2011 - My second year of blogging in Brittany
I felt I would like to share some of the photographs I have taken so far this year and some from other years. I live in a beautiful part of Brittany and just love being here. It's a lovely place to photograph and enjoy being in through all the seasons and hopefully this blog will show you where I live my life.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Most of my time this week has been taken up with the incubator eggs hatching. Usually they all hatch within about 24 hours of each other but this time, for reasons unknown, the first little yellow chick arrived on Monday evening and the last arrived on Thursday morning.
There was a lot of uncertainty about the hatch due to the power cuts we had on Friday and Saturday last week. The temperature had dropped considerably on the Saturday and I was worried there would be no chicks.
Here the first two chicks have been transferred to the brooder under an infra-red light which, of course, tints the photograph.
Here are some grown up chickens. Two Buff Orpingtons hens and their cockerel ready for sleep and sharing their house with a friend's four red hens. Some more Orpingtons and her little black hen are on the other side of the house.
In spite of having a wing clipped the Muscovy ducks continue to fly and are often to be found on the barn roof. Here my grey girl is on the top of the gate to the area before the pond field.
Here are the seven surviving chicks. I am so pleased to write that the two dark birds, at the front of this photo, are female Cream Legbars who will eventually lay blue eggs.
I met a friend from England for hot chocolate and a catch up yesterday afternoon and she had a lovely present for me - a Guinness Pie Set. I am really happy with it and have today made a Guinness beef casserole which I shall turn into a pie tomorrow using the Guinness, special dish and funnel.
Last week, I made a beef and orange casserole in the slow cooker. It tasted wonderful but I always think it looks particularly beautiful before it's cooked too.
I have done lots of cooking this week and while I had nearly an hour on the telephone with my daughter I made four small quiches from scratch to finished cooked products.
I made four and have to say that none now remain. They were so moist and gorgeous that I have eaten them all.
Stuffed pancakes with cheese sauce were also on the menu this week with fresh watercress from my pond.
In spite of the wet weather it has not been cold and the primroses have bloomed in the lane and my drive. The rhubarb in the bed next to the first hen run has really got going now and crumble will definitely be on the menu before the end of February.
Claude has been very bored with the whole business of the chicks and has done a lot of yawning, although he has been seen sitting on the grid above the brooder perhaps thinking they would make a tasty lunch.
Here's Claude with Purrdy, enjoying a comfy cushion in the warmth of the woodburner.
I think that this budding branch in the lane is a hawthorn but I can't remember well enough to be sure. I love the little red growths which look almost like berries and contrast so beautifully with the lichen.
Some of the sunsets in the lane recently have been beautiful and very colourful - tilt your screen backwards a little for the best colour saturation.
Three things I like:
1. Seeing and hearing my new little fluffy chicks.
2. Reading The Times and The Guardian which my worker brought back from the UK - I do miss the papers.
3. Receiving some runner bean seeds in the post from a forum member.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
I’ve been baking again. How I love to make my loaves now that I’ve got my recipe off pat and can gather and add the ingredients without consulting my printed reminder. I love the huge china bowl with its golden yellow outside. Not a true Mason Cash bowl, officially called a “cane bowl” because of the colour created by the local clay, but a generic example which is just as good. I no longer realise it isn’t the traditional model which my mother used and which I used to stand by in the hope of gliding my fingers round the white glossy interior to collect the last scrapings of raw cake mix.
As I open the paper wrapping of the strong white bread flour there is always a teaspoonful of its white dust trapped under the creases of the top fold, and the powder drifts across my wooden kitchen table settling like snow on the verges of the lane. I so enjoy opening a fresh bag of flour and of sugar too but I always hold the sugar bag over the sink so the grains hidden in the origami of the bag top fall harmlessly onto the stainless steel so I don’t hear the crunch underfoot.
This week I made my first white plait loaf. I understand that you're supposed to plait from the centre out to the ends by turning the tray around half way through, but I just plaited straight down from the top, like I used to do for my daughter Libby's hair. It worked well and it was a lovely loaf both to eat and aesthetically.
While the oven was hot I popped in a fish pie which was covered in breadcrumbs made from the remaining end of my last loaf.
It was lovely especially the sauce - so tasty and yet not overwhelming the cod and prawns. In case anyone wants to make these individual fish pies, here is my recipe.
125g of cod per individual pie 2 shell-on prawns per individual pie
Petit pois Lemon
Milk Celery leaves
Parsley Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Pour some milk into a lidded flat pan and add three bay leaves, a few sprigs of parsley/stalks and a couple of celery leaves, salt and pepper.
Put cod, without bones, into pan and top with butter before putting on the lid.
Gently poach the fish until almost cooked and remove fish to a plate.
Slake some cornflour with milk and add to the fishy milk in the flat pan stirring continuously while it thickens and cooks through, then remove from heat.
Shell the prawns.
Place the shells, a chopped garlic clove, parsley stalks, a little milk and butter in a small saucepan and cook for a few minutes.
Pour the contents of the saucepan into a liquidiser and blitz.
Use a ladle to push the result through a sieve to remove shells and bits.
Add the sieved pink sauce into the flat pan and mix well with the white sauce.
Place a good spoonful of sauce into the bottom of each 10cm/4”ramekin.
Flake a good layer of the cod onto the sauce.
Next sprinkle petit pois into the ramekin.
Place two shelled prawns on top of the peas and sprinkle with a little lemon juice.
Spoon more sauce in until it covers the prawns.
Add another good layer of fish and sauce nearly up to the top of the ramekin.
At this stage you can place them in the fridge, clingfilmed, for breadcrumbing later in the day or tomorrow. Remove from the fridge an hour before cooking.
When you are ready to cook, blitz bread into crumbs to give a good final layer on the pie fillings. Then put ramekins on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes until heated through and golden. Salad or chips – you choose.
