Tuesday, October 30, 2012

365


One year in Europe. One year that flew by in no time. One year that was really really exciting.
There is a post from a fellow Blogger who arrived a mere 10 days or so before us in France with her family from New York State. When I read her post last week, it was incredible to see some of the similar observations. With some minor changes, I could have cut & paste her post over here......

http://americanmominbordeaux.blogspot.fr/2012/10/one-year-later-in-bordeaux-france.html

We obviously had our own moments of curiosity and head scratching moments, but overall we are very content with the way things have turned out so far. France, with all it's little oddities is a very good place to choose if you plan to expatriate yourself for one reason or the other. As with any other place in this world I have lived, not all is perfect but in the sum of all things, France tips the scale on the positive. Very much so.

Most of my objections and pet peeves are very much first world complaints and not really worth waxing on about. I mean for example, that you cannot get cold cuts without the skin on at the supermarket. THAT is a first for me.
Even if you ask, they won't remove it. Since I like my Mortadella, ham and salamis sliced ultra thin,  it's impossible to get the skin separated. However, to just having to point THIS out, shows you how well things are, by not having bigger complaints. Good Milk (lack of) is a close second. UHT ruins everything.
We are baffled by the smoking habits of the locals. I am not a militant non smoker, so I really don't care what they do with their health. But yes, the French seem oblivious to the debate on other continents and countries around them.

On the positive there is simply too much to type and I suggest you reread some of the posts since November 1st, 2011.

Here is another series of things A Aimer about living in France:

http://foreignparts.typepad.com/foreign_parts/2011/05/%C3%A0-aimer-antique-hunting-in-paris.html


So, as we head into Year two of our European adventure, stay tuned keep reading and tell your friends about it too. Toussaint holiday is coming up and we have decided to take a trip to Paris. Amazing really, that since we arrived, we did not make it to the capital yet. There will be plenty to tell about that trip.

We also started renovating LE STUDIO, the first of our planned rentals. Ready by March 15th 2013. As mentioned before, it will be a pit stop during your own European adventure. Stay a day, a week, stay a month, heck, stay a year, you are welcome to eat with us.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

THE BAKING LAB

 
Ever since that pallet of GFP flour mix arrived a few weeks ago, Victoria has been tearing it up in her kitchen.
There's not a week where she is not trying to improve on, or create a new gluten free recipe for the good people at Nourish, Beau Monde, Big Star and Kneaded.
 
It gets pretty intense let me tell you.  Being a perfectionist makes gluten free baking even more challenging than it already is.  We leave the doors closed so the efforts don`t get interrupted by asking some stupid questions...
Besides a true passion for gluten free baking, Victoria uses some of the better ingredients available which does make a huge difference as well.
When the recipe is FINALLY up to GFP standard, things calm down and both Isabella and myself are the ultimate beneficiaries of all those efforts. 
 
Chocolate Pound Cake, Lemon Biscotti, fluffy Gingerbread squares with vanilla icing (my new favorite), Maple Donuts, Apple Tarts and everything else.  If you like cake, you should move in with us. Help us eat those montains of cakes.
 
 
LE LAB
 
 
GINGERBREAD SLICES

 TASTES LIKE FLUFFY GINGERBREAD
 
CHOCOLATE AND LEMON BISCOTTI
 


 APPLE CAKE

 CORN BREAD, SERVED WARM

POUND CAKE





PLENTY OF FLOUR TO EXPERIMENT WITH
 
 
EXCELLENT VANILLA
 
CALLEBAUT
 
 


Friday, October 26, 2012

PICTURE OF THE WEEK



What you are looking at is a vendor at the Jarnac market. Doesn't get any more direct. Farm to fork, or whatever one wants to call it.
The farmer is not a regular vendor, he just pulled up with his tractor this morning and all that you see on and around his truck, is from his farm.

We bought some pumpkins and Victoria will make soup this weekend. Wait for updates.





Wednesday, October 24, 2012

GLUTEN FREE BREAD CRUMBS

 
 
Yes, you can buy gluten free bread crumbs pretty muchanywhere. But, if you have a favorite GF bread, that will then make your favorite crumbs.
 
