Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hand to mouth in the Loire Valley

Doves cooing in the garden, sun on the pink geraniums. Ulrike and I both getting as much as we can done while we've got wifi. This is our gite...

... And this is the very kind owner's house  across the lawn.

We have to leave soon. I have so much enjoyed being able to eat 'at home' for the first time in France. We have a well- equipped kitchen, even a dishwasher. I haven't gone in for any fancy cooking, but it's been huge fun collecting bits and pieces from the local shops and occasionally a market (not often, too hard to park and we're usually out all day chateau- ing), and working out how to turn them into tasty suppers. Black pudding and couscous; omelette with potato, shallots and ham; fettuccine with cheese sauce made from three different ends of cheese; heated up little quiches from bakery; and lots of curly frisée salad and sliced tomatoes. Dessert is either cheese and white peaches or lemon tart.

We did manage two picnic lunches down by the Loire (see Elsewoman for a photo of how close it is, and my food memoir page on Facebook for the picnic), but often we went to a cafe or restaurant at the chateau of the day.. Cheverny: Orangerie setting, simple but delicious lunch of quiche and salad followed by a shared lemon tart;  Chambord: competition keeping the standard up (it works for restaurants) so we had a brilliant formule of linguine and smoked salmon, plus coffee with petit fours and chocolate mousse;  Chenonceau: lets its beautiful self down with horrible self- service caf, posh restaurant fully booked, me getting irrational the way I do when lunch is too late - rescued by croque Monsieur from kiosk at the gate, plus a lemon ice cream later; Villandry:learning from experience, we booked on the way in, advised by lovely energetic waiter, then returned at 1 for smoked duck salad, coffee and shared little cakes - expensive, but it was our last one so we didn't care, and we could have it outside. What I like is that so often, as at Villandry, the same attractive place with the same skilled professional staff serves everything from a simple and cheap sandwich to a four course gourmet lunch. 
But I think it's the dinners at home I'll remember with most pleasure. Now I'm off back to the city and then a river cruise, so I won't be eating at home again till I reach my friends in the UK. I can't afford and don't want to eat proper French lunches and dinners all the time, so I'll have to pace myself - a galette here, a sandwich there... But with a little forethought, the one thing I won't need to do is go hungry. Here's our remarkably delicious supper of black pudding, made by the local butcher in Menars.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lisa's celebrated Raspberry Mousse

Sunday in Pankow, Berlin. Today we celebrated Matthias' birthday with a very long brunch/lunch for 13 people. We sat outside on a perfect day, warm, still, slightly cloudy, and worked our leisurely way through chicken kebabs, meatballs, prunes grilled with ham, assorted hams and salamis, humus, tomato salad with mozzarella and basil ( I made that), tiny baked potatoes (I prepared those), potato salad, smoked salmon and avocado, assorted cheeses and the usual basket of glorious bread. Then, after a decent interval, came the dessert: a splendid blackberry cake picked up this morning from the local bakery, and Lisa's raspberry mousse.
      I have a long acquaintance with this mousse. Back in the late 1990s when Ulrike, Matthias and their daughter Lisa were living in Wellington, we invited them to share our all-day Christmas dinner, and gave them the important role of providing the Light Dessert (which comes after the cheese and before the Christmas Pudding, served straight after the Queen's Message). They turned up that first time with raspberry mousse, and after that they were asked to bring it every year. Lisa was already an accomplished cook and took the lead role in making it. She's 24 now, and last night she made it again, along with the humus, the chicken and its peanut sauce.

Lisa's raspberry mousse
This serves 6 people generously - the one we had was double the size.

6 sheets gelatine (I'm not sure what the equivalent is in powdered gelatine - will try to find out later)
75 - 100g white sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer it)
300g puréed raspberries (fresh are good but frozen are fine - purée them frozen)
350g plain thick creamy yoghurt
150g cream
If you want to make it really rich: 50-100g white chocolate

Soak gelatine in a little water for 10-15 minutes until soft.
Put in pan with just enough water to coat the bottom, and heat very slowly in large pan on very low heat - about 10 minutes - until completely dissolved.
Remove from heat. Add puréed raspberries. Stir in thoroughly.
Fold in yoghurt.
Whip cream to soft peaks and fold in.
If using chocolate, melt in microwave or over hot water and stir in.
Put mixture into serving dish or mould (Lisa used a flexible mould).
Leave to set in fridge overnight.
About an hour before serving, remove from fridge and unmould if necessary, placing mould briefly in a sink of hot water to loosen mousse.
Serve with more whipped cream or just as is.