Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cassoulete? Was it real?

I ended my last post mentioning making a cassoulete with Louise. Now given my persinikityness about cassoulete I have to ask if this effort was a real cassoulete or just a fancy bean stew. I'm going to describe how Louise & I made it and let you be the judge.

First, Louise went shopping for ingredients. She got a nice ham hock, 3 lamb shanks and a pound of local sausage. (The local sausage seemed to have quite a bit of filler in it & wasn't as good as an all meat Toulouse sausage.) We had brought over a large can of duck confit from France. (I actually prefer to use the canned confit even though I can buy individual pieces or easily make my own when at home in France. Normally the canned stuff is nice & tender and you get quite a lot of extra high quality dick fat.) Louise found some nice dry white beans, not lingots or tarbais, but they were fine. We had the rest of the ingredients available; vegetables for the mirepoix, tomato puree and our herbs. Not to mention a bit of strong red wine.

So, we browned all of the meats, boiled the beans in lots of water for 15 minutes then added garlic (1 head) and the puree to that pot. We sweated the mirepoix for about 20 minutes then added it and the herbs (juniper berries, thyme & herbs de provence) to the bean pot. We let everything rest for half an hour then started our assembly.

Now here was a problem. We didn't have a cassole or other large crock. We also were limited by the oven height of Louise's AGA cooker. The solution was a deep stock pot that just fit the oven with it's lid off. We covered it with foil fot the first cooking. We built up the layers of meat & beans finishing off with the confit. We'd got the bean liquid abour right & only had to add about 1/3 bottle of wine to cover. Into the oven it went for about 3 hours.

The 'cassoulete' then came out & rested for a few hours. It then went back into the oven, uncovered. After about 45 minutes it came out & got its first bread crumb topping. After another half hour, when the crumbs were browned nicely, we pushed the crumbs down into the pot and added the second crumb layer. When this was nicely browned we were ready to eat.

The dish was delicious, all 8 of us throughly enjoyed it. Was it a cassoulete? Well, the ingredients were all there for a classic dish. We could have used a better sausage and the bean to meat ratio was a bit off; we needed more beans. It turned out that the lack of a big earthen ware pot didn't seem to matter from a taste point of view. Of course the presentation wasn't nearly as nice, but it looked good once on the plate.

You be the judge. Sorry that I didn't take any pictures, but you can use your imagination.

I'll be interested to hear any opinions.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Travel Tales & a bit of cooking

We started our journey to England for the holidays on Thursday morning. We had great weather for the trip; sunny & crisp. The car was packed to the gills what with us, Rupert, lots of wine, Christmas presents and What seemed to me to be Linda's entire wardrobe. Off we went.

Near Chateauroux we decided to take a Western route via Rouen instead of our normal route via Paris. Mistake! All went well until we hit Rouen at rush hour. It turns out that the route wasn't all auroroute as we thought, but went through an industrial area with lots of traffic lights. Very very slow. It was 18:30 by the time we got out of the congestion. We stopped so Roop could do his stuff & Linda could call the hotel to tell thm we're running late. The room was fine, but she was told the the dining room closed at 20:30. Gulp! we were 228 kilometers from the hotel & very hungry and fog patches were developing. OK, off we went at a great rate of knots (I hit 160 kph quite a lot of the time) fortunately the traffic by now was very light. We took our autoroute exit for the hotel at 3 minutes to eight. We'd travelled just over 1,000 kilometers. Safe for dinner we thought.

Mistake! I'd printed off detailed maps of exactly where the hotel was, but we still couldn't find it. After wandering a bit we called the hotel again & got directions. Turns out that Google maps had it wrong. The street address for the hotel came up in the wrong village. Even though by now we were really late the hotel had saved a meal for us. A cold meat plate folowed by a sauteed chicken dish followed by a nice cheese plate followed by an excellent creme caramel. Not haute cusine, but good & satisfying.

After a good sleep & breakfast we're off to the channel tunnel. Now, as you may know the English have a thing about dogs. Thus we had to report to the Animal Control Center building with Rupert and his passport. (before we left home he'd been examined by our vet, given worming pills and a shot) So, he gets his chip read Ok, but on his passport it turns out that although the vet has stamped it for his rabies booster shot she hasn't signed it. Big problem. On his vaccination record she has both signed & stamped the shot. The French official says he will FAX copies of both documents to England and then get permission to let him in even though his paperwor is not quite right. He does this then starts calling his collegue in England & calling & calling. The guy is not answering. Nearly an hour goes by. What if they won't let him in? Disaster! Finally the French official (who by the way has been very friendly, encouraging & helpfull throughout) sends the guy a fax asking him to call him immediately. This works and much to our relief we're cleared and off. In the end we were only 20 mnutes late, because originally we were very early. You've just got love this bureaucracy?

The trip acroos England to the kids house is easy, no bad traffic, even the dreaded M25 is lear, and we arrive in good shape to a warm welcome and a nice meal. Gosh, but the Grandkids are really getting grown up.

The next day Louise & I decided to make cassoulete for dinner, but that's another post!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frosty French morning

We woke up this morning to brilliant sunshine and frost. We've been having some much needed rain so we welcomed the sun. Also, the frost made the ground firm so we decided to take one of our favorite walks both Rupert & we love this one hour walk.

It around Causseviel a small hamlet at the end of
a dead end road. The country side is rolling and is a combination of meadows and woods. Some are lush and others are 'causse' which is very rocky & sparse. Its only a five minute drive from our house.

Off we go!
We start off a small lane with a cross & head down this track. Field on both sides. Normally there are cows, but not this morning. Expect we'll see them later in a different pasture.

Here comes Roop flying back to us. He's got his coat on just in case the "chasse" sould mistake him for a small brown bear. I think he's having fun!

We stop so Linda can photograph these beautiful leaves. Gorgeous aren't they?

Roop on guard.
Who knows what he sees? "Why are we stopped? Let's go!

More beautiful leaves. The Winter colors are superb.

Off we go again. We're working our way along the bottom of a hill. Soon we'll start up a bit.

We've just turned right & started up. I've always particularly liked this stretch of path. There's a beautiful field off to the right with a small pond for the cows and a path that leads over to La Cazoul.

Here are our regular cows. They've moved to a different field. Pretty aren't they. If you look very closely you can just see the leader's collar & bell.

More cows. Different breed; milkers these. They're getting their hay.

The view opposite the 2ond lot of cows. Lucky cows to have that. The village in the distance is Pech Bernu, population 14. 16 in the summer when our American friends are in residence.

A little abandoned barn. These dot the countryside relics of a more prosperous past. I can't help looking at them & thinking gee, I could buy that & fix it up as a summer place for next to nothing. Dream on!

