La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, that is back in Ireland.
It's nearly upon us - Christmas. And this year for me it means a lot of planning and even preparing ahead. We're having a Boxing Day Party for 20 adults and a few small children. Whilst most guests are meat eaters, the 3 vegetarians will be well catered for. One of the vegetarian centerpieces is this Lentil Pie. It is cooling down at the moment and tomorrow morning I will carefully place it in the freezer, to be taken back out on Sunday evening. Monday, it will be reheated in a hot(ish) oven.
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 large clove of garlic, crushed, peeled and finely chopped
1 leek, cleaned, sliced in rings and rinced
1 tbsp dried thyme
500 grs Puy lentils
200 ml dry white wine
700 ml vegetable stock
knob of butter or vegetable oil
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
seasalt to taste
punnet of mushrooms, cleaned, sliced and sauteed in oil or butter
and I hope I haven't forgotten anything
Sautee the onions, leeks and garlic in oil or butter over a moderate heat.
Add the thyme.
Then add the Puy lentils. And sautee these to, stirring regularly.
Pour in the wine and simmer for 3 minutes before adding the stock.
Add the pepper and leave to simmer, with lid on, till the lentils are cooked, but al dente. Should take about 20 minutes.
If the stock has evaporated before the lentils are cooked, you may need a little extra water.
Taste and season. Sometimes adding a splash of balsamic vinegar, gives it an extra lift.
Cool and take out 1/3 of the lentils.
2/3 can be blended with a handheld blender, not too smooth.
Bring the blended and whole lentils together and put them in the fridge till needed.
Oh, the mushrooms, they can be put in the fridge too. They'll come in at a later stage.
Pastry - shortcrust Ingredients
700 grs plain flour, sieved
350 grs cold butter, cubed
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
very cold water
Bring together the flour, salt, thyme, pepper and butter.
Rub the butter into the flour, till it resembles crumbs.
Then add in some water, not too much and the quantity will depend on the moisture content of the flour.
Bring together, adding just the tiniest amount of water at a time - do not overwork the pastry, just pull it together.
Shape into a ball, wrap with clingfilm and rest in the fridge for a couple of hours, overnight even.
Everything has cooled properly and you have lined a cake tin with greaseproof paper. Your cake tin is preferably one with a removable base and spring-sided. My pie tin is 25 cm diam. and 7 cm high.
Ready to roll
Roll out approx 2/3 of the pastry on a floured surface. I have a marble slab that I use for this purpose as it stays cold.
Thickness of the pastry should be about 4 mm.
Line your tin with the dough and leave enough overlap to 'glue' the pastry top to it later.
Punch a couple of times with a fork over the base.
Fill with half of the lentils.
Scatter now the sauteed mushrooms over this, to be topped with the other half of the lentils.
Roll out the rest of the pastry (same thickness)
Hah ! You need a beaten egg now.
Brush the sides with beaten egg (this is the glue that will hold the sides and top together.
Cover the pie with the top layer of pastry and crimp together.
Cut off any overhanging excess pastry
Make a whole in the center of the top for any moisture that might turn into steam to escape.
You can decorate with any leftover pastry, glued with egg.
Eggwash all over the top.
Put in fridge while the oven heats up. I heated the fan oven with extra heat from below to 210° C.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes, than reduce the heat to 190°C for 30 minutes.
Seeing the stuffing was already cooked, you'll have to gauge when the pastry will be ready. A golden brown will do.
Leave to cool for 20 minutes before taking out of the tin.
Ready to eat straight away or you can let it cool even further as it is also tasty cold or room temperature.
Wow, that looked like a lot of work, but in all honesty, it wasn't. And if you have made shortcrust pastry before, this will certainly be a doddle.
No cross section picture of the pie, that is for after the party. Only 50 more dishes to go ;) and I'm not intending to put all the recipes on here. No time, gotta go !
What do you do when you don't want to think about shopping lists and christmas menus ? Indeed, you try anything to avoid facing up to real chores. Find yourself an old birdcage, preferably one that has no bottom anymore ;).
Before you can start filling it with tat, you'll need to make a bottom from an empty little crate of clementines. Paint and/or wallpaper the outside and voilà ! There you have a brand new base.
A few twigs, tinsel, strands of ivy, moss, fairy lights and 2 birds(obviously decorative birds) later and there you have it.
No fear of animal cruelty, the cage door has been left open, so they can come and go as they please.
This is what I prepare when there's just not an awful lot of food in the house and when I've been struggling to untangle the christmas lights for the best part of the day.... and joy of joys, they then had the audacity to die on me when they where halfway up the tree.
Ingredients for 2
8 prawns, the ones I used where frozen/raw/unpeeledChorizo
salami or other paprika based smoked 1 cm cubed, 150 gr
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
greenish part of 2 leeks (it's what I had left in fridge), sliced in rings.
