Dinner in the Beaujolais

As I explained a few posts ago, on Monday Mr FD and I drove our friends C&A to see their friends over in the Beaujolais region.

We duly dropped them off at their friend’s house (having driven around the village a few times, as the instructions we had assumed we’d be coming from a different direction, so things got a little confused for a moment or two) and then headed off to the chosen restaurant. We’d changed our mind about the restaurant, and we went to this one: La Maison des Beaujolais

This is the menu we chose:

ENTRÉES :

Médaillon de Foie Gras, Chutney de Saison
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Salade de Saint Jacques Panées aux Amandes, Coco et Banane Plantain
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Salade de Gambas Sautées, Lardons de Canard et Pousses de Soja

PLATS CHAUDS :

Croquettes de Ris de Veau , Beurre à l’Oseille
ou
Magret de Canard au Vinaigre de Framboises
ou
Filets de Rouget aux Queues de Langoustines

Fromages

Carte des Desserts

 

We started with an apero – I had the Aperetif Maison, the exact make up of which was, I was told, a secret. It was a red wine and fruit juice combo, which was very pleasant. As the driver, Mr FD had an orangina. These were served with an amuse-bouche of vegetables, chicken and chorizo.

For my starter, I had the foie gras, which was served with a pain d’epices (a type of gingerbread, whose sweetness goes well with the foie gras) and a delicious chutney. I don’t know what it was made of, although we suspected it might have been red grapes. :

Mr FD chose the salad de gambas, which he said was enjoyable, although the sauce was a bit harsh. It had an oriental flavour, and he thought it was made with soy sauce. It was an enormous plateful!

For the main course I chose to have the red mullet. I almost always choose duck if it is on the menu, but decided to go off-piste! I like fish, but rarely cook it and even more rarely choose it in restaurants. It was very nice:

As you can see, it came with rice, and a medley of summer vegetables. I enjoyed it very much. Mr FD had the duck (he nearly went for the ris-de-veau (which are sweetbreads) but he backed out at the last moment.

Cheese followed – a selection of three

Oops! I forgot to take the photo before I started! A goaty-herby one, which I enjoyed, a slice of Brie, or something equally mild and creamy, and then the one in the centre,which looks innocuous but had a very strong, agricultural flavour about it. I left that one, as I didn’t find it pleasant at all. These were served with a slice of nut bread and a small salad, scattered with flaked almonds.

Dessert: What would you have chosen?

I decided to have the Mille Feuille Glacé Ananas et son coulis. It was very nice:

I was getting forgetful about taking photos by now!!

We finished with coffe-for-me-tea-for-Mr FD, and just as we were getting to the end of our coffee/tea, C&A phoned to say they were ready to be picked up. We drove back to get them, and were forced to be polite to some people we didn’t know for about half an hour.  Then a drive home through the rain.

It was a very enjoyable meal, so thank you C&A for that. Mind you, judging by this photo, I seem to be regarding my meal with some suspicion!!

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29 down. 1 to go.

On Monday it will be my last radiotherapy session! Huzzah!

 

On Monday evening we’re being treated to a meal out.  C and A are people we know who have a holiday home here; Mr FD does the odd techie job for them, and makes sure their internet is up and running  before they arrive for the holidays etc. They’re both getting on and have recently been ill, but would really like to visit some of their friends about 100 km north of here, in the Beaujolais. Mr FD is going to drive them, I’m going along for the ride, and C&A are going to pay for us to have a meal in a restaurant nearby to their friends. Mr FD is a bit disappointed that the insurance is too complicated and expensive to work out for their car, which is some flash Mercedes. Instead we’ll be driving our old workhorse, the PugBus (a Peugeot something-or-other)

We’re trying to choose the restaurant now – this one is looking favourite

And here’s the celebration menu we’re considering…

Mise en bouche

separateurr5

Foie gras frais de canard maison cuit en terrine
Chutney de saison et pain aux figues
ou
Cocotte d’escargots de Bourgogne aux cèpes
au beurre d’ail crèmé
ou
Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlée sur Tatin de pommes
caramélisées au miel du Haut Beaujolais

separateurr5

Sandre poché au Mâcon blanc
fondue de poireaux et concassé de tomates

separateurr5

  Entrecôte charolaise  sauce Marchand de vin
ou
Ris de veau au jus de raisin (origine France)

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Plateau de fromages affinés
ou
Faisselle Bressane et sa crème épaisse

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Dessert maison au choix

Just call me Gourmande!!

