Monthly Archives: December 2012
Hi from a French CountryWife, except I’m not French but a Brit who made “the move” from Marlow, Buckinghamshire and hates being called “ex-pat” (what DOES that mean, someone who used to be called Patricia?). After three and half years of living in the Lot, the northern most department of the Midi-Pyrenees, in south west France, life is still pretty much perfect… or is it?
Various minor incidents have clouded the way… one of them concerned a plumber who looked like Quasimodo (twisted body, dragging limp and small hunched back, hair growing out of wart on nose, no need to visualise…) who kept drilling through various parts of his body while we were renovating our house. I began to think it may have been some sort of satanic ritual going on the final time. We were sitting in the conservatory, the house immaculate, nervously awaiting the arrival of our first b&b guests. Quasimodo was attempting, for the …
I usually get a little bleary eyed when watching documentaries. Not sure why but so often they tease then disappoint or are simply so repetitive that I know I’m wasting my valuable time watching them. Not so Space Dive – this is an absolutely gripping one off documentary about Felix Baumgartner’s jump to earth from outer space. We all saw is jump on TV – it was a worldwide sensation. But who knew exactly how complicated, expensive, dangerous, fascinating the back story was to this amazing record breaking exploit. Full of twists and turns, this story about a man who was brave/foolish enough to jump 24 miles to earth, breaking the sound barrier with his body as he did so, is unmissable viewing. If they decide to turn his story into a film – and of course they will – Felix is hunky enough to star as himself. Watch it on iPlayer – you’ll be …
A fabulous recipe all round here – perfect for nibbles any night, whether entertaining or sitting on the sofa watching TV. Incredibly simply to prepare, low in calories (about 60 for 20 crisps), low in fat and deliciously light. They taste like they are fried but are actually oven baked and so pretty damned healthy! Even more scrummy served with some garlicky mayonnaise…
2 medium courgettes, thinly sliced
2 tbspns finely grated parmesan cheese
2 egg whites
Preheat oven to 240 degrees, gas mark 9.
In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and parmesan and season with pepper. Dip sliced courgettes into egg white, then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place on greased baking tray.
Bake for 5 mins, then turn over and bake for another 5 – 10 mins until browned and crispy.
So here we find ourselves, enjoying those precious days off between Christmas and New Year. Rather like being in the eye of a storm, it is eerily calm and quiet. In our household, we have been recovering from the excesses of the Big Day, admiring our new fatter bodies (not), casting guilty looks at the recycling bin which is overflowing with bottles, and putting the washing machine through its paces (it’s wheezing as I type).
Marvellous-Mother-In-Law and I snuck off for a couple of nights at a nearby spa and have returned home feeling refreshed and renewed (unfortunately we still have the fatty bods – she MADE me drink the Sauvignon). It was a brilliant 48 hours of relaxation with an aromatherapy massage, walks in the drizzle, gentle exercise, scrummy (portion controlled) food and, for our homemade entertainment, we rather naughtily gossiped about our fellow guests.
There was BareFeet&Bosoms – a woman who thought …
Hi, franglais country housewife here again. Our French B&B continues well and we are already nearly fully booked for the summer. I ended my last guest blog (posted 7 July 2010) with a teaser about a guest’s cleavage. Here’s the story:
Shortly after arriving here our neighbours realised that despite being ‘etrangers’ (a reference to anybody who moves to a French village who has come further than 3km) we were ‘bien voisins’ and were invited to join the local boule team which plays every Saturday on the open ground opposite our house.
At the time we had an English lady staying called Rose (name changed to protect the innocent). She was the sort of guest who behaves like a princess and clicks her fingers when she wants something. Within two minutes of arriving, she criticised the fact that our bathroom toiletries were not personalised with the name of our chambres d’hotes and then announced she …
Why an ex. pat I always ask myself – I am still a patriot to the UK – I love England but have chosen to live in France for lifestyle, sunshine, reduced stress and cheap wine - and we get X Factor and Downton Abbey for goodness sake so I can’t be that foreign!
During our search for a property we had various amusing incidents, particularly when looking in an area densely populated by Brits and being shown around by an English estate agent (the very words “estate agent” send a chill down the spine, rather like “banker”). Our guide placed us in the back of her tattered Range Rover and off we went, four houses to view on the list. John and I felt a great sense of excitement, the properties looked so wonderful on the internet. However, Fiona (loud horsey voice and swearing extensively at anything that dared entered her line of vision while on the road), …
ONLY A FEW HOURS LEFT to enter our competition to join the CountryWives’ blogging team for one month. COMPETITION CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT!
You don’t need to know anything about websites or blogs – all you have to do is what you love and that is to write!
