Food

Kaled it…

Kale chips

Thought I’d better find out what all the fuss was about kale chips (crisps). So now I know – delicious!

Here’s what I did:

  • Washed and dried the kale leaves in a spinner.
  • Tore the leaves into small, bitesize pieces (removing the tough spine).
  • Drizzled with olive oil, then rubbed the oil over all the leaves to ensure they were well covered.
  • Spread out in a single layer on a lined baking tray, seasoned with salt & pepper.
  • Baked at 180C for 5 – 10min. (Sorry about that wide range – I didn’t actually time it, just kept checking on them. When they started getting the slightest tinge of brown, I whipped them out).

They are very very thin and crispy when cooked. Be prepared to find them as addictive as potato chips! You’ve been warned.

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Against the grain…

Muesli bars without oats.

Also without sugar, dairy, eggs or flour.

No, this is not a “paleo” recipe or a post about how bad grains are. I like grains. They are tasty and nutritious, full of fibre… but I am allergic to oats so normally for me, muesli bars are out of the question.  I am also interested in healthy foods, low sugar, high fibre and anything made from scratch with basic ingredients.

So what do my muesli bars contain?

Apples, bananas, rolled rye, soy milk, chia seeds, sultanas, vanilla and cinnamon, dried cherries and coconut.

These are my “cherry coconut muesli bars” but you can use any flavour variations you would like. How about apricot & pepitas? Date and almond? Fig and walnut? The possibilities are endless.

Let’s talk about those grains, though. So what I’ve been doing lately is experimenting with other grains in place of rolled oats. This started as a way to make porridge, which I absolutely love, but cannot eat. I’ve been specifically trying other grains that come rolled. Yes, like rolled oates, just not oats. So they look like rolled oats, behave (in recipes) quite like rolled oats… but without giving me a violent reaction – hooray!

I have tried this particular recipe before with the traditional oats for TC and other family members, who reported back very favourably on the results.

This time I was going to try it with rolled spelt, as this is usually in my pantry (great for non-oatmeal porridge!), but today I have used rolled rye. When I went to my container of spelt the other morning to make porridge, I found moths had taken up camp… so that batch went into the bin. Besides that, when I went to buy more, I decided they are a little too expensive right now. I don’t know what it is – are they “on trend”, making them a higher demand product, thereby allowing retailers to make extra profits? Browsing my regular supplier’s website, I decided there were other cheaper options to try, so here I am with rolled rye.

Did you know you can get all kinds of rolled grains? Spelt, rye, barley, triticale and rolled brown rice for starters, and that’s just the ones I know about! I’ve also recently bought whole hulled millet, which I plan to try in a variety of ways, so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 2 cups rolled rye
  • 1/3 cup soy milk (or use any other type of milk)
  • 1/2 cup sultanas or raisins
  • 1tspn vanilla
  • 1tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds.

Preheat oven to 170C. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Press into an oiled & lined baking tray. Bake for 20-25min. Allow to cool slightly before removing from tray. Complete cooling on a cooling rack. Cut into bars.

Notes: Rye seems to be a bit more bland than oats, so I would recommend possibly sweetening with some honey.   I made my own apple sauce for this too – apples & water only. It was enough as a sweetener for the oatmeal bars, but not this time.

Who am I and why am I here?

A rest in the park

Who?

I am an Australian woman who, along with my husband, took advantage of a window of opportunity to leave our working life for a year and go to stay in France.

Why?

Why France? We had been on holiday in France before and simply fell in love with the country so we wanted to see more.  A lot more.  The solution was to apply for a long-stay visa, organise some rental accommodation, rent out our place in Perth, start learning French… and go.That was two years ago now.

What?

We rented in 3 different locations around France, but travelled to many more, both by car and by bicycle. Our year soon turned into two as we realised we weren’t going to explore even half of what we wanted to, let alone speaking the language in one year alone. So we went into the local sous-prefecture and extended our visas.

