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Archive for the ‘Apero’ Category

Ahhh… I’m back from another week in Portugal, nicely relaxed, fairly tanned and with more weight around the midriff… My holiday mostly consisted of eating, drinking and doing nothing which is absolutely perfect!

Of course, there was a certain amount of football as my Dad is a huge footy fan and I have to say even I enjoyed what I watched.

I was glad to be abroad when France got knocked out, it must have been havoc in the city – I wonder if any cars were burned (car burning is a common French occurrence when youth are discontent with things)? I feel sorry for France though, politicians have become too involved in their sports and they are a good team even if their behavior was disgraceful. They did represent their country well by going on strike though didn’t they?

As for England, well, bitterly disappointing but then I think I hear that at every sporting event – never live up to expectations.

So my dreams of watching an English or French Final on big screen TV in the city square as I did in ’98 (albeit not in Lyon) have been dashed. Who knows who’ll get the final, I think Germany (it wouldn’t be as bitter if we lost to the finalists) or Brazil but I will leave predictions to the specialists as I don’t know anything!

So, aside from watching the footy, we had a good holiday and got to explore some areas we hadn’t seen before such as Praia da Rocha near Portimao. Praia da Rocha looks like a typical holiday resort with manicured beaches and tall apartment buildings. The beach looks just like a postcard though:

Perfect Postcard Pic - Praia da Rocha

I also savored some Portuguese cuisine, although after 4 years of regular trips to Portugal I have to say that their cuisine is nothing special and normally consists of grilled meat or fish, limp salad with no dressing and chips. Fish is also quite expensive and generally has a very fishy taste which I’m not too keen on (okay, so fish should taste of fish, but sometimes for me it tastes too much of fish – are you following?). Due to the extreme lack of variety in Portuguese Cuisine, I like to eat at my Mum and Dad’s rather than going out for a meal; fresh salads, BBQ or good comfort food and dishes from my childhood such as Shepherds Pie.

Monteclerigo Beach

On one particular day we were enjoying a glass of lovely Portuguese vino overlooking the beach and decided to make the most of the excellent weather and stay for dinner. I chose Pork Medallions in a mushroom sauce with chips and salad. When the meal was served I was surprised to see I had been given Crisps with fried onions on them! Chips in French does mean crisps but I had never been given crisps in a restaurant in either France or Portugal before so I was gob smacked to be given crisps as part of my meal!!! The pork was actually nice even if it was undercooked in the middle and the salad was much fresher than what I’d become used to. However, the fried crisps and onions were just disgusting, as bad as they sound.

Crisps for Dinner?

Talking about the beach, one day I was on the beach playing with my new IPhone app and was trying to take some artistic photos. Through the little lens of the application, I spotted a parasol and though it would be cool to include it in the photo. I hadn’t spotted the man underneath it with his hands down his swimming trunks! YUCK! The beaches around where my parents live are quite remote so you often get the odd nudist and exhibitionist but this was taking things to a whole new level. I think he may have heard my exclamation when I looked up, as shortly afterwards he was laying on his side with his leg up in the air and striking poses!!!

Rude Man on Beach

My favourite time on holiday though has to be the end of day aperitif with bread and cheese, sardine paste and chilled white wine overlooking the glistening sea near one of my favourite beaches. Paradise!

Wine, Cheese, Bread and Paste

View to Arrifana from Bar

I was pretty ill (again) before going on holiday – I had caught a chill with the dreadful French weather and it had gone to my sinuses. What a delight it is to return to gorgeous weather in France, it’s been a long long time since I haven’t been able to say that so I hope it’s going to be a long time before I moan again.

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Ahhh… it is bright and sunny outside. It is also freezing cold but one should not be fooled by this last minute cold snap. Spring is around the corner and it will be here in no time at all now!

In Lisbon this weekend (more to follow), I peeled off the layers for the first time in months and was shocked to see my brioche belly sticking out from under my t-shirt! I then proceeded to walk round for the next few hours whilst sucking my tummy in but it was so much like hard work! I have to get this in check now before I go past the point of no return! Brioche belly and muffin top are two very appropriate words to describe my excess kilos!

I have always struggled with my weight since moving to France but the worst of my struggles have been since being with my now husband (10 years). The only thing that has changed is my weight, it has gone up – not down!

