17 January 2010


In the early part of the week we debated whether we should go the the New Year bash in the salle des fêtes with Barrie. He said he would if we would and we said we would if he would.

In the end, we didn't.

The menu looked great and although it was pricey at 75€ a head, it was good value for an all-night event with lots of music and dancing.We had heard CMC trio before at GrandMa's and we really enjoyed them. A spot of dancing after dinner would have been fun, too.

We talked ourselves out of it because, finishing at 6am on January 1st, it would have wiped us out for the rest of the day and we had a lunch date already fixed. We also didn't want to lose any part of a day where we could do some more decorating and time was running out. We had a lot to do yet and only 3 days left to do it. Maybe we'll go to it next time.


We had had peculiar weather all week. To begin with it was fairly frosty but as the days went by it warmed up (enough for us to discontinue using our electric blanket) and we had rain on and off. On New Year's Eve we were basking in 12ºC and sunshine. Barrie was coming round for the evening and we had a dinner planned of our own.


MYSTERY FISHY STARTER (to be provided by Barrie)




Barrie arrived with a little box of gorgeous seafood cocktail purchased from his favourite deli in Chatellerault. It contained lots of the things you often see as "fruits de mer" in restaurants and, although some of the bits and pieces looked a little too scary for my liking, it was absolutely delicious. I served it with green salad and bread.

The veal was cooked to perfection by Nick chez nous and served with his best gravy. In case you're wondering, armadillos are actually "hassleback potatoes" but I renamed them because they look something like this.

This is how I cook them:

  • Peel the right number of medium-sized potatoes and cut them in half long-ways.

  • Make slits in them being careful not to cut all the way through - see picture.

  • Place them flat side down in a roasting tin. Brush with melted butter and season with S&P.

  • Gently pour about half a pint of OXO or any kind of stock around the potatoes to about a third the way up. Don't drown them.

  • Bake at about 180ºC for 45mins or so. Timing isn't critical. They're done when they look done, ie when the liquid has been absorbed and the potatoes are brown on top.

Most recipes, such as Nigella's, from whom I borrowed the photo, don't use the stock and just roast them. This would no doubt make them more crispy but I prefer my armadillos slightly chewy underneath with the extra flavour of the stock.

The cheeseboard was interesting because some of it had been in and out of our fridge all week and was fairly lively. We also added two local goats cheeses with the intention of bringing all the left-overs back to Derbyshire to enjoy later. We cooked the Christmas pud - brought with us from England along with the brandy butter - on top of the wood-burning stove.

We let the New Year in and just after midnight Barrie went home and we retired to bed, leaving the washing up until the next day. We were due in St-Aignan for lunch and we were really looking forward to that.


  1. Those potatoes look and sound very good. We'll have to give it a go very soon!

  2. Jean, do you remember what variety of potato you used to make the "armadillos"? Charlotte? Agata? Or are those the famous King Edward potatoes from England that I hear about but have never tried?

  3. Walt - the picture is from Nigella's website but I would have to say that mine always look just as good - it's one of those things that's difficult to get wrong. I'm sure you would enjoy them.

    Ken - I absolutely can't remember other than that they were in a small net from the supermarket in Descartes and were described as general purpose rather than salad potatoes.

  4. I bet those potatoes were the Agata variety, then, which are very good. They are mealy like King Edwards and would be good roasted in the oven. Charlotte potatoes are for salads.

  5. Jean, I'm very envious of your triumphs in the kitchen - I think that this will have to be the year we get our kitchen sorted, well, at least an oven! On the subject of New Year's Eve 2010perhaps we could join in your discusion of 'we will if you will' later in the year ... ...


    ps Hope the foot is repairing quickly!

  6. Those spuds look delicious Jean.
    I'm going to have a crack at them.

  7. Jean, Both menus (Grandma's and yours) look great. I guess I would have done the same thing ... enjoying the evening at home with friends, to continue the next day with even more friends :)

  8. Gail - you really do need an oven !!
    You could be on for New Year this year - will talk a bit nearer the time. The holidays fall in such a way as we could have the week off and still not have to travel back on Jan 1st, which is always a struggle.

    Ken - they're so easy to do !

    Martine - we had a lovely evening and there wasn't too much washing up for the next day.....

  9. I thought they were snails at first glance - I'm going to try the recipe though. They look and sound delicious

  10. Jean.

    I was saying to Susan just the other day that although Delia's roast potatoes always look great, there's never enough gooey goodness from the pan juices for my taste

  11. Simon - you should try these. Gooey on the bottom is definitely how they come out, unless you leave them in the oven a bit longer then they taste like the best bits of your shepherd's pie - the bit that's stuck to the side of the dish and is a devil to get off in the washing up !!

    FF - try them - you have nothing to lose ! Any kind of stock will do but I'm an OXO person myself.