Les Halles Dijon

One of the things we loved most when we were in France was our picnic style dinners. If we’d had a proper lunch, rather than go out to eat in the evening we’d buy a baguette, some charcuterie, a cheese or two, maybe some rillette, and of course wine. Rather than eat, we’d graze and drink wine and talk and laugh.

Where possible we’d pick up our food from markets or local stores rather than supermarkets so it would all be locally produced.

One of the best markets was this one – Les Halles in Dijon.

We visited this market as the first part of a day cooking with someone I’ll introduce you to next week – Alex Miles. Alex is an expat New Yorker who we spent a fabulous day with – but that’s for next week.

The ironwork of these markets have a touch of the familiar about them – that would be because the building is said to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel. Yes, the same Eiffel. He was born here – in Dijon. As to whether he designed it? Well, that’s less clear. I’ve read some references that state his designs were rejected or there was confusion – it all sounds very French. In any case, Gustave was soon busy designing a little tower somewhere else instead…you might have heard of it?

Was he involved with Les Halles? I’d like to think so. Of course, I could do more research, but hey, it’s been a messy week at work.

None of that takes away from the fact that this is a fabulous building – and an even better market.

French markets are a snapshot of the life and food of that region, and in Burgundy, that means dishes such as coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, jambon persillé (ham cured with parsley), oeufs en meurette (eggs poached in a red wine sauce) and, of course, escargots.

Burgundy is also famous for its blackcurrants distilled into liqueur de cassis – the essential base of the French aperitifs Kir (cassis with white wine) and Kir Royale (cassis with champagne).

All of that was at this market. We, however, were there to buy cheese, vegetables and rabbit for the lunch we’d be preparing back at Alex’s apartment

From here I’ll let the pics tell the rest of the story… There were spices and fruits…

cheeses…so many cheeses…

and other dairy – although as I think I’ve already said, the French tend not to drink milk.

Artichokes and asparagus…

and mushrooms…oh how I loved the mushrooms.

Veggies and bread in the outside stalls…

And flowers…although the dog was not for sale – he was very cute.

Then we took everything that we’d purchased back to Alex’s apartment and cooked a relatively simple veggie dish that tasted of spring on a plate.

 

Vegetables in Puff Pastry

This is more of an idea than a recipe – as, indeed, the best recipes are. Alex cut some squares of puff pastry from some he’d made earlier, brushed them with a little egg wash, and popped them in the oven pre-heated to about 200C. Cook them for about 10mins or until they puff up nice and golden.

Use any veggies you want – we used carrot, celeriac, green beans, squash, asparagus and mushrooms. To prepare the veg, peel and cut the celeriac and carrots into matchstick pieces, top and tail the beans…you know the drill.

Cook the veg in boiling salted water in order of firmness and cook until almost done eg the carrots will take about 10 minutes, then add the celeriac, then the beans. The idea is to keep the colour and some firmness.

Drain and cool the vegetables in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Clean the mushrooms. Cut them into thick pieces and place them in a non-stick pan. Cook them, with no oil or butter, under a low flame till most of the water that they release has evaporated.

Add the cold, cooked vegetables and heat through with butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot with the cooked puff pastry.

 

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

Happy Ever After – A sneaky peek…

With Happy Ever After ready to go back to my editor I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at the story and its setting.

The blurb…

Kate and Neil Spence met at Circular Quay after the Hiroshima Day march in August 1985. Kate was marching, Neil was not. It was love almost at first sight.

And they all lived happily ever after…or did they?

Over thirty years have passed, their children have grown and Kate and Neil have gone from being happily married to being happily separated. That is until Neil asks for a divorce – and another wedding brings up feelings that both had thought were long gone.

What’s it about?

Happy Ever After is a love story, but more than that it’s a story about love. It’s a story about how love changes, grows and is challenged over the years. It’s about the curve balls life throws us just when we’re ready to begin realising our dreams. It’s about living the better or for worse and richer and poorer thing and it’s about coming out the other side. It’s about family, friends, second, third and even fourth chances for a happy ever after. Mostly though, it’s about love.

