Fantastic Beasts and Where to eat them!

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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………



Autumn leaves and seasonal salad

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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’

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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.




To bring my little Italian detour sadly to an end. I hesitate before revealing the name of this veritable little ‘Brigadoon’ of a village…..the added bonus being the journey to get there took us through some of the most stunning countryside in Tuscany


My daughter, Kate, bought us a book about the loveliest ‘secret’ villages in Tuscany for Christmas last year and it is in this book that I stumbled across ‘Quirca d’Orca’ I must add that I am not too worried that I am going to introduce it mass tourism, as it took us three attempts to actually find it and that was with the GPS. It obviously evaded others also, as we spent about four hours in this lovely little hamlet, and only saw two other non residents’  (an American couple)


The almost hidden entrance to the village


Sleepy little back streets, a plethora of medieval buildings (many 12th and 13th century) an Italian garden and ancient ruins. Add to this some gorgeous little restaurants and very friendly locals and you have the recipe for a perfect Tuscan Sunday afternoon.





We ate in one of these little restaurants that boasted pasta made from its own organic flour from its own mill, and our very simple pasta dish took a full 25 minutes to prepare, and we, being French (well one of us French and the other indoctrinated!)  used to eating lunch MUCH earlier than the Italians, were the first to arrive.


Our table for two!


I tried to emulate the dish back at the apartment (by using ‘fresh’ pasta from the local supermarket (I know this is a contradiction of terms…..)

The results were very good, but not in the same league………But here goes………

Serves 2

6 (3 if serving as a starter) ‘Fresh’ lasagne divided into four (place each sheet long size across the top and cut in half and half again)

A handful of fresh green beans

1 medium (small) waxy potato

1 tablespoon of fresh pesto (see below)

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh basil leaves and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice to garnish


Cook the potato whole in boiling salted water for around 20 minutes until just cooked, remove from pan and leave to cool a little while cooking the pasta and green beans.

Cook the pasta and green beans together in boiling salted water for around 7 minutes until ‘al dente’, drain and separate the pasta from the beans and toss the pasta in the fresh pesto (you can of course use shop bought, but it is so simple to make your own, trust me!) mixed with half of the olive oil to ‘loosen’ the mixture a little.

Slice the cooled potato and gently toss this along with the green beans into the pasta.

Drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Italy on a plate!



For the pesto

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

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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.


Cetona and tomato and chorizo salad


This time last year we were in Tuscany and this year we were back again enjoying all the fresh home grow produce from the wonderful garden including home produced olive oil, red and white wine, home made bread, fresh laid eggs, and home grown tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, chillis, shallots, garlic, peaches, plums, pears, melons.

This veritable garden of Eden is just outside the sleepy little hilltop village of Cetona, and it felt just like going home to us, sitting taking a morning coffee (me) or early apero (Monsieur le Frog) with the locals in the café in the square and wandering the pretty streets searching for a different angle to photograph from last year.


This year a bit of a theme has emerged and I have photographed some rather swish scooters in various locations around Tuscany / Umbria also.


I have been taken by the architecture – mainly ‘arches’ that I noticed are an integral part to Tuscan life, and the beautiful ornate street lights which you can see adorning many walls – as last year, other people’s washing has continued to interest me, so you will be treated to a glimpse of Tuscany life over the next few posts, with a few simple recipes thrown in………



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When we arrived after an 8 hour drive from the French Alps, all this was waiting for us, along with some chorizo, so I quickly knocked together a tomato and chorizo salad (I ‘dry fried’ the chorizo until it was crisp and drizzled the tomatoes with a dressing made of the home produced olive oil and red wine), I seasoned it with freshly ground sea slat and black pepper and sprinkled dt with fresh basil from the garden and we mopped it up with Fabio’s home made bread – food of the Gods……


No meal would be complete without a glass of wine made from the home grown grape….

