Saturday, 9 April 2016

Recipe - White fish with chorizo and ratatouille

I have not put a recipe on this blog for ages, but having experimented with some combinations of our favourite ingredients, I have produced a dish which we think we will often be eating again in the future, so I felt it was worth sharing with you all!

Any white fish should do for this recipe.  The first time I tried it, I used cod, then last night I used whiting, which I filleted first.   Both times we said how good it was. I have all vegetable ingredients either bottled, or in my garden, so it is easy for me!

Ingredients with optional topinambour (jerusalem artichoke) in unpeeled state - see top left insert.

White fish with ratatouille and chorizo.  (for 2 people)

1 tablespoon olive oil.
1 large onion, chopped.
Ratatouille.  Mine is home made and I used about half of the large jar in the picture above - about 500 grams (1lb).
If ratatouille is not available, a tin of tomato pieces would probably do, but the flavour of the dish may suffer.
1 heaped teaspoon light, soft brown sugar.
Several sprigs thyme, leaves stripped. If not available use a teaspoon of dried thyme.
1 tablespoon soy sauce.
60 grams of chorizo (we used hot, but any type will do) Cut the sausage lengthwise and then slice.
Optional - Several pieces of topinambour (jerusalem artichoke) peeled and sliced.
2 pieces of white fish de-boned.

Non stick frying pan with a lid for cooking the meal.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion, topinambour (if using) and chorizo, then fry for 5-8 mins until the onion is soft. Stir in the ratatouille, sugar, thyme and soy sauce, then bring to the boil.

Simmer 5 mins, and then put the fish on top of the sauce. Cover and gently cook for about 5 mins until the fish is steamed and cooked through.
I served it with mashed butternut (also from the garden last season), but any alternative vegetable of your choice would be acceptable.  

Onion, topinambour and chorizo.

All ingredients except fish cooking for about 5 minutes - per recipe above. 
I forgot to take a photo of the fish steaming with the lid on!!

But here is the final meal served with the butternut mash.

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated 09 April 2016) 

Friday, 25 March 2016

A visit to Maisonnais-sur-Tardoire

Maisonnais-sur-Tardoire is a commune of about 400 inhabitants, in the Haute-Vienne department, but only 20 minutes by car to the east of here.

Located on the ancient Roman road from Perigueux to Poitiers, the area has been inhabited since time immemorial! Underground silos (cluzeaux) used for crop storage, dating from the Merovingian period (when the Romans and Gauls held sway over France in the 5th - 8th centuries) have been discovered nearby. 

The honey produced in the commune has the label "Regional Natural Périgord Limousin" and they have a notable honey festival to celebrate, attended by many beekeepers on the third weekend in September.
A view down the main street approaching the church. It's such a well-kept village!! The first thing  one notices is the exceptional state of the buildings, even including the barns!; the stonework, mortar, painting, roof tiling and carpentry are all exquisitely restored, maintained and preserved!

The village church is dedicated to Saint-Cyprian. It was built in the 11th century in the Romanesque style and its square steeple is somewhat unusual.

The simple altar. Note too that domed stone vaulted ceiling, curved in two directions! How skillful is that, with 11 century building techniques!

The pulpit, obviously a later addition, but a plain design, in keeping with the original structure.

We visited the village to hear a concert by a local choir, of which a friend is a member. They learn and sing songs from countries all around the world.The list of songs they sang, if you should be interested, is at the end of this post.The singing was excellent, and in fact so well appreciated by the audience they did two encores!

Elaborate dovecote-porch entrance to the large house opposite the church.

The property also has a second gateway (the servant's entrance?) on the other side!

 Looking down the immaculate main street, away from the church, note the house on the right. It's unusual, but it's not immediately obvious why this is so......

 here it is again, from the other side.
It was built in 1905, not using the normal local granite, but using limestone from the Charente.See how the corners and frames to openings are carefully detailed in squared stone blocks. Expensive! Its mansard roof with dormer windows is a design feature generally found in much grander residences.Many of the other village houses are rendered (this was a fashion in times past, to show one's neighbours that one had  the money to spend to upgrade one's house!) but this building really outdid all the neighbours! In 1910, the building was the local post office, but whether it was originally built as such isn't stated. Thankfully no-one has interfered with the original mason's fine craftsmanship and it remains unaltered to this day.

The entrance and window. More very expensive carving. This building is quite a statement of expense in a small country farming village. One wonders what the inhabitants at the time made of this lavishness!

Detail of the stone carving over the window.

The local Mairie (Mayor's office), the bus stop, and  not forgetting the lady in black, of whom every French village has at least one!

and of course no village in France would be complete without a war memorial. To close, as promised, the concert programme!

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated 08 February 2016) 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

The changing face of Chasseneuil.

