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Archive for August, 2011

Mummy & Baby Piglet

I completely forgot to tell you all that I’ve written a guest post over at MummyinProvence on having a baby in France! No horrific birth stories, just my take on having a baby in France as part of the Global Differences of Baby Making series.

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Last summer I frequently reported on my attempts to grow various plants and vegetables from my city garden in Lyon, I named the posts “Jardinage Jeudi” which was quite appropriate as I managed to get in the garden once a week, usually on a Thursday!

I’ve been a bit slow in discovering my new garden in rural France. To be honest the weather has been absolutely dreadful, either raining and cold or far too hot. Either way, I’ve preferred to hang out indoors with Baby Piglet in order to stay dry or too stay cool.

There’s plenty to do in the garden as it looks a bit like a glorified field with a few trees right now. Not quite an idyllic country garden although we do have some pretty awesome fruit trees including two apple trees and a peach tree:

Our red apple tree

Peach tree

Vines

Grapes

Not really knowing where to start and with no real budget so to speak, I’ve decided to start off with the vegetable patches. At least I should be able to grow some produce then I can save myself money on food and hopefully buy a few plants to start my hedge.

We have three raised patches which I have to weed first. The weeds here are tough and grow back just as soon as I have finished. I guess the rain isn’t helping as everything is growing really quick.

Good heavens! Look at those weeds!

Some marigolds I found amongst the weeds

Now only if it would stop raining long enough for me to finish...

I plan to plant celery, radishes, parsnips, rutabaga and onions to start off with. They were the only things that I could find to plant at this time of year – thankfully they are all things I enjoy and I would be pretty chuffed if the parsnips worked out as I have such a tough time buying them here.

Before planting though I need to finish weeding and then turn the soil, mixing some fertilizer at the same time.

I don’t suppose anyone has any tips on growing any of these vegetables by any chance please? What else are you planting at this time of year in your vegetable patch?

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On Saturday, Mr Piglet, Baby Piglet and I descended on the in laws in Provence as we were going to a concert in nearby Vaison La Romaine and had persuaded Mr Piglet’s Mum to babysit and me to leave Baby Piglet for the evening.

Even though we had lived with them for three months and I had tried to eat my way through all the local restaurants and gourmet stops, there were still some stones left unturned. One of which we got to try on Saturday lunch time, the fabulous L et Lui restaurant in Saint Paul Troix Chateaux.

I’m quite a foodie but I’m also very conservative and have been known for always choosing the “safe” option. I appreciate good food but am often left disappointed in restaurants which has led to me spending more time cooking at home than eating out.

L et Lui had caught my eye whilst I was staying with my inlaws earlier this year. I was fascinated by the terrace that was hidden behind a red wall and by the blackboard outside announcing that there was “no menu”. What could this mean?

My investigations enabled me to discover that the food served was seasonal and changed daily according to what vegetables and produce was available. Whilst pregnant I wasn’t keen, fresh produce was of no interest to me as I was only attracted to ice cream and junk food, plus I had eaten far more leaks and seasonal produce between February and April than I ever cared for so tempted I was not.

Come the summer however I was keen to eat out and now that Baby Piglet is keeping more sociable hours last weekend was the ideal opportunity.

I was delighted to discover the garden, beautifully shaded by a variety of trees, offering a secluded, calm space within the town. Private and cool, despite the 30 degrees Celsius on the thermometer.

The waitress gave each of us a menu, which I opened to see a list of drinks and some text explaining that in fact there was no menu. Perplexed, I wondered what this meant and I looked around to see if there was a blackboard. Just in time the waitress came back and asked each of us if there were any foods we didn’t like or were allergic to.

A short while later she came back with an amuse bouche to whet our appetites:

Soft cheese with what looks like grass but is actually a variety of herbs

The tastes were truly amazing and even though it felt like I was eating grass and I was very skeptical I was surprised how each item was like an explosion of flavour in my mouth. The disavantage of not having a menu is that you have to have a good memory to remember what you ate (or write it down) and unfortunately I have neither a good memory or the forethought to write things down before I forget. I think some of the herbs we ate were mustard and garlic but have no idea on the others.