And so we reach the juniper patch and we're nearly all the way around. Just a right turn past some great stone walls and down the hill to the car.

A beautiful morning, one of our favorite walks and a happy dog. A happy Linda & Dave as well. We're privileged to live in this beautiful country where walks like these abound.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Diet - No, I haven't given up

I'm stuck at my 10 pounds weight loss & have been for a while, but I'm still trying. This 190 pound barrier seems to be a tough one.

I think I'm at a point where I'm to strategise just continuing to keep the 10 pounds off over the holidays and then make a big push for the second 10 pounds in January.

Last night we went to special Greek evening at a friends restaurant, tonight we're having slow roast belly pork and Wednesday we're out for dinner. Thursday we leave for England and a round of visits with kids & grandkids, Linda's family and friends. I'm going to be hard pressed to keep the 10 pounds.

Its a tough life.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Good Deed for the day

As Rupert & I were pulling out of the drive on our way to his morning walk we had to stop for a van coming up the lane. This is a pretty rare sight as we get 5 cars a day if we're lucky. Well not only did we have to stop, but the van driver got out & waved me down! A closer look revealed that there were two vans both from Salson who are a local dealer in household appliances.

We hadn't ordered anything from them recently although they got all of our orders for major appliances when we redid our kitchen. Still, I recognized the driver as he had delivered to us back then. Hummmm... what's going on?

Turns out he's looking for a Mr Stanley. Do I know where he lives? Well, no I don't, but I do know that there are some English people who live down the road a ways. Perhaps this is Mr Stanley? Wait, I say, I'll go ask my wife. She doesn't know either. I go back out & he shows me the delivery slip. Mr Stanley, Lacaou. Ah HA! I'm pretty sure Lacaou is where I think the nameless English couple live.

Follow me I tell them I know where Lacaou is. Ok, but they decide to turn around instead of following me up the lane. Now this is dangerous as the lane is one way. (Jacques found this out to his cost, but that's another story.) Anyway I went up, turned Left, drove down the road towards Caylus & waited for them. Sure enough they appeared and then followed me for the few hundred yards to the lane on the right up to Lacaou. I waved, they waved and Rupert barked. Good deed for the day done.

This is typical of the local Gallic logic. They came to us because they knew we were English. (well I'm American, but let's not get into nuances here.) Because we're Anglais the French automatically assume that we know every other English person within a 10 mile radius. Logical isn't it? Not true of course, but virtually impossible to convince the locals otherwise.

This happens pretty frequently with the Mail lady. Any letter that has an Anglo-Saxon name on it which she doesn't know gets delivered to us in the hope that we'll know. We only recently found out that she keeps trying until she finds the addressee; if we don't know she takes them to Micheal & Ruve & if they don't know she goes to Denise & Alan and so on.

Guess what? The Gallic logic works. Most of the time the letters get delivered to the right party and people do get found. I'm sure that Mr Stanley is now enjoying his new appliances whatever they may be.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Paris - It ain't all bad

After all the bad press Paris has been getting lately what with strikes, riots and general grittiness I thought it might be a good idea to redress the balance at least a little bit with a true story of how nice Parisians can be.
Now, I am not an admirer of cities in general. I must say, however, that after San Francisco Paris is pretty high on my list. I've been going there for over 40 years and still like it. Like all big cities Paris is a better place to be a tourist in that as a place to live in. Unless, that is, you're reasonably well heeled. Of course then anywhere is a better place than if not, but I digress. At any rate this story is true and happened just last week on Thanksgiving day as a matter of fact.
A friend of ours had to leave our Thanksgiving lunch to go down to Montauban to pick up her parents who were supposed to arrive from England that day BY TRAIN! Of course the strikes were on so she really didn't expect them to arrive, but since she hadn't heard she had to go down just in case. The parents who are 88 & 82 were coming from England via Paris. They were warned & advised not to try the trip, but too wait as they had to change trains in Paris which also involved getting across town from on station to another. Difficult with the strikes. They came anyway not bothering to let anybody know about their progress or lack thereof.

In Paris They were helped by a succession of kind people (bear in mind that they speak very few words of French) First somebody helped them off the train & snagged a porter for them. He then barged them to the front of a very long taxi line & grabbed the next cab for them. The taxi driver hailed another porter for them at the other station. He took them right to their train and made sure they had good seats. Nothing but kindness & efficiency. What strikes? What rudeness? They arrived exactly on time fresh as daisy's.

Its doubtful that this happens all the time, but it does happen. For my money Paris ain't all that bad. And you can still eat well for not a lot of money if you know what you're doing.

Diet - Day whatever In the doldrums

Well. I'm just hanging around 191 to 193 pounds and have been for the last week. This 190 pound barrier is proving hard to break.
Guess I've just got to try harder. It would help if I were stricter with myself. I have had a few glasses of wine and even a piece of carrot cake on Thanksgiving. Straight & narrow is what I need.

I bought some dry sausages (three for 10 Euros) at market today. I got capes, torus & Avyronaise varieties each about 200 G, not bad. He's always at the Thursday market. When I bought my Butternut squash the girl on the stall asked how I was going to cook it. (Cut in half length ways. cut deep grooves into each half in both directions, a good dab of butter in the cavities, then plenty of fresh grated nutmeg all over & bake in a hot oven until done) We got through all of this except the nutmeg. I couldn't remember the French word for it. Its muscade. Think we got there using other word & gestures.

Otherwise cold & quiet. Did have friends over for a light supper and poker the other night. I won. Too bad we don't play for money.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jacques Viguie - a fond farewell & dignified passing

We lost a friend today.
I remember when we first bought our house here we would fly in then all jet lagged wake up early the next morning. We'd see the smoke rising from the boulangerie chimney and know that all was well. Jacques was making bread. When we moved here permanently Jacques was one of the first to greet us as new neighbors; he and Madame Viguie were the first of the villagers to invite us to their home. (funny how after 6 years she is still Madame & I have no idea of what her Christian name is, but Jacques was always Jacques.) We were invited for "un petit gout" (a little taste). We weren't sure what that might be but found out that it was succession of small dished accompanied by appropriate drink. Jacques was particularly proud of his very own eau de vie. First we had the 'new' stuff, then the very old stuff. Wonderful, but watch out!
Slowly we learned more about Jacques; ex pig farmer, ex truck driver, retired bread maker. And what bread! Real country sourdough with crust that is out of this world. (I say is because after a two year plus apprenticeship with her father his daughter, Monique, took over the business & moved it to Villefranche, Jacques retired. She now has three shops & her father used to go every morning to bring back the bread for the village. What happens now?) He did his military duty in Algeria & didn't like it. In fact he liked right where he was in the village. He was born here & died here; a content soul.
Yet he was well informed about the world, curious and inquisitive. Jacques always had time for a chat & a laugh. He walked by our place several times a week with his dog, Olga. We'd try to chat & the dogs would play. I say try because there was a real language problem what with my pathetic French which he had trouble understanding & my inability to penetrate Jacques' local accent. His native language was Occitan & he started learning French when he was 6 years old & started school. Somehow though we communicated, somehow I came to regard him as a friend. He was always there, he was always positive and one knew you could count on him. I remember a typical Jacques deed; some friends came to visit & were having trouble finding our house so they asked at the boulangerie (a good tip by the way; if you want to find somebody in France just ask there.) Jacques promptly got in their car and brought them to our place. He was that kind of man.
I'll miss him. We all will.

