Speed King!…Holiday Day 5

Thursday 6th Sept

Mr FD wanted to do another ride, over the mountains between Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore, so I said I was happy to go back to Stresa to do some shopping and look around the town a bit more. So he set off, and I followed about half an hour later. I found a parking spot and walked into town. I’d just had time to start browsing, when I got a text saying Mr FD was back at the car. WHAT?! I’d hardly got started!!!

So my shopping was curtailed very abruptly, and I went back to meet him. Just in time, as the rain swept in. We had a picnic lunch, so decided to see if the weather cleared as we drove to Mottarone – a 1491m high mountain, offering views of seven lakes. While the clouds denied us views of all seven lakes, we certainly could see four or fiv

.

And on the top of the mountain was Alpyland

a kind of cross between a Big Dipper and a bob sleigh. The rider has control of the speed, as there is a lever that acts as both brake and accelerator, so you can decrease speed if you’re scared. We both went on it, but I have to admit it wasn’t my cup of tea at all! Mr FD loved it however, and had another go.

He said he went faster the second time round! Having got a taste for speed, he then decided to ride down from the top of the mountain. So he got back into his cycle gear, and off he went.

I followed in the car; I went at a speed I felt comfortable with on the mountain road, and I didn’t catch him up until we were very nearly back at the B&B. I overtook him with about a kilometre to go, and he had caught me up again before I had finished parking the car! He did an average of 37.5 km per hour! Speed King, indeed!

After showering, we headed back to the village of Orta SG again. We called in to see Dario, the owner of the B&B, in his gallery Oot and admired his work. He & MrFD talked about prog rock, a shared music passion, while I looked around the gallery. We then walked along the lakeside in the evening light, Mr FD taking lots of arty shots of boats and views.

This was my effort at an arty shot

We then headed to a rather posh hotel to have an apero on the lakeshore…

A Bellini for me, a beer for Mr FD, and some tasty snacks too.

and then went to have a lakeside meal in a very nice restaurant.

We had a shared charcuterie plate, and then I had Osso Bucco, with saffron rice, which was delicious, but very rich!

We then had a last gelato from the very good artisan gelato shop. I was persuaded to try a boule of what I think was bilberry, and the gelato man (gelatoteer?) suggested a creamy cream flavour to go with it. It was good, but maybe not my favourite. Mr FD had Cheesecake flavour.

Not my hand. Not my ice cream. Not actually my photo!

Then back to the B&B for the last time…

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Island life… Holiday Day 2

Monday 3rd September

Today dawned bright and clear, with beautiful views from the garden of the B&B across to MonteRosa, the second highest mountain in western Europe

Breakfast was filling and delicious – freshly squeezed orange juice, bread, cheese and local salami, local yoghurt and jams, with a home made cake as well, should you want it. Coffee, and a wide selection of tea as well. We were set up for the day! We decided to explore the village of Orta San Giulio, and the lake, which weren’t far away.

We parked in the car park at the top of the hill into the village, and made our way upwards to the “sacred mount” – dedicated to St Francis, this sacred mount houses many chapels showing scenes from the saint’s life. The wikipedia page gives a few more details. It was a very pleasant shady walk around, but we didn’t visit many of the chapels, as I found the scenes, with their rather dusty, lifesize figures, slightly macabre.

 

There were beautiful views across the lake and down to the island of San Guilio as well (this island features in many, many photos that I took!!)

After about an hour’s wander, we felt it was TFAB (Time for a beer) so we made our way down the cobbled streets to the waterfront piazza in the village. On the way down, we met a great deal of visitors puffing their way upwards to the mount.

“Is it much further?” they gasped.

“About 300 metres uphill,” we replied, smugly, as our parking place had meant we’d not had such a difficult walk, as we’d been about halfway up the back of the mount before we started.

On the way down we came across this rather lovely statue of St Francis (my sister said it looked like he was morris dancing!)

We found a bar right on the waterfront, and ordered a beer. This came with crisps and a plate of snacks – tiny sandwiches, sausage, cheese etc. We debated whether to eat it, not knowing whether it was free (highly unlikely) or to be paid for, but decided we would eat it as an early part of our lunch, before going on a boat to the island. On paying the bill, we found that yes, we did have to pay for it, but that it wasn’t very expensive – and it kept us going until our late lunch.

We took a boat trip out to the island, on which is a monastery and some rather expensive looking houses…

It was relatively peaceful there, despite all the tourists chattering away as they strolled round the streets. It took about 30 minutes to complete a tour of the island, and then we got the boat back to Orta St Giulio

.

After a picnic lunch at the side of the lake we went for a drive around the lake, stopping to take photos, and to have our first gelato. I had lemon, but I can’t remember Mr FD’s flavour.

Happy Birthday, Mr FD

Same island, different angle!