Ladies only glow…

As my mother used to say: Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies only glow…

I’m definitely glowing… My whole top right torso is now really rather tender – that feeling of when you’ve had too much sun, with the occasional yelp of pain when you stretch the sensitive skin too far, or catch it on the rough edge of a bra. It’s the effects of the radiotherapy. I have only three sessions to go, but yesterday was the cstart of a new regime, which saw a very directed set of rays towards the scar where the initial lump was. I suspect that within three days it may be quite a painful area.

About a fortnight into my radiotherapy I went to see Yvette, on the advice of several people. Yvette is a Charmeur de feu (I think that’s right) – basically a faith healer, but seemingly with a propensity to heal (or relieve) the symptoms of radiotherapy. Hence the “feu” bit (fire) Sometimes they’re known as Coupeur de feu (“cutter of fire”) This article, in French, explains it a bit more. I actually wasn’t having any problems at the time, but she laid her hands on me and prayed. As I said to Mr FD, “I was happy to hear her using the word Seigneur (Lord) so it wasn’t just mumbo jumbo” He raised an eyebrow at me and sniggered, believing that it was mumbo jumbo!

I’m actually not totally convinced but I went back to see her on Tuesday, because by then there was a lot of redness. And some discomfort. I was given a thorough telling off by her – “Oh look how red it is…why didn’t you come back before, you silly girl…Oh, it must be painful…You shouldn’t worry about disturbing me…Oh, you silly, silly girl….” and so on….

After I was suitably shame faced, and apologised, she laid hands on me, and prayed (breaking off from time to time to say “Oh you silly girl…!”)  – and, I do have to admit that there was some relief from the discomfort…I’m going back again this afternoon, in an attempt to relieve the painful glowing that’s going on.

Yvette refuses all payment (unlike the Magnetiseur I went to see before the chemo, who took 40€ from me) so I made some biscuits and took them along. I suspect many of you know Anzac biscuits, but if you don’t, let me tell you that they are very simple-to-make and delicious! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

100g plain flour, sifted
 85g rolled oats
75g caster sugar
85g desiccated coconut
100g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon bicarb

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.
  3. Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to buttered baking sheets, about 2.5cm/1in apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches

I thought they were very similar to British HobNob biscuits, but a bit chewier. I really liked them, and I’m going to bake a batch on Sunday to take along to the Radiotherapy team on Monday for my last session. I thought I might try adding some chocolate chips or some dried cranberries.

Happy Retirement, M. Khodri!

I have worked for ILS for 9 years now. I remember my first meeting with M. Khodri, the director – previously I’d been working in St Etienne, at Wall Street Institute, and although I liked the people, it was a long way to travel (taking about 1.5 hours to get from door to door) and I wasn’t very keen on the method of teaching employed by the company. So one day, I took a few CVs and letters of motivation to Clermont Ferrand and decided to trawl round the language schools there. I called in at WSI, and had a slightly bizarre interview with them (they turned me down) and then I called in at ILS. M.Khodri saw me immediately and sat me down in his office for a chat – my French being even worse than it is now, and his English being practically non-existent, it may have been a little awkward at times, but after about half an hour he offered me a job with the company!

I was very happy teaching there – mostly in-company, but sometimes at the offices of ILS – and the majority of the work done was for Michelin, which is one of the biggest employers in Clermont. It was also the golden goose for ILS, with, I’d say, at least 85% of the English teaching work being done in partnership with Michelin. Unfortunately, with money-saving becoming more important, and technology becoming more prevalent, Michelin decided to move over to e-learning, which meant that ILS, who had put all their eggs into the Michelin basket, was a bit stymied.

