Amanda on January 10th, 2010
Frosty Walk

A Frosty Walk In The Woods

Welcome to the freezing Quercy in deep mid-winter. Today marks Epiphany and the end of the festive season. It’s the end of puddings and pies and Buche de Noel, the end of Bing for another year, and the start of a new life for our Norwegian spruce in the little copse behind the old orchard. Much as I look forward to the hustle and bustle of Christmas every year, I look forward even more to this.
Outside the temperatures are dropping, a scattering of snow ices the view from my window and more is forecast. The deserted vines are no more than marching ranks of tangled wire. The oaks have finally shed their leaves and a six-inch carpet swathes the forest floor. Morning walks have taken on an eerie quality, apart from the odd creaking bough, the woods are absolutely silent. Scarlet rosehips dangle like forgotten Christmas baubles right in my path and the acid-green of an early hellebore catches the eye. Read More »

The Cold, Calm, Hopeful Days of Epiphany from French Life

Amanda on November 14th, 2009
Autumn Vives

Autumn Vines

Welcome to deep, deep autumn in the rain-washed Quercy.
In years to come people will talk about the long hot summer of 2009 and remind one another that it truly lasted from April to October. But it’s November now and the bitter Northern winds have swept across the landscape, turning the shivering vines scarlet and bringing driving rain in their wake. For the first time in my life I really don’t mind. The countryside is parched and gasping, wells and waterholes have been dry for months and the gardens are in desperate need of a good drink. Meanwhile the autumn pruning has been done, winter wood has been cut and stacked and all the leftovers piled high on the bonfire. The last of the wild harvests have been gathered too. Pinecones for the fire – pinecones make superb fire lighters – are piled in six capacious boxes on the lower terrace. Walnuts, still wet and unctuous, wait to be moved inside to dry out for the year, quinces await the preserving pans and bags of fat, glossy chestnuts will be roasted, peeled – what a fiddly job that is – and frozen for Christmas. Read More »

Autumn In The Quercy from French Life

Amanda on October 9th, 2009

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. Read More »

Autumn is Approaching in The Quercy from French Life

Amanda on January 23rd, 2007
Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

Soupe de Potiron

This recipe makes excellent use of that most under utilised of all vegetables in England, the good old pumpkin. Every year they’re grown in their thousands and used as Halloween lanterns, their delicious tender flesh discarded. It’s a criminal waste. This is partly the fault of the supermarkets of course. They’ll sell you a whole pumpkin – usually only at the end of October though – but not a slice, and a slice is generally all you need for any one dish.

Meanwhile in the colourful markets of France the October stalls are awash with vast orange globes. Old ladies brandish fearful looking knives as they slice off precisely the amount you require – and woe betide your fingers if you don’t stand back. It’s a phenomenally popular vegetable here and rightly so. Perhaps it’s time somebody waved a magic wand and turned the poor old English pumpkin into Cinderella’s coach, and then it too could go to the ball. Read More »

French Pumpkin Soup Recipe from French Life