After a rest back at the B&B, we went back into Orta SG for pizza night…

Charcuterie plate and mixed salad to start…

“Pizza Viagra” (yes, really!) for Mr FD

 A calzone for me. I was tempted to have “Pizza Aphrodisia” just to get tongues wagging, what with Mr FD’s pizza as well, but I didn’t!

They weren’t tiny pizzas either!

After this, Mr FD decided he needed another gelato, so we wandered back to the Piazza. He had a delicious lemon-and-basil flavour, and I had a yoghurt gelato, with peach and strawberry syrup running through it. Yummy!

I was very lucky here, as I left my purse on, the bench where we’d been sitting. As we walked back along the streets to the car, a young man chased after us with the purse…all money and credit cards intact. There are honest people in this world (who are also observant enough to notice who it was that had left the purse behind!). What a relief! That would have really put a dampener on the holiday!

And relax! (briefly!) – Holiday Day 1

Hello everyone!

I am at last taking a breath and pausing, after a fabulous week in Italy and then a week with my mum and sister staying. It has been lovely, but I haven’t really stopped, so ended up feeling really tired! Today is a day of not doing much at all, and then I need to start thinking about going bacxk to work. After a gap of 9 months it’s going to be quite difficult, although I am definitely looking forward to it!

I’ll spread out my posts about our holiday… I won’t overwhelm you with everything in one post!

So we wet off on Sunday morning, after a panic filled Saturday evening – I discvered that my European Health card was out of date, and I couldn’t get onto the site to renew it, for many and various reasons. Mr FD was quietly frustrated with me, but we finally decided that we’d take the chance that nothing terrible would happen that required medical attention – and if it did, well, the lack of card would just mean we’d have to pay up front and get reimbursed later. Happily, it was not necessary!!

We decided that we wouldn’t take the Fréjus tunnel, but rather drive over the mountains between France and Italy

This is the Col between France and Italy where we paused to eat our lunch, before descending a very winding road into Italy.

We arrived at our B&B around 17h30, having stopped off for a beer in Omegna, a village at the lakeside.

Mr FD standing on the bridge in Omegna

The B&B was very nice, but there was a problem: there was parking for 2 small cars, and 3 bedrooms**. Our car is not small, and we were “the last in”, as it were, so the spaces were already “reserved”.  The public car parking, according to the owners, is 300m away…but they neglect to say that it is 300m up a hill, AND there’s another 200 m up to the house! That first evening Mr FD drove up to the public car park, and got caught in a torrential down pour! He was not a happy bunny, and was adament that I would struggle to walk up to it every day.

So, we (I’m a tad ashamed to say) played the “cancer card” – we explained to Dario, the owner, that, in my state of recovery, I couldn’t walk up to the car park every day, so if there was no other parking available, we were very sorry but we’d have to cancel the rest of the booking, and find another place to stay. Very quickly, a solution was found, and we were able to use their parking place for the duration of the stay! I’d certainly recommend the B&B to anyone thinking of going to Lake Orta – you would ned a car, as it’s a few kilometres above the lake, but it was very pleasant, and Dario and Ciara, the owners, were very accommodating. He explained to me that they are planning on improving the parking situation this autumn.

Lavanda e Rosmarino

It wasn’t the most “typical” place, being a modern house, but it was very comfortable, and the breakfasts were fab!

Our room

We were directed to an excellent restaurant for dinner, just up the road, where we ate very well. The Taverna Antico Agnello. I had a delicious tomato soup, with garlic bread, followed by home made tagliatelli with a rabbit ragout, and then pannacotta. When we arrived it was lashing down with rain, and when we left it was dark, so we didn’t get much chance to look at the splendid building that the restaurant was in, but here is Trip Advisor’s photo:

Despite the thunderstorm and parking problem, it was an auspicious start to our holiday. I was already feeling more relaxed!

 

** ETA – that sentence is badly written, sounding as though there was car parking space for not only two small cars, but also for three bedrooms!! What it means is, of course, that despite the fact there wre three bedrooms in the B&B, there was parking provided for just two cars, and small ones at that.

Domestic Goddess-ishness

I don’t know if it’s the same in the UK, or the USA, but here in France it is becoming more and more difficult to find cereal without chocolate in it – whatever the type of cereal, there’s a version of it with chocolate. Even Special K, that well known dieter’s brand has a chocolate version!

Mr FD did the shopping on Thursday, and as we were unpacking he muttered an oath of annoyance – he’d bought chocolate meusli instead of fruity meusli by mistake.

Never mind, I said, I’ll make cake. And so, this morning, I headed to my trusty recipe book…

When I was young, and newly married and eager to be the “perfect wife” (whatever she looks like!) I decided to keep a recipe book with cuttings and favourite recipes from magazines stuck into it. I even had sections (here’s pretentiousness for you!) labelled “Cellar Book” and “Dinner Party Menus” I wasn’t really very committed to these pages though…I only ever wrote one thing in them:

Apparently on 31st December – but I don’t know what year – Paul, Sharon & Judith (my BiL, his wife & my SiL) came for a meal. We had Paté (courtesy of Sainsbury), Oriental style salmon, Camargue red rice and mange tout. Pudding (no idea what it was!) came courtesy of Paul, who is a chef. And that’s it…No other record of dinner parties – although we did have friends for meals at regular intervals.

