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a sprung Spring, part 2… Purple reigns!

26 Apr

It’s still Springing – so here’s some more Spring pics for you from around the Minervois… (I just wish I could put all the incredible smells on this page too)

Purple reigns!

Lilas and lilas

Lilas and lilas

glycine1

spring 4

bernard

L'Arbre de Judee (Judas Tree)

L’Arbre de Judee (Judas Tree)

spring 1

the plane (plataine) trees are budding

the plane (platane) trees are budding

and so are the vines (buds can be called 'bourgeons')

and so are the vines (buds can be called ‘bourgeons’)

glycine house

glycine house2

market man

Spring market day

market legs

market legs

market friends

market friends

lilas manon 2

and then a little evening promenade...

and then a little evening promenade…

almost a picnic at hanging rock!

almost a picnic at hanging rock

spring walk 1

spring walk 2

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a sprung Spring

18 Apr
wild irises in our hamlet

wild irises, thyme, jonquilles in our hamlet

The first lilas, the first irises, daisy chains made of ‘paquerettes’…

paquerettes and dandlieons 2013

iris 2

iris 3

wisteria 2013

our school held it's first of two 'Marche aux Fleurs'

our school held it’s first of two ‘Marche aux Fleurs’ in the village square

watching the sales

…careful observation of the flower sales

a surprise bunch for the Aussie shelia

a surprise bunch for the Aussie sheila

It’s 26 degrees, Spring is beautiful and I’ve just made my first ‘Jardiniere‘ of the season.

Look out for Mamy Jeanne’s recipe in the following post…

first blossom

7 Feb
the first blossom seen in our village this year

the first blossom seen in our village this year

It’s girly wirly fleur time on the blog.  We were out on our morning walk and in the distance I spied the first blossom for the year…

our morning walk - blossom in the distance

our morning walk – blossom in the distance

Quelle belle surprise.  It’s cold and about to snow again, friends left right and centre are ‘aol’ with colds and flu, but the sight of that beautiful pink…  I go crazy in my head with excitement when I see the first trees in flower – and this was my first for 2013.

lilas and blossom

…Took Lilas out later for a look.
Carefully pruned vines in background.

blossom 6

lilas blossom 3

I know it’s only early Feb, but it gets me thinking of all the flowers to come – and Ding! goes my head with visions of colour and splendour from last year’s pickings.

So hell yeah, let’s have a cheesy insert to follow.

A ‘Collage de Fleurs’!…

a cheesy flower collage (from last year's pickings)

…a cheesy flower collage (from last year’s pickings)

orange

8 Nov
Autumn in La Liviniere

Autumn colour in La Liviniere

It’s here!?!!

I must admit I often feel flat at this time of year, well for the first few weeks anyway – no more bare legs and t-shirts, no more swimming outdoors, cold dashes out of the shower…  But finally I somehow get into the swing of it and embrace the warm fires inside, the hearty meals and walks in the brisk air.  And after so many years of braving the cold INDOORS when I rented in Australia, I am loving and embracing the central heating everywhere.

Autumn in the Minervois

orange plane trees

I must admit I took this shot a while back, but I still love it

Autumn plane trees

Plane trees along the Canal du Midi

Yes, Autumn has arrived but thankfully with all its magical colour.  It’s making me think ORANGE!

kids marvelling at the famous 'Baked Bean'  parked on a village street...the lady owner steps in, la proprietaire de la voiture,  ...Rrrowrrrr

kids marvelling at the famous ‘Baked Bean’ parked on a village street
…the lady owner steps in, la proprietaire de la voiture, …Rrrowrrrr!

I’m loving this colour right now and thought I’d put together a few of my favourite ‘orange’ pictures…  And f you’ve wandered around this blog already, you might have picked up on the fact that I do have a little thing for collages.  I’m pathetic, once I like something, I can’t stop! (my lovely girlfriends had diagnosed me at the age of 14 with O.C.D).

So hulahup, Barbatruc, here’s another one for you.

Orange collage

Or-ange Co-llage

some sights #5 – images from the Minervois

21 Sep
the view from Chateau Maris
a view from Chateau Maris
Vendanges

HARVEST!

the eggs!

Now this is crazy (but beautiful) …LES OUEFS! – these are the egg-shaped tanks used to age wine in the Maris winery.
I keep thinking Mork from Ork is going to crack out of one…

inside the new Chateau Maris cellar

Jean-Pierre in the Chateau Maris winery yesterday (the walls are made of hemp!)

harvest in La Liviniere

harvest in La Liviniere

la liviniere

driving from La Liviniere

oncoming 2CV in Rieux

oncoming 2CV in Rieux

DANGER!!  Blonde behind the wheel

DANGER!! Blonde behind the wheel

Homps

Homps

Mauzac Nature 2011

Now this was hard, parting with this bottle today to throw it into the recycling bin.  It was SO delicious!! A sparkling white that almost tasted like a very dry cider. Lucky the bottle was big, it went down so quickly!
(Merci Isabelle et Vincent)

last night's tomatoes

Last night’s tomatoes.
Got to make the most of these babies before the season is out.

