Monday, February 29, 2016

make do...

Yesterday we hired a van, drove 300 km, picked up a printing press and drove 300 km home again. On the way we saw several buildings, mostly sheds and outbuildings, built using roofing tiles.  This was the most substantial one.  A question of using what was to hand I suppose.

Monday, February 22, 2016

sewing kit

 I've been looking at this object for ages at a local brocante and wondering what it was. It didn't have the half thimble then.  On Saturday I was looking up old sewing kits on the internet and discovered that this was standard issue to French soldiers in WWI.  You wind thread on the bobbinny bits on the end, you unscrew above the middle section  to find the awl and below the middle section for the needle case and to release the thimble.

Monday, February 15, 2016

french onion soup or...

soup bowls here

... how to make something out of almost nothing.
Excellent cold day fare - very rich and warming. All those alliums will be good for keeping colds at bay too.

French Onion Soup

3 large onions very thinly sliced
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1tbsp plain flour
75 ml brandy
900ml stock
1 bay leaf

To Finish

4 slices of good bread
75 grated gruyère or hard cheese of your choice

Melt the butter in a large pan (add a little oil to stop it burning) over a gentle heat, add the onions and a sprinkling of salt. Cover with a circle of crumpled baking parchment followed by the lid. Cook over a very low heat for 45 minutes, checking and stirring occasionally until the onions are meltingly tender.

Remove the lid and baking parchment and add the sugar. Turn up the heat and cook till golden, stirring.

Sprinkle over the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the brandy (I only had whiskey and I just added a slug - I'm sure it wasn't 75mls - you could probably leave it out altogether if you preferred), followed by the stock and bayleaf. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Heat the grill. Divide the soup among 4 heatproof bowls, top each bowl with a slice of bread and a good sprinkling of cheese. Pop the bowls under the grill until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

tlc needed

Poor abandoned house... Probably as a result of an inheritance dispute. In France you don't get to decide much about what you do with your estate. You have to leave the bulk of it to all your children equally. If they can't agree unanimously about what to do with it - keep or sell -  this can happen.

Friday, February 5, 2016

ciambelline al vino

My favourite bit of the Saturday Guardian is the 'Cook' supplement and  I like best the page where they give readers a theme : pasta, leftovers, coconut milk, whatever - and then ask for their favourite recipes on the theme/ingredient for the next week's issue.

The biscuits pictured came from an issue where the theme was 'left over wine' and was sent in by Sophia Real who has a very nice foodblog for all things farinaceous (as Joyce Grenfell would say!). You'll find the recipe and her blog here.  I would add that I don't let the biscuits cool in the oven but I do let them cool on the baking tray rather than transferring them to a rack and I think that helps their crispiness.  Also I've tried them with other flavourings - spices, lemon zest - but fennel really does work best.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


I spent a very happy time at the brocante yesterday rummaging through a big tin of buttons. I found myself a stool and a corner and settled in! You often find other bits and pieces in button collections: badges, medals, random bits and bobs. This time I found a couple of thimbles, a pen nib and a telephone token from 1927 not to mention some mighty fine buttons!

Monday, February 1, 2016

February the 1st

This simple box garland has given me great pleasure in the long days of January. 
We don't go overboard on Christmas decorations and they're not up long. 23rd December to 1st January. It's all very nice but you can have too much of a good thing.  

So I was breaking my own rule by leaving this garland up but liked the reminder it gave that the year had turned and things will start to grow again soon.

Incidentally, it didn't shed a single leaf! How amazing is that?