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

A quiche by any other name

When I’m in France, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about food!  But not necessarily quiche . This brings me to the question: What makes the ideal quiche? Perhaps you make your own. Nowadays quiches are everywhere. They can be bought and prepared with every imaginable filling. I’ve even made a crustless quiche. Nevertheless, I am a quiche ‘purist’. I am talking about the original Quiche Lorraine.

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

I spent a year in Metz, a city originally in the administrative region of Lorraine. (Can you see where I’m going with this?) Although quiche is considered a classic French recipe, it originated in Germany, in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, and which the French later renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ is from the German ‘Kuchen’, meaning cake.

The original ‘quiche Lorraine’ was an open tart with a filling of egg, cream and smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added. This addition has not been welcomed by everyone and I discovered that there is even a (rather small) Facebook group called “Défense et Promotion de l’Authentique Quiche Lorraine”.  This group defends (although I’m not sure if it’s still active) the name and reputation of the Quiche Lorraine, confirming that the original Quiche Lorraine DOES NOT contain CHEESE…

I’d love to know your position on quiche. Are you also a traditionalist and a lover of ‘quiche Lorraine’ or are you a fan of other fillings?

Here’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek (!) clip showing how to make a quiche, although this French cook does add cheese…

Food waste: UK versus France

The short video below caught my eye. It worries me how much food is wasted, in the UK and elsewhere, of course. I try to ensure that at home, we waste as little food as possible. I also try to be mindful when I shop and in the way I cook.

I find it shocking that surplus food is destroyed by supermarkets, rather than being donated.

France was the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, they must donate it to charities or food banks. A ‘no brainer’ in my opinion.

It is the western world that wastes the most food. Unsurprisingly, as they are perishable, fruit and vegetables are the most likely to be wasted. However, there is plenty of help out there if searching for ideas for avoiding food waste, including recipes: https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Here’s the link to the video just in case there is any problem with playing the one above:

https://youtu.be/78SKLw9KaB0

How do you deal with food waste? Do you have any useful tips to share? I’d love to know.

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!

La rentrée

September has always been a significant month for me. I think this is because my career has been based in education. I see September, and the start of the new academic year, as an opportunity for a fresh start. I used to look forward to a new timetable, new classes and new stationery! As a pupil, a student and a teacher, I always loved getting new pens, folders and pencil cases. I still enjoy going into Paperchase now!

This September has meant a return to Castelnaudary after two months in the UK, catching up with friends and family. Our French house hasn’t been empty, our eldest son and seven friends spent a week there, before travelling on to Barcelona. It was an international gathering as there were four English guys and four Brazilian girls!

Then our youngest son and five friends were the next to have a holiday here. As they are all students, it was great for them to be able to have a break in the sun without breaking the bank! They were able to relax and enjoy the pool and, by the look of our cellar, have the odd bottle of wine … or six!

As a result, we have also ‘inherited’ a rather nice barbecue and an interesting selection of inflatables, plus a variety of footballs, basketballs and rugby balls!

When we returned to Castelnaudary, we found our garden had morphed – yet again – into a field! Truly, I’m not complaining, although it might sound like it. It’s just one of those things that happens when you are lucky enough to have a second home. When we left our home in the UK, our garden was looking so tidy and well cared for. We were even complimented by our neighbours! Yet, we know, by the time we get back, it will be back to square one. Still, gardening is a brilliant form of exercise…

We’ve had some gorgeous weather since we returned. Look at those blue skies!

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You can just catch a glimpse of the pool. The water temperature is a very pleasant 25 degrees! The shrubs in the foreground are oleanders. I was delighted that they survived being hacked pruned by Mr FF.

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One of the first things I like to do, on our return, is check the Canal du Midi is still at the end of our garden and then visit the port. This rather moody looking shot, was taken while eating breakfast outside a new boulangerie that has recently opened. The colour is really quite odd and, yet, I like it!
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Of course, la rentrée is really all about the return after the long, summer holidays. This could be a return to school, university or even work. In my case, I was delighted to return to teaching my English conversation classes. These take place in the rather grand (from the outside) Palais de Justice.

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I often think that September is the perfect time for me to make some blogging resolutions. I’ve been meaning to update my blog for some time. I need to update my profile and photo. However, my main aim is to change to a self-hosted blog and I think it’s time I changed the appearance of my blog, too. Watch this space!

 

 

 

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!