Tag Archives: friends

still cruisin’ in Adelaide

6 Jan
cruising in Adelaide

cruising in Adelaide

A big Hip hip to this New Year, 2013!  May it be a good one for all and a happy and healthy one.

Just thought I’d say I haven’t forgotten about the blog, just busy cruising the streets in S.A. (South Australia) and lapping up as much quality time as possible, before the annually dreaded departure.  Gotta make the most of it!

But somehow there’s those petite ‘mon Dieu’ surprises that always bring France back to mind…

les geants...

les geants… as seen at the Adelaide Central Market

Back soon…

naked wine wife vigneron naked winemaker pussy #2

30 Oct
one big, hairy...

one big, hairy…

Oh boy, now I am in a PANIC.  Could you please put a BIG ‘P.S.’ next to this part and pretend it was part of the other post???

My lovely friend Jen has just informed me that part of a text I had written and hadn’t finished – a draft – WENT ONLINE!!!?!!!  Whoops.  I must have pressed ‘publish’ when I meant to press the button ‘SAVE DRAFT’!?!!

See what I mean?  I really need to get my head around a computer and its buttons.  THIS WAS NOT INTENDED.  So now you have had a glimpse (if you saw the first version online before I updated, that is) into some crazy text that wasn’t finished and sounded so smutty (it ended with a polite ‘naked hairy pussy’).  Double whoops and I’m sorry!…

So, here goes: part 1 + part 2

(part 1)

I’m a loser when it comes to all things technical.   Almost anything in the realm of computers intimidates me – and the fact that I don’t know much and employ the good old ‘trial and error’ method, there are often moments of sheer panic as I wipe out hours of work off the screen… I get those delightful hot flushes of fear all from sitting at a keyboard.  So much fun.

I still can’t believe I managed to get this blog working, though I admit I nearly crashed it a few days ago.  It was only through the kindness of a person out there in the WordPress community that I managed to keep it on the road.

As I sat in a haze of panic, something did however make me smile:  “Naked Hairy Pussy”.

9GAG Lore Butler

image from 9GAG – Lore Butler

(part 2 – …and you thought it ended with a naked hairy pussy)

As I was scurrying around the working pages and forums on my computer when I thought I’d crashed it, I suddenly saw the list of all the keywords and phrases typed by people into their computers to find my blog – or rather, found my blog by accident, with them.  It was illuminating!  They were all listed under “Search Engine Terms”.   Find out more about Search Engine term and ‘optimization’ here!

Naked Hairy Pussy was one of them.

And these were too: (I’m going to link these terms to stuff in my blog where possible, just to give myself a plug – not so sure for the N.H.P. though…)

Adventure Time Naked

Dying Hair with Orange Blow Hairdryer

The Naked Vigneron

Naked Missus

Leeds Wife Naked

What to Have For Lunch When In-Laws Are Here

Vignerons Wife

Naughty Aussie Wife Facebook

Fish in a Can

Julie Andrews

Old Oven Door Handle

Flip Flops Girls Austria

Naked Winemaker

La Bite Une Andouillette

…I had a chuckle and got on with the computer problem, but this time smiling.

SO, that’s it basically, the second part to this post.  Thanks for your patience and understanding!

THANK YOU JEN!!!

I told you I’m a loser.

Les Vendanges – La Rentree

14 Sep
Lilas in the vines
Checking the grapes, the night before school goes back
lilas with a bunch

a bunch ready for the picking

It only seems like yesterday that Lilas broke up from school and started the Summer holidays at the beginning of July.

And then before I knew it, we’d been on the Naked tour, my family had come and gone, the Olympics and Paralympics ended with a bang, the Fetes de Villages had packed up for the year, our Summer friends had all been and gone…

Summer 2012

Summer 2012

…and suddenly the grapes got ripe for the picking! (‘Les Vendanges’):

VENDANGES EN LANGUEDOC, Societe des Cartes Postales APA-POUX, ALBI - 'AS DE COUER'

‘Vendanges en Languedoc’ (AS DE COEUR)

– and the new school year (‘La Rentree’) 2012-2013 started.

la classe

la classe

Come September, a different kind of ambience sets in around here.  The tourists (or most of them!) have left en masse, the weather softens and jumpers come out for nights on the terrace, the markets no longer have ‘bouchons’ (traffic jams):

Carcassonne market

Carcassonne market, August

…the local pools have shut their gates:

– and tanned bodies (just not ours) post ‘les vacances’:

skin!