For a few months, in 2012, it looked as though ILS might be going down the pan, and sadly this meant that 6 or 7 of the English teachers had to be made redundant. I was one of them. I remember that M. Khodri was so distressed at having to make me redundant, that he said to me that anytime I wanted to come into the office to use the resources, or to use one of the rooms for private telephone lessons, or to make photocopies for my private lessons, then I was welcome to do so!He was always very supportive, and so even when I wasn’t working for them, I still popped into the office from time to time.

Happily, the company survived, and I, plus most of the other teachers, were re-employed, but as “auto entrepreneurs” – that is, we are self employed and on a contract basis. It means ILS do not have to pay any of our social charges etc. Not so good for us (no sick pay etc) but better for them. I’m still happy to work for the company, however, as it is a real family company. We know each other, we support each other; the Head of English is a really lovely woman, the staff are friendly, the resources are plentiful. Even though we are not “salariés” – directly employed – we are considered as part of the team, rather than as sub-contractors, so our relationship with M.Khodri, and the other admin staff, is exactly the same. When I’ve got myself in a mess with French admin papers, M. Khodri has always been willing to spend time with me, helping me to complete the forms and calming me down.  And, most importantly, there is quite a lot of work!

Recently, M. Khodri decided to sell the company and retire, together with his wife, who is the accountant for the company. I have only met the new owners very briefly, but Claire, Head of English, assures us that they are dynamic, and forward thinking, and want to move the company onwards and upwards. As you can see from the photo of the offices above, it is looking a tad tired and old fashioned, and Melissa and Thomas want to modernise. I’m a little concerned, as I have to admit that I don’t take to change very well – especially if that change requires me to learn new technology & new ways of doing things that I’ve been perfectly comfortable doing “my” way for a while – but I’m going to try hard to embrace this. After all, I won’t have a lot of choice in the matter!!

So, on Friday, it was Monsieur and Madame Khodri’s retirement do. It was in the restaurant in Le Jardin Lecoq, in Clermont Ferrand, a lovely public garden not too far from the office.

I booked into the Holiday Inn, just across the road from the park, as I didn’t want to drive afterwards, and I didn’t know how tired I would be. I’m happy I did so, as it meant I could have something to drink, and I didn’t need to leave too early.

We gathered at 7.30, and stood around chatting, and at about 8.00, we were led to our tables, all set up outside. There was a four piece jazz band who entertained us

and it was good to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen since Christmas. We started with a glass of fizzies (I had some sirop in mine to sweeten it, so I could enjoy it) and we gave M & Mme Khodri their gifts: a voucher for a dinner in a very good restaurant, and a cave à vins – a temperature controlled cupboard to keep your wine in – plus some starter bottles. Note we didn’t actiually give them the cave à vins: Yacine, their son, who works for the company as well, had set it up in their house so it would be a surprise for them when they got home.

M. Khodri made a little speech and then we got on with the food!

Unwrapping their presents

We started with an amuse-bouche, (a little something to tickle your taste buds) which was a verrine of something – noone was quite sure what it was, but the general consensus was finally a cold pea-and-mint soup; it was okay, but as I’m not a great fan of peas, or cold soup, I couldn’t get too enthusiastic about it. Here’s the empty verrine, as I forgot to take a photo before I ate it! :

Then the starter arrived – a galette with roast vegetables and mozzarella, and salad in a lovely honey vinaigrette dressing

I remembered to take a photo halfway through!

A pause, while the jazz band played on, and then the main course was brought out:

I remembered to take a photo before I started eating!

This was delicious – white fish, chorizo and a scallop in a buttery sauce, served with polenta, roast tomatoes and a giant crisp thing. I’m not sure why the crispy thing was there, as it didn’t really add much to the meal, but it tasted fine! I’m glad I’m not vegetarian though, as their meal was peas-and-asparagus, roast tomatoes and potatoes. Not very inspired – as vegetarian meals in France so often aren’t!

