Sunday, 20 December 2015

Nice day for a Wedding

Our neighbours Olivier and Turia got married yesterday in what was a very low key event. The wedding was held at the mayors office with 2 witnesses and their neices and nephews and on their return a feu joyeux was lit. I thought this was a traditional event nationwide, but it is only done in the Melle region. A bouquet of paper flowers is lit which signifies out with old and in with the new. Again being new to these events, I thought it would be a small bouquet, but as you can see it’s more the size of a tree. Turia lit the “bouquet” which sent plumes of smoke into the air and then not long after, it fell over. Afterwards we toasted them with some bubbly and cake and wished them well for their future.
Wedding 1

No entry until the feu joyeux is lit.

Wedding 2

 Assembling the feu joyeux.

Wedding 3

Adding the Laurel.

Wedding 4

 And the paper flowers.

Wedding 5

Turia lighting it.

Wedding 6

Ablaze.

Wedding 7

 Olivier, Turia and Julia.


 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Mince Pies and Bubbly

It was that time again for us ladies and one gent to pop on our pinnies and get rolling. First prize for this years pinny just had to be Pat’s, which gave us all a good laugh. We were all wishing we had a figure like that. Over 600 mince pies were made to sell at Lezay Christmas market, but we didn’t quite manage to sell them all. There was around 60 left which we had with our coffee at the Christmas meal in the evening. Gabrielle made a cake for a “Guess the Weight” competition which raised over 50€ for the association on it’s own. And as you do, after a 2 hour session selling mince pies, a glass of champagne was in order. Delicious it was too, so a bottle was purchased to have at Christmas.

PS - Not happy, as Windows Live Writer (which I've been using for years to prepare my blog posts) no longer works with Blogger. There is some new software but that won't allow people to log into Blogger, so I'm having to use the built in Blogger software which is horrible. Fingers crossed the new software will be fixed soon.

Pat's pinny.
Making the dough.
Me and Melanie with a glass of Pineau.
Rolling out the dough.
The finished mince pies.
 The 1pm shift.
 
Our stall.
 The celebratory bubbly.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Fig Crumble Bars

I made these last year but never posted the recipe. They are so delicious with their gooey centre and because I’ve got loads of figs in the freezer, I’ve started making them again. They are delicious made with plums too but you could try other fruit for a change. Great as a snack but delicious as a pudding with ice cream, custard or crème fraîche, served hot or cold. It’s easier to eat them as snack cold as they make a bit of a mess when hot.

Fig Slices

Ingredients Method
1kg Fresh or frozen figs
2tbsp Lemon juice
1/2 Vanilla pod plus seeds
110g Granulated sugar
170g Butter
170g Brown sugar
240g Plain flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp Salt
200g Rolled oats
Chop the figs and finely chop the vanilla pod then put them in a pan with the lemon juice and granulated sugar. Simmer for about 45mins until the mixture is thick and gooey.

Meanwhile, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. The mix will be slightly crumbly.

Butter a 25 x 25cm baking tin (or as near as you have) then press half of the mixture into the tin. Spread the figgy topping over the base, then crumble the remaining mix on top of the fig.

Cook for around 30mins on Gas 6/200C400F until the top is lightly browned.

Monday, 7 December 2015

A Beautiful Sunny Day plus Odd Jobs

What amazing weather we are having, 15 degrees today and not a cloud in the sky, not too shabby for the 7th December. So we spent the day in the garden moving earth, not the most glamorous way to spend the day but it needed to be done. The pile of earth was left over from the trench dug to fix the water leak, so we distributed it around the lawn to fill up some hollows. Hopefully the grass will be seen poking through soon.Moving Earth

Other jobs completed over the last week were – 8 doors and frames painted, 3 coats on each. Needed to lighten them up, so we made a DIY colour, which looks different depending on the light and time of day, soft green to soft blue and grey.

Door 2

Before.

Door 1

In progress.

Door 2

After and so much lighter.

