26 October 2009


My Dad comes for his dinner with us most Sunday evenings. He will be 81 soon and is surprised he is still here against all odds. He has had heart bi-pass surgery THREE TIMES and the last one was 15 years ago. He was told then he would live about another ten years.

He is amazed that he outlived my mother who died almost seven years ago. Although he has had seven years to get used to the idea of looking after himself, he has never really developed any fondness for cooking. Eating, yes, supermarkets and ovens, no.

It being the dreaded weekend of the putting-back of the clocks, it was dark when he arrived at 5.30 pm so I instinctively planned a comfort-food menu, one that we all like. Each week I send him away with a generous portion of leftovers, a bag of prepared vegetables, and a small pudding. That way he has another good dinner for later in the week.

Recently I found out that when he goes to his youngest sister's house for lunch on a Wednesday, she does the same. That means each week he is getting four good dinners, which is great.


Cheesey mushrooms

Beef stew with jacket potatoes and vegetables

Apple and blackberry crumble and custard

My Dad loves garlic mushrooms but after having them for weeks on end every Sunday evening they got a bit boring so I copied this idea from a friend. She used portobello mushrooms and did them on the BBQ. I used largeish mushrooms and did them in the oven.

Cut the stalks out of the mushrooms and peel them. Put them stalk side up in a greased baking tin. Put a squirt of garlic paste and sundried tomato paste into each mushroom and a slice of goats cheese or your favourite cheese on top. Bake them in a medium oven until the mushrooms are tender and the cheese browned. Ours was at about 190°C for the potatoes and they were in for about 25 minutes (I think).

The day before we bought a new slow cooker. I did a standard beef stew in that. Nothing fancy. Cubed braising steak, onions, carrots, green pepper, leeks, courgettes, parsnips. In fact a bit of all the vegetables I had in the fridge, just like my mother used to make. I prepared it and put it in the cooker at 11 am.

Both Nick and my Dad adore blackberry and apple crumble. The blackberries were in the freezer, collected last month. I used proper English Bramley cooking apples (I often cheat and use tinned apples to save time).

The mushrooms were looking good but just needed a few more minutes to brown the cheese.

I cooked the fruit with some sugar before putting the crumble topping on. I love the look and smell of it at this stage.

The beef stew was delicious. I turned the heat control on the cooker to "high" and used some Bisto to thicken it for about ten minutes before serving it. This was the suggestion in the instruction book for the cooker and it worked very well.

The crumbles came out well. And they didn't boil over onto the floor of my newly cleaned oven. What a relief.

25 October 2009


Sunrise over Le Grand-Pressigny, October 2009.
One of the advantages of owning a dog is that you have to get up early every day and take them out. So you get to see lots of these.

24 October 2009


A street in St-Aignan.
The town seemed to have changed a lot since we were last there 10 years ago.

22 October 2009


Fresh walnuts are so sweet.

Last year (2008) we spent a week towards the end of October in Le Grand-Pressigny and although it was chilly it was sunny and we had a great time. Early in the week we returned from a day out to find a basket of walnuts on our doorstep - a gift (one of many) from our neighbour, Mme André.

We had never had walnuts this fresh before. They were so sweet and soft compared with the shop-bought ones we had had before which were often bitter and hard.

Nick and Lulu under one of the many walnut trees around the village.

This year we were in LGP a week earlier in the month and we were hoping we would not be too early for the walnuts. We were not disappointed. There were walnuts in abundance everywhere. We gathered some for ourselves and Mme André provided us with a little bagful most days. They were delicious, just like last year.

The walnut on the tree, about to fall, leaving the green bit behind.

The walnuts form in little fruits that look like small pears. Whilst on the tree the green outer shell splits to reveal the walnut as we know it inside. Usually the walnut then falls to the ground leaving the split casing on the tree.

As we drove around the area in October this year, we would often see a car parked by the edge of a wood or field and nearby there would be a person with a basket or a bucket gathering fresh walnuts from the ground.