I now only have one pair of fat trousers that I can fit in, my other fat trousers have all become too small and my first summer holiday is booked so I have just 10 weeks to lose 10 kilos… (okay, so maybe 10 kilos is too much to lose in 10 weeks especially as I’ve not been feeling well, so 5 kilos will be fine but 10 kilos sounds so much better!).

My 10 commandments for the next 10 weeks:

1. I will not be enticed into the pastry shops:
The lure of the beautifully decorated patisserie or boulangerie shops on what seems like every street corner cannot be ignored. Each time I walk past one it is as if I’m being called in by the food. Perfectly formed, delightful delicacies in the way of cakes or the beautiful smell of freshly baked bread, playing with my sense buds, trying to tempt me in to taste them.

2. I will give up wine:
I am in love with wine, not just French but wine generally although French wine offers so much variety I absolutely love discovering le perle rare and deciding what bottles to age and what to drink now. Not to mention wine food pairing and how delightfully satisfying it can be to match a wine to each course of your meal.

3. I will donate the next box of chocolates I receive to a charitable cause:
I’m often treated to the most exquisite teeny tiny works of art which come in chocolate form. Next time I receive a box, I will kindly donate it to one of my thin friends rather than keeping it for myself. Not only will I not eat chocolate but I will also commit a charitable act. I will also stop buying Toblerone party bags.

4. I will stop socialising:
Every social event I throw or attend always starts of with an Aperitif and copious amounts of Champagne or Crémant. How I can avoid these I do not know, other than to stop socializing, after all, I can’t possibly hold a dinner party and not give an Apertif to my guests and I have no will power to resist!

5. I will use a smaller plate:
but then again all the lovely things in France are always served up in such small portions so will a smaller plate really make a difference? Nouveau Cuisine started in France and a lot of French food is so intricate and presented in the most beautiful way it only needs to be served in small portions. Maybe I’m eating UK sized portions whilst French women are eating much smaller portions?

6. I will not use butter:
Butter is one of the secrets to French cuisine so I’m told. I therefore started using it in abundance to make by English cuisine more French and more appealing to my French friends. My taste buds developed a liking for it also unfortunately. As did my brioche belly. I will therefore ditch the butter.

7. I will keep my fridge topped up with fresh fruit and veg:
I have no excuse, I have a local food market 3 times a week just a 10 minute walk away. I will just have to avoid the pastry shops, the wine growers, the chocolate shop and other temptations on my way there! I therefore think I should put a peg on my nose or a bag over my head to avoid being tempted!

8. I will exercise:
In one of the many parks that Lyon has to offer. I could take a run in the wonderful Parc de la Tete d’Or or go on a bike ride at Miribel Jonage or along the riverside quays.

9. I will stop buying clothes until the ones I already own fit:
I don’t know if this will work but if I maybe remove everything that doesn’t fit from my wardrobe I’ll be mightily disappointed and it may just shock me into doing something.

10. I will stop raiding the foreign aisle of my local supermarket:
Everytime they stock something like proper cookies, peanut butter, Dairy Milk Chocolate etc I feel absolutely obliged to buy as much as possible in terms of quantity so that the shop is encouraged to continue stocking it. When I first moved to France it was so hard to get hold of food from back home such as Branston Pickle, Brown Sauce etc that whenever I see it now I feel obliged to buy. But as I don’t like waste I also feel obliged to eat!

After all, I am living in France and so many French women are thin and slender that it must be possible if I’m good and try and stick to the rules? So, today marks day 1 of my mission… Just 10 weeks to go!

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Verrines

The Aperitif, or « apero » as its so lovingly called within my circle of friends is an important part of life in France –  here are some websites where you can get some ideas from.

To find out how to serve a French Aperitif and get some basic ideas have a look here - this website will give you ideas on drinks and what to serve as nibbles – BEWARE no peanuts or crisps!!
Verrines: turns out there isn’t an English word for this at least as far as I’ve been able to tell so far. The Serious Eats website explains quite well that Verrines are Luxury in a Glass…  It also looks as if there’s not many websites with recipes for savoury verrines in English yet. Lots of sweet ones but few suitable for the “apero”.
If you read French try looking at this website for lots of delicious recipe ideas or consider buying a book such as this one. Books on Verrines & Cuilleres are all the craze in the French bookshops and supermarkets right now and there are oodles of yummy recipes out there!

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