spur of the moment. I've not really thought it through!

Mr FD will prepare this (or maybe I'll have time to do it before I head down to Roanne for a day of teaching/dancing. I missed dancing last week, thanks to a spinning head. I ought to try to do some revision on the dances we did (although there's a fair chance we won't do them again!) One had the very bizarre name of "Bottle Your Crazy Up" I am often called upon to translate the titles into French; I failed with this one as it makes no sense in English!

THURSDAY: Quick bacon/mushroom/pesto pasta when we get back from teaching/shopping. We do the Lidl shop together, then Mr FD gets the other stuff in big Carrefour while I teach Adal. Who is lovely, but really not at all academic. He is willing, but has struggled with the presentsimple for a year. Sigh.

FRIDAY: The rest of the lamb pilaf, I think.

As always...
... for your comments. 
They are always appreciated!

POMPOM, KEZZIE & ARIL commented on the Bosworth Jumbles that I made. They weren't bad, and although I made a lot they disappeared fairly rapidly. I didn't take a photo of my "drizzled" with chocolate ones (well, blobbed might be a batter word!) as they weren't very photogenic!

TRISH asked if the ribs turned out okay...Yes! I really liked them; although Mr FD declared them as "orangey" he didn't really elaborate as to whether that was a bad thing or not!

POMPOM offered advice on essential oils for vertigo - frankincense and peppermint. I realised afterwards that I certainly had some frankincense from my Christmas essential oils that I didn't use much of last year. Never mind! 

KEZZIE: Our tortillas were nice - but, as usual, I didn't make the chilli mix spicy enough. I always forget to taste stuff as it's cooking, so it's too late to find out it's not spicy enough when we're eating it!
not my chilli, I'm afraid!

VINTAGE MAISON - I can't believe your house smells cat-pissy! Not with all those lovely linens and things. We have found a spray at Carrefour which seems to be the most successful at deterring them, but we need to remember to spray the stairs where they pee at regular intervals.

POMPOM - see! There are disadvantages to cute kittens!

Mr FD is watching the Rugby World Cup.Oh good. Several weeks of rugby to look forward to. (said in slightly fed up tones) Never mind. Doctor Who starts tonight!!

Oh my! David Tennant AND a cat. Be still my beating heart!

 If you're not a Doctor fan you won't understand this one!

I hope you all have a good week. Enjoy your food! Enjoy your friends!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Catching up

A great big fat Dormouse Bonjour et Bienvenue to  my 129th Follower, Vintage Maison,who has a lovely blog full of Frenchy vintage-y stuff. If I was anything like houseproud I would be buying lots of things from her to pretty up our house. Instead it's a rather messy, untidy home (which smells faintly of cat pee as one, two, three or ALL of the cats are rubbish at using the litter trays. But maybe you don't want to know that!)

(not quite that bad!)

 I am typing this with Bib sleeping on my left arm. I feel guilty when I need to type a capital letter! Pomme is sleeping on the amplifier at my feet - because it's warm!

I just thought I'd pop in to update you on my health - thank you for your concern. There's a full update over at The Teapot where you can also see lots of cards that I've made recently.

I hope to blog my menus as usual tomorrow. Now I'd better go and make my messy house a tad less messy by vacuuming and washing the kitchen floor. We have vegetarian chilli tonight, with tortillas, avocado, grated cheese and creme fraiche. It's already cooking in the slow cooker and I'm right looking forward to it! 

 Mind you, I think ours will be a lot sloppier than this neat looking tortilla!


Tuesday, 15 September 2015


I hate vertigo! Started Sunday morning and still here. Normal service will be resumed when my head has stopped spinning.

Friday, 11 September 2015

(Historical) Kitchen Goddess!

I've spent most of the morning in the kitchen!