Lola and Lilas

…get ready for some WORK!

following a tractor during the harvest

You often get stuck behind these people during the harvest!  Time to slow down and have some respect…

Les Vendanges a La Liviniere

‘Les Vendanges’ in La Liviniere

Les Vendanges is one of the most important events on our local calendar (most people in our village own or have some family connection/ investment in grape vines) – and each year, come September, there is the most wonderful buzz in the air.  The village hums with expectation and excitement over the ‘recolte’ (harvest) – it’s time to pick the ‘fruits’ of a long year’s labour.

Lilas and a bunch

check it out

And harvest always coincides with the kiddies going back to school after two months’ of holidays.  I still can’t quite get my head around this school ‘year’ here.  In Australia our school ‘year’ begins around the beginning of the calendar year, in February – after Xmas and at the end of Summer.  Here, each school year ends in what I would call the middle of the year, July, and then recommences in September.  And because of this schoolbooks, labels etc name the school ‘year’ as ‘2000-2001’ etc.  This year for example, is ‘2012-2013’.  I know I’m rambling.  Maybe it’s because I’m from ‘down there’ that I’m confused.

picking an apple for school

Picking an apple for tomorrow’s ‘gouter’ (afternoon snack) on the first day back at school

Anyway, back to the grapes.  The reds are just getting under way, but Benji has been picking for a couple weeks’ now as the whites here ripened earlier.  As for how this year’s harvest will be?  It’s looking good so far – relief!  The weather has been almost perfect for the grapes these last few weeks – a lot of sun and no rain – and so it all needs to come in NOW!

It will be the biggest week yet – 4am starts, working through until 6pm, 7/7.   Another couple of weeks of this, then it’s finished for the pickers and machine harvesters in the vines, but full-steam ahead in the wine cellar – managing the tanks and their juice.  Benji will maintain this crazy routine for a few more weeks yet – until the end of October.  And then it will be time to think about HIS holiday!…

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

1 Jun
it's almost gone!

oops, missed the photo opportunity this time round – it is THAT good!

I want to share a little recipe with you.  It’s asparagus season here and every year we eat tonnes of it and the way we’ve normally prepared it, is steamed until al dente and served on a platter with boiled egg scattered over the top and then washed over with a mustard vinaigrette (essentially an oil-based sauce with vinegar – to which you can add lemon juice, salt, pepper, mustard etc,  whatever you feel like!).

asparagus olonzac market

asparagus at the Olonzac market

another asparagus grower at the Olonzac market

…more asparagus at the Olonzac market

asparagus carcassonne market

asparagus at the Carcassonne market

We’ve been eating it for years and I’ve never considered preparing it any other way, I like it so much!  That is, until I ate Philippa’s oven-baked asparagus.

Philippa and her partner John have a winery here in the Minervois – Hegarty Chamans – where they make a great range of organic and biodynamic whites (I love their Marsanne Roussanne!) and reds.  Their philosophy of how they make their wines follows into the kitchen.  Philippa is an amazing cook and meals there are a real treat.  It’s like a celebration of fresh produce (often from their ‘potager’/ vegie patch), colours and aromas.   There’s no messing around, just simple, pure flavours blended beautifully together.  And it all feels so healthy! (if I leave my wine consumption out of the equation).    This dish in particular is a beauty.  Thanks Philippa, I’ve been hooked ever since you served this entree of asparagus!

oven-baked asparagus

Oven-Baked Asparagus

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

(Yum!  and great served as an entree…)

ingredients:

2-3 bunches green asparagus

olive oil

a good cup full of grated Swiss Gruyere (my favourite cheese EVER) or Parmesan

3-4 dried chopped dried chillies (or 1 or 2 fresh – very hard to find around these parts!)

salt and pepper

method:

chop the ends off the asparagus spears (I never really peel the ends), then rinse and pat dry in a teatowel

pour olive oil into bottom of a good heavy baking dish and swirl to spead the oil

place the spears, then top with the cheese, then the chillies, drizzle more oil and then add salt, pepper to taste

bake in moderate to hot oven (in my old gas oven I cook them on ‘7’) for 30 mins ( or for however long you want, depending on how much crunch you want to leave in the spears)

et voila!  so simple and so delicious!