The setting…

Happy Ever After is set mostly on Sydney’s north shore. We also visit Queenstown and the Milford Track – in the rain when the mountains look like they’re crying silvery streams of tears.

A starring role goes to my favourite tree in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens. It’s the Moreton Bay Fig that sits above the Opera House. From here you can see across to Fort Denison. I’ve eaten many a sandwich under the shade of that tree.

Where did the idea come from?

I was listening to some of my old protest style music from the mid 80’s while I was cooking one Saturday afternoon– songs by Goanna and Shane Howard, Redgum and Midnight Oil.  The music took me back to my first year at uni. Although I wasn’t involved in student politics, there was a rumour going around that Midnight Oil might be playing at the end of the annual Hiroshima Day march. So I marched…well, sort of. To be honest, it started off as a lark but got a tad boring and I bailed out about halfway down George Street.

Not that it mattered – Midnight Oil weren’t there. They were touring the US at the time. I got to see them later that year at a Wilderness Society concert for the Daintree Rainforest.

Of course, these days rumours like that couldn’t get properly started, but back then we didn’t have social media, the internet or mobile phones. Back then it was harder to stay in touch if you fell out of it. I had fun having Kate find coins and a pay phone to call and let her parents know she’d be home late.

Anyways, it started with the music and, just a week later Happy Ever After became my 2017 NanoWrimo project.

Happy Ever After will be published later this year. Sign up to my newsletter for publication dates and pre-order deals.

 

 

French Savoury Cake

 

French food was a revelation to me. I was expecting all the cream and butter and richness that is a hallmark of French cooking – and I was wondering how my lactose challenged tummy was going to deal with it.  Avoidance for my tummy’s sake was not an option, and I ate cheese almost every day without issue. The difference being, I suspect, that the cheese I was eating in France was locally produced, fresh and, quite often, made using raw milk.

That aside, my revelation came not so much from the food itself – and the fact that I could happily indulge in local cheese without my tummy complaining – but from the attitude to food. Each region has a style of its own, but one concept each has in common is that of wastage. Very little is thrown out. I’ll tell you more about this when we get to Dijon and Alex Miles’ cooking class, but here leftovers are elevated into something new and delicious.

Take this savoury cake for example. Glenis (at Aupres de l’Eglise in Oyes) served it as an aperitif with champagne before we all sat down at the long table for dinner (see the pic above). Although she was kind enough to send me the recipe, at its heart this cake is a very clever use of leftovers. What goes in it are leftover vegetables, herbs, cheeses – whatever happens to be in the fridge. The eggs, yoghurt, oil and flour are just there to bind it all together.

I served it last weekend when we had friends staying – also with champagne as an aperitif. We’d made up a platter for lunch of produce from that morning’s market – fresh baguette, goats cheese, a washed rind cheese, some olives, capsicum, and cherry tomatoes. What we didn’t eat was wrapped up and used later in this cake – along with the last couple of rashers of bacon that I had in the fridge, and some parsley I’d bought in during the week.

The recipe is below, but you really can put anything in it. Just remember, though, if you’re using zucchini to squeeze out the liquid in a cloth first.

What you need

  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 150g unsweetened plain or Greek-style yoghurt
  • 3 eggs
  • Whatever vegetables you have to hand – chopped peppers, halved (or quartered) cherry tomatoes, a small handful of chopped (and stoned) olives, chopped fresh herbs.
  • Whatever cheeses you have to hand – a handful of grated cheddar, chopped blue or goats cheese.
  • Fried diced bacon, chorizo…if you have it. Otherwise, don’t bother with the meat.

What you do with it

Preheat the oven to 180C and generously grease a loaf tin. If you have them, sprinkle poppy seeds in – if you don’t, don’t bother.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and make a well in the centre for the wet ingredients.

Drop in the eggs, yoghurt, oil and some salt and pepper and whisk to blend – but don’t overmix. If you want, whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl before stirring into the flour. Your call, but I can’t be faffed dirtying another bowl.

Gently mix in your vegetables, herbs, cheeses, bacon…whatever… and put it into your prepared loaf tin.

