Tarte aux Pommes / Apple Tart

 

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Tarte aux Pommes/Apple Tart

Early autumn and the fresh apples of every variety seem to be in each market. Their bright colors and crunch are just asking to be incorporated into our menus. This delicious tart is simple and if you include the Calvados, most memorable.
The longer I live in France, the more I realize that every French woman has a different recipe for tarte aux pommes. While the variations may be slight, they are there. In the past year, I have been requested to make a number of them for choir functions and other events. Since I have a tendency to get bored easily, I like to experiment with my basic recipe so what I make one time is not the exact tarte I would serve the next. Don’t let the long list of ingredients and directions put you off. Anywhere you travel in France, Tarte aux Pommes is usually on the menu. You will quickly see how fast and easy it is. Bon appetit!

Tarte aux Pommes
Ingredients

For the crust: 175g plain flour/ 6 ounces,115g /4 ounces butter, room temperature, 25g sour cream / 1 ounce

For the filling: About 6 medium tart baking apples (I prefer Granny Smith), peeled, pitted and sliced, 3 large egg yolks 145g, sour cream/ 5 ounces (crème fraise), 150g granulated sugar / 5 and 1/3 ounces, 35g plain flour / 1 and a half ounces (about 1 heaping tablespoon)

For the glaze: 160g apricot preserves or jam / 5 ounces 1 tbsp Calvados (apple brandy) Whipped topping, for garnish.

For the crust: 1) Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5 or 375ºF. 2) Place the flour, butter, and sour cream in a food processor and pulse to combine. 3) When the dough has formed a ball, pat with lightly floured hands into the bottom and sides of an ungreased tart pan with a removable bottom and 1cm sides, or a round au gratin dish. 4) Bake for about 18 mins, until the crust is set but not browned. Let cool while preparing the filling. 5) Lower the oven temperature to 180°C/Gas 4 or 350ºF.

For the filling: 1) Peel and thickly slice the apples. Arrange the apple slices in overlapping circles on top of the crust, until completely covered. Overfill the crust, as apples will shrink during cooking. 2) Combine the egg yolks, sour cream/crème fraise, sugar, and flour and beat until smooth. Pour the mixture over the apples. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hr, until the custard sets and is pale golden in color. Cover with an aluminum foil tent if the crust gets too dark. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. When cool, remove the sidewall of the pan. 3) To make the glaze, combine the preserves or jam and Calvados. While the Calvados is not essential, it makes an amazing difference. Spread with a pastry brush over the top of the warm tart. Serve the tart warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Variations: I like to add the zest of an orange or lime and some grated fresh ginger to the custard mixture.

Bon appetit and I hope you enjoy this little taste of France.

Bisous,

Léa

Building a dream

This can easily take your breath away and stimulate your imagination.

Lazy French Hiker

The postman’s dream

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the Drôme is a place called Hauterives, and in this place, in the 1800s, lived a postman called Ferdinand Cheval. In the daytime he delivered the letters by foot, and dreamed about an ideal, fairylike, beautiful palace. In the nighttime, he built it.

He had already been building his “palace, castle, a type of grotto” in his head for years when one day a weirdly shaped stone rolled into his path. He picked it up and put it in his pocket and everything started from there. For the next thirty-three years he constructed his Ideal Palace, collecting strange stones and sculpting his edifice.

“From a dream, I have brought out the queen of the world”

I visited this on a wandering cowboy day. I used to be a travelling sales rep, and I described it as being a “wandering drunk…

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Ici, Alleurs, A coté

Ici, Alleurs, A coté
Ici, Alleurs, A coté

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you’ll go.”  – Dr. Seuss

“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.”  – Diane Duane

“Reading brings us unknown friends.” – Honoré de Balzac

 

While still in Montolieu and having toured the Conservatory of Book Arts & Crafts, we were in serious need of refreshments and then there are books to be discovered. We were  in luck as just across from the museum was a charming tea shop/bookstore. On this particular day, the books were to wait as we indulged in the tea and delicious cakes. The cakes to choose from on that day were chocolate or chestnut. The small tea cakes had been baked in a rose shaped mold, were moist and delicious. While I am a chocoholic, I choose the chestnut one and it was amazing. Nathalie is a gracious host and as we left we met one of the resident cats. After all, what is a bookstore without a cat or two in residence?Montolieu has much to offer. There are numerous shops, cafés, museums, courses on paper and book making and don’t forget all those bookstores! While admittedly most books are in French, there are numerous other languages represented as well as collectibles. My personal policy is that I “must” find a collection o poems by a French poet each visit. My collection grows and it is also part of my French learning I assigned myself.  If you are into books, reading or writing, there is something here for you. If not, it is a beautiful place to stroll and have a picnic.