That was obvious at his funeral today. It was a wonderful, dignified and moving occasion.Very fitting.
As is the French custom we all waited outside the church. The coffin arrived with an honor guard of war veterans from nine surrounding communes their flags draped in black, the coffin draped in the French flag. They entered the church followed by the family (Linda & I almost lost it then seeing poor Madame Viguie, her head bowed, grieving in public. She is such a private person. Jacques was her best friend as well as her husband) We then all filed in. The church was full, it was standing room only. The singing was beautiful and local; perhaps not the best choir, but they meant every word. The communion service was very moving. We did lose it when Jacques younger daughter got up to speak: "Papa...." Very very moving. Her last conversation with her father.The coffin and the honor guard left followed by all of us. A simple, heart felt service.
The French do these things so well. I was proud of them, proud of our village, proud to be part of it.
Farewell Jacques!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Deconstructed turkey Part #2

Sorry I didn't have time to post yesterday, but with 16 for Thanksgiving lunch all of whom arrived at 2 PM & left just after 7 PM there just wasn't time. I did, however, manage to take a few pictures.

Here's the turkey after 1 1/2 hours in the oven at 375 F. (Note: I forgot to take the turkey out of the fridge at least 2 hours before it went in the oven. If I had it would have been further along after this time.) At this point the leg/thighs were at 160F.
After 10 more minutes the leg/thighs came out just as they reached 168 F. The breasts were at 145F. They got basted again & were left in for 20 more minutes. Two hours total and the temperature was 151F when I took them out. 15 minutes later they were at 160F. The carcass was then left to rest for another 25 minutes.

Here's what was left after carving (sorry I was too busy for picture taking as we carved & served up.) As you can see there's nothing left on the carcass. Note the the inside of the ribs is just barely pink showing that the breasts were just cooked through. I didn't carve the leg ends, but kept them for later use. Same with the wings.

Here'e the result. Lots of nice white meat slices surrounded by dark meat fillets. This served 16 people with plenty to spare. I did cheat in that this was a 4 legged turkey so I had plenty of dark meat. We also had a ham which I'd brined & baked.

We had coco beans with glazed onions and balsamic vinegar, roast potatoes, saute carrots AND the pease pudding shown below.
The pease pudding is a dish from the North of England where Linda was brought up. Its absolutely delicious if made correctly as Linda does. Its an ideal accompaniment for ham.

We also had a bit of cheese. This is our friend Jacques idea of restraint when it comes to cheeses. Only nine different varieties.

Carrot cake for a truly American touch. This one was particularly good if I do say so myself.

Finally, a little chocolate mousse with whipped cream just in case anybody was still hungry.

So for us a wonderful Thanksgiving shared with close friends. Our French friends are beginning to look forward to it as much as we do.

PS: I'll post of the diet separately, but I can say that I was able to be pretty good. Tiny dessert portions. My only downfall was the Domaine de la Ramaye wine. Just too good to pass up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Deconstructed Roast Turkey - Part #1

This is the first part of doing a deconstructed turkey. The great thing about deconstructing the bird is that it makes it much easier to roast, much quicker to cook & far easier to carve. My method is based upon a technique I originally saw in a book by Julia Child & Jacques Pepin. I'm indebted to them .

Here's the bird & the knives I use for the deconstruction.

You start by putting the bird breast side down on a chopping board. Make sure the neck & wishbone are removed. Make cuts on either side of the backbon
e. Then using the cleaver and the heavy chef's knife start cutting through the carcass down both sides of the backbone.

Continue cutting and chopping (when necessary)
until you have completely removed the backbone.

When the backbone is completely removed wash the cavity and trim any loose pieces.

You can now chop the backbone into several lengths have some nice pieces for your stock.

At this point it is a good idea to cut off the wing tips. (last joint on the wing).

Now remove the leg & thigh as one piece by carefully cutting around them at the carcass.
Normally, the joint attaching the thigh to the carcass is easy to find and the attaching meat & tendons simple to cut.

One the leg/thigh pieces are removed chop off the end of the leg (if present. Some birds already have this bit at the end with the unfeathered skin removed)

We are now ready to start de-boning the leg/ thigh pieces.

First make sure that your boning knife is very sharp.

Lay the leg/thigh cut sid
e up on your cutting block and start by making a cut along the line of the thigh bone from the 'knee' to the carcass end. Now gently cut along both sides of the thigh bone then slide your knife under the bone and cut towards the carcass end to free the meat.

Continue cutting and trimming right up to the knee joint.

Now move to the leg end and follow
the same technique of cutting along the bone. (now towards the knee joint) then one either side and finally sliding under the leg bone.

Now the slightly tricky part. Carefully cut around the knee joint. This takes a bit of patience as you feel for the meat and try to avoid cutting through the skin.

Make sure that you cut out the "knee cap" (I'm not sure that's what it really is, but its the right shape & is in the right place)

Finally, the bone
s will come free and you have more scraps for your stock.

The pictures above are of the boned leg/thigh on the left & the same leg/thigh rolled over and put back together.

In case I get too busy tomorrow here's what comes next.

  1. Grease a large baking tin.
  2. Place your stuffing on it in a mound then place the turkey carcass over it, breast side up. Use your fingers to push in any stray bits.
  3. Place some more stuffing in the leg/thighs & close them with skewers or sew them up. Place the leg/thighs in the roasting tin, cut side up.
  4. Salt & pepper the lot & place in a pre-heated oven at 375 F.
  5. Baste frequently after the first half hour. Turn the leg/thighs over so that the skin side is up after 45 minutes.
  6. After 1 1/2 hours the leg/thighs should be done. (170 F in the thick part) Take them out to rest.
  7. Check the breast meat every 10 minutes and take it out when its temperature reaches 150 - 160 F. Let rest for AT LEAST 20 minutes, 30 is better.
  8. Put the leg/thighs back so it looks like a whole turkey again & show it off the the assembled hoards.
  9. Now take it all out & carve. For the leg/thighs you should be able to pull out the leg tendons & just carve nice pieces.
  10. For the breast it is easiest to carve off a whole breast by cutting down the side of the carcass. You can then carve the breast ACROSS THE GRAIN into nice slices.
Voila! there you have it . Turkey the easy way. Delicious

Diet Days up to 20 Quick report on a bit of progress

Just a quick update as I'm busy getting ready for Thanksgiving. I've made a bit of progress since my last report. (apologies for doing day 14 twice. Good trick if you can pull it off)

Today's weight was 191.8 pounds, 13 stone 9.8 pounds, 87.23 kilos.

