Great beautiful Britain blighted by bread in bags

DSCF0311

I have been back “home” now for two weeks and seem to have arrived with a fresh eye to view my native region. Strangely, I feel a bit foreign  in my hometown, so am perhaps more objective about it, or perhaps romantic or critical.I’m not sure what I feel yet. Whilst pouring my coffee, from my cafetière “for one”, I contemplate….

Things I am enjoying in Yorkshire:

Pubs with open fires and bitter, yet floral, pale ales, which can even be enjoyed alone, whilst reading the newspaper – something I would never have done in rural France. Women were not seen alone in café/bars – or in groups for that matter.My morals would have been severely questioned and quite frankly, people would have looked at me funny.

DSCF0309

Speaking Yorkshire again. There are some things only a person from York will understand ie. “river’s up”.

The dynamics of an English conversation and our ability to “self-mock”.

Sunday roasts, with Yorkshire pudding, like this one at the Wellington Inn in Nidderdale, a fantastic, dog-friendly pub.

DSCF0308

Swaledale sausage and chutney sandwiches, at The Duke of York pub.

sausage

Hearing the seagulls in the morning (living in Eastern France, I was probably in the farthest French corner from the sea). We are only 45 minutes from the stunning Yorkshire coast here.

Walking the dog, without fear of running into a wild boar or a wolf. Only gangs of youths to worry about now – nothing compared to 90kg of charging, tusked beast! I’d prefer an altercation with a “chav” any day!

The patchwork landscape, bordered by hedgerows and dry stone walls.

DSCF0298

Watching almost tame herds of deer, in frosty fields in the morning – they always quickly scarpered in France, probably fearing that I was a hunter.

Lambs running and hopping.

Pavements!

Hearing my four year old niece in person, growing up so quickly and asking very relevant questions:

“Aunty Claire, when you look in the mirror, how do you know it’s you?”

“Aunty Claire, does a booby trap, trap boobies?”

Things I am finding strange:

Bread in plastic bags that lasts 2 weeks. We had 5 boulangeries in a small town of around 2000 people and we bought bread daily, as most people did. Bread had a crust and was aerated with both small and large air pockets in it, not dense and uniform, like an old sponge. Thank goodness I have discovered those who advocate proper bread.The Ainsty Farm Shop, who make a lovely loaf and Via Vecchia makes superior, artisan bread.

Pre-chopped vegetables. When was it chopped and why? I don’t understand. I went on a trip to a major supermarket the other day and was unable to find leeks or lovely Yorkshire rhubarb which were  not already trimmed.I reluctantly bought some rhubarb which I needed to place on pancakes, steamed and mixed with mascarpone and honey, then topped off with almonds. It was actually very good, but surely the freshness of the vegetable is affected when it is already chopped on both ends.I reiterate: all hail great farm shops. I look forward to discovering local markets.

Perfect lawns. When I used to take Milou out in our somewhat wild garden in France, he would dart in and out of the bushes, in between trees. Here he just stands there, glances at the perfect square of the perfect lawn and looks back at me, as if to say what am I supposed to do on here. It appears to be an extension of the carpeted living room, which he actually adores – a giant dog bed to him and he proceeds to lie down. Around this time in France, wild chives would be peeking out of the grass; the first flowers, purple wild cowslips would soon be appearing, along with violets under the trees in the dappled shade. Morel mushrooms wouldn’t be long, if it is a warm month of March, at the bottom of the garden on the rocky rough ground. I wonder about the effects of the abundance of weedkiller, used to create the perfect English lawn. I always remember my dad saying “bloomin’ eck they’re not very house proud here”, referring to the lack of garden fences and dishevelled nature of the house exterior, in the Jura. If that dishevelled appearance means that fauna and flora can flourish, then i’m all for dishevelled.

I feel the need to become a home tourist, to study what lies within these city walls, which once made me feel hemmed in and encouraged me me to leave, by trying to find a frugal style of living in York/ Yorkshire. There is a tendency for rustic, simple good food to be chic and expensive in the UK, which is not the case in France. I intend to search for those hidden gems which contradict this trend.

As Stendhal said in “La Chartreuse de Parme”: “A quoi bon chercher le bonheur si loin, il est là sous nos yeux”. In other words, “Why look for happiness, so far away, it is here under our noses”.

