Saturday, December 30, 2006

Casoulette Recipe

The recipe is all together now after various trials & tribulations. Hopefully it is clear and easy to follow. Any questions please feel free to contact me.

OK, here goes. I'm doing my casoulette for 15 on Saturday. This post will be in three parts.

Now: Today plus tonight's preparation work.

Tomorrow: I'll put everything together & do the initial cooking.

Saturday: Final cooking & serving.

Today: Linda & I drove down to Castelnaudary to buy our cassole. (as you will see our big green pot won't hold casoulette for 15). The first shop I went into didn't sell cassoles although it looked like they should have. Anyway, they directed me to M. Vigoule's shop which I'd find down the hill on the right side of the square. I couldn't miss it as it was the one with flowers out front. Sure enough there it was; he sells potted plants, animal food, tropical fish, parrots and, yes, cassoles as well as lingots de Tarbias. I chose his largest model of cassole which is very workmanlike but not nearly as beautiful as the one chrisamirault recently got. Here are pictures of my faithful green pot (nearly 20 years old), the new cassole & the two together.

The Green pot!

New cassole!

Pots together!

While I was there I bought a kilo of lingot de Tarbias which he was selling in bulk. He was insistent that I couldn't make a proper casoulette without them. I'm not sure about that, but the price was right.

Before I get too far with this I'd better give you a 'proper' recipe. Here it is:


-1 Large yellow onion
-3-4 stalks of celery
-3-4 medium size carrots

Dry & canned goods
-1-2 tubes of tomato purée
-500- 750g of white (lingot) beans
-1-2 cans (4 cuisse to the can) of comfit de canard

-500-750g fresh Toulouse sausage
-1 large ham hock (jarret) OR 2 smaller lightly salted ham hocks
-4 or more Lamb shanks. If no shanks use bone in Lamb cutlets

-1+ head of garlic
-Thyme to taste
-Herbs de Provence to taste
-10+ crushed juniper berries
-Salt & Pepper

-Duck fat
-Freshly made bread crumbs
-Chopped parsley
-Walnut oil (about 2 tblsp)

Using the smaller quantities of ingredients this recipe will make a large Casoulette filling my big green pot. If, however, you would like to make more then up the quantities as you wish. (The green crock feeds 8 happily) The Casoulette freezes perfectly.

So, when we got home I laid out my meats.

Lamb shanks, a pork hock & about a pound of Toulouse sausage.

Next I skinned the pork hock as below;

I was trying to get as little fat or meat as possible with the skin.

Once the skin was off I cut it into strips & then rough squares. Not too neat as you can see.

Observe the strips both skin & fat side up & the 'squares'. I'll use the three strips in the casoulette & make the remainder into crackling.

Next came the mirapoix preparation as below:

I'm perfectly aware that few, if any, "classic' casoulette recipes call for a mirapoix. I think, however, that adding one in makes a big & positive difference. The vegetable addition seems to lighten things a bit without losing any of the rich meat & bean flavours. I would contend that the mirapoix adds flavour. "chaque une a son gout" or something like that as they say.

Next the beans went in the pot to soak overnight. (I don't always do this. You can achieve the desired softening by bringing the beans to a boil from cold, boiling for 15 minutes & then letting them sit in the water for 2-3 hours.) Anyway.

Potted beans.

Close up of beans. (The camera didn't do a good job on the colour.) These Tarbias look just like Great Northerns to me. So far I can't really tell a taste difference. Somebody needs to do a side by side cook off. I'll do the cooking if somebody wants to come over with the beans.)

Finally, tonight I got out the rest of the ingredients, except for the comfit, and lined them up ready.

You can't see the garlic very well because its some scraps I had. Serves as a good reminder to go to the village store first thing in the morning & buy some more.

The only things I haven't shown are: The comfit, fresh thyme, parsley, the juniper berries and the breadcrumbs.

Here we are parts #2 & #3


1) Start by turning on the heat under the beans. Add the roughly chopped garlic. Also add some salt & pepper, but not much at this stage. Bring them to a boil & let boil for about 5 minutes.
2) at the same time put the cut up pork rind into a pan with water & bring it to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes.

3) In a large frying pan or, better yet, a deep pot start browning the meats in a small amount of fat (duck or goose fat is best, but olive oil will do nicely). Don't crowd the pan! fry until nicely browned a batch at a time.

4) while this is going on start cooking the sausage. First put the sausage in a large frying pan & add water until the sausage is roughly half covered.

In the picture I've turned the inner ring of sausage, but not the outer - yet.
Keep boiling until all the water evaporates turning the sausage over about half way through.
Once the water just goes add some fat, not much, and keep cooking until the sausage skin browns nicely. Turn the sausage over as necessary. ( at the same time you are still browning batches of the pork & lamb - right?)

5) Once all the meats are browned turn down the heat & put all of the mirapoix in the pot. Give it a good stir to coat with the fat & cover the pot. The mirapoix should cook slowly for 15-20 minutes, until the carrots are soft & the onions are translucent.

6) Meanwhile you can be cutting up the sausage into bite sized chunks & getting your comfit ready.

7) While all this was going on you will have added the tomato paste & the herbs de Provence, thyme & juniper berries to the beans. The amount of each is up to your personal taste. I'm fairly heavy handed, but you may prefer a lighter touch.

8) When ready add the cooked mirapoix to the beans. You are now ready for the assembly!

9) Assembly. (I'll try to make the pictures work for this.)

a) Using a slotted spoon add some beans to the cassole or whatever pot you are using.

b) add the pork hock

c) Add more beans & some sausage.

d) Add the lamb shanks and the pork rind.

e) More beans & sausage. Then the comfit.

f) Final layer of beans!

g) Now add liquid from the bean pot to cover everything.

h) Ready for the oven!!!

Put the casoulette into a 375 degree oven (about 165 C) for 2-3 hours. After about 1 1/2 hours pull it out & check the consistency of the beans. They should start to be a bit soft. Press down the top, take a spoonful of juice & check seasoning. Add salt & pepper as needed.
Repeat this procedure about every half hour until the beans are just soft to bite.

Take the casoulette out of the oven, let it cool then put it in the fridge (or anywhere cold, but not freezing) overnight.

Part #3

No much here, but here are the final steps.