…and a note on the wine!  Asparagus is a difficult thing to match with wine.  But if you really can’t resist, go ahead and eat them with a dry but fruity white

The people in your neighbourhood #2 – The Night of the Snail Hunter

16 May
escargot man

l’homme des escargots

You don’t get to meet too many Aussies around here (that’s ‘Australian’ when talking Orstrayan)… it took me more than 10 years to meet this one.   Yes, there are quite a few foreigners around here – English, Dutch, New Zealander,  some Americans, Irish,Canadian – but not so many from where I’m from.

I’d always been told about ‘the other Aussie’ in the next village – “Vous ne connaissez pas Joff-wah?!?” (aka Geoffrey), they would exclaim.  No, I’d respond.  I hadn’t met ‘the other one’, even after many years of exploring Felines, a mere 3 km’s from us , I’d never set eyes on Joff-wah.  I’d been told I would have remembered if I’d met him.  And I now know why.

Meeting ‘Geoff’ (I’ll stay simple) finally happened via the lovely Evonne, who had recently moved in and become the third Aussie in our parts.  How wonderful to finally have some ‘mates’ from the other side of the world!!  I can’t tell you how reassuring it was to finally hear the word ‘dance’ rhyme with ‘ants’ and to hear news of a dawn meeting at Geoff’s to watch the AFL Grand Final of Australian Rules football.  Unheard of in the Minervois until now!  After all these years.  Geoff also has a French partner (divine Florence) who also works in wine, like mine – it’s mad we’d never met.

Now I should tell you that Geoff, as well as being token Aussie in his village, is also known as a damn fine snail catcher and cook.  It’s a big tradition around here and once these little slimy creatures come out in force after a big rain, you hear much talk amongst the locals of ‘cagaraula’ (‘snails’ in local Occitan).  Evonne had told me how good Geoff’s snails were and it was thanks to him that I got to try my third-ever*  meal of ‘les escargots’…

* (the first time was back in 1997 in Cape Town where Benji and I had recently eloped – long story and one that I will explain, later! –  and out dining with some Frenchies, I thought I should dip my toes into ‘their’ cuisine once and for all)

Geoff the Snail Hunter

And what were they like?  Bloody good!!

the night of the snail hunter

the night of the snail hunter

I must say I loved every bit of this dish.  A bit of tomato here, a lovely chunk of pork meat there, some snail flesh here…  It’s amazing how well the flavours merged and complemented each other.  I just didn’t want to stare at my fork for too long and wonder about where the big slimy chunks had grown up.

what is that?

what’s this slug on my fork?!??

After beginning our evening with a yummy apero of La Tour Boisee white wine, the snails slid down deliciously with red.  Florence’s La Tour Boisee Minervois 2010 was a real treat.

snails and La Tour Boisee 2010 Minervois

Escargots a La Minervoise and La Tour Boisee 2010 Minervois red

I used to think that these creatures were torn from their outside homes, cleaned up a bit, thrown into a cook pot and then served swimming out of their shells in cream and garlic.  Not so simple!  Snail hunting and preparation is a carefully orchestrated, time-consuming passion.  I could give you my boring, textbook account of how Geoff prepares his snails, but I think the words of the Snail Hunter himself are far more interesting:
Snail Preparation
1. Once the snails are collected they are put into a bird’s cage.  Trapping the snails in a cage allows them to empty their stomachs from herbs or plants that could be poisonous to humans. So a period of starvation assures that you are not going to kill your friends after your dinner party. You can change their diet by feeding the snails with herbs, spices and salads that do not harm humans. Starving the snails makes them thinner and less earthy tasting. So this caging period is a tricky one and most Snailers have their method of doing it. Some other elements that determine the length and method of caging the snails are also the climate, type of cage and the location of the cage. It is a long process as you don’t want the snails to die of starvation, neither suicide from madness, or just simply close back up in their shell in hibernation. Consider the caging period of a snail like trapping the wine in a container. Wine is alive and its “caging period” between the vine to the table is felt at the time of digestion.  
The only time I put them in the bath tub or the kitchen sink is to clean them (I had been told the cage had sat in the family bath tub) – the “cleaning period”.  Depending on the amount of snails I have, I’ll use either the tub or the sink.
Cleaning the Snails
2.  Cleaning the snails comes before the time of death. You clean the snails after the caging period. Washing and sorting the snails is the biggest manual task of the cook. It can take up to three hours to clean them. You give them a good little scrub on their shell and try to make a last minute moose (frothing). Some sorry arsed Snailers throw little bit of vinegar on them to make them froth. I do this in very small amounts to the last of the snails that have not yet come out of their shell. Note: before the snails go into the pot for cooking you have to make sure that the snail can come out of its shell and that is not dead. Snails that die in the cage during the caging period either die from old age or unsupervised mismanagemant during the caging method. Do not include any snails that are dead or that haven’t cracked their bonnet after the cage !