I ate my first one with fresh, peppery watercress. I picked some roots from my neighbour's, currently with all this rain, fast flowing stream and put them in my fish pond which has pumped water running through it.
You can double click any photograph to see it enlarged.
The leaves are large and wonderful to eat with a little fresh ground salt sprinkling their leaves.
My grumpy neighbours in Cornwall had watercress growing in their stream but refused to allow me to pick it. They were mostly away as it was a holiday home, so for ten months of the year I enjoyed fresh watercress in salads and sandwiches.
On the banks of the watercress stream there are bright clumps of brilliant white snowdrops - just lovely.
There are catkins - fully developed now - on the young hazels bordering the little triangle of grass outside my west facing kitchen window.
In spite of the dreadful winds and rain we are experiencing so far this winter, nature is managing to carry on and bring a little beauty to the village.
Three things I like:
1. Being able to use my washing machine again after having the water turned off for two days of plumbing repairs.
2. Hearing from my Deerhurst-based cousin that so far, their flood defences are working.
3. Looking forward to lunch with friends the day after tomorrow.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
The rain continues to fall even though the ground cannot absorb any more water. The hen runs are lethal and I fall frequently in spite of always holding a very long handled fork and stabbing this into the quagmire to try and stay upright. This is the short cut I usually take
but it is now too wet to use this path without ending up lying on the sodden grass.
We have also had hail and, I think overnight one night, a very light sprinkle of snow. This was left on the ground when I walked up to the field. The winds have been very strong, noisy and frightening. The rain seems to have been relentless although we have had periods of sunshine which have been lovely but too short.
Because of the rain and not wanting to go outside I have been cooking. I bought from SuperU four aubergines for just one euro. I have only eaten aubergine once before and so I searched the internet for recipes. I ended up doing my own thing which was:
Halve, drizzle with olive oil and put in the oven on a baking tray for about fifty minutes until soft. Then with a spoon carefully empty the half skins of the aubergine flesh and save the skins for stuffing. Meanwhile in a frying pan gently fry in olive oil chopped onion and garlic and then a tomato in small cubes with chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Add the onion and garlic back into the pan with cooked basmati rice, a good handful of golden sultanas, which give the dish intriguingly sweet notes, and the chopped flesh of the aubergine. Add one teaspoon of cumin powder. I had never used cumin before and it is delicious. Gently stir everything together before stuffing the aubergine skins and putting them onto the baking tray.
Using fresh breadcrumbs, cover the heaped filling of the aubergines and drizzle with olive oil before placing in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until they are a deep golden colour.
They were lovely and I will be making them again and again.
This afternoon I made cauliflower cheese with English Cheddar cheese, which I then ate with fresh tomato and crispy fried streaky bacon rashers.
While I was cooking, my oldest cat, Purrdy, brought in a robin. Luckily I saw her coming through the cat corridor and managed to get it away from her. I calmed him for a few minutes and took his photo before placing him on the garden wall from where he flew to freedom.
There was another taste of wildlife inside at the Pub Quiz this week when a Red Admiral butterfly was flying around the room. At one point he landed on a paper I was holding but he ended up resting for about thirty minutes on one lady's white hair.
This is a photo of some of the horses in the village being exercised in the lane. I love that the riders are texting with mobile phones while in the saddle! You can click on the pictures to enlarge them if you like.
In Cornwall too the weather has been atrocious. Here is Emma, Mia's Mummy, lying on the wind at Trevose Head with the sea crashing in below and the waves coming over the top too in the second photo. I stole these from her Facebook page.
Lastly Claude and Grace lying on the settee. I think Gracie is telling Claude that her legs have gone to sleep and will he please shift himself.
Three things I like:
1. Experimenting with food and making something I want to eat again and again.
2. Getting back into the warm and dry after dealing with the animals.
3. Linking up two of my friends who may get together.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
I often wondered why pancake paraphernalia started arriving on the shelves in the supermarkets so far before Shrove Tuesday in France. Thanks to a posting on a forum I belong to I now think I understand.
Fête de la Chandeleur is the Catholic holiday of Candelmas which falls 40 days after Christmas Day, on 2 February every year. This date is fixed, unlike Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day in the UK, which is tied to the moving date of Easter.
The pancakes are eaten in the evening, traditionally by candlelight, and every member of the family tosses a pancake with the handicap of holding a coin in the hand they write with and using the other hand for holding the pan. A successful toss ensures prosperity in the year ahead and for farmers, a good harvest.
Back in the 80s two friends and I all had birthday within four weeks of each other. We would each do lunch for the birthday girl. On my 37th birthday, my friend Viv made me stuffed pancakes which I loved ever since. I don't suppose the recipe is exactly the same as hers but this is the one I have used for the years since then. It is very popular in my family.
Bacon - small pieces like lardons
Roast chicken in bitesize pieces or fresh chicken breasts cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cup a soup
First make some pancakes. I usually cook mine a day in advance, making twelve for this dish which I fridge until the next day and extra for eating straightaway with sugar and lemon juice, or butter and maple syrup.
Fry bacon, mushrooms, onions and a crushed garlic clove and then add chicken, peas, herbs, salt and pepper.
If using fresh chicken put this in at the same time as the bacon.
In a mug mix some cornflour with a leek and potato cup a soup and half a mug of milk. Add boiling water to top of mug and stir well before pouring over the contents of the frying pan.
Stir gently and allow the sauce to cook through.
Cool the mixture a little and use it to fill pancakes.
Fold in the sides and roll into neat packages.
Place them in an ovenproof dish and cover with cheese sauce, finishing by sprinkling grated Cheddar cheese on the top.
Cook in the oven until heated through and cheese is golden and bubbling.