The Mountains form a natural border between France and Spain, but more than that they traverse the historical regions with their distinctive traditions, culinary and otherwise. To the west on both sides of the peaks is the Basque country, wonderful people who are rightly proud of their traditions, food studded with Pimentón, and an incomprehensible language with lots of X’s and J’s. From the beautiful Atlantic towns to the tiny coves that pepper the northern coastline, semi-sparkling crisp white wines like Txacoli (you see, it is unpronounceable but very drinkable!) and dishes that ooze with the warmth of spiced sausage alongside classics such as bacalao (salt cod).Continue reading The borderlands→
I thought I’d write a bit about the region of southern France in which we have spent so much time these past 14 years – not enough time, never enough. We’ve recently returned from our home there and through the medium of food I shall attempt to share a sense of the place we so love, through a series of posts. Continue reading Postcards from the Pyrenees→
On the way back from France last spring, driving north from our place in the Pyrenees, we stumbled on a village fair filled with local people and businesses proudly peddling their wares.
We had stopped off hoping to find a bakery where we could get a pastry to eat in the car but we got more than we bargained for. The place was packed with everything from wonderful produce, breads, cheeses and meats to a flea market area and and lots of farming type equipment for sale. Continue reading You say tomato, I say tomate→
There aren’t really words to adequately describe the events in Paris this weekend, except to say that those carrying out these attacks are not doing their deeds in the name of any religion I recognise and that in fact they are quite simply insane.
The repercussions of such things reverberate through the lives of people who have been close to such events, making you question your safety and that of loved ones in new and unpleasant ways, it leaves a legacy which is hard to shake and that lasts, as does the grief for those who have been lost. Continue reading We’ll always have Paris→
Spending the last few weeks down in France gave me time to contemplate….. more than I had imagined because although not a technology freak, I have suffered a few weeks without it (unexpectedly) and realised that I value ‘it’ a little more than I thought. Continue reading A is for Artichoke→
“Where is it then?” asks Karl-Heinz. We are presiding over our habitual lazy breakfast on the terrace at the shack in France. A few softly boiled eggs, yokes oozing and richly yellow, gifted to us by our friend JC the farmer… a little creamy yoghurt with some mountain honey…a few croissants and some home made jam, the ‘usual’. Continue reading The Chateau on the Plateau…→
Well, need a little time to wake up, wake up Well, what’s the story morning glory? Well, need a little time to wake up, wake up.
We have been bad…very bad. For the last week or two, no healthy eating for us, just lots over indulgence and a degree of junk. We are feeling the worse for it and so something colourful and some seafood has become a necessity. Continue reading What’s the Story?→
So this morning I was up early, read my favourite foodie blogs, cleaned the house from top to bottom, shopped, walked the doggy, emailed my cousin Cheesecake, did some washing, painted a table, spoke to Rocket (who is somewhere on route driving down from Aberdeen)… all before mid-day.
Whilst I hate housework, there is a certain satisfaction when the house is at it’s best – so I bought it some flowers…
Yesterday when we were at the shops, there were some beautiful Limande (Lemon Sole) so we pick a decent sized one and pottered home to prepare it. I thought about it for a bit, but the truth is I love flat fish baked whole, we had some leeks that needed to be used and so decided to combine the Eliza Acton/Rick Stein method with the ingredients we had.
As you may know, I am a great fan of Rick Stein’s dishes. I recently saw a re-run of a recipe he did with Dover Sole which was actually and old English Eliza Acton recipe. The original recipe is a great read and Rick had adapted it for modern times. Such is life, we have put our own spin on it too… Continue reading Sole Sister→
I woke up suspecting that it had rained and would continue to do so, I rolled over and put the quilt over my head. The clouds had been gathering the night before and although the weather forecasts (literally none of them) have been accurate lately, this had been forecast.
I also felt a need for some seafood, we eat more meat and veg when here as we look for what is good and local in our land locked region, but we do get great seafood as the Pyrenees is flanked by the Mediterranean on one side and the Atlantic on the other. Continue reading Rainy Day Seafood Stew for 2, or more….→
When we arrived at the shack in France on Sunday, we were aghast at the way the place had become overgrown with weeds. An exceedingly wet spring and early summer have meant that things had got completely out of control.
I’d be the first to say there are pros and cons to having a home overseas, and when all is well there is a huge sense of satisfaction and well being that comes from emersion in another culture and all that brings along with it – but a gardener I am NOT. This coupled with the usual arrival issues, like creepy crawlies everywhere and a distinct lack of hot water, can detract from the experience if you let them.
We have been working now in baking heat since we arrived on Sunday to get the place habitable, and we have just about got to a manageable level, we have storms and rain predicted for tomorrow but that won’t dampen our mood. So this is the moment when I look around and the home is cosy, the outdoor areas are useable, and this is when it’s all worth it. We sat out on the terrace tonight and had the most delightful supper of pan fried whiting (Merlan in French) with some green beans and garlic roast potatoes. Whiting is a great sustainable fish – it has a beautifully clean flavour and makes an excellent alternative to sole or plaice.
Awkward and City arrive with us tomorrow and we will chew the cud over a few beers and enjoy our time together.
I write this blog as an escape, so I write truthfully and from the heart, but that means that I don’t focus on the less great things in life – on purpose. For that reason, it probably sounds at times as if I’m constantly out and about and don’t have a care in the world! I just wanted to say that I love my friends and family very much, and value them beyond measure – all of them, never more so than when they are having difficult times.
Having the place in France has meant we have had an opportunity to spend quality time with those we care about, laugh, drink and laugh some more, a bit of cooking thrown in. So, for all the weeding and bugs to contend with, right here, right now, it has been worth the journey.
There is a very uninspiring looking tree at the front of the shack in France, it’s clearly quite old and when we first got the place we thought it might even be dead. However, every August it produces a bounty of the sweetest and most delicious greengage plums.
So lovely to have a sunny Friday and we are at home. Rocket had called earlier in the week, from Wales, to say he had found a delightful, tiny butcher shop in Usk, South Wales. It’s called N.D. Lewis & Sons, it’s one of those places that is worth a mention. Continue reading Le Tour, Le Veg, Le Pays de Galle….→
Once upon a time, Rocket and I were on holiday in Provence. We had rented what turned out to be a ramshackle farmhouse in the hills above Nice, it’s crowning glory being a stepped garden with a pool terrace hanging on to the edge of a precipice from which there was a stunning view across the landscape.