The winner’s posts will be published on The CountryWives Blog – which means that thousands of people will read what you have to say.
The CountryWives’ graphics department will design a unique icon for the winner and he or she will be given their very own spot on the home page.
The competition will be judged by Grace, Annabel and Ellie who will be looking for the most inspiring, touching, dramatic, or informative entry. Perhaps you’re a new mum, or someone who would like to promote a worthy charity. Maybe you love cooking and want to share some of your recipes with the world. You might want to tell your side …
The Road to Mandalay is nothing like the poem and not at all how I had expected it to be. It is a very busy highway, the arterial road from north to south. Huge Chinese manufactured lorries, piled high with watermelons, thrust their way north towards the Chinese border. Sadly the local farmers, who have been encouraged by the Chinese traders to grow crops of water melons, do not realise that their land will be barren for 4 years as apparently water melons poison the earth. The buses are piled high with people, stacked much like the melons, there are bicycles so overloaded that you can’t see the riders. Horse drawn carts, people walking, everyone busy, everyone bowed down with produce, everyone, it seems, is on their way to Mandalay for market day to sell their wares.
We stopped at a little cafe for a “comfort stop”, don’t you hate the phrase? The Vietnamese have a much better …
A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE COUNTRYWIVES
Thankfully the Mayans were wrong and we are all living another day and, hopefully, looking forward to Christmas. We wish you a brilliantly relaxing break from work (apart from the kitchen staff of course!), an enjoyable time with your family and friends and a nice moist goose. If it all goes pear shaped and your brussels are soggy, your mother-in-law bossy or you simply need a break from reading “100 Fiendishly Clever Ways with Leftover Turkey”, remember we will still be here to keep you company with our lighthearted comments (plus 1370 posts in our archives), easy festive recipes, our handpicked guest bloggers and the best way to pre-order the DVD of Last Tango in Halifax!
I have recently discovered the wonder that is PIA. Beautiful, extremely well designed, high quality bags and jewellery at a fraction of the price you would expect for this quality….let’s hope the sale starts SOON!!!
Sir Bruce and Tess have the glitterball for one contestant – who will it be?
Check out the BBC website for all the backstage gossip!
Still laughing at naughty Ellie’s funny post – you see, this is why we love her so much. And I needed a good giggle because Husband’s flight back from -19 degree Moscow was delayed by four hours. Not such a disaster as having your home flooded or being homeless or lonely at Christmas, but not brilliant relatively speaking because it meant we were very very late arriving at his company Christmas party, which he was jointly hosting with his business partner.
The venue was Madison a restaurant, tapas and cocktail bar jam packed with rather good looking young City bucks (get down there girls!). It was atmospherically noisy and, from its 6th floor vantage point, has a spectacular view of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The food and service were both equally good – I chose Sally Barnes Smoked Salmon topped with a perfectly poached duck egg, followed by Monkfish Wellington with Bearnaise sauce (my absolute favourite) and a decadent …
The world is supposed to end this morning as if you hadn’t heard, yes, the Mayans gave us the good news quite a while back, let us pray that it doesn’t because we all have plans for 2013 (put on a stone, cancel membership to the gym, drink more, smoke more, never do the kids homework for them again, let husband apply for more credit cards etc.. etc..)….. it would be a great shame to see those changes go to waste over a silly prediction! Anyway, I’ve heard enough doom and gloom in the last few weeks, no-one has any money including me, the country’s still going to the dogs, Jimmy Saville got away with it because he died before anyone could do something horrible to him, Country School stinks and above all Annabel is having an appalling time with Mum and tooth! SOOOOO, I’m going to get the party started early at my end and …
I spent 3 hours in the dental chair yesterday – I should have guessed I was in for trouble when he put a duvet over me and I asked if I was on an overnight stay (at least I did not have to worry that I had forgotten to pack my toothbrush for this sleepover!) Three hours later I looked and felt like I had gone five rounds with Mike Tyson and my ‘purse’ was empty too which was causing me even more pain. Today I have woken up to a face that looks like a squirrel with a mouth full of nuts, not a good look for all the Christmas festivities. However yesterday evening I curled up under my own duvet and watched the last two episodes of the series of Last Tango In Halifax which, if the number of comments on our review are anything to go by (34 at last count), it has …
Went to the cinema to see Seven Psychopaths. Despite the title, this film was an absolute joy in my book – a clever black comedy peppered with lots of violence (a la Tarantino), original, a script developing within a script but, most importantly, I have now fallen head over heels in love with the totally gorgeous, best looking leading man in the universe (notwithstanding his quizzical eyebrows and Oirish accent) Colin Farrell. Christopher Walken (who starred in my favourite ever music video) was excellent as ever and Woody Harrelson did well as the gimlet eyed gangster who wants to get his kidnapped four legged friend back at all costs. The critics have been disappointed in this film, feeling Martin McDonagh, who wrote/directed the fabulous In Bruges, didn’t quite come up trumps this time, that the excellent cast were wasted and that the script kind of went up its own bottom. It was flawed in places but give …
Mini poppadoms with mango chutney – these are so easy to make and very popular because they are fresh and spicy and crunchy – all at the same time in one glorious mouthful!
