Archive of ‘My Heart’s Home (France)’ category

New Video: Gougères!

gougeresHave you seen my latest YouTube video where I show you how to make Gougères? This easy French appetizer is delicious and perfect for dinner parties or wine tastings. You can use many different ingredients to flavor the savory French cheese puffs, but my favorite combination is blue cheese (especially the bleu d’Auvergne from President) and finely chopped spring onions. So tasty!
PS: the basic recipe is called pâte à choux. Without pepper and a little less salt, you can use it to make cream puffs, chouquettes and éclairs! A good recipe to master! Just remember to fully incorporate each egg into the mixture before adding the next! Enjoy!

Souvenirs de France

Returning home after vacation is never a joyous occasion. Not only because I have to leave my beautiful France behind, or because the two-day trip is exhausting (for some reason, the trip to France less so), but because unpacking, cleaning and piles of laundry await. I am always very intent on making sure everything gets going the moment we walk through the door — never in a million years, no matter how tired I am, could I leave the mess until the next day. That would just make it harder, in my opinion.
There is a best part about coming home, however — unpacking all my French souvenirs! Each item is carefully given a new spot in my kitchen and as I put everything away, I am already dreaming about what I will make, because yes, most of my souvenirs are the edible kind — or the drinkable. Have a look below and see what I took home with me this year!
PS: Not shown: a Caudalie face mask (love that brand!), Les Carnets de Julie: Un voyage gourmand en 140 recettes, and a beautiful bag which was a present from my hubby!

creme anglaise

Yes, yes. I can make this myself, but I have a soft spot for Alsa. The pretty packaging gets me every time!

fondant

Same comment as above. I haven’t tried this mix, but the photo sure looks appetizing!

galettes

The first time I purchased these cookies! I suddenly remembered them at our last stop at a French supermarket in Le Mans and immediately put them in my basket. Why are they so special? Well, these St Michel cookies were served at the local café in Duras this year, Café de la Paix, aka Chez Régine. Edible memories!

condiments

Bouquet garni, pink peppercorns, a mix of Guerande salt and piment d’Espelette (this should be heavenly on a steak!), and a few jars of Amora mustard, which my husband adores.

pudding

Vanilla flan mix. Yep, the retro packaging did it again for me.

alsa

This French baking powder has been a staple at my house for years. You guessed right — the packaging wooed me to begin with. I couldn’t imagine baking without that little Alsatian lady!

sausage

Duck sausage from René Pujol! Beacuse the southwest of France is duck country, and because I LOVE duck. 🙂 PS: I used to bring back tins of confit de canard, but now they’re imported by my local supermarket. Yeah!

confituredelait

My daughter loves this as a special treat on her Sunday croissant — and I can’t say I disagree with her. This stuff is nothing but creamy, sweet goodness! It’s also wonderful on crêpes! I am a big fan of the Reflets de France brand, too.

stock

Call me crazy, but I think the French version of the everday Maggi chicken stock cube is richer than the one I sometimes buy here. Or maybe it’s that special memory of making a chicken casserole on a cold night in Bourgogne years ago. We had arrived late in the afternoon at our lovely farmhouse, and I wanted to make a comforting chicken dinner. While Hans lit the fireplace, I cooked chicken in mustard cream sauce with these cubes. Of course, homemade is better, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Oh, and the herb and olive oil cubes are a new for me. I bought them because they’re made with my favorite olive oil.

garlic

French violet garlic from the Tarn. Because the garlic is tied so beautifully and because those fat cloves are major morsels of flavor!

armagnac

Every once in a while, I love to end a Saturday dinner with my husband (or a dinner party) with a small cup of coffee and an Armagnac. I sometimes order this perfect combo after a dinner out in France. I am not a fan of strong drinks, so this is one tasty exception for me!

oil

Puget olive oil has been another staple at my house for years. I always stock up when I go to France. This one brings memories of cooking summer meals way up high in the mountains of the Ardeche. It was the first time I tried this oil, and I’ve loved it ever since.

pate

I came across these little pots of pâté from Lucien Georgelin at the local Duras supermarket. They had a huge crate not far from the entrance filled with a wide variety of flavors. I’ve never tried any of them, but check out the ones I got: Mediterranean pâté with chicken and lemon, Parisian pâté with ham and mushrooms, and Charentais pâté with champagne de Cognac!

mags

French magazine, for inspiration and to improve my French language skills!

wine

LOTS of wine (I still have a few boxes put away because there was no space on my rack). Most of them are from Duras, a few from Bergerac and some from Cahors. We like to make two wine trips per year: the summer wine haul comes from the southwest and the winter one comes from Bourgogne. Each bottle is saved for Saturday dinner. It’s like taking my taste buds back to the places I love!

