Sunday, 28 June 2015

Cherry clafoutis and home sweet home

I am writing this post from home, as we are back already. It was a lovely vacation, we enjoyed so many nice things starting with food, our nice hosts Veronique and Norbert, who welcomed us so dearly and then of course all the wines and all the small charming villages. So if you never been to Provence, I would recommend you to go there. There are certainly many places to stay, we were so happy with our choice...Puymeras, small little village...

For my 6th day (and last day) of my challenge I picked yet another french desert which is quite famous...Clafoutis aux cerises. Easy, fruity and delicious. 

Cherry clafoutis
  • fresh cherries
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • vanilla sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Butter your baking dish and spread the cherries all over the form (you can take the stones away if you want). In a bowl or a blender, mix all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour it over the cherries and put it into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 180 and bake for another 20 minutes... 

Here some more pictures of our adventures in Provence..... we will for sure go there again!!!


Friday, 26 June 2015

Day tasting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

I am not a wine expert, but do appreciate good wine. France is probably the place to be if you would like to pamper yourself with some delicious wine. The area we are staying is full with wine yards and wineries and the choices are endless.....

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a very famous wine district and well known to the world...well, to the world where people appreciate a good wine. I have to admit I was not familiar with this area or wines till today. It was my husband, who has a solid knowledge about wines, suggesting to do some wine tasting in that area...and so we did. The village is about 45 km from us away and I guess all wine experts would understand why a small visit there is a must.

The landscape, on the way there, changed a little....the lavender fields as well as all the fruit and olive threes disappeared and you could only see the wine yards, as far as your eyes could reach...

We visited two wineries and bought a bit more wine as initially thinking. Obviously there are millions of wineries there and you will find yourself in the situation to choice.....we agreed to visit one winery we found recommended in "tripadvisor" and then just see what else will appeal to us. 

The first winery we visited with a lovely name "Domaine Juliette Avril" is a small family operated winery, run by mother and son. We were welcomed for a wine testing by Stephan (the son and the owner) and his son. He explained us some rules and regulations about wine, what can be eaten to what, what price shall we pay and which not and how best to enjoy the exclusive wines. While we grown ups where enjoying the wines and the nice conversation, our kids found each other and were having the time of their lives too....running, laughing and chasing each other over the whole cellar. I think Pablo even picked up some more french words too. It was an unforgettable experience, very familiar, cosy and lovely. We bought some bottles of wine, the kids shared some last cookie and then we were off. Before we took of Stephan gave us a promise, he said we will come here again...once we will open the wines, we won´t be able to resist he said....I hope he is right as I would love to see us here again too.....

The second winery we visited was a recommendation in tripadvisor...called: OGIER. A bit more bigger, with a huge assortments of wines and a bit more commercialised, but still very nice and charming. The girl who did the wine tasting with us was as lovely as the whole could see so much that she really enjoyed what she was doing, which gave a special note to the wine tasting. She also shared some tips and tricks with us, told us her favourite wines and recommendations...I am embarrassed to say, but after trying additional 5 or 6 wines, I was a bit (or bit more) drunk by the time we were finished. I know you should not necessary drink all the wine, but they all were so delicious I found it a pity to spit it out....

We made our way to the centre of the village to have something to eat and to do some sightseeing. This town as well is small and very charming, filled with many cellars where you could buy even more wine.....we did not dare though, as our car was filled with (too many) bottles already. 

Coming back home, the boys took a short dip in the jacuzzi pool to relax and cool down from the trip. I went to the kitchen prepare the food for the dinner.... We decided to do some barbecue in the garden, as we bought some sausages by the local butcher and we still had plenty of vegetables from the market. For the starter I decided to go with "tarte tatin de tomates cerises" and for dessert "crêpes avec du sirop de lavande". Day five of my challenge, today with a starter and the world famous french dessert recipes...

Tarte tatin with cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 boxes cherry tomatoes
  • puff pastry (bought from store)
  • salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar
  • chevre cheese
  • fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the tomatoes into the hot pan (which can be put in the oven later) covering the whole pan. Season with salt, pepper a bit of sugar and have a good splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Cut a round circle out of the puff pastry dough, big enough to cover all the tomatoes. Put it over the tomatoes and push the edges gently down with a wooden spoon. Take the pan from the heat and put it into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden brown. Take the pan might have some juices coming out which can be decanted before you turn over the tarte to a plate. Take a plate big enough to cover the pan and turn the pan over.... Serve it with some fresh chevre cheese crumble all over, fresh basil leaves and another splash of olive oil....

