Saturday, September 29, 2007

Snow! I don't believe it!

Arrrgh! When we woke up yesterday morning there was snow on the Pic de Midi. And when we went into town and could see more of the other mountains it was even worse! It must have been down to 1,000 feet, and it's only the end of September. What is it with the weather this year? After Christmas, which is the best time for skiing in the Pyrenees there was hardly anything to even toboggan on. The saving grace for the ski stations was a good covering for the February half term holidays, but that only amounted to about a month of serious skiing. And now this !
Well I just hope it goes away and comes back when it should.....the middle of November. I want a nice warm, golden autumn like we always have, or I'm going to demand my money back !

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Figs and things

This week on the market: figs, quinces,a few mushrooms.

Yes, looks like Autumn is here.
So with all these lovely purple figs overflowing from the stalls, what's to be done with them besides just putting them in the fruit bowl for a quick snack?

How about Fig Tart with Orange Custard?

you will need:
1 packet ready-made short crust pastry large enough to line a 9inch flan tin (unless you’re a domestic goddess with legendary pastry making skills.)
12 to 16 figs as perfect as possible.
1 large egg yolk
1 tablesp light brown sugar
150ml crème fraiche
Juice and zest of 1 large orange.
Line a 9 inch flan case with the pastry, prick the base all over with a fork, and bake blind at 220C for 20 mins. De-stalk figs, wipe over with a damp cloth and slice in half. Make a custard by whisking the egg yolk, crème fraiche, sugar, orange juice and zest until a smooth emulsion has been obtained. Remove case from the oven, allow to cool, then layer ¾ of the figs on the bottom and pour the custard over gently. Add the remaining figs and bake, on a large baking sheet to avoid spillage disasters, for 30 mins at 200C or until the custard has set. Serve slightly warm, with single cream.

Figs are just made for savoury use too. Sliced, and arranged attractively on a platter of thinly sliced Bayonne ham, saucisson sec, and smoked duck breast, you have a quick and easy starter for a supper party. And a nice change from the ubiquitous melon with Parma ham.
For an unusual warm starter, try slitting 2 figs per person crossways about ¾ of the way down, stuff with your favourite blue cheese, and wrap each fig in a thin slice of streaky bacon and bake at 200C for 5 to 10 mins. Serve warm on a bed of mixed salad leaves
A soft juicy fig, eaten with blue cheese, is a marriage made in heaven. Particularly with Roquefort, the slight saltiness of the cheese is tempered by the sweetness of the fruit. Lining the cheese platter beforehand with well washed fig leaves really shows cheeses off. Use a good combination of soft and hard to suit your own personal preferences. Toss some salad leaves in mild vinaigrette, hurl into a big salad bowl, add some crusty bread and your cheese course is ready to be served…… before the pudding à la Francaise

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Our House

"Our the middle of our street" Well,I hope it's not quite the same house as Suggs sang about but its a nice house all the same, and yes it is in the middle of our street.
Its a distinguished looking house, taller than its neighbours, with a balcony on the top floor which gives you a great view of the Pic de Midi. Its' not for those who suffer from vertigo but for the rest of us its like being in an eerie.......looking over the surrounding roof tops, up and down the road, over to the river and the weir. There's the church spire one street over to the left, and if you lean out far enough(heaven forbid) you can just see the 'Vival' sign outside Stephan's epicerie to your right, and the tabac sign of the little bar and depot de pain is a few yards to your left. The boucherie of Paul Fontan is ten yards away in the Place Julien Olie, where the mairie has its home. So life in 'Le Village' is compact.
We have neighbours on a come- and- go basis. Because the village is so scenically attractive there are quite a few holiday homes right in the centre. The French laws of succession ( otherwise known as the Code Napoleonic) make it highly unattractive to sell the family home when parents have finally made the short, steep journey up to the village cemetery. The proceeds of the parental home must be equally divided between all the siblings....a recipe for family feuding if you ask me.
And then of course there is the thorny question of inheritance tax. So....the end result is either houses which fall into decay, or on a more positive side they are retained and used as holiday homes for all the family.
This isn 't a bad option. Especially here. There is trout fishing in the river, designated walks in the surrounding hills, and the ski stations of Super Bagneres, and Le Mongie when the winter snows arrive.
In August all the previously empty houses open up and the village population expands by at least a third.
Now they've left us, to return with the half term holidays, Christmas and the ski season....which is at it's best from January onwards. The Pyrenees may be slower to accumulate a good covering of snow but when it does arrive the ski staions are family friendly with good runs for all abilities and you don't get ripped off for a 'vin chaud' and a croque monsieur.

This Month's Village Event

September is a delightfully mellow time in the Haute Garonne. School's back...otherwise known as L'rentree and the Pyrenees are looking their best. No snow as yet and not expected until late November.

Now's the time for the villages and towns to chill out and organise events an smaller scale.

Classic and vintage cars are a bit of a passion down here. There' s a very active club in St Gaudens and there's nothing they like better than a warm weekend and a few quiet roads to let the old girls out for a run.

Our village is a regular watering hole for lunch, and last Sunday they arrived with a cacophonous tooting of horns and a fair bit of smoke. They parked on the mairie square and let the elderly vehicles cool of. The less sleepy inhabitants ( the French are late risers on Sunday mornings) wandered up to have a look, some in dressing gowns, but without a trace of embarrassment.More cars coughed and spluttered up during the course of the morning, then retired to the butchers who had obviously been expecting them, and partook of aperos and a long lunch.

They departed three hours later with an even louder tooting of horns.

What perfect day out.