Saturday, October 22, 2016


vintage brioche tin available here
The first clementines of the year - so beautiful.  We eat far more seasonally here - it's something that feels right - but also things just aren't available out of season.  This week at the market there was coriander - I was hoping there would be - it makes a brief appearance for about 2 or 3 weeks and then is gone until next year! I bought 5 big bunches to wash, chop and freeze for soups and curries.

At the market I fell into step with a young chap who announced 'That went well!' What did?  I asked. Turned out he had sold all  5 crates of chestnuts he'd gathered in the woods. That's one of the nice things about Villefranche market, it isn't just professionals. You find people selling a little bit of garden surplus or a couple of dozen eggs or dandelion leaves in Springtime and I guess that's how this market has always been.

You can see a little video of the market here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

apple cake

Wire cooling rack here

This is an Anna del Conté recipe and by far my favourite apple cake. Our own apple tree hasn't done very well this year. (Miri - we're waiting for you to come and prune it!) There are wild apple trees in the hedgerows and despite the random (somewhat brutal) pruning by the municipal employee they seem to be just fine and are covered in classic Snow White apples!

Don't be alarmed by the use of olive oil and do be sure to use the mix of plain and wholemeal flours - all plain just wouldn't have the same flavour.

Anna del Conté's Apple and Olive Oil Cake

120g sultanas or raisins
Tea (enough to cover the dried fruit)
500g apples - peeled, cored and chopped
150ml light olive oil
200g sugar
2 eggs
175g plain white flour
175g plain wholemeal flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Heat the oven to 180º (mine is a fan oven) and grease and line the bottom of an 8 inch (20cm) cake tin (preferably with a removable base).

Start by soaking the sultanas/raisins in hot tea.

Whisk the oil and sugar till light. Add the eggs and continue whisking. Sift the flours and other dry ingredients together and add gradually to the wet mix.  Mix to a stiff batter with a metal spoon. 

Drain the sultanas/raisins and add to the mix. Add the apple. It's a stiff batter don't fret.

Spoon into your cake tin and bake for about an hour or until a knife comes out clean. Cover with baking parchment for the second half hour. Allow to cool in the tin for 10  minutes or so and then transfer to a wire rack.

Keeps very well for a few days.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


After all the rain on Friday the mossy walls have perked up.
A very wide wall to get rid of stones from the field.

Lovely, drippy, ferny, mossy
It rained for 24 solid hours on Thursday/Friday - no possibility of going out. We made up for it yesterday with an extra long walk. We went through open farmland, along woodland tracks, down a hidden valley and up again past the village lavoir and ruined mills. It made us both very happy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


It's funny isn't it - we eagerly look out for signs of Spring and Summer so they don't really sneak up on us. We were surprised by the first frost this week - goodbye tomatoes, courgettes, basil - just like that. One minute it's late Summer and the next minute the stove is lit and porridge seems like a perfectly sensible breakfast!

Thursday, October 6, 2016


vintage french lace edging

Don't you just love the word haberdashery - it doesn't sound like it should be a proper, grown up word. It's mercerie in French which is much less satisfying! On Sunday there was a haberdashery brocante where I bought lace, old dress patterns, buttons, fabric and some other bits and bobs. Great fun.

I also saw but didn't buy the most beautiful piece of embroidery I think I've ever seen.  And I didn't have my camera... and I don't have a smart phone...  It was from around 1905 (the lady selling it had had it checked out by and expert) and was a rectangular piece of finest cotton exquisitely embroidered with white on white flowers and leaves. It was light as air. Around the edge of the material a lace border of about 6 inches had been sewn,  also exquisite.  The back was finished perfectly and it was in absolutely pristine condition. The lady said she didn't often bring it to brocantes for fear of damaging or dirtying it.  She said it was museum quality and I don't doubt it. I was very, very tempted but I walked away. 

There was a very different ambiance at this brocante. Friendly and open and chatty. Normal brocantes can be friendly too but this felt different. Could it be the fact that the sellers were all women (as indeed were most of the buyers) who all shared a similar passion and were eager to share? It was a really nice few  hours and I have a picture of that beautiful cloth in my head.