I made some nut-and-cranberry flapjacks and I prepared tonight's dinner (Braised Asian style beef ribs) in the slow cooker. I do have to say that I played rather fast-and-loose with the ingredients though!
  • 2 kg rack of beef short ribs - I didn't get 2 kg, only 1.5kg, and I think they aren't really "short ribs" as they seem to have more meat on them than I expected. Oh well. What else do I need?
  •  190 ml hoisin sauce - well, I don't have any of that, but a website suggested an alternative of barbecue sauce + soy sauce + a smidge of Marmite + honey + some Chinese 5-spice. Okay then. But how do I judge 190 ml? Oh sod it - just guess!
  • 60 ml soy sauce - Hmm. I've put a goodly splash of soy in the alternative hoisin. So do I put in more? As my measuring jug doesn't start counting till 100 ml (It's really hard finding a good measuring jug here in France!!!) I'm guessing anyway. Throw a bit more in!
  • 60 ml of Mirin - whassat?! A suggested alternative is sweet wine, such as Marsala, or Muscat. Rats. I have run out. So, let's improvise. I have some orange blossom water - that's sweet. And there's some orange peel in the recipe, so an orange flavour would be okay...But the orange blossom water is also very perfumed. So I want to tone that down - so orange juice will do. Let's throw a glug into the mix - forgot to measure it! Never mind...
  • 2 x 3cm strips of orange peel - don't have my ruler handy. 5 x possibly smaller strips will have to do.
  • 90g honey - does that include the honey in the alternative Hoisin? In the end I throw in about 60g with my fingers crossed.
  • 5 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated - I use ready pulped ginger. So a good teaspoon full gets plopped in.
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed - again I have ready pulped. So a good teaspoon of that.
  • 1 fresh red chilli - yes, you've guessed it! I have a jar of ready about half a teaspoon
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil. - Ah yes! I have that!!!
Let's hope it all works!!

I also made some Bosworth Jumbles. These are biscuits from my little book "Favourite Biscuit Recipes" that I was sent as a Ship of Fools Secret Santa (I think!!) one year. I forgot to buy any biscuits this week, so Mr FD had a bit of a grumble last night, so I decided to make these.

Apparently, it is said that the original recipe was dropped on the battlefield of the Battle of Bosworth Field, by Richard III's cook (who was planning on whipping up a batch if the King was victorious? I don't know!!) The name "jumble" is thought to derive from "gemmel" which was an interlaced finger ring,which these biscuits are believed to resemble. (Not mine!) Here's an article about them and here's the recipe:

Preperation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Pre-heat the oven to
180° C (350° F) Gas Mark 4
Ingredients for about 24 jumbles
300 g  self-raising flour (I used plain - here we go again with alternatives!!)
50g ground almonds
150g caster sugar
150g butter
1 egg
1 tsp grated lemon rind (I used grated lime rind - no lemons! - + a squirt of lemon juice
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg then the flour & almonds then knead for about 1 minute until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

Roll into a long sausage about the thickness of a finger. Then, curl into "S" shapes. Another recipe - much more complicated - says "Roll the dough out to form a panel about 1/8 in. (3 mm.) thick and 4-5 in. (10-13 cm.) wide. Cut across the panel into 3/4 in. (2 cm.) strips. With floured hands, tie some of these strips into loose, single knots. Form the others into rings."

Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden.

I thought they were okay, but a bit boring, so I melted some chocolate and drizzled it over the top.

Goodness me! You can even find a Richard III Lolcat:

                        Richard III thinking "Hmm, I'm a bit peckish. I could do with a tasty snack!"

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Just good friends, good food, good laughs...

Hello dear Peeps! I think Maria Sharapova had it right when she (apparently) said:

I don't need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food, and good laughs. I'm happy. I'm satisfied. I'm content.

I hope everything is well with you. We are eating well, and using the slow cooker quite a lot too. We went out for Mr FD's birthday to L'Hotel de la Poste, just round the corner. We wzent with our friends, Alison and Gerome. 

It was good to have lots of time to chat and enjoy good food together - although I drank enough wine to give me cramp that night! I'm starting to think two glasses might be my limit - or maybe it's the colour...I did have both red and white - and fizzy! - wine so I'm not sure what is the culprit yet! I shall start keeping records to find out.

I had tarte aux poireaux (leek tart) to begin, followed by a filet mignon du porc en brochette. Both were very enjoyable. Of course, the cheese trolley and the dessert trolley are always good at La Poste, although I'm usually too full to take full advantage of either! Mr FD was disappointed as the Paris-Brest that had been there at the beginning of the evening had all disappeared by the time we got to the dessert! 

The fruit salad that I chose was good - but just a fruit salad! - but the tarte banane-speculoos was quite tasty.

Our food for the rest of this week has been less fancy! Planned for next week we have...

SUNDAY: Brazilian pork stew - although I won't be making the corn dumplings as Mr FD doesn't like corn. Instead I'll make ordinary dumplings/ cobbler topping, and I'll have an ear of sweet corn on the side! 
MONDAY: OO-er. This is where I'm thrown back into the world of work rather precipitously with 8 hours of lessons at a new company. Still...think of the money! Mr FD is on charge of prepping dinner - meatballs (in the freezer), tomato & vegetable sauce, rice. Not very arduous for him, methinks.
TUESDAY: Lentil-and-sweet-potato shepherds pie. This was planned a couple of weeks back, using some delicious lamb-y gravy left over from a slow cooker lamb stew, but for whatever reason (I think it was a slightly dodgy stomach!) it didn't happen, so the gravy went in the freezer. It will happen today.
WEDNESDAY: Left over pork stew from Sunday. I'm dancing tonight so Mr FD is in charge of reheating this. We'll have it with crusty bread. 

