Marche Aux Truffes

Usually reserved for end of year celebrations, the truffle (truffes) holds an all-conquering pride of place in the dedicated local markets. It also kicks off the grand markets for the new year as this festival runs from late December into February.

The truffle is symbolic of luxury and French gastronomy, this delicacy appears on the menus of all top chefs as soon as it comes into season. The dark jewel hides in the ground at the feet of truffle oak trees and comes into season between December and March, maturing just in time for the winter markets.
End of year celebrations present the perfect opportunity to serve them fresh at our tables following a trip to the truffle markets. Buying them in itself can occasionally involve a certain sense of ritual, whereby buyers are restrained behind a white rope and wait for the blast of a whistle before running and inhaling the scent of these precious mushrooms. While it may be said that we eat with our eyes, it that were totally true, the truffle might never have been tasted. However, one whiff of their exotic and earthy aroma is magical and with that first taste, I was hooked.

There were several bands moving about the event providing a wide variety of music and do not be surprised if folks break out dancing. After all, this is France.

There are many other artists and artisans displaying their wares and many opportunities to indulge in other local products.
In Moussoulens, the Aude capital of truffles, as well as a visit to the truffle market, you can enjoy an excursion to a truffle field or culinary demonstrations from top chefs – using truffle recipes, of course. If you are visiting Carcassonne it is a short drive away and if you like you can combine a visit to the festival to a visit at Montolieu, the village of books. They are a short distance apart. However, from Carcassonne as your base, you can afford to reserve an entire day for Montolieu.

Among dishes on offer were omelettes laced with truffle shavings, grilled duck breast with truffle on a crusty baguette, truffle soup, truffle risotto, truffle butter on baugette. Vendors with truffle infused oil, salt and other treats. Then if you have deep pockets, you can purchase a small sack of truffles. Truffles are carefully weighed and sold at prices that change according to the market. On the day I visited the market, you could purchase a kilo (2.2 pounds) for a mere 1,000 euros. Bon appétit!

Bisous,

Léa

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The Galette des Rois

Modified – Originally posted 29 December 2011

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” – Julia Child

The Galette des Rois

Galette de Roi
Galette de Roi

Celebrating the Feast of Kings.
At this time of year you will see Galette du Roi (or La Galette des Rois) in all the boulangeries in France. The Galette, which celebrates the biblical three kings, appears in the New Year around Epiphany, or the Feast of the Kings. This is normally celebrated in France on the first Sunday (after the first Saturday) in January. Despite this fact, I did get a whiff of warm from the oven galettes in the shop just a few days ago.  Being on my own, I managed to resist temptation of being forced to eat the entire thing. I have no doubt there will be plenty on offer in the weeks to come. Besides, such a treat demands it be shared with friends.

The typical Galette du Roi of the Indre is made of flaky pastry like a pie and filled with frangipane, an almond cream paste. There are regional variations, and some enterprising bakeries offer a different filling for every day in January. However, if you purchase it in a supermarket or discount store, it will be a factory made pastry with the basic filling. Inside the cake is a very small ceramic figurine called a fève ( a bean, which is what they put in galettes long ago). The person who finds the fève is declared the king (le roi) or the queen (la reine) and gets to wear the paper crown that comes with the galette.

If there is no French pâtisserie where you are, I have included a recipe. Don’t be intimidated by its origin as you can use pre-made puff pastry/phyllo dough and have great results. The photo was taken at the pâtisserie of two delightful and slightly mischievous elves known as Valérie & Nadine.

Valirie et N
Valérie  et Nadine H

Ingredients:

1/2 cup ground almonds
1 stick butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup of sugar
2 sheets puff pastry
powdered sugar

Directions:

Grind almonds in food processor
Beat sugar and butter
add two (2) of the eggs and almonds.
You now have Frangipane!
Butter a flat baking sheet
unfold thawed puff pastries and using a pie pan as a template cut into two circles
Lay one circle on buttered sheet then spread Frangipane in the center
and if you like, place a dried fava bean or ceramic figure in the Frangipane
Using the last egg, beat and paint the edges of the dough
Place the other dough circle on top and seal the edges very tight!
Brush top with egg.
Bake ~ 25-30 min at 375

The galette is quite rich and it will serve 12 people.

Bisous,

Léa

Tarte aux Pommes / Apple Tart

Revised: originally posted 24 November, 2011

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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 colours 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 colour. Cover with an aluminium foil tent if the crust gets too dark. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. When cool, remove the side wall 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

Cabaret: Après-midi avec le Maire

monsieur le maire et son épouse
monsieur le maire et son épouse

Each year, monsieur le Maire hosts a soirée. If you follow this blog, at some point you begin to realise that the French take their sense of community seriously and love to enjoy the company of family, friends and neighbours.