This blog started as a way for me to document our adventures in cycling, exploring France, wine and cooking (which was a great side effect of not working and living frugally!).  I guessed that the things we loved doing, the places we loved exploring and the foods we loved cooking (and eating) would also appeal to others around the world, especially the Francophiles out there, so here I am.

Next?

We are currently back in Australia and returning to work, but planning frequent visits back to France with a scheme to have another year off before too long. There are still a lot more parts of France and Europe that we want to discover.

To celebrate my return to Australia and a fresh year blogging, I have decided to update my theme with a new look. There are many things we’ve celebrated recently with our family, including 21st birthdays, a wedding, Christmas and the new year and a 50th birthday. All of this has kept me away from blogging recently, but I am back for 2014.

 I hope you enjoy both my French and my Australian posts, and I would love to have your feedback and comments!

My first birthday – thank you!

Today I received a “happy anniversary” message from WordPress.

What started as a spur of the moment decision to start documenting our adventures on our “escape” to France has turned into something I really enjoy doing. 80 posts later and I am amazed that 5000 people have viewed and read my little blog and over 400 have left me with lovely comments.

Thank you to all of you that have read and followed, I really do appreciate it -vous êtes tous très gentils!

I also have lots more to post, so even though things have been quiet for a little while – they haven’t for me in real life and I will be back 🙂

A little green tea

Herbal TeaI was reading about recipes using fresh, home grown herbs when I decided to try my own herbal tea. I’m having a lazy, restful Sunday and after the past two month of hectic life, I’m determined to enjoy it.

First step was to google ideas for combinations of herbs to try. My little balcony herb garden has the basics: mint, thyme, basil, parsley and a chilli plant. After reading about others’ experiences with fresh herbs, I decided to try a mixture of fresh mint and basil with fennel seeds.

Step one was to cut the mint & basil, break down the fennel seeds a little with a mortar and pestle, rip up the leaves to release the flavours, then steep in boiling water for around 5-10 minutes.

On a trip to Thailand a few years ago, I was taken by this lovely tea infuser-cup-and-lid set which is perfect for trying my own teas. I do love pretty things, so what is more perfect than a pretty, hand-painted tea cup just for me?

The tea verdict? Surprisingly pleasant and very refreshing.

I have not been a big fan of either green tea or herbal tea bags, so I’m very pleased that I enjoyed this combination. Whilst reading up about home made herbal teas, I found that apparently the best teas are made from three types of ingredients – something green, some herb and something floral. One of my basil plants is going to flower soon so I think I should try harvesting those flowers and drying them, ready for another herbal tea experiment.

The last step in this process was, of course, to put my feet up and enjoy my fragrant brew.

And I did need to put my feet up on this cushion… last night I attended a  “hen’s night”  – for the uninitiated, that is the last wild “girls’ night out” before a bride’s impending nuptials –  so this little cupcake was suffering from a little fatigue and very sore feet after a night of laughter and dancing with a great group of girls.

Here’s to lazy Sundays and home made herbal teas (and girls’ nights)! Home made herbal tea

Where there’s wine, there’s bound to be an Australian…

It’s not very often that TC and I call in on perfect strangers and introduce ourselves, but perhaps we should do this more often. Today’s adventure starts with a recommendation from our friend Thierry back in Perth.  Thierry owns and runs the fabulous Whisper Wine Bar in Fremantle’s Essex Street,  a place close to our hearts as we spent many hours over a chilled glass of white, plotting and planning our “escape to France” before we came here.

What has that got to do with wineries here in the Languedoc? Well, Thierry told us that a young man who had worked for him a while back, was now back in France and working in a winery not far away from us and what’s more, the winemaker at this winery is also Australian. Not needing any further  excuse than to say “hi” to a friend of a friend from Australia (and the chance to meet another Aussie living and working here), we set off as soon as we could.

Which of course was the very next day, why delay?  On the bikes and off to Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian!