We’ve also pruned our orchard, which hadn’t been touched for years. Many of the apple trees looked liked birds nests and the quality of the fruit wasn’t good, so a good trim was in order. After 2 days of trimming and 6 trips to the trip, we managed to clear it all but kept some of the bigger logs for the fire. Looking forward to seeing lovely juicy apples next year.Tree Trimming 1

And a little treat for me, card making. I used to make cards regularly in the UK but I haven’t made one since we’ve lived here, but after starting to write my Christmas cards I realised I wasn’t going to have enough, so I took over the kitchen table and got crafting. I had great fun, especially in front of the toasty wood burner warming my rear.Card Making

And finally our first and only sprout plant. Harvested and eaten with a shepherds pie :) Sorry Santa, none for Christmas Day.Sprouts

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Soggy or Crispy

My cooking of a steak and kidney pie this week, created a little difference of opinion in the kitchen on whether pastry should be soggy or crispy. My pastry top was crispy and I asked Roger if he liked it? He said he did, but would rather have it a bit soggier because he says crispy is too dry. But for me, it has to be crispy, soggy pastry is just too filling and heavy. Off course, the consistency of pastry will be different if you use it on the top, bottom or both but I’d love to hear what you prefer?

Soggy Pastry

Soggy bottom, courtesy of the BBC’s Bake Off.

Pastry

My pastry with a small patch as I had a hole!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

La Grande Dune du Pilat

On the way home from Biarritz Roger wanted to take me to see the biggest sand dune in Europe – The Grande Dune du Pilat and it was big. The pine trees that you pass on the way in are tall, but to be on top of the dune overlooking the tree tops was quite strange, they looked so small, just like model village trees. With a length of 2.7k, 500m wide and a height of 110m, you could make a lot of sandcastles with that. As you might be able to tell in the photos, we got a bit wet. The weather hadn’t been kind all day, but as we got to the dune it had stopped raining. Brilliant we thought, as we made our way up the dune, but as soon as we got to the top, the heavens opened plus it was blowing a hooley. We were absolutely soaked through but thankfully we had a change of clothes with us, but only because we were on our way back from our special weekend. We’d like to go back and visit one day but definitely when it’s sunnier.

Dune 1
Dune 2

Dune 4

Dune 3
Dune 5

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Our 30th Anniversary in Biarritz

After spending a few weeks dithering on where to go or even whether to go anywhere, we decided on Biarritz. It was somewhere Roger always fancied visiting and he wanted to be beside the seaside. We stayed at the Hotel de Silhouette, perfectly located right in the centre, close to all the attractions, opposite the market and restaurants. But being November, some of the attractions were closed but we managed to visit Planete Musee du Chocolat along with a lovely walk around the town with tea and coffee stops in-between. Biarritz is definitely luxurious, you only have to look at the prices in the shop windows and the cost of staying at the Hôtel du Palais Imperial Resort & Spa to see that, but we loved that it was small enough to walk around with a lovely atmosphere. Eating out wasn’t a problem, even though some places had closed for the winter. We had 3 very different meals and all very yummy. On our second day we took ourselves off to San Sebastian and then on into the mountains. San Sebastian was enormous, much bigger than we’d thought. Because time was pressing and we were trying to squeeze in as much as possible before it got dark, we only staying for a couple of hours in San Sebastian before driving into the mountains. A lovely weekend to celebrate our special day. Roll on the next 30 years.

Biarritz 14

A quick photo between the showers.

Biarritz 1

One of Rogers favourite treats.

Biarritz 2

Some brave souls.

Biarritz 3

Mixing the old and new.

Biarritz 12

Chocolate sculpture made with 14kg of chocolate and called Desire.

Biarritz 8

View of Biarritz with the old port below.

 Biarritz 6

Left is the Hotel du Palais and on the right the casino.

Biarritz 10

Another view of the coastline.

 Biarritz 11

Rocher de la Vierge (Rock of the Virgin).

Biarritz 13

Part of the market, open every morning, every day.

San Sebastian

Panorama of San Sebastian.

San Sebastian 2

Monte Urgall

San Sebastian 3

Looking down on San Sebastian, enormous.

San Sebastian 4

Looking towards the Pyrenees.