Besides having the books and tea shop, like many shops in the village there is a good selection of regional products available. When you visit Montolieu, stop in and meet Nathalie and Stéphane.

Bisous,

Livres, books, livres, books...
Livres, books, livres, books…

Léa

Flowers & Cakes!
Flowers & Cakes!

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Tea room side of the shop
Tea room side of the shop – Nathalie and Yvonne
Ready?
Ready?
Special blends on offer
Special blends on offer
View from the bridge across the road
View from the bridge across the road
A great place for a picnic!
A great place for a picnic!

Michel Braibant Museum/ Conservatory of Book Arts & Crafts

“Until I feared to lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”  – Harper Lee

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… the man who never reads lives but one.” – Georger R.R. Martin

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

 

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Le musée

 

 

When my friend Yvonne pops over from London, we often find ourselves off to explore. This particular adventure was back to Montolieu – Village du Livre (Village of Books).

While I could spend endless days in the beautiful village of books, we had a limited amount of time this trip and the museum was the focus of this trip. If you would like to see more of the village, I recommend checking out my post of 12/12/2011. Or best of all, visit Montolieu yourself!

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Located in Montagne Noir (Black Mountains) this small village (pop: 1,400) has 23 bookshops. Each Autumn, they host an ancient book festival. Naturally, as one might expect, such a village is popular with artists and there are a number of small galleries.

Le musée traces the history of print from Pictographs to the Alphabet, from Clay to Paper and the invention of Typography (1454), Linotype (1884), Monotype (1887), Stanhope Press (early 19th century) and so much more.

30,000 BCE: Pictographs are pictures and symbols and represent the first written forms. Concepts are represented by figures and scenes.

4,000 BCE: Ideograms/ideographs are a logographic writing system in which graphic symbols are used to represent words. They originated in Egypt and China where ideograms evolved into its current stylised script system.

1,300 BCE: The Phoenicians invent and disseminate the first alphabet. A limited number of letters that they allowed for the formation of sounds.

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1,000 BCE: The Greeks adopt the Phoenician alphabet that they then adapt to their language by introducing vowels.

700 BCE: The Latin or Roman alphabet appears as an adaption of the Etruscan alphabet which had been borrowed from Greek colonists in Italy. Today, the Latin alphabet is the most widely used in the world.

The earliest materials for writing were stones, shells, wood and even tortoiseshells.

4,000BCE: Mesopotamian clay and the tool used was the “calame” or reed stylus.

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3,000 BCE: Egyptian papyrus, a plant found along the banks of the Nile. The “calame” or stylus is made from a blend of soot and resin.

200 BCE: Parchment, is animal skin (goat, calf, sheep…) which has been specially prepared for writing. The writing tool of tis period is a goose feather quill. Ink is made from a compound of vegetable and mineral pigments with egg white as a binding agent.

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105 CE: Paper was invented in China by Ts’ai Lun. It was made from vegetable fibre which was reduced to a paste. The process stayed a secret until 751 CE and later introduced in Europe by the Arabs.

Middle Ages: The majority of the population was illiterate and books were rare and precious objects. Therefore, the thoughts they contained were not widely known. In monasteries, monks copied and recopied  the manuscripts with each copy errors

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compounded and diminished the original meaning of the text.

1454 Invention of Typography:

The German metal-worker/inventor, Johann Gutenberg combined lead, antimony and tin creating an alloy which could be used repeatedly. Gutenberg is generally credited with perfecting metal moveable type.