Cumulative weight loss is now 9.8 pounds, 4.45 kilos.

Breaking the 13 stone 10 pound barrier is important psychologically as its usually a stumbling block for me. Hopefully, if I can be sensible tomorrow, I can keep going at a steady rate. Only 10 pounds to go.

Activity as per usual; walks with Rupert, some shopping, visiting friends, not drinking wine. Pretty quiet really. Drove over to pick up the turkey from the vineyard yesterday & bought some wine to take to England. Interesting the turkey was 57 Euros, 15 liters of wine was only 35 Euros. Go figure! Did a lot of preparation this morning including making a carrot cake with fromage frais frosting.

Nothing spectacular in the eating line although last night we did sample the curried pumpkin soup and the ham I've brined & baked for Thanksgiving. Both were good except that Linda wants to tweak her soup a bit. Don't know why as I thought it was great.

Next comes turkey preparation. She's getting deconstructed. I'm going to take pictures & attempt a recipe for this blog. Probably too late for Thanksgiving, but maybe good for Christmas or New Year.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Diet - days 14 & 14 Hanging up

Flat is the word. The same weight for two days in a row. And we're going out to dinner tonight.

I'm at 193.2, 13 stone 11.2 pounds, 87.82 kilos.

I'm struggling to get past the milestones of 13 stone 10 pounds and/or a total loss of 10 pounds. As I think about it I remember at around this weight there is for me a sticking point. I seem to hover around this weight and find it hard to get below.

Persistence is what I need to practice so I will.

Today was a big relief. We took Rupert to a vet in Cahors to see if we could get to the bottom a of persistent cough he has had for over a month. He's had several exams by Huguette, our regular vet whom he loves, then x-rays which showed an abscess, then lots of anti-biotic' s which cured the abscess, but not the cough. We were getting really worried. Today they put him out and used an endoscope to see down his throat. They found a large piece of bone or wood stuck pretty deep down. They were able to push this on down into his stomach where it should pass on through Ok. Soft foods for a while, but no cough thank goodness.

Eating? Nothing too special. Good old fashioned pork & beans which I made from the hock of the ham I'm brining for Thanksgiving the other night. Then baby back ribs yesterday for dinner. I call these our free ribs since I get them when I buy my pork bellies at about $1.50 per pound. I just have to cut them out. Don't tell the French though as for some reason they don't seem to have discovered just how good the ribs are.

A poser for you. At the market in Cahors today (while we waited for Roop to come out of it) one of the butchers was selling. "souris agneau" Literally translates to Lamb mice.
Anybody know what part of the lamb this might be? I can tell you that its not a 'funny' bit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Does cassoulete have a soul?

Every fall one of the things I look forward to is the first cassoulete of the year. Its become a yearly ritual since we moved to France to have a cassoulete lunch with lots of friends every year. Sometimes it just lunch, sometimes we organize a country walk before lunch so as to have a 'proper' appetite for the cassoulete. We're fortunate in that there are lovely walks you can take straight from our house. One of the advantages of country living, I guess.

In any case this year there were 14 of us for the cassoulete. Six of whom were visitors from the states & England. Thus it was two, not one, cassoulete's that I made. Now I do enjoy the whole process of making a cassoulete, it somehow epitomizes to me the essence of country cooking :French country cooking in particular. Thus I make my cassoulete slowly and carefully taking my time over each step. The recipe is my own developed over years of experience (There is a pictorial version of my recipe earlier in this blog), but true to the origins and the ingredients of the dish which are not far away here in South West France. Thus, it has duck, pork in various guises, white beans, tomato and so forth. In my case I add lamb as well which is a more Northernly variation.

Now, there are nearly as many cassoulete recipes as there are cassoulete makers and I'm all for variation and updating, deconstructing and all that. BUT, I do think that in a dish like cassoulete there are proprieties to be observed. By all means do what you wish, but don't go too far and still call it cassoulete. Call it whatever you like. (for example; I recently saw a "cassoulete" made with canned Spanish beans. NO, please call it Spanish bean soup or something else, not cassoulete)

Which leads me to my original point; does cassoulete have a soul? In my opinion yes. One brings together a set of ingredients, a method of preparing and cooking and love and care as one does it so that what emerges is a dish with soul. The dish becomes evocative of a place and a society. It has soul because you put your soul into it as you go through the creative process which produces this dish.

I would contend that given the wherewithal I could make a cassoulete and serve it anywhere in the world and evoke in the eaters who had been to SW France a sense of that place. And for those who had never visited France a slight glimmering of what France and the South West in particular is all about.

By now, hopefully, you will have realized that I'm using cassoulete as a metaphor for those many things that identify a country, region, society. It could be steak & kidney pie in England or Osso Bucco in Italy whatever. It need not be food; a French cafe is as surely only French as an English pub is English. These symbols identify a culture.

Which sort of leads me to where I want to end up. That is with a plea to respect those symbols that identify a culture. Listen, observe, partake and above all feel what is symbolic of that culture. Only then will you begin to understand that culture, begin to appreciate it and begin to feel comfortable in it. It s worth the effort - believe me.

Make a cassoulete or your favorite evocative dish. Do it with care and love and I think you will agree with me: Yes, a cassoulete does have soul.

Diet - Days 11 & 12 a leap forward

Well a little progress at last. I hate these pauses in weight loss even through I know that they're inevitable.

Anyway, today I weighed 193.2 pounds, 13 stone 11.2 pounds, 87.82 kilos.

That's 2.1 pounds, almost a kilo in two days.

That's 8.4 pounds, 3.82 kilos since I started.

I'm pleased, but would love to make 10 pounds within the next couple of days so as to reach the halfway mark. Thanksgiving is coming up in a week so I'd like to be in good shape by then. I'll be as good as possible even though we're having 16 to Thanksgiving lunch. If I can be good on the wine the desserts won't pose a problem.

Monday we had a light lunch and had poached salmon & chicken breast with a flavored mayonnaise sauce and multiple vegetables for dinner. One glass of wine. Yesterday we were out a lot so had substantial cheese & pates for lunch, but only a meat salad with cornichons that I bought from the traiteur for dinner.

