Pancake time – La Chandeleur

I love pancakes or crêpes and welcome any opportunity to eat them! So, I’m delighted that today is Pancake Day. If you’re reading this in the UK, this may come as a surprise.  Let me elaborate!

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February 2nd, in France, is ‘La Fête de la Chandeleur.’  The name Chandeleur comes from the Latin ‘candelorum festum’, which means festival of candles and is also known as Candlemas.

Apparently it was Pope Gelasius I who helped to establish the festival of Candlemas and was said to have fed pancakes to the pilgrims who processed, holding candles, to his church.

Candlemas falls 40 days after Christmas and, in the Christian calendar, marks when baby Jesus was first  presented, by Mary, in the Temple at Jerusalem.

However, the festival can be traced back to Roman times when candles were lit to scare away evil spirits in the winter.

In the UK pancake day 2019 will fall on March 5th; more pancakes!

As well as eating pancakes, I enjoy making them! They were always a go-to favourite with my sons and their friends, whether for tea, breakfast or sleep overs. There are many recipes for making pancakes but the one I have always used is by Delia Smith.

https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/international/european/british/basic-pancakes

Although, I must admit I don’t bother to add melted butter to my batter!

Bon appétit!
Are you a pancake fan? I’m a traditionalist and I love mine with lemon and sugar!

Happy National Croissant Day!

You may have read this post last year but when I saw the date, I couldn’t resist the chance to republish!

I couldn’t miss the opportunity to wish you ‘Happy National Croissant Day’! January 30th is International Croissant Day. This is a new celebration for me. One which comes from the States, apparently.

Although, to be honest, I’m more than happy to celebrate croissants every day. Especially if they happen to be almond croissants!

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The croissant was originally created in Austria. The shape is based on a crescent moon which features on the Turkish flag. Why? Travel back to 1683 when the Ottoman Empire laid siege to Austria. The Turks decided to tunnel beneath the city walls.The Viennese bakers who were working in the basement, heard the sound of digging and alerted the army who defeated the Turks. In celebration, they baked their bread in the shape of a crescent moon—the symbol of the Ottoman Empire – and created the Kipferl. This croissant arrived in France in 1770. Marie Antoinette, who was Austrian, was feeling homesick. The French bakers decided to make her favourite pastry which became known as the “croissant”.

Of course, it’s difficult to know exactly how much of this is fact and how much is fiction!

Are you a croissant lover? Do you have a favourite croissant? Savoury, perhaps? Or are you a purist who prefers a classic, butter croissant? Are you a dunker? I’m definitely not!

 

 

A night out in Reading, Berkshire

I must confess that there was a time when I was rather dismissive of Reading; apologies to anyone who lives there or originates from the town.

The only part of Reading I really knew was the train station. I would pass through on the way to the West Country or up North, often for work.

Then two events meant that I got to know Reading a lot better. Firstly, my eldest son moved there for work and secondly, our first TrustedHousesitters assignment was in Reading.

There is much more to Reading than first meets the eye. There are some fabulous walks. There is a great deal of history. There is the University. There is the River and the Canal. There are a wide range of cafés and restaurants. There are shops. In fact I think I will do another post about Reading when I have some decent photos!

The only photos I do have, feature the two dogs we looked after in Reading! They were very young when we first looked after them. These photos were taken during a walk alongside the Thames.

I digress…

Our night in Reading was to celebrate the birthdays of our eldest son and his girlfriend. They happen to share the same birthday, although not the same year. Mr FF also has a special birthday later this month, so it was celebrations all round! Youngest son joined us as well for a very special visit to ‘L’ Ortolan’.

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L’Ortolan is the only Michelin restaurant in the Reading area and we decided to have the seven course tasting menu. This was a new experience for all of us. I don’t think the photos really do the food justice. My favourite dishes were the hake, the venison and the divine desert!

 

The restaurant is in a former vicarage in Shinfield which is actually just outside Reading. The service was everything I hoped it would be and more.

However, I must confess that I am not a fan of foams and gels. I do find them – dare I say – a bit pretentious or maybe that says more about me!

I also think we have been spoilt by the amazing food we have been enjoying in France, at both ends of the scale.

When we have saved up again – haha – I would quite like to return to L’Ortolan and have a ‘proper’ meal! Watch this space…

Here’s the link to the restaurant’s website, if you’d like to find out more:

www.lortolan.com

Bonjour 2019 et Au revoir 2018

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I hope you all had an enjoyable festive season. For me, it was wonderful to have all the family at home (plus two cats!) but I must admit that in some ways I’m looking forward to ‘normal’ life resuming. Although I know I will find the house very empty and quiet at first, I also need ‘my own space’ – apologies for over-used cliché!

New Year Resolutions are not for me but I am embracing ‘Dry January’, except for the two family birthdays we celebrate in January. Is that allowed, I wonder? Who cares? I’m setting my own rules on this… Especially as tomorrow we are going to be celebrating the first birthday with a seven course tasting menu, at a Michelin star restaurant, plus accompanying wines chosen to compliment each course.

