Well, it's now January 2012! Bonne année et bonne santé - I wish you all a very happy new year and the best of good health.
If you are travelling to France this month you have many things to look forward to as there is so much to see and do. It's a good time to take it easy and simply browse the museums and art galleries if you love French art or have a love of history..
January is a cold month of the year and is just the same in most of France with the temperature being a little less cold in the south of course although it does get very chilly at night there too so remember to take some warm clothes with you if you are heading for the south
The January sales or the 'soldes' are in full swing especially in the towns and cities such as Paris or Nice and for the ladies this is always a good time to shop - you have a good excuse so enjoy yourselves and have a French shopping experience!
These sales are state approved as it is illegal in France for shops to suddenly decide to have a one day sale. So they have them in January and again in July. They are really worth a visit so if you can get away you have plenty of time as these sales usually run through January until the middle of February.
Imagine shopping in the French shops and getting some bargains for yourself or your home whilst enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and some delicious French pastries from one of the many patisseries - my idea of heaven!
Many people choose this time of year to visit the ski areas of France such as the French Alps which are the mountain range in the Rhone Alps and the Provence Alps Côte d'Azur. Most people will have heard of Mont Blanc and this is the highest mountain in the Alps and is on the French/Italian border.
If you are thinking of taking a break or a holiday in France this January you will find a good selection of property at French Connections which will help to make your stay a comfortable and enjoyable affair.
You will find that it costs less to travel to France at this time of year as there are many reductions on air fares so if you are lucky you can get a bargain.
Food is always on my shopping list and I have a love for the French markets whatever time of year. There is always the best and the most fresh of vegetables, cheeses and regional specialities to choose from.
This month I have two delicious recipes to tempt your taste buds whether you
are taking a holiday in France or just enjoying some tasty French recipes at home.
The first recipe is for a warming winter soup, ideal if you are spending some time on the ski slopes and want something to warm your inside when you return to your chalet.
The other recipe is for a delicious French cake to remind you of the biggest mountain in the French Alps! I hope you like them.
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Potage Crème de Pommes de terres
(Potato Soup with Cheese)
- 1/2kg/1lb potatoes
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 leeks
- 25g/1oz butter
- Salt and pepper
- Turmeric and Nutmeg
- 2 litres/3 1/2 pints clear meat stock
- 250mls/9fl oz crème fraiche or cream
- 200g/7 oz cheese such as Swiss or Cheddar
- Clean and slice all the vegetables.
- Crush the garlic cloves
- Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and sweat all the vegetables over a low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add the meat stock and the salt and pepper.
- Bring the stock to the boil and then reduce to a low heat and cook until all the vegetables are tender.
- Remove about half of the vegetables with a slotted spoon and reserve.
- You now need to puree the remainder of the vegetables by any method you prefer such as in a liquidiser or with a hand held blender or passing through a sieve.
- Place the whole vegetables back in the pan and mix with the pureed vegetables.
- Heat slowly and add the cream or crème fraiche with about 100g/4oz of grated cheese and a little nutmeg.
- Stir until your potato soup is hot (not boiling) and the cheese has melted.
- Serve hot with a few slices of cheese on the top!
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Petits Mont Blancs
(Meringues filled with Chestnut Cream)
Gorgeous meringue cakes piled high with a delicious chestnut puree and whipped cream! These are made to resemble the famous mountain in the French Alps - Mont Blanc!
You can either make the meringues yourself following the recipe below or you can buy them and top with the chestnut puree and cream. This recipe is for about 6 people.
For the meringues:
- 2 egg whites
- A pinch of cream of tartar
- 100g/3 1/2oz/1/2 cup superfine sugar (castor sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 60g/2oz/1/3 cup castor sugar
- 125mls/4fl oz/1/2 cup water
- 450g/1lb can unsweetened chestnut puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 350mls/12fl oz/1 1/2 cups double cream
- Chocolate shavings to decorate (optional)
Method If making your own meringues:
- Preheat your oven to 140C/275F/Gas1
- Line your baking tray with baking paper.
- Draw small circles on the paper using a small plate or saucer for the outline.
- Whisk the egg whites until they are light and frothy then add the cream of tartar and continue until the egg whites form soft peaks.
- Gradually sprinkle in the sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
- Beat in the vanilla essence.
- Put the mixture into a large icing bag and pipe around the outlines on your paper so that you form spirals.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour or until they feel firm and crisp (Lower the heat if they begin to brown).
- Transfer to a wire tray to cool.
- Place the sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil whilst stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Continue boiling over a low heat for about 5 minutes and remove from the heat and leave until cool.
- Mix the chestnut puree either in a processor or mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon until smooth.
- Add the cool syrup slowly and keep mixing until it is soft but still holding its shape. (You may not need all the syrup at this stage)
- In another bowl, prepare the cream:
- Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks and add a tablespoon of the chestnut cream to the mixture. Leave the remaining cream in the refrigerator.
- Put the chestnut cream into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe swirls of the cream onto your meringues.
- Now pipe or spoon the cream on top to resemble the snow capped mountain peak.
- Keep chilled until you are ready to serve them.
You can sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the top if you wish and if you really want a treat they can be served with a creamy chocolate sauce.