1) take the casoulette out of the fridge about 4-5 hours before your planned serving time.
2) make 2-3 cups of bread crumbs. I like to use sour dough French bread, but any will do. I also like to add herbs de Provence & garlic granules to the crumbs, but that's strictly optional.
3) Pre-heat the oven to about 375 (165C).
4) put the casoulette in about 2 hours before the planned serving time.
5) about one hour before serving time spread the bread crumbs over the top of the casoulette fairly evenly & press down slightly. (Note: the casoulette will probably have formed a crust by this time. If so, press this down firmly before spreading the bread crumbs.
6) Watch to make sure that the crumbs are browning nicely. If not a little top heat from the broiler will do the trick, but be careful. Better a light brown crust than a burnt one.

Take the casoulette out & serve. Make sure to dig in as you serve to get a bit of each layer.

We found that our new cassole, filled to the brim as you could see in the pictures, gave us 15 nice portions. - just! There was none left.

Fortunately, we had made a second casoulette in our faithful old green pot since about ten out of the 15 wanted seconds! We have just enough left to freeze for a nice future dinner for the two of us + a bit for Rupert.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Walnut Oil - The real Stuff!

We went over to a local village named Puylagarde this morning to have a look at the Christmas fair which in past years has been very good. The fair was a disappointment, not as many stands as usual. BUT! Outside the entrance A lovely man & his wife (both in their 80's) were making walnut oil the old fashioned way. I went back home for my camera & here are the results.
M. & Mme didn't want their pictures taken so you only get to see the backside of him. Here he is just dismantling his unique press.

Note the large black cast iron pots. One sitting on a pile of sticks he uses for his fire. The walnuts are 'cooked' in these before going to the press.

To start at the beginning. First the walnuts are gathered in October, then thoroughly dried; they are then allowed to rest for a month or so before being shelled. They are now ready to start the oil making process.

First they are ground using a pretty standard meat grinder. The green bucket catches the walnut meat after the first grinding. Here's a picture of the work area.

Next the ground walnut meat is 'cooked' in one of the cast iron pots over the fire pictured below. The cooking goes on for about 30 minutes with nearly constant stirring using a wooden paddle.

The rusty 'lid' is only there to keep the heat in from the fire below. Normally the pot goes straight onto the fire. The chimney is new this year as the old one had given up after 35 years of use.

Next the hot walnut meat is placed in the press.

As you can see this is a strong metal stand which holds a hydraulic car jack in place. Below the jack is a pot which holds several iron blocks which are used to get the spacing right. Below this pot is the rectangular tray; which is about one inch deep, in which the walnuts are placed.

Lots of pressure is applied and you can clearly see the spout with bucket underneath. One good loading of the tray seems to produce about 8 ounces of oil. According Monsieur it takes about one kilo of unshelled walnuts to produce 50 cc of oil.

Finally, the oil is filtered through a fine muslin cloth before bottling.

Here's the final product.

Its very nice to see things done in the old way. I was lucky to be able to take these photographs and to be able to talk to this lovely old couple.

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure the bottle of oil that I bought will be excellent.

And - what a tale I have to tell every time I use it!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Something about cooking

It occurred to me that I haven't posted anything recently about cooking, no recipes, no pictures, no nothing. Partly that's because I haven't been doing much cooking of interest & partly because I've been lurking on eGullet and getting a bit turned off by the way the subject's going.
I did do a big push for Thanksgiving, 21 people and a pretty full menu, but nothing out of the ordinary in terms of dished. I was pleased with my turkey stock consume with parmigiana; it was delicate and light, but full of flavour as I'd hoped. The avocado salad with a mild salsa was also a hit; sort of a guacamole without being mashed up. Its hard to get the right peppers here in France, so I used piment de Epelette which worked pretty well. The de constructed turkey a la Julia was perfect & the baked home brined ham was OK, not great. The veggies & stuffing's went down well. My tarte tatin was good, but Linda's trifle was monumental. Devoured is the only word that applies.

Jacques cheeses were nothing short of astounding. Here are a few pictures.

They all came from one affineur near where he lives. And they are all chevres (goat's milk) cheeses.

The variation in flavour is amazing.

We're still working our way through them and eating the cheeses I'd purchased myself before Jacques asked it he could bring a cheese. Talk about understatement!

Gearing up for Christmas now. de-constructed a turkey today & started making stock. We're going to have our Christmas meal with friends so won't be doing too much cooking ourselves.

Boxing Day (the day after Christmas for those of you not English) will be fun. We'll have about 30+ people over for a casino night. No money changes hands, but we play poker, blackjack, roulette & dice. Everyone starts with the same number of chips; lose them all & you have to tell a joke to the whole group to get more. Everyone bring a dish made from Christmas leftovers, a good deal of wine is drunk and a good time is had by all.

Hopefully my favourite eGullet will pick up in the New Year with the reorganization. Lately the France forum has been very Paricentric which gets a bit boring for those of us in the hinterlands. Cooking tends to be dominated by culinary thrill seekers, but there is some good stuff. I enjoy the exchanges on the Cheese thread & some of the food jokes are good. I'll stick with it & hope for better days.

Don't know how much time I'll have over the holidays, but will post when I can and/or when I have something to say.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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How do they do it for the price?

Went out to lunch today with a couple of friends and was once again reminded of how inexpensive it is to eat out here in rural France. We had a choice of 6 or seven places within easy driving distance where we could get a 4-5 course meal for less than $20 per person including 25cl of wine. Amazing when you think of it. How do they put on these nice meals at these prices AND make a profit?

Some of it is that they own their premises, some is that they're family run so little or no outside wages to pay and a lot of it is that they cook what's local, available & inexpensive. Still it seems quite a feat to me.

Some of these places are pretty basic in their decor and don't expect to get new cutlery with each course. I know one where the same glass serves for water, wine & coffee. Most cater for truck drivers, local workmen and locals like us. The odd tourist may be lucky enough to wander in & will be welcomed. Many make a larger effort at 'ambiance' and are nicely done. They all share good food. If the food isn't good they don't survive. And the price has to be right. One local place was doing great business lots of lunch time & Sunday lunch (you pay a bit extra on Sunday, but get even more food) customers; then he put up his price by 1 euro & quit including wine. His business halved in less than a week!

Here's what we got for our 11 euros. Vegetable soup with tagliatelle & Parmesan
served family style; A large piece of pork rillette; braised pintade (guinea fowl) with seasoned rice; and a choice of desserts (I had apple pie). Nice sour dough French bread, wine, water & coffee came with the meal. Pas mal as we say. The time before we had a different soup; a salad with cheese & dry ham bits; cassoulete & dessert. All was well cooked & presented and the portions were reasonable.