Linotype: Invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1884 and

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produced solid lines of text case from rows of matrices. The line-composing operation was accomplished by means of a keyboard similar to that of a typewriter. However, it was much faster than hand-set typesetting and permitted the wide circulation of printed material. It was primarily used for the composition of newspapers.

Monotype: Another type of hot metal composition which appeared in 1887.

Stanhope Press: This press appears at the beginning of the 19th century, and consists of a massive cast-iron frame. It replaces wood presses, but

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impressions are still made page by page and inking remains manual.

Plate Press: This press appears in the middle of the 19th century and increases the speed at which printed matter can be produced. The carriage is flat and pedal-driven and rubber ink rollers. It is fed manually.

Heidelberg Press: Appears in the early 20th century. With its high speed cylinder press and an automatic feeding and placing device which pivoting racks pick

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up the paper by the use of suction to the entire surface.

Nebiolo Cylinder Press: First appears in the 1940’s. The base is no longer vertical and fixed, but horizontal and mobile. Print form moves under the cylinder to which the paper is attached.

Lithography: Makes its appearance in the late 18th century  and gives birth to Offset in the 20th century. This method is based on the chemical repellence of oil and water.

Massicot: This cutting device was perfected by Claude Massicot and allows for clean cuts for reams of paper.

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As you might easily imagine, there is much more to see in this museum than can be covered here in a single post.  If you plan to visit the south of France, a trip to Montolieu is well worth the visit.

Bisous,

Léa

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Bookpress
Bookpress
Alphabet
Alphabet
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Making art accessible to the masses

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Moulins



Located in Central France, Moulins is in the region of the Auvergne and is approximately 2.5 hours south of Paris. The towers of the Cathedral and Eglise du Sacre-Coeur dominate the skyline. The eglise is home to a Black Madonna and child statue in wood and is from the 15th century.

JEANNE D’ARC

Moulins grew up in the 10th century and takes its name from the many mills, which once lined the department (Allier).

Because Moulins was the capital of the duchy of Bourbonnais (c. 10th-16th century). It has noteworthy artistic and historic treasures. When I visited in 2006, the House of Bourbonn was wrapped in scaffolding and limited my photo options. I look forward to rectifying this and visiting this stunning city again. Naturally, I will post the next visit here.

 

 

While in Moulins, visit Grand Café. It has the notable first of having the first telephone and the first automobile in the area. The owner would proudly park his new motorcar outside and watch the tourists pour in.

 

 

 

Until the time of the French Revolution, Moulins served as capital for the province of Bourbonnais and the seat of the Dukes of Bourbon. Its existence can be documented as early as the year 990.

The town gained in prominence when Charles IV elevated Louis I de Clermont to Duke of Bourbon in 1327. Before establishing her career, the orphaned young Coco Chanel was educated here. Moulins was the birthplace of the great 19th century operatic baritone and art collector Jean-Baptiste Faure.

Bisous,

Léa

La Fête Nationale

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”  – Charles de Gaulle  (current numbers list approximately 1600 different varieties)

“It was not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.” – Gertrude Stein

“It is better to prevent than to heal.” –  French Proverb

 

Although this post is late, it is still July and though the festival did not happen this year, due to Covid-19, I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull this old post out of the mothballs and share how we normally celebrate in our little village to celebrate this most important of holidays. Thank you for stopping by a small French village. It is my hope that next year’s fete will give us, once again, the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate all that comes with living in such a wonderous village and Country.

When it is spoken of in English speaking countries, 14 July is usually called Bastille Day or (French National Day). Here in France, it is La quatorze juillet (14 July) or La Fête Nationale (Formal name). The actual storming of the bastille was 14 July 1889

Make reservations?
Make reservations?

The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the heart of Paris. On the morning of 14 July 1789, the people stormed the building and released the seven prisoners it contained at the time. Yet this action had nothing to do with the number of inmates but the fact that the storming was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy and was the critical stage which erupted into the French Revolution.

Grab a beverage and start socialising!
Grab a beverage and start socialising!

