The Hospices de Beaune, also known as ‘Hotel-Dieu’ was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, the chancellor to the then Duke of Burgundy, ‘Phillipe le Bon’, and his wife Guigone de Salins, as a free hospital and refuge for the poor.
This was unique at this time as Rolin set out to make the building aesthetically beautiful on the inside and out, using the distinctive polychrome tiles that the region is famous for on the magnificent roof of the building.
He also had revolutionary ideas on standards of cleanliness and the provision of fresh food and drinking water from the hospices own well and well equipped kitchens. And he founded a training school for local women of good repute to nurse the patients and assist in the pharmacy where all the medicines were prepared, forming the religious order ‘Les soeurs Hospitialieres de Beaune’, who cared for patients here as late as the 1970’s.
Regular followers will know that I have the same ethos as Nicolas Rolin and like to prepare everything seasonal and fresh. So as the tomatoes and courgettes have begun to ripen, here is a simple little dish using them and my own freshly made pesto (see below), and fresh pasta. Just right for these long hot summer days as a light lunch.
2 generous handfuls of fresh tagliatelle per person (I used shop bought, but as soon as I have a proper kitchen, I plan to make my own, so watch this space)
1 tablespoon of fresh pesto
1 table spoon of good quality olive oil, plus extra for cooking
half a courgette diced
2 tomatoes diced
A handful of pine nuts
A little garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper and dried crushed chilli flakes
Sauté the courgettes for5 minutes until beginning to soften
Add the tomatoes and cook over a gentle heat for around 10 minutes until both are slightly caramelised
Add the pine nuts and season with garlic salt and black pepper and reduce heat until pasta is ready
Cook the pasta in boiling slightly salted water for 10 minutes while the tomatoes are cooking
Mix the pesto and olive oil in a basin and pour over the cooked drained pasta and stir to coat.
Serve the pasta and top with the vegetable mix, very lightly sprinkle with the chilli flakes and serve immediately.
I do not put parmesan with this dish as I think theses flavours stand up alone, but experiment and see what you think.
50 gm of pine nuts
50 gm of freshly grated parmesan cheese
A large bunch of fresh basil
1 large clove of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil + extra for storage
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
Lightly toast the pine nuts and leave to cool
Put the cooled pine nuts, parmesan and basil in a food processor and blend for 20 seconds son the slowest speed
Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time, checking the consistency
Add a little salt and pepper to taste
What you do not use, can be stored in the fridge in a sealed jar, covered in a little extra oil and kept up to two weeks.
To make a lighter sauce for pasta, the pesto can be mixed with crème fraiche, to give a milder flavour and a more fluid consistency.
Spring has truly arrived and along with it the opportunity to eat outdoors and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.
The scent of apple blossom and lime flowers is carried on the air with the sounds of a distance cuckoo, and the melodic singing of a multitude of birds. What is not so melodic are the mating calls from the frogs and toads in the pond, but it makes me smile to hear them.
My garden is not really a garden, but a wild place where nature has been allowed to run amok. I love to see bees forage for nectar amongst the flowers that have seeded themselves wherever they like.
I love also the fresh tastes of spring, and this salad is another one of my, make what you can with what you have meals, that has turned out to be a favourite with my veggie daughters’ and my non veggie husband alike.
It is quick, simple and nutritious to make and tastes full of flavour.
Ingredients (serves four)
2 cups of Puy lentils cooked in slightly salted water for around 40 minutes until soft, but not mushy, drain and leave to cool
1 avocado finely sliced
1 courgette finely sliced
A handful of pine nuts slightly toasted
A handful of fresh mint finely chopped
1 block of halloumi cheese in fine slices
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lime juice
Maple syrup or balsamic vinegar
Chargrill the courgette slices and set aside to cool
Mix the olive oil and lime juice and toss the avocado, cooled courgette, lentils in the mixture then gently mix in the pine nuts and mint
Grill the halloumi on both sides
Arrange the lentil salad on a serving place and top with slices of halloumi
Drizzle with Maple syrup or balsamic vinegar if preferred
(This delicious salad can also be served as a starter for 6)
Spring has finally arrived, my favourite time of year in Paris. Warm enough to stroll around in light trousers and jacket, and sit outside a pavement café people watching. But not hot enough to make public transport unpleasant. Plus the Easter visitors have left and the summer ones not yet arrived in droves, so the city is relatively calm.
I would recommend this time of year to visit, even if you do run the risk of the odd April shower, especially as the trees are all in bud and the blossom is in bloom.
I love cooking this time of year also using fresh ingredients, so I am gong to pot a lovely salad that I made using my newly sprung fresh mint.