I'm encouraged, feel great and can feel the weight loss in the way my clothes fit.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Diet - Days 9 & 10 Creeping

I managed to go through these two days and have a small weight loss. About 1/2 pound which is Ok I guess all things considered.

Present weight is 195.3 pounds (13 stone 13.7 pounds, 88.77 kilos)

Thus, I've managed a little over 6 pounds since I started. I've just got to keep it up.

From an eating point of view I'm a bit surprised. On Saturday I kept strictly to the method and my weight was flat.
On Sunday we had friends over for lunch so I cooked. Cold mussel with Ravinole sauce & mussel soup; slow roasted belly pork with roasted cauliflower, onions & saute courgettes; cheese and baked apple (heirloom, of course) with caramel & lemon cheese. Three glasses of wine. Hardly a light meal. I lost 0.6 pounds. Go figure!

I'll just have to keep going.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

TarteTatin The Old Fashioned Way

I've been threatening to post this recipe for some time. Finally, here it is. I've called this 'The old Fashioned Way' because its the way I've been making Tarte Tatin for some 25 years. Think I first learned how to make it from Julia's original book. This is the stove top method and I'll readily admit that it more work & messier than doing it in the oven, but Linda (who hates me getting caramel all over the kitchen) prefers it despite that & I think I do too. Besides its far more dramatic. Get your friends to watch you & Ohh & Aww!

Equipment: A good knife, an apple corer, an 8 or 9 inch non-stick frying pan (preferably with a removable handle, but if not a handle that will stand oven heat.), a mixing bowl and a flat plate for the finished tarte.

  1. 6- 8 apples, Granny Smith's by preference, but in case apples that don't fall apart when cooked.
  2. One lemon.
  3. 1 & 1/2 cups of sugar.
  4. 3 oz unsalted butter.
  5. Enough pate brise (butter pie crust) to cover an 8-9 inch pan.

First core the apples then trim the end flat & peel.

Cut each apple into 1/8ths

Peel the zest off of the lemon, juice it and put both juice & zest into the mixing bowl along with 1/2 cup of the sugar.

Add all of the apples & give a good stir with your hands to coat the apples throughly.

Now, melt the butter in the frying pan and add the remaining cup of sugar.

Stir gently, but constantly. Do not panic as the mixture goes all bubbly, then separates just keep stirring until it starts to smoke. When that happens turn off the heat.

Now comes the first tricky part.

Start laying the apples pieces on their sides around the perimeter of the pan.
Obviously you need to be very careful as you do this. A wooden spoon to nudge the pieces around helps.
Continue until you have completed a first layer, then
start a second.

Put the pan back onto a medium high heat. Using a bulb baster or a spoon start basting the apples.

You will need to do several bastin
g's. ( About now turn your oven on to 200 degrees C.)

After 5 minutes or so cover the pan for 5 minutes. Then uncover & baste, then cover again.

Give the apples about 15-20 minutes of cooking time. You will see them start to soften. Get you crust out and start rolling it out. You need the diameter of the pan plus a goodly bit to trim.

Turn the heat off. Fold the
crust in half & gently lay over the pan.

Trim the crust all round & tuck it into the INSIDE of the pan. Poke a few vent holes in the top.

Place the tarte in the top half of the 200 C oven and bake until the crust is nicely browned. (About 15 minutes) (NOTE: If your pan has a removable handle great. If no
t then put the pan in the oven & leave the door open a bit at the top if the handle won't fit.)

Take the pie out (WATCH OUT FOR HOT HANDLE & PAN!!) and check to see that the caramel is fairly thick by tilting the pan. If it runs too easily place the pan back over medium high heat on the stove top for a few more minutes.

You are now ready for "the moment of truth". Let the pie cool for no more than 3-4 minutes. Get the plate the pie will be on and place it, inverted, on top of the tarte.

Quickly, but smoothly turn the tarte over as shown.

Gently lift the pan off and....

With any luck the tarte comes out whole.

If not usually you can repair any minor damage.

Let the tarte cool & then serve. My preference is to serve Tarte Tatin at room temperature, but it delicious at any temperature and accompanied by Cream, Ice cream or Creme fraîche.

If you prefer a more golden color for your tarte simply don't cook the caramel until its as dark brown as shown before putting the apples in. Take it off heat the moment it starts to smoke. The caramel will be less thick, but still delicious.

Enjoy. I'd love to hear how your efforts come out and how easy or otherwise the recipe is to follow.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Diet - Days 7 & 8 Holding my own

Sorry that I missed day 7. No news, however, is no news. The past two days I've just stayed flat from a weight point of view.

Don't know why Wednesday was flat as I neither ate or drank anything I shouldn't have. Just one of those flat periods where the body is adjusting.

Thursday I was lucky to stay flat what with a glass of wine at lunch plus sharing the wonderful wine described in my last post with Linda & Jacques. But somehow I did.

Today I was good food & drink wise so we'll see what the scales say in the morning.

I'm just about ready (having done up all of the photographs) to post a detailed pictorial recipe for Tarte Tatin. That should be fun and is a wonderful dessert for Thanksgiving.

Only in France - Episode 127

A diversion from the diet posts is in order. Yesterday I had one of those French experiences that seem to only happen here and which make me love living here. Not surprisingly it concerns wine!
Yesterday morning I played golf with my usual two partners. It was foggy & pretty cold & I played even worse than my normal pathetic round. The good news was that our favorite restaurant was open again. (They've been closed a lot since the owner's wife has been away helping her seriously ill father. Unfortunately he has now died. You learn these things as a regular patron.) The daily lunch was excellent as always (poached egg with a scallop sauce, Grilled pigeon breasts and a passion fruit sorbet surrounded by spicy bread cubes) I tried to order a favorite wine, but it was all gone so I tried another & that was all gone as well. (This is a small place so their cellar is good, but shallow. They can't afford to keep a large stock.)

At this point the owner/chef proposed a wine that wasn't on the list. Thought we'd like it & it was the same price as the others. The wine turned out as expected to be local. It was a 2003 La Combe d'Aves from Domaine de Ramaye. It was absolutely superb! This wine could hold its own against virtually anything I can think of. WoW! So, we asked exactly where it came from & it turned out that it was only about 15 minutes away. We had to go, so off we went.
The directions were spot on. Through Gaillac, take the Montauban Road, at the roundabout turn towards the church then take the small lane to the right just before the church. We went up this lane for about a kilometer and there was Domaine de Ramaye on our left. The sign on the gate said that they were open from 2:00 PM as it was 2:15 we were just about right. We drove into a nice, but very ramshackle garden. Walnuts, Apples & leaves all over the ground. There were a couple of cars and a huge Mas (chai, properly, I guess) covered in Virginia creeper. Beautiful. On the left was a sign & an open door to the tasting room.

