Friday, 27 February 2015

French Food Friday...Croustade aux Pruneaux et Pommes

recipe from here

Bonjour mes belles,

This week's recipe is perfect for me as I have the prunes and apples and my plan is to "borrow" some of French Boyfriend's Armagnac that I bought him for Christmas.

As you already know we live in an area that is famous for having the best prunes hence they are easy to find and ours come from a producer 5 kms from where we live and they are delicious. Much nicer to buy fresh when they have come out of the oven to buying in a packet in a supermarket. We are fortunate that the French continue to support local producers and we know where each item on our plate comes from.

Croustade aux Pruneaux et Pommes


1 cup/250 g/8 ounces prunes
1/3 cup/75 ml Armagnac
4 to 6 tablespoons butter
4 baking apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
4 to 6 tablespoons sugar
Squeeze lemon
6 to 8 sheets phyllo pastry
Ice cream, for serving, optional


Soak the prunes in Armagnac overnight (or perhaps use preserved prunes in Armagnac from a gourmet shop, which have even more flavor because they'll have macerated longer). Drain, pit and roughly chop, reserving the liquid.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan and add the apples until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle over 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sugar and continue cooking to caramelize, about 10 minutes more. Pour on about a tablespoon of the reserved Armagnac, flambe, and boil until the flames die out and the liquid has disappeared. Remove from the heat and taste. Depending on your apples, the mixture may need more acidity. If it does, add a squirt of lemon to taste. Stir through the chopped prunes.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Set the ring part of an 8-inch/20 cm springform pan on a baking sheet.

Prepare the pastry: Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan or microwave. Working with one phyllo sheet at a time, prepare as follows: lay one sheet of phyllo on a clean surface and cut into three strips crosswise (not lengthwise). Brush one of the three strips with melted butter, sprinkle with a little sugar and a few drops of Armagnac. Lay another strip on top and repeat. Lay the final strip on top and brush with butter. Your single sheet of phyllo is now a three-layer-thick strip. Lay it in the centre of the ring mould so that it runs from the middle out, and up and over the edge of the ring, like the spoke of a wheel. Continue with the remaining strips, laying them in around the ring slightly overlapping so that there are no openings.

Spoon the prune and apple filling into the bottom of the mould. Fold the pastry strips up in over top, twisting somewhat as you go so that the top is a rustic landscape of papery peaks and valleys totally covering the top of the tart. Brush quite generously with butter and scatter over a scant handful of sugar. (You may have some butter and sugar left over once you're done. If you do, use them for something else. The same goes for the Armagnac, of which you will have a lot left: use it in fruit salad or let a piece of pound cake drink it up...or serve it in tiny glasses with dessert.)

Remove the spring form ring, leaving the formed croustade on the baking sheet. Bake until the pastry is fully cooked and golden, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, slide onto rack and cool. Serve with ice cream on the side or all on its own.
très bon vendredi à tous, Leeann x

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Market purchase...

Bonjour from a showery SW France,
I purchased 3 hyacinths at our village market last Thursday and my lovely flower man advised that they would have pink flowers.
When I bought them it was not easy to tell as all each had was a green stump of buds.
Almost a week later and they are starting come into bloom and they smell gorgeous.
Just what I need to brighten up a rainy day in SW France...
à demain, Leeann x

Monday, 23 February 2015

fabulous and very French...

photo from here

Bonjour mes belles,

When I saw this photo, the words fabulous and French came to mind....

très bonne semaine à tous, Leeann x

Friday, 20 February 2015

French Food Friday...Easy Madeleines

recipe and photo from here

Bonjour mes belles,

I hope that you have had a nice week. Mine has been busy and has involved playing nurse as French Boyfriend has come down with flu or as the French call it grippe and this is the worst strain in 2 years. I decided that he starting cheering up so I thought that some baking may help. Started by making cheese scones which he did not like one bit.

I thought that a batch of madeleines may go down well but was interrupted by a local French lady who wanted to make a reservation and was well impressed when I opened the door wearing an apron.

The French are laid back when it comes to cooking and appear to be experts in whipping up a cake whilst carrying out other tasks at the same time.

It gave me a bit of a shock as I thought that it was our expected guests arriving earlier than anticipated.  Back to the cooking I went whilst French Boyfriend watched cautiously...

Nothing like a French man watching over your shoulder, at a time when he is normally at work and I surprise him with the finished article when he arrives home.

Note this is the first time that I used this recipe and the only tips that I would add, are as follows...

Stir in the melted butter last of all and be careful not to overfill the moulds as they should only be 3/4 full.
I rested the mixture for only 20 minutes as I was in a hurry but if you have the time, rest the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours as this aids in creating the humps which they are known for.

Lastly I left them in the oven for 10 minutes but suspect that 8 minutes would have been sufficient.

They went down a treat with French Boyfriend and I am planning on making more later this morning.


Bake a batch of these buttery little French cakes to have with a cup of tea or coffee.

Equipment and preparation: You will need a 12-cup madeleine tray.

2 free-range eggs

100g/3½oz (1/2 cup) caster sugar

100g/3½oz (1 cup) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 lemon, juice and zest

¾ tsp baking powder

100g/3½oz butter (1/2 cup), melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing

Preparation method
1.Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Brush the madeleine tray with melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.

2.Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy. Lightly whisk in the remaining ingredients. Leave to stand for 20 minutes before carefully pouring into the prepared madeleine tray.

3.Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has risen a little in the middle and is fully cooked through. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly. These are best eaten within an hour of cooking.

très bon vendredi à tous, leeann x

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

can you keep a secret...