Bake in the oven for around 35 mins – until well risen, golden and firm to the touch. Depending on the types of veg and quantity of cheese you’ve used, you might need to pop it in for an extra 5 minutes or so.

Let it cool in its tin on a rack and then turn out onto a board to serve. It’s best cut with a bread knife and served in small slices. With champagne…it’s that special.

 

Châteauneuf…the village in the sky

Chateauneuf

You know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men? No, I can’t remember the rest of the poem either – although I do know it was written in 1786 by Robert Burns and that rather than going awry, the schemes tended to gang aft a-gley…a phrase that I think has quite a ring to it.

Where was I? Yes, about to say that very often the best plans when on holiday are the ones that you don’t make. Accidental tourism we call it. It’s those finds and experiences that are the ones you talk about for years after.

Like Châteauneuf. It was raining heavily on our way into Beaune, so we missed it, but coming back later that afternoon we saw it – sitting high above the Burgundy Canal on its rocky spur.

This pic was taken from the car window – hence the poor resolution

Of course, we had to go up for a look.

Most Beautiful Villages in France

Châteauneuf – or Châteauneuf-en-Auxois – is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages of France). There are 157 villages in the list, but that doesn’t take away from the sheer gorgeousness of this one. We loved it so much that we were this close to forfeiting our remaining two nights accommodation in Marigny-l’Église and finding a place to stay here.

The History

High on a hill between Dijon and Autun, Châteauneuf held a strategic position in the area. It was also ideally situated at the meeting point of three economic regions: the vineyards of the Beaune region; the timber and charcoal from the mountains; and the agriculture of the Auxois plains.

Trade flourished through the middle ages as wealthy Burgundian merchants, and members of the entourage of Philippe Pot, Governor of Flanders moved in.

The village was also a popular stop on one of the pilgrim paths took to go to Santiago de Compostela. I don’t think I would have welcomed the climb required to walk up here at the end of a long day walking – but that’s just me.

Today there are remnants of architecture dating back to the 14th century, although most of the oldest houses still intact are from the 15th century.

The Chateau

Châteauneuf is dominated by its 15th-century château. It’s one of those fairytale style castles with towers and keeps – the sort where you can imagine medieval maidens letting down their golden hair.

The Gardens

Oh, the gardens. Wisteria, lilacs, roses, tulips…everything was beautifully in bloom. There was a garden for sale, but hubby (quite unreasonably I think) said no.

Did I mention the lilacs? I decided then and there the title of my next novel The Lilac Queen – now I need to come up with a plot. That garden that was for sale, perhaps?

The Burgundy Canal

When hubby and I first came through this region 20 something years ago, we decided we’d return one day and do a canal cruise down the Burgundy Canal. Ok, so we haven’t done that yet, but we did drop in and have a look at it on our way back from Chateauneuf.

One day…

Burgundy Canal

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.


Happy Ever After – The Update

Lilacs at Chateauneuf
Lilacs at Chateauneuf
Lilacs

I realised this morning as I was drafting my post for tomorrow’s Lovin’ Life linky that I’d neglected to write anything about, well, writing, in months. I’ve completely fallen out of the habit of posting each Wednesday about something book or publishing related – and the last monthly newsletter I sent out was back in (gulp) October last year.

Sure, I was on holidays for a few weeks from the middle of April, and before that, I had some freelance astro deadlines, but since I’ve been back from France, I’ve had no such excuse. Other than the day job, of course.

Speaking of France, I’ve come back with a few ideas for new stories. A house, a garden, a village, a cake – even some characters have popped into my head. There’s still a lot of thinking to be done though before I even start drafting The Lilac Queen. Yes, I have a title. I suspect that I’ve found my NanoWrimo project for this November.

That’s more than I can say about my current novel. I’m yet to decide on a definitive title. I called it Happy Ever After because I intended to talk about what happens after most romance novels finish. I wanted to deal with what happens after the happy ever after and whether one is all we get. Sure it’s a love story, but it’s also about love – and how that changes and is challenged. To that end, the title works.

My husband and daughter, however, thought that it sounded clichéd.