THURSDAY: My Thursday routine has changed a bit. I have a lesson in Roanne at 17h15 so Mr Fd has agreed to come down with me and do the shopping while I'm teaching. This means that I'm going to use the slow cooker so dinner will be ready when we get home. So tonight we're having Spinach and three cheese canneloni. (Not quite but nearly the recipe I'm using)

FRIDAY: Braised Asian Style beef ribs - again another not-quite-but-nearly the recipe! This is another slow cooker recipe. Served with broccoli and rice.
SATURDAY: A sort of sweet potato/peppers/onion/mushroom/chorizo hash with egg. All made up.

We went plum picking yesterday, but sadly it wasn't too successful. The plum trees belong to  friends of ours who has a holiday home near here. They have left and gone home, but said we could pick the plums. Unfortunately due to the dry summer although there were loads of plums they were a bit hard , small and wrinkled (a bit like me! ) We picked about a kilo, but they didn't look too hopeful for jam making - particularly as I didn't fancy cutting open and de-stoning all these teeny plums. 

Finally I decided to go for a jelly type jam, so I cooked the plums without destoning them, and then I sacrificed a pair of tights to use to let the juice drip out. Here is our juice dripping going on:

Because the tights went so very stretchy and long desperate measures were needed and we suspended the tights from the ladder:

I suspect if I'd left it overnight we'd've got even more juice out, but it was a bit in-the-way, so I squeezed it as much as I could and then used what we had. It made 4 and a half jars though so that's not too bad!

Again I thank you all for your comments, and I'm grateful that you read and comment on this blog. Especially on yesterday's post about the refugee crisis: please though, don't just comment. Do something too! Fishcake Random is knitting scarfs and hats - I'm not sure mine would be appreciated if I did that! I can't even knit a square without it becoming a trapezium!! 

TRISH: I hope you enjoyed the squash dhansak as much as we did! I made Jamie Oliver's easy garlic butter flatbreads to go with it. Lush!

JAN: Thank you for Mr FD's birthday wishes...Our local restaurants are good - but then, when we were in the UK we ate in some amazing Gastro pubs. Our French friends were very impressed by the food in pubs, especially by those in the Cotswolds that we visited, including The Churchill Arms

and The Fox

SANDRA: I know that both my MiL and my mum don't bother cooking much for themselves, finding it too much of a faff, although mum  does like cooking for us when we come. (so she says!!) I imagine that cooking for one does get a little tedious at times... But I do recommend the vegetable bake. It was delicious and SO simple in the slow cooker! I used a jar of arrabiata sauce to give it added piquancy - we like our food a little spicy!
I bought mum a number of products from this company Look What We Found  which she really liked. She said the food was really tasty and so easy. Maybe there's something similar in the States.

POMPOM: You're welcome any time! Just let me know so I can get some extra bread!
And finally... Cat, sun and wine! It only needs some bread and cheese to be perfect!

Well, maybe some chocolate too!

Friday, 4 September 2015

I was a stranger...

I make absolutely no apology for the fact that this is a direct copy-and-paste from The Teapot. Please feel free to copy it onto your blog, or anywhere else others might see it and feel moved to do something!

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

I have just signed the petition, "United Nations, Leaders of all Nations: International humanitarian help and asylum to those fleeing the Syrian War."
I think this is important. Will you sign it too?

Here's the link:
or there's this one:

God knows this is a terrible situation and I cannot imagine what world leaders can do. But there must be something. I cannot imagine what I can do - I don't think I could offer my home to a refugee, but at least I can sign petitions, I can write to the Prime Minister, I can donate money... Here is a Facebook page which gives other ideas (or search on FB for "Refugees Welcome UK)

In my daily devotions book, Celtic Daily Prayer, there is this meditation by Rowan Williams:

The Cry to God as "Father"
in the New Testament
is not a calm acknowledgement
of a universal truth about
God's abstract fatherhood.

It is the Child's cry
out of a nightmare.

It is the cry of outrage,
fear, shrinking away,
when faced with the horror
of "the world"
-yet not simply or exclusively
protest, but trust as well,

Abba, Father
all things are possible to Thee....

I feel like a child who doesn't understand why her toy is broken, but is handing to her Dad and saying "Mend it, please". She doesn't know how he can mend it, she doesn't know what it needs to be mended, but she trusts that he can mend it.

In my prayers I don't pretend to know how this horrific, terrible, desperate situation can be mended...but I hand it to my Father, and say "Mend it, Daddy,please."

But I need to be aware that my Daddy may well ask me to help him to mend it.