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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Mention France to anyone and more than likely they will think of French cuisine. The French are renowned for their excellent food and for the important role that food and meal times play in their culture and that is something that I have really come to appreciate.

After years of learning and appreciating the importance of meal times in families, I’ve now discovered meal times also important in a busy hospital environment. Twice this year I have been in hospital at lunch time and have been provided with food and watched as nurses, Doctors and technicians stop and have their lunch too.

The first time I was in ER and they were keeping me in to see a specialist. As I was there at lunch time they served me a tray of food. Nothing exciting. Just some mashed potato and something that bore a resemblance to chicken, along with a salad and yoghurt for dessert. But still, I was in an ER department, not exactly where you’d expect to get a free lunch!

The second time was yesterday. I had to spend the day at hospital in Lyon for testing and to see various Doctors. As I had to be nil by mouth upon arrival (and boy did I complain about that!) I was promptly asked what I wanted for breakfast and fed within minutes of my blood exams. How relieved was I? They certainly knew how to get me in a good mood and even when they told me they’d forgotten to book my MRI scan I was not that bothered.

After a morning of hanging around, having x-rays and enough blood taken to feed a vampire I had chosen to sit in the corridor avoiding all the sick people in the waiting room as I didn’t want to deal with any more germs than Baby Piglet brings home.
I was so engrossed in a novel that I didn’t notice it was lunchtime that I was taken my surprise when a nurse came and said that my lunch was being served. She seemed surprised that I wasn’t already in the lunch room with the other patients.

Off I trotted and was greeted by ten or so patients cheerfully tucking into lunch. I was asked to take a seat and then was served up a four course meal: red cabbage salad with a bread roll to start, chicken and almond tagine with vegetables and semoule for my main, chocolate éclair for dessert and yoghurt for my second dessert. Wow! Only thing missing was a bottle of wine!

To be honest the food was quite bland but there was salt and pepper available and it was more than edible. It was much better than a sandwich or McDonalds which I thought that I’d have to go out and get for my lunch (there is a McDonalds opposite the hospital). The chocolate éclair was heavenly and as I was later told by a Doctor to lose weight I am so glad they provided it and I ate it.

You’ve got to hand it to the French though, the food I ate yesterday was far better than some of the meals I paid to have out in the UK!

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Darling Baby Piglet

You’ve probably gathered from my past postings that I’m a first time Mum and that I like to do things as best as I can for my darling Baby Piglet.

I struggled for months with breastfeeding and finally had to admit defeat when my body required medication, I tended to every need my daughter had, lovingly changing nappies, sticking my hand out to catch sick and calming her through her clingy spells (generally when she teethes).

I also carefully prepared healthy and nutritious home cooked meals for her as I didn’t want to give her shop bought baby food, putting her on to formula for me was already a step to far.

All was going swimmingly well until Baby Piglet caught the dreaded gastroenteritis (which she kindly shared with me). After recovering she wouldn’t eat. I saw plate after plate of food I had so painstakingly prepared pushed away in disgust. She gagged, cried and shook her head in order to make me understand that she was having none of it.

Desperate and tired after being sick myself, I was in the supermarket racking my brains as to what I could prepare for her. “What’s the point?” I said to myself whilst scanning the baby food aisle for ideas. “She’s only going to spit it out again” I muttered whilst picking up a few jars of baby food and plonking them into my basket.

I reasoned with myself that she wasn’t going to eat them anyway so took them home, unpacked them and served up her first baby food meal of chicken and potato.

There was no pushing away, no spitting and no gagging. Baby Piglet’s mouth kept opening, wider and wider. Shell shocked, I tasted the food, delicious would be an exaggeration but it was certainly tasty. What had they put in this? The ingredient list revealed nothing untoward so I carried on feeding her.

With her appetite back, that evening I attempted another home cooked meal but was met with “boo-uh, boo-uh” – this was Baby Piglet’s way of expressing her dissatisfaction! “Great! So it really is my cooking that she doesn’t like” I thought to myself, all whilst feeling deflated, incompetent, a bad Mum and to top it off a bad cook!