As far as this blog is concerned, I do like to look back and see which posts have been the most popular. In 2018 in reverse order (!)

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and ‘Parapluies de Carcassonne’

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I’m not sure if I can draw any significant conclusions from this result … but it was fun looking!

When I looked back at my first post of last year, I remembered that I had made some plans for the blog. I said I would set up an Instagram account. I did manage this and I do enjoy it but – if I’m honest – I do prefer writing this blog.

However, I failed to update my profile and photo.

I have also moved my blog from a free WordPress one to a self-hosted one. And next? I’m going to try a new theme. Wish me luck and watch this space!

 

 

 

God save the Cakes!

This is the intriguing title of Episode 4, Season 7, of ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’. This is the French version of the ‘Great British Bake-off’.

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Although I have watched and blogged about ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’ before, I haven’t been watching this current series. It was the title and the trailer for this particular episode that caught my eye. If you have been watching this year’s Great British Bake Off, you may remember pâtisserie week. I guess ‘God Save the Cakes’ is the French equivalent.

The format is much the same, as in the UK, with a signature bake, a technical challenge and a showstopper. The French bakers had to make apple pies, a royal trifle and a cake that represented one of the Queen’s hats.

The French version of apple pie was unlike any apple pie I have ever seen and was designed by Cyril Lignac. Unfortunately, I have been unable to download a picture of Cyril’s apple pies, although you could always Google them. Instead, here’s a photo of Cyril! 35B8DCDB-F542-4691-806E-1DC86C8239F5
The technical challenge was to make a ‘Royal Trifle’. I enjoy a traditional trifle but a royal trifle was new to me. The challenge was set by Mercotte, a French version of Mary Berry, and a food blogger, critic and cook, in her own right. Her website has some lovely recipes. It is ‘La cuisine de Mercotte’ at Mercotte.fr  

Below is Mercotte’s Royal Trifle. Mnnnnn… Someone on the programme did liken it to a jellyfish! The recipe is available on her website.

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The final challenge was to make a cake to represent one of the Queen’s hats. Here are some examples of the finished cakes which were baked by the contestants. They look pretty impressive.

Are you a Bake Off fan? Perhaps you’ve seen a different version? I’d love to know!

Les parapluies de Carcassonne

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Our visitors mainly fly into Toulouse for a variety of reasons. One or two opt for Carcassonne. Last week, a friend came to stay for a return visit. Previously, we’d taken him to the walled Cité, so this time we planned to visit the lower town or Bastide. We had just enough time, after lunch in a local restaurant, before he had to be at the airport. Perfect!

I was particularly pleased that we would be playing tourist, as I would finally get the chance to see ‘Les parapluies de Carcassonne’; rather late to the party on this one!

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There are about 3,000 umbrellas which stretch for roughly half a mile, along the length of the pedestrianised streets. They are part of the Umbrella Sky Project which was began in Águeda, Portugal, in 2012.  The concept and design came from Patricia Cunha, the Portuguese artist who was born and lives in Agueda.

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I have read that the idea behind the project was to make people smile. Well, it certainly worked for me. I didn’t imagine that walking under coloured umbrellas could make me feel so happy!

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There have been many Umbrella Sky installations in other French cities and world wide. Have you ever come across one and, if so, what did you think of it? I’d love to know!

La fête du cassoulet

Last weekend was the annual ‘fête du cassoulet’, in Castelnaudary. This year, we weren’t able to go as we were back in the UK, avoiding the heat – haha! Epic fail…

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Castelnaudary is known as the capital of cassoulet and credited with inventing this dish. However, Toulouse and Carcassonne may well dispute this fact! I’ve written previously about this French style ‘sausage and beans’

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/cassoulet-or-sausage-and-beans-french-style/

The cassoulet festival takes place during the last weekend of August. Not the ideal time for eating a hearty casserole containing duck, goose, sausage and beans, in my opinion! I do love a cassoulet, and cook them myself, I just prefer eating this dish when it’s cold and I need comfort food.

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We have attended the fête du cassoulet before and it was great fun! The sleepy, little town of Castelnaudary really comes alive. Of course, it’s full on holiday season and the Canal du Midi is awash with tourists.

The festival is organised by the ‘Grand Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary’. Confrérie translates as ‘Brotherhood’ but probably equates more with a guild. The Castelnaudary Cassoulet Brotherhood was founded in 1970 to protect the quality and standard of cassoulet.  I hasten to add that there are also women in this Brotherhood! They all wear special robes and a hat which is shaped like a ‘cassole’, the dish in which Cassoulet is cooked and served. They even have a hymn to praise cassoulet which is sung in the local Occitan language.

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This is a screenshot of their website. Do go and have a look if you want to find out more and even listen to the Cassoulet hymn!

Although we didn’t make it to the ‘fête’ this year, we were able to glimpse the essence of the celebrations through this video:

Have you ever eaten Cassoulet?

If you do happen to be anywhere near Castelnaudary, next summer, I recommend that you go along to celebrate the twentieth Fête du Cassoulet!