Dessert was profiteroles – I couldn’t finish mine…which is unlike me. I’m thinking that the intake of my stomach has shrunk a little during chemo, as I’ve not been eating the same amounts. Perhaps I need to encourage this!

Claire, Head of English, clapping along to “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ ” We both started singing the lyrics soon afterwards!

M. Khodri boogeying on down with Alyssia, one of the English teachers.

And still the band played on… as it was getting on to 11 o’clock, and I was flagging, I decided to leave. Also, there were others going at that point, and as I didn’t know where the gate was, and didn’t want to be wandering the park in the dark, I tagged along with them.

It was a really good way to say “Goodbye” to a very kind (sometimes slightly incompetent!) employer. Thank you, M. Khodri, for the opportunity to work with ILS, and here’s wishing you a good and happy retirement.

Food Nostalgia.

There was an interesting article in Saturday’s Guardian partly about convenience vs “proper” food, but also about food eaten regularly in the author’s childhood. While I was interested in some of the comments made, I found myself distracted by nostalgia for certain foods of my childhood…I wonder how they’d taste to me now? That is why I have enjoyed the BBC series “Back in time for…” and particularly the 60s and 70s, which were the decades when I was growing up.

What do I remember…?

Mum was a good cook, and she loved “entertaining”, and having friends for dinner. But I think the everyday feeding of three children, and a hardworking husband, while also holding down a job as a teacher probably wasn’t such a joy to her. She did rely on convenience foods to a certain extent, such as packet sauces. Meals I remember were

the occasional Vesta curry, served with chopped banana and raisins, for that “exotic touch”

The prawns were tiny, and slightly rubbery, but oh! We felt so sophisticated!

I didn’t like shepherd’s pie night – the tinned tomatoes were never really broken down, and I didn’t like mum’s addition of a tin of baked beans. Of course, now I understand she was stretching the meat content, but then I couldn’t work out why she would do this!

Butterscotch Angel Delight though was a different matter – Mum would usually serve this over chopped bananas, and with a crumbled Cadbury’s Flake over the top. I’d be very willing to help transport the dessert from the kitchen, and put it on the trolley in the dining room, because that gave me the chance to snaffle the largest pieces of chocolate from each dish! It was always served in little metal Sundae dishes.

And then, as a special treat, we might have a ring doughnut, served with vanilla ice cream and hot jam sauce! They were special times.

Sometimes she’d make “apple snow” – which wasn’t my favourite dessert, but was better than plain old stewed apple, or rhubarb “steamrollers” (thick pieces of stewed rhubarb)

I don’t think mum was a great pudding maker – relying on such things as Angel Delight and doughnuts – but she was well known for her apple pies. She has always had “pastry hands”, which I have not inherited!, and most Sundays we would have an apple pie, baked on one of those white enamel pie plates with a blue rim

Pastry top and bottom, stewed apple inside – I remember sitting in the kitchen on a Saturday morning, watching Mum peel the huge Bramley apples, and I’d beg her to try to cut it off all in one long spiral. She’d let me eat the peelings. Served with cream this was the perfect end to a roast dinner. Then Marks & Spencer started selling food, and Mum discovered “Lattice tarts”

Now, while these were acceptable as a midweek convenience pudding, there was near uproar when she brought out a rhubarb lattice tart for Sunday lunch! Poor mum! She did persevere though, and we did finally accept Lattice Tart from time to time. Just not every week!

We were not encouraged to eat biscuits and so on. I don’t remember a biscuit tin or biscuit barrel being readily available. But I do recall the cosy pleasure of “supper” when I was 16 or 17. My brother and sister had gone to university or the world of work by now, so it was just me, and my parents. Just before News at Ten, we would have a little something – a glass of milk, and either a slice of hot buttered toast, or a couple of digestive biscuits.

Dad tried to help out when he could, but he was a busy GP, who rarely got home before 7.30 in the evening. He had Wednesday afternoon off, and would go and play golf with his GP pals, but then would come home and cook a three course meal to give mum a night off…initially using Delia Smith’s “How to cheat at cooking” I remember a “cheese paté” made of cream cheese with chopped celery and red pepper in it.

