Sunday, 22 March 2015

A name changer...

One of our other blogs...

Touraine Flint

has changed its name and header...
it is now...

Following Others' Footsteps.

The change came about when we realised that there is so much history to this area...
and, for us particularly, that of La Forge itself and its environs...
that the title "Touraine Flint" was a "bloggers handicap"...
especially that flint word.

We are finding bits of flint all the time...
some of it is worked...
and some of it is from Man's workings past and recent.
However, flint is especially hard to photograph clearly and show detail...
but there will still be reports of findings...
we've recently found out a lot about the buildings here at La Forge....
and we've just had the roof of the longère fettled....
which revealed more detail still....

it isn't just those from pre-history that have lived here...
and that is occupying a lot of our thoughts and time.

And Pauline has been... and still is...
researching some wonderful snippets of WW1 information from a scrap of paper...
that, in 1915, someone used as a rawlplug in our old kitchen...
a fascinating, one hundred-year-old story...
actually a set of stories...

But we felt that our original aim for Touraine Flint was off target...
so we've changed...

To see much more...
with illustrations....

Following Others' Footsteps.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Dogs, chickens and clogs

The lofts of our old farmhouse are floored from end with square terracotta tiles, sometimes called tomettes. The good condition of these tiles and the care with which any gaps between floor and wall were sealed with cement to exclude "nibblers", indicates that the lofts were used to store grain, until quite recently.

Several of them bear the impression of passing feet. When the burden of tiles was off the roof, we could see them much more clearly: -

dog - at a run, followed by variations on a theme of "gerroffit you ..."
Chicken, or chickens

and - a couple of these....

To me, that looks like the print of a clog iron, from the sole of a child sized clog, complete with nails.

You can buy clog irons, British style, from Walkley Clogs, of the Yorkshire town of Mythomroyd, a place we visited with Les Hiboux 2CV group.Traditional dance groups, for example, often dance in clogs, to the ruination of many a good wooden dance floor.

A set of clog irons, complete with nails, as sold by Walkley's
We found a sabot (wooden shoe) hidden in the lofts when we first moved in. The practise of hiding shoes in buildings is well documented here by June Swann. She says that shoes
"are symbols of authority, as in the Old Testament. They are linked with fertility: we still tie them on the back of wedding cars. And they are generally associated with good luck (witness all the holiday souvenirs in the shape of shoes).  But most of all they stand in for the person: it has been a common practise from at least the sixteenth century to at least 1966 to throw an old shoe after people ‘for luck’."
She concludes that a shoe hidden in the roof may be an "I was here" symbol representing the roofer who finished the work, in a sort of topping-out ceremony. I shall have to ask Loic if one of his team would like to hide an old shoe, without telling us where it is!

Our sabot is made of one piece of birch wood, and is a typical farm worker's clog. Here is a description (in French) of the sabot-making process, from the genealogy of the Sousquiers family. Agricultural workers would go to the blacksmith to get a reinforcement for the wooden sole, at toe and heel. For the sole this could be an iron plate in the form of an ogive, following the curve of the shoe. Sometimes these were made from a jam pot lid, held on with round-headed hobnails.
  • Les cultivateurs préféraient du résistant : ils allaient voir le forgeron qui usinait des talons métalliques fixés par trois pointes dans les oreilles de fer. Ces morla emprisonnaient le talon et le garantissaient à la fois de l'usure et de l'éclatement. 
  • Pour la semelle, deux techniques prévalent : une plaquette de fer, en forme d'ogive, ou une tôle récupérée dans une boîte de conserve. La fixation se faisait à l'aide de tachouns (clous) à tête ronde. L'inconvénient de ces ferrures réside dans le fait qu'elles " attrapent " la neige ; il faut interrompre la marche pour dessocar (détacher le bloc de neige).

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Cheesy pumpkin muffins

Herewith another of the trio of recipes "cuisine express" by Flavie Degrave that I found in a magazine, the name of which I no longer recall, in the physotherapists' waiting room. Muffins with Beaufort cheese and red onion squash - simple enough store-cupboard ingredients, we have a couple of potimarrons left and several cheeses in the fridge, "certainly what it takes to make [this recipe]".

The original recipe - muffins with beaufort cheese and red onion squash
So here's cheesy pumpkin muffins.

Shared between twelve cases, they look tasty but rather miserly
  • I substituted St Nectaire, which we had lots of in the freezer, for the Beaufort which is 22 euros a kilo on promo. Both are a "cooked" cheese with a soft but firm texture and a distinctive flavour. Both have AOP status (several paragraphs deleted here burbling on about "patrimoine" and "terroir", both untranslatable unless you are allowed to include a 12-page essay).
  • The recipe says "half a potimarron". Now that's a moveable feast: a potimarron (a.k.a. Red Onion /  Red Kuri / Uchiki Kuri squash) can easily weigh a kilo and a half. I used a small butternut squash which yielded 300 grammes prepared weight of pumpkin flesh and it was too much. No more than 250g, let's say 200g.
  • I split the mixture between 12 muffin cases. The muffins did not rise much, with so much pumpkin to flour, and they looked lost in the paper cases, to which they stuck firmly. The recipe makes six standard muffins and I recommend using silicon moulds rather than paper cases. 
  • I had no fresh chives, so I used a sprinkling of dried lovage; dried thyme could add an interesting dimension. 
  • I added a pinch of cayenne. Naughty, but nice.
  • Most of the time was taken up with the chopping. Once it was all done, the recipe is a doddle. 
  • After the recommended cooking time of 25 minutes using a fan-assisted oven the muffins were not done and I gave them another 10 minutes. They really needed a bit longer - I'd say don't use fan assist to avoid burning the top. It will take longer to cook the same mixture divided into six instead of twelve, but the removal of the paper case will speed things up ... the square on the hypotenuse ... windage ... let g be the acceleration due to gravity... oh, give it another ten minutes and poke one with a skewer!
Next time I'll do this mix as six muffins