How do they Die?

3.  The Time Of Death.  This is very delicate. Once the snails have been cleaned they are put into a large pot of COLD water and heated very slowly. As the water warms up the snails drift off to sleep and as the water gets hotter they die.

That was so delicious, so can we have the recipe?

4.  My recipe is not a secret. However I don’t go telling just anyone. Cooking snails takes years of practice. In this region a snailer is only able to cook snails about 4 to 6 times maximum per year. I do it about 4 times a year, depending on how much rainfall we get. This year will be my 9th snailing season.  I use fresh pork sausage meat.

Hmmn, I guess that means we can’t have it.

And no Benji, you can’t take home any of Florence’s family record collection!

snail music

a little light music to dine on snails by…

No recipe, no records, but a final word from the SH:

I think there is a village rule that does not allow snailing until around the 1st of May. Snail hunting season!  This is an old rule however and there is a blind eye towards it as there are not as many snailers as there used to be (Snailers: my word for them).  The most discreet way around this rule is to never talk about it, and if you do happen to go snailing in the off-season you should never brag about how many snails you got. 

Amongst the existing Snailers there is huge competition. You should never be seen on another snailer’s turf. I did make a slippery visit this morning to check the snail turf of Lily Marty just to see if a few snails had cracked their bonnet but there were none visible. While shifting around on her turf I felt like I was stealing scones from her kitchen window. I didn’t stay long as I didn’t want to be seen.  I do have my own snail turfs around the place which are not as good as the snail turfs of some of the older local Snailers, as some are a bit more complicated to access.

 The first major rain will bring out the big snails. Apparently we have just gone through the driest winter in one hundred years so I am not familiar with what state the hibernating little buggers will be in. I guess there will not be any major difference to the hibernation state of a snail from previous years but this is still unknown as there is not a living Snailer older than one hundred years to tell me. All I can imagine is that soon the snail hibernation will be ended by a big rain and snailing will be given the green light ! I love the smell of snails in the morning !

Thanks Geoff (and Florence and Evonne!), for your ‘Les Escargots a La Minervoise’.  From one Aussie to another, they and the evening were tres, tres bon!


a Naked tasting… time for some wine

24 Aug
cadavres on the table

'cadavres' (what Benji calls empties) on the table

Thought you were going to see a cheeky image of naughty bits??

Sorry, no, it’s Summer and this is often what our table looks like the morning after…

Glasses are cleared but the bottles are waiting to be packed and emptied at the village recycling bin (and how the old mesdames and messieurs of the village, seated on their bench, must love counting how many wines that Aussie girl manages to consume).

one of my favourite postcards!

...well it's not exactly the 'dames du village', but one of my favourite postcards. Can't bring myself to asking the real local ladies if I can take their photo!

It’s now past the middle of August and I can’t believe how quickly Lilas’ school holidays have passed, how many interesting people have stayed or called by,  and how much wine and food we’ve consumed.  It seems like a non-stop degustation here sometimes, with the Beroccas coming out first thing in the morning, but things will certainly slow down now that ‘les vendanges’ (harvest time) are approaching and Benji prepares the cellars for receiving grapes.  Soon he’ll be working a seven-day week and mostly absent from our daily timetable.  It’s an intense time until all grapes have been picked and are safe in the tanks or going through the press, so it’s good to make the most of it with family and friends time in this heat.

The bottles photographed above are the empties from an evening with some of the ‘Naked’ crew.  Joe from Naked and is family came to visit, one warm and windy night and an informal tasting turned into a bottle fest (with Lilas and the kids meanwhile transforming the living room into a Playmobil playground) with everyone trying the whites and reds from Benji’s range together with local cheeses, bread and mountain lamb (big merci to our friends Vincent and Isabelle who were staying that week and gave us a huge help in the kitchen – the bbq’d lamb was a treat!).   It’s always great to meet new people around a table of wine, glass in hand and every Naked tasting we’ve had has been full of laughs with interesting people from all parts.

a Naked tasting at home

a Naked tasting at home. Thanks Joe, Anna et al!