Shred 3 peeled carrots, dice half a cucumber and finely slice 4 spring onions. Mix together with a squeeze of lemon juice and 1 tbspn toasted mustard seeds.
Just before serving, spoon mixture onto bought mini poppadoms, top with a small dollop of mango chutney and scatter with coriander leaves.
I know that, despite the end of the world looming this Friday, Annabel has been partayyying for Britain – or perhaps it’s because of the impending doom and destruction that she’s decided to have as much fun as possible. Poor Ellie has had a surreally awful time in addition to coping with the forthcoming destruction of our planet, although she found solace via a man in a yellow van. Personally I have spent my time researching why the Mayans are totally and utterly wrong (I worry a lot you see). And, as for partying, Husband and I made a cock up of the first order by putting the wrong date in our diary and completely missed a much anticipated event. Still, hopefully we will get the dates right for the rest of our (only a few) invitations. What really will happen this Friday is that it will be the shortest day of the year, the …
CW loves the idea of making cakes with sponges, such a wonderful way to spend the holidays with young kids….you can buy sponges for next to nothing from the pound shop and off you go!
Innerchildfun.com has all sorts for entertaining the children during the holidays, it may be an American site but that doesn’t stop us from being able to use it!
Yesterday was almost surreal in it’s awfulness, I’m not sure where to begin really. We took ourselves off to London to visit and stay with my parents for an early Christmas celebration on Sunday as we will not be spending the 25th with them this year.; just before we arrived at 5pm my husband announced that he would like to pop out and see an old friend who, knowing that we would be in the area, had invited him for a quick drink at the local pub at 6 and husband hoped that no-one would mind; I politely told him this would be just about the rudest thing he could do and that my parents would be absolutely horrified, he did it anyway. As I expected my poor parents were stunned and stupefyed; suffice to say that relationships will not be quite the same for a while and his appalling …
I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and then again for supper. Ellie x
1 medium onion , finely chopped
1 tbsp oil
100g watercress , roughly chopped
2 large eggs
150ml log soft rindless goat’s cheese , in rough chunks
freshly grated nutmeg , optional
1 x 8″ savoury pastry case
For the filling, fry the onion in the oil until just soft, add the watercress and cook until just wilted. Beat the eggs and milk and stir in the watercress mixture and goat’s cheese. Season and if you like, add a pinch of nutmeg. Add the filling to the shortcrust pastry case and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 180C/gas 4/ fan 160C and cook for a further 25-30 minutes or until lightly set.
KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR OUR NEW COMPETITION WHICH LAUNCHES IN JANUARY!
Saw this recipe on Nigel Slater’s first of a two part series last Friday, 14th December called Twelve Tastes of Christmas. It looked easy and so tasty and this weekend I tried it and it was mouth poppingly amazing!!
Cocktail sausages, cranberry jelly, red onions, cranberries and a clementine are all you need.
See this link for the recipe
Second part of this easy to watch series is on Friday 22nd December BBC1.
All the cute & funny animal pictures that you could possibly want can be found here at Attack of the Cute
Healthy, ready in a flash, luxurious, Thai-inspired, easy to prepare and only 147 calories per serving…. I am definitely making this over the festive period as I am positive it will be a welcome break from unctuous but fatty beef, goose and/or lamb and because my lot absolutely adore curry. No curry paste from a jar used in this one… just a few simple spices will really bring out the most delicious flavours. This is from my favourite recipe website, BBC Good Food.
INGREDIENTS Serves 4, ready in 15 mins
3cm chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Small onion, you guessed it, chopped
Tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
4 cardomom pods, split and seeds crushed
100ml chicken stock
165ml reduced fat coconut milk
Large bunch coriander, chopped
Small bunch mint, chopped
400g large raw peeled prawns
Put ginger, garlic, onion, chillies and all of the spices in a food processor and whizz to a paste. Add a splash of water if required to bring everything together.
