19 January 2010


After the warm and sunny day on New Year's Eve, there was a spectacular change in the weather for January 1st. It was grey, misty and hovering around freezing.

We had been invited to join Ken and Walt in St-Aignan for their traditional New Year's Day cassoulet. The trip would take around an hour from Le Grand-Pressigny.

We were up early and I washed up from the night before whilst Nick put in a couple of hours' work on the decorating before we set off. Lulu came with us and we had a lovely day together. Ken and Walt are superb cooks and generous hosts, making us feel relaxed and very welcome.

We chatted over delicious nibbles of prunes wrapped in lardons or smoked duck with our apéros. At the table the first course was a smoked salmon and celeri remoulade salad. Then came the magnificent cassoulet, served in an enormous dish. We have had cassoulet before and it is one of Nick's favourites to choose in a restaurant. This was, he reckoned, the best he'd ever had. Next there was a generous cheeseboard followed by Walt's pumpkin cake.

Ken has blogged about the food here and here. Walt's starter is described here. His pumpkin cake is pictured here.

It was one of those days where it never seemed to get properly light - it was very cold and grey. We set off back home with temperatures at or just below freezing. I was driving and I took it very steadily, sticking to the more major roads, hoping that they had been treated. One of the great joys about driving in France is that it is so easy - on the way home we barely saw a dozen other cars.

Before bedtime we took Lulu for her last walk of the day and I was able to take some pictures of the festive decorations around the village. We had only one full day left to finish the decorating and we were invited out again for our last night - to dinner at Simon and Susan's. What lucky people we are to have so many friends - and they are all such good cooks !


  1. Jean, How I envy you and Nick. We know and have met Ken and Walt, and Susan and Simon ... (and more local non-blogger friends whom we've known for years) but we live at more than 550km from them. As we spend only one (may I say very busy) week in the Loire Valley per year, we just don't have the time to do everything we've planned. Last summer was one of lunches and dinners, leaving very little time to do some sightseeing (or decorating, in your case). People in 'La Touraine' are just TOO hospitable and friendly..., aren't they? ;))

  2. Martine - it seems to me you just have to spend more time in the Loire !! Nick pointed out to me that I haven't been anywhere else for a holiday for nearly three years. I hadn't realised and hadn't missed the rest of the world !

  3. Thank you for that. Mr FF is back this weekend and his mum is coming over Sunday for me to do a belated birthday meal (his birthday is tomorrow). I was stuck for a starter I hadn't done before, but now I am going to do smoked salmon rolls stuffed with celeri remoulade. It sounds nice and sharp (boeuf b. for afterwards - Mr FF has been making do with pasta and pizzas and I wanted some substantial protein down him)

    merci mille fois

  4. p.s. talking of the Loire - we had a nice week there a couple of years ago staying just outside a pretty little town called Descartes. Is that anywhere near you?

  5. Jean, it was a very nice day with you and Nick. I'm glad you were able and willing to make the drive, considering the weather. See you again soon, I hope.

  6. FF - Descartes is just up the road - 12k or thereabouts.
    Will you be trying armadillos with the boeuf b. ?!

    Ken - our next trip will be in April - the weather should be much better by then !

  7. Jean.... make sure you are both there on the 25th of April.... I'm having my 60th at La Forge. Lovely shots of GP in this post... we are off this afternoon. Can't wait to be there... oh, have you tried the cow's eggs from the Spar?

  8. Tim, thank you for the invitation !
    But you have to be kidding - to the best of my knowledge cows do not lay eggs.