Since we are surrounded by the lavender... I try to use it as much as I can. We liked the light perfumed taste of the lavender in the galette d´abricot so much, I decided to do a lavender flavoured syrup for the crepes for our Provence inspired desert....

Lavender vanilla syrup
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 5-7 branches of fresh lavender
  • 5-8 spoons of sugar
  • vanilla sugar
Put water, lavender, sugar and vanilla sugar in  a pot, steer briefly and let it cook on a high heat for some minutes. As soon as the water starts to bubble put the heat to medium-high and let it cook for additional 20 minutes or so....till you will get a think syrup...

Meanwhile you can prepare the can use the recipe from one of my previous
Serve the crepes with some fresh fruits or berries, a small dollop of creme fraiche and plenty of the delicious lavender syrup....


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Another day at the market and "galette d´abricot"

Poached eggs for breakfast and another exciting day to discover new towns and places...

On the 4th day of the vacation, our excursion took us to the nearby lying village called: Buis les Baronnies. Every Wednesday there is a big market and we wanted to see that. The whole city was full with big and small stands where nearly everything could be bought...starting from fruits, vegetable cheese and ham, throughout spices, ceramic ware, bags and clothes. Buis les Baronnies is another small sleepy town in a valley surrounded by mountains, which takes you back in time to the medieval era.

We made our way through the crowd enjoying the buzz around us, listening to the market sellers how they would price their goods. The whole experience is just incredible, if you love markets as much as I do, this place would certainly makes you happy. I could not resist and bought another bunch of apricots, cherries, olives, muskmelon, watermelon, spices and much more. Everything grown and made by the farmers in that area. By the time we were ready,our bags piled up enormously and it was on time to do a small pause and have something for lunch.

We started our way,  trying to find a restaurant for our purposes. Again if you are not from that town, you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation to find a good restaurant. So we followed the simplest rule what exists...try to avoid any fancy looking locations filled with tourists only, but rather look for a place which is filled with locals. Those places would often do not look very fancy, they would be rather humble and small. We were lucky and found such a restaurant on our looked not very inviting from the outside, I have to admit that....but we certainly got the best lunch ever. Typical french homemade dishes with a perfect price to pay, we paid around 33 Euros for 2 three course lunch menu and coffee. The waiter as well as the chef, who would always run out and speak wit the people sitting in the restaurant or passing the street (they all seems to know each other) were just as adorable as the whole restaurant flair....fitting so perfect inside....the name of the local is: Chez Max...humble and see.

My recipe for the 4th day of the challenge is another simple desert dish done with apricots, mainly because I had a full bag of them and because now is the time to enjoy them. Inspired by our trip to the lavender fields the day before, I wanted to add a small Provence twist to the very known rustic galette d´abricot recipe...

Their is the base, done of the sweet shortcrust dough and fresh apricots....Simple right? I added some fresh lavender flowers to it, to lift up the taste and make it a bit more special...

Galette d´abricot with rose wine and lavender syrup

  • 1 cup (coffee cup) flour
  • 1 tea spoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla sugar and sugar together. Add the butter and mix it quickly with your hands, till all butter is incorporated. Finally add the egg mix well till a ball of a dough will get formed. If you will have to much flour left add a spoon of water or milk....should be the dough to runny add more flour. The dough should still be soft and silky, but not sticking to your hand. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator to rest.
  • 8-10 apricots
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar
  • vanilla sugar
  • 4-5 fresh lavender branches
  • small cup of rose wine
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Wash and half the apricot, take the stones out. Add the sugar, vanilla sugar, lavender and rose wine to a frying pan and let it bubble 10 minutes, till syrup will form. Put the apricots face up into the pan, have another good splash of rose over it and let it bubble away for additional 5-7 minutes.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out to a round circle. With a spoon take out you apricots from the pan and arrange them on the dough circle...let some space to the edges, which will be flipped over in the later stage. Take the lavender branches out and pour the remaining syrup over the apricots. Put the galette into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, till golden brown.

You will notice a light perfumed taste of the lavender eating the cake, which goes very well with the apricots. Note if the apricots are not that sweet yet, you may use more sugar to the recipe... The apricots we bought, were sweet/sour and I found the amount of the sugar appropriate...