In we went. It was dark & there was nobody there. We called out, but still nobody. I found the light switch. Still not bright, but we could now see all the the wine around us. Lots of it in all shapes & sizes. Still nobody. We found the price lists and descriptions. Turns out that they make a range of 6 different wines; three reds & three whites. Prices are Ok; the Le Combe d'Aves we want is 14 Euros. Not bad for a wine of this quality. Still nobody.

We go outside then knock on the door of the main house, no answer. We wander around back. The wine making area is open with the key in the lock, still nobody. I go back & honk the horn on the car - loudly & repeatedly - no luck. By now we're very determined. We will buy this wine! Eventually, we spot a car parked about 150 meters up the road; maybe this person knows something? So we get in the car & drive up. Ah ha! Half a dozen people in the vineyard. Are you from the Domaine we ask? Oui. Can we buy some wine? Oui, peut-être.
A little reluctantly Madame comes out of the vineyard and heads towards the tasting room. (Turns out that they are harvesting grapes for the late harvest wine called Le vin de l'Oubli, this is sort of like what they make in Germany called "ice Wein". But that's a whole new story.)
We get to the tasting room and start getting the story of the Domaine and the wines. Its all very interesting especially as many of the grapes they grow are very old varieties. Her husband, M. Michel Issaly, is the wine maker. He is dedicated to using the latest modern techniques to improve the quality of his wines, but still using the traditional local varieties of grapes. He's succeeeding in our opinion. the La Combe d'Aves, for instance, is aged for 32 months in old oak barrels. He makes a nice 'house' wine for only 4 Euros a bottle.

I find a price list which shows the La Combe for years from 1999 & older. The 1999 is only priced at 15 Euros; gosh a one Euro premium over the 2003 sounds a pretty good deal to me. Is it even better I ask? Of course says Madame, but you can only buy one bottle. We're running out. Ok I decide to buy a 12 bottle case of the 2003 plus my alloted bottle of 1999. Madeame say Ok, but she has to get her husband as she doesn't know where he's got the 1999 hidden. He comes down from the vineyard and manages to find 4 bottles. Two for me ^ one each for my friends. We settle up. (nothing rustic about paying, they take every credit card known to man.)

Its only taken us just short of an hour to buy our wine. But, we had a lot of fun & a minor adventure doing it. Next time I'm going to buy some of the 'lost' wine. (Le vin de l'Oubli means "forgotten wine!)

When I got home our friend Jacques was there doing some painting so he, Linda & I shared the 1999 along with some garlic sausage & olives. The wine really is superb and I was doubly chuffed to be able to share it with Jacques who knows his wines.

Once again an experience that can only occur in France. The people, their character and way of life have an endearing quality that is hard to match.

Have a look at their website: http://www.michelissaly.com/index.php. And try the pigeon recipe.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Diet Day 6 Back on track!

A much better day. Great weight loss today. Linda say the diet only blog is getting boring; so I've included a recipe today. Its for the lamb stew we had for dinner, one of my favorites.

The weigh in: 195 pounds, 13 stone 13 pounds, 88.6 kilograms.

Weight lost: 1.4 pounds, N/A, 1.1 kilogram.

Cumulative weight loss: 6.8 pounds, 1/2 stone, 3.1 kilo.

What did I do? Took a relatively short walk with Rupert then went to market at Caylus to get fresh vegetables and olive oil. Most of the rest of the day was on the computer making booking for our Holiday trip to England, fixing a problem on a friend's website and starting a new website for another friend. Then I did some cooking, nothing fancy.

What did you eat? Lunch was simple. White bean soup that Linda had made with cheese & pate on Swedish crisp bread. Dinner is going to be (its simmering away as I type this) Lamb stew with lentils accompanied by Brussels sprouts. What follows is the Lamb stew recipe.

Ingredients: Lamb bits ( can be neck, breast, belly, but in any case cheap cuts. Here I buy poitrine which is belly. Its cheap, has lots of flavor and is easy to work with.
Mirepoix ( carrots, onion & celery chopped medium fine in this case.
Green lentils
Garlic (roughly chopped)
Stock (lamb, beef, vegetable whichever you prefer)
Tomato puree
Red wine.
Fat ( for browning the lamb - I use duck fat, but olive oil works as well.)


  1. chop up the lamb into easily handled pieces.
  2. Brown the lamb throughly in the fat using a deep pot.
  3. Lower the heat & add the mirepoix & garlic. stir well.
  4. Let the mirepoix sweat for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the lentils.
  6. Add the stock until everything is almost covered.
  7. Add the tomato puree.
  8. Add enough red wine so that everything is just covered.
  9. Simmer partly covered for roughly 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally (until the lentils are soft.)
  10. Check seasoning. Check liquid level (adding or reducing as necessary)
  11. Serve with vegetables.
This stew is very simple, but absolutely delicious. It doesn't look great, but don't be fooled. And it fits my diet!

I'm really encouraged. Can't wait to see how this continues. The rate of loss is bound to slow up.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Diet - Day 5 Progress resumes - barely & a recipe

Well at least I lost something, its not much, but better than nothing.

The weigh in: 196.2 pounds, 14 stone 0.2 pounds, 89.2 kilograms.

Daily Weight loss: 0.2 pounds, N/A. .09 kilo

Cumulative weight loss:
5.4 pounds, N/A, 2.45 kilograms.

What did you do? Morning walk with Rupert as usual. Linda & I went on a major food shopping expedition to Villefranche. Bought mounds of vegetables & fruit plus meats & fish. Our local Hyper Market (HyperU) really is very good, not quite up to outdoor market standards, but more than acceptable. Had a good visit with first Huguette (Roop's vet & our friend) then Jacques (another friend). Quiet evening.

What did you eat? Lunch was cheese, pate and salad. When our visitors were here we had serrano ham & olives and I allowed myself a full glass of wine (didn't want Jacques to drink alone). Then we had a roast chicken stuffed with garlic and broccoli, coco beans and gravy.

Now you know why the weight loss was so small. Even though I waited until I had quite a bit of food on my stomach before drinking the wine it still slowed things up. Better tomorrow.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Diet Day 4 Could have been better

No progress today. No loss, but no gain. Not unexpected as I'll explain later.

The weigh in: Everything the same.

Daily weight loss: Zero

Cumulative weight loss: As before.