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Two more cheerful little scooters parked in Cetona



Lindy’s mango Chutney and New Brighton


Mangoes are still in season, but some are going a little ‘ripe’ perfect for making Mango chutney to serve with some nice barbeque’d meats.

The weather has been perfect for ‘al fresco’ eating here in Liverpool, but sadly not so in Paris where the river Seine has burst its banks and the lovely island near to my home, where I love to sit and read, is also submerged.

I, however have been basking in the lovely sunshine in Liverpool while my new husband has been battling wind and rain in Paris.


One of my fondest memories as a child was taking the train to New Brighton with my father to paddle in the sea and explore the many rock pools
New Brighton is Liverpool’s answer to ‘The riviera’! It is a lovely family resort with a promenade that stretches for 3.5 kilometers, making it the longest in the United Kingdom!
The prom is wheelchair, cycle and doggy friendly (there is even a special section of the beach for our four legged friends!)
There is a plethora of traditional Tea Rooms, wonderful Fish and Chip cafe’s and traditional British pubs.


Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

There is a ‘pirate ship’, The black Pearl on the beach where children of all ages come dressed in their best eye patches and stripey T-shirts to ‘shiver their timbers’ on the beach.(more about my own ‘pirate’ connections coming soon) And a lovely park with a ‘Fairy Glen’ with delightful ‘fairy tree houses’ to discover (again, post to follow)


‘The Black Pearl

Actually since beginning writing this post, as I have been so busy with other things, the weather has now took a turn for the worse – so I am going to serve my next mango chutney with a nice hot curry!


2 fresh mangoes cut into cm chunks

100gm unrefined brown sugar

100 ml white wine vinegar (I use Maille vinaigre de Chardonnay as it is less sharp)

1 medium shallot very finely chopped

2 cm of fresh ginger very finely chopped, or grated

1 small green chilli very finely chopped

1 clove garlic crushed

1 level teaspoon of cumin

A good pinch of fennel seeds

A good pinch of sea salt

The juice and zest of 1 small lime


Dissolve the sugar in the wine vinegar over a low heat stirring all the time

Add the mango, shallot, ginger, garlic, chili, fennel seeds, lime zest, cumin and salt


Simmer over a low – medium heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally

Add the lime juice and simmer for a further 15 minutes or until a loose ‘jam’ consistency

Pour into a preserve jar, seal and allow to cool

This chutney will last for up to a year unopened – once opened store in the fridge and eat within three weeks

The aroma when this is cooking is torturous – it is spicy and fragrant and you just want to dig your spoon in – but watch out you could burn your tongue – patience is a virtue…

This chutney is perfect with grilled summer meats, with poppadoms as a prelude to a curry, with cold meats and cheeses and really livens up a cheese or cold meat sandwich.
It is also perfect for giving as a gift

A bientot











Cranberry and Walnut Salad

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Necessity is the mother of mother of invention, so when a friend arrived with some ‘shop bought’ breaded Camembert as her contribution to a meal (she was on starters, me on main course and another friend on dessert – it goes without saying that I always have a well-stocked fridge when it comes to cheese……), we expected to find, inside the box, a little pot of Cranberry sauce – as was featured on the packet, but alas it could not be found, and as Christmas was a distant memory, I did not have any lurking at the back of the fridge.

What I did have though were some dried Cranberries which were juicy enough without soaking to liven up a little side salad to compliment the cheese.

In the UK people tend to bring wine (or chocolates) when invited to dinner, in France it is more usual to bring flowers, (as the French are very particular about their wine and if you brought an inappropriate bottle, they would feel obliged to serve it and soil the palate of the meal – sacre bleu!) unless they bring Champagne, which can never be wrong!
My friend Mireille (of Mireille’s favourite ‘Treacle Tart’ fame) always supplies the Champagne, so she is now know as ‘Bubbles’!

These lovely flowers were recently given to me by my friend Marc (who incidently brought wine and Champagne also – he would never get it wrong) And the gorgeous plant was given to me, by a friend of Monsieur le Frog who came to dinner.