Then I was listening to the playlist I’d put together for the book, and there was a line in an Abba song – Dance (While The Music Still Goes On) – that resonated with one of the pivotal scenes.  The experts that are my family agreed that One More Dance was the perfect title and continues my tradition of using pop music lyrics in my titles.

I love it – but it doesn’t feel right either.

Then my editor’s structural notes came back, and she also said that she felt Happy Ever After worked with the content. I’m still undecided, but the more I think about it, the more I think that she’s right.

Speaking of the structural notes, aside from moving a few chapters here and there and adding a couple of new scenes, I’ve ripped through the rewrite in three weeks. It’s not due to be sent back to my editor until July.

I’ll use the time in between then to deal with the cover. I’ll also be picking up the second book in my Be Careful What You Wish For series. The first – I Want You Bank– is sitting there with the cover done and ready to be formatted and published as soon as the second is in copy edit. I’m due to have the draft of this to my editor for a read through in July as well.

It’s all a bit of a juggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Finally, I’ll be re-launching my newsletter at the end of this week and will be sending it out monthly. Truly. If you want to catch up with what’s going on, be the first to know when my next happy ending is due to hit the virtual bookshelves, be updated with any promos and maybe pick up a recipe or two, you can sign up here.

Next week: A sneak peek into Happy Ever After

How to make pho – a cheat’s version…

Every culture has one – a dish that makes you feel so good inside, it can’t possibly be wrong. A dish that tastes like it should be good for you, that it should be able to beat anything that ails you into submission. Folk food, family food, street food.

Pho, (pronounced “fur” or “fuh” for the uninitiated) is one such dish. It started life as a labourer’s breakfast and is now a lunchtime favourite.

It sounds simple enough- flat rice noodles, thinly sliced raw beef, a few herbs and spring onions, and then an aromatic boiling broth is poured over the lot to cook the meat. How hard could it be? But all pho is not created equal.

Good pho has hidden depths of flavour, enhanced by the chilli, lemon, basil and whatever you add to it. It’s the noodle soup of the Gods, and just by eating it you’re treating your body as a temple.

Whenever I feel as though I need a little self-care, as if the sniffle could possibly be threatening to turn into my annual head cold, as if I’ve been spending too much time doing tasks that I don’t find in the least rewarding and my brain is tired and my soul empty – that’s when I go for this soup.

The problem is, the really good pho – the pho that you get at really good pho places – involves making a stock from beef bones and simmering it for 4 hours. Of course, you get the benefit of the bone broth, but it’s not exactly a quick fix for a craving.

To this end, I’ve come up with my cheatie pho – the one that you go to after a long day when you don’t have time to think but you want to be healthy and feel warm and cosy on the inside. And there’s nothing to be guilty about here.

Ingredients

Yes, it’s quite a list but the aromatics tend to be ones we usually have on hand and the whole thing goes together quite quickly. As with all my recipes, this is a combo of a few ideas and the quantities are, shall we say, inexact. Taste the stock as you go and adjust to your own taste. This quantity feeds the 3 of us with leftover stock for lunch the next day. We find 1 225-250g steak is ample for the three of us for dinner.

If you want you can do this with chicken as well – just substitute good chicken stock for the beef and a couple of thinly sliced chicken breasts that you poach in the soup before serving.

For the stock

  • 2 litres beef stock
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • a good size knob of ginger – I use a piece about the length of my thumb – sliced but don’t worry about peeling it
  • 4 cloves garlic – smash with the back of a knife but don’t worry about peeling it
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 5 cardamon pods, bruised
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (you can add more later if it needs the salt)
  • a few whole cloves
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves (or some peeled lime rind)
  • If you have one, a stalk of lemongrass (bruised)
  • Optional: 1 tbsp grated palm sugar (or caster sugar)

For the soup

  • Noodles – you can use 200g rice vermicelli or fresh rice noodles – it’s up to you.
  • 250g beef fillet
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 long red chilli, de-seeded and sliced

To serve

  • 2 small chillies, sliced
  • fresh basil
  • lime cheeks

Making the stock:

  • Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in a couple of tablespoons of oil (I usually use rice bran) in a large saucepan. You want them to soften and colour just a little.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Once the stock is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 mins. Check for seasoning and add more fish sauce or some grated palm sugar to taste. We tend not to use the sugar. Squeeze in some lime or lemon juice if required.