I still don't quite know how they do it, but I'm not complaining. If you are contemplating a trip to France let me know & I'll give you some tips on how to find these places. Meanwhile, eat your heart out Parisians.

I do love France!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

La Chasse - Walkers beware

As I walked Rupert this morning I was reminded that its hunting season in France. Being Sunday the hunt (La Chasse) was out in force. You could see their decrepit cars & vans parked alongside the road & occasionally see a portly gentleman with his rifle. I've never quite figured out why its de rigour to have a beat up, clapped out car or van to go hunting, but the evidence says it is. I've never seen anyhing else - other than beat up Lada 4X4's covered with mud. (if it doesn't rain I'm sure they take a hose & create their own mud.) It also seems to be important to be portly. I've never seen a skinny chasseur! Maybe they shoot more than I think so are really well fed?

I think that up North in the richer parts of France they have some very posh hunts; on horseback even with paid beaters and so forth. Not so in our impoverished region. The hunters are mainly local and I have a sneaking suspicion that they go out for motives other than hunting. i.e. to get away from the wife; to have a jolly good lunch with lots of booze; to talk politics with their buddies and, only incidentially, to shoot something. I do know that we don't take the dog walking in the woods on any afternoon when the hunts out.

In any case during the season Rupert wears his international orange coat & so do we. Seems to work as we haven't been shot yet. People have been though; one so far this year near us. The chasseurs shot a few of a friends chickens by mistake a while back. They were very apologetic & paid for them, but it hardly gave much confidence when they can't tell the difference between a chicken & a game bird! Our local hunt got so bad that the Mayor banned them for two years; its only this year that they're back.

We feel sorry for the hunting dogs. Every hunt has a pack. When not hunting they're kept in outside kennels & although they get their food & water they get nothing else & very little attention. There are also individual or pairs of hunting dogs kept by individuals. There was a pair close to us that were kept in such bad conditions that we & others in the village complained to the mayor who put a stop to it. The poor dogs also get lost or separated from the pack. We average 2-3 strays a year. We take them in & normally the owner turns up within a day or two. Or we put the word out at the village store. Its sad, but these hunters, who are mostly farmers, have a different attitude towards domestic animals.

A couple of weeks ago we passed a hunter as we were walking Rupert. We stopped & passed the time of day. Finally we said; "hows it going? Have you got anything today?' The reply sounded like; "pa core" ?? We went on our way, but kept puzzling over what "pa core" could possibly mean. It wasn't until a couple of days later that the penny dropped. He was saying "Not Yet" "Pas encore". Someday we'll figure out the local dialect; maybe!

I'm not sure the hunters here are better or worse than anywhere else. They certainly seem to have a different mentality and set of customs. Still, they've been hunting around here for a long time so far be it for an interloper like me to interfere.

I do, however, do my best to keep out of their way & to make sure they know that Rupert is a lage brown dog. Not a small deer?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Uk vs France - The finale

From Monachyle Mhor we're on our way to Menston via Berwick. In the rain! Its pelting down much of the way. We're driving via the East & Berwick so we can find & stop at Linda's brother Eddie's grave. This turns out to be more difficult than we thought given the directions we have from Olivia, Linda's sister. Eventually, I do find it at the second graveyard we try & its not a white headstone, but a black one. Oh well, Rupert has a great time chasing around in the rain. While Linda is having a little cry at Eddie's grave I find some beautiful roses in the trash bin & bring them over. Linda's sure I stole them from another grave! No! No! I say & the tears turn to a laugh. Given his wit & wonderful sense of humour Eddy would have loved this whole scene. Linda feels better.
We have a nice family visit with the relatives; the ladies shop & Derek & I do some walking. Tea at the famous Betty's Tea Rooms in nearby Ilkely and a visit to a very upmarket farm shop called Wheaton's in Harrogate. Sunday and we're on our way home. Only two major traffic jams on the way down to Dover. Thankfully its Sunday! The tunnel is good again & we're back in France without showing a passport, dog or human.
We get lost trying to find our hotel! Its all the fault of the blessed 'deviations'; we're doing fine until we hit one & all of a sudden in the dark none of the signs point to anywhere we want to go. We call the hotel & the owner gives directions, sort of. We follow these & we're closer; we call again. As we arrive the hotel owner is standing at the gates to make sure we don't miss the hotel. This is service, we get a warm welcome & a very nice dinner.
An early breakfast & we're heading home, but priority #1 is a gas station. We're really low ( damned if I was going to buy any more of that expensive English stuff!), just try to find a station when you need one. In the nick of time a monster Carrefour appears; not only can we fill up its the cheapest in France. I feel vindicated. We now have a long, but uneventful trip home. The weather is good, the roads are clear we're glad to be back in France.

Some final thoughts:

- As a vacation this trip was good. We had fun, saw relatives, ate pretty well and had a super time in Scotland.

- We could never ever go back to England to live. Just too crowded; too hectic and too stressed out. Lovely people if they have the time to stop. Great to be speaking one's native language. Nice, but full, countryside. Nope; A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Confirmed Anglophile that I am I never thought I'd hear myself saying that.

- How do they afford it? We found the prices of almost everything far more expensive than in France. Food. Gas. Housing. Everyday things all seem to be somewhat outrageous. I'm out of touch with Uk salaries, but they've got to be really high to live comfortably in an economy as expensive as this.
We didn't eat out as much as planned simply because we found all of the restaurants overpriced in our eyes. Even humble fish & chips for two seemed to be 12-15 Euros.
I just don't get it. Maybe it seems expensive because we're on a retirement income, but we're hardly poor.

- We also got an earful of medical system woes from virtully everyone we talked to. Medical care seemed to be either too slow or too expensive.
I've got to believe from a whole pile of evidence that the system works better in France. Important as you get older.

I hope you've enjoyed these musings. I enjoyed writing them. I still love England and the English. I'll go back again - on vacation!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Daube du jarret d'Agneau - braised Lamb Shanks.

There is a Daube cook off going on over at eGullet so I've joined in by both posting this recipe in Recipe Gullet & on the cooking/ daube cookoff thread with pictures. For this blog I've expanded a bit as well as putting the pictures in.

