Tuesday, September 30, 2008


After our excursion to Ray Pic Waterfall, we visited the nearby village of Burzet.

Every year on Good Friday, the residents of Burzet dress up to perform a procession re-enacting the Passion of Christ.
As I mentioned earlier, Burzet is also along the route of the Monte Carlo Rally which returned to Ardeche in 2007 after a 10 year absence. But it was the church that I wanted to visit.

Church of St Andre, classified as a Historical Monument,
masterpiece of gothic art built in the 15th Century

This is not the first time I've seen contemporary designs in
stained glass windows in churches around here

The church bells
were installed on 1818 & 1853

The statue of the Virgin Mary & the Clock tower
overlooking the village

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cascade du Ray Pic - The Ray Pic Waterfall

We've been having really nice sunny days lately so I was determined to make the most of it whilst we still can. Seems a shame to stay at home - even if it is to watch the F1 race in Singapore.

So it was off to see the Ray Pic Waterfall - one of the attractions of the region which both of us have not been to before. It's located on the D215 between Burzet & Lachamp Raphael (at 1329m is the highest commune in Ardeche) which is also part of the route of the Monte Carlo rally.

Gorgeous scenery

From the main parking area, it's about a 15 min walk to the waterfall

An example of what NOT to pick
when you're out hunting mushrooms
(rule of thumb : ignore anything red)

The trek is well paved & not particularly difficult

Cascade du Ray Pic is not impressive because of it's height, it's a mere 60m but because of it's beautiful setting amongst basaltic columns. The La Bourges river rushes through channels of volcanic rocks to end up flowing over the remains of a lava flow which is 35,000 years old.

We were later to find out that swimming is forbidden


Friday, September 26, 2008

Fig Tart

Every afternoon, we have a little ritual. After I pick her up from school at 4.30, we would head over to the fig tree to have her gouter - an afternoon snack that all French children must have at around 4pm. So for us, instead of the usual biscuits or yoghurt, we picnic in front of our favorite tree & eat the fruits right off it. I told you The Girl loves figs.

As a result, we've also picked quite a lot of fruits. Even after I made another batch of jams, there were still left overs. So I decided to make a simple fig tart. I was too lazy to make pastry dough from scratch so I just used a store bought one that I had in the freezer. Cut the figs in halves or quarters, laid them out then poured fig jam over. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins & Voila !

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Blette Frittata

I love dishes that you can use whatever you have in the pantry or better yet, with leftovers. This is one of them. Frittata. It's an Italian omelette that is filled with meat, vegetables & cheese. Like I say, whatever you have on hand.

I'm fascinated with this cos it's first cooked on the stove & then finished off in the oven. Can my pan even go into the oven ? I even had to do a dry run to make sure it fits, silly me.

I made mine with blette (can anyone tell me what's the English name for this vegetable ?) which is sort of like spinach & sun dried tomatoes (you can tell this is my current favorite ingredient). And did I mention, you can use whatever you have available. We've eaten ours both hot & cold & seems fine either way.

Blette Frittata
adapted from Simply Recipes

500g blette or spinach
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
9 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1/3 cup grated cheese (parmesan, emmental)
sun dried tomatoes (optional)

1. Preheat oven at 210 C

2. Cook blette in about 1/4 cup of water until wilted. Drain & set aside

3. Whisk together the eggs, cheese, milk, salt & pepper. Add in the sun dried tomatoes

4. Using an oven-proof non stick pan. Fry the onions & garlic in olive oil. Next stir in the vegetables. Then spread them evenly over the pan. Pour the egg mixture over making sure to lift up the vegetables to let the eggs flow underneath.

5. When the eggs are about half set, put the whole pan into the oven for 15 mins until the frittata is puffy & golden.

** Remember that the handle from the pan is still going to be hot after removing from the oven.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

L'eglise St Julien du Serre

This is the church of St Julien du Serre which you might also recognise from my header picture. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it.

It's not particularly big nor spectacular. It was built in the 12th Century & over the years, been modified & expanded but it still remains a beautiful structure.

The church is only opened for service once a month & for special occasions like this one here. Even though I've been inside that one time, it was too crowded to take it all in. So naturally when it was opened for the Heritage Weekend, I needed to go see it again.

So here are images of the church which was designated a Historical Monument in 1906.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Silk Museum, Largentiere

Last weekend, was the Journee de Patrimonie in France, a yearly event celebrating heritage & cultural roots. All over the country, historical houses & buildings are opened & free to the public. What a wonderful idea !