Saint Chinian flags

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge in Saint Chinian

pooch parade

pooch parade

carca wine shop

wine shop in Carcassonne

door handle

‘une poignee’ (door handle)

hanging the laundry

hanging out the laundry

European Carpenter Bees

European Carpenter bees in the garden

thongs, flip-flops, claquettes

‘thongs’ in my home (yes, not the ones on your butt), ‘flip-flops’ in the UK and the US, ‘Jandals’ in NZ, ‘slops’ in South Africa, ‘schlapfen’ in Austria… ‘tongs’ or ‘claquettes’ in France. I like this one – Lilas said the name comes from the sound they make as you walk? Anyone know if this is right?

window in Saint Chinian

window with ‘fresh’ flowers

Rebecca's curry

Rebecca’s Kerala Prawn Curry, mmmmmn. The onion bahjis were a knock-out too, but my photo didn’t work out

a house inside a building

a house in a house

Grandma's Pussy

‘Grandma’s Pussy’ – from Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, Series B, Volume 10
…Really!

velo in Rieux

velo in Rieux

sunset

sunset in the garden

Spring has sprung

30 May
bouquet de bruno

Bruno’s freshly picked bunch from Caunes – check out the size of those irises!

It’s so warm here right now and after all the rain we had in the last couple of weeks –

a wet wet road

gloomy and grey – but we needed it

– the landscape has switched into overdrive with growth and colour.  The vineyards are looking very happy with their new leaves and once again, as far as the eye can see in the Minervois, the vision is GREEN!

vines with Pyrenees in background

vineyards on the route to  school with the Pyrenees in the background

vineyards across from our house

the vineyards across the road from the house

‘I love this time of year!’ I can hear Benjamin saying this at least 100 times a Spring – for the last 15 Springs.   Like I’ve said, it’s quite something to experience the onset of Spring in France.  So much excitement and promise after all that cold!  Such a contrast – something I never fully appreciated in Adelaide’s mild climate.

Yes, Spring has well and truly sprung and I want to share some of the sights around here with you.

blossom in cafe courtyard

fallen blossom in a courtyard cafe (actually this was in Angouleme)

a few geraniums in the window anyone?…

poppies - and vineyards - as far as the eye can see

poppies – and vineyards – as far as the eye can see

lilas in poppies and a poppy person!

Lilas (‘ lilac’ in English) in poppies – and a poppy person!  Until the school’s day trip, I never knew they existed! Never too old…

swans at home

a couple of swans arrived at home

beside the canal du midi carcassonne

coming into Carcassonne

Lady at Zaza

the weather is so lovely, it’s time for rose again

lilas watching the tractor today

watching the tractor turning over the soil today

lilas and her flowers

a hand-picked bunch for the dance teacher this afternoon

Spring collage!

oui, oui it’s flower mayhem here!  I’ve been going a bit bonkers with the bouquets

It’s time for Ratatouille! …have I got the spelling right??

16 Sep

…Umm, here we go again!  For those of you who saw this as a ‘mini-post’ a few hours ago, you must have been thinking ‘so where the heck is that recipe then?’.   Well, I was in a hurry to pick up our child from school and WHOOPS pressed the ‘publish’ button instead of ‘save draft’.   I’ll give it another try.

As for the spelling  …well yes, I checked in the cookbook.  It’s one of those words, like ‘rhythm’ or ‘Mediterranean’… I always have to think twice about it or look it up!

So here is my version of a ‘Rattatooey’ (that’s how I pronounce it, causing grimaces all round I’m sure) – a very traditional French dish that for me, unlike any other dish, evokes Summer in the South.  The colours of the ingredients are sublime and just thinking about cooking it conjures up images of potagers (vegetable patches), big cast-iron casserole pots simmering on country kitchen stoves, lashings of fresh basil and chilled French wines.  Many households are cooking up this dish right now and on my visits to friends’ houses I love nothing more than peeking into their pots to see what theirs look like.  Vegies cut big or small? Diced or sliced??  Oily, not so oily?  Fresh tomotoes, tinned?