200 ml cream
salt and black pepper
Linguine or tagliatelle work best, but I only had capellini
Heat some olive oil in the cooking vessel, throw in the prawns and sautee till they go pink. Empty into a bowl (including the cooking juices)
Fry off the chorizo and garlic with a little more oil. Scoop out and set aside.
In the remainder of the oil, sautee the leeks.
Meanwhile peel the prawns and slice them in about 1 cm tick slices.
Add cooking juice of prawns to the leeks, add the chorizo and garlic and stir in the cream. Season with salt and black pepper.
By this time you should have your pasta on the go.
When cooked al dente, drain, stir in the sauce and add the prawns back in.
Serve with a sprinkle of paprika powder and grated parmesan.
The previous week, I started rummaging through the christmas decorations. Now, our dining room table has been buried under tinsel, fairy lights, baubles, ribbons and much more. I eliminated all the red baubles (they won't be having christmas this year), kept the copper, gold of various shades, bought a load more in turquoise, blue and hot pink.
My wreath didn't get through the eleven month hibernation period unscathed. Being a styrofoam ring with pinecones, acorns and other 'natural things' glued to it. Some of the glued 'natural things' had come off and more serious injuries had occurred on the styrofoam ring itself. Snapped in one place and cracks in other areas. No way was I going to buy a new one if I could somehow salvage the tattered excuse of a christmas wreath. Out came the glue gun and the repair could begin. Not only that, I 'beautified' the wreath with turquoise feathers and small baubles and ribbons. Granted, it's not a work of art, but it'll do for this year.
I bought a new ribbon to make a nicer bow, because this one just doesn't cut the mustard.
Accessorising is key.
Next week, the tree, but before I do that a good old deep clean of the sitting room is in order.
The best recipe, by far, for Pavlova is the one from Joy Of Baking It has never failed me. What is so lovely about a Pavlova is that you can dress it up or down as you see fit and according to the occasion.
I never add sugar to the cream, as, imo, there is plenty of sugar in the meringue. Use seasonal fresh fruits in any combination you like. For Easter I like to add some small chocolate eggs, white, dark and milk chocolate.
Here I used kiwi, fresh figs, blackberries, grapes, melon.
I can finally present to you the makeover of our living room. When we first moved into this house in January of 2009, the sitting room was bright and light, with lots of large windows overlooking the garden. There was also a very clean (and new, I think) wall to wall woolen carpet in an off white colour (au naturelle). It felt good ! Suffice to say that the clean and cosy feeling didn't last very long. As soon as we entered the house with plenty cats and the one dog at the time, it was over ! We tried. After lifting up a corner of the carpet, we noticed there were tiles underneath, nothing one would want in the house these days, but in good condition. Up came the carpet. Second hand rugs were put down (Bert got slightly addicted to buying 2nd hand rugs on ebay - we even have a prayer mat, that he couldn't resist buying) to make it feel cosier.
Let's just face it ! Our sitting room suite that we bought in the year 2000 didn't look too good anymore and in the room with the tiles and our antique furniture it was just a 'bit' fuddy-duddy.
Sam, the greyhound, changed the couch into his bed/basket. Then came Millie, the destroyer, also a hound, but of Spanish origin what is also known as Galg(o)a. We got an extra couch from Ikea (cheap) and within the shortest time it was ruined. So I re-upholstered it (with cheap fabric)...., then she had a go at the old sofa. I made a fitted cover for i (made from ex-curtains)....
We have been living in our garage whilst our living quarters have been revamped. Yes, that's right, our kitchen, entrance hall, cloakroom and stairs have all been and are still in the process of being revamped. That is a story for another time.
We have now left the old couches in the garage and guess what ? That is now the dogs' den during the night and when we are not at home.
The dogs' den in the garage.
Sam doesn't mind !
So here we go with the 'befores and afters'
before - note the old sittingroom suite.
Orange and green colour scheme - go !
Ah ! Fresh !
Okay, the suite is from Ikea - Ektorp range. Not too expensive and very comfy.
Lovely fuddy-duddy. But you've got to admit that I did a fantastic job on the upholstery of that red sofa.
Notice the roman blinds that I made somewhere in March.
The floor is white washed and oiled oak.
A fair few of the artwork has been painted by my bestest of best friends, Jo-Anne Yelen
Shabby chique painting is an inheritance from Bert's mum.
Let's just say I have been ogling this coffee table in Ikea for so long.
It's a must-have for me, with my collection of stones and seashells gathered over the years.
.....they each have a new daybed for the sitting room and they behave... so far.
As for the cats ...
....they will always be ... cats !
I've long ago established that we (I) have too much stuff in the house, but that will never really change. I love creating a 'nest' with all the things that are dear to us and have sentimental value. That is what a home is all about, isn't it ?
What is worrying Bert at the moment is that I want to get a whole new colour scheme for the christmas tree decorations.