So we took the opportunity to check out the Silk Museum in Largentiere (not free but reduced rates). In the 19th Century, Ardeche had a thriving silk industry & from there, all the silk were then transported to Lyon which is the silk capital. Many of the silk mills have since been abandoned, converted to gites, private homes or in this case, to a museum dedicated to silk.

The owners, Jose & Dominique Ruiz did a good job converting the old factory - you walk down a flight of stairs into a beautiful room which is part reception, part showroom, part screening room & part exhibition room. You start by watching 2 videos about how silkworms are raised & the working conditions in the 19th century. If like us, you have fidgety toddlers who refuse to sit still to watch the videos, they even have a desk equipped with puzzles & crayons to keep them occupied.

The guided tour then takes you into rooms restored with genuine silk throwers & ancient equipment on display. Not a very big museum but nevertheless interesting.

La filature du Moulinet
Musee de la soie
Route de Valgorge
07110 Largentiere

Monday, September 22, 2008

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise

It has been a while since I last posted on drinks. Well, that's because X hasn't been home & even tho I like a glass of wine with my meals, I don't like to drink cocktails or aperitifs alone.

Muscat wine is sweet & generally a dessert wine but over here, it can also be served as an aperitif. One of our favorites is from Beaumes de Venise, a region not too far from here.

Serve it chilled or on the rocks. The snack shown is the chorizo & pistachio cake that I've already made a couple of times now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spicy Miso Ramen with Char Siew

I've talked about how I love noodles. If I had to name my top 10 dishes, I'm sure it would contain a couple of noodles dishes & one of them would have to be ramen. I don't remember when my love affair for ramen started. Maybe after I watched Tampopo.

To me, nothing says comfort food like a steaming bowl of ramen. I used to frequent this tiny ramen place in NY called Rai Rai Ken for my fix. When I'm in Tokyo & have my way, I would probably be eating ramen everyday. Whenever I'm in Paris, I must head over to Rue St Anne to any one of the many ramen joints.

Again, it's one of those things I've never thought to prepare it myself. The thought of making the broth seems daunting enough. Rasa Malaysia made it here and after drooling for a long time over the delicious bowl of ramen (I click back occasionally just to drool & my photos pale in comparison), I decided to give it a go.

It turned out really well. I was so ramen-deprived that I ate 2 bowls. What a pig ! The broth was surprisingly good - don't leave out the sesame seeds - it makes the soup so much more fragrant. I had a small piece of char siew left over so I added that in. I also added bamboo shoots cos that's my favorite although I didn't marinade them, which I will do the next time. The Japanese fish cake I bought in Geneva for the sole purpose of putting in my ramen.

Spicy Miso Ramen
source Rasa Malaysia
makes 2 bowls


Ramen noodles
4 cups of water
4 Tbsp white miso paste
3-4 Tbsp chilli oil (optional if you don't want it spicy)
1/2 tsp dashi stock
1 Tbsp white sesame seeds (pound with mortar & pestle till fine)
Light soy sauce, to taste

Toppings :
hard boiled eggs, in half
corn kernels
Japanese fish cake, sliced
spring onion, sliced
nori seaweed. cut into strips
char siew, sliced
pickled bamboo shoots

1. Bring water to boil & then add miso paste, dashi stock & finely ground sesame seeds. Boil & reduce to 3.5 cups. Add in chilli oil & light soy sauce

2. Prepare noodles & set aside

3. In a serving bowl, add the noodles & then place your choice of toppings. Pour the miso soup into the bowl & add the seaweed strips. Serve steaming hot

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tomates Farcies or Stuffed Tomatoes

X's mother is a very good cook & most of my French dishes I learned from her. This is one of her many recipe & something that I make whenever tomatoes are in season. Any extras I'll just freeze. I did an earlier post on stuffed zucchinis with rice but this is my preferred stuffing.

The tomatoes are prepared by first cutting off the top to create a cap. Then using a spoon, scoop up the insides making sure to not break the skin. Set aside the pulp & juice (you can add that to the stuffing or keep to make tomato juice). Next sprinkle a bit of salt inside the tomato, turn it over to drain off the water. The French calls it egoutter & it's a technique they use often for vegetables - sprinkle a little salt, let stand for half an hour or so to get rid of the liquid/water.