I stuck some very random recipes into this book, which I have never used and can’t imagine I ever will! For example, here’s the recipe for Fillet Steak Royale:

I’m not going to be buying fillet steak for anyone!! Although the sauce looks rather good – it might work with extra mushrooms as a pasta sauce!

There are however some less showy, or expensive, recipes that I turn to every now and then – Michael Barry’s Duck with apricots is one that was featured on BBC “Good Food” way back when the TV show started in 1984. Quite simple, but rather nice.

DUCK au Michael Barry

serves 2

  • 1 biggish duck breast
  • 1/4 pint water
  • 1/4 pint stock (chicken works best)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • zest 1/2 orange
  • 4 oz soft dried apricots

To serve: tagliatelli, mange touts, carrot batons

  1. Fry duck breast quickly, then trim off skin. Cut duck breast into chunks.
  2. Pour away most of the duck fat. Replace duck in pan with everything else EXCEPT the lemon juice. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook tagliatelli, and then stir fry quickly with the vegetables (I usually just cook everything normally…)
  4. Remove duck, & keep warm.
  5. Stir a slake of cornflour made with the lemon juice into the sauce to thicken it.
  6. Put pasta & veg into serving bowls, add duck & pour sauce over.
  7. For a finishing touch, add toasted almonds, if desired.

But in my recipe book, it’s the “Baking” pages that I turn to most regularly as there are one or two recipes there that are my “go to” recipes. As the pages testify, I’m not the tidiest of cooks

And so the recipe that I used today is one that can be very easily adapted. Here it is:

OAT & ORANGE TEA LOAF

Tea loaf in the sense that you have it with tea, rather than it’s made with tea – although I have a recipe for that kind of Tea loaf too (see below)!

  • 6 oz Crunchy Oat Cereal
  • 6 oz soft brown sugar
  • 4 oz SR flour
  • 4 oz wholemeal flour
  • 2 oz sultanas
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 fluid oz orange juice
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice (or to taste)
  1. Mix dry ingredients
  2. Beat egg into juice.
  3. Add to dry ingredients & mix well
  4. Put into 2lb loaf tin
  5. Bake for 1 hour at 180°C/350°F/GM4

And there you have it! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Sorry the weights and measures are in UK “old money” – it shows how old the recipe is!

This time, however, instead of the Crunchy Oat cereal I used the Carrefour Chocolate & Nut meusli, that Mr FD had bought by mistake,  I added some nuts instead of the sultanas, and used milk instead of orange juice. All finished and put into the oven, I then realised I’d bought two very brown bananas in order to put them in the cake…So I made another one, using two mashed up bananas in the milk/egg mixture as well. Here are the results of my Domestic Goddess-ishness:

Two chocolate-and-nut Meusli tea loaves (one with added banana), and 14 adapted recipe Anzac biscuits. Jan told me, in no uncertain terms, that if the Anzac biscuit recipe was messed about with, the results no longer had the right to be called Anzac biscuits. Fair enough. These are therefore Choc-nut-meusli biscuits. The recipe that I adapted can be found at the end of this post

At the same time as I’ve been baking, I also had a pan simmering away for two hours with a tin of condensed milk in it – I’m making a banoffi pie to take up to Richard’s tonight. I’ve already crushed chocolate/coconut granola biscuits for a base, and that is chilling in the fridge. The toffee sauce is now cooling, and the bananas waiting to be sliced. I kept a sharp eye on the water level, and had the timer set on my mobile…I once had a disaster with making toffee sauce like this, when I forgot about the tin of condensed milk, it boiled dry and then exploded, leaving toffee spattered around the kitchen. Mr FD has not let me forget it!

And, to end with, here is my super-simple recipe for Tea Bread with tea in it. It’s yet another “old money” recipe.

  1.  Soak 12 oz dried fruit in 1/2 pint of cold tea for about an hour.
  2. Add 12 oz SR flour, 6 oz sugar, 1 beaten egg.
  3. Put into a 2 lb loaf tin.
  4. Bake for 1.5 hours at 180°C/350°F/GM4

You can use any tea for this – your usual builders’ tea, yes, but also a red fruits tea, or a Rooibus work quite well. I’m not sure mint tea would work, however. Lemon tea might bring an added citrussy note to the finished cake.

Do let me know if you try any of these recipes!

 

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
ou
Salade de Saint Jacques Panées aux Amandes, Coco et Banane Plantain
ou
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!!

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

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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

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

separateurr5

Plateau de fromages affinés
ou
Faisselle Bressane et sa crème épaisse

separateurr5

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.