Friday, 14 August 2015

Disgusted, absolutely disgusted!!

I went on our monthly bottle run...
to the bottle bin by the Salle des Fêtes in Grand Pressigny this afternoon.
On my arrival I was greeted by this mess....


The signage here is in English
NO LITTER



Some Anglais had left ALL their holiday rubbish between the bin for glass...
and the bin for paper.
How do I know that these lazy people are from the UK...
look at these...


The pink at the back is the House of Fraser bag mentioned below....



I got rid of what I could...

Over fifty bottles for a start...
a lot of them bought on the ferry over...
other stuff brought with them from the UK...
especially the spirit bottles with UK Duty Paid stickers...
the Asda "Bag for Life" in the second picture was one of two...
but the biggest bag of bottles was a House of Fraser one...
with a receipt at the bottom...
from the Skipton branch!!
Skipton is in Yorkshire....
and they own property here...
or know someone who does...
they had thrown some stuff there in yellow SMITCOM recycling sacks!

But it wasn't just the bottles...
there was a broken mirror...
a lot of soggy cardboard boxes...
another plastic shopping bag...
full of ends of bread...
two sacks of general household rubbish...
if I had the time, I'd open those two and see if I could find a name!!
But I haven't got any 'Elf and Safety' kit to protect me...

We had enough of that laziness....
that outright carelessness....
and that anti-social behaviour in Leeds...
it is what we moved away from...
so, fellow Brits...
take your rubbish with you next time...
better still...
stay away from Grand Pressigny!!

I am really ashamed to come from the same part of the UK!!
What you see above is the side of Not-so-great Britain...
that Le Tour was probably shielded from!!

Posted by Disgusted of GP

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Quetsche plum and walnut butter cake temporary post

Ingredients:

    some Butter to grease the pan and some Flour to dust over it
    8 large Quetsch Plums (about 1 pound or 550 grams), cut in half and pitted
    1 cup/220g of granulated White Sugar, plus 4 Tablespoons of Sugar divided into two equal parts (2 Tablespoons and 2 Tablespoons)
    1/4 / 60ml cup of Brandy or Cognac
    8 Tablespoons / 115 g of Butter, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon of Lemon Zest, finely grated
    1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
    1 cup / 170g of Flour
    1/2 teaspoon of Baking Powder
    1/2 teaspoon of Salt
    2 large Eggs, at room temperature
    1 ounce of Walnuts (25 grams), toasted, ground and cooled (or about 1/4 cup of ground, toasted walnuts, cooled)
    some Powdered Sugar to sprinkle over the baked cake
    a bowl of lightly whipped and sweetened Heavy Cream is nice to serve alongside the cake

Equipment:

    a Processor or Blender for grinding the walnuts
    a 9-inch Springform Pan, lined with Parchment Paper
    2 Mixing Bowls
    a Sifter
    a Mixer, hand or standing
    a small Strainer for sprinkling powdered sugar over the baked cake

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter, dust it with flour, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2.  Place the halved and pitted plums in a bowl.  Pour the brandy over them and sprinkle them with 2 Tablespoons of the sugar divided into two parts

3.  Cream the butter with 1 cup of sugar, the grated lemon zest, and the vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and beat them into the butter.

4.  Beat the eggs until they start to foam.  Add them and the walnuts to the flour and butter:
5.  Pour the batter into the pan.  Arrange the plums on top in rings, cut side down.  Sprinkle with any remaining brandy/sugar syrup and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar.  (The syrup may leak from the pan onto the oven floor.  A piece of foil placed on the rack below the one holding the cake will catch the drips).

6.  Bake the cake for 1 hour, or until it is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool for 10 minutes… …before removing the ring of the springform pan and transferring the cake to a plate.  (It isn’t essential to remove the cake from the bottom of the pan and peel off the parchment.  The cake is best when served warm and before it cools it’s difficult to remove the paper.)  Put a little powdered sugar in a small strainer and sieve the sugar over the top of the cake……before removing the ring of the springform pan and transferring the cake to a plate.

Recipe from US Diplomatic corps

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Cheery chops

As usual I had no idea what to cook for dinner tonight, but there were chops in the freezer and wasp-gnawed apples in need of use, so I came up with a baked dish to serve with some of last year's potatoes and some of this year's massive crop of runner beans.

Leftovers - all the additions made a lovely sauce
Four pork échine chops
One apple, cored but not peeled, cut into large pieces
Four shallots, peeled, whole
One head of garlic, separated into cloves
Three tablespoons apricot nectar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place the chops in a baking dish and scatter on the apple pieces, garlic cloves and shallots. Drizzle on a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 180 degrees for half an hour, turning the chops over once. Add the cherry tomatoes, pour on the apricot nectar, check and adjust the seasoning and return the dish to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have collapsed and all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with mashed potato and steamed runner beans.

