The Three Musketeers.

Last Sunday we were invited to the general assembly of the Club de L’Amitie Daglanaise, which incorporated the Annual General Meeting followed by a luncheon.

Each year there are celebrations and presents for any member of the Club de L’Amitie Daglanaise who’s birthday ends in a zero or a five. Our village Musketeers who are all boules champions and who have great tales to tell of their life experiences look happy indeed.

The Three MusketeersHappy trio.

I must say that the French know how to enjoy their food, three hours of eating, drinking and being a little merry is the norm, wonderful.

Menu

Aperitif
Kir and bowels of snacks

Soup
Pearls of Japan carcass broth (not for me being a vegetarian) but Paul thought it was delicious

Starter
Bites of seafood (this did look good, pastry filled with sea food) Could not eat due to animal fat in the pastry so I had smoked trout with salad which was gorgeous

Main Dish
Supreme of guinea fowl with sauce, peas and gratin dauphinois
My main was fish cooked to perfection, with the peas and gratin dauphinois. It was so filling that I could not eat it all.

Cheese
Green salad with three different cheeses

Dessert
Caramel cream, raspberry tiramisu, chocolate cake, wow delicious.

All the above served with white or red wine

Coffee

Our presidentOur president of the Club, Lydie Pasquet.

Suck a lemonSucking a lemon! No just pulling a face at Paul

Quite a gatheringIt was great to meet new people and to catch up with others that we have met previously at the club.

Events :-

Château de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, re-opens after its winter break for a guided tour on the theme of a fortified castle under attack on 5th March.

Daglan, holds its Second Spring Festival on 19th March

Party time at Café de la Fleur.

Robin and Charlotte have worked wonders on this property, transforming a neglected bistro into something quite special. They have worked extremely hard to renovate the first floor bar area/restaurant and the second floor which is now open for Birthdays, Anniversaries, Party’s etc. Most of the village attended the grand official opening last Saturday night.
 

dscn2301 Robin and Charlotte.
 

dscn2299Everyone was given a warm welcome with free wine and party food.
 
Gorgeous oak beams and interesting wallpaper made from newspaper and magazine cuttings.

dscn2298and a very welcoming fire on a cold evening.
 

dscn2303All girls together. I am the Hobbit size person wearing the Doctor Who scarf.
 

dscn2307Bonne Chance Robin, Charlotte and Café de la Fleur.

 

Event:- I am so excited, towards the end of last year I was asked to write a article for French Property News magazine about our buying experience, the renovation of our property, our village and the area in general. I can not tell you how nervous I was after sending the article to the editor but she loved it and a few days ago I was sent a copy to read complete with our pictures. Wow, the article is in the March issue.

Truffle Festival

This is undoubtedly the highlight of January, Sarlat Truffle Festival which ran for two days last weekend. There are not many things that would entice me to leave the warmth of a log fire when the temperature outside is -2 and I have a bad cold but the prospect of buying a truffle wins every time.

At up to one thousand euros a kilo the fusty, musty, heady truffle is among the worlds most expensive foods, comparable to caviar that is a similar price.

You can find truffles used in moose, macerons, chocolate, and thinly sliced on top or in various meat and vegetarian dishes. When Paul and I had a holiday in Umbria many years ago we were introduced to truffle ice cream, sounds a bit icky but it was so delicious.

Due to the fact that it can be used to flavour foods before you actually use the truffle it can be quite economical. Dropped in with other foods such as eggs, pasta, chicken or rice so the truffle aroma and taste will permeate most food products you can make a small truffle last for several meals.
 

Medieval Quarter in Sarlat Medieval Quarter in Sarlat where truffle hunters and Chiefs from all over the Perigord Black sell their truffles and truffle creations.

There have always been truffles in the Perigord Black but due to the First and Second World Wars, the nurture of the truffle went into decline, on one hand due to the loss of the smallholders and on the other hand the shrinking forests due to changes of land use and the exhaustion of truffle friendly trees. Across France in the 1930’s, the truffle harvest was roughly 1000 tons. During the 1960’s replanting of trees such as the French Oak was introduced plus other trees to test the growth of truffles. Now however is the constant threat of climate change. Hotter Summers and less rainfalls in other parts of France is reducing the growth of the truffle. So as the harvest starts to decline so the price increases. Today in sharp contrast it is only about 50 tons.
 

Truffles on displayVery proud owners of the truffle selling their finds at various weights and quality.
 

Truffle mooseTruffles made into moose with grated truffle on top, or thinly sliced between pate.
 

Two young Chiefs Two young Chiefs competing for the best truffle macerons. We did buy two macerons from them and ate them while the Chiefs waited for our response. Truly delicious boys.
 

Truffle maceronsOf course we had to buy two large macerons from another Chief to take home with us. You can not beat coffee or chocolate macerons made with truffles, the flavour is magnificent.
 

Our little truffleOur little prize along side a dessert spoon, we only paid fifteen euros so a really good price. We placed the truffle on top of eggs and left them over night. The truffle had permeated the egg shell by the morning giving the scrambled eggs the luxury flavour of truffle. Now the truffle is sitting in the rice container to flavour the rice.