This is a recipe for braised Lamb Shanks. According to everything I've read it really is a daube by definition. No matter, I don't want to get into the semantics. The basic technique is applied to many peasant dishes whether they be lamb, beef, pork or, more luxuriously, veal. The meat is cooked slowly in wine or wine & water or wine & stock. Beef, especially the tough cuts used for these peasant recipies, is frequently marinated in wine & herbs prior to cooking.

I'm also not going to get into what kind of pot to cook it in or whether oven or stovetop is better. As you will see I've just used a deep pot for this version. One of the secrets whichever vessel is used is to make sure that you don't lose liquid by evaporation during the slow cooking process. Thus, covering the pot/ crock/ casserole is essential. Lose as little liquid as possible until the final reduction.

Suffice it to say that if the dish is slowly & carefully cooked with love & respect it is going to be delicious. The rest is nuance. Don't try to hurry or get fancy with this dish. Simple peasant cooking; take your time & you can't go wrong.

Here goes:

Lamb Shanks
yellow onions
stalk of celery
cloves of garlic
Lots of fresh rosemary
Lots of fresh thyme.
A few bay leaves
Hearty red wine
Good lamb stock
Salt & pepper.

1) Put a small amount of fat into your pot. (duck is best, but others will do. Although you want high heat for the browning be careful not to burn the fat.) Heat this up & then put the shanks in and brown turning frequently; moderate the heat to prevent burning.

2) Meanwhile be chopping up the Onion, carrot, celery mixture. (How finely you chop depends upon how you plan to finish the dish. More on this later, but the rough chop I've illustrated is for a "stew like" finished product. A much finer chop is used where the mirapoix (onion, carrot, celery mix) is to be strained or run through a food mill for a more classic finish.

3) Peel & roughly chop the garlic. Remember that the garlic will mellow with the long cooking so don't be shy.

4) When the shanks are nicely browned remove them from the pot & set aside. Put the vegetable mixture along with the garlic & bay leaves into the pot, turn down the heat to low, cover the pot & sweat the mixture for at least 20 minutes.(just enough heat to cause the veggies to cook. When the onions are translucent & the carrots soft you're there. DO NOT LET THE VEGGIES BROWN!)

5) Rub your rosemany & thyme as you strip the leaves from the stalks.

6) Put the lamb shanks back into the pot with the sweated veggies. Add the herbs. Add the wine & stock to just cover. (I like to use about 50% wine, 50% stock but try your own ratio. By hearty red wine I mean something like a Cahors in France or a Zifandel in the states. Cabernet works well. Nothing light.) Give everything a light seasoning.

7) Bring to the boil then back down to a simmer. Cover & simmer slowly for at least 3 hours. Check & stir occasionally. (This is where you can decide whether to cook in the oven or on the stovetop. If you have a stovetop burner you trust to keep a low simmer that's good. If not, you may be better off in the oven. It really depends upon your equipment & if the vessel you're using lends itself better to oven or stovetop.)

8) At the end of this first cooking take the shanks out & put them in the fridge separately from the vegetables & sauce.

9) Next day bring everything back up to room temperature having skimmed off any fat from the sauce. (there normaly won't be much if any if you are using lamb, beef will normally produce more fat. I'm not as concerned by fat as many so I'm not that meticulous about skimming. Let your own preference be your guide.)

Now its decision time. How to finish the dish as there are lots of variations.

A) My favorite 'classic' version. For this one I would have chopped the veggies much more finely. I would now add some crushed juniper berries (8-10 or so. I love juniper with either lamb or beef. Make sure the berries are well crushed to get their flovor.) and about 3 oz of tomato puree. Everything back into the pot for at least 2 hours covered. Adjust seasonings. Shanks out. Veggies & stock through a strainer or food mill then back into the pot for a final reduction. You shouldn't need to reduce very much. Add some dabs of butter just before serving to give a nice finish. Serve over potatoes, rice or other root vegetables.

B) An Italian, "osso bucco" slant. As in A, but no juniper. ( or, don't be shy & add the juniper anyway. It will further enrich the flavor.) Add oregano leaves & fennel seeds, the tomato puree & plus a can of italian plum tomatoes, drained. Cook as before except stir more often to crush the plum tomatoes. Serve over pasta, polenta or rice.

C) The 'stew' version. This is the one I've shown with roughly chopped veggies. I now, for the second cooking, add green lentils (about 4 oz per person) or white beans which have been soaked & pre-cooked. Everything together & cook for closer to 3 hours than 2. You can add turnips cut to eating sized chunks or a few parsnips for the last hour of cooking. Serve as is with crusty bread for sopping up the gravy.

There are about as many variations upon this basic recipe as there are cooks.

The important things are the slow cooking which for beef should be even slower than I've shown for lamb and the mirapoix to underpin the flavors.

Please try it. I'd love to hear of your results & your variations.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Uk vs France episode #3

We're off to Scotland! We're really looking forward to this as its been a long time since either of us have been. We hit the M6 & head North. Its a long way & the roads are crowded, but the weather's good so the driving isn't bad.

Some background is necessary at this point before we arrive. We'll be staying at the Monachyle Mhor Hotel. This was started as a B&B on their sheep farm by our very good friends & neighbors Rob & Jean. It grew from B&B to hotel over the years and to a full restaurant as the quality of Jean's cooking became more widely known. By the time Rob & Jean decided to retire to France their son, Tom had taken over the k
itchen. These days all three children are involved, Tom is the Chef, Dick runs the farm (plus a 'bistro chippery' in Calander) and Melony runs the hotel side (as well as constructing the wine list with Tom.) The hotel has expanded to 18 rooms, all very luxurious. Tom's cooking is getting more & more recognition. For example he was recently one of the 12 UK Chef's competing to cook for the Queen on National TV in the Uk. He's also been written up by the NY Times & other major newspapers. All in all this is serious cooking at a top class hotel. Over the past few years we've come to know all of the children having met them when they've come to visit Rob & Jean. We've had some memorable meals cooked by Tom & his Mom & have even been bold enough to cook for them. (Tom was kind!) So all in all we're looking forward to seeing them at home in Scotland for the first time.

As we head North from Sterling the countryside gets more & more beautiful. We pass Calander & drive along the loch on our left. It starting to get really spectacular now. We turn left & head for Balquhidder, Roy Roy's burial place, after 3-4 miles of 11/2 track road we carry on from Ballquhidder for another 4 miles on single track road to Monachyle Mhor. Driving up this glen is amazingly beautiful. The loch & the hills combine to make this a magical place. We arrive at this wonderful pink hotel set above the loch. It just looks pretty & welcoming even before you've parked your car!