I adore runner beans. I used to grow the variety Painted Lady, but I don't bother now - it doesn't "do" well here. Even in a normal summer, conditions are too dry for it to set seed. In France, runners (phaseolus coccineus to the botanist) are called "Haricot d'Espagne" and are mainly grown for their pretty red-and-white flowers. French beans, phaseolus vulgaris, are to be found in every potager.

Moonlight in full flower with beans on their way
Once again, "Moonlight" is producing splendidly, despite the drought and high temperatures. We now have a full complement of eight perennial "Moonlight" plants, each with a thick root like a parsnip under the ground. The stems disappear entirely in the autumn, and nothing happens until the end of May when the first scrawny leaves poke up out of the ground. In order to be sure I got some Moonlight I had sowed some more seeds by then, of course. These had to be planted in a different location because the original patch was full. So next year there could be two patches of perennial Moonlight. "Bulgarian Purple" also came up with one perennial plant.

Firestorm (red) and Moonlight (white)


This year I am trying "Firestorm", a red-flowered runner/french bean from the same stable as "Moonlight", but I am somewhat underwhelmed by its weak growth and yellowish leaves. It is not coping with the heat as well as "Moonlight", either, and I have had no beans from it yet, nor likely to in short order, whereas both patches of "Moonlight" and the climbing French beans "Cobra" and "Kew Blue" have both started to produce.

Kew Blue
Of all these, my favourite for flavour is "Kew Blue", which I obtained from the Heritage Seed Library. It is a stunning plant, with lilac flowers, dark green leaves, deep purple stems and long, smooth purple beans, which it produces plentifully. I save some seeds every year, and the dried beans cook well, too.
But for a widely available commercial bean, you can't beat "Moonlight".

Saturday, 16 May 2015

My! What a big one!

Oh, what a beauty! I've never seen one as big at that before!....

In her battle to produce a normal-sized egg with a shell on, Blanche surpassed herself yesterday. Her normal egg weighs about  64 grammes.

Prrrk, prrrk, Aaargh!

This one weighs an eye-watering  97 grammes. It's more than a double yolker; it amounts to two eggs in one shell. Apart from its size, it's a normal egg. It'll have to wait its turn to be cooked before we find out what's inside.

How come you do it properly, Alice?

I thought they were making a lot of racket yesterday though.

Little and large
Today's egg (on the right) is the normal size, no doubt to Blanche's relief.

Meanwhile, Alice is still producing eggs at a steady one a day. No doubt to her relier,  too!

Monday, 11 May 2015

What shall I do with all those eggs (part 3)

Our big rhubarb plant, left too long in the pot, is now permanently embedded in the ground, pot and all. It had to be trimmed so that Tim and Simon could move the cold frame from its position in full summer sun, where the plants inside cooked, to a more shady spot on the edge of the hangar.

2 men and a cold frame, featuring the rhubarb plant
So what can you go with a bit under half a pound of rhubarb? It was too good and fresh to waste. There are several versions of Rhubarb and Orange Cake on the Web, virtually identical save for the amount of flour to be included, and hence the cooking time and / or temperature. This one comes from BBC Good Food. The almonds in the mix make the cake wonderfully smooth.

Ingredients

    400g / 7 oz rhubarb, thickly sliced
    280g / 5 oz golden caster sugar
    225g / 4 oz butter, softened
    finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
    225g / 4oz self-raising flour
    100g / 2oz ground almonds
    1 tsp baking powder
    3 medium eggs
    a small handful of flaked almonds
    icing sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Put the rhubarb into a bowl and sprinkle it with 50g of the sugar. Stir so the rhubarb is coated with sugar, then leave it in a cool place for 30 minutes to draw out some of the juices (macerate). Meanwhile, grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm loose-bottomed, round cake tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper. Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / gas mark 4 (160°C / 325°F / gas mark 3 fan assisted).
  2. Tip the remaining sugar, the butter, orange zest and juice into a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk (whizzy stick attachment) until well blended. Add the flour, almonds, baking powder and eggs, then beat again until smooth (none of your namby-pamby folding in here!). Fold in the rhubarb and any juices. Spoon into the tin and level the top.
  3. Sprinkle the top of the cake mixture with the flaked almonds, then bake in the centre of the oven for 60-75 minutes until well risen, golden in colour and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Note the rhubarb stays moist so your skewer may be sticky because of that.  Cover with foil if the cake starts to brown too much during cooking. 
  4. Leave in the tin for 15 minutes then remove it and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with a little icing sugar before serving.
Haven't you had enough cake?

While making the cake I commented that I might forget to include the rhubarb, my concentration being focussed elsewhere. Guess what... I remembered the rhubarb after I had already put half of the mixture in the tin. I just piled it in and hoped the cake would rise through it. It did, thank goodness.

The fresh eggs impart a lovely golden colour to all these desserts. I'm pleased, though, that we have two layers rather than three. Besides being highly decorative, Vinnie doesn't lay eggs!