Today, I just wanted to share a couple of photos of this neat little café that’s opened recently in the ruin of an old stone house at the top of a nearby village. These photos don’t do it justice, but there’s a great view of the old village below and the ancient Cathar castle perched on top of the mountain opposite.
Going out for ice cream and coffee is a bit of a luxury, but this is a nice place to relax with our visitors and the owners stock a small selection of local honey and wine, which is almost a good enough excuse to visit.
Having previously bodged the proofing of a few loaves using the ‘tea towel in a bowl’ method, I decided to treat myself to a proper proofing basket (or two) once we got to France. I assumed this nation’s love for bread would make it easier to find things like this, possibly even in a ‘real life’ shop.
But I was wrong.
It seems the French love bread so much, that you can buy good bread almost everywhere and people don’t need to bake their own. Unlike the UK, where buying quality bread is so difficult that a whole army of home bakers have been inspired to take up the artisan reigns. Even the big supermarkets here only stock a fraction of the bread flour on offer at a smaller UK supermarket.
So while I found a ‘real life’ shop that would sell me a professional deck oven for several thousands Euros (let’s not get carried away with this baking yet!), I had to resort to the trusty Internet to buy my baskets, or ‘Banneton’ as I now know they are called.
I found a few places in France, but the prices were higher than in the UK, and what really surprised me was that delivery was cheaper from the UK than ordering directly from here. So the UK got the sale.
I bought from Bakery Bits who I shopped with while in the UK and can highly recommend; quick dispatch and quality products.
I’ll keep you posted on how the banneton work out.
Today I prepared some carrots. I topped and tailed, peeled and then grated them. Some were huge, some were small and there seemed to be hundreds of them.
This isn’t particularly interesting I know, but whilst I was doing this I kept thinking to myself “If only I had my *insert brand name here* food processor”. There was a great attachment for grating vegetables really quickly and efficiently.
I then scolded myself for thinking this. I intentionally left the food processor in the U.K. as I didn’t use it enough to justify transporting it. I use a wooden spoon for mixing cakes. I really only used it for grating!
Another point I kept reminding myself was that we are here to live a simple life.
Why was I in such a hurry to grate these carrots? I’m not late for a meeting; I don’t have anything urgent to do; my baby is happily playing on his own; my husband is (always!) busy; the washing up is done; clothes are drying on the line..etc etc.
So I took a deep breath and carried on grating.
Yes, my hands are orange. Yes, I made more mess. Yes, it took some time (1kg of carrots!). But, I have the luxury of time and I couldn’t be more lucky.
So, err, after many years of reading books and growing a few vegetables in the back garden, now it’s time to try and grow a serious amount of food.
This is the field we have been very kindly loaned. It’s the first half of the land you see in this photo. I measured it on Google Maps a while back, and came up with a 3rd of an acre, but I think I need to check that again.
This needs a ‘little’ work
It needs cleaning up, along with the adjacent river/stream. It needs fencing, and a bridge, and water storage, and many other things. But mostly it needs planning.
As the land is only on loan, we’ll be sticking to growing annuals which in some ways is a shame, but for now it’s simpler to plan and easy to adapt.
So we made it safe and sound and baby was a superstar as usual. He is now in his own room and sleeping just as well as before. Phew!
Before we left, I was very lucky to have crossed paths with one of my closest friends who now lives in Uganda. She knows how much I love to bake and brought us an amazing stash of vanilla beans.
I usually use the seeds of the beans when making custard, using the remaining pods to make vanilla sugar (sugar + beans + sealable jar = vanilla sugar), but I wanted to try something else given that I have so many.
Making vanilla extract
There are so, so many different ways to make vanilla extract. I decided to use rum because I like it
I won’t even bother listing ingredients for you, there are only two!
Obtain a dark coloured glass bottle (or jar).
Split 4 vanilla pods, scrape seeds into bottle and then add the pods.
In order to register our car in France, and to help it integrate better with the local vehicles, I fitted a set of left hand drive lights yesterday. With the help of my Dad and our trusty Haynes manual we got this done in a relaxed morning’s worth of work.
We know people who’ve paid a 1,000 Euros or more to get this job done which makes it even more satisfying to do the work at home.
The only trouble we had were the fittings for the indicator bulbs not exactly matching the new unit. One had 3 connection points and the other expected 4. But with a Stanley knife and the whittling skills I learned from carving walking sticks it didn’t take long to make these fit.
I found the best price for the headlight units was on eBay, but had to factor in a 5 week lead time for delivery as these came via Germany and were out of stock when I ordered them about 6 weeks ago.