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    Monday, August 31, 2009

    More Tales from The Mayenne - Markets and More Food

    Up, and there awaiting us, was freshly squeezed orange juice, croissants, toast, eggs if we wanted them. And English Marmite. Now I am a Vegemite girl. NZ Marmite is very strong tasting and quite hard to spread. It’s been 40 years since I had English Marmite and I have to admit I really liked it . Toast spread with lovely French butter, Marmite and a piece of tomato on top. Heaven.
    Look out the window and how about this for a start to your day.
    When we had fully recovered we went back into Fresnay Sur Sarthe.
    Saturday is Market Day.
    Annie brought prawns from her fish lady, more bread and some nibbles from Madame Patard, Proprietor of the Patissier pictured below...roast chicken and Boudin Blanc for dinner from the Charcuterie.

    The French love their Roast Chickens. The smell is divine, you'd be hard pushed to not buy one.
    Just a mass of colour.
    Nice potatoes, some artichokes to add to the already overflowing fruit and vege bowls back at the cottage Or should I say “Back at Mill”!

    We wandered around the village.
    Aren't the French clever... got an empty shop, just get an artist to paint a facade
    Really impressive.
    Some Images of Fresnay sur Sarthe.

    Of course before we ventured home, a little Pastis to be consumed from this lovely little Cafe.
    So Home for lunch. The tasty morsels from Madame Patard's Patisserie.
    Dale and Annie settling in for lunch.
    Prawns, more cheese, more rillettes, lots more wine and back to bed for the afternoon nap.
    The two D's Daisy and Dale
    Something we never get to see in New Zealand, Mole Hills . Like Possums in NZ, they are a major pest, but of course, I only have childhood stories in my head, and can only see Brown Velvety Creatures wearing glasses.

    Annie has UK Sky, so we watched clever young comedian Alan Carr, after our excellent Boudin Blanc (with new potatoes), dinner.
    More food coming up.

    A Pescartarian’s Delight

    First a Prawn Gratin inspired by Jacques Pepin
    Jacques has an excellent TV Programme currently showing on Food TV called “Fast Food My Way” which I just love. He is one of America’s Favourite Chefs, I have read his biography "The Apprentice" and find him a fascinating man.
    I had to make this dish
    For 3 people

    300 gms tiger prawns shelled and deveined
    6-7 white button mushrooms sliced
    1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

    Olive oil
    White wine - slurp.

    100gms butter melted
    Freshly ground black pepper,
    Sea salt
    Spring onion, chopped
    Parsley, chopped
    3 cloves garlic crushed

    Mix together the butter, S & P , Spring onions garlic and parsley
    Throw in the Prawns and Mushrooms
    Place everything into a gratin dish
    Moisten the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil
    Sprinkle over some white wine

    Bake 400C 15 minutes

    I served it with a crunchy Broccoli Slaw click here for the recipe.

    Now my take on Fish Chowder
    I always use full cream milk when I make creamy soups.
    That trim milk seems to curdle and quite often sticks to the pan making it really hard to clean the pot.
    (Plus I am anti low fat milk).

    200 gms white fish (I used Gurnard) Cut into 2.5 cm pieces

    1 large potato peeled - cut into small cubes
    4 spring onions
    50 gms butter
    Sea Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

    2 med tomatoes
    1 cup frozen peas

    1 litre full cream milk

    100 gms grated cheese

    Chop white end of spring onions reserve green tops
    Place butter in pan and when melted
    Add onions and chopped potatoes.
    Season with S & P
    Sauté about 2 minutes
    Cover with water and simmer till potatoes are fork tender

    Meanwhile cut tomatoes into quarters
    Remove seeds and core and place in a sieve
    Squash the juice out the seeds into the potato mix.
    That tomato water has great flavour.
    Slice tomato flesh
    Add with frozen peas to pan

    Add milk
    Just bring to the boil. Turn down immediately and simmer for a couple of minutes
    Add fish
    Let simmer another 5 minutes

    Add grated cheese and the green tops of the spring onion which have been sliced.
    Check seasoning and adjust if necessary


    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Roasted Pumpkin Soup - Fit for The Gods

    Barbara from winosandfoodies is holding her annual event LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow 2009.
    This is to honour the work of the Lance Armstrong Foundation
    This is Barbara’s way of supporting the foundation by raising awareness of cancer issues worldwide.
    If you click here you will be linked to Barbara’s wonderful blogs.
    It seems most years we have a friend die of this dreadful disease. But this year was even more poignant for us, with the long fight, struggle and inevitable death, of our dear friend Michael. Seen here June 2008 in Tahiti.

    So my entry, is this very tasty Pumpkin Soup (pushing the yellow a bit) but a soup of worth.