Advertisements

Sunny food for a grey day: lemon and walnut tart

Image

It really is grey today. The fort Belin, on the hilltop opposite, looks like a black and white photo of itself. I wanted to make something light and sunny, but still making the most of seasonal ingredients. The fruit bowl is overflowing with lemons. I can’t get enough of them, very cheap and seasonal at the moment. We’ve also got lots of dry walnuts and “pain de noix”, which remains after each press of walnut oil.There is still a surplus of puff pastry in the fridge, due to the “galette des rois” tradition, which is wearing on me now. I feel the need for a variation on the theme.The decorative petals have been hanging around for a while to be honest, after we bought them on a market in summer. Perhaps they should be used in more of a summery dish, but what the heck! They cheer me up. These pretty cornflowers and marigolds come from a local organic producer Carole Sutty, just up the road from Salins. She works mainly with herbs and plants that she gathers in the countryside, but also with her own production.We are very lucky in the region to have a network of local herbalists(with a recognised qualification from the local agricultural college). We are drinking gallons of herbal tea from La Serpolette, at the moment, still trying to undo the ravages of the end of…and beginning of the year festivities!

Image

Another reason for making this tart: an inspirational, sumptuous description of a scrumptious, “classic” lemon tart, on Roger Stowell’s blog.

This tart is extremely comforting: its light and fluffy filling and the subtle creaminess of the walnuts, perfectly complimented by the fruity bitterness of the lemons.The only thing I would change is to use sweet, shortcrust, rather than puff pastry. I think it would set-off the fluffy filling much more effectively.

What you need:

A sheet of all-butter puff or preferably sweet, shortcrust pastry

4  heaped tablespoons of ground walnuts or grated and sieved “pain de noix”

4 heaped tablespoons of caster sugar

2 beaten eggs

1 tablespoon of walnut oil

1 tablespoon of runny honey

The juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons of double cream

Simply beat the ingredients together until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Blind-bake the pastry sheet or disk. This prevents the dreaded “soggy-bottom” syndrome!You can use ceramic baking beans, but I tend to just prick a  lot of holes in the pastry(not too deep). It prevents the pastry from having bubbles. The holes simply cover themselves over when the pastry cooks anyway.

When the edges have only slightly hardened, after about 10 minutes in a hot oven, place the mixture into the tin. I use a proper tart tin, but a high edged baking tray would do if you don’t mind having an oblong tart!

Swirl around the tin, until even.

Place in the oven for around 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the mixture has risen.

Decorate as you like and serve, preferably warm.

Image

Poulet Au Citron, Olives et Vinaigre de Jerez

Image

The grand Ripotot Hotel in Champagnole(now closed unfortunately)

On a mission to buy bottle tops and corks for our oil, I wandered around the nearby town of Champagnole, feeling rather peckish .It’s also known as “La Porte du Haut Jura”, or the door to the High Jura, being the last biggish town before the mountains. After consuming a simple vegetable soup at lunchtime, I felt the need for something more consistent, maybe some meat…With only 10€ in my pocket, I decided to invest in a good free-range chicken, which I hope to be able make at least 2 meals out of, using what I already have in the kitchen. The sunny weather at the moment is more reminiscent of Provence and the Mediterranean – doesn’t really make me want to do a traditional wintry, roast chicken. In the fridge, I found an almost empty jar of “value” green olives. The fruit bowl is overflowing with lemons at the moment – it’s prime season and they are very affordable. I would normally christen the chicken in white wine, but we don’t have any…aha we have some Jerez (Sherry) vinegar, a well-received Christmas gift.This is actually very similar to our local vinegar(vinaigre de Savagnin), of which we have run out. See below for the results! A succulent, smooth lemony chicken, punctuated by the firm texture of the nutty olives and with a hint of sweetness from the matured vinegar and a touch of honey.

Image

Image

Lemon Chicken With Green Olives and “Jerez” Vinegar

Place the chicken in a large pan and cover with a good glug of olive oil(not expensive stuff, it would lose its properties during the cooking process).

Brown the chicken on both sides, on a medium heat, for a few minutes.

Add a handful of green olives along with the about a third of the salty water, in which they were preserved in the jar.

Add a scattering of “herbes de provence” and a few bay leaves.

Quarter an unwaxed lemon.

Squeeze the juice of 2 of the quarters onto the chicken, then place them all in the pan.

Season (careful with the salt, as the olives already add a salty flavour).

Spread a good teaspoonful of honey onto the chicken.

Cover and cook on a low heat for 90 minutes.

Once it has been cooking for about half an hour, drizzle  a tablespoon or two of vinegar onto the chicken.

Repeat this about 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with boiled potatoes and carrots.

Bon appétit.