(for two people as an accompaniment)
1 large courgette, washed and finely sliced
1 ripe avocado cut into small slices
A good handful of pine nuts
bout 12 decent sized fresh mint leaves, rolled and finely sliced
1 Tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
1 Tablespoon of olive oil (I used ‘Oliviers & Co. Olive oil with mint
1 tablespoon of light olive oil for frying
Sauté the courgettes in the light olive oil until slightly charred on both sides
Add the pine nuts and cook stirring for 2 minutes
Add the white wine vinegar and lemon juice and reduce until only half the liquid remains
Transfer to warm serving dish and toss in the avocado
Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the mint leaves.
Serve immediately with either some grilled fish, chicken or spring lamb cutlets
For a veggie option serve with grilled haloumi
This is also great cold with feta cheese crumbled over the top before you drizzle the oil
On a recent trip to the UK I found some delightful mince pies (or should that be ‘gince’ pies) at a well know German supermarket, which contained gin in place of the usual sherry or brandy!
Finding them delicious, I thought that I would have a go.
I added a finely chopped Sicilian clementine and a good handful of roughly chopped freshly cracked walnuts and two teaspoons of ‘Bombay’ gin to a jar of good quality ready made mincemeat (without alcohol)and added this to some sweet shortcrust pastry (see ‘Frangian tarte aux poires er chocolat for how to make the perfect pastry) And the result was particularly delicious also.
If you think that this is an odd combination, how does a giant Christmas tree made from giant sweets sound…
This is the spectacular sight that greats you this year at ‘Galleries Lafayette’ in Paris, truly bonkers and as I said ‘if Willy Wonka did Christmas’ I am sure this is how it would look.
I made these little mince pies to take to an advent get together in the barn of a local farmer in Burgundy where the decorations and decidedly more modest, but have more of a connection with Christmas with the 24 advent candles and the little crib – all hand made by the locals.
To add my own festive touch, I sprinkled some icing sugar on the little ‘gince’ tarts to look like they had been dusted with snow.
Don’t eat too many!
Burgundy is renowned for it’s soft, fruity wines, Boeuf Bourguignon and of course ‘Les Escargots de Bourgogne’……
Everything is larger than life here, from the army of giant snails that muster in the garden every morning so that you have to tread gingerly when going out to open the many shutters surrounding the house or you will crunch them underfoot, to the squadron of enormous fairy like dragon flies that patrol the passage between the house and the outbuildings at the back sweeping up any fly of mosquito in its path.
It is these spectacular creatures with their vibrant green and yellow bodies, electric blue tails and orange wings that move as fast as a humming bird’s, that have given the house the name of ‘Les Liberlulles’ (The Dragonflies). I truly believe that people mistook them for fairies as they are truly enchanting.
Along with the snail and dragonflies, there are also huge butterflies in every colour imaginable from deep midnight, to pale cornflower blue, to orange and red and yellow.
There are variety of other beast that are not so grand, like this little lizard that I found in the bath.
Fear not though dear reader, the snails that I have cooked came from the market and not from my garden, so the one in the picture roams free munching on my various plants……….
These beauties were stuffed with parsley butter, I must confess also bought from the local supermarket, but is very easy to make in a food processor with softened butter and fresh finely chopped parsley then rolled into a sausage shape and store either in the fridge if ready to use fairly soon, or in the freezer (if storing in the freezer I slice into two centimetre disks and separate with a equal sized disk of baking paper for ease of use)
Parsley butter is also great to melt over fish or fry steak………
Here is a picture of my favourite beast of all, my cat Pussy Willow………
The ‘Indian Summer’ persists with temperatures in the mid 20s in mid October, but it is a ‘Trompe d’oeil’, the trees at the back of the house are a shimmering golden yellow and the screen of poplars to the front a lemony lime.
The morning mists are now full on as Halloween approaches. The silvery sun of the fading year filters through the fog casting an eerie light giving the little hamlet a ‘Sleepy Hollow’ effect, I half expect to see a headless rider galloping down the lane.
The sounds of autumn abound also, the tinkling of brittle leaves as the freshening breeze passes through them as they cling on to their branches, the satisfying crunch of those who have already fallen to form a deep carpet of deep orange and nut brown and the soft sound of shiny saddle coloured conkers fallen to the ground.
Conkers are not the only nuts which are falling in abundance, walnuts are also tumbling from the trees in abundance and we have been collecting them to store over the winter to use in salads, cakes, to eat with the aperitif, and maybe make some ‘vin de noix’
This little salad uses late season red lettuce and, of course apples which are just coming in to the shops and markets. I added some cubes of Greek feta cheese sprinkled with paprika to give a little ‘kick’ and made a dressing from L’Olivier grapefruit olive oil (but regular light olive oil would be fine) and Olivier & Co.’vinaigre de pommes’ (but a little cider vinegar or a sweet white wine vinegar would be fine also)
I ate this for a light, cleansing lunch, but it could be served as an entrée or side salad to accompany fish or pork. The feta cheese could be exchanged for grilled halloumi and a little crispy bacon and or capers could also be added – be imaginative, but keep it as seasonal as possible.