Since we all like Wiener Schnitzel, Victoria just baked a few loaves of bread just to make some crumbs yesterday. Aftdr the bread is cooled off, cut it into pieces and let it dry some over night.
Then put the pieces into a food processor until ground fine. They freeze and thaw out just fine.
 

 

 
 
BEAU MONDE'S GLUTEN FREE BREAD

CUT IT UP AND LET IT TRY OUT

GRIND IT FINE, IT'S FREEZEABLE

GLUTEN FREE WIENER SCHNITZEL
 
GLUTEN FREE APRICOT DUMPLINGS
 
GF CHICKEN FINGERS
 
 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

RENOVATE IN FRANCE - THE BEST AND WORST OF IT



October 21st, 2012. Seven month and six days since we took possession of our property in France. We are now done with the major renovations of our residence, ready to make it a home. Hang the art, put up the curtains, you know, the things that make it home, not just a house.

Renovations began in earnest late April, just about the time when we went to Austria to spend some time with my parents. Which in hindsight was our number one and single biggest mistake. 
No complaints, just pointing out the facts in case you plan to go ahead and move somewhere and undertake a renovation. Stay onsite from day one until it is finished. No misunderstandings, no "missing emails" etc., etc.

We hired a Jarnac based contractor who's quote was in line what our budget permitted for the basic renovation job to be done. In the end it turned out very good, the job just took way longer and some major reactive issues had to be solved after all was done. 
More dust, more dirt. if we would not have gone to Austria, but visited the site often, these issues would have been caught before they happened. 
The contractor also brought along the electrician, a local french one, who was very very good. Missed a deadline or two, but made up for it with his passion and friendliness towards the foreigners....

When all the pipes and radiators burst during the big freeze in February, 30 days before we were to take possession, our outstanding realtor saved the day with a large plumbing outfit. They came in and dismantled the radiators to prevent further damage than this:  


 So we inherited that firm, who's GM is incredible. Helpful with major relocations of pipes and fittings, friendly and very patient. One can say he is used to requests from foreigners.....
The only drawback with that firm, they sent three different crews over the renovation period ranging from great to ...can I say, very french? Since we were absent, their communication with the GC was an absolute minimum which resulted in one waste pipe running diagonally along the ceiling through a major room and one of the bath rooms being 100% different from what we discussed. Victoria is pretty cranky about that. But the heating works......


The standout through all this work was an expat from England, Johnathan Turner who not only installed the kitchen cabinets on a floor that's more uneven than a run down golf course, he was of incredible help with other wood working needs as well. He replicated 100 year old baseboards, helped us swap out two sets of doors of different sizes and even built an interesting wardrobe for Victoria from scratch. If you need a wood worker, he is the one. 

My single biggest mistake happened right at the get go, luckily the damages were not too hard to swallow. As you know, one is supposed to always get more than one quote for things. When I surfed the net about Renovating in France, one of them sounded as if he knows what he is talking about. 
Well, there are endless stories about "ferry contractors", a term coined for guys who bought their tool belt on the ferry over to France from a disillusioned English man going back home. 
I was also naive enough to pay 500.00 (in cash) as an upfront fee to get me the estimates for all the works. The company "Renovate in France" did show up, took the cash and in the end delivered nothing. I was told to be patient, their craftsmen are worth the wait, next week, maybe Monday after, but all in all, I blew 500.00 for nothing. Lesson learnt. I just absolutely hate being snookered. 
In case he changed his company name for the same scheme, Steve Davis is the guy. If a contractor has not finished his own project after 5 years working on it, don't hire him.

There are plenty of others who did some great work on this house so far, a few of them are actually going to renovate the studio for our future visitors next.
As you can see, barely finished with project A, we are already starting project B.

Stay tuned for that. 




MARCH 15, 2012

THE HOUSE 100 YEARS AGO

THE STORE IN 1912


WE TURNED THIS FIREPLACE

INTO THIS

WE MADE THAT WET ROOM

INTO A FINE BATH ROOM

JOHNATHAN TURNER, BY FAR THE BEST

IF IT DOES NOT FEEL RIGHT, DON'T GET SCREWED LIKE I DID.

