Thursday, February 4, 2010

Frost Bite

So January turns her head from us and sulks, as little elfin February laughs in our faces; you thought you had left Winter behind?…not yet my darlings, not quite yet…

Pancakes, Valentines, half-term….half-term? Again? More holidays, more? According to actual information from the internet, French school children have more holidays than any other nation on earth. Two whole weeks I have looming ahead of me. Needless to say the majority of this term, thus far, and pre-Christmas I might add, has been spent with bugs galore. Sickness, diarrhoea, colds, headaches, sore throats, soaring temperatures and even bronchopneumonia. When, I ask, when will the children actually spend any time at school? Their French tongue leaves a lot to be desired.

On the menu today at l’ecole is: potage à la tomate, followed by escalope de porc and purée de carottes, then flan and, finally, petits gâteaux. You may well ask how E1.50 funds such delicacies for the children of these fields. I have no idea, I assume the chef has a good deal going with the varying farmers, whose children, I will add, attend the school…

Seasonal is of utmost importance here. You simply cannot purchase anything other than what is growing here in France. A good thing yes, but at times frustrating when you need to eat something other than potatoes or lettuce. I dream of the asparagus season, of sweet juicy melons of cherry tomatoes so sweet you can eat them like a bag of bon-bons.

My baskets of walnuts once so heavy with abundance, have just the last few knocking around at the bottom. My perfect Sunday treat is to shell them, along with our local hazelnuts, gently roast them, rub the skins off and sit them in a very short pastry crust, wide and shallow. Meanwhile make some honey caramel by melting sugar, honey, butter and cream, boiling until the caramel is golden and frothing then pour all over those sweet nuts and bake for 20minutes or so until you are left with a tart so delectable, so intense with flavour, strangers will offer you their hand just for a slight slice. I think my nuts have one more tart in them.



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