This picture shows the stages of the walnut from the green "fruit" stage to the final walnut, which then falls to the ground.


We brought a large quantity of walnuts home with us. Other than eating them as nuts for dessert or putting the odd few in a salad, we are short of ideas on how to use them. One can only eat so many coffee and walnut cakes !

Any suggestions ?

21 October 2009


Seen at the vide-grenier at Chaumussay.
I'm not sure if it was part of the stuff for sale or not.
There was no price ticket on it. Just as well, really.

20 October 2009


The Happy Pêcheur at Descartes.

19 October 2009


Our little bedroom window.

18 October 2009


Behind the château at Le Châtelier.

17 October 2009


Rue du Four Banal in Le Grand-Pressigny.

16 October 2009


Tomatoes. Tons of them.
If we went out there would be some on our doorstep when we returned.
If we called on friends we came away with some. Visitors would bring us some.
Wonderful. We love tomatoes.

15 October 2009


Le Grand-Pressigny in the early morning sunshine.

14 October 2009


A street corner in La Petite Guerche.

13 October 2009


A water pump / lamp-post at St Savin.
Who said electricity and water don't mix ?

12 October 2009


Behind the château at Le Grand-Pressigny.


The church at St Savin

11 October 2009


The new bit of the château at Le Grand-Pressigny.
I still have mixed feelings about it.

10 October 2009


An Englishman and his dog on holiday.

8 October 2009


Half way through our holiday Nick decided he couldn't stand the lights in the kitchen any longer.

The switches dangled in mid-air on the end of the trunking and were fastened to a cup hook on the wall.

The light bulb dangled from another cup hook in the ceiling.

It involved doing a bit of this.

And the end result was this !!

This had been kind of cute, though. I rather missed it for the first day or two.


We will be away doing some more DIY in our little maison for a while. There will be some holiday snaps to keep you going.


6 October 2009


Before we came on holiday we harvested what we could from our garden in England, so that it would not be wasted. Runner beans, cabbage, tomatoes, and almost a pound of blueberries. I decided to make some muffins.
They came out square because I had some muffin cases but no muffin tin. I just arranged the paper cases in an oblong roasting tin.

A nervous moment - would they rise or wouldn't they ?

The flour was a bit of a problem. The recipe called for baking powder but I couldn't find anything like it in the shops in Descartes or the village. I therefore used what I hoped was self-raising flour.
"Farine aux gâteaux" if I remember correctly.

A further problem was the weather. Nicole had warned me that in the very warm weather they might not rise properly.
All things considered, they came out quite well. Very good in fact.
Do they use baking powder in France ? If so, what is it called ?

3 October 2009


It's market day at Loches on Wednesdays and Saturdays so in the middle of the first week of our holiday we decided to go and have a look at it.

All the usual stuff was there, including the sausage man.

There was someone selling a sort of stew made out of "boudin noir", or black pudding.
It looked most unappetising.

This lady was selling cakes. We bought a chocolate one and it was expensive but absolutely delicious.

It was very like a dessert we often choose, "fondant au chocolat", which is chocolate cake with a hot runny chocolate sauce in the middle. Scrumptious.

On Thursday evening there was a market of artisans at La Roche-Posay. There was lots of interesting stuff for sale; the kind of things that are quite irresistable but that you really don't need. Wooden pens, leather jewellery boxes, basketware in all shapes and sizes, etc. We managed to resist most of it but I did buy some pretty hand-made beads.

On Sunday we went with Barrie to a brocante near Ligeuil. The shop, or rather, showroom is a permanent feature but every so often the owner puts a lot of stuff outside on tables, "vide-grenier" style. The things for sale were better than at most of the vide-greniers I have been to.

We bought a couple of interesting items for the terrace, perfect for displaying our geraniums. One of them was obviously meant to be used as a magazine rack.

There's something so enjoyable about browsing the markets and brocantes in the sunshine. The colours, the smells and the sounds are all a real treat for the senses. If you happen to get a good lunch and a bargain as well, it's just a perfect holiday activity.