Sunday, August 31, 2008

Our dinner from the land

With produce as fresh as these, you really don't have to do much. The best is to keep it simple.

Cepe is by far my favorite mushroom so I was thrilled when we randomly found some yesterday

I made omelette with cepe (it's very French)
but sadly I got distracted cos also cooking the fish &
the omelette turned out less than perfect
But the cepe made up for it & we gobbled every last bit

The very fresh trout
The Girl was so excited to see her grandfather catch the fish
that she was asking me every 5 mins when it was time for dinner

I was tempted to steam it but The Girl wanted it fried cos she likes the crispy skin
Let it be known that she ate half the fish
(trout has small bones so you've got to be careful feeding it to young children)
Recipe here

What about the rest of the fruits & vegetables ?

Tomato Salad sprinkled with salt & basil leaves (yes something from my garden)

Strawberries & raspberries with mint leaves (from my garden too)

I know I'm a very lucky girl

Friday, August 29, 2008

Our Source of Fruits & Vegetables

I've talked about it so much - I really should do a post on it already. Rene's garden or plantation as I like to call it because as you'll see for yourselves, it is not just your regular backyard vegetable patch.

J is away on an all girl's trip by the sea so Rene is all alone. He called us to meet him for a picnic at the garden & of course, we obliged. My only responsibility was to bring bread. He or rather the garden would provide everything else.

The garden is in Gourdon - about a 20 mins drive from his house. It's actually not that far but since it's a windy, narrow mountain road where you can't really go faster than 40km/h, it does take that long. This is the view from the garden. My camera does not have the ability to capture how huge his garden is.

Our little picnic table - check out that awesome view. We were supposed to have a little BBQ of sausages but he found out from the mayor's office that it's forbidden to start any fire outdoors until Sep 1st (so if we had the picnic next week, it would have been fine).

Ladies & gentlemen, it doesn't get any fresher or better than this. Tomatoes right from the garden with a pinch of salt - the way it's eaten in the countryside.

Now that lunch is over, how about a little tour of the plantation ?

When we arrived, he was chopping wood for winter

The land is on a slope so it's quite a climb to get around it

There are lots of chestnut trees
which is what Ardeche is known for.
The fruits are not ripe yet

Haricot blanc
I don't know what's the English name for this
White beans ?

The more popular French green beans


You know autumn is approaching when these start to appear

The beautiful coeur de boeuf tomato
I can't wait for these to ripen

I've included all the different types of vegetables so that my city friends would know what the actual plant look like


This must be one of the most prolific vegetable

There are of course raspberries & strawberries but I've already posted about them. So apart from fruits & vegetables, we have a trout pond too.

The sun was out so I was able to get a good picture of the trouts
He believes there are about 50 of them (& counting)
He used a grasshopper as bait & with a line & hook, caught us 2 trouts

That's dinner

But the biggest surprise was finding cepes
This was the first time he has ever found cepe on his land

Guess what else we're having for dinner ?

So we left with a huge basketful of goodies
very generously provided by Rene

Stay tuned for my next post on what I did with them.

Bak Kut Teh or Pork Rib Soup

It wasn't until I was in Geneva when my friends prepared Bak Kut Teh that I realised I haven't eaten this in years. Don't ask me why cos this is one of my favorites - I could have this as breakfast (the French would probably faint if I told them this), lunch or dinner.

So right after I came back, I dug up my packets of Bak Kut Teh mixes (don't roll your eyes at me, doesn't everybody use pre-mix for their BKT) & promptly made myself some. There are 2 kinds of BKT - the herbal version (which I had in Geneva) & the peppery version (which was what I had). I like them both.

The packet asked for 2 garlic & even tho I read both the English & Chinese instructions, they didn't specify whether it was whole head of garlic or cloves. 2 whole seem too many & 2 cloves seem too little - don't you hate it when instructions are ambigious but in this case, it's no biggie - I just decided how much I would add.