A pig or a dog is usually used to sniff and find truffles in the forests, however I think that we may have the first truffle cat! Our kitten Cleo loves the smell of truffle.
 

Events:-

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle 28th and 29th January for the International Céou Canoe Race.

Daglan 19th March for the Second Spring Festival of Flowers.

Gâteau au Chocolate.

I made this as our New Year treat. However, I did point out to Paul that this was my first attempt at making this gâteau so it may not turn out right, in fact he may not see it at all. I’m glad to say the gâteau did cook perfectly it looked and tasted good and tasted a lot lighter than I expected for a dense chocolate gâteau.

Gâteau au Chocolate

Ingredients:

150g (5oz) caster sugar, plus some for sprinkling.
275g (10oz) plain chocolate, chopped, try and use the most expensive chocolate at about 70%.
175g (6oz) unsalted butter cut into pieces.
10ml (2tsp) vanilla essence or 3tsp walnut liqueur.
5 eggs – separated.
40g (2oz) plain flour, sifted with a pinch of salt.

Optional, I also used 50g chopped walnuts.

Icing sugar for dusting.

Sweetened whipped cream for serving.

Preparation:

1 Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Generously butter a 24cm/9 or 10in spring base tin, then sprinkle the tin with a little sugar and tap out the excess.

2 Set aside 45ml/3 tbsp of sugar. Place the chocolate, butter and remaining sugar in a heavy saucepan and cook over a low heat until the chocolate and butter have melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla essence or walnut liqueur and leave the mixture to cool slightly.

3 Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, then add the flour (and walnuts if you are using them).

4 In a mixer beat the egg whites slowly until frothy. Increase the speed, add the salt and continue beating until soft peaks form. Sprinkle the reserved sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Beat one third of the whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining whites.

5 Carefully pour the mixture into the tin and tap the tin gently to release any air bubbles.

6 Bake the gâteau for about thirty five to forty five minutes until well risen and the top springs back when touched lightly with a fingertip. If the gâteau appears to rise unevenly, rotate after about the first twenty minutes of cooking. Transfer the cake to a wire rack, remove the sides of the tin and leave to cool. Remove the tin base, dust the cake with icing sugar and transfer to a serving plate.

Serve with whipped cream.

Bon Appetit.

Etiquette of Cheese!

I was reading through the ‘ A Year in Perigord ‘ blog, last week which stated that there is an ‘etiquette to cheese eating’, which got me thinking about other French etiquettes that we have found while renovating our property.
 
The first being the etiquette of greeting people which begins as soon as your plane lands at the airport, you will notice that the officer at passport control always greets you with “Bonjour Monsieur” or “ Bonjour Madam”. If you do not reply in kind it will be thought of as not good etiquette. This carries on into shops, banks the doctors surgery, in fact every-time you go into a building you will be greeted in this way, not just once but everyone else in the room will greet you. When you leave it is polite to say “Bonne Journée” to everyone. Being in friendly, welcoming company makes for a relaxed atmosphere.
 
People who you have been introduced to will greet you with the customary “Bonjour Monsieur or Madam”. But when you get to know them a little more and they regard you as friends they will follow with the kiss on both cheeks (the number of kisses depends on the region of France that you are in), then you must ask how they are, “comment allez-vous?” , “comment vas-tu?” or “ça va?” and linger to chat for a while. Therefore shopping always takes longer depending on how many people you meet.
 
The friendlessness of people who take the time to ask how you are and generally chat to you, even just saying hello was rather strange to me at first. When we started the renovation work on our property, people from the village would knock on our door and ask our names, what we where doing, where we were from and when are we moving in etc. this seemed odd to both of us due to the ‘British Reserve’, which usually prevents people from talking to strangers. However, after a while I must say that I found the etiquette very nice and I loved returning to France each year to converse with more people or to just say “Bonjour” to people in the street. I so missed this customary response on my return to England that I started saying “hello” and “how are you” to shop assistants in various shops I visited, which did at first bring some strange looks from people at the various checkouts but on my return to the stores I would be greeted with a smile and a friendly hello.
 
Another etiquette is the customary gift if you are lucky enough to be invited to a persons home for an aperitif or dinner. Flowers are always a good choice but the type of flower to avoid is very important, it is so easy for someone not in the know to commit faux pas. Chrysanthemums are definitely not appropriate for they are the flower for funerals and are traditionally placed onto the graves of the loved ones. Carnations represent bad luck and roses are only to be given to someone you love. Dessert, chocolates or wine are good ideas.
 
While dining in a private home or in a restaurant one thing is certain the meal is meant to be lingered over so you can savour every mouthful of every course and enjoy the company of others. So do not be surprised if the meal takes two or three hours to eat, it is called ‘civilised loitering’.
savour every mouthfulAlways good to share desserts with a good friend over a glass or two of wine or coffee.
 