Benji's labels for Naked

The prototypes for Benji's Naked Wines range - a collboration between Vincent and Nick

You’re probably wondering what on earth Naked is.  It’s a company in the UK called Naked Wines and Benji makes and sells wine with them.  It’s been just over a year since the collaboration started and we’ve met so many great people – customers and other winemakers – and had lots of fun tasting the range over dinners, lunches and informal evenings like this one.  I know it sounds like a plug – and it is!  But seriuosly, all puns aside, it is an energetic company run by young people with enthusiasm and a love for wine, and fuelled by a community of customers – people buying and tasting wine from anywhere in the world and then sharing their experiences online.  Benji’s range has done well and we’ve learnt a lot from the forums and the feedback people have offered.  Thanks to everyone, Rowan, Joe, Amy, Sam, Fran, Simon, Frankie, Kevin, everyone, for the ride so far!

fun and wine

A night with La Clape

13 May

It’s that time of year already…  everyone’s thinking of summer.  Trips to the beach, trips abroad, no school, hairy legs to shave, and umpteen outdoor bbq’s with friends, food and wine.

The lead-up to the harvest, after the big risk period for frost has passed (phew, it’s around now and looks like we’re ok), is a relatively easy-going time in the vines.  They’re growing with hopefully enough rain and a lot of sun, and have a few organic treatments here and there etc.  Sounds like an ideal summer!

But this is the time Benji begins to stress.

In his head he’s organising the entire lead-up to the harvest and beyond and no-one knows what the weather will do, and how the fruits will develop.  There is the cellar to organise, extra work to take on filling in for those taking summer breaks, and prevention of disease in the grapes.  Any rainfall during this hot time can be dire.

As I said, this stress is cyclical.  And sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally!!  Ever had an argument about the ‘correct’ way to boil an egg? (although we ARE in France…).

So getting away last Friday night to the beautiful ‘La Clape’ area was a perfect way to switch off for 24 hours.

running on the beachLa Clape (yes, fair share of commentary) is a lovely seaside wine region (15 00 hectares of vines within the Coteaux du Languedoc apellation) not far from Narbonne.  From the town you take a spectacular, windy drive through the rugged hills of Le Massif de la Clape and there’s always a huge gasp of pleasure and surprise when the Mediterranean greets you on the other side.  It’s been years since we did this, but it’s still as beautiful and ‘sauvage’ as ever.

We were headed for a gite not far from the beach in St Pierre La Mer, Chateau d’Angles (so lovely, thank you!) and arrived just in time to join our friends for the ‘aperos’.  Vanessa’s hot homemade pesto, cheese and tomato pastries were fantastic and went down beautifully with the local white.

Then it was down to business, the men got tending the bbq (sound familiar?) and us ladies fed the kids who’d been on the go ever since we arrived.

Yum!  There’s nothing quite like a fresh seafood platter.  We ate a blend of raw and bbq’d delights collected from the nearby ‘poissonnerie’.  I must admit the seafood platter was half the reason I’d been so keen to come!!  Absolutely delicious – you can’t beat the mix of garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, aioli, and burning wood with clams, ‘bulots’ (whelks), prawns, ‘couteaux’ (razor clams) – I could eat like this everyday.

local delights for dinner

Top it off with a crisp, frsh white or rose and it’s heaven!  We followed the local white with a Muscat Sec and then a bottle of Benji’s delicious Viognier.  I wasn’t sure about the mouth of the muscat at first.  Dry muscat is a strange one sometimes, the nose is so inviting and floral and sweet and then the mouth seems dry and short.  But this opened up beautifully.  Benji’s white, as always was floral, crisp and fresh.  These whites were great mates for the seafood.

Dinner ended being a casual, straight off the barbie affair.  No set seating, just constant ‘aller-retours’ with everyone taking turns bringing new dishes to the table.   I like this way of eating at the beach.  No fuss, just enjoying each other’s company and each new wonderful flavour.  As the light dimmed we got out the camper lanterns and popped the kids to bed.  Ready for another white!

And a quick plug!… we had an abundance of ininvited mosquitos joining us and the good old Aussie products of Rid and Aerogard came out in force.  Must say that the Frenchies were quite impressed with how well the stuff worked!

Like happy campers (and a happy winemaker), we all headed for bed in the fresh of the night.

A day of collecting to follow…

shells from La Clape

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