But once Dad grew confident, he graduated on to using “The Hungry Monk” recipes, which were rather more sophisticated, being recipes from a real restaurant!

Dad was one for new food experiences – when the fish & chip shop at the Old Roan closed, but then reopened as a Greek restaurant, he took us there. When the Greek restaurant closed, but then opened up as a Chinese restaurant, we were first in the queue!

He bought Paul Masson wine (at the garage!) which came in its own decanter – there’s posh! – and mum and dad would have a glass with their meal

But the best times were when we went out for a meal to either a Berni Inn, or to Flynn’s Steak House, both in the centre of Liverpool. I think that maybe dad would be working in Liverpool, so maybe the rest of us would go in on the bus, and meet him for dinner. They really were special times! I couldn’t understand why we didn’t do it more often, but of course it must have been quite expensive to pay for 5 people, especially when I don’t remember there being a children’s menu – but maybe my memory is playing tricks.

I think the Berni was underground, which made it even more special – going down the red carpeted stairs made me feel really grown up! The choices were no doubt limited – I guess there was prawn cocktail or soup to start, but then it would be steak, chips, peas, button mushrooms and possibly onion rings. The ice cream or cheese and biscuits just topped off a sophisticated dining experience! I wonder what I had to drink: I don’t remember Coca Cola being allowed, or even tasted. Maybe an orange juice and lemonade, or just lemonade? It was such a special occasion to go out with Mum and Dad for a “grown up” meal.

Here’s an old advert for a Berni in Grimsby, with some of the choices that were available

 

And then there were the sweeties – again, I wasn’t really allowed many sweets, which made them all the more alluring. When we went to my Nana’s for Sunday tea, she would always give us one sweet from the sweetie tin just before we went home – there would be lots of different kinds of sweets: Nuttals Mintoes, strawberry Ruffles, Opal Fruits, and many more. Being a basically greedy, and remarkably unsubtle child, as the clock ticked nearer to 7.00, when we would leave to go home, I would start singing a little song that I had invented, which emphasised certain words: Candy and Andy and Sweetie-Pie…, I would warble irritatingly, until the tin came out.

I would often steal the odd sixpence from mum’s purse, when I was doing the shopping, and buy myself sweets – here’s a picture of various sweets and chocolates from the 70s. Do you remember any?

I remember the “Weekend” box of chocolates/sweets – which were often a disappointment – Caramac, Bar Six (basically KiKat by a different name), Spangles, Old Jamaica chocolate – I seem to remember this had shreds of something in it? – and orange Matchmakers. Oh, they were posh. Mum would serve those after dinner with her friends ( never After Eight, or mint Matchmakers, as she hated the combination of chocolate and mint!)

Talking of stealing, I remember (still!) stealing half a crown (two shillings and sixpence) from mum’s purse, which was a lot of money back then. I wonder how many problems that caused for the housekeeping that week. I went to the local Sayers cake shop and bought FIVE cream cakes (I told you I was greedy!) I sat in the park and ate them all myself, furtively cramming them into my mouth. A mum from school came across me, and asked what I was doing; I made up a story about an event at school, and mum giving me my picnic tea to eat – I wonder what she thought of the local doctor’s daughter eating five cream cakes for tea!

Well…there’s a meander through some of my food memories. What about you – is there anything you particularly remember from your childhood?

 

What’s cookin’?!

Actually, nothing at the moment, but tonight we’re going to have Mary Berry’s “Fast lasagne”, so I thought I’d share the recipe. I really like it.

For the ragu and spinach sauce

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 450g/1lb pork sausage meat
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
  • 150g/5oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 x 200ml/7fl oz carton full-fat crème frâiche
  • 100g/4oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tomato and thyme sauce

For the lasagne

  • 6 sheets, about 75g/3oz quick-cook white lasagne or fresh lasagne
  • 50g/2oz strong cheddar cheese, grated

A post about chemo

This is a chemo & side effects post. Don’t feel you have to read it.

