François Hollande, the merits of dry toast and pumpkin pancakes

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“About as much charisma as un-buttered toast” was the description of François Hollande, by the ABC news correspondent, who expressed his surprise at the alleged French president’s love affair , which seems to involve two very beautiful ladies. I found this highly amusing, whilst feeling sorry for Valérie, or “Valou”, who is obviously going through a terrible time.However, I would actually like to defend the case of dry toast!  I believe it can actually be very charismatic. I often toast up stale bread and use it as a cobbler-like topping on a casserole. It’s also great as croutons on onion soup, or bulks up a salad, fluffing-up as it absorbs the vinaigrette. It’s traditionally used here as a base for “croûte aux  champignons”, posh mushrooms on toast, made with wild mushrooms, cream and local Savagnin wine. Hollande’s public image has really gone downhill recently. Although the French media doesn’t seem to be talking about it much, the “moped-riding philanderer” is not a good look.Let’s hope he can overcome these events and become more of a crouton, or a rustic bread salad, the more charismatic kind of dry toast.

Pain de Noix

Pain de noix, on an old plate made in Salins Les Bains, once a thriving crockery-making town.

DSCF0134The frugal tip of the day was given to me by a lovely couple who brought their walnuts to be pressed yesterday morning. If you need to heat the room next door, make a hole in the wall. Although this may not be very aesthetic, it’s actually not a bad idea. I have some friends who heated their house only using a wood-burner, as we do. Their bedroom upstairs had no heating at all. They consequently cut a hole in the floor of the bedroom of around 15cm in diameter, which enabled the heat to float up into the bedroom. If ever it was drafty, they had a disc to cover it, just in case. Saves you installing heating in the other room.

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What to eat today after days of leftover couscous came to an end. In the fridge I had one onion and a bit of pumpkin hanging around. From the latest walnut press, I have some “pain de noix“, which I grate to make a sort of walnut flour. I always have buckwheat flour in the cupboard so decided to make some crepes. This mixture would also work well in pasta with some Parmesan or as a ravioli filling, maybe jazzed-up with Mascarpone.

Pumpkin, Sage and Walnut Crêpes                            

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Ingredients (makes 4 crêpes)

¼ of a small pumpkin or butternut squash

1 medium onion

Sunflower oil

3 tablespoons of ground nuts or “pain de noix”

A knob of butter

A drop or two of milk

1 egg

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·         Put 250g of buckwheat flour in a mixing bowl

·         Place an egg, a dessert spoon of sunflower oil, and a pinch of salt, in a well in the centre.

·         Beat the egg and flour together, gradually, working from the centre outwards.

·         Gradually beat in 50cl of water. The mixture will turn from a rough paste to a silky fluid.

·         Leave to rest for at least an hour.

·         Fry a sliced onion in a drop of sunflower oil.

·         Add the slices of pumpkin and a touch of dried sage or a few chopped leaves of the fresh stuff.

·         Leave to sweat until soft.

·         Mix in 2 tablespoons of grated “pain de noix” or ground walnuts.

·         Add a knob of butter and stir for a minute or so.

·         Gradually add about 4 tablespoons of milk. You can add cream at this stage, but I didn’t want it to be too rich.

·         It should have a pesto like texture. Turn off the heat, season, cover and leave to stand.

·         Place a ladle of the crêpe mixture in a slightly buttered frying pan.

·         Swirl around to cover the whole pan and cook on a high heat.

·         When it starts to detach around the edges and moves when you shake the pan, flip it over.

·         Spread the pumpkin mixture on whilst the crêpe is still in the pan. After a few minutes, flip over one half of it, so it’s like a half-moon.

·         Flip over the whole thing and leave for a further few minutes.

Serve. Bon appétit!

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