Friday, 31 July 2015

One Year Already

No Photo Friday today as its a special day for us. Can you believe it?? We’ve been here for 1 year already, how times flies. Living here has taken some adjustment plus there’s been some highs and some lows along the way. Roger has taken to it like a duck to water and has no regrets at all, but I will admit, that at the beginning, I could easily have come back, but we always said we would give it 2 years to make a go of it. I’m more settled now, but only after throwing my toys out of the pram on a few occasions. We’ve learnt a lot, the highlights being that weeds grow quickly here, sandblasting is not fun, our neighbours are amazing and French is hard to learn, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Me and Roger Before we came here, a friend asked us what we thought we would miss. It was a difficult question that we couldn’t answer straightaway, but I said, ask us after we’ve been there a year. So here is a little list of 5 things we miss and 5 things we don’t, some silly, some not and in no particular order:-

What we miss What we don’t
Family and friends without question Traffic
Fab ice lollies Noise of traffic
Clotted cream Traffic Jams
Takeaways Christmas shopping crowds
Vintage extra extra mature cheddar Traffic

Live your dreams, not your fears.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Marché sur l'eau – Irleau Vanneau

Every year on the last Saturday of July, the villages of Irleau Vanneau hold a market, which is kept as traditional as possible, on the water at Port Vanneau in the Marais. This event attracts around 15,000 visitors who visit the stalls, partake in the meals on offer, listen to the band and enjoy the firework display in the evening. The atmosphere was lovely with lots of goodies on offer, on land and on board boat, but we didn't buy anything. The circular bike ride we were on, took us through Irleau Vanneau and other pretty villages, on tracks alongside the beautiful canals of the Marais. There was a slight hiccup when Bob got a puncture, but the boys had all the right equipment to get the bike back on the road again.

Irleau Vanneau 9
Irleau Vanneau 2
Irleau Vanneau 8
Irleau Vanneau 5
Irleau Vanneau 6
Irleau Vanneau 7
Irleau Vanneau 3

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Courgette, Potato and Cheese Soup

Here’s another recipe using the multitude of courgettes we have, plus the onions and potatoes in this delicious soup came from our garden too. Not the best time of year for a soup, especially as it’s been around 30 degrees everyday but it did make a nice change from salad. We loved it so much, I made a double batch the next day for the freezer.
Courgette Soup
Ingredients Method
500g potatoes, diced

2 large onions, chopped

2 vegetable stock cubes

1kg courgettes, diced

200g cheddar, grated

Grated nutmeg

Black pepper
Put the potatoes and onions in a pan and cover with water. Crumble in the stock cubes, cover and bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the courgettes, recover and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. DO NOT add anymore water as plenty will come out of the courgettes.

Stir in the cheese, season with nutmeg and pepper. Liquidize to the thickness you like, adding more water if needed.

Serve with some extra grated cheese on top and crusty bread.

NOTE 1 – Any hard cheese will work. I used Comté instead of cheddar as its easier to get here and it was equally delicious.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Courgette Bread Rolls

Inspired by the Parsnip Bread recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I decided to give it a try with courgettes instead, especially as I have a few of them. The original recipe makes a small loaf, and as it doesn't last long in our house, I doubled the ingredients and made rolls instead. They turned out delicious, not as sweet as the parsnip variety but equally delicious smothered in butter. I used a variety of different courgettes for my rolls, all from the garden along with the onions and thyme.

Courgette Bread

Ingredients Method

2 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil

2 large onions, sliced

350g self raising flour

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp thyme leaves

100g Parmesan or strong Cheddar, finely grated

350g grated courgettes

2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

5-6 tbsp milk

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly coloured. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, thyme, cheese, grated  courgette and some pepper. Add the onion, followed by the eggs and 5 tablespoons milk, then mix to form a soft dough, adding extra milk if needed. Don’t overwork the dough, just bring it together with a little light kneading. Shape into around 8 rolls and place on an oiled baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated oven, 180°C/Gas 4 for 35-40 minutes, until the rolls are golden.

