French Retreat part seven. The hottest day of the holiday, so I cook Rabbit and Prune Stew.

Rabbit and prune stew (1 of 1)The headline looks a bit long-winded to me. This is the last in my mini series so you will just have to put up with me being long-winded. We were in the Libourne market and I was suffering from a dose of ‘let’s get creative’. This is not a good condition for me. I was bereft of ideas and decided I needed to do something out of left field. That part of the park can often deliver good results. Hopefully I could translate that into French. With that in mind, I set out to ‘create’… Continue reading

The French Retreat part six. Two old bags and Herb Stuffed Trout with Ratatouille.

Herbed Stuffed Trout with Ratatouille (11 of 11)I am a modest chap. I don’t like drawing attention to myself. I am also not the tallest person in the room, unless I’m in there on my own. Over the years, I have grown accustomed to having barmen serve the guy behind me and being left until last when it comes to fighting for attention in the Autumn sales. I tend to not do much of either pinting or sale shopping these days so there is no real loss, except to my dignity. But, there is a limit…. Continue reading

The Bitter Aftertaste of Blog Awards and Apricot Tart Tatin.

Apricot Tart Tatin You know the story. A beautiful girl from the slums of some south American dive wins the Miss World contest and her life is transformed. She goes from washing herself and her impoverished sisters and brothers in an abandoned oil drum to starring in Maxx Factor commercials and bathing in goat’s milk. The little darling spends days modelling top fashion and sipping Evian water. Mercedes insist on her driving around in one of their better small saloons. When she is not being gainfully employed, she is entertained by those at the apex of the social pyramid. That’s how it’s meant to be…. With this as the backdrop, I hear you muse; “Since winning two coveted prizes in 2013 Blog Awards, what has changed in your life Conor?” Continue reading

The French Retreat part five. Inability to make decisions leads to Duck Breast, Broad Beans and Tangy Cherry Sauce.

Duck Breast and Plum Sauce (8 of 8)We were blown away by the range, price and incredible freshness of the produce in the French markets we had visited on this retreat. On one such early morning visit, I found myself in a state of some trepidation, wondering what to buy for that evening’s meal. The apprehensiveness was brought on by a decision made about ten hours previously. Saying “Yes” to the voice in my head; “Will I open another bottle of Rosé?” was not a good idea. An excess of wine, no matter how pleasant, is of no assistance to decision-making. I couldn’t make a choice. The lamb looked nice. But, what to have with it? The beef looked lovely. But they cut it in such a strange way. The fish also looked excellent but, which fish? How might I cook it? What would I serve alongside?  Too many decisions. Continue reading

The French Retreat part four. Chanterelles and Goat’s Cheese on Toast and why we should not trust the French.

Chanterelles with goats cheese on toast (8 of 8)I’m as forgiving a man as the next guy. In fact, as I look at him from here, I suspect that I am even more inclined to let bygones be bygones. Still, there are some things that we really can’t put to one side. When any Irishman thinks of our relations with our Gallic cousins, thoughts go to the Theirry Henry incident in the ill-fated World Cup qualifier played in 2009. Many Irishmen of a certain age still go red in the neck and pontificate about this outrage. I don’t. The past is a different country and I don’t live there. What really brings me out in spots is their pretending to join the European Union. Yes, they gave the appearance of joining and all of a sudden, we had Petit Filous to feed our kids and Bon Maman jam appeared on the supermarket shelves. However, they really have kept back on the union thing. We willingly gave away most of our fish to our partners while they supposedly gave us agricultural equality. But, they haven’t. They are keeping all the good stuff for themselves.  Continue reading

The French Retreat part three. A very early start and Faux Fillét with Concentrated Onions and ‘Very French’ Beans.

Barbecued Faux Fillet (9 of 9)The cock crows. It’s about 4.30 in the morning (or so it seems to me) and it is time to get out of bed and get busy. The Wife, lying beside me, grumbles and turns her face to the wall. In the half-light, I stumble to the kitchen and make a ‘tray of tea’ to tempt her into wakefulness. Why do we need to be up so early? We are on holidays for goodness sake! Move the clock forward by an hour or so. We are in the car, driving towards a market. They start early. Long before any civilised nation would be thinking of a mid morning coffee, they then close for lunch. The lunch closure lasts for a number of hours. So if one wants to get anywhere in time to see it open and populated by French people, one needs to be up with the lark. Some holiday! Continue reading

The French Retreat part two. A glimpse into ‘His French Heaven’.

Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

Would he be an overbearing, arrogant Frenchman?

I had some trepidation growing in me as our pre-arranged meeting with Stéphane Gabart, the author of the delightful My French Heaven blog loomed. The arrangement was made some months before our trip to France in July. As the time got closer, I found my psychosis growing and was asking myself “What if he is a pompous French git?”, “What if he lords it over us with his superior French attitude?” “What if he doesn’t speak English?”, “What will we talk about?” I allowed the pressure to build and build inside my head right up until Stéphane greeted the Wife and myself at his beautiful home. “This is a mistake.” were the words that nearly escaped my lips as we got out of the car to meet the man. Continue reading

The French Retreat part one. Early figs with blue cheese and honey.

FIgs with blue cheese and honey (1 of 1)No, this is not a mini series about Napoleon’s fun in Russia in 1812. For this year’s holiday, we were lucky enough to spend some time in one of the most heavenly places on the planet. As the vagaries of life prevented us having had a break since 2012, we were in need of complete R&R. For this, we went to stay with Helen and David Furniss in their fantastic ‘Keirmasi’ gites. Over the years, we have stayed with them a number of times and it has proven to be an idyllic place for a badly needed French Retreat.

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Big on flavour, small on freezer space – Highly concentrated prawn stock.

Extreme prawn stock (1 of 9)The last time we had Dublin Bay Prawns was after the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival (imagine dreaming up such a thing). Having driven out to Howth and back again, there was not time to make prawn stock. So, I thought the best thing to do was to freeze the shells and heads for later use. In my mind, later can mean any time in the future. That is, unless the Wife decides that there was not enough space in the freezer and my prawn shells have to go. Continue reading

Spaghetti alle Vongole – I’m in trouble again.

Vongole (10 of 11)Why am I in trouble? Is it for undercooking the pasta? Is it for overcooking the clams? Or, is it for adding too much or too little wine? No, none  of the above. I’m in trouble because the Wife and the Mother both loved this dish.  Continue reading