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Bonjour everyone, hope you are having a good time wherever you are.

First we must congratulate Bradley Wiggins from here in the United Kingdom for his phenomenal win in the Tour de France Cycle race. We are very proud of him as it is an extremely arduous cycle race and he is the first British person to have done this. Bradley and his team apparently trained on a volcano in Tenerife intensively at altitude, in the heat, and on mountain ascents. Maybe we should all take to our bicycles once again and get some exercise – a little more gentle than Bradley’s regime of course!

There has been a great deal of talk recently in the media about people being overweight - young people particularly. Being overweight puts us at risk of heart disease and diabetes. Sounds very glum I know but it is a fact of life now as we do less physical activities compared to a few decades ago so it stands to reason that we may suffer as a consequence.

I have noticed that since retiring I have gained weight and am now recognising what is going on with me. I have always been active and as a nurse was on the go up and down the ward all day or all night. Now I spend more and more time sitting at the computer! Yes, the hobby I love is turning me into a sort of couch potato, or maybe an office potato!

If you have the same amount of food/calories going in and less action or calories going out - result - extra weight. I am now going to go for a walk more often and with a dog have no excuse as he is always ready for action.

The other thing that must be an issue with me is the amount of calories going in. So as the French say, it is the portion of food on your plate that is important and will make the difference. I understand that and will try and take more notice from now on.

Did you know that the French tend to go for more walks or 'strolls' than we do. An article in the Times Newspaper recently stated that we Brits really should give ourselves space to learn the art of flâner - aimless strolling. It seems it is part of their philosophy rather than a bout of healthy exercise.

In 2007 the public bicycle-sharing scheme Vélib began renting bikes throughout Paris. I totally agree that if other countries could do this it would be such a healthier way of life. This is something that could be done at the weekends so that streets could be closed to cars.

I am all for this idea both for health and happiness but also for the nostalgia element too. Wouldn't it be lovely for our children and grandchildren to have this kind of freedom just once in a while.

Why not have cycling holiday? This is not to be missed if this is what you would like to do. There are many areas of France where you can cycle for miles and miles and have a fantastic time. So if you are still undecided about what to do for a last minute holiday for your family, take a look at what French Connections have to offer and you will not be disappointed.

French food is very healthy and they do have some of the best food in the world. However, it is as some would say, all about the portions. You seldom see them overloading their plates and it is usually fresh with very little fast food (although you do see these fast food chains nowadays in the cities).

Traditionally the only fast food the French consider worth eating is a freshly grilled or pan fried piece of fish or meat. This is usually served with a fresh green salad, or freshly cooked vegetables. Yes they often use butter in their cooking and even fresh cream but the diet is varied and healthy with lots of fruit and vegetables.

It is usually the simplest of foods that are the tastiest and of course easy to make at home. That’s what I love about French cooking. It does not have to be the cuisine of the famous French restaurants or the best chefs of France. It is the simple everyday cooking of the ordinary housewife that I love. The type of cooking that has been handed down from mother to daughter along the years. Quite often today’s roast of rabbit or chicken, beef or pork will be tomorrow’s peasant soup or something similar. Nothing is wasted and is just as tasty if not better on the second day.

Meals can be varied with several small courses usually starting with the hors d oeuvres or appetizer which is to whet the appetite or to get your gastric juices flowing. Most main courses will have a side salad and usually there will be lots of fresh fruit and vegetables in the meal. Their cheeses are simply divine and a small amount with freshly baked French bread or crackers if you prefer will satisfy almost everyone.

This month I have chosen a very simple but tasty hors d oeuvre you can make at home or on holiday and it goes a long way. It can be used just as a snack if you prefer at any time of day and is a healthier option.

La tapénade (Spiced Olive Spread)

Tapénade is a very simple olive spread that makes an easy and tasty hors d oeuvre or appetizer.
It is made with black olives, anchovies, tuna fish and capers and their flavours are blended together with the addition of olive oil and a little cognac. It is usually served with toasted bread or you can use bread crackers as I have done here.

This recipe makes enough for two of the little pots you see in the picture and it goes a long way so will be enough for at least 12 people.

Ingredients

  • 225g/8oz black olives, pitted
  • 4oz/100g anchovy fillets (use tinned)
  • 225g/8oz capers
  • 100g/4oz tuna fish (tinned and drained)
  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cognac
  • Freshly ground black pepper and NO SALT! (The anchovies provide enough salt)

Method

The traditional way to make your tapénade is to pound the olives, the anchovy fillets, capers and tuna fish using a mortar and pestle.

You can of course do this, however, if you have a processor, just place the ingredients into this and mix on slow for a few seconds then add the mustard, the olive oil and the cognac and process again for a further few seconds or until it has formed a good smooth paste.

Place your tapenade in a serving bowl or dish and leave to cool in the refrigerator.

Serve with toasted French bread or with little herb crackers as I have done in the picture above.

Bon Appétit!

Until next month, thank you for joining me and have a good time - amusez-vous bien!