Back to the salad…….


A good handful of mixed salad leaves per person

1 small beetroot very finely sliced

A handful of walnuts, broken into quarters

2 Spring (salad) onions, finely sliced (white and green)

A handful of dried Cranberries

Half a red or green pepper (or both!) finely sliced


A tablespoon of olive oil (I used ‘Olivier & Co.’ olive oil with mandarin oil)


Just toss it all together and serve immediately (super with my ‘No Lasagne, Lasagne’)

 (Lindy’s Non Lasagne, lasagne’ and Mireille’s favourite Treacle Tart)




Madame Bovary’s Courgette Souffle

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This post is especially for my lovely friend Lynn over at ‘Lynz real Cooking’, who I am sure needs no introduction from me for most of you, but those of you who may have missed her poignant, courageous blog about her life behind the veil in Saudi Arabia, where she raised 9 amazing children in often very difficult circumstances and tells her tale without self pity or sensationalism, but with humanity and wit – not to mention the smattering of Arabic/American delicious recipes along the way.

I was telling her about my lovely afternoon spent reading ‘Madame Bovary’ in the glorious Parisian sunshine in one of my favourite haunts – Le Cimetiere Montparnasse’.
Le Cimetiere Montparnasse is very close to the restaurant that I featured in an earlier post ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ posted just after the attacks of November 13th.



Slightly more diners than in my last post, but still nowhere near the elbow to elbow norm!


I am happy to report that the chairs and tables were no longer empty, but still a far cry from their former ‘elbow to elbow’ status – I am sure Paris will lick her wounds as she has done so many times throughout her chequered history.

And now tickle your literary  taste buds with a quote from Madame Bovary and some photographs from my ‘spiritual home’, Montparnasse,

Sometimes she would reflect that these were, after all, the most beautiful days of her life, the honeymoon, as it was called. Probably in order to savour the sweetness, you had to travel far away to those lands with legendary names, where the first days of marriage were filled with sweet indolence.
in the ‘post-chaise with its blinds of blue silk, you would slowly climb up the steep mountain roads, listening to the song of the postilion as it echoed over the mountain roads and mingled with the tinkling of goats bells and the muffled roar of the waterfall.  
At sunset you would stand above a bay breathing in the scent of the lemon trees; then in the evening, you would sit alone together on the terrace of some villa, your fingers intertwined, gazing at the stars and making plans.
It seemed to her that certain places on earth must produce happiness.
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert


 The view from where I was sitting reading in the lovely Parisian sunshine

I actually managed to achieve poor Emma Bovary’s dream and have lived in Paris for the past seven years.
I don’t know about you, but I think that she was a ‘soufflé’ kind of girl, a little bit top show and unsubstantial, aspiring to be greater than she really was, and collapsing when reality hit her.

My simple soufflés collapsed pretty quickly too and the moral of this story is always be sure that you have your SD card in your camera before photographing soufflé …….
They did taste divine though and were Oh so easy to make (as everything on here)
So without further ado let’s give it a try….

Makes 4

2 medium courgettes

1 small bag of rocket

3 eggs separated

1 tub of crème fraiche

2 handfuls of grated cheese (Gruyere or mild Cheddar)

A handful of Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to season

A little butter to grease the ramekins


Cook the courgettes whole in boiling slightly salted water for 10 minutes then cut into manageable chunks and blitz in a food processor with the rocket and crème fraiche

Add the egg yolks and the cheese and season to taste

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the mixture with a large metal spoon

Pour into the buttered ramekins, sprinkle with a little parmesan and bake in a ‘bain Marie’ (baking tray filled with hot water to prevent the outsides drying out while setting) in a moderate to hot oven for 10-15 until the centres have just set and the tops have risen and are slightly golden

This is delicious served with white fish or alone as an entrée

I think Emma would have loved sitting at the window of a majestic Parisian apartment eating this don’t you……….