Amanda on September 1st, 2009
Ripe Figs

Ripe Figs

The last of the season’s fêtes drew to a close at the weekend. The early morning light revealed a Coke can rolling casually down the street and tattered streamers flapping gently in the warm breeze. The tourists have gone and the lazy, hazy, crazy days are over, but the hot southern summer lingers on.
The famous vineyards of the region are heavy with fruit, we have had no significant rain for three months and the grapes are cooking in the searing heat. They cannot be artificially watered if they are to produce an AOC wine and there is no likelihood of any rain on the horizon. No other crop could stand the pace. Read More »

Tomato Chutney and Fig Preserve from French Life

Amanda on August 1st, 2009
Tree frog

Tree frog

The oleanders and hibiscus on my terrace provide the perfect backdrop for lazy afternoons and steamy nights. And last week we had a little visitor who was thoroughly taken in by the façade and looked as if he’d dropped straight out of an Attenborough documentary.
We were lingering over a late breakfast, about to pour a little more coffee, when our visitor announced himself with a distinct plopping sound. I turned round and there on a slender branch of the big hibiscus tree, a little wobbly but very much at home, was a bright green frog. Read More »

Sumptuous Summer Treats from French Life

Amanda on May 1st, 2007
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Welcome to lovely May in southern France, it must be the prettiest time of year. Café tables spread optimistically across cobbled pavements; oleanders, palms and potted olive trees screen clients from the traffic. They sit there with their ice-cold beer or delicately tinted kirs, pale arms tentatively exposed to the caressing warmth of the Mediterranean sun, shorts and sandals or white linen dresses, sunglasses of course and a bottle of Ambre Solaire. Summer has arrived.

In the markets the beautiful Marmande tomatoes have made their debut, bulging on all sides, bursting with flavour and polished to crimson perfection. Read More »

Flavours of Summer Living from French Life

Amanda on July 1st, 2006
Lauzerte

Lauzerte

High summer has arrived in the Quercy. Little stone villages drowse in the heat, scarlet and pink geraniums foam from every windowsill, dogs pant in the shade and cats prowl through immaculate potagers.
A few days ago several of our local friends were to be seen pillaging the roadside walnut trees, baskets in hand. It was midsummer’s day and midsummer magic was brewing all over Europe. In the Quercy we were collecting green walnuts to indulge in a little brewing of our own. It’s time to concoct this year’s ration of Aperitif de Noix, one of the highly desirable local liqueurs. It’s a devilishly potent brew, consumed with much lip smacking by the older generation and not disdained by the young. There are hundreds of variations on the basic recipe, but all include green walnuts, pricked to make sure there’s no shell, quartered – mind your fingers, they stain – and added to Eau de Vie, sugar and an innumerable selection of spices and other indigenous flavourings. Legend has it that the walnuts must be gathered on this one day and although it may not be true for the many whimsical reasons propounded, it’s certainly true that only a week or so later the shells have started to form and the bitterness that gives the ripe nuts their distinctive flavour has started to strengthen unpalatably. I made my first batch two years ago and find it goes deliciously well with the dried fruits and nuts at Christmas. Read More »

Living in France in High Summer from French Life

Amanda on August 5th, 2005
Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

Tomates Marmandaise

This is a recipe that you’ll find in many guises all over the south of France. However it does rely on the excellence of the ingredients so the world famous, succulent tomatoes of Marmande are absolutely perfect for the purpose.
If you are camping you can achieve these on a covered barbecue and like so many of the vegetable dishes of the Mediterranean, they’re good hot or cold and particularly good barely warm.

Serve one half per person for a first course, or two as a lunch dish, accompanied by a crisp, green salad and a baguette fresh from the bakery. They are also excellent as an accompaniment to roast chicken or just about any barbecued meat. Read More »

Oven Roasted Tomatoes Recipe from French Life