Leave to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack and enjoy while still warm.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

What a Ride

We never thought that in our lifetimes we would drive a combine harvester, but today we did. Our kind neighbour Olivier invited us out for the drive of a lifetime, but we thought we’d be out for about an hour, but we didn’t get home until 8pm after leaving at 10am. We helped prep the harvester, harvest wheat and rapeseed and had a lovely lunch with Olivier and his family. You always see these things happen from a distance, but to be so close to the action and see how everything works was amazing. We can’t thank them enough for giving us a great day and a fantastic experience.

Harvest 1
Harvest 2
Harvest 6
Harvest 7
Harvest 3 
Harvest 5
Harvest 8
Harvest 4
Harvest 9

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Fireworks Everywhere

Yesterday was Bastille Day here in France but the French call it the La Fête Nationale and is celebrated everywhere with fireworks. The previous evening Celles-sur-Belle hosted a fantastic display in front of the abbey with everyone sitting on the bank in front of the abbey, enjoying a picnic and a glass of wine. As the French decided to storm the Bastille in July, it doesn’t get dark until gone 10.30 so we had to wait until 11 for the display to start, but it was worth the wait for the amazing fireworks all set to music. On the day itself we went to St Genard who together with neighbouring communes Paizay le Tort and Pouffonds put on another display but this time on a lake and when we returned home, there was another display in the distance, which went on way past midnight. Another new french experience for us.

Fireworks 1
Fireworks 2
Fireworks 3

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Perhaps We’ve Planted Too Many

We’ve been asked by a few people - “How many courgettes plants do you have"?”. When I answer about 15, there have been a few gasps. You’re mad, they say, you will be living on them for months. But when you sew your seeds you have no idea how many will grow, but they all did and now the plants are huge. One thing we have learnt is that we planted them to close together plus they are smothering the peppers and beans, so a bit of trimming has been required. What's nice is that they're all different so hopefully we wont get bored with them. We’ve been given lots of recipes from a friend to help us along, plus I’ve made courgette chutney, courgette gratin, cooked them on the BBQ and given some to friends. If anyone has yummy recipes to share, I’d love to try them.

Courgettes 1 Courgettes 2

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Our First Village Meal

You forget how much you rely on the internet, it’s so much part of our lives now, so not having it for 4 1/2 days seemed like an eternity. After faffing with the router, phoning Orange, going to Niort to collect a new one which made no difference, it wasn't us after all, but a temperamental server their end. Orange gave it a kick and we’re now back online. Phew :)

Saturday was an amazing day, but we’ve never seen so much food. But going back a couple of days the eating started on Thursday evening. After starting the wood fired oven next door, in went two loins of pork, two chickens and four terrines to cook for 3 hours.  We then went up the road for a meal at our neighbours, where we all made something to share. Friday the oven was fired up again and this time in went two hams. Saturday morning, more food was prepared and cooked – 3 trays of layered potatoes and 2 trays of green beans with garlic. The delicious aromas started wafting through the village, so thankfully we didn't have long to wait.

Meal 1
Meal 2
Meal 9
Meal 4

The meal started at noon with 45 people attending from ours and neighbouring villages. Everyone prepared either an entree or a dessert, but let me give you an idea of the amount of food there was. You didn’t just prepare a little something, you were asked to prepare a bowl of something so there was a mountain of bread, pasta salad, courgette bake, cous cous salads, pâté, a green bean and tomato salad, potato salad and this was just the starter. This was then followed by the ham, chicken, potatoes and beans. Then when you were feeling stuffed, out came the cheese and assorted delicious desserts – plum, apple, pear and redcurrant tarts, all homemade and all washed down with wine and beer. An amazing meal but we didn't want to eat anything else that day, so when our neighbour said we would all be eating again in the evening, we though she was joking, but we did, but this time we only managed a little pâté and bread. Our Asterix themed day was a day to remember, so much fun even though our little British team got thrashed at boules. But it didn’t end there, Sunday we were invited again for more food and wine at another neighbours, but as we’d skipped breakfast, we managed to squeeze a bit more in. There was a post mortem on how things could be improved for next year, but there were no complaints from us and we look forward to the next one.

Meal 7
Meal 8

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

If All Else Fails

When Travis fancied some cheese on toast and the grill fails, there is only one thing to do, bring out the blow torch :)