October 29, 2012

A DÉGUSTATION

One of the lovely baking blogs I follow is called “As Strong As Soup”, written by the lovely “Phil in the kitchen”.  Phil bakes lots of tasty French cakes and pastries and recently he made some pamplemousse financiers.  You can read about them here.

This led to a brief discussion in the comments about crème de pamplemousse, used as an alternative flavour to cassis when making a kir.  I mentioned that in the summer I had bought a bottle (or two) of something called “Very Pamp” from the supermarket in Descartes.  It’s a blend of rosé wine and grapefruit juice and, while Nick thought it was a very naff idea (having not tasted it), I found it a very pleasant, refreshing and drinkable drink.

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Nicole told me that this kind of drink is very popular at the moment – often given as an apéritif at large gatherings where it is easy to prepare and serve, ideally suitable for warm summer evenings.  The ready-made version is inexpensive and comes in a screw top bottle, which probably contributes to Nick’s negative view of it !!

So when we were chez nous a couple of weeks ago I decided to get myself a bottle of crème de pamplemousse, and a bottle of Very Pamp and do a proper tasting.

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The crème de pamplemousse made a delicious drink when mixed with a fairly cheap rosé wine.  On one of the few days when it was warm enough to eat our lunch outdoors, I found it fruity and refreshing and I enjoyed it.

The flavour was slightly different to the ready-mixed wine/grapefruit “Very Pamp”, but not that much.  I suppose it all depends on the rosé wine you use and I couldn’t make my mind up where the grapefruit flavour actually came from in the ready-mixed drink – juice or cordial.

Mind you, after a couple of glasses, it hardly mattered !!

The crème de pamplemousse was also delicious when made into a kir pétillant using an inexpensive Vouvray.  In fact now we are back home in the UK, an occasional glass or two is going a long way towards cheering me up, knowing that it’s going to be an awfully long time before we can drink any kind of drink on our little terrace overlooking the rooftops of the village again.

pamplemousse1 You pays your money and takes your choice.

Tchin-tchin !!  Have a good week !!

October 23, 2012

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

tap1 The indrois had burst it banks at Génillé at the weekend.

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Before we set off for France on 5th October I checked the weather forecast on the Meteo France website and could not believe my luck.  For the first ten days of our two week holiday the forecast was showing bright yellow circles every day with a few grey droplets on the first Wednesday.  In other words, sunshine with very little rain – and really good temperatures – up to 25°C on our first Sunday. 

We packed our shorts and sandals.

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tap4 The Claise was very high at Abilly on Saturday morning.

We had a horrendous drive down to Folkestone on the Friday morning.  Heavy rain and very busy motorways do not make for relaxed driving.  We arrived at the tunnel, nerves frazzled, but in time to get an earlier train than we had booked.  Which was great because we could not get away from this horrible rain soon enough.

tap9b tap9c Being first on the train in the high carriages means you are also first off.

It was still raining when we got off the train at Calais but the clouds gradually disappeared and the temperature soared.  By the time we got to Le Grand-Pressigny it was 24°C and our beloved blue Loire sky and gorgeous sunshine were there to greet us.

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We spent a happy evening, enjoying apéros in the village square and dining outside on our little terrace.  Little did we know, that was pretty much the last we would see of that sunshine !!

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The Claise was extremely high in the village on Sunday evening.

tap5 A piece of tree trunk was being rolled noisily in the water that tumbled over the weir, reminding us that flood water has hidden dangers.  We could hear the thud, thud, as it crashed around from quite a distance away.

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At one point, it rained almost continuously for about 36 hours.  That’s a lot of water to fall in a short time and it’s not surprising that rivers and streams flooded.  We have never seen the place so wet.

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The rain stopped and there was a lovely sunset on Sunday evening.

Predictably, the rain eventually stopped and the sun came out – on Sunday evening, just before we came home.

tap9We took our customary last walk around the village on as the sun went down.  The village looked as beautiful as it usually does, just to tease, or is it torture us, as if the rain had been a figment of our imagination.

On Monday morning we packed up in brilliant sunshine, which I have to say is a lot better than trying to load a car in the pouring rain.  But we did feel entitled to be a bit miffed that the good weather seemed to have returned the day we were going home.

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Our new umbrella stand came in very handy this holiday !!

All the way home the sun shone, even in northern France, where it was sunny and 23°C !!  On the one hand we were pleased to have an easy journey, on the other we were a bit peeved that we seemed to be leaving the good weather behind us and going home.

When we got off the train at Folkestone, to fight our way home on the English motorways, it was dark and foggy.  My dad, bless him, had been to the house and put the central heating back on for when we got home.  Welcome to England !!