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Lavender fields and tarte tatin

3rd day in Provence and today we are approaching deserts. Tarte tatin a very famous desert, not only in France I believe. I do admit there are many many other deserts in France, more fancy and advanced...but since we are on vacation and I love to share easy recipes everybody can make...tarte tatin seemed to be a perfect choice. But please don´t get fooled by the simple preparation and simple ingredients for this tarte, the result will be just phenomenal and excellence, as many other deserts in France too.

There are certainly many variations of flavouring this tarte...vanilla, cinnamon, variations goes with rosemary. You will be surprised to see how well apples go with rosemary and there will be certainly a provincial twist to it....somehow fitting to our current location, wouldn´t you agree?

The tarte can be served just as it is or with some vanilla ice cream, I however choose creme fraiche for my version and it did not only fit perfectly but also gave additional french kick to this delicious desert.

To reach a different look of the tarte, the apples can be sliced and arrange differently. I however like it this way as it looks very rustic to me. Also you will have a big chunks of cooked caramelised apple at once when you are eating the tarte.

 Tarte Tatin

  • 4-5 apples
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2-3 branches rosemary
  • 1 pack puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Skin and quarter the apples. Add butter, sugar and the rosemary branches to a frying pan, please take a pan which can be put into the oven for later steps. Arrange the apple quarters over the pan. Note that apples will shrink during the cooking process. hence the apples should be arranged very tightly. Let it cook for couple of minutes till butter and sugar starts to bubble and change the colour to golden brown. Cut a circle out of the puff pastry as big as a pan. Put it on top of the apples and and push the edges gently down with a wooden spoon. Place the pan into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, till golden brown. Take it out of the oven let it cool for 1 minute, take a big plate which is covering the whole pan and turn the pan that you will have the tarte on the plate. Serve with creme fraiche. Take the rosemary branches away, before eating.

Today we went for another excursion, visiting some places in the area, which were highly recommended by our landlords. Very nice people, who welcomed us here so warmly, making the whole experience even more lovely for us...

On the way to Grignan, a small sleepy town with a castle on top, we stopped in Nyons to have some lunch, admiring the charm and the view of the city. The view over the mountains is amazing, the town lies in a valley and is surrounded by the mountains, with a small river which goes around the city.
Continuing our way we passed many lavender fields, wineries, countless fruit stands from local farmers and many other sleepy and charming villages the area has to offer. I cannot really say which village is the best, as all of them have there own charm and are worth to be seen. You can nearly stop in every village and admire the view, have something to drink and feel like you are in the middle of the movie "Chocolat" with Juliette Binoche. It seems like each village has a very old church and the sound of the bells is following you everywhere.

Grignan is a very small town, but has a lot to offer...a castle on top, small little shops and many charming cafes a perfect place to have a desserts or buy another new bag...which was exactly what I did... Red shopper bag and lavender and honey ice cream for dessert.....


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Today on the menu "Croque monsieur"...

Day two of my challenge and today I am going to share my recipe of "croque monsieur". Many of us would say that this dish stands for France, we all know it from movies (e.g. It´s complicated with Meryl Streep), but there are also enough people saying that the french people did not invent this dish at all. After all we are speaking about  ham and cheese sandwich here and how can this be french indeed?

In fact many countries have a "ham and cheese sandwich" existing in their menus, the basis is always the same there is white bread, ham, cheese and a grill, the preparation however is different and this is probably what makes the ham and cheese sandwich in Spain taste different as in England....There are some fine extras to croque monsieur, which makes the sandwich stand out from the rest of ham and cheese sandwiches, if you would ask me. We usually would not consider to add any mustard or bechamel to it, french people would and this is exactly the reasons why this sandwich is so french and delicious. So again, my opinion on the whole who did and who did not invent it might be indeed that the french people did not invent the"ham and cheese" sandwich, but they modified it to an "excellence" and I am greatful for this!!!

I did some twist to the sandwiches make it taste even more special. Serve a small green salad to it and a glass of red wine and your meal is complete. Try will love it.