What did you do? Linda, Rupert & I took a good walk even though it was a bit foggy and cold. Up through some woods, along nice tracks, then a road and finally back to our starting place. Went home and had a look at the Sunday paper then got ready to go out to lunch at some friends house. Nice lunch (described below) with nice people and good conversation. Lunch broke up about 5:00 PM. We went home & rescued poor Rupert who had his legs crossed by then.

What did you eat? Going out to lunch at friends is difficult. In this case there were cashew nuts that I could nibble (although I think I had too many) and leave the potato chips and bread with a caviar like spread alone. I had a small glass of orange juice. Dinner was a really good chicken corma. I had a good sized portion of that along with lots of string beans. Did not eat the rice or roast potatoes. There was a fruit salad for dessert (this was in addition to the plum crumble). I had a small portion. I also had about 1/2 a glass of red wine about halfway through the meal.
At home later in the evening I had a cheese plate with cucumbers & dill pickles.

Now you know why I didn't lose any weight yesterday. We'll see what happens today.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Diet - Day 3 Keeping going

Third day's over and not bad at all. Easy enough to keep off the bad stuff except that I do miss my glass of wine.

The Weigh in: 196.4 pounds, 14 stone 0.4 pounds, 89.3 kilograms.

Weight loss day 3: 1.6 pounds, Not relevant, .72 kilogram.

Cumulative weight loss: 5.2 pounds, 2.36 kilograms.

What did I do? Started with a good long walk with Rupert; over an hour. Then ran some errands in Caylus. Did a bit of computer work. The afternoon was mainly more shutter sanding & painting. Finished by reading & TV watching. A pretty quiet day.

What did I eat? No breakfast as is normal for me; just decaf coffee. Lunch was a 3 egg cheese (laguiole) omelette with a large salad (mache, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumber & creamy vinaigrette.).
For dinner we had Toulouse sausage with broccoli and coco beans. I had a small Cabecou (goat's cheese) cheese on Swedish crisp bread as a sort of dessert.

Another good day from the weight loss point of view. I just hope this loss rate keeps up for a while.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Diet - Day 2 Settling in

The second day was fine. I enjoyed myself all day and managed to lose a bit of weight.

The weigh in: 198 pounds, 14 stone 2 pounds, 90 kilograms.

Day's weight loss: 0.8 pounds, Not significant, 364 grams.

Cumulative weight loss: 3.6 pounds, Not significant, 1 kilo 636 grams.

What did I do? Most of the day was taken up with Golf. I picked up one friend then another and off we went to the mighty 6 hole course near Gaillac. Cold & foggy, but no matter. We played round the six holes and I played well by my pathetic standards. Even managed a par on the 6th. It was still to early of lunch so we played 3 more holes. I should have quit while I was ahead, I was awful.
Tragedy, our favorite restaurant (and the real reason why we play golf here) was closed. So, off we go to a nearby town where there is a cafe that does lunches. 11 Euros for three courses including 1/4 liter wine. I must say the 'Madame' was not exactly a bundle of joy, pretty surly actually. Still she condescended to let us order lunch. I'll describe the lunch below, but suffice it to say that it was good. The cook wasn't surly.
Got home about 4 PM and did some more shutter work then dinner then a quiet evening. (nice documentary on Johnny Cash on TV.)

What did I eat? I was in a rush to get away in the morning so I only had part of my cup of decaf coffee. The three course lunch menu at the restaurant offered a plate of cold meats (charcuterie ) as one of the choices. Nice selection including a homemade rabbit terrine en croûte. I didn't eat the pastry. The main course was a pork steak with a mushroom sauce. Very good indeed. It came with roasted potatoes which my companions were happy to have. One could have dessert or cheese so there was an easy choice. Three kinds. I drank water and my friends were delighted to share my wine.
At home Linda had been slow roasting a shoulder of lamb for most of the day. A large portion of this plus leeks, peas and more cauliflower made for a nice dinner. Didn't have any cheese afterwards.

Day 2 worked even though I'm finding it a bit hard to change my bad habits. Past experience tells me that it will get easier as the days progress. I hope!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Diet day 1 - off to a good start

Well, here we go the first full day on the diet. Results?

Weigh in: 198.8 pounds, 14 stone 2.8 pounds, 90.34 kilograms.

One day weight loss: 2.8 pounds, 1.27 kilograms.

An auspicious start even though I'm sure much of the loss was simply getting rid of stored water. Still its encouraging to start off with a bang. I know that it will get harder later.

What did I do yesterday? Started the day with a walk with Rupert (our standard poodle & my avatar) We went for about an hour through the woods & along a low ridge. We both had our international Orange garments on since the local hunt was around & we didn't want to get shot by accident.
After that I spend a good portion of the day sanding & painting shutters. Not a job I enjoy, but they need it & winter's coming on. Had a restful evening with TV & reading.
A reasonably active day which I think helps even though this diet isn't about exercise particularly.

What did I eat? The day started with a big mug of coffee as is normal. Yesterday, however, the coffee was decaf instead of fully loaded. Montignac advises that caffeine is bad for you and your weight. I doubt that its a big deal, but giving up caffeine is no big deal either so why not.
I never eat breakfast, so I didn't. Never have & think the 'importance' is vastly overblown.
Lunch was two big bowls of Linda's homemade vegetable soup (delicious) and a selection of cheeses; about 5 kinds and probably roughly 3-4 oz in all.
Dinner was salmon steaks, pan fried in butter. With these we had large portions of braised leeks and cauliflower two ways. One way was simple steaming & the other was oven roasting. The oven roasting was superior. Was going to have cheese for dessert, but wasn't hungry so didn't.

Thus ended day 1. Successful as it turned out from the weight point of view and no big sacrifices from the food point of view. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Diet - D-day est arrive!

November 1st; D-day. I go onto the Montignac Method as of right now. (well, not actually, I started this morning with decaf coffee and had vegetable soup & a selection of cheeses for lunch. Its now about 5:30 as I write this.)

So far so good, I've survived 9 hours. Don't feel particularly hungry, but I'm sure I will enjoy my dinner. (grilled salmon with cauliflower and leeks)

Ah! The dreaded weigh in. 201.6 pounds, 13stone 5.6 pounds, 91.6 kilograms. Yuck!

Not my worst, but really bad. Not a surprise, but I had sort of hoped I'd be under 200.

The target is: 182 pounds, 13 stone even, 82.7 kilograms.

Twenty pounds weight loss seems such a nice round number and as I lived in England for many years I sort of got used to thinking of my weight in stones. Thus 13 stones, another nice round number.