I’ve had a fairly grim couple of days – more mentally than physically. It’s interesting how this new chemo regime has had different effects to the first three “cures”. With the FEC100 I had a “lost weekend” when I was really tired, then slowly, over the following week I got my energy back, until I was almost back to normal, unless I tried to do too much. I lost my appetite for about 5 days, but then it was fine. Yes, I lost my hair, and had a touch of nausea, but it was (almost) a breeze.

This has been a harder regime… about a week after the first dose I started losing my taste buds, and salivary glands. Now there’s still the vestiges of sweetness that I can taste, but not much else.

The neuropathy – pains in the extremes (hands, feet, lower legs) + joints, caused by damage to these peripheral nerves – comes on about 4 days after, and lasts for another 3/4 days. This hasn’t been as bad this time round, as the doctor reduced the dose a little. It’s been bearable.

Interestingly, I haven’t had the same fatigue at the beginning – witness my Royal Wedding excursion! – but again, 4/5 days later it has hit me like a ton of bricks. Today I could barely walk the 500 metres to the podiatrist’s surgery, and I’m needing a 2 hour nap after lunch. And, although this does get slightly better as time goes on, I don’t think I could contemplate the 3 km walk I did back in March in my third week.

But both the first time, and this time, I have had a couple of days of depression, again at the same time – 4/5 days after the chemo. Because this has happened twice at the same time, I am assuming this is another side effect… I’ve tried very hard not to utter the words “it’s not fair”, but last night I had a good old moan, and weep to God. Especially about the taste bud issue. I reminded him of “my” verse and demanded that he kept his promise…and, do you know, I think he did.

I felt he was telling me to think about why this was happening – so I read some articles on the internet, that explained the reasons, and that gave some suggestions. I also felt he was telling me to think about how I coud learn to live with it better, and so gradually, I was able to calm down and make plans.

The biggest thing is that I haven’t been eating properly – which has probably affected my mood too. My mouth is now more sensitive than before, so all suggestions like “eat mints”, “spicy food” etc are no good, because they hurt! Textured food is still okay, but I’m going off too crunchy, again for the slight pain factor. So because of this, I’ve been eating badly. For example, yesterday I had a slice of bread and butter and a little madeleine cake for breakfast, lots of watered down fruit juice, and egg sandwich for lunch (2 slices of bread, one egg), and a small bowl of pasta, mince & aubergine for dinner.  Not exactly full of goodness!!

So, putting my plan into action today, I started the day with a banana/raspberry/strawberry smoothie, made with some ice cream. That helped get some vitamins into me, and, because of the sweetness, I actually enjoyed it.

The next part of the plan was a veggie soup for lunch – carrot, tomato, sweet potato & lentil. The best laid plans… I was too tired to make it today, & as Mr FD had cleared 8 litter trays, and had a meeting for the Cycle Club, I didn’t want to ask him to make it. Tomorrow, then!! But I did have a goats cheese & lettuce sandwich, with some cherry tomatoes, plus a piece of pannetonne. Not sure what dinner will be, but I’ll make sure it has veggies. If I drink, and drink, and drink, the salivary glands are a little better and food is (slightly) less cardboard-and-cotton-woolley!

So I’m going down the smoothies for breakfast, and veggie soup for lunch, plus a good meal in the evening. Plus DRINK, drink, drink!! That way I will get the good things I need to help me face up to this bastard cancer.

I don’t want to ever use that phrase “it’s not fair” – getting breast cancer is just life. The statistics are stacked high:, with 1 in 8 women contracting it. I don’t know what the repeat statistics are (& those are the ones that frighten me) but I ask those of you of a praying bent to remember K. She had a mastectomy in December 2016, and chemo & radiotherapy. She has just learned that the cancer has returned to both sets of lymph glands, and it has been diagnosed as Stage 4, that is, it has spread further, and is incurable. The shock for K has been enormous. A year after getting the all clear from her initial breast cancer she is facing this. Now, somehow, that IS “not fair”.  Please pray for her. I don’t know what to pray, but something…