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Most of my plates and cutlery come from French antique markets and vide-greniers. They have so much more charm than anything you can buy at a shop. In fact, I’m having my morning coffee from a French bowl right now! I bought these lovely plates from the yearly brocante market in Gensac a few weeks ago. All were purchased from kind, stylish French ladies who were very happy to pass them on to me.

 

Learning French (the Gourmet Way!)… and Cooking with Julie Andrieu!

Some of my favorite ways to improve my French include singing along to French music, listening to France Bleu (Gironde), reading French newspapers and magazines and watching French television. Here in the Netherlands, I often have a look at the news on TV5MONDE, a channel that also features children’s shows in the morning and subtitled movies in the evening (great for those who are starting to learn French). Their website also has a few clever ways to brush up on the language, so it’s definitely worth a look.
As a food and wine lover, however, gourmet shows, whether that be French cooking channels on YouTube or cooking shows on television, will always have my preference. They are not only an excellent way to learn French (recipes are often visually described in steps, so very easy to follow and understand), but they are a great source of inspiration. Years ago, I discovered Julie Andrieu’s cooking shows and immediately fell in love with her beautiful recipes and charm (she’s such an elegant French lady!). I have a few of her books, and this past week I picked up another one in Bergerac, Les Carnets de Julie: Un voyage gourmand en 140 recettes. If you enjoy French cooking or are a Francophile (I’m both, as you know!), this book is a must, provided you can understand some French!
The book is based on a series that sees Julie cooking her way across France. She gets inspiration from local producers, home cooks and others who have some kind of a connection to food. They are exactly the kind of French recipes I adore, not the fancy stuff from revered chefs, but honest food prepared with love and savored the French way: around a table full of people, bread and wine! Each episode will transport you to France, entice you with the country’s gorgeous, varied landscape and equally gorgeous and varied dishes. Have a look at her channel on YouTube, though be warned, you may get hooked!
But back to that book! Here’s a little preview. Scroll to the bottom to see the first recipe I made, which my family loved! Bon Appétit !

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The cover

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The places visited…

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No fancy chefs, instead you’ll find favorite meals cooked at home… with love!

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My favorite part of France!

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Oysters in Cancale…

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This is one of my favorite ways to cook potatoes. You can’t go wrong with duck or goose fat! YUM!

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The first recipe I tried: a delicately scented cake with orange, nuts and honey. A lovely afternoon treat.

cake

Here is the result! I had to use two oranges as one did not provide the 120ml necessary. I also used the zest for added flavor. And, I used 100g unsalted pecans.

 

 

Returning from Duras

DurasI must start this post with honesty that may seem a little too sentimental, perhaps a little too much. I had a very hard time leaving Duras this year and had to choke back more tears than were good for me. I know that my family hated to leave just as much as I did, and the last thing I wanted to do was let them see how sad I was, so I composed myself and thought about that perfect Dr. Seuss quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
But as we drove away and the castle slowly disappeared in the distance, my heart broke. I wasn’t just leaving France, I was leaving my heart’s home. A place that has been endearing  to me since the first time I laid eyes on it. And after all these years, Duras still continues to be so good to us.
I sometimes jokingly say that I lived in Duras in a past life. No other place in the world feels so much like home, so who knows, there may be some truth to that. My husband and I have every intention of moving there permanently, but the time is not right just yet. Our biggest priority is having our daughter finish her education. Once that’s a fact, we’ll start the process that we’ve been planning and talking about for the last eight years.
In the meantime, we make the most of the time we spend in that beautiful little corner of the world. Starting the day with coffee at Régine’s café overlooking the castle, enjoying a glass of wine and a genuine smile at the local wine bar, having a simple lunch at brasserie L’EXpression after the Monday morning market, relishing in an expertly prepared dinner at La Terrasse (more about that fabulous restaurant to follow soon), walking through the village and seeing all those familiar faces, slowing down our pace and, in short, living life to the fullest. And no, it’s not a ‘holiday’ thing. As much as I love the rest of France, it doesn’t feel the same when I leave other places.
Duras is a good twelve hours away in distance right now, but it’s closer to my heart than ever.  If you want to read more about Duras, have a look here, here, here and here.

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