Stuffed Tomatoes
makes 8-10 tomatoes

8-10 tomatoes
500 g minced beef or pork
5 slices of bread
2 cups of milk, hot
3-4 cloves of garlic
handful of parsley
1 egg
salt & pepper

1. Prepare the tomatoes as above

2. Soak bread in the milk & then squeeze out excess milk. Put them together with the ground beef, garlic, onion, parsley, 1 egg, salt & pepper into a food processor & mix well. If the mixture is too dry, add some of the removed tomato juice

3. Oil the oven tray. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture & top off with breadcrumbs & a small slice of butter.

4. Place in the oven at 190C for 45 minutes without the caps. Once the top starts to brown, add the caps on & put them back into the oven for another 15-20 mins

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My first photography assignment

Several months ago, my friend Katia approached me to take some photographs for her Aikido School as they needed a poster. She figured since I have a great big DSLR, I should know what I'm doing. After repeatedly reminding her that I'm no expert & on top of that, action photography is not my forte (I don't consider running after The Girl as relevant experience), I decided to take up the challenge & to see what I could come up with.

I visited the dojo (the martial arts school) & was impressed by how big the space was. Even tho I had done some research on the internet, I really didn't know what to expect. It was evening & I was worried that there weren't enough lighting. I started to get nervous & was wondering to myself what business does this amateur photographer have trying to take shots for something as important as their new promotional material & I didn't want to let these people down. But I was determined to do my best.

Katia & Mathieu started doing their moves and boy, are they good !! The first 30 or so shots were bad cos I didn't really know the aikido moves but as the session progressed, I got better at anticipating their moves & managed to capture some good shots. Taking action shots is a lot more difficult that I'd imagine.

Surprisingly they seemed to like the pictures, even the blurry ones cos they said it showed movement. We didn't even need another session cos Katia & her photoshop skills came up with a very stylish poster.

I'm very pleased to have a small part in creating this.

Calf's liver with bacon

I've been so busy jamming, preparing & freezing mushrooms & vegetables - that's all I seem to be doing these days. What happened to all that free time I'm supposed to have now that The Girl is back in school.

So this is a dish I prepare when I don't have time to fuss around in the kitchen but yet still want something substantial & tasty. I'd already mentioned my love for offals, liver, in particular. I try to prepare liver whenever I can cos it's a good source of iron (don't know about you ladies out there but I try to make sure I get sufficient intake).

Calf's liver with bacon
serves 2

6 slices of bacon
2 slices of calf's liver
3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1. Fry bacon until crispy. Set aside

2. Using the same pan, crank up the heat. While the pan is very hot, fry the calf's liver. Don't overcook, depending on the thickness, you probably only need to fry it for 1-2 mins on each side. When done, set aside

3. Pour red wine vinegar into the pan to deglaze, making sure to scrap off all the bits from the pan

4. Place the bacon over the liver then pour the red wine vinegar "deglaze" over. Serve with fried potatoes & a glass of red wine, of course

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

Growing up, I thought Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup was the best thing in the world. My mother always had cans of these in the pantry & I even eat it over rice. Even though I haven't had it in years, I still love me some cream of mushroom soup (not necessarily Campbell's of course).

I'd only ever made it with the cultivated champignons de paris & with my bounty of mousserons, I was keen to do this with wild mushrooms. So for this, I also dug into our stash of dried morel (morille) mushrooms to give it more flavor.

And don't you love my new colourful cups ? Well they were a present from Helena & Simon-Pierre (thank you again !) with special instructions to use them on the blog. I couldn't think of a better introduction for these little beauties. I expect that they would be featured a lot on the blog.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

500g assorted wild mushrooms - I used mousserons & morel *
1 small shallot
1 Tbsp butter
50cl heavy cream or creme fraiche
1 1/2 cup of chicken stock
4 Tbsp dry sherry, white wine or sake

* If using dried mushrooms, put them in a bowl of water & into the microwave on high for 2 mins. When done, squeeze out the water from the mushrooms & keep the mushroom water (you can use that to flavor the soup)

1. Chop mushrooms in processor (I leave a portion unchopped cos I like to bite into pieces of mushrooms)

2. Fry shallots in butter

3. Add mushrooms to the pan & fry for 10-15 mins (they are going to exude a lot of water, don't worry)

4. Next add stock, cream, dry sherry, salt & pepper (& mushroom water). Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 mins

5. Get ready to dig into a bowl of delicious creamy chunky wild mushroom soup

Note : You can also make what is called Cappuccino of Mushroom Soup. Add more stock & use less cream. When it's done, just blend till it's frothy. Serve in coffee cups.

We just can't get enough of these mousserons

Dried Morel Mushrooms