In we go into a very warm welcome. We've met one of the girls at reception before back in France. She shows us to our luxurious room. Its sort of a demi-suite with couch & table flat screen TV coffee making equipment & a separate bedroom with queen sized bed beautifully dressed. Then there's the bathroom which L immediately falls in love with. Just super!
After unpacking we go for a walk up the glen. We're joined by Midnight the hotel's young black lab. She, we're told, goes walking with all guests. Rupert is in love & the dogs have a great time playing & exploring. The scenery continues to amaze.

We go into dinner. Nice table in a cozy nook. Great menu: amuse, entree, soup, plat, cheese then dessert. Tom comes in to greet us. (he's not cooking tonight) We have a good time trading family news, Melany comes in with new baby (only two weeks old), Dick shows up, Jim (Melany's husband) arrives. Then Brendon who is the sous chef, but is doing the cooking tonight pops in. (we've met him in France as well.) We feel so welcome and so much like family. Rarely does the company outshine the food with me, but this is one of those times even though the food is wonderful. Everybody comes & goes, we have a great time & retire to bed well fed & happy.
Next morning we take another walk up the glen & get some really good pictures as the light is good & the mists are dissapating. The dogs have a ball.
Then we're off for a drive that Rob has given us a hand drawn map for; Tom makes some corrections & loans us his mapbook.
Off we go down the glen, past Balquhidder & back to the main road. We drive north to Killian where we take pictures of the waterfalls. Just past we turn & head up another glen & loch; this ones every bit as beautiful as Monachyle. Eventually we start to run out of road, what there is is more pothole than pavement. L's getting worried, so is Rupert, even my faith in Rob's directions is getting shaky. BUT, at the last moment & as promised there is a paved track to the right past the umpteenth cattle grid. We make out way up the mhor & through the sheep & as we do the views get more & more spectacular. As reach the top & admire the panorama we know we're in one of the most beautiful spots in the UK. We go on over & down to the next glen by the loch & eventually back to the road. We stop for a nice simple late lunch at a local hotel.
We're back to the hotel by 4:30 so we can have tea with Melony & the children. We have great time & are amazed at what they have done with what looks like nothing outside, but is really nicely done inside & has a great view across the loch. We have a needed rest & then join Melony, Jim & the baby (3 1/2 weeks old) for dinner. Another nice private nook. Tom's cooking tonight. We have a lime foan martini amuse, seared foie gras entree, a demi-tasse of leek soup, beef filet as the plat, cheese and a selection of desserts. Melony wants to show off her wine list so we have an Australian Chardonnay which is delicious, followed by a Dry Creek Zifandel in my honor followed by a superb Barolo. What a nice meal! Tom keeps popping in & out, Dick shows up again. We have great time & enjoy hearing about all of the plans these three have. What a great family!

We can't help but notice that all of the guests here at Monachyle Mhor are treated like friends; the attitude is wholly professional to the highest standards, yet relaxed & friendly at the same time. If you ever have the opportunity go!!

Next morning we say our goodbyes & are off. Tom gives us presents to take back for Rob & Jean, not to mention a 5 pound bag of the wonerful Italian coffe we've admired at the hotel. A truely memorable experience; We'll definitly be back.

Onto to Yorkshire & Linda's sisters house.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Uk vs France Episode #2

Something's really gone wrong here. I seem to have lost all of my second post about the Uk trip. I've had comments on it so I know I did it, but I can't find it anywhere on the blog. What follows is the recreation.

After our early morning foray to the beach the rest of the trip to the Uk was fine. We had checked out of the hotel the previous evening so went straight off to Calais & the tunnel. I must say that although expensive compared to the ferries the tunnel is slick. Fast & smooth, no problems.
We did have one little classic bureauocratic delay. When we went to the separate building to get the dog's passport, chip & shots checked it was 08:30. His worm treatment which had been signed off on at 09:00 the previous day ( has to be between 24 & 48 hours prior to travel.) We waited for the 30 minutes before the 'official' would sign off. If we treated terrorists the way we treat dogs seeking to enter the Uk they wouldn't stand a chance.

The trip over to Stroud was uneventful, a little nostalgia as we passed Newbury where we used to live, but we did really notice the heavy traffic. The roads were crowded! We had a nice visit & dinner with the kids & grandkids then the next morning set off for Wollerton in Shropshire where the cottage is. This was our half of a house swap. Patricia & family had spent two weeks at our place & now we were going to spend two weeks at 'The Pound' their 17th century cottage.

The drive up was pretty as we avoided the motorways & drove up via Ludlow & Shrewsbury. As we arrived at the cottage the owner's parents & the handyman were there getting the AGA going & making sure everything was ready. Very nice & we ended up with a dinner invitation for the next week. The cottage was lovely & was surrounded by a walled garden much to Rupert's delight. We also found that there was a disused railway line nearby so he could have leash free walks; lots of rabbits to chase as well!

Couldn't linger long as we had to shop. L's sister & family are coming for the weekend & we're hosting a birthday party for her. Off to Waitrose we go. Such a beautiful supermarket. High quality, huge selection, far more 'international' than our French Hypermarkets. Things do seem expensive though. We do our shopping, just for the weekend; not much wine as we've brought quite a lot from home. At the checkout we find that we've spent nearly 200 pounds! 300 Euros! Ouch! This is real sticker shock. Its at least 35-40% more expensive than France. We've bought nothing special.
Wow! Subsequent shopping over the next two weeks confirm that general food shopping is about 30% more expensive than France. Waitrose is more expensive than the other big chains, but their quality is closer to that in the French Hypermarkets. (In France we buy very little fresh produce from the Hypermarkets, its mostly from the local farmer's markets.) How do people afford this? We also notice the huge (comparitively) range of pre-prepared foods. And we notice that they get bought a lot. They seem even more expensive.
As we get into buying wine we discover that its roughly double in price compared to France. The selection is great with wine available from all over the world, but the prices suck. We'd have to change our drinking habits if we lived here. We now understand why so many English people take the day ferry trips to Calais to stock up.
Next I have to buy diesel fuel for the car. Another shock; diesel is not only more expensive than petrol its 40% more expensive than in France. This is awful; thank god we get nearly 50 MPG.
Finally, on the cost front we found that cafes & restaurants were considerably more expensive. The comparisons are hard to make, but in general we can get to decent multi-course lunch with wine in France for 15 Euros. We couldn't get a similar lunch for anything close to 10 pounds in England.