Probably the last major change in the main street in Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure (to give it its full name!) occurred when the town was by-passed about 15 years ago and the regional traffic, including countless massive lorries, travelling on the route between Angouleme and Limoges, was thankfully removed from the busy local scene! That was until 31 August last year, when Lidl started the contract to replace their local store. Basic, even by Lidl standards, with minimal parking, the old store was squeezed in between two larger buildings.
The Briconautes builder's merchants had been purchased and on that day, the demolition work began to enlarge the area available for a new Lidl store.

The official approval!

Taken on 28 September, this photo shows that the old store is still open, still bringing in customers and money, while the demolishers struggle with the  old reinforced concrete framed three storey builder's merchant premises next door.

The demolition site on the same date, showing that everything had gone except............

this bit!

On 11 October, with demolition done, the earthworks close to the main street was proceeding well. The benign weather was helping the contractor keep to his programme, as can be seen from the blue skies in these photos.

The scene on 2 November, showing that the old store had been demolished (it closed in late October) and the base hardcore for the new building and parking area already in place.

By 14 November, the building frame was already well advanced. Much of this was pre-cast and brought to site in sections.

Another shot on the same day, showing how much of the building is pre-fabricated for speed of construction!

This photo, almost 2 weeks later, on 25 November shows how much fill material had to be brought in to raise the levels of the car park at the back of the site.

By 7 December, still under sunny skies, work continued with the installation of insulation to the external walls. The new parking area is on the left.

By 30 January, the tarmac surfacing to the car park had been laid, and the shopfronts with automatic sliding doors were in place.

On the same day, a photo showing the part of the parking area to the front of the store. Parking spaces provided have increased dramatically. At the old store, there were perhaps 30, now it's more like 200 and most of them are occupied during trading hours by enthusiastic shoppers!

On 23 February, the day before opening, the signs were up and the whole site was full of workmen carrying out final testing and rectification of any defects.

24 February, opening day. A fairly new Lidl speciality, an on-site bakery! This will no doubt have an effect on the businesses of the 4 bakers already trading in the town.

A view of the checkouts, plenty in number and capacity but staff, as usual, busy working around the store! One checkout operates in quieter periods, but when there is a rush of customers, public address announcements give notice that additional tills are open. This procedure seems to work well and undue delays are avoided.

Decorative rough gravel paving next to the main street. Not very pretty, but its aim is to discourage people from walking on it, especially ladies in high heels!

The view today, showing the change in the streetscape - see first photo to compare! The opening of this new state of the art Lidl store has prompted the other major supermarket in town, just to the right of this shot, where the white arrow points, to raise its game and carry out its own store improvements!

Monday, 8 February 2016

08/02/2015 I have been blogging for 5 years today! A visit to Biscarrose and surrounding area last year

Five years of blogging today! It's hard to believe!  I would like to thank all my followers over the years for their interest and so many kind comments; especially those of you who have become personal friends. Some of whom I have already met and others who I am hoping to meet. There are plans already made for one big meeting this year, but that is for future posts.

This blog is about a trip we did last year and which I have not yet posted here. South-west of the Charente department where we live, Biscarrosse is a commune in the Landes department, about an hour south-west of the main city of Bordeaux. It is 10 km (6.2 mi) inland from the seaside resort of Biscarrosse-Plage on the Atlantic coast.  We arrived towards the end of June, hoping to avoid most of the crowds of holidaymakers, who were just starting to arrive for the July/August peak French holiday season.  After a week's stay, we made our escape without a moment to lose, as by the time we  left, camper vans were bumper to bumper everywhere and there wasn't a parking spot to be had!

There are two large fresh water lakes close to Biscarrosse, which you can see on the map above, and many kilometres of cycle tracks.  Just to the north is the tidal Bay of Arcachon, where zillions of oysters and mussels are farmed.

On the balcony of our hotel next to one of the lakes.

The sparrows were so tame at the hotel that they would land on your hand to take crumbs!

Kite surfing at the Biscarrosse Plage (beach).

Dune de Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe, at about 300 feet high and a very popular tourist attraction. It is located between Arcachon Bay and Biscarosse.

The view from the dune top. It's quite a climb, but there are a few steps set on the sand on its land-facing side for those less energetic souls!

Eglise Saint-Martin in Biscarrosse.

Black winged stilt.
A visit to the Teich bird sanctuary is a must if you like bird watching.

Young white storks in an area of pine woods, reed beds, meadows, saltmarsh and water, hosting a great number of bird species.

Our favourite oyster restaurant....

So delicious.

This well-stocked boulangerie was perfect for getting ingredients for picnic lunches.

and the best beach we could find, which was nice and quiet, just as we like it.

Having a picnic under the trees at the back of the beach.

Stopping off at Biscarosse-Plage for an ice cream on the way back to the hotel.

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated 08 February 2015)