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Chestnuts

Chestnuts

Happy Birthday to You, Squashed Tomatoes and Stew!
Autumn has seeped inexorably into the south in the last few days.  I prowled around Prayssac market this morning admiring box after box of fat, glossy chestnuts and tempting over-sized quinces.  Cardoons are beginning to appear and knobbly, pink Jerusalem artichokes.  All the vegetable stalls have an abundance of late-season tomatoes, and they don’t seem to be diminishing… seasonal tastes are changing and the tomato glut is beginning to tell, prices have dropped to rock bottom and still they can’t sell them all.  The café and restaurant menus are undergoing a subtle change too.  Earthy soups, spiked with Quercy saffron.  Guinea fowl, deliciously pot roasted and served with lardons and chestnuts.  Desserts of apple and pear, quince and walnut replace the soft fruits and frothy, frivolous confections of high summer.  It’s food to go walking on.

Home Made Bread

Home Made Bread

In my steamy kitchen crumbles are all the rage.  Dark purple plums with a ground almond topping, apples paired with the last of the blackberries, pears with walnuts.  Homely food, but oh so comforting, besides I have several hungry and appreciative palates to feed.  The beloved consumes crumble as if his life depends on it!  On the wooden table, beside a pile of damp apples awaiting their culinary home, lies my current obsession, three well kneaded, well risen, homemade loaves just about to go into the oven.  It may seem odd in this land of artisan bakers to even try to compete, but I don’t really.  A good baguette is not something I could manage even if I wanted to.  You need to have something of the hot blood of the south to fabulously fling the dough around the way they do.  Passion, that’s the word, passion with a capital P.  I’ve never actually peered into the hallowed halls of a boulangerie at the dead of night, but I strongly suspect that the further south you go, the hotter the blood and the higher the fling!   However, a nice malted grain, multi seeded organic loaf? Now that is my kind of thing.  A gentle kneading motion, billowing curves and finally a beautifully rounded shape.  Sound familiar?
Meanwhile on the other side of the table the apples are flanked by something much naughtier.  A large, sticky chocolate fudge cake liberally covered in candles, because today is my youngest daughter’s birthday.  She is fifteen and there will be a gaggle of giggling almond-eyed girls to help consume it.  They can afford to of course, because French girls are born with hips like haricots verts, and no matter how much they eat, they never lose them. Unlike me.  Tant pis eh?

© Amanda Lawrence

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Autumn is Approaching in The Quercy from French Vie

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6 Responses to “Autumn is Approaching in The Quercy”

  1. Laura G. says:

    Hi Amanda,
    Love the new Blog.
    I’ve been a subscriber to your Lot and Quercy Life newsletter for some time and it’s always a joy to read.
    Nice to see more of your writing all in one place.
    I even bought your book – which was simply marvellous! When is the next one coming out?
    Keep up the good work.
    Laura

  2. Fiona Butler says:

    The home made bread sounds fantastic.
    My previous attempts have always ended up with something like a lump of rock – quite tasty but very hard on the teeth.
    What’s your secret?
    I’ll watch out for the recipe and helpful tips.

  3. Amanda says:

    Tips for bread-making? Knead, knead, knead! A good ten minutes. The biggest problem with making your own bread is that you really can’t rush it. It’s a slow, slow process. I allow my bread to rise twice before I bake it, then, after shaping and proving I slip it into a very hot oven, on to a pre-heated tray, with a pan of steaming water at the bottom of the oven to give a good whack of moisture. Mind you, everybody gets rocks every now and then, maybe you were just unlucky!

  4. Tim & Helen says:

    Happy Birthday to your youngest, has she taken to the kitchen in your footsteps?
    My tips for bread making are get a good bread making machine but the only problem with this is they all turn out square with a hole in the bottom!
    Do they really eat conkers in France?

  5. Amanda says:

    Not that I’m aware of – these are chestnuts!!

  6. chaptelat says:

    Mmmm, je reconnais nos bonnes châtaignes. Cette année elles étaient magnifiques. Vous êtes déjà venue en Limousin ?

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