    Once again the freezer was helpful. I had made some bacon bone stock and I have to say it lifted what would be a nice soup, into a great soup. Nothing like homemade stock.
    For 4 people

    1 litre Bacon stock (see below for recipe)

    1/2 a medium buttercup squash
    1 large onion
    2 tablespoon olive oil
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

    Cut pumpkin onto wedges and the onion into quarters
    Toss with oil and season S & P
    Roast in 180C oven about 45 minutes.

    Remove from oven
    Cut skin off pumpkin roughly chop
    Also just roughly chop the onion.

    Add to pot with a little more oil

    Add cumin, cook a little longer
    Add Tabasco
    Then add stock and you will need to add some water making sure the vegetable are covered.
    Bring to boil and simmer about 20 minutes till vege are really tender

    Into the blender

    I made Cheese and relish toasted sandwiches to have with our dinner.
    Just perfect.

    Bacon Stock
    Buy a bag of bacon bones from your butcher

    Place in stock pot
    Roughly chop
    2 carrot
    1 onion
    2 parsnip
    2 stalk of celery
    1/2 head garlic
    Handful of parsley stalks and all
    Some celery leaves

    6-8 black freshly ground black pepper corns

    Cover with water

    Bring to boil and simmer slowly about 2 hours
    Skimming any scum off as you go.

    Strain and pop into freezer in 1 litre containers.

    You are ready to go. Particularly good with pea soup.

    Should give you 3 litres.
    Freezes really well.

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Fun in the Mayenne Department

    Le Mans station is properly equipped for travelers. They have ramps not stairs to get to and from the more lugging those bloody bags just roll them down the runways. So pleased to see Annie and Daisy Dog.

    Its been a while and this is our first visit to her lovely home in the Mayenne Department.
    Le Moulin de la Rochelle is situated in St Mars du Desert.
    As you can tell from the name it is an old mill. Annie and her late husband John purchased this wonderful property about 20 years ago.
    It is divine.
    This trip so far in only 2 weeks we have gone from an Amsterdam Mansion

    to a Paris Dolls House

    Down a Magical Drive

    to a Fairytale Cottage.
    My 7 and 8 year old grand children would vouch for that.
    This afternoon, they looked at the photos and thought it looked just like Snow White’s Cottage. Situated about 50 kms west of Le Mans.
    Our first stop was at the wonderful Charcuterie des Alpes Mancelle in the village of Fresnay sur Sarthe.
    We left Dale in the car with Daisy Dog

    I thought I had done pretty well with Les Rillettes at the Cafe de Flores, but this Charcuterie has won a prize for theirs, and I can certainly vouch for that, they were divine. I can’t tell you how much I loved that fatty food from France. (n.b. The cholesterol was definitely up on return home! I may have overdone it. But you only live once and I wasn't missing out on anything.)

    The food was so well displayed. A veritable culinary delight. There was all kinds of offal, wonderful pressed tongue, Ham in Aspic, “Things” en croute...terrine, superb salads, all so, so inviting. Also famous for their sausages and andouille. We didn’t buy their black pudding though.
    Apparently, I was to wait to try the best black pudding in the district, at lunch on Sunday.
    Annie had ordered a Chicken and Ham Fricassee it was delicious.
    Carrot salad and celeriac salad as well.
    So let’s start with lunch, Salad Nicoise with fresh crunchy bread from Madame Patard’s Boulangerie.
    Annie and Dale set up the table in the garden.

    Accompanied by Les Rillettes and of course cheese from the region..
    All washed down with a crisp white wine.
    Quite a bit of wine in fact, all 3 of us needed a nap before we tackled pre dinner drinks and then dinner.
    We stayed up late drinking and catching up.

    Not a problem we could lie in, only a trip to the market in the morning, was the plan.

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    Cafe de Flores We Love You -Paris - From Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower to St Germain du Pres

    Thursday - Big Day Out

    Breakfast at Le Metro pour moi...blogged and emailed - over coffee, very pleasant
    Back to apartment to pick up Dale and over to Le Metro, The real one.
    We arranged to meet John and JT.
    There were a couple of changes on the Metro and we ended up at the top end of Montmartre .

    We hadn’t been to this area before and it was a pleasant walk to Sacre Coeur. A small hill.
    The area was just as we remembered it, so quaint and beautiful.
    A vineyard in the City no less.
    I tool this shot because I thought "Le Lapin Agile" looked and sounded cute.
    Turns out it is very famous. One of the Haunts of Picasso and Co in the last century.
    Local dogs having a scrap.

    Dominated by Sacre Coeur which has to be one of the world’s most gorgeous churches. And what a view.
    We wandered into the Church, they were celebrating mass.
    It was so inspiring. this is when you wish you had religion. We didn’t want to intrude so we quietly walked around.

    I lit a candle for Michael and Sheryl.
    JT and John came in from the bottom and walked up all those steps.
    Dale took a shot of me on those very steps 41 years ago. What happened to that young girl. October 1968. Where were the tourists then?
    We loved walking amongst the artists and Cafes.