So this is the beginning of the final week before the big day and you think I am talking about Christmas! No I mean Friday, 21st December for that apparently is the day when the world is going to end so who needs Christmas gifts? I am now not at all worried that I have not bought all my presents or food yet as, wherever we all end up on Friday, we will not be needing Kindles, skinny jeans, iPads or onesies or even any of the CountryWives’ Festive Food!
Just to put you in the picture this rumour has been started by the ancient Maya people from Central America whose civilisation mysteriously collapsed in 800 AD however before it collapsed they predicted the end of the world for this Friday, December 21st 2012! This date marks the end of the 13th baktun of the Maya Long Count calendar and so accordingly the end of the 13th cycle heralds …
” I have good news for you ladies” said the check in girl, at Malaysian Airways, “I am upgrading you”!
I must explain that this time, for my amazing trip to Burma, I am travelling with my very good friend Other Granny. She will be called OG in my blogs. She is a delight to travel with as nothing phases her and she has spent lots of time in mainland China, visiting her own son, so NOTHING PHASES HER!
She and I complement each other quite well… she is the techie… she opens safes, legally of course, and works out the vagaries of electrical systems in posh hotels and if we are lucky enough to have a TV she manages to find Al Jezeera or CNN. I, of course, do the really important jobs like map read, darn rucksacks and mend suitcase handles with a Swiss army penknife.
Back to the upgrade – I do not wish to appear ungrateful to Malaysian …
How extraordinary A, in your last post you mention the lovely parties that you and OH have been invited to this year and how your children will simply have to fend for themselves for a few evenings this month, well coincidently I had an epiphany yesterday afternoon, you know the sort, a moment during which the solution or certainly the way forward in one’s moment of darkness becomes crystaline clear.
It would not be amiss to share with you the fact that our children have rather started to make the rules around here and it is well past time for us to take back the reins. I have been a pathetic parent of late and frankly so has my husband, we seem to have been so concerned about keeping our kids happy that teaching them even the very basic lessons in life such as tidying up bedrooms has been pushed to the back burner. As a …
This recipe makes 24 mini (and super cute) muffins and comes from my favourite recipe website BBC Food
This is an incredible recipe as it does not need kneeding and is foolproof and I am not a bread maker – I have given the recipe for the Festive loaf however just remove the cranberries, orange & almonds and it makes a plain loaf. Wrap and take as a gift at this time of year and the recipient will be thrilled!
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
3/4 cup cranberries
zest from 1 orange
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add cranberries, orange zest & almonds and mix. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great. Heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. …
So my fellow Countrywives have clearly got into the spirit of Christmas; Grace has been to Poundland dragging her Marvellous Mother-in-law, and Ellie was up to her neck in wrapping paper when I last spoke to her.
I, in the meantime, have had a slow start though the Xmas tree has now arrived ready for everyone to dress this weekend. I have carried all the decorations in from the shed and marvelled that the lights all still work and that they are not too tangled. Only hiccough was that the outside tree by our entrance gate seems to have shot up and out this year and when I went to hang the lights on it, they only went halfway up so it is either a quick click on Amazon or make do with what I have hoping that no-one makes a disparaging comment about the scantily lit tree.
I went to …
This slow-roasted lamb shanks recipe from John Mitzewich is such a great and easy way to enjoy lamb. This lamb recipe has only a few ingredients, but thanks to the long, slow cooking, the results are incredibly flavorful, succulent, fork-tender meat. Could make a fabulous alternative to turkey this year! Ellie x
Makes 4 Slow-Roasted Rosemary Garlic Lamb Shanks
4 lamb shanks
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, but the skin pierced with the tip of a knife
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the shanks in a roasting pan, just large enough to fit them in one layer, and rub with the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes to get a nice brown color. Remove the lamb, and turn the oven down to 325 degrees F.
Spoon out any excess fat, and scatter the garlic cloves and rosemary over …
This grilled lamb recipe features thick steaks cut from the leg, first marinated, then grilled, topped with a simple but memorable minted honey vinaigrette that really enhances the lamb’s rich flavor.
Makes 4 Grilled Lamb Steaks
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 35 minutes
4 lamb steaks (cut from the leg, about 1 1/2 inch thick)
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
salt to taste
For the vinaigrette:
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
In a large baking dish, combine the yogurt, olive oil, garlic, cumin, pepper, tarragon, mint, and rosemary. Mix well and add the lamb steaks, tossing to coat. Once evenly coated, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Lamb steaks may be marinated over night.
