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It is pouring down with rain as I write this month's blog. We Brits do tend to talk a great deal about the weather and I think it is fair to say that we have had a pretty miserable summer one way or another. So I tell myself it is time for a trip to France.

Why go to France at this time of year? Well France is wonderful at any time of year but particularly during the autumn season (or the fall as our American friends call it) when it is even more beautiful with the glorious shades of browns and golden hues that cover the countryside from north to south.

It is also a little less expensive to travel at this time of year and accommodation is very reasonable too making it even more tempting. The crowds have lessened and you will have a more relaxing time to enjoy France and all it has to offer.

So what is on offer? Well there are many wine festivals all over France for it is the time of the grape harvesting and you may even see wine stomping in some regions. If you enjoy wine you can also take part in some wine tasting - how does that sound?

For horse lovers everywhere you can enjoy the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe which is the largest horse race in France and is held on the first Sunday in October at Long Champ Racecourse near Paris.

There is ample opportunity for various outdoor activities from walking, hill climbing, canoeing, cycling and many more. In fact there is much to do and see for all the family. If you are looking to stay in France then look no further than www.frenchconnections.co.uk as you will see they have a great variety of excellent accommodation to suit all pockets.

French food is a delight in any region of France and as autumn arrives so does the need for warm soups and the heavier French cuisine to give comfort and sustenance to all food lovers. I advise you to take a stroll around the wonderful French markets and see for yourself the abundance of fresh produce on display including the season’s fruit and vegetables, cheeses, meat and poultry.

You will continue to find lots of fresh apples and pears during October as well as seasonal mushrooms which are really fantastic. Chestnuts are coming into season too and will provide some delicious French recipes for cakes and would you believe it - chestnut soup too! The French really know how to make our mouths water!

October is the month for Halloween and it is celebrated in France much the same as in other countries. I think last year I suggested a tasty Pumpkin soup for Halloween as it is a traditional vegetable used for making those lovely orange Halloween lanterns. It's a very warming soup on a cold autumn evening and it makes a substantial amount for your family and friends. You will find the recipe on my website.

This year I have another suggestion which will make a really good accompaniment to your pumpkin soup and again it will be made using seasonal food. I will show you how to make a warm tasty pie using pork, apples and chestnuts. A thick slice of this pie will satisfy the heartiest of appetites and is ideal to eat when outside in your garden enjoying Halloween or inside sitting around your supper table. It is traditional in the Ardennes region of France and has a German influence.

Tourte Ardennaise ( Pork, Apple and Chestnut Pie)

Ingredients

  • 225gms (8oz) minced lean pork
  • 225gms (8oz) Apples, either eating or cooking
  • 225gms (8oz) fresh Chestnuts or canned chestnuts
  • 100mls (4fl oz) Madeira
  • 2 eggs
  • 15gms (1/2 oz) butter
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 225oz (8oz) pâté brisée (short crust pastry) or puff pastry – buy ready made or see the recipes on my website.
  • 1 20cm/8 1/2 inch loose bottomed flan tin

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5
  • Place a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
  • Butter the flan tin.
  • If using fresh chestnuts make a cut in one side of the chestnuts and place under a slow grill until the skins burst and the chestnuts are cooked.
  • Remove the chestnut skins and cut the nuts into small pieces. If using canned simply chop into pieces.
  • Prepare the apples by pealing, coring and thinly slicing them.
  • Mix the apples with the chestnuts, the minced pork, Madeira, salt, pepper and one beaten egg.
  • Roll out about two thirds of your pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick and line the flan tin with this.
  • Prick the pastry all over and spread the filling into the pastry case.
  • Cover