Dug up some ribs from the freezer - they were a little big & meant for BBQ but I was too lazy to run to the supermarket just to buy some so they would do (in fact they turned out great). Dumped them into the soup with the packet of herbs & spices & boiled for an hour. Cut up some red chillies with black soy sauce, cooked some rice & that was all I needed to do.

Even The Girl had 2nd & 3rd helpings of the soup & ribs which really surprised me. I had some fish fingers on stand by just in case the soup was a little too strong for her (it was the first time she was trying it). We were both really happy with dinner & I particularly liked it with my glass of chilled Grenache.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wine Tasting in Ardeche

Despite the fact that I've gone wine tasting on many occasions in California, I've never done that in France *gasp*. It's not like we don't drink any wine. In fact you should see me when I do my runs to the recycling bin - the number of bottles is staggering.

I buy most of our wines from the supermarket - there is always a wide selection, more convenient & it's probably cheaper too. Nonetheless I wanted to see what the vineyards are like around here & to try something different. So needless to say I was delighted when my friends suggested going wine tasting one day.

We went to the tourism office the day before, carefully planned our route, mapped out the area we wanted to go to, selected the producers we wanted to try & checked their opening hours. We also packed a picnic basket (yup once again) knowing that we were going to be on the road the whole day & had a backup driver ready.

First stop on our route of Cotes du Vivarais was Domaine du Belvezet @ St Remeze. The red wines of AOC Cotes du Vivarais comprised mainly of Syrah & Grenache whereas Vin de pays des coteaux de l'Ardeche (which makes up of 70% of the wine production) could also be Cabernet Sauvignan, Merlot, Gamay, Pinot & Chatus.

S-P with Mr Brunel

Wines are stored in tanks
& can be purchased by the litres

We particularly like their Cote du Vivarais Blanc & bought a case each.

Rene Brunel
Domaine du Belvezet
Rte de Vallon Pt d'Arc - Patroux
07700 Saint Remeze

Second stop (which I didn't take any pictures of) was at Domaine de la Boisserelle. My friends bought a bottle of Creme de chataigne (sort of chestnut liquer except in this case it contains no alcohol) which could be added with white wine to make a chestnut aperitif. I like the idea of it but it was a little too sweet for me tho.

Richard & Isabel Vigne
Domaine de la Boisserelle
Rte des Gorges
07700 Saint Remeze

Next stop was the charming village of Valvigneres. As we drove there, we passed many vineyards, lavander fields & farms. GAEC du Mazel has a tasting room right in the centre of the village. They pride themselves in making les vins naturels.

He definitely had the tasting room with the most character
Love the old wine press that apparently was in use until 5 years ago

I really like what he has to offer - the wines were original & nothing like what we had tasted earlier. They were also more expensive but I bought a few bottles & would definitely stock up more if X likes them too.

Jocelyne & Gerald Oustric
GAEC du Mazel
Quartier le Village
07400 Valvigneres

Our last stop was to one of the largest wine maker in the region - Mas d'Intras. It was the first Ardeche wine that I tasted when I first moved here so it was for sentimental reasons that I wanted to visit the vineyard.

I still like very much their wines & just last night, I opened a bottle of their Grenache, slightly chilled, it went well with my bak kut teh. I'm sure it's not a pairing the winemaker had in mind but it worked.

Denis & Emmanuel Robert & Sebastian Pradal
GAEC du Mas d'Intras
07400 Valvigneres

I wonder when we're heading to Champagne next.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What have you not tried ?

I was reading Clothide at Chocolate & Zucchini where she wrote about the Omnivore's Hundred. Compiled by Andrew Wheeler of the food blog Very Good Taste, it's a list of food that he thinks every omnivore should try at least once in their life.

Whether you agree with his list or not, it's an interesting exercise to see how many of these you've actually tried. He has also included wikipedia links where possible, for food that you have not heard of (there were quite a few that I had absolutely no idea).