Notice of the date is delivered about the village with a request for those who will attend to R.S.V.P. as they do want to have sufficient to serve all in attendance.   Those needing a ride will be accommodated.

At the appointed time, villagers begin arriving and immediately the socialising commences. As everyone takes a seat, the Mayor welcomes the participants then gives a brief update of plans for the year.

It is now time for the entertainment to begin. This year we were treated to songs by a chanteuse, Nadine, who was accompanied by Yves. Her songs took us through a melody of French and American songs. There were numerous costume changes and at one point she re-created the famous scene of Marilyn Monroe having the wind send her white dress flying high! While there were a few lulls in the entertainment due to costume changes, she made up for it with her unbridled enthusiasm. Of course, no review of Marilyn would be complete with a rendition of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.

...

As she wraps up her performance, plates of pastries and other treats began to arrive. The decorated tables sported plates of chocolates. Small pots of flowers and tiny straw butterflies were strewn about. Once your plate was served someone followed up pouring you a glass of Blanquette. For those who prefer there were bottles of water on each table.

The chanteuse took a short break and changed out of costume then joined us for a small respite. However, she soon picked up her microphone and the music started again. The dancing commenced and the party continued for quite some time.

Bisous,

 

                                                                                                                                                               Léa

...

Bernard gets into the act...
Bernard gets into the act…
Marcel et Viviane
Georgette
Georgette
Plates assembled and ready to be served
Plates assembled and ready to be served
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Pierrete et Rolande
Dancing...
Dancing…
Costumes finished, Nadine keeps on entertaining
Costumes finished, Nadine keeps on entertaining

Soulosse-Sous-St-Elophe

Hiking/walking suggestions
Hiking/walking suggestions

Nestled in the Lorraine Region is the small village of Soulosse-Sous-St-Elophe. Returning to France from a visit to Holland and Belgium, an overnight stop was needed. Unfortunately, my friend’s son had to return to the village for school to resume. However, if you ever want to find a place with stunning vistas and tranquility, this could be the place you dream of.

The Chambres D’hôtes has stunning views from its rear balcony as well as just down the lane. You could walk the paths or take to the hills. Unfortunately, one night was all we had so it will have to be on my list to visit again.

Despite the fact that we had no reservation and simply took our chances, we had a lovely suite and a grand breakfast which included local cheeses, homemade preserves and fresh breads, croissants, coffee, tea, juices and more.

Since my time there was so short, I will not waste a lot of words attempting to do what the camera will do much better. I shall look forward to stopping by again. Perhaps when I visit the Champagne Regions?

Bisous,

Léa

L’église
L’église
Breathtaking view
Breathtaking view
...
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Invitations to explore are all around
Invitations to explore are all around
...
IMG_2743
IMG_2748
...
The Chambres D’hôtes
The Chambres D’hôtes

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IMG_2776
The Chambres D’hôtes
Petit déjeuner
Petit déjeuner
IMG_2771
It beckons you onward

Repas pour la commune

Bon appetit!

Peter - Ireland - Soda Bread & Irish Coffee

The French word commune appeared in the 12th century, from Medieval Latin communia, meaning a small gathering of people sharing a common life; from Latin communis, things held in common. As of 2008, there were 36,781 communes in France. Just over 200 of these exist overseas. This is a higher number than other countries in Europe and is largely due to the division of the Country during the French Revolution. (Wikipedia) The Communes are a community of villages/parishes/hamlets with the largest often having services for the entire commune. If there is an interest, this could be the subject for a future post. Next to the individual village, it is the smallest unit of government in the Country. Our local Commune, community of villages, invited inhabitants of the Region to join in a day of cultural exchange and celebration. The idea is to all those native to France and all those from other Countries to better know and appreciate their differences.

Jiranan-Thailand-Lemon Grass Chicken & Thai Green Curry

Each participant will bring a dish (for four) of his area or his country, to share. A number of participants will provide recettes (recipes) for the food they have brought.

If you would like to turn your hand to traditional Irish Soda Bread, here is a link to the recipe that Peter used and it was perfect the first time!  http://www.dochara.com/the-irish/food-recipes/irish-soda-bread/

  Animation is ensured by the guests, volunteers, who will testify to
Corneilus- The Flying Dutchman - Trophy Winner

the artistic, cultural or traditional way of life of the country or the area of which they are native. It must be admitted that a few will take an artistic interpretation to the idea. Additionally, a few of the French will embrace another culture coming in costume from that Country and bringing food that you would eat should you visit there. There is a prize for the best costume (trophy) and prizes for others who participate in the costume portion of the event. The trophy will be returned the following year for the next winner.

Bisous,

Léa

Left: Folk Costume Normandy Region
Center: Mylène - Folk Costume Burgundy Region