There were three events that led up to the revolution. First was the revolt of the nobility, refusal to aid King Louis XVI by withholding taxes, the second was formation of the National Assembly and the third event was the storming of the Bastille and the ensuing Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Christiane (Counsel member) is ready for a lovely evening with family and friends
Christiane (Counsel member) is ready for a lovely evening with family and friends
A Counsel member chats with the DJ - a band takes over when the meal is finished!
A Counsel member chats with the DJ – a band takes over when the meal is finished!
A great view of the castle and fireworks
A great view of the castle and fireworks
Henri et Georgette - await their respective spouses
Henri et Georgette – await their respective spouses
Christiane, Serge et Pierrette
Christiane, Serge et Pierrette

The masses formed the National Guard, sporting tricolour or cockades (cocardes) ribbons knotted together of red, blue and white. These cockades and soon the color scheme itself, become symbol of the revolution and continue today as symbol of France itself.

 

And the dancing begins
And the dancing begins

While the date for the destruction of the Bastille was indeed 14 July 1789, the date for French National Day was actually 14 July, 1790 to commemorate the 1790 Fête de la Fédération. It is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and reconciliation of all French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution. Celebrations are held all over France. A largest and oldest military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign quests.

Dance the night away... at least until 5am
Dance the night away… at least until 5am

Here in my small village, there will be a meal (repas) attended by all who wish. Each year a different village organization takes charge of preparing the dinner, selling tickets procuring music and everything else that is involved. As the meal comes to a close fireworks are shot from the village chateau. The tables and chairs get moved way back and the dancing goes on well into the morning. Despite the fact that I was, once again, invited to spend the day in Carcassonne where there is the second largest fireworks display outside Paris. However, the evening with my friends and neighbors cannot be matched by a mere firework display. It is one day I truly do not want to be anywhere else.

Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well
Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well

Seating fills quickly but you can make a reservation by stationing someone from your group or by placing something at one point, tipping forward the chairs you will be using and also with a pen or marker put the name and number of guests you require seating for. While this may sound simple, the claim is respected and your seats await you.

Barbe à papa (Papa's beard) AKA Cotton Candy
Barbe à papa (Papa’s beard) AKA Cotton Candy

 

Collioure

With its position on the Mediterranean, Collioure has been a highly desired location. It has been occupied by Roman and Greek Sea Merchants and sailors

Kitchen is inside the bus

and they left a very rich legacy.King Wamba of the Visigoths occupied Collioure in 673. He named the village Caucoliberis and the town was established as major trading port.

This idyllic town perched on the rocky coastline. Its colorful houses seem to rise up out of the sea. This tranquil Catalan harbor with its sheltered bay is where the Pyrenees bows to The Mediterranean. My first visit to Collioure was in November and it was not too cold for a relaxing swim.

Art de vivre has its origins in this Catalan village. The artist Matisse brought his family to Collioure for summers and was quite prolific. He was later joined by André Derain with whom he founded the Fauvist Movement. The artists following this school were often referred to as “la cage aux fauves” or the wild beasts. There works wild with vibrant colors and brushstrokes like Collioure itself. Between the two the produced a formidable amount of work with over 240 drawings, paintings and sculptures in Collioure and its surrounding area.

When you visit Collioure you can discover some of their works by following a trail that winds itself through the village, with replicas at 20 sites where these Fauvist works were first painted or drawn. For maps, information & tours visit Espace Fauve, Quai de l’Amiraute, when in Collioure.

Collioure was also a favorite place to work for Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others. As you might imagine you will see many artists at work on your visit and often they will have something you might purchase to take home with you.

Life is all too short. Visit Collioure and discover its magical powers to inspire!

   Bisous,

Léa


Le Château d’ Aguilar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Château d’ Aguilar rises in the Cathar country, ensconced in a landscape of aromatic garrigue vegetation. A stark contrast to the  order of the Haut Fitou vineyards. Set on the rock like a crown, the castle looks over the village of Tuchan. The first mention of Puy Aguilar appeared in the testament of the Count of Besalù in 1020.

 Possession of The Château fell under the auspices of vassals of the Trencavel family. The crusade to eradicate the Cathars began in 1209 lasting until 1255. At the conclusion of this inquisition, the castle was property of the King of France. Ownership was bestowed to Olivier de Termes as a reward for services rendered in the Holy Land.