The ride through local wine country was lovely. Sunny and warm, we arrived having worked up a decent sweat.  Just outside the winery is the 12th century prieuré – gorgeous!

Priure de Saint-Jean de Bébian Bike against wall Courtyard

Coming through the gates into such a pretty courtyard that I could have just sat and soaked it up all day. We were met in the cellar by a lovely lady who, on being told that we must say hello to Benoit, rushed off immediately to fetch him. After passing on the greetings from our mutual friend, we had a look around the cave (that’s just the name of the cellar door in France) and then started tasting some of the wines.

Well the wines were great (we managed to squeeze four bottles into our backpacks, despite also having our water bottles taking up space!) and had a wonderful chat with the winemaker, Karen Turner, who was so lovely and friendly that, despite these two strange Aussies turning up out of the blue (and in the middle of the harvesting season!) was kind enough to show us around a little and explain some of their wines and processes.

I LOVED the barrel cellar with its thick covering of cobwebs on the windows – deliberately left there to help keep flies at bay – and we were shown the nifty rack system they use for the barrels. Each one is on individual rollers in its rack, allowing the barrels to be rotated to stir the wine and also allowing single barrels to be removed easily  – something quite impossible if barrels are all stacked against each other!

 

 

 

Unfortunatley, there was no vendage happening while we were there. Karen explained that they only harvest in the mornings so that the grapes are fresh and while they had been harvesting some of the white grapes, the reds simply weren’t ready yet so there was to be a break for a few days.  A pity for us, as we would have loved to see the grapes being brought in, but this day it was not to be.  We did get to see the original stone tanks still used by the winery for the resting and maceration of the red wine grapes.

Chatting with Karen, we discovered that she and her husband also have their own winery, Domain Turner Pageot, specialising in biodynamically produced wines in the Languedoc region. A little more snooping on my part revealed they are part of a group of wine producers called “The Outsiders”, describing themselves as:

“…a group of Languedoc-Roussillon wine producers. Working in the south of France, they are creating exciting wines which make full use of the region’s highly diverse soil types, climatic conditions and grape varieties.”

If you get the chance to try some of these wines, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed and, even better, if you get the chance to call into the winery here just outside the beautiful town of Pezenas, you definitely won’t be disappointed!

Cheers and santé!

Winery sign

ps Yes, West Australians can taste some of these wines in Whisper’s… but shhhh…. I’ll be back there soon, leave some for me!!

The other fig jam…

As many of you will know, its fig season and I am lucky enough to have friends giving me plenty of them! The other day I made some awesome fig & red onion chutney, which is going down well. TC even had some this morning with his smoked salmon and eggs for breakfast. I guess that means I have the seal of approval as resident chutney maker.

But today’s job is fig jam. This will be my first attempt, having only made what I think of as ‘regular’ fruit jams up until now – you know the regulars: apricot, strawberry, raspberry, etc.

So with figs aplenty in my kitchen, here I go. Now, I am also branching out a little by using a recipe that’s just been given to me verbally, with one or two little tweaks added in. Two of my friends here in France are experienced fig jam makers; one kindly told me his recipe and the other suggested a tweak (adding one star anise) that he likes for a subtle difference to the flavour. I also added my own tweak (adding the cinnamon stick), just because I like cinnamon and it goes hand in hand with vanilla. In my world anyway.

The first thing my friend suggested to do is prepare all the ingredients, put them in a bowl together and let them marinate overnight so the flavours have more time to soak in before cooking.

The next day, simply transfer to a pot and cook it all up. Don’t forget to remove the star anise and the cinnamon before pouring into the jars!

Easy, yummy.

Have a look at what I’ve done with the vanilla though… some of you may remember my post about making your own vanilla essence, which is what I’ve done and its been happily infusing away in the back of a dark cupboard for many months now. To use the vanilla seeds, all I had to do was snip the end off one of the beans and squeeze the seeds out. Oh my… my fingers had the most beautiful vanilla aroma on them all evening. Delicious.

Actually, I think I’ve even impressed myself!