    Bought the obligatory hand painted view of Paris (below). Souvenirs for the kids.
    So we walked back down the hill
    Dale had read about a restaurant in the area
    Trying to find it on the map.
    It was OK, not brilliant, but the staff were friendly. I had hamburger... Yes I know, in Paris... but I was intrigued to see how it tasted. They don’t supply the bun, it was just a burger with French fries and salad. It was fine, I think we do them better here though. The others enjoyed their food.
    JT looking particularly Francaise with the menu.
    So back on the train to the Eiffel Tower. I noticed how they are tarting the underground up. Very flash seats for the punters. great colours and still looking a bit brand spanking new. Took as many shots as I could.

    Cat nap on the Metro. Obviously John was scintillating company.
    We were blessed with the weather... Sunshine everywhere. Nice change.
    (Below) Approaches to the Tower.
    I just love the French and their flowers.
    They just pop pots and gardens and window boxes everywhere. Its gorgeous. And of course Trompe d'oeil.
    Invented in France and past masters of it.

    We arrived at the other end of the Eiffel Tower as well.
    Last time, we came in at the long a photo of that as well.

    Still get knocked out at the majesty of the Tower.

    I just loved these roundabouts. Don't remember seeing them before.
    So nice to get another perspective of the Tower and environs.

    Took lots of shots. Every man and his camera is out there.

    Below in another Era. Dale ,Lana and I at the other end of the Eiffel tower.

    Dale 1968
    JT and John 2009

    There was a bit of fracas.
    There are dozens of Moroccan boys selling crap souvenirs. It appeared that some of them had encroached on some other gang’s patch. There was police and lots of running but nothing much seemed to come of it.
    Here they are regrouping.
    Off to dinner in the St Germain du Pres area. John and JT beat us to it and John was sitting in Les Deux Magots. So famous, of course the seats outside were taken. He was waiting inside, not at the back this time like Le Dome, that was OK, he had a menu in his hand, had ordered water and after 10 minutes it still hadn’t arrived, once again slack service. Bugger Les Deux Magots “The Two Maggots” more likely!
    So once again, we walked, right across the road, to the Cafe des Flores
    Well what a difference. They welcomed us. Our waiters were wonderful

    Once again we had to sit indoors, the coveted outdoor seats were taken, but we didn’t care, we squashed into a table and in a trance we were delivered of our drinks.
    I had the best cocktail
    Cognac, Grand Marnier, Raspberry Coulis and Champagne. It was fabulous. My friend Diana gave me 10 euros to have a cup of coffee in this famous Cafe, it paid for the drink instead. Worth every centime.

    I had Duck Rillettes, they were very good. The nice waiter found a table for us outside and JT and I shared a Chocolate Raspberry dessert.
    There is outside tables and out outside tables for the smokers. This man drove away 3 people with his smelly old cigar
    Cafe de Flores we love you
    Don’t you love those Smart Cars Just pop into a park. Obviously the only car to have in a big city. One day we all be driving them.
    So we made our fond farewells with the Taymacs. They were back to Amsterdam and we were on to Le Mans to stay with our friend Annie. We had a great time with them, we all travel well together. Must do it again.
    St Germain du Pres is full of beautiful shops and buildings. The nearby Church.
    Our last trip on the Metro Dale giving Hannah Montana a kiss from Mia.
    Guess what it was raining again. Last look out of the window.
    We packed the suitcases and made our way to Gare Montparnasse. This time we didn’t even bother to try the train, Straight into a cab. As luck would have it, the cab rank was just outside our cafe, "Le Metro". So it was just a hop skip and jump across the road.

    We arrived with plenty of time to spare Only problem was looking for our train. The message board led me to believe we were on the right platform but somehow it didn’t really bode well. Just not enough information.
    Finally got some advice and of course we were at the the wrong end of the station. I was looking at arrivals instead of departures.
    We are at Platform 20, we depart from Platform 4, a fair trot down the concourse.

    Dale's turn to look after the luggage.
    We hastened down to the right platform. Guess what then our carriage was right at the end. The train was very large, two joined together indeed. So it was once again a bit of rush, running down the platform, to get on board. Not too stressed though. We managed to get the luggage stowed reasonably and took our seats.
    Le Mans here we come.
    Just a little extra. In 1985 Dale and Lana and I traveled on the Orient Express.London to Paris.
    It was fantastic, a little different to our 2009 second class experience.
    Boarding at London.
    Quickly into the Champagne

    Moved through to the Bar Carriage. Getting more relaxed
    Once again we found new best drinking friends
    Party Time Krug was beverage of choice
    Changing for dinner
    Arrived at Paris.
    Farewell friends. No idea what their names are. But Hey who cares?
    This was a wonderful surprise.
    This shot taken in 1985, was taken on the corner just behind us our apartment in 2009.
    How about that of all the streets in Paris.....We had to pick that one. Fabulous. "Paris" You are fabulous. Thank you.