In 1258, the castle was brought into service in defending the French-Aragon border. In 1260 the castle was integrated  info the royal domain by The King of France, Louis IX and became a royal fortress.

The castle is composted of two hexagonal walls. One composed of two rooms (upper and lower) and constructed in the 12th century. The lower floor was designated for the guards and light came through the vaulted narrow windows. The upper floor served as home to the castle keeper. 

The outer hexagonal wall added in the 14th century and is flanked by six semi-circular towers to impede invading armies. Outside its curtained walls to the east stands the Romanesque chapel of St. Anne.

A traditional Romanesque chapel dedicated to St Anne    stands on the outside of the curtain-wall, on the eastern side. The castle and the surrounding area obtained status as a Historical Monument in 1949.

Information is available in several languages at the bureau located at the foot of the trail. You can purchase books and postcards or grab a bottle of water. The castle is currently undergoing repairs and excavation to the subterranean levels which have long been inaccessible.

Bisous,

Léa

Feu de la Saint-Jean/Fête de la Musique

Le feu

The Midsummer day is merely in reference to the period  of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. There can be a variation of dates between different cultures. In Estonia, Lativa and Scandinavian cultures, is it the most important holiday of the year with the exception of Christmas.

Before the flames

The French will celebrate the Fête de la Saint-Jean or le feu de la Saint-Jean, with bonfires reminiscent of pagan solstice rituals. The association with Saint-Jean was used when the Catholics adopted the tradition. In my village, the festival takes place near June 21st. The festivities are launched by a drumming group. Even though there is a DJ for the dancing to follow, the drummers stay to enjoy the festival and to lead the procession at 11:30 around the village for the lighting of the bonfire. A number of people carried colorful paper lanterns suspended on a pole as we walked about the village.

In some parts of France, the event is called Chavande and also known as Fête de la Musique. In some parts of the world it is known as World Music Day and associated with an event that was launched here in France on 21 June, 1982 and celebrates the gift of music. While music is usually a major component to any celebration here in France, it does not take center stage at this local venue.

Dinner space converts to dance space
Two members of the Drumming Circle
Two members of the Drumming Circle

The idea of the World Music Day was   conceptualized first in France in 1976 by American musician Joel Cohen who proposed an all-night music celebration to mark the beginning of the summer solstice.
The idea was taken up by French Music and Dance director Maurice Fleuret for Minister of Culture Jack Lang in 1981 and first took place in 1982 in Paris.
Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with over 32 countries worldwide having their own celebrations in their own way, regardless of the season.

           Bisous,

Léa

 

Bon appetit!

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

La Cité

The Historic Monuments Commission agreed to undertake the restoration of La Cite in 1844. 

Two concentric rings of curtain wall surround the city, the ramparts cover a total of 3km. Parts of the inner wall show the remains of Roman times. The second wall is separated from the first and was constructed in the 13th Century.

There is a total of 52 towers surrounding the city and the Chateau Comtal, the heart of the fortifications. Originally the palace of the viscounts, it was reinforced and protected by a semi-circular barbican and a moat.

The genesis of Carcassonne goes back to pre-Roman time. The Cité’s structure today derives from the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout this time, Carcassonne was ruled by the Trencavel family. The Trencavel’s were central to the development of the Cathar religion.
The Cathars were generally known as “bons hommes” “bons chrétiens” and “parfaits”, they were regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the ensuing conflict was characterized by unspeakable violence and persecution. In the summer of 1209 forces led by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, consisting of “crusaders” and armies of the King of France, laid siege to Carcassonne.

Despite this, in August 1209, Carcassonne fell. The young Vicomte, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, was thrown into his own prison and died there aged 24. Simon de Montfort was installed as the new Viscount.
Today the Trencavels’ Château Comtal is a powerful reminder of the medieval need to protect one’s home – a fortified sector within a heavily fortified town. Only one gate was wide enough for carts to pass into the Cité

La Cité is a must for most tourists to this region and children all find something to fascinate them. Money generated by the businesses there insure that the attraction will be there for future generations.

Bisous,

Léa