Putting the soup together:

  • Place your noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Vermicelli normally needs about 10mins soaking.
  • Slice your beef as finely as possible. It will cook in your broth so needs to be as thin as it’s possible for beef to be. A good trick is to put it in the freezer for an hour or two – it’s much easier to slice when you take it out.
  • Strain your stock and return it to the pan, bringing it back to the boil.
  • Divide the noodles between the bowls, top with the onions, then the beef and pour over the hot soup. If the beef is thin enough, the stock should be enough to cook it to medium-rare.
  • Garnish with the spring onions and chillis.
  • Serve with the basil, sliced hot chillis and lime on the side.

Sentence a Day… May

Banks of the Seine
The banks of the Seine

The first week of May saw a continuation of our France road-trip and the final stage – in Paris.

Then it was back home to work – and save for the next adventure!

What else? I got the structural notes back from my editor and somehow managed to finish the rewrite this month. This book is determined to write – and rewrite- itself.

Anyways, here is May in a sentence – sometimes two – a day.

Le Marais
Exploring the Marais district

1. It’s a public holiday here in France for May Day. F dropped us off just outside of Paris and we caught the metro in. Spent the afternoon exploring Le Marais – where we’re staying – and the banks of the Seine. Love this city.

2. Lots of ticks in boxes today: Notre Dame, Shakespeare & Co bookshop, the Left Bank, Latin Quarter, a cruise on the Seine, Galeries Lafayette.

3. A great first half of the day with the markets at the Bastille to start, a walk to and through Pere Lachaise Cemetary (with the world’s funniest accidental guide). Second half not so great – a wander from Champs Elysee through the posh part of town and down to Place de la Concorde. That part of town is really not me – too much money, too many people and too many pickpockets.

Bastille Markets
Bastille Markets

4. Paris redeemed herself today with Promenade des Plantees, the artistic viaduct, flower markets and ice creams at Ile St- Louis. I’m in love with this city again. It’s not goodbye, it’s a bientot.

5. Off to the airport at 7.30am this morning and on our way home.

6. Saturday and Sunday spent on planes. Finally walked through the front door at around 7 pm. Why does Australia have to be so far away from everywhere?

7. It’s our 24th wedding anniversary – and a public holiday for Labour Day. The two are not connected. Spent the day washing clothes.

8. Back to work – do I have to? Oh, that’s right, I have the next adventure to save for. Stood on the scales & rather than the OMFG moment, I had an OMG moment of a different sort – I’d lost half a kilo…in France! There could be something to this French paradox…

9. Mammogram this morning (all clear) followed by work.

10. Craving pho so indulged at lunchtime.

11. Hairdresser this morning (greys be gone) and a good start on the rewrite of One More Dance/HappyEver After/Book No. 5. (My editor’s notes came back last week.)

12. Markets followed by brekky at Jimmy’s. Life all back to normal.

13. Mother’s Day and lunch at Corbins – yum cha with a difference.

14. Back to work Monday and finally some blue skies for this morning’s walk.

 

15. Take yesterday and repeat.

16. Some good progress on the novel rewrite in the best office in the world.

17. Managed to sneak a walk in before work and before the rain started.

18. A stormy morning cleared to a fab Friday. Back to the Surf Club for more words.

19. Markets this morning, house-cleaning & the Royal Wedding on TV. Saturday taken slow and easy.

20. Relatives from Gloucester (UK) called in today. I made a lemon and thyme cake in the bundt tin – the recipe is a keeper and will make it into the next novel I think.

21. The day is so beautifully blue it seems a pity to be inside working.

 

22. Mum and Dad here from Sydney for the rest of the week – hoping the good weather holds.

23. Canal cruise in Mooloolaba and a drive up and down the coast to show Mum and Dad around.

24. I had to work so hubby and daughter took Mum and Dad out to the hinterland for a look around and a picnic.

25. Lunch at Sum Yung Guys for a friend’s 60th.

26. Markets this morning & then whipped up a batch of lemon lime & bitters scones (the recipe is here) for morning tea before taking Mum and Dad to the airport – we’ve had a great few days.