After we had a salad and watermelon:

The salad was courgettes with raviolis and apricot dressing with some herbs that I can no longer remember what they were and the watermelon was a watermelon and red pepper juice. They were absolutely delicious!

The main course was seabass with boulgar and the dessert was a type of Panna Cotta. By the time the main course was served I was totally engrossed with the food and savours that I forgot to take any more photos!

I wasn’t too keen on the panna cotta dessert but I’m not a great fan of Panna Cotta at the best of times.

The three course menu was 27 Euros or you could have two courses for 22 Euros. Given the freshness of the produce and the variety of flavours as well as the fact that most of the produce came from the owners garden I was very impressed. The food was as good as some of the Michelin starred restaurants I had eaten in for a fraction of the price! A definite recommendation if you should be nearby.

Do you like to try different foods when you eat out or do you prefer sticking to the “safe” options?

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I’ve had many frustrating run-ins with the La Poste (post office) as I am sure most people living in France and many other countries have experienced also, but the lack of consistency in service and unhelpfulness in France is second to none.

Until yesterday.

I had ordered some items online from Amazon and like a fool, I had forgotten to switch my address details in Amazon to my new address so they were sent out to my old address.

The new owner averted us that the postman had left a calling card and that the local post office (remember the incident I had here when I was pregnant?) was holding the items. We were in Lyon yesterday and as we had arrived a bit early for my appointment, Mr Piglet suggested I try and negotiate with La Poste and see if I can get them to give me my parcel.

We had a bit of a domestic in the car as I was absolutely convinced that I was wasting my time but I set off sulkily to the La Poste whilst he waited in the car. I took my ticket and waited my turn, all whilst tutting to myself about what a big fat waste of time this was.

Well, I wouldn’t be writing this post if it turned out to be a waste of time, so I may as well get to the point: THEY GAVE ME THE PARCEL! Yes, I had no calling card, no proof of address – just my passport and the parcel number which Amazon had sent me by email.

I don’t know if it is because it is holiday time and the staff were stand-ins, but the lady on the desk immediately understood my problem as soon as I started explaining and offered a solution stating that she just needed the parcel number.

If only more of my experiences could be like that but it’s great to have something positive to say about them for once even if I did have to listen to Mr Piglet say “I Told You So” when I returned to the car with the parcel!

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Despite the horrendous weather we’ve had (who stole the summer?), we’ve been enjoying settling into the new house and the company of having friends over even though entertaining has become rather more complicated since the arrival of Baby Piglet.

Before, I was known for extravagant feasts and for spending hours in the kitchen slaving away to make the perfect Thai dish or a 6 course meal with different flavoured palate cleansers. I thought nothing of trawling Lyon for the right ingredients and then making rice powder from scratch so to make authentic foreign cuisine for my guests (I never cooked French).

But lately I’ve been looking for easiness. Mr Piglet and I lived on ready meals and frozen pizza for two weeks when we moved into the house with Baby Piglet and since we’ve been grabbing a bite to eat here and there. Not exactly what you want when you’re nursing a baby.

So I’ve been looking for quick and easy healthy options which will allow us to eat better and also impress our guests with something they haven’t tried before, without the need for me to spend hours in the kitchen.

Zero points for presentation!


Lazy Melon Starter
I have borrowed this recipe from a friend who did it for us and I have already done it twice for two separate lots of guests in the last week and each time they adored it! It is cheap, seasonal and a spin on the original melon parma ham combo.

For 4:

2 x melons
1 chorizo
Balsamic vinegar
Porto (optional)

Chop the chorizo sausage into small cubes and gently fry in the balsamic vinegar. Add a splash of Porto if you wish. Leave to simmer for the sauce to reduce and become syrupy.

Cut the melon in half and de-seed the centre.

Serving options: Either pour the sauce mixture into the centre of the melon and serve the half melons as they are with the sauce, or cut the melon into smaller portions (with skin removed) as drizzle sauce over (as shown in picture). I served the melon as shown in the picture as we were 5 in total and not huge eaters!

Do you have any quick and easy recipes that I can try? Do share!

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