Oh so what was the other fig jam? Oh you must know it… the acronym f.i.g.j.a.m … ? (ok, just discovered it’s an Australian thing!)

Fig Jam

Ingredients:

1kg figs, diced

700g sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Seeds of 1 vanilla pod

1 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

 

Method:

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl and stand overnight.

Put everything in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, testing for the set.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the star anise and cinnamon then pour into warm, sterilised jars.

Barcelona la Boqueria… For food’s sake

This week has been crazy for us, with a frind flying in from Australia on friday and a road trip to Barcelona this week to collect my parents who have also come for a visit.

We spent our first day exploring and took them all into this wonderful market.

Here is a selection of our images…  Enjoy!

image image image image image image image image image image image image image

Sweet orange muffins with sticky syrup

Orange sticky muffins 2

This week I had fun at a “girls’ night in” with some of the other lovely ladies in my village. This involved all of us taking a little food, a little wine, all meeting up and having a night of laughter and friendship.

I haven’t had a girls’ night since December (when I had a wonderful weekend in Paris with a visiting Aussie friend) so I was quite excited to be able to get out and let the hair down with the girls. So excited that I took over TCs kitchen and spent the day cooking.

First up was this wonderful quiche recipe from the amazing Carla over at Expat Chef in Barcelona: Asparagus and Red Pepper Quiche.

The only change I made to Carla’s recipe was to add some crumbled feta, and I then scaled it down slightly to fit a standard round quiche dish… and wow, it was delicious. It went down a treat with the girls (all 7 of them) and the very  first comment I got was “OK you’re employed”. Actually, credit goes to TC for roasting the red peppers for me (these are known as capsicums to us Aussies)  – he’s been roasting these a lot lately and it’s something I’ve never actually tried, so he kindly volunteered that job. Actually, that was another small change to the recipe – rather than confit peppers, I simply left them as roasted and peeled then left them to sit with the oil that was still on them until I was ready to drain & cut them – they were still delicious!

So being excited as I was, I also decided to make a version of orange muffins with sticky orange & lemon syrup. Orange sticky muffins 1

I actually adapted these from a Thermomix recipe that I’d wanted to try for quite a while. For those who know what a Thermomix is, you will understand completely how much I miss mine back in Australia. Because I am such a Thermomix fan, I thought this might be a good opportunity to try out the recipe without one and see if I could cope with my little food processor I’ve purchased here in France.

The recipe is the 30 Second Whole Orange Cake from the Thermomix recipe community. If you would like the original Themomix instructions, please click here.  So this is the recipe with almost the same ingredients, and my method with the processor:

Ingredients (makes approx 14 large muffins)

1 whole orange cut into small chunks

1 tbspn orange rind, finely grated

225g butter

3 eggs

200g sugar

300g Self Raising Flour

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Line muffin tins with paper liners & set aside.

Place the orange pieces and butter into the food processor and process until the orange is finely processed and combined with the butter (this may take some time, with stopping & scraping the sides of the bowl, depending on your processor). Add the extra orange rind and the eggs, one at a time and process until completely combined.

Put the orange mixture into a large bowl. Combine the flour and sugar and add this (about 1/3 at a time) to the orange mixture, folding in until just combined.

Fill the muffin tins and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly and while still warm, drizzle with the syrup and top with thin strips of orange rind. (Note: my muffins had browned on top, so in order to help the syrup soak into the muffins, I pierced them several times with a toothpick before drizzling the syrup)

Orange & Lemon Syrup

Juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)

Juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)

100g sugar

Combine juices and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat & bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Drizzle over still warm muffins.

I made 12 large muffins but had enough mixture left over to make a small cake to leave behind for TC to enjoy.  Orange sticky muffins 3

So how did the recipe go using the processor instead? Rather frustrating, as my processor is just a little cheapie, so it took quite some time to get the orange and butter finely chopped and blended… stopping and starting many many times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  It is going to be so good to use my machine again next year…