27. Astro club at Golden Beach followed by lunch at Woombye Pub. Parmy and rissoles – you can’t get much more old school than that.

28. Do I have to go to work?

29. I repeat, do I have to go to work?

30. Noosa to buy some gifts, lunch with hubby at Betty’s Burgers, and work on the novel this afternoon.

31. A beautiful morning with a pod of dolphins playing just offshore. Another big day in the day job. In other news, I finished the rewrite on One More Dance/ Happy Ever After/Book No. 5 tonight.

Ok, that was my May – how was yours?

Ruinart Champagne House and Reims Cathedral

Ruinart Champagne House
Ruinart Champagne House
Ruinart Champagne House

I’m continuing my travels through France. Today we’re back in Champagne. If you want to catch up on the destinations so far, you’ll find all the posts here.

Ruinart Champagne House

Ruinart, established back in 1729, was the first ever Champagne producing company. Like the Moet story, there was a monk involved. In this case, it was Dom Ruinart who learnt all about the “wine with bubbles” that was becoming popular with the young aristocrats of the time.

It was 20 years after his death that his nephew Nicolas Ruinart founded Maison Ruinart. Before this young Nicolas was in textiles – in fact, the family wealth had been built on textiles since the 15th century – but once the King (in 1728) passed a law allowing the sale and transportation of wines in bottles, Nicolas saw the potential and made the switch.

As a tasting and visiting experience, this one was very different to Moet – and also markedly more expensive. More on the cost later. The primary difference here was in the art and the crayeres – ancient tunnels dating back to the  Roman times and dug deep into the chalk under the city of Reims.

The Crayeres…

Ruinart was the first of the champagne houses to utilise these old chalk mines for wine production. There are 8kms of these galleries under Ruinart, with the largest cavern being 40 m underground. Down here it’s a constant 10C.

Aside from wine production, these old mines were a haven for the people of Reims during the 1914 German offensive. Down here the city functioned as it had above ground.

In WWII the French resistance used these tunnels to hide allied airmen and soldiers.

Ruinart and art…

From the start, Ruinart has been close to the art world. The photo above is from their very first advertising poster – one of France’s first advertising posters. The artist was unknown at the time, but his style became known as Art Nouveau.

Ruinart

Since then Ruinart has worked with artists to promote champagne and the brand. The gallery room was a highlight of the tour, and my favourite was the melted chandelier (above and below) – a chandelier which has spectacularly fallen and “melted” on the table and onto the floor.

Ruinart

Another favourite was the Ruinart fresco (below). This one is cleverly designed to show the wine-making process using balls. If you want to see it animated, check out the website.

Ruinart

The tasting…

Ok, at 70 euros a head this is an expensive 2-hour tour, but both the tour and the tasting are special.

Ruinart

Not only did we taste our chosen cuvee (non-vintage blend) – blanc or rose – but we also had a full glass of the vintage version of choice. It was the first time I’d been able to compare the difference – and yes, there is a difference.

Oh, a note on the bottles. They look different to most champagne bottles and the chardonnay or blanc is in clear bottles – something which makes the wine even more fragile – but is unique to Ruinart.

Ruinart

Reims

Aside from Ruinart, other les grandes maisons calling Reims home are Pommery, Taittinger, Mumm, Veuve Cliquot…and the list goes on.

Reims is another city that has been meticulously restored – after both WWI and WWII –  and aside from the champagne houses, the highlight is Cathedrale Notre Dame.

As well as being the third or fourth (seriously, what does it matter?) largest Gothic cathedral in France, it was here that many kings of France were crowned – including Charles VII with Joan of Arc at his side in 1429.

The history is interesting, but it was the windows I was most interested in – in particular, the windows by Marc Chagall. I could have stood in front of them for ages. And the astronomical clock – that too…although I didn’t get a pic of that.

Reims Cathedral Chagall
Stained glass windows by Chagall

Where we ate…

Anna S – La Table Amoureuse in Reims.