I have bought one of these fabulous  montgolfière style chandeliers to hang in the lounge of the new project that we are working on.  It arrived today and is bigger and heavier than I thought that it would be.

To make matters worse it came in a very large box so I am not sure how to break the news to French Boyfriend that I have purchased yet another chandelier....hence this needs to be a secret entre nous!

I love a bit of bling don't you?

à demain mes belles, Leeann x

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

the first thing I saw..

photo from here

...when I logged onto pinterest this morning, was this this fabulous photo of some stunning peonies, my favourite flowers.
Too good not to share.....I am sure that you will agree.

très bonne semaine à tous, Leeann x

Friday, 13 February 2015

French Food Friday...Chicken Cordon Bleu

recipe and photo from here

Bonjour mes belles,

Sorry about the lack of posts this week but I have been busy painting and I am at the stage where I am running out of paint. Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing but I will be off later to get some more.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day so the perfect excuse for a romantic dinner.

As you know by now, French Boyfriend is passionate about French food and I think that I have found the perfect recipe for the main dish. It is Chicken Cordon Bleu but has a slight twist to it which is the reason that I like using Rachel Khoo's recipes as they are never boring and they keep the French on their toes. In this particular recipe Rachel has substituted the ham with sun dried tomatoes.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Serves 2

2 large chicken breast fillets
2 tbsp sundried tomato paste
75g Cheddar or Emmental,
thinly sliced
Small handful of rocket
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp plain flour
1 large egg, lightly whisked
100g breadcrumbs


Preheat the oven to 200C (fan assisted)/220C/Gas Mark 7.

Place the chicken fillets on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, slice the first fillet in half horizontally, starting from the straighter side. Don’t cut all the way through; leave the edge, allowing you to open up the fillet like a book. Repeat with the second fillet. Take two pieces of cling film three times bigger than each fillet. Lay one on the board, place the open fillet on top and cover with the second piece of film.

Bash the fillet with a rolling pin to about ½cm thick between the two sheets of cling film. Remove the top layer of film. Season the fillet well and spread with 1 tbsp sundried tomato paste, then layer the cheese slices on top, leaving a margin at the edge. Lay half the rocket on top. Roll up the fillet tightly using the cling film (but keep it on the outside) and make sure everything is tucked inside.

Wrap the film tightly around the rolled fillet and secure the edges like a Christmas cracker by twisting the film at either end. Repeat with the other fillet.

Drizzle the oil into a baking dish and place in the oven. Set up three plates: one with the flour, one with the egg and one with the breadcrumbs. Season the flour. Remove the film from the fillets and roll each one in the flour, then in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs. Place the fillets in the baking dish.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and serve in slices or whole with veggies or salad.

 très bon vendredi à tous, Leeann x

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

oak shelves...

photo from here

I love these oak shelves and think that they work really well with the oak work top.

We have an oak worktop in the kitchen of our new project and I am currently debating between painted open shelves and wooden shelves. After seeing this photo, the oak shelf option maybe the winner.

très bonne semaine à tous, Leeann x

Friday, 6 February 2015

French Food Friday...Warm chocolate pudding recipe with almond-vanilla praline

 photo and recipe from here

Bonjour from a very chilly SW France,

It is freezing here so I am in the mood for staying cosy. Speaking of cosy, in a little over a week's time, it will be Saint Valentine's day so I am on the lookout for some fabulous recipes as I am planning on cooking French Boyfriend a romantic dinner.

I think that I will need a week to get prepared as he likes to try new recipes but seems to prefer the French ones best, the exception being Guinness and Beef Stew, which he prefers to beef bourguignon.

Hence I need a week....

This week's recipe is one that never fails to impress as it really does melt in the mouth.

Warm chocolate pudding recipe with almond-vanilla praline

 Serves: 4
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 9 minutes


  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 50 ml water
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 50 g almonds (skin on)
  • Unsweetened cocoa, for dusting
  • 120 g dark (bittersweet) chocolate, at least 60% cocoa solids
  • 100 g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 25 g plain flour
  • 50 g round almonds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • To make the almond praline split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds, reserving half for this recipe. Use the remaining seeds to infuse a jar of caster sugar and save for another recipe.
  • Put the water in a small pan and add the sugar. Combine well and place over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and leave to cook gently, without stirring. Leave to bubble until the sugar starts to turn a light golden colour, add the almonds and remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla seeds, pour onto a baking paper-lined tray and leave to cool. Once cold, place another piece of baking paper on top and gently beat with a rolling pin to crush into crumbs. Alternatively, break up the praline in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • To prepare the puddings, grease four 150 millilitre pudding moulds. Spoon a little cocoa into each and turn to coat the inside. Tip out the excess. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6. Break up the chocolate and place in a glass bowl with the butter. Bring a small pan of water to a simmer and place the bowl over the water to melt the butter and chocolate. Stir to combine, take the bowl off the heat.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Sieve the flour over the top and add the ground almond and whisk until smooth. While still whisking, add the melted butter and almond mixture until well combined. Divide the mixture between the four moulds and bake for nine minutes. When ready, the puddings will have risen but will be liquid inside. Leave to rest for one minute before turning out onto serving dishes next to a spoonful of crushed almond praline. Serve immediately. 

  • ...très bon vendredi à tous, Leeann                                         

    Tuesday, 3 February 2015

    Bonjour fevrier...

    photo from here
     Bonjour fevrier.....the shortest month of the year has arrived so let's make each day that extra bit special...
    amicalement, Leeann x

    Gluten free

    Gluten free raspberry and lemon muffins Bonjour mes belles, I cannot believe it has been over a week since my last post. I have b...