If you have blog, this is what he asks you to do

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (I decide to highlight in green & red instead)
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea (never heard of this)
3. Huevos rancheros (great hangover food)
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (dried crocodile meat is a chinese delicacy to cure coughing spells)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (I missed how my mother cooks this with roe intact)
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush (recipe here)
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart (I lived in NY)
16. Epoisses (I've often eaten cheeses that I don't remember the name)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries (we're berry mad over here)
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (same as #16)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (does raw chilli padi count ?)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (never heard of it but definitely want to try it now)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (my #1 thing to do when in San Francisco)
33. Salted lassi (I've tried lassi but never salted)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float (A&W was all the rage growing up in Singapore)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea (in a English tea room in Singapore)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (please don't hold this against me)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk (tried but not a big fan of)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (once in a Japanese restaurant in NY)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (love this in onigiri)
53. Abalone (is it politically incorrect to say I love this)
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (I've had many dirty vodka martini but never with gin)
58. Beer above 8% ABV (surprise but then beer's not really my thing)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (what is this?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (yum)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost (again never heard of)
75. Roadkill (yikes I believe it's illegal in France)
76. Baijiu (my grandmother used to make her own)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail (we enjoyed it here)
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (Daniel in NY)
85. Kobe beef (in those good old days of expense accounts)
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab (yum)
93. Rose harissa (I've tried harissa but never had rose harissa tho')
94. Catfish (love thai catfish salad)
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (snake soup in wintertime in HK - delish)

I guess 74 out of 100 is pretty decent. Some of the remaining 26 looks pretty interesting & will make it to my list of things to try. Some just don't tickle my fancy (horse ? roadkill ? no thanks).

Even if you don't have a blog, try this out. How many of these have you tried ?


Labeaume is one of my favorite villages in Ardeche. A village set within the cliffs & rocks, the rugged landscape that is so typical of this region. They are also famous for their annual music festival which sadly I've yet to attend.

So when my friends were in town, this was one of the places I had to show them. We decided to spend the day there so we packed our swim gear, beach toys, picnic basket (yup another one) & spent a glorious day just lazing under the sun.

Just take a look at this setting
Don't you want to jump in & swim ?

View from the top as we approach the village

There's a nice "beach" where the children can play
and the river is also long & deep enough to do laps if you so fancy

The house right at the top has a swimming pool & the most spectacular view
I got major house envy when I saw it

Even as I'm writing this post & looking at the pictures, I'm already thinking I would very much like to go back again to swim under the cliffs & rocks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Remember the blackberries that we had picked, I decided to do as Beth @ Jam & Clotted Cream had suggested, an apple & blackberry crumble.

Apple & Blackberry crumble

300g fluor
pinch of salt
175 g brown sugar
200g butter, room temperature & cut in cubes

450g apples (about 4-6)
50g sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 pinch ground cinnamon
2 handful of blackberries

1. Peel & cut apples in cubes. Sprinkle 50g of sugar, 1 Tbsp flour, ground cinnamon over the apples & set aside

2. Mix fluor & sugar

3. Taking a few cubes at a time, rub butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs

4. Butter the dish, place apples & blackberries at the bottom, sprinkle crumble over the top making sure to cover the fruits

5. Bake in oven at 180C for 45 mins until the crumble is browned

Lagorce, Ardeche

Right after I finished unpacking, my friends arrived. Boy what a hectic week it has been. I always enjoy having guests in town cos it gives me an excuse to explore more of Ardeche. And we sure did.

We started by exploring some of the villages in the area, beginning with Lagorce. I was surprised to learn that Lagorce with it's population of 700 residents, is the largest commune in Ardeche covering an area of 7000 ha. We walked to the top of the village which has a great view of the Valley of Ibie.

When it was time for lunch, we just stopped someone who looked like he was from around there to ask where would be a good place to picnic. He directed us to the Sentier Botanique & we headed there for the first of our many picnics of the week.

The view of the village from where we had our picnic

The Girl who wanted to use a fig leaf to shade from the sun