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.

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!


  • 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


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 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.


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.


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!

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


1kg figs, diced

700g sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Seeds of 1 vanilla pod

1 stick cinnamon

1 star anise



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.

Lets get figgy!



I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love figs… and what a delight to not only have them in season right now, but also to have friends (2 sets of) who have large trees in their garden and are willing to give away bags and bags of these gorgeous black squishy beauties. I’m in fig heaven!

Coming home from one friend’s house the other day, loaded up with two large bags of figs (I’m estimating about 2.5kg worth) AND spare jars (as I didn’t have any) I was plotting and planning all the goodies I was going to make. Or get TC to make, hehehe.

So, first cab off the rank is fig and red onion chutney. Perfect with cheeses – perfect for us.

I used this recipe from Bay Tree Cottage and, I must say, I’m pretty pleased with the result. TC also seems to be, as there were lots of yumms and mmmmms coming from his side of the table as we shared a cheese board last night.

So what will be cuisiné in my kitchen tomorrow? Well a classic fig jam of course…  One of my friends commented to me yesterday that I’ve become very domesticated now, and with all the jams and chutneys I’ve been making lately, she might be right.

I hope you are also enjoying fig season as much as I am!  Reipe is below…  Figs 2  Caramelising the onions   Figs into the pot  Fig & red onion chutney


Fig & Red Onion Chutney


 ·         850g fresh figs (13)

·         150ml balsamic vinegar

·         100ml red wine vinegar

·         300g soft brown sugar

·         zest and juice of 1 lemon

·         260g red onions (2)

·         2 teaspoons mixed spice

·         10g fresh root ginger or 1 teaspoon of dried ground ginger

·         1 tablespoon of olive oil



Peel and thinly slice the red onion, peel and grate the ginger, remove the stalk from the figs and cut them into quarters. Zest and juice the lemon.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and then put in the onion. Fry the onion for 5 minutes until it has softened and turned translucent and slightly caramelised.

Add all the other ingredients to the pan except for the figs, then season it with salt & pepper. Bring it up to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Once the liquid has reduced to a syrup add in the figs and cook it for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Pour the chutney into sterilsed jars, put the lids on and allow to cool.

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


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…

Sables Maison – or homemade shortbread, French style


As some of you may (or may not) have noticed, I’ve been a bit remiss in posting regularly lately. This month has been very busy as TC and I have met new people and have been out doing a lot of cycling – more posts on our two-wheeled activities to come, I promise. My mobile phone is also completely out of action at the moment which is seriously hampering the amount of pictures I’ve been able to take while out cycling. That will teach me for thinking that 3€ battery I bought online was good value!

One thing I did do while waiting for the spring weather to arrive was to put one of my Christmas presents to good use. I made savoury sage and walnut shortbread cookies from my “Sables Maison” cookbook.  IMG_3914

The main difference with these cookies than anything I’ve done before is the complete lack of sugar.Well actually, as you may have noticed, the MAIN difference was that the recipe was entirely in French – forcing me to practice (and thankfully I only needed to look up a few words).

Back to the sugar – I was a little puzzled at this as I have never made savoury shortbreads before, but I pressed on regardless. I shelled and chopped fresh walnuts, rubbed the butter into the flour and then mixed in all the other dry ingredients rosemary cookies 6

added the egg, worked the dough until smooth and then rolled it out between parchment sheets.IMG_3925

Next it was time to rest the dough in the fridge for an hour, before cutting out and pressing with my super cute Parisian cookie press rosemary cookies 4  IMG_3928

… and baking in the new oven. Since I’ve become something of an expert at overcooking (one might even say slightly burning) many baked things, this time I took the care to time the baking properly. I also kept the oven at a slightly lower temperature than the instructions indicated (only by 5C) because I know this oven is a little hot.  rosemary cookies 5

Once cooked and cooled, TC and I enjoyed them with tea…. rosemary cookies 2

The verdict? Hmm… TC seemed to really like them, but I did find them just a little bland due to the lack of sugar. The sage and walnut flavours worked very well together but for me there was definitely something lacking. As the book contains a selection of sweet and savoury recipes (sucrés et salés), I think the next one will have to be sweet!

Enjoy… rosemary cookies 7

Testing, testing….

We had a new oven installed this week – the old one died and we were completely sans oven for almost two weeks.

In the first two days with the new one, we’d already had two roast dinners. Of course this calls for a baking test too – first up: double choc chip cookies.

I had been watching Ina Garten on the Barefoot Contessa and saw her make these yummy double chocolate almond cookies with Kathleen King, so I decided to give them a bash. Except, because it was a late, spur-of-the-moment decision, I didn’t have almonds on hand so was going to substitute them with walnuts. Except, again, I then got impatient and wanted to get this mixture into the oven without taking the time to shell the walnuts!