Which brings me back to the start of the blog, “the Etiquette of Cheese”, the trick is to pick four cheeses ranging from the mild to the strong, a slice from each is then to be placed clockwise around your plate. You will start with the mild cheese and finish with the strong cheese. Up to now I have always just picked a strong cheese but it is good to learn the customary etiquette.

the Etiquette of CheeseImage by https://designerstay.com/

 
Bon appétit.

 

Walnut Bread.

One of the culinary joys this time of year is the new season of walnuts, which Paul and I have been foraging along the lanes leading from the village of Daglan. The walnut trees produce nuts that have been awarded ‘Noix du Perigord Appellation d’Origine (AOP)’ and are grown in over 7,000 hectares, primarily in the Perigord Noir. Our area is known as ‘Route de la Noix’ because of the abundance of walnuts.

The walnuts are used in many delicacies and recipes such as walnut lacquer, which is delicious, walnut wine, walnut gateau, walnut biscuits, walnut flour, walnut bread, walnut oil, in fact the nuts can be cooked with almost anything and everything from the starter of the meal to the dessert.

Not only are they rich in fibres, an excellent source of manganese, vitamin B1, B6, B9 and E, high in arginine which contributes to a good blood circulation, low in sodium (ideal for a salt free diet), rich in in omega 6 and 3 lipids, but they are also ‘une pepite energetique’, a little nugget of energy, with a 20-25g portion providing 8% of the daily pep required for an adult.

This year I thought that I would try walnut bread which is gorgeous eaten with cheese.

Walnut Bread

Makes one small loaf and bakes in around thirty minutes.

250g (9oz) granary flour
1tsp salt, 1tsp sugar
75g (3oz) shelled walnuts, brake the walnuts in half or quarters.
2g (one sachet) dried active yeast
180ml (6) warm water
Baking tray lined with baking parchment
Roasting pan

1 In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar, add the walnuts, yeast and water and combine with a wooden spoon and then with your hands until it forms a dough. Cover and leave in the bowl for ten minutes.

2 Leaving the dough in the bowl, knead by stretching a portion of it up from the side and press into the middle. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat with another portion of dough. Repeat another eight times. The whole process should take about one minute and the dough should start to resist. Cover and leave to rest for ten minutes.

3 Repeat step 2 another three times. After the final knead, cover and leave to prove for about one hour.

4 Punch down the dough with your fist to release the air, then place it onto a floured work surface. Shape into a ball with your hands. Flatten the dough slightly into a neat round disc, then push your finger through the middle to make a hole. Enlarge a little, then place the bread onto a prepared baking sheet.

5 Cover the bread with the empty bowl and let it rise until just less than double its size, about 45 mins.

6 About twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 260C/fan 240C/gas 9 and place a roasting pan at the bottom of the oven to preheat. Fill a cup of water and set aside.

7 When the dough has finished rising, uncover it and dust with flour.

8 Slash a large square into the top of the dough, about 5mm deep, using a sharp knife.

9 Place the bread dough into the oven, pour the cupful of water into the hot roasting pan and lower the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas6. Bake for about 30 mins, or until it has turned brown.

10 To check if the bread is cooked all the way through, tip it upside down and tap the bottom. It should sound hollow. If not ready return to the oven for a few minutes. Place onto a wire rack to cool.

The walnuts add a wonderful flavour to the bread.

Bon Appetit.

Trapped in our home by a large rotisserie oven!

When I came down stairs this morning I could smell the aroma of roast chicken and paella, then I noticed how dark it was in the lounge. On investigation it was found that the ‘promenade en gastronomie’ had started early with a very large rotisserie being placed at our front door. Surly they had noticed that someone was living in the house, planters at the front, the house being painted recently!

All right I thought, try the side door, but no, a large van was parked there blocking the door. At this moment I thought that perhaps we could arrange a delivery of paella through the letter box, when the van had to move due to it blocking access not only to us but to the entrance of the supermarket. It did not go very far, it just moved further up the lane to block the gate to our courtyard and preventing anyone from accessing the lane and houses further along. Food parcels to the family who were holidaying in a home at the top of the lane did spring to mind, but no… after hearing a few well chosen words of French the family had made their escape.

Our turn to escape through the side door and into the square.

DSCN1603Our front door is hidden by the large rotisserie, we were also not able to open the shutters for fear of sending the large pans of paella to the ground!

 

DSCN1602Stalls of food and drink covered the square

 

Balade en GastronomieAlso along the road and around the bend, ice cream, sorbets, honey, wine, garlic, organic foods, cooked food, bread and cakes.

 

DSCN1599A few days ago a small portable forest was being erected in the square for the truffle dog demonstration. This event is always entertaining because the saucisson seller has a stall nearby so that the truffle dog can not focus its efforts on finding the truffles. After various prompting and pointing from the truffier the dog was encouraged to find a truffle or two and get its reward of a dog chew.

 

DSCN1604A brilliant surprise in the afternoon was the young man playing the bagpipes. He was so good that one man came over and dropped his wallet into the boys hat. Encouraged by this and shouts from his family he played two more tunes, wonderful.


Event:- Belves Fête Medieval on the 6th and 7th August