Monday, 28 September 2015

Back to the Kitchen

Yippee, I have an oven again and to celebrate, I’d promised Roger roast belly pork with roasties and veg, followed by a fig, apple and sultana crumble. It was bloomin lovely and as a bonus, all the fruit and veg came from our garden, well except the sultanas. We’ve had some hiccups including sloping floors and a small problem with the tape measure. We had ordered a 300 cabinet, but should have ordered a 400 cabinet as we had more space than originally thought. Sadly our kitchen supplier is closing down and isn’t taking any more orders, so we’ve ordered it in the UK and will pick it up on our next visit. Plus, our hinges are not soft close, not a disaster but something I really wanted. No problem, we’ll pop to the Bricos and pick some up. Easier said than done as only one shop sold them and at 20€ for 2 hinges, we decided to pass. Looks like we will be putting in an order with Amazon. There’s not much more we can do until the worktops and sink are fitted, so Monday Roger is starting on the hearth for the wood burner, I’m finishing painting the display shelf Roger made for me many years ago and we still have wall tiles to choose.

Kitchen 1

Cabinets going in.

Kitchen 2

The sink, worktop and the last cabinet coming out.

Kitchen 3

The wall shelf Roger made me about to be painted.

Kitchen 4

More cabinets in.

Kitchen 5

My new toy.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Fig Chutney

This has to be our favourite chutney so far, and it’s also very popular with our family and friends too. The tree is laden with fruit again this year, so I decided to make a double batch, even though I said I wasn’t going to use the camping stove. The pot was a bit too full and took ages to cook down, plus running out of gas and dashing to the supermarket half way through didn’t help, but we now have 12 jars maturing ready for Christmas time. Figs can be expensive, but if you can get hold of some at a reasonable price, this chutney is well worth making.

Fig Chutney 1 Fig Chutney 2

Method Ingredients

1.5kg Chopped fresh figs.
1 kg Sugar.
3 Onions chopped.
500g Sultanas.
1 Litre red wine vinegar.
2 Teaspoons cayenne pepper.
2 Teaspoons paprika.
2 Teaspoons Ground ginger.
2 Teaspoons all spice.
2 Tablespoons sweet chilli sauce.
6 Garlic cloves, crushed.
Salt and pepper.

Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan and bring to the boil.

Turn down and simmer for around 2 hours until the chutney is thick and syrupy. 

Put into hot sterilized jars and cover.

Store for 3 months before eating. Our first few jars never lasted that long :)

Makes approx 6 jars.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Bramble Jelly – 2nd Attempt

My first lot of Bramble Jelly just wouldn’t set even after cooking it twice. I found this odd because last year it was fine and I’d used the same recipe. After another blackberry picking session and determined to try again, I re-read the recipe and realised I had made a huge mistake. I had peeled and cored the apples instead of just chopping the whole things up and popping them in the pot. The skin and core is where most of pectin is stored, so throwing this in the compost would not have helped the jelly set at all. Phew, my 2nd attempt worked fine and was delicious on a baguette but Roger is looking forward to it with a big dollop of clotted cream. I’ve even had another go at bottling tomatoes. Fig chutney to tackle next, recipe to follow.

Bramble Jelly 1

Brambles washed.

Bramble Jelly 2

Cooking with whole chopped apples this time.

Bramble Jelly 3

Dripping overnight through the muslin.

Bramble Jelly 4

Pouring into sterilized jars.

Bramble Jelly 5

Success, set and very tasty.

Bottled Tomatoes

Bottled tomatoes ready for heating.


Ingredients Method
2 kilos of wild blackberries.
4 cooking apples, roughly chopped.
1 litre of water.
100g sugar for every 100ml juice.
Wash blackberries and chop the apples roughly. Do not remove the skin and core as I did on my 1st attempt.
Pop in a large pan with the water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth or bag, overnight.
Do not squeeze the muslin as this will make your jelly cloudy.
Measure the juice, then mix with the corresponding amount of sugar in a preserving pan.
Bring to the boil until the setting point is reached, then put into sterilized jars.
Makes approx 4 jars.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Bois Mort

We only travelled just an hour up the road for a break, but the countryside and architecture was quite different. Lots of beautiful hamlets dotted up and down the Thouet Valley which follows the River Thouet. You can cycle from Saumur down to Niort, or in reverse if you fancy it, but we based ourselves in little hamlet called Bois Mort and did some circular rides and walks nearby. Our gite, called The Old Goat Shed was perfect for 2 and has an open plan lounge/kitchen/diner, double bedroom and en-suite, lovely grounds with a pool, hot tub and an outside BBQ. A Bois Mort Gites is run by Richard Smith and he made our stay very special. Nothing was too much trouble and being a chef he will cook for you on request. This offer we took up and after a long journey, just 2 doors down, we were treated to a fantastic 4 course meal with a welcome drink, amuse bouche and a liqueur afterwards plus a little drop of Eau de Vie in between. Because the weather wasn’t too kind, there were lots of places we didn’t get to see so we’ve re-booked for another visit at Bois Mort next summer.