Wish me luck as off I go. First results tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Diet - Montignac Deconstructed

As I mentioned yesterday I think that both the books and the website make the Montignac Method seem to be more complicated than they actually are. After all in a nutshell the Montignac Method is: Eat no simple carbohydrates. That's it fundamentally. There are, of course, various tricks, tips, subtleties and other minor factors, the heart of the method is: Eat no simple carbohydrates.
The main simple carbs are: sugar, white flour, white rice and potatoes. Carrot, parsnips and beets also fall into this category as does Malt (sorry beer drinkers) Its all to do with the so called glycémic Index which you can read all about in the books or better yet get listed on the website. So, you don't eat any of these things. This only leaves all of the meats, fish, eggs, cheeses and a whole host of vegetables and fruits that you can eat. Not exactly restrictive is it.
I will mention some of the subtleties as I go along since none of them are essential to success, but may help a bit.
Tomorrow is for real. We've just come back from a nice dinner at friend's house. Although it wasn't bad as far as Montignac goes I would have had to change the way I ate this meal had it been tomorrow.
I'll weigh in in the morning and publish that weight, my target weight, what I ate during the day and roughly what I did during the day tomorrow in the evening my time. (Exercise isn't a part of this method from a weight loss point of view, but I do think it helps one's well being in general so I'll be doing a bit more than I have been.)

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Diet - Montignac & me.

D-day is only two days away so I've been re-reading my old copy of Montignac's Dine Out & Lose Weight. This has reminded me of how much blather there is in the book to explain what is essentially a very simple concept and way of eating. There's all kinds of repetition and scientific gobbledygook. Even an old engineering type like me gets bored with it. I'll give you my condensed version of the diet later (or at least my interpretation.)

About me, however, there's not a lot to say. I'm a 70 year old American who has been living in rural France for the past 5 years since my retirement from the business world. Food and cooking are passions which I now have the time to indulge in. I've slowly been putting on weight because I have not been following the Montignac method strictly enough over the past few years. Its time to get it off. Also, I just had complete blood tests and for the first time in a long time my carbs are out of whack - got to get them down.
I first got into Montignac in about 1989 when I was living in England. My job (head of marketing for a division of Xerox) took me all over Europe on a very regular basis. Knowing that I liked good food my colleagues and business contacts were quick to take me to good restaurants spread around the 14 main countries we worked with. With that plus regular trips back to the states & frequent trips to Japan,the weight piled on! My wife, Linda, read about Montignac and bought me a copy. I read it, it made sense to me so I tried it. 8 pounds in the first week! I was amazed and delirious! So I kept it up and pretty quickly got down to my target weight of between 180 - 185 pounds. I then stayed there for years as I was good about following the maintenance phase of the diet. I started drifting upwards as I neared retirement due to NOT following the method. Then France with too much good food, too many visitors who like to eat & drink, too many good dinners (ones I cook or elsewhere) and without question too much wine. So here I am too fat and determined to get back to where I should be.
The Montignac Method is the solution for me. It has worked for me in the past and I'm confident that it will work for me this time. So long, that is, that I follow it carefully & fully. That's why I've been re-reading the book. I want to make sure I'm remembering what I need to do correctly. I've also been looking at the Montignac website to see how the method has been updated over the past few years. I think I've got it. And I think its far simpler than either the book or the website make it sound.
That's why tomorrow my blog will be about My interpretation of the Montignac Method and how to follow it in both of it's phases.
Tune in tomorrow for the next exciting chapter!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Its diet time in rural France

First an apology for the funny font sizes in the last post. I can't seem to get rid of them no matter how I try to edit. I'll try not to do it again.

November 1, 2007 is D-day. I will start my diet this Thursday. What I'm going to do is a weigh in Thursday morning. I'll then publish my weight each morning thereafter along with a description of what I ate and drank the previous day. I'll also include an account of my day in terms of exercise or lack thereof.
I'm going to put up a post or two on eGullet announcing my intent and inviting others to join me in trying to lose weight. Not a competition; more of a mutual aid group. I reckon that going public is a great incentive for keeping with the diet. It certainly will be for me.

I will be using the Montignac Method because I've used it before. For those interested here's a link to the website: Montignac website There has also been considerable discussion about Montignac on the French forum of eGullet. Here's that link: French Forum Link

In the past Montignac has worked for me and I've found it pretty easy to follow. I bit difficult during the phase 1 weight loss time, but pretty easy in the phase 2 maintenance period. Last time I did this seriously I lost just over 20 lbs in a couple of months. I don't think I have that much to lose this time, but I'll announce my present weight and my target on Thursday. The Montignac method is sort of a thinking man's Atkins. No simple carbs; sugar, white flour,potatoes, white rice or alcohol during the weight loss period then in moderation afterwards. Its not about calories, you eat as much as you want within reason. Cutting out my wine will be the hard part for me I know, but I've done it before.

Tomorrow, I'll talk a bit more about Montignac and myself in preparation for starting on Thursday.

Meanwhile - Think about whether or not you might care to join in.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Winners & Losers in the culinary stakes

We're in the midst of a succession of visitors so this will be short. I was going to title this post getting fat, but decided to briefly describe what we're getting fat on instead.
The heavy duty eating started when our second lot of visitors arrived on Tuesday. We were invited up to our friends for dinner so there were 9 of us in all. We had salmon mousse with hollandaise, roast lamb with lots of vegetables, cheese and Apple tart for dessert. Great wines to go with it.
A definite Winner!
Wednesday was my turn and I did a roast pepper with oil, vinegar & caper dressing as a starter. The main was to be slow roasted belly pork with garlic mashed, green beans & caramelized carrots, but the pork smelled funny! Looked good & tasted good, but smelled funny so out it went. The larder came to the rescue I was able to open cans of pate, rillets and roti that I had made last spring when I did the pig. A near disaster, but a reasonable recovery.
Our guests wanted to cook dinner on Thursday so I took them to Villefranche market and let them loose. (I did help with translation) We had beautiful tomatoes with mozzarella as a starter and a veal roast with veggies to follow, then cheese and finally a great rustic plum tarte. A true winner!
Yesterday we went to Le Vieux Pont in Belcastel for lunch. Superb as always. Amuses galore, a 'ravioli' with foie gras & oysters starter, breast of cannette as a main , farmers cheese with walnuts & honey and apple beignets for dessert. Plus extra desserts & just the right wines. A steal at 27 euros per head. Never been let down here yet. Michelin star fully deserved!

Today its me again. Its casoulette Saturday; we'll be 14 for lunch. A very simple salad to start followed by my casoulette; I've made two. Lemon brulee with plums as a dessert.

World Cup Rugby final tonight. England vs South Africa. Be great if England can pull off the upset. Don't know if we'll stay home of go up to the Salle des Fêtes to watch. Probably stay home as everyone in the village is pretty glum about France's defeat last night.

I will go on my diet come November. I promise.