Muffins with Beaufort / St Nectaire cheese and red onion squash

200g peeled potimarron, butternut or Crown Prince squash, cut into small dice
80g Beaufort or St Nectaire cheese, cut into small dice
10 leaves chives, rinsed and snipped into short lengths
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
50 g onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 eggs
110g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
65ml olive/sunflower oil
50ml milk
Freshly ground pepper
A pinch of salt

Soften the onion and garlic in a tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil for 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, sprinkle with pepper, put on the lid and let it cook for 5 minutes. Add the chives or other herbs of your choice, stir and allow the mixture to cool (immerse the bottom of the pan in cold water if necessary).. Meanwhile, lay out six silicone muffin moulds on a baking sheet, or line 6 muffin moulds with greaseproof paper or muffin cases.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Beat the eggs. Putting the pumpkin and the cheese to one side for a minute, mix the remaining wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and give a good stir, but don't overmix or your muffin will be hard on the outside. Add the pumpkin, then the cheese. Share out the mixture between the muffin cases. Cook for 25-40 minutes until done.

Serve at room temperature.

Very tasty, very very tasty ....
And the last recipe - brouillade d'oeufs aux cèpes (scrambled eggs with ceps / bolete mushrooms) - is exactly what it says on the tin. Or in my case, jar.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A chocolate feast!

Last Friday morning I had my usual physiotherapy appointment in Descartes. While waiting for the kiné to appear, I thumbed through the ghastly celeb magazines to find a "star" I'd actually heard of who might be capable of stringing a sentence together. Instead, I turned up a trio of recipes in a magazine I no longer recall the name of. I photographed them with my mobile phone. At the bottom of one page it says "Retrouvez nos recettes sur" but there is no sign of any of them at that address. Apparently there is a fourth one. It must remain in lost El Dorado forever. What they do have there looks good, I must say. That link is well worth following up.

The original recipe
Yesterday I tried "Tartes choco/gingembre" (chocolate and ginger tart) on friends and family. This turned out to be a rich, sophisticated dessert that's as easy as... er...pie. It's a deep, dark chocolate ganache in a crisp sweet pastry shell, garnished with preserved ginger, "confit de gingembre". The buckwheat flour gives the shell a crunch that contrasts welI with the smooth ganache. I substituted home-made confit de clémentines, which gave a fresh lift to the richness of the chocolate.

This recipe serves six, if making tartlets, and at eight in a round tin. The amount of pastry is probably about right for six square tartlets, but I only had a round 21 cm tin and there was twice as much as needed (surface to volume ratio, you know). I found that loose-based tart tins were not a great success. A solid tin or tins is preferable. There is no need to line or grease the tin.


For the pastry :
150g wheat flour
75g buckwheat flour
25g ground almond powder
70g icing sugar
A pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg
For the ganache filling :
300g good quality dark chocolate, the best you can find. I used 72% cocoa solids
30cl liquid cream (30%fat)
To decorate :
30g crystallised ginger
or 2 confit clementines

Prepare the pastry :
Sift the wheat flour and the icing sugar. Place all the dry ingredients for the pastry in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Mix until well blended. Add the butter and the egg. Mix until the pastry forms an irregular ball. Mould it into a ball shape with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill it in the fridge for an hour. Do not leave it in the fridge (as I did, for four hours) because it goes rock-hard - if you need to leave the pastry for more than an hour, move it to a cool place. If making one large tart, cut the pastry ball in half and freeze one half for next time.
Make the pastry shell :
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Pick it up holding the paper only - warning, fingers go through the pastry! Garnish 6 tartlet moulds or one 20cm square mould or one 25cm round mould with the pastry.  Prick the pastry with a fork, cover it with a circle of greaseproof paper wider than the base and weigh it down with baking beans. Blind bake it for 15 minutes, taking out the weights and the greaseproof for the last five minutes to let the bottom of the pastry brown. Leave the pastry shells to cool.
Prepare the ganache :
Cut the chocolate into small pieces (you can use a hand grinder for this) and put it in a heat-proof basin. Bring the cream to the boil and tip it boiling over the chocolate. Leave it untouched for five minutes for the chocolate to melt. Stir well with a spatula until the ganache is smooth.
Fill and decorate the tarts :
Pour the ganache while still hot into the bottom of the cooled pastry shells. Leave to rest at room temperature and, just before serving, garnish with slices of the preserved ginger / clementines.
Save some for next time!

Astuces: Leave the ganache to cool at room temperature rather than in the fridge. It will then stay glossy and won't go hard.

Don't try adding alcohol or anything fancy, it isn't needed. I put walnuts on but they weren't needed either. The pastry should be sweet: the ganache should not.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Pumpkin Conserve - a serving suggestion

Back in December 2011 we posted about a particularly delicious and easy Conserve made from Pumpkin, lemons, sugar and butter.
This week I made some more.

You can just eat it out of the jar with a spoon!
From comments we received, we thought people might be unsure how to serve it.

Take some digestives, some cream cheese and some Pumpkin preserve...
Tim's favourite is an instant Pumpkin Cheesecake, made with a digestive biscuit, a creamy cheese and a dollop of Pumpkin conserve.

And serve.