Croque monsieur

  • white bread
  • ham
  • cheese (that is melting easily)
  • butter
  • mustard
  • flour
  • milk
  • glove garlic
  • vegetable broth (powder or cubes)
Preheat the oven to 200 C, grill function. Cut the bread in slices, not too thin, spread a thin layer of butter (both sides) and grill is for couple of minutes in a frying pan...not to much, as you will grill the sandwich later in the oven too. Let the grilled bread slices cool on the cooling rack for a minute, take the garlic glove and rub it over the bread (my small twist on the sandwich, to get fine taste of garlic). 
Prepare the bechamel sauce: in a pan melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter, once melted add 1-2 tablespoons of flour, mix well. Add vegetable broth powder, as much as you like, mix well. Now add a little bit of milk and steer well, you might get a dough clump at not worry, add additional milk and steer till all combined. Continue with the process till you will get a silky, not to thin and not to thick sauce.
Put a slice of ham and cheese on the grilled bread slice and put it for 1 minute into the oven, till the cheese is melted. Put a good dollop of mustard on the other bread slice and put it on the bread slice with ham and cheese (face down). Finally put some spoons of bechamel sauce and grill for additional couple of minutes, till the sauce starts to bubble.
Serve immediately with some green salad and a glass of red wine. Bon appettite!!!


Monday, 22 June 2015

A week in France.....

We are on holidays in a little french village in Provence. One week relaxing, good food, friendly people and beautiful places to visit. Exactly what I am looking for on a vacation. This year we are having our summer vacation a bit earlier than usual, spontaneously we decided to go to Provence, we have been here some years ago for couple of days and felt in love immediately. Ever since we were talking to go there again and here we are, fulfilling our dreams!!!
I do not know where to start about all the nice things you can see and experience in Provence, there are just too many. I can only urge you to come here and see it yourself. We rented a small charming house in Puymares, a small village next to Vaison la Romaine. The village is tiny in size but super huge in her charm. There is one bar, one restaurant, one bakery, a tiny market on Saturdays, a church with a fountain and this priceless view over the mountains. For a foodie like us, Provence is certainly the place to be....
Being inspired by all the nice food, nice people and atmosphere I decided to make a "Week in France" challenge,this week. Each day I will prepare another french dish by using local products, which can be bought from the local farmers...

The world seems to be different here, maybe because we are on vacation and there is always a certain charm to this....time is ticking different, people seem to have different kind of issues as we do and they will always find time to have a short chat with the people, even if they are not from here and do not speak any french at all...Pablo seems to love this, he actually repeats everything they are saying to him and it certainly looks like our son can speak french....

Our first morning in Puymeras we had a lovely breakfast in the garden...with some chevre cheese we bought at the market the day before, some fresh baguette which my boys bought early in the morning in the bakery, some scrabbled eggs, some fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh coffee....

Scrabbled eggs with tomato and onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • splash of milk
  • half of young onion
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
Cut the tomatoes and onions in cubes. Put your frying pan on the heat, add some olive oil and add the onions, let it cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes and let it cook for additional 1-2 minute. Meanwhile crack the egg in a bowl, add some milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the tomatoes, stir carefully till cooked ready.

After the breakfast we spend some time in the garden enjoying the sun and the quietness, taking it easy. In the afternoon we took our car to the next town, Vaison la Romaine, to do some sightseeing and having something for lunch. In my mind I was already thinking about the first french dish I would prepare for my first day of the challenge....

Ratatouille was the dish I finally chose to have for dinner, as we still had some gorgeous eggplant, courgette, tomatoes, bell pepper and a garden full of fresh herbs.

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 small courgettes
  • 2 bell pepper
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • 1 young onion
  • 2-3 gloves garlic
  • 1 cup rose wine
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • salt, pepper, sugar
  • fresh herbs (I used sage, oregano, rosemary)
Preheat your oven to 220 C. Cut the eggplant, courgette, bell pepper, tomatoes and onion in slices. Sprinkle some olive oil into the baking dish and put a slice of eggplant, than some slices of courgettes, followed by tomatoes and bell pepper. Continue till all used and the baking dish is full packed. Take the onions and the garlic (also sliced thinly) and plug them randomly into the vegetables till all used. Do the same with the sage and oregano. Season the dish with salt and pepper, sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar over it. Have a good splash of olive oil and balsamic venigar over the top. Finally pour in the rose wine and put some rosemary branches on top. Put the vegetables into the oven and cook for 60 minutes. Check if the vegetables are done by using your fork, if it goes in easy they are done. Serve with fresh baguette, chevre cheese and remaining rose wine. Or as a side dish to meat.

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