Add the vinaigrette ingredients to a bowl and …
Marvellous-Mother-In-Law took me to House of Fraser and introduced me to the wonder that is Pro Longwear Lipcreme. As soon as you apply this vanilla scented opaque lipstick, your lips feel soothed, nourished and pampered. Took all of twenty seconds before we were each gladly coughing up £16.50 and walking out onto Guildford High street pouting our mouths seductively (not a pretty sight at our age). And despite a quick coffee at Pret a Manger (will resist making any topical baby Jesus jokes here) the lippy stayed on – it’s a fabulous find and I will definitely be wearing mine to Christmas parties – no more pale, uninteresting lips by 10pm for me!
For some time now we have been tweeting about Ellie’s latest bargain find – and what a bargain! Thirty fabulously vintage gift tags for £1. And buoyed up by Annabel’s description of her trip to Poundland, I persuaded Marvellous-Mother-In-Law to accompany me to Guildford. We had barely parked the car before I was dragging her by the coat sleeve to North Street. We were both Poundland virgins as we stepped through its doors, but it didn’t take more than a couple of minutes before we were well and truly Poundland tarts. We were expecting a jumble sale feel to the store, but instead everything was neatly ordered on its shelves and most of the products were well known brands. “Oh my God Sara, look at this. Kodak AA batteries – only a pound!” “Oh my God Grace – a massive Toblerone…and it’s only a pound!” “Blimey look at this – a Horrible Histories DVD – for only …
So I am right there, getting through my kilometer long Christmas list, yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I was really rather pleased with myself by late yesterday afternoon and then of course as is always the case when things are going as smooth as an oily pole…………WALLOP………youngest son falls ill, in fact he was so wiped out that on arrival home he dropped everything on the floor, walked upstairs dragging his feet heavily behind him, wandered into his bedroom without turning on the light, got into bed full clothed with his little hands over his head and fell fast asleep until 7am this morning. Sadly for him he is still unwell and because I’m a great big softie, unlike Husband who thinks I’m a great big idiot, I have kept him home today which means that I will get little done today in the way of progress down the eternal list. I …
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 -3 as a main dish.
1 x large winter squash (to give 700g prepared squash)
1/2 tbs olive oil
400g fresh plum tomatoes
1 x 60g pack Crottin de Chavignol Goats’ Cheese
1 x 142ml Carton double cream
I x level tbs chopped fresh thyme
75g Gruyere cheese (coarsely grated)
salt and freshly ground pepper
You will also need an oval gratin dish with a 1 x litre capacity
Preheat the oven to 200C, peel & deseed the squash and cut into rough chunks measuring 2.5 – 4cm. Toss in the olive oil, thyme and plenty of seasoning, then spread out on a solid baking tray and roast on the top shelf of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until beginning to toast at the edges but not completely soft. Meanwhile, to peel the tomatoes, place them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to staand for one minute before draining …
By Richard Corrigan
1 kg/2lb 3¼oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed
8 rashers cured bacon, cut into lardons
250ml/8¾fl oz double cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the Brussels sprouts in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes. Drain and refresh in a bowl of ice and water. Drain again when the sprouts have cooled.
Add the bacon lardons to a non-stick frying pan, and fry over a medium heat until crisp.
Add the cream and crushed garlic to a small pan and bring to the boil.
Stir the sprouts into the crisp bacon; then stir in the hot cream.
Season with salt and pepper and serve straightaway.
My OH loves these and this recipe is so simple I give it to the kids to do. It’s only once a year that we make these so it’s always lots of fun and most get eaten as we make them!!
225 g Brazil nuts shelled
75 g un salted butter
225 g soft dark brown sugar
Some well-scrubbed eyebrow tweezers!!
Clarify the butter by melting it and either scraping off the curd-like white solids or if you have more time put the melted butter in the fridge whereupon the solids will sink to the bottom and the oily part can then be easily separated.
Place clarified butter in heavy based saucepan, add the suga and keeping the heat low, wait until the sugar melts and starts to bubble. When the sugar has lost its grainy appearance and looks smooth, stir gently to incorporate the butter, maybe even remove from heat to do this. It is ready when it looks like …
It may just be a roast chicken (albeit turkey) lunch but I think we all make a bit for effort on 25th December so instead of just roasting the parsnips, try this recipe which gives the parsnips some zing!
For 8 people:
1.25 kg parsnips
175 g plain flour
50 g grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper
knob of butter
200 c or 400 F
Combine flour, cheese, s & P in mixing bowl. Peel the parsnips with a potato peeler. Then halve & quarter them lengthways & cut each length in half across so that you end up with smallish chunks. Cut out some of the tough woody centres (I rarely do this as supermarket parsnips are normally quite small & tender). Pop parsnips in pan of boiling water, put on lid, bring back to boil & boil for 3 minutes. Drain and while still steaming drop a few at a time into the flour mixture, shaking and moving them around so …