MAN OF THE YEAR

PLUMBERS. ALWAYS THE SAME

MOVING THE VENTILATION HOLE

JOHNATHAN BUILT THAT 

REFITTED THOSE DOORS

A VERY LARGE ISLAND

ISABELLA'S BED ROOM

FLEA MARKET FIND

NOW. WHERE TO HANG ALL THESE



THIS IS WHAT THE STUDIO LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW. WE ARE RENOVATING IT INTO A FINE HOLIDAY DWELLING FOR YOU TO VISIT US

350 SQFT. IT WILL BE READY BY MARCH 15TH, 2013. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

VEAL KIDNEYS - OFFAL FRIDAY


Second offal Friday. I had troubles with Blogger yesterday, the post is delayed one day.

Veal kidneys, another french specialty which you can find on many Bistro menus. Not for everyone, but we should all at least try a dish once. Both Victoria and Isabella declined again, which  left more for me.

Some people put the kidney in milk for a day, I find it not necessary, but did it anyway. The kidney still retained it's strong flavor. Otherwise you might as well fry a steak. 
My preparation is simple, there are dozens of recipes out there. In the hopes of Victoria at least wanting to try a bite, I omitted onions, which are a good add on if you make this dish. 

Do not fry the kidneys too long, they get hard and rubbery that way. I fried them in some butter, added the bacon and garlic I roasted before and put in a dash  of Pineau (french aperitif) with a few spoons of Creme Fraiche, which basically acts as a thickener.

Call your butcher. Order a kidney.



 A VEAL KIDNEY

BUTTER, BACON, CREME FRAICHE, SALT, PEPPER, PARSLEY, GARLIC, MUSHROOM AND PINEAU

NOT REALLY NECESSARY FOR VEAL

SLICE THE KIDNEY

ROAST THE GARLIC, BACON

HIGH HEAT, QUICK FRY ON BOTH SIDES

ADD BACON, MUSHROOMS, GARLIC

ADD SOME PINEAU (OR COGNAC, OR MADEIRA) AND CREME FRAICHE

IT'S GOOD TO EAT 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ONE POT WONDERS



Are you making your own beef stock yet? I showed you two years ago. All you need is ONE pot. It basically cooks itself. I am setting up my first pot of the fall season today. 








Friday, October 12, 2012

OFFAL FRIDAY


Sweetbreads. A tiny part of veal innerts. Responsible for the baby cow's growth, I have never really seen it anywhere for sale in Canada. Maybe one can order it. If you bought it before, I would love to know how much it is in North America. You find it on menus at certain restaurants, but not at Safeway. Here in Europa people love it so much, the price is shockingly high.

When you spend some time in France, you are exposed to all animal parts. At the markets, at the butcher's, even in super markets will you find all sorts of raw ingredients that XL Foods probably just discards. They are busy enough cleaning shit off the meat I hear.
Anyway. Little by little you will get introduced to the glory parts of french cooking. 

Trust me when I say, "it just tastes like chicken...." well, soft creamy chicken that is. I am the only one in this house who will touch any of those pieces, both Victoria and Isabella want"real" chicken.....

When I was a kid in Austria and the local butcher had some sweetbreads, my mother would buy some and fry it up for her family. Guess what? I ate it since I am a kid.  Since it is so fresh (think meat jello), the preparation is not only easy, it's fool proof. 
Stick with good, simple ingredients. No need for strong flavors, no onions, garlic or strong herbs. 
Some salt, butter and fresh Thyme is all I  used this time. 
I fried up the gland with some fresh Cepes and leftover Figs, served it on a tasty Risotto. All to myself. The girls just looked at me and ate the rice......






GROWTH GLAND OF A BABY COW


POACHING IT FOR A MINUTE MAKES REMOVING THE MEMBRANE EASIER

TRIM IT

SLICE INTO SMALLER PIECES

CEPES

 FRESH FIGS TOO

FRESH THYME, BUTTER AND SEA SALT, NEED NOTHING ELSE

BROWN IT ALL UP

I TELL YOU, IT'S HARD TO TAKE PICTURES

SERVE WITH SOME RISOTTO