Bois Mort 1


Bois Mort 2

La Roche aux Enfants.

Bois Mort 3

View towards Thouars.

Bois Mort 4

Cascade de Pommiers.

Bois Mort 5

St Loup sur Thouet.

Bois Mort 6

Lavoir at Le Chillou.

Bois Mort 7

Part of the Château de Saint-Loup-sur-Thouet.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Bounty in the Garden

September seems to be the month when everything ripens at the same time, figs, apples, blackberries and tomatoes. Normally I make loads of chutney with the figs and tomatoes but because I’m using a camping stove to cook, I’ve decided to dice and freeze everything ready for when I have my new cooker. The gas bottle is so small, that cooking chutney for 2 hours will empty it in no time at all. However I have made bramble jelly, but it’s more like bramble coulis, because despite boiling it twice it just wouldn’t set. Never mind, it will be great poured over ice-cream. Also, its a good excuse to go out, pick some more and try again. I’ve also had my first go at canning, with the canning gadget kindly lent to me by my neighbour. After a lot of dicing ,I made a batch of ratatouille which filled 3 1litre jars. To be honest, I’m not overly in love with canning, I think I prefer making chutneys, jams and freezing stuff. Perhaps I’ll give it another go one day.

Do you remember us planting potatoes earlier in the year? Well sadly, we missed the harvesting which was done while we were in the UK. They had to harvest when the weather was good, so grabbed the opportunity when they could. We were told that due to the lack of rain and heat, this years harvest was disappointing. Our 2 bags produced a barrow of spuds, not as many as we’d hoped but they will keep us going for a few months.


Beautiful plump blackberries.


Fallers ready to be sliced and stewed.


Figs chopped, ready to be frozen.


Ratatouille simmering before canning.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

It’s Finished

A week after it was started, we have a lovely, watertight barn roof. We were amazed at how quickly it was done, they have done an fantastic job. The repairs on the hangar have been finished too, nothing major, just a couple of leaks that were fixed. With the barn roof done, Roger can now sort out the floor as it slopes, reuse some of the old kitchen cupboards for storage and put new shelving up. He’s looking forward to having a nice dry place to tinker with his toys. But, my lovely husband has one job to do for me first, finish the kitchen :)

Barn 1

New beams in.

Barn 2

Chevrons being fixed.

Barn 3

Chevrons in place from below.

Barn 5

Volige laid.

Barn 6

Membrane on and new unders about to be laid.

Barn 7

Top layer of tiles on mixing the old with the new.

Barn 9

New interior.

Barn 10

Lovely new roof.

Barn 12

And from the end.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Barn Roof

When we bought the house a year ago, we didn’t appreciate how bad the barn roof was. We could see there were a couple of leaks but nothing major, but after we moved in we realised we had a rotten beam too. It’s a lovely barn which will be Rogers workshop but due to the damp and sloping floor it wasn’t a nice place to work, so repairs needed to be done. Nothing goes to plan because when the builders arrived with their Manatou and could look in from the top, they discovered there were more rotten beams. We could have faffed around trying to repair bits here and there, but it was decided that a new roof was in order. What’s sad is the new roof beams are not as beautiful as the old, but you have to be practical and to buy old beams made to measure, you are talking about a lot of money. They are going to use some of the old oak on the ends, so some of the barn’s history will be added back in. Here is the progress so far.

Barn 1

Tile removal.

Barn 2

Original interior.

Barn 3

The best tiles kept, ready to be taken down and used for reroofing.

Barn 4

Sorting the tiles.

Barn 6

Looking down.

Barn 7

Removing the A frame.

Barn 8 Old and the new.

Barn 9

Last beam to go.

Barn 10

Rotten beam. Most of the beam ends were like this.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Kitchen so Far

Here is where we got to before we went to the UK – walls painted, new sockets in, plumbing ready for the dishwasher, gas pipe moved for the cooker, ceiling and light washed, trim put back up around the ceiling, wood oven sold and wood burner bought. The floors need a good scrub, then I can move the bookcase and larder back in. We had a loose tile and on taking it up, we found a hole in the floor, which has now been filled with cement and just needs relaying and grouting. We had a bit of Christmas light syndrome, where you take them down working and by next Christmas they don’t work!! This phenomenon happened with the dishwasher, it left England working and then a year later we plumbed it in and it didn’t, it just went round and round in circles filling up and emptying. After a day and a half of problem solving, we narrowed it down to a faulty flow sensor. A new one was bought and fitted and it now works fine except for a strange clonking noise, something else to diagnose. The kitchen is on hold temporarily as the garden needs some attention after a week away, plus there’s over 30 large courgettes and buckets of tomatoes to freeze and the barn roof repairs have started.

Kitchen 1

It’s a long way up and look at the dust on that light.

  Kitchen 4

  Walls painted and ready for the wood burner.

Kitchen 3

Hole in the floor.

Kitchen 5

New sockets and cream walls.


  The courgette mountain to deal with.