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Le Trou des Corbeaux
February 26, 2015
08:03 PM

Le Trou des Corbeaux

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Today, on a notion, we decided to take a little stroll to see Le Trou des Corbeaux ( The Hole of the Crows) over Cessanon. Thirty minutes the walk guide said and "facile" in other words an easy stroll.
Well after 30 minutes (which included a few stops) the uphill gradient turned to vertical so we had to scramble on all fours to get to the cave.
Now we have to admit it was impressive, but, what we hadn't taken into consideration was that "what goes up, must come down" and going down was hell. We kinda ladelled each other down the steep scree, I would go ahead, root myself and then hand Madame down to a point ahead of me.This worked quite well but "facile" and "thirty minutes" .Forget it.
Was it worth it ? Absolutely. Would we do it again ? Never.


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More Details from Le Presbytere
09:49 AM

More Details from Le Presbytere

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This pair aren't a pair at all, The jug is Czech and Síle found it on a stall on the way to Limoux from Carcassonne.The cup and saucer is French and came from a Vide Genier on the opposite end of the Languedoc.

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This amazingly elegant wooden bowl was made by Irishman Roger Bennet and was a present from Clive Nunn

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Síle found this in the Trocante in Beziers where, for once, they had not spotted its potential. It is in fact an English marmalade Pot and about 200 years old (she paid a fiver for it)

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Just after we had bought Le Presbytere I spotted this at an antique fair,(It is an old cruet, used in the Catholic Mass) when I asked the man how much he said a tenner, fine-I said- I must have it because I have just bought a Presbetery. Well then- he said- lets make it a fiver.


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There was an old larder in one corner of what is now our livingroom with a meshed in aperture on the wall to keep it cool. We took down the larder but kept the cool box which we glazed on the inside. It now seems to have become a home for glass oddments.


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Clive and I spotted these tiles in a Brocante in Beziers which Clive put up at the back of my sink. All are hand painted, none the same but related.

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These old teapots, gathered in various junk shops are also related but not too closely.


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Can’t resist to put up another shot of my Chandelier of Funnels and also my wonderful glass lampshade spotted by Clive in a fair in Pezenas.


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Love this painting which I got for an embarrassing little sum in a Girl Guide Bazzar in Annecy.

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This is the original hinge of our cloakroom door, dont make 'em like this anymore.

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This was the poster for the Feria in Beziers the first summer we were here. It is based on a photo by Canu who was from the town and is of Manolete


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Mayonnaise Ten Years After
09:27 AM

Mayonnaise Ten Years After

On exactly ten years ago on this day I put up my first blog.
Here it is again, exactly the same, ten years after.
It has been a great 10 years.

I have always loved mayonnaise. Loved to eat it but I think even more loved to make it. Before I ever started to cook professionally I had read Elizabeth Davids inspiring essay on mayonnaise in French Provincial Cooking. I say essay very deliberately because, far from being just a recipe this two page treatise and hymn to mayonnaise tells you all about its history and the legends that surround its birth, but also of course, tells you how to make the stuff.
However the bit that inspired me is where she says
"I do not care, unless I am in a great hurry, to let it, (an electric beater)deprive me of the pleasure and satisfaction to be obtained by sitting down quietly with bowl and spoon, eggs and oil, to the peaceful kitchen task of concocting the beautiful shining golden ointment which is mayonnaise"

These poetic lines moved me instantly into mayonnaise manufacture.

There is something almost magical about mayonnaise everytime you make it.
Two entirely liquid ingredients, runny almost, when blended in a certain painstaking way can merge into such a thick unctuous, well... ointment.

My very first job was in a very chic basement restaurant called Snaffles in Leeson street in Dublin. This was run by an eccentric but essentially lovable ascendancy couple called Nick and Rosie Tinne. Rosie was at this time compiling her book "Irish Country House Cooking" (still available occasionally on the internet). The time was the very early seventies and I was in my very early twenties and very naive.

Rosie flew in the door of the kitchen one morning carrying a dozen crap splattered eggs, a large tin of Italian Olive Oil, and a huge wooden bowl and spoon.
"Maahtin, Maahtin! You MUST make some mayonnaise for me. I'm having a party tonight and I've got the curse, it ALWAYS curdles when I've got the curse!"
Needless to say I got over my shock and made her the mayo, and yes I made it in the wooden bowl with the wooden spoon as she had been taught to in her Cordon Blue school in Paris.

There was a lot of mystique about making mayonnaise though. I remember an aunt of mine doing something very complicated in a liquidizer which involved hard boiled eggs, cream and copious quantities of vinegar.

We mistrusted the simple and pure flavour of good eggs and olive oil in Ireland for a long time. (When my sister came back from an au pair job in Frejus in the late fifties, fired with the tastes of Provence, she discovered that Olive Oil was only available in minute bottles in Chemists shops and intended to promote suntans!)

Mayonnaise is perhaps the simplest of all sauces. I have often said in cookery classes that I can make a half pint of mayonnaise in much the same time as it would take you to find it in the Hellmans jar in the fridge - and I can!
I will follow Ms. David's proportions for making the "golden ointment"

Recipe:
3 large Freerange Eggs at room temperature
300ml Good Olive Oil also at room temperature
(I don't always search out extra virgin oil for this)
Pinch Salt and grating of black pepper
1 tablespoon White Wine Vinegar

Beat the eggs thoroughly with the salt and pepper (I quite often use an electric hand held beater if none of my cooking mentors are looking)
Dribble in the oil, firstly drop by drop and then as the oil starts to thicken the yolks you can increase the rate to a thin stream and add the vinegar.
Again, I will quote Elizabeth David to tell you when to stop
"It should, if a spoonful is lifted up and dropped back into the bowl, fall from the spoon with a satisfying plop, and retain its shape, like a thick jelly"
this marvellous (and sensual) description is perfect.


Make your own mayonnaise, it tastes so much better and who knows, you too
might enjoy the process of making the "golden ointment".

I have still turned off my comments after persistant attacks from spammers
but should you want to contribute you can drop me an email.


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From the Pech
February 20, 2015
12:32 PM

From the Pech

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Nice sunny morning today and Madame and I went for a stroll on the Pech (Occitan for hill) which is directly opposite our house. I brought the camera because I wanted to see how the new terrace was fitting in.

Le Presbytere is in the centre of the shot, the terrace, I am glad to say,it looks like it was there for ever and you can see that we have had to put up the canopy against the bright spring sun.

From this view you can also see the amazing higgeldy piggeldy nature of old village houses.
You will see on the roof of our house, at the right, there is an odd piece jutting up.
That is actually part of our house.
It is also part of the old original wall of the village.

If you look carefully you will see the line of the old wall on both sides. Consequently three of our windows overlook our neighbours back garden.

Then if you look to the left of our terrace you will see another small window. That is in fact belonging to our neighbour on the other side, they have two windows looking on to our garden.

We are in the oldest part of the village, parts of our house must date to the same time as the church which was (it is thought) partly 12th century.
In the 800 and some years since houses have come and gone, been added to and subtracted from.
Hence there is not one straight line in our house and all of this is reflected in the randomness of the placement of houses in this part of the village.
I love it.


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Hecklers
February 19, 2015
05:25 PM

Hecklers

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Wonderful gallery of gargoyles hooting, jeering and catcalling at the devout as they attend the church at Montagnac. (I wonder at their function)


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  Martin Dwyer
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