April 22, 2013

A MUSICAL INTERLUDE

Now that – dare I say it – spring has finally sprung here in Derbyshire, we are busy, busy.  I am considering putting my bag of rock salt and snow shovels back in the shed……..we know what happened the day after I did that last year !!

This morning, Nick got the 7am train to London for two days, then he’s off to Boston, Massachusetts – yes, that Boston – for just two days then he gets back in time for us to go and see Vincent and Flavia in Strictly Tango in Nottingham on Saturday.  While he’s away I will be working three days (as usual) and trying to make at least part of the garden look something like presentable after the ravages of winter on my two days at home.  Phew.

So I liked the moody tango theme to the new Caro Emerald song from her forthcoming album.  We don’t buy too many CD’s these days but I might just splash out on this one when it’s released.

Have a good week !!

April 17, 2013

HANDY REPAIR WORK

repairs

A door in Le Petit-Pressigny repaired using the lid of a tin.

I wonder what sort of tin it was – apple compote perhaps, or olives.  Maybe even tomatoes or beans.  But probably not Heinz baked beans, and almost certainly a long time ago.

This is only the second door I have seen repaired using a tin lid.  The other is in Le Grand-Pressigny, and that has been repaired using the lid from a sardine tin – you can see that from the fish shape impressed into the metal.

I suspect that these are not the only ones !!

April 11, 2013

HOLIDAY BAKING

CROQUE MADAME MUFFINS

croque1

The first time I attempted to make these it was a total disaster.  I constructed the muffins then as I put them in the oven I caught the muffin tin on the oven shelf, the whole thing fell out of my hands and landed upside down on the oven door !!

Yesterday we had a visitor at lunchtime chez nous and I decided to try making them again.  It was either grim determination not to be beaten by mere muffins, or misguided optimism.  As it happened, they turned out fine.  In fact they were yummy.

A croque madame is essentially a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with with some béchamel sauce and an egg in it – croque monsieur being the same thing but without the egg.  The idea for the muffins came from the totally charming series that was on TV last year featuring the cook Rachel Khoo.

To make six muffins you take six slices of thin white bread – the Mother’s Pride type of sliced bread that my dad used to have for his sandwiches every day of his working life.  Much to my amazement you can buy this stuff in French supermarkets and in fact you can even buy it with the crusts already cut off, which is perfect for the recipe as that’s exactly what you need.

First you make a fairly stiff béchamel sauce by melting 1 tablespoon of butter in a small pan, stirring in 1 tablespoon of flour and cooking for a minute until the mixture (roux) is smooth, then stirring in 200ml of milk.  Cook until it thickens and add a good pinch of grated nutmeg and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.

Next you melt some butter in a small saucepan and then brush it over both sides of the bread, having first made the bread thinner by rolling it with a rolling pin.  Use each slice of bread to line a hole of a muffin tin.

Put a bit of ham in the bottom of the muffin and add the yolk of an egg with a little of the white.  (If you use a whole egg the muffin will be too full of egg and there will be no room for the sauce.)

Spoon about a tablespoon of the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle some grated cheddar, gruyere or comté cheese on top of that.  Brush the edges of the bread with more melted butter if you have any left.

Bake for 15 mins at 180°C if you like your egg runny or 20 mins if you like it cooked.

One muffin per person makes a small snack – it is after all only one egg and one slice of bread.  Two muffins with a little salad makes a nice lunch.  Two muffins each with chips makes a really good treat !!

If you want to see how it’s done properly here’s Rachel Khoo herself showing you how :

April 4, 2013

MAKING THE MOST OF THINGS

It’s raining and rather grey here in Le Grand-Pressigny today.  Cold, too.  But for the previous four days we have had plenty of lovely sunshine.

sunshine

This picture was taken yesterday.  It was sunny and warm enough to sit outside and have our lunch on the terrace.  For lunch we had some quiche and a slice of roast pork with a bit of salad, fresh bread and a glass of rosé wine.  For dessert we shared two éclairs from the boulangerie – one was coffee and one chocolate and we both had half of each.  In fact most of our lunch came from the shops in the village.

So although it’s raining today and we have spent the afternoon close to our wood burning stove, at least we have a few days’ sunshine under our belt at last.  It was lovely while it lasted and we made the most of it.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the rest of our stay.