Having got the rant about prices out of the way I must say we're having a good time. Beautiful countryside, nice towns and lovely people. We drive into Wales to have lunch at a friend's who lives near Denbeigh, we have dinner with Patricia's parents & have a good time in general.

Now we're off to Scotland to stay in the glens! This turns out to be a highlight of our trip.

Next installment very soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mysterious France

Monday's are always a bit strange in this part of France. Some shops are closed, others aren't, some open only in the morning, others only in the afternoon. This particular Monday was more mysterious than most.
When Linda woke me up with coffee (this is one of the small joys of retirement. She's an early riser by nature, I like to sleep in. She brings me coffe as payback for all those working years when I got up & made the coffee Monday through Friday.) she said that some of the electricity was off. A circuit breaker I thought so I got up & looked. No tripped breakers. Yet, some things worked, others didn't. Most serious was the main fridge/ freeezer being off. Yet the kitchen power points were fine. After a lot of trial & error I worked out that the things not working were all associated with one bank of circuit breakers, but none of them were tripped & resetting them didn't help. Time to call Electricity De France (EDF) as it doesn't look like this is a simple problem. Now you normally avoid calling EDF as like many big utility companies getting through is a nightmare. Doubly so when you're trying to do it in Franch & are hard of hearing as I am.

I've got a problem. I have to send a fax to my French bank. Now, this morning, but the computer & fax are part of what's not working. No problem, I go up the road to our friends. Turns out that they too have a funny electrical problem. Same as ours one bank of things doesn't work. Fortunately, their fax does work & I get my message off.
Back home & Jacques has arrived. We go over the problem together, same answer. He calls EDF. 35 minutes later EDF allow that we have a problem & its theirs. The fact that our friends have the same issue seems to tip the balance. EDF will work on it.
I go off to Caylus to mail a letter & get some bread for lunch (both bread shops & the post office in our village are closed on Monday.) The letter's fine, but both breadshops in Caylus are closed! They're normally open, but both have signs saying they're on holiday. Strange! They normally alternate, Hummmm.. I decide to go to Pulygarde, there's a good baker there who's normally open on Monday. Nope he's closed as well. Very strange. It's unhead of not to be able to buy bread in France. Sacre Bleu! What's the country coming to. I return home defeated. We manage lunch without bread.
About 4:00 that afternoon. The electricity goes off entirely. Then it comes back on, but with a different set of things not working. Finally it all comes on & shortly thereafter we get a call from EDF. "Is everything OK now?" Yes we say, but we're flabbergasted that they've called this is not normal EDF behavior. But, all's well that ends well. We still have no idea what was wrong or how you can lose just part of the electricity. It is & will remain a mystery.
I'm still worrying about the bread. Next morning the village bread shops are still closed, so are the ones in Caylus. We go up to the general store in the village to buy rubber gloves. (Another story, our drains are blocked) While I'm waiting outside in the car I notice a sign in the shop's window; "Depot de pain. 06/11 a 12/11 inclusif. Congres de Bouloungers" Ah Ha! All the breadshops are closed because they're off at their annual convention. Mystery solved!
Sometimes you get to the bottom of things other times you don't. Its never dull though.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Uk vs France - a trip report with comments & comparisons

Ok, we're back from a 3 week trip to the Uk. We all enjoyed ourselves, dog included, but we're glad to be home & glad we live in France. It didn't hurt that we came back to fantastic weather, sun & 60's for the past week. Here's the report with a few asides.

Its a long way from Parisot to Calais; 935 kilometers roughly (about 600 miles). Fortunately its almost all autoroute. We cruise along at 130 kmph taking turns driving, the dog sleeps except when we make our fairly frequent 'rest' stops for him. (A comment why can't other countries have as many nice parklike rest stops along their autoroutes? France is terrific for this both the stops with gas & food & the stops with just restrooms & a place to streach your legs. Finding a place to stop so the poor dog can do his stuff is a hassle in the UK!) We pass through beautiful countryside, the Dordogne, Limosin, Cahors, hilly & green with cows, sheep & fields. As we approach Chateauroux the countryside begins to flatten and we see huge fields of grain. You begin to understand the rich agricultural heritage of France as you take these long drives.
We reach Paris. Fortunately, I know Paris fairly well & we have a good quick route through. Head for porte St Cloud via Orsay & Sevres, hit the peripherique & go West via porte Maillot then onto the A1 towards the airport. Piece of cake. Except, this time we missed our turn for the D104 which would take us over to the A16. Much wandering ensued, but 1 hour & numerous sets of directions from friendly locals got us to the autoroute.
We then had a nice run up the autoroute to our hotel which was named "The Auberge De La Dune" We'd chosen it because it looked very close the beaches & our plan was to give Rupert a good run in the moring before the tunnel & long trip. WRONG! It turned out to be at least 6 km to the nearest beach & that one had NO DOGS signs all over the place. He ran anyway as it was very early in the morning & nobody was around. We almost didn't get in the hotel to begin with. When she made the booking Linda had told the owner that our dog was a canishe royal (standard poodle). When we arrived Madame freaked out; she somehow hadn't realized the Ruperet is big! He weighs about 80 pounds. With some sweet talking we got in & were put into the handicapped room, not great, but Ok. The dinner was nice, not great, but perfectly acceptable.

On to England in the next installment.

More on the wine adventure

Finally back from the Uk & catching up. Great progress on the wine making front!

We now have a second small vineyard that has been offered to us. This is a friend who has about another acre of grapes, unknown variety, and isn't interested in doing anything with them.
We're still working on details with Robert as it turns out the reason he was going to tear out his vines was that he has to pay extra taxes on the vineyard. Don't think the tax is much, but need do need to sort it out.
In the meantime while in England I bought a book on wine making. Also, this Sunday at Limogne market I ran into Sarah who with her husband David run a real winery, Merchien, that they have built up over the past few years. They're doing well, winning prizes and selling their vintages. Sg'e off ered free advice.

We've also found a local place to buy proper wine vines of most major varietals so be can improve our quality over time.

Coincidently I now read that someone is making a movie about an englishman's struggles to turn on inherited chateau into a vinyard or something like that anyway as I'm not 100% sure of the exact story line.

Anyway, so far so good. Thing seem to be coming to gether. I'll keep posting as we progress.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wine making - the adventure begins!