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I put the radio on to listen to the Archers on the way home and heard something on the news about some people in Italy ending up in jail because they failed to give accurate forecasts about an earthquake.  Now I know that’s not funny at all, as several hundred people died.  But it did cross my mind whether I had a legitimate complaint against Meteo France for the time wasted in looking for my shorts.

October 20, 2012

A PUZZLE FOR THE WEEKEND

We have just spent the wettest two weeks ever in Le Grand Pressigny.  By which I mean it has rained to some extent every day, the first time this has ever happened to us.  Never mind, the rain was needed and we have still had a great holiday……..more later.

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However, there were plenty of sunny interludes between the showers and in one of them we found ourselves looking up into a huge tree with these fruit on.  The green thing was on the ground nearby and the leaf came with the fruit.

The question is, what are they, can you eat them and what was the tree?  And how likely are you to find the tree marching up the A1 to York…..?

Bon weekend !!  And sitting here in front of our lovely woodburning stove in South Touraine, the rain pouring down outside, although there is nowhere else I would rather be, I do hope the sun shines for you this weekend !!

October 1, 2012

A NICE DAY OUT

So we went to Nottingham on Saturday.  We needed to shop for some new clothes for Nick.  He’s away in London for a few days and has to go to a formal dinner.  He fished his dinner suit out of his wardrobe last week and discovered that it had shrunk !!  Quelle surprise !!  It’s a good job he decided to try it on and not just pack it in his case.  He had also sent his best black shoes to the charity shop earlier this year so we needed those as well.

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There was a light shower as we headed towards Carluccio’s for our lunch but otherwise it turned out to be a pleasant early autumn day. carluccios2 We arrived at 12.30 and the restaurant was fairly quiet.  It soon filled up and within minutes of us arriving, people who had not reserved a table were being turned away. 

carluccios3The atmosphere inside is lively but even when it is full you still feel you have room to breathe.  It’s light and airy and the tables are not crammed too close together.

carluccios4 I completely forgot to photograph the food until my pudding arrived !!  Nick had mozzarella salad, a spicy sausage pasta dish and tiramisu.  I had tuna fishcake, tortellini stuffed with venison and a sort of apricot stuffed bread pudding served with a little cup of the most delicious chocolate sauce I have ever had.  I could have just eaten a bucket of that and called it quits, actually – if only I had known !!!

We drank a prosecco to begin with, a glass of robust Italian red with our meal and an espresso to finish off.  You can see the menu if you click on the link here.

carluccios5Just next door to Carluccio’s is another restaurant called Prezzo.  I guess from the name it’s another Italian place.  I haven’t tried it (yet).  Just up the road is Jamie’s, a Jamie Oliver restaurant.  I haven’t tried that either.  I think the thought of all those chipped plates and mis-matched cutlery that he is so fond of is slightly off-putting, also that you can’t book in advance.  I do like to be certain that I’m going to get some lunch if I have my heart set on it !!

carluccios6 We used the tram service to get into the centre of Nottingham.  It’s an excellent service.  We leave our car at the park-and-ride just off the M1 motorway where we can park for free.  Trams are every ten minutes or so and it takes about twenty minutes to get into town.  The journey takes you through some interesting parts of Nottingham so it’s not at all tedious.  The fare is £3.50 to ride the tram as much as you like all day, which is good value I think, certainly compared to the cost of parking in town and the hassle of driving the car all the way in.

carluccios7 We both really enjoy a day in Nottingham.  The shopping is good, with plenty of independent shops as well as all the usual big chains.  Naturally a must-do for me is a browse round Lakeland every time, although this time I didn’t buy anything – I usually do, even if it’s only a pack of parchment circles for my cake tins !!

We also like the architecture in the town and the fact that there are plenty of quality shops.  So many places seem to have lost their high-end retailers and then the cheap shops and pound-shops sprout up on every street corner.   It’s nice to have a mix of shops but if you lose the quality ones the people who keep the rest going as well don’t come any more and the town goes into steep decline.  That’s my theory anyway.  Maybe it’s to do with the rates they are charged by the council.  If you try to squeeze too much money out of retailers they give up and move out so then there’s nothing.

carluccios8 carluccios9 carluccios9a carluccios9b carluccios9c carluccios9d I’m just finishing off with some pictures of the roses and other flowers in our garden.  They looked lovely in the sunshine with a few raindrops on them this morning.  Soon they will be gone until next year, which always makes me sad.

It’s been a good year for our hydrangeas.  The lousy summer with so much rain has seen them flourish.  I suppose the “hydra” bit of their name is for a good reason !!  So at least it’s been a good year for something !!

Toodle pip !!