Hubby had smoked salmon and white asparagus in puff pastry with a lime hollandaise and I had tartare of fish with quinoa. The black lacy thing is squid ink.

Hubby also had the dessert tasting plate…I had another glass of bubbles.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.


Lemon, Lime and Bitters Scones

 

lemon lime and bitters scones

I’m taking a teeny break from all things French to bring you up to date on the progress of the novel – and bring you a recipe for scones.

The structural notes are now through from my editor and a deadline has been set as for when I’ll have it back to her for another read. To be honest, there’s not a whole lot of work involved so we’ve even set a date for when copy edit will happen.

I’m still umming and aahing about the title. My editor thinks that my original title, Happy Ever After, suits the content – and it absolutely does. There’s just something that’s niggling at me about it. I quite like One More Dance – which is a line in an Abba song, but I’m not sure that it fits more than one scene.

What I am sure about is that this book will feature some of the recipes that I’ve used in the writing of it. One of those is these scones.

I’ve been making scones since I was little. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I even won prizes for my scones at Bombala Show. Just putting that out there. Mum always used to say that it was because I have cold hands and that helps with the whole rubbing butter into flour thing.

These days I can’t be faffed with all of that palaver – besides, these can be on the table in less than 20 minutes. From go to whoa. Seriously. Including the clean-up.

A similar recipe using lemonade (I think) has been doing the rounds of Tupperware demonstration parties for years, but I found the recipe for these scones on the Bundaberg Brewed Drinks site. It has just 3 ingredients.

What you need:

  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup Bundaberg lemon, lime and bitters
  • 1 cup fresh cream

Oh, and a pinch of salt…but that hardly qualifies as an ingredient.

All you do is:

  • Preheat the oven to 220C (and ignore your husband when he tries to tell you that it’s way too hot for scones). Grease or flour the base of the scone tray while you’re at it.
  • Put the flour and salt into a bowl and mix through.
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in the cream and lemon, lime and bitters and mix together.
  • Turn it out onto a floured bench and – I use my hands rather than a rolling pin for this – press it out into a 4-5cm slab. No, you don’t need a ruler.
  • Using a round cookie cutter – or a small glass if you don’t have a round cookie cutter – cut discs in the dough. As an aside, remember when vegemite and cheese spread came in jars that you could use afterwards as glasses? They were the perfect size for cutting scones…just saying.
  • Bring what’s left of the dough back together and pat it out again so you can cut more scones. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  • Place the scones closely together on your prepared tray and brush the top with a little milk….does that qualify as another ingredient?
  • Pop in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. The tops should be golden.

These are best served with an orange marmalade as you can taste the citrus in them, but we only had berries. I love them just with good butter as well. The Gympie Cheese man at Kawana Markets does an amazing French-style butter.

Alternatives…

Mum and Dad came back from the Buderim Ginger Factory at Yandina the other day and told me about the ginger scones that they do there. I’m going to give those a go using ginger beer and some cut up stem ginger pieces. With the Buderim ginger jam, they’d be pretty scrummy.

Anyways, these scones are super tasty, super easy, and super quick. Plus, it’s scone making weather, right? Yes, even here in Queensland.

scones with jam and cream

 

 

Perching Bar, Verzy

Who says that tree-houses are just for kids?

What if I told you there was a champagne bar seven metres above the ground in the heart of the Regional Natural Park of the Montagne de Reims in Verzy? A bar that you could only reach by a series wooden walkways and suspension bridges?

Interested?

Yep, I was too.

The place is the Perching Bar and your admission fee includes a glass of the bubbly stuff.

All around is the whoosh of zip-lines of varying heights for zip-liners of varying ability (and courage) but up here in the trees sipping on a glass of Bollinger (bolly… sweetie) all is grand with the world.

The view’s not bad either.

I love what they do with the corks and the top thingies.

Want more info?

The Perching Bar is open from April to mid-December and as only a certain number of people can be up here at any one time, reservations are recommended.

Check out their Facebook page here.

Oh, there is a bit of a walk – don’t worry, it’s nothing too strenuous – up a hill on a dirt path, so wear shoes that are ok for walking up a hill on a dirt path.

Also, children under 12 years are not permitted.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.