We may,just may, become vignerons. Wine makers! I've always wanted to make wine, God knows I drink enough of it. Here's the story so far. (this will be a continuing saga.)

Last week we were over at our friends house in a nearby hamlet when Annabel said; "look at this!" She showed us a couple of pictures she had taken of Robert & Marcel starting to make their annual batch of wine. Huge plastic tub for the grapes, a masher normally used for preparing silage for the cows and a monster wooden cask. (its so old its hard to tell what wood its made of.) Great local color, but the wine making technique would certainly be frowned on at a Bordeaux chateau.

The story is that Robert (aged 77) has about an acre & a half of 'hybrid' grapes. He's able to make about 1,000 liters of wine every year. None of it ever sees a bottle; its decanted (if that's the word) straight into a plastic bidon. All 1,000 liters are gone by the next year. What it lacks in quality it makes up for in
alcoholic content. Anyway they were good pictures and we all talked about how great it was that the local villagers kept up their old traditions.

Last Sunday we were all at a local fund raiser (over 200 people showed up even though the village isn't that large. The salle des Fetes was packed to the rafters.) for the restoration of the church in Neiuvaille which hadn't been opened for 18 years. It was a great 4 hour lunch.

At some point Annabel asked if we remembered the pictures she'd showed us. We did. She then said that couple of days after they were taken Robert came over & said he was quitting the wine making business. He was too old for the work involved and his wife was too old to do all the cooking for the pickers. He was going to throw away his vat and then pull up all of his grape vines. Donald & Annabel rescued the vat and its now safely in their barn.

Sometime thereafter, perhaps lubricated by a bit of wine, the cogs in my poor excuse for a brain finally meshed. Why didn't we rent Robert's vines!
The idea gained instant approval and we now have consortium with Donald & Annabel, Ruve & Michael and ourselves. The question became how to go about it.

We've enlisted the help of Albert who, seemingly, is related to everyone within 10 miles, but more importantly speaks fluent Occitan as well as French. Our
dilemma was that Robert's French such as it is is nearly impossible for any of us to understand and, needless to say, none of us speak Occitan. Albert will negotiate/translate on our behalf.

We plan to offer Robert a peppercorn rent for the vines, use him as our wine making consultant and give him a percentage of the wine. Or at least that's our starting point. This is very likely to be a complicated negotiation.

We all rushed over after the lunch only to find that Robert had gone hunting. France being France things must take their own time so we have a metting with Robert tomorrow, Saturday.

So, our hopes are high, our fingers crossed and I've driven by the vineyard at least once a day all this week.

To be continued.....

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fall in France

Fall is here!

I love the change of seasons and though I'm sorry to see summer go, I welcome fall. We've had some nourishing rain & even though it spoiled our trip to the Pyrenees I do welcome it. The fields are now green again except where they are a rich plowed brown ready for winter wheat planting. The first leaves are turning so we'll soon have a spectacle of earthy colors over the hills.

e walnuts are beginning to drop much to the delight of Rupert, our standard poodle & my avatar. He absolutely adores walnuts and is very good at finding them then carefully cracking them & picking out the meat.

Fall is the time of year when my friend Michael and I put on our backpacks when we go on our walks. We fill them with bounty; walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, apples (did you know that France has more than 1,000 varieties of apple.), quince, pears and juniper berries. It’s sad, but in our part of France there are many, many abandoned farms. Many still have their fruit trees and the crops go unharvested unless someone like us comes along. Still, there's a little bit of naughty school boy in all of us so harvesting this bounty is fun and feels slightly dangerous.
Our wives look forward to our return with full knapsacks and we get some of the satisfaction of bringing home food after a successful hunt as a result. A somewhat childish albeit innocuous pleasure.

I know fall is here because yesterday I picked my first crop of field mushrooms. The conditions were right, rain overnight, but warm and when Rupert & I went for our morning walk there they were in the cow pasture; lots of nice field mushrooms.
I picked about 2 kilos worth and shared them with Huguette & Bavo (Roop's vet & her husband); later in the day I picked some more for our friend Jean who adores them. Even though they're not as glamorous as the cepes the field mushrooms are my favorites. We'll have mushrooms on toast and/or a mushroom omelet for dinner. ( I like to simply clean & slice up the mushrooms then sauté them gently in butter with a bit of finely chopped garlic. I cook them very gently and if I get my timing just right finish them just before they start to release their juices.)

Another nice thing about the field mushrooms is that I don't have risk life & limb to get them. There's a twofold danger. First, there are the local Frenchmen who all seem to
be about 90 years old and know exactly where to look for the cepes, girolles and morilles. They all have their favorite spots and you can see their clapped out cars & vans along the country lanes in the mornings when the weather has been right. They don't take kindly to 'strangers' picking their mushrooms. Cars with Toulousian plates parked in the 'wrong' spot have been known to spontaneously sprout 4 flat tires. Secondly, there are a number of mushrooms that are dangerous to eat. Even with my mushroom book I'm not always sure. You can, of course, pick them anyway and take them to the local pharmacy for identification. It seems that mushroom id'ing is part of the training of a pharmacist. Certainly our Madam Marty knows her stuff. "Those you can eat, but they don't taste good. On the other hand those are delicious; where did you say you found them?" "Oh, somewhere down that way" I say. So the nice thing about field mushrooms is that even I can identify them with confidence. And, I don't have to compete for them.

Fall is definitly here. I'll start posting fall recipies when we get back from England.

Foie Gras, truffles and pumpkin next,

but .... that's another story.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rabbiting on

Its funny that once you hear or see something once you'll probably run into it again more than once in a short space of time. This happened to me over the last few days with rabbit. I hadn't thought of rabbit in a long time but;

Sunday night a friend served rabbit pie for dinner. It was great; lots of
vegetables, herbs and a great crust. Then last night we went to a 65th Birthday Party for our friend Rob and the restaurant served roast rabbit - for 40 people. Again, it was good, but not as good as the rabbit pie. Finally, I took a look at Lucy's Kitchen Notebook ( and what do I see, but rabbit yet again; Mexican style this time. It sounds delicious. But;

Why am I being persued by rabbit? I don't even particularly like rabbit, I mean its OK, pretty
innocuous so whats not to like or to like? I'd rather have a chicken, more meat same or better flavour. Wild rabbit or hare's a different matter you can do some interesting things with them. Is it rabbit season? Didn't think there was one, but you never know. Maybe its because its fall and people's thoughts turn to pies & roasts & such like. I'll probably never find out.