The next day she had more shop bought food and then the day after some of my Mum’s Shepherds Pie which she loved. I tried some of my cooking again and was once again greeted with THE LOOK.

What a wonderful way to make you feel deflated, defeated and worthless. I had heard that being a Mother is a thankless task but my darling daughter had always been so gracious and loved my food!

So Baby Piglet spent a week of eating my Mum’s cooking, shop bought purees and bread until I plucked up courage to try and make her some salmon, potatoes and broccoli. Thankfully she gobbled it up so it seems as if I’m winning again.

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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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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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Coming back from Corsica I decided to have a “clear the freezer” week. Having checked my bank balance upon my return, I ws sent into a state of shock to see we’d spent far, far too much money and that Hubby and I were going to have to live much more frugally for the rest of the summer. How we managed to spend so much I don’t know, I didn’t even think Corsica was expensive compared to the South of France or even some places in Lyon! I think maybe mischievous TomTom had got hold of our Carte Bleue too?

So clearing the freezer seemed like a good idea, a better option than bread and pasta in any case. We have one of those American style fridge-freezers (do the Americans call them American fridges too? Anyone?) and the freezer is always bursting full of frozen goodies from Picard, home cooking, frozen veggies and other bits and pieces including 3 bottles of vodka!

After much reflexion, I decided the vodka could stay as I’m sure it’s not very healthy living on vodka for a week and started to attack the rest of the contents vigorously in order to make some type of meal plan. A freezer week normally means for some weird and wonderful meals and sees me having quite an ad hoc approach to cooking.

Unfortunately on this occasion we had some bad family news and my Beaux-Parents came to stay unexpectedly. As I was still trying to live off the freezer I had a route around to see what I could find. I have already spoken of the Belle-Mere’s excellent cooking here so I had to be careful not to disappoint and to ensure that everyone was fed correctly as they needed it.

Some puff pastry, beef burgers and chicken pieces were found so along with the tomatoes in the garden and some mustard from the fridge, I was able to make a bizarre, but tasty meal of tomato tart served with either beef burger or chicken. I think the tart would make a better dish on its own with some fresh salad but that wasn’t an option I had.

So, if you have some tomatoes, some pastry and some mustard here’s something really easy you can try your hand at:

Tomato Tart

Tomato Tart
Serves 4 – 6 people

What you need:
6 tomatoes (enough to cover the pastry) or enough of any type of fresh t’s you can get your hands on
1 Roll of pastry (shortcrust or puff, its the pastry that you buy already rolled out in a circle)
French mustard
Salt & Pepper
Herbes de Provence or other to taste.

What you need to do:
1. Place the pastry on a tray or in a quiche dish. Roll up the edges slightly to form a crust when cooking it.
2. Slice the tomatoes removing any excess juice and pips as you go along.
3. Paste a thin spread of mustard over the pastry.
4. Cover the pastry base with the sliced tomatoes.
5. Season to taste.
6. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees (or as per pastry instruction) for approx 30 minutes or until pastry is golden

You can also add some goats cheese on top but I’m not sure how traditional that is.

Do you have any frugal, fridge/freezer clearing recipes?

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Are you my dinner?

Snails for dinner… No way, Yuck! If someone had told me once that I would like or even be able to manage to eat snails for dinner I would never have believed them until I’d actually come face to face with a plate of snails.

And yet, once I had mastered the art of delicately hoisting them out of the shell with the fork and bringing them up level with my mouth all whilst keeping my eyes firmly squeezed tight (you just don’t want to see their little antennae’s when putting it in your mouth) I actually quite like the things!

I think my liking of snails has more to do with the lovely, rich garlic and parsley butter sauce but even so. These are not words you would expect to hear from me as I’m quite fussy when it comes to food.

I’ve now been eating snails for 11 years and love tucking into them at Christmas and on other special occasions. My Belle-Mere buys them by the dozen for me, knowing that I’ll eat a few dozen on my own if left to my own devices. I still can’t quite believe it myself you know, me eat snails? Nah you must be joking I’d have thought.

Have you experienced anything similar where you thought you’d hate a food but actually loved it?

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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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