So here are my double choc chip cookies, no almond. I also used only 1/3 of the original recipe (with the exception of the egg) because I didn’t want 52 cookies in the house!





Oven duly tested, it heats up quickly and runs a little hot. However, I think more testing is in order.

We have guests coming for dinner later this week and I am going to actually make a savoury dish. What a shock! TC usually does all that, but we have decided that we will do an entree, main, cheeseboard and then some small individual sweet pastries from the local patisserie to accompany coffee. That leaves me free to actually cook an entree while TC does the main.  I have chosen my dish and most of it can be made a day ahead… I’ll have to do a practice run early in the week too  I think. Stand by for that one.

Ready to enjoy

Ready to enjoy

Ahhhh, where’s my cup of tea…..

Bon appétit, à bientot!

Chin chin, chai…

Today is a stay in day for me. Apart from a walk up to the shop, but otherwise a rest day. We’ve had some good rides this week, a couple of wines out at the bar last night (since it was Friday) and a nice sleep in today.

Some dark grey clouds have blown in, in readiness for the rain that is forecast tonight and all day tomorrow. I feel a little tiny bit of a cold coming on, so today I made myself a nice pot of chai tea.

I love my chai tea. Preferably with soy milk, but that’s just my personal taste.

Here in France I’ve had a hard time finding a good, prepared chai tea mix, or tea bags. Back in Australia, I know I can get chai teabags in a few brands, including Twinings who’s come in a  black package – but do you think they can be found here? No, not at all. The Twinings black package here is for Scottish tea. As I’ve found with most things Asian, it is hard to find the good stuff here.

I have searched high and low for any brand, and have found that chai green tea is sometimes available – but I don’t particularly the taste of green tea. I like my chai made with black tea. Additionally, the two that I did find (and now have to remember where, because I can’t find them again) seemed to have more ginger in that what I am used to from Australia. The only solution then, is to make my own.

At first this does seem like a bit of messing about. But now that I’m sitting here sipping my beautiful fragrant, hot, sweet chai, it has been worth spending about 1/2 an hour in the kitchen.

Luckily for me, because TC loves to cook so much, I had all the spices I needed on hand. However, some were pre-ground where I really should have used whole seeds or pods (cardamom), but no matter, I still got the flavour I wanted.  Here is what I came up with for my chai tea…

Take some of the following:

  • whole star anise
  • cloves
  • cinnamon stick
  • black peppercorns
  • sliced fresh ginger
  • cardamom seeds (or whole pods, split open)
  • a bay leaf

Afterwards, you will need:

  • black tea leaves (or tea bags)
  • honey
  • milk of choice (if you want vegan, use soy, almond, rice, etc)
Chai tea 3  Chai tea 2

Add all of the spices & the bay leaf to water & boil for 5 minutes Chai tea 1

Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. Then add black tea leaves and bring back to boil, simmer for 5 minutes.  Then add honey and soy milk & heat through for a few minutes Chai tea 5

Strain into cups or mugs and enjoy… Chai tea 6

If you are going to have a go at this, play around with the quantities that you prefer. I like mine with less ginger & star anise (I only used 1 star anise and about 6 very thin slices of ginger), more cinnamon and cloves (I used a whole cinnamon stick and about 6 cloves). I started with about 3 cups of water, and about 1/2 a cup of soy milk, and in the end it yielded 1 and 1/2 large mugs.  Chai tea 4

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

Inspired by this week’s weekly photo challenge, I hereby bring you my “Lunchtime” photo… potato tomato spinach

Yesterday and today TC and I went out for a ride of about 40km, one we do often, along the sea front. While it was sunny today, there was a strong northerly wind that was cold. It’s obviously being generated from all the snow that they are still having in the north, so that’s how cold the wind was – cold enough that my toes were numb when we got home.

Cold rides like that make me want to eat a nice hot lunch on our return. Lately I’ve discovered just how healthy and low-fat baked jacket potatoes are with a variety of vegetable toppings.

Today I was like Popeye the Sailor Man and got a decent serve of spinach in with my lunch. I’ve never bought frozen spinach before, but after this, I am a fan!

While the potato was baking (ok, I admit I use the microwave for this) I diced a large clove of garlic and a medium tomato. I had previously defrosted some frozen spinach. I heated up a little olive oil in a frying pan, added the garlic & tomato, sauteed for 3-4 minutes then added the spinach to heat through.

I then put this all over my baked potato (cut open of course), topped it with a tablespoon of light philly cheese and a grating of lemon zest.

Delicious and just what I needed to warm me through.  Enjoy!