In any case my hope is that by getting the rabbit out of my system, so to speak, by writing about it here I will have exorcised the rabbit deamons and they'll go away & let me think about other kinds of food.

Like the steak frites I'm going to cook for dinner tonight!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Le Repas - A community dinner.

We went to community dinner the other night in Castenet, a nearby village. This one was arranged by the local petanque club. (petanque being also known as boules & being a game much adored by the French.) We as members of the troisiemes were also invited. (The troisiemes are a club for the over 60's. We go on outings, have lunches & enjoy life in general.) Of course, everyone else came along as well so we had a crowd of about 60-70 people ranging in age from a few months to over 90. Not bad for a rural area.

We paid our entry, 16 euros, and got our aperetif outside as the evening was nice. Met up with several good friends & also started chatting with local people we didn't know. This got us into how the relationships worked in the area. It seems that everybody is related to everybody in the area; cousins twice removed or whatever, but it does make for a closly knit community. The nice thing though is how welcoming everyone is to we 'etrangers'; people make a point of being nice to us. A modicum of French & a smile is all you need to be accepted.

Shortly the entertainment arrived. An accordianist & a one drum drummer. We had music from then on out. The 'experts' none of whom were under 60 years old had the fires going for roasting the meat. None of this charcoal stuff, real logs & branches. The ladies were working on the rest of the meal inside. (I have to explain that in France almost every village has a "salle des Fetes" this is a meeting hall with, normally, cooking facilities, a dance floor & various other equipment for having parties. Most of the 'salles' are very nice & have been subsidized by the government. They're sort of the French equivilent of the school gym in small town America.)

We moved inside for the meal. The hall was set up with a number of long tables & everyone sat where they wanted. We sat with friends with French people we knew from the troisiemes on either side. Two proud grandmothers took turns holding the baby as the baby's parents made the rounds of friends. The noise level rose as we all started on our wine & as the children got more more excited. The band moved inside & the children had a great time trying to dance.

The first course was a cheese soup; delicious! It was a chicken stock with garlic & herbs laced with melted local tomme cheese and with lots of country bread soaked in it. I had two big helping & would have had more except that I knew there was lots more to come. Next we had a big slice of locally smoked & cured ham. (I need to point out that bread was on the table as was mineral water & bottles of red wine. All three were continually replentished.) This was followed by fresh coco beans cooked in stock with ham cubes & garlic. The meats came just after this. Roasted Lamb steaks & home made duck sausages; there were seconds & thirds & more available. After this came the cheese; a nice chunk of Mont d'Or. Finally we had a choice of three different ice creams. All of this took about 2 1/2 hours as there was lots of conversation between each course.

About midnight the band started up again & the Eau de Vie started passing around. Having had a disasterous encounter with Eau de Vie in the past I declined. The dancing commenced with everybody getting onto the floor. Some of the dances are 'regular' modern dancing, but several are complicated local dances handed down from generation to generation. That was certainly true that night as our youngest dancers were about 3 years old & the oldest well over 80 years old.

We eventually departed, fully, slightly tipsy and very contented.

We do love France & it's people!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dinner the other night

Sorry, I promised a write up on dinner the other night them got busy & didn't do it.
Here goes.

We were 11 people for dinner as we were catching up with friends. I started with an appetiser of Garlic roasted eggplant which was cut into strips & sort of woven together for contrast as I'd used both black & white eggplant. Over this I spread strips of red bell pepper which had been sauteed until soft then blacken a bit. On the side was a generous dollop of aoli with piment de Eschobe. Went down pretty well & all the aoli disappeared even though I'd put a good sized extra bowl of it on the table.
The entree was pasta (rigatoni) with a sauce of fried salmon cubes, large shrimp, finely minced sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil and lots of parmesian. The trick with this is to sear the salmon you've cut into cubes very quickly then take it off heat; put lots of heavy cream into a large frying pan, bring it to the boil & add the tomatoes. Give it a couple of minutes then add the salmon, then the shrimps, then the parmesian, finally the basil leaves. Pour immediately over the pasta. This is really good, really simple & really quick.
Next came a 'French' salad. Just beatutiful fresh lettice, two kinds, some fresh herbs & a light vinagrette. That's it! Clears the palette.
Next was the cheese as described in the previous post.
Dessert was roasted nectarines with a pistachio filling (finely ground pistacios, powdered sugar & butter all processed into a paste.) Just cut the nectarines in half, deseed, fill the cavities with the paste & roast at 380 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature with creme fresch or ice cream.
We also drank a bit of wine to wash this down.
A nice meal with lots of good conversation and one that was pretty easy on the cook.
If you need/want more detail on any of the dishes just let me know.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Found a new cheese vendor yesterday who had some really interesting stuff.

This was at one of my favorite markets, Caussade every Monday. Yesterday being both August and part of a 4 day weekend in France the market was really really crowded. Great fun though & with everything coming into season the shopping was incredible.

Anyway, I noticed a cheese stand that I'd never stopped at before.
Wow! 20 Euros later I left with what you see below: user posted image

Two of the cheeses, the brie de mieux (perfectly ripe) and the St Augur blue (one of our favorites even if it is a 'factory' cheese.) are pretty standard stuff. The other two & the fifth cheese not in the picture aren't. So here's some detail.

As you can see the cheese is called Rouelle, its raw goats milk & comes from the Tarn (just South of us.) It looks very similar to the cheese Bleudauvergne posted on eGullet.. Don't know if its the same or just that thry're both the same shaped & ashed. In any case its mild, slightly chalky in texture and a little different from most chevres.

user posted image

This one is called Pechegos. Another raw milk goats cheese, but with an entirely different taste. Much stronger and a very creamy texture. Note that they're from the same maker, "Le Pic". Questioning revealed that this is a cooperative down in the Tarn; quess where I'm heading soon.

The real gem, however, is pictured below. This is Bouysset chevre. A raw goat's milk brie! I'd only ever found this cheese once before & even this time it was not labeled. The seller wouldn't say where he got it from, but he did say that it was only made at the height of summer.

user posted image

It tastes wonderful, like a brie, but at the same time not like a brie. Sort of hard to describe. I can tell you that our dinner guests made short work of it. Sharing is hard sometimes.

Living in France is so hard.

Ps:See next post for a description of dinner.