Monthly Archives: July 2012


Lagrasse – river

Last week we visited the village of Lagrasse – officially one of the most beautiful villages in France.

It was a stunningly hot day and as we don’t have a pool we wanted to find somewhere (relatively) nearby to cool ourselves down.

We made a very quick picnic lunch – pizza/tart with tomatoes, peppers, emmental, garlic and who knows what else we had in the fridge.

Pizza by the river – Lagrasse

It was such a lovely way to spend the afternoon! People watching, soaking up some sun, dipping toes in the water and watching out for fish :)

Clear water – Lagrasse river

There were several families around us and groups of friends – in fact there was a small festival being held over that weekend, so quite a few people looking a little hungover ;)

Cyclists, musicians & holidaymakers in Lagrasse

So, after all that hard work of sunbathing and eating lunch we decided to treat ourselves to some ice cream at a café that has recently opened – supporting the local community, right?!

Raspberry and Mojito sorbets – delicious!

I can’t wait until we next visit. We really spent very little money and could have stayed much longer, walking around the quaint village streets and along the river.



From ruin to café – timeout on top of the hill

Café built into a ruinToday, 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.

View from the café


Home baking supplies – France vs. UK

Bakery supplies - UK vs. France

My purchases

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.

Shake out.

Some thoughts about carrots

Grated carrots

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.

Local festival for organic farming ethics

L'Aude a la BioI spotted this poster when were out exploring the other day. It looks like a great event, so hopefully we’ll make it along for at least some of it.

It’s being run by a local association who are working to bring together producers and consumers of organic, ethically produced foods from the local area.

This is the website for Nature & Progress

Right now


:: Acclimatising to the beautiful weather we are having (30 degrees +) and trying to keep baby cool.

:: Feeling inspired by Heidi’s latest recipe. What a fun way to use some of my vanilla.

:: Enjoying being a tourist, for now. Having lots of friends and family to visit means we have taken it pretty easy these first few weeks and seen many beautiful places.

:: Meeting charming, friendly people throughout our new village. Baby certainly helps, lots of smiles for the Mayor – phew!

:: Shaking my vanilla daily. On the lookout for some cute little bottles for it too.

:: Marvelling at the amazing organic supermarkets around us. Sure, nothing is closer than 45 minutes away, but they are worth the occasional travel so we can stock up.

:: Grateful to have a good doctor nearby. Baby jabs all done!

:: Counting down the days (6!) until Baby sees his “favourite” Uncle :)

This is the field

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.

I will certainly keep you posted.

Don’t panic.

That’s just a note to myself.

Shake out.

Vanilla extract

Vanilla beans from Uganda


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

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.

Pour 750cl of rum into bottle. Seal.

Shake bottle once a day for at least 3 weeks.

Store away from direct sunlight.






Making our car a little bit more French

Fitting left hand drive lights to a right hand drive car

Fitting the LHD lights to our car

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.