I say ‘my’ version as yes, there are many.  The ingredients are almost always the same, but the cooking methods differ.  I’m a little embarrassed admitting that mine has conserved tomatoes in it instead of fresh, but it has.  A good friend of ours came to stay this Summer (more of him in later posts) and being the most wonderful cook he is (and being French, I must also add) I was eager to get his opinion on what the ‘correct’ way to prepare this is.  Strike out!  He insisted the tomatoes had to be fresh.  Ohh, I thought to myself, now I feel unworthy.  Oh well.  It’s always tasted good to us and what’s the point in arguing with this Frenchman, whose opinions on cooking and wine I admire so much.

I should add that my two of my  favourite references for cooking are Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ and Susan Herrmann Loomis’s ‘French Farmhouse Cookbook’ and I first accessed this recipe from their reassuring pages.   They were both wedding presents and how many times did I think to myself in those early days as a mute-non-speaking the local language-housewife with her apron – ‘where wold I be with out you??!??’   Well I must say that neither of their versions use conserve/ tinned tomatoes either!

Our friend did have a little extra advice for me too.  On his departure, he mentioned that during the vintage I should be preparing many good meals for my husband, be kind and – with a wink –  be a ‘bonne femme’.  What did he mean?  Did he really mean the housewife variety relegated to her stove or being simply good to Him?  In the kitchen, elsewhere? (now don’t go there…).  Mais merci, I’ll take that on board.

Incidentally, in  French, ‘bonne femme’ could be either ‘good woman’ or ‘good wife’ – it’s the same term for both.  For the blokes however, there’s no such confusion as husband has its own word – ‘mari’.

I’m beginning to think we’re all destined to be good housewives here! (in the countryside anyway, if not the towns).

Anyway, here’s my recipe, minus the fresh tomatoes, from one Bonne Femme to you!

‘Ratatouille’

With these quantities, you can serve this to 6-8 people and still have left-overs.

This is one of those dishes that just gets better and better on the second and third days.  Ideally, I make this the night before serving.

ratatouille

ratatouille

Ingredients:

(I change my portions each time, according to how it looks in the pot, so these quantities can be varied according to your taste)

4-5 medium onions, sliced (I love them!)

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 eggplants, sliced

8 zucchinis, sliced to 1cm thickness

3-4 capsicums (that is, peppers or poivrons, depending on your country!) – green, yellow and red, seeded and sliced

1 x 690g bottle crushed tomato pulp (you may not want to pour all of it in)

2 x 800g tin tomatoes

salt, pepper

olive oil, sunflower oil for frying

chopped parsley and torn basil

method:

Cut the eggplant into 1cm (or finer if you like) slices, place the slices in layers on a large tray, sprinkling salt over each layer.  Cover with tin foil, weigh down with a heavy book and leave for one hour.

Heat up a generous amount of oil in a large cast-iron casserole/ heavy-bottomed pot and fry the onions over medium-low heat until soft and golden.

a lotta onions

I love onions

While the onions are frying,  seed and chop capsicums, chop zucchinis, chop garlic.

'tricolore' de poivrons

a ‘tricolore’ of capsicums

As the onions become soft and golden, add the capsicum and the garlic and stir well.  Increase heat to medium-high, stirring frequently to mix the ingredients.

Lower heat, cover with lid.  Cook for further 15 minutes.

onions and capsicums

During this time, rinse the eggplant slices, drain through a colander and pat dry with tea towels.

Prepare one or two fry pans for  shallow frying eggplants with generous amount of blended olive oil/ sunflower oil in each.

Stir in the tomatoes into the pot.

tomatoes added

Stir in zucchinis to the pot, add freshly ground pepper and continue simmering with lid on.

Over a high heat (watch that the oil doesn’t burn) fry the eggplant slices until golden, re-adding oils to the pan/s regularly.  This step is one of the most time-consuming in this recipe, but I really think it makes a difference to the dish. Once slices are cooked, I lay them aside on paper towels on a large tray.

Please note: I don’t salt the pot until I’ve tasted it with the eggplant added – even if the eggplants have been well-rinsed there can be a residue of salt.

frying the eggplant

Using two fry pans can reduce the time spent over the stove!

Once all the eggplant slices have been fried, I add them to the pot, taste for salt and then re-cover and leave simmering for another 20 minutes.

almost there with the ratatouille

Serve cold, warm or hot the next day with torn basil leaves and freshly chopped parsley.

This is a great side dish for bbq’d meats – especially lamb.  It also goes very well with country sausages.

barbecued country sausage

barbecued country sausage

We also enjoy serving left-over ratatouille as a pizza base or tossed through pasta – it’s a delicious mix with spaghetti or fettuccine, sprinkled with basil and parmesan. 

It’s a great way to get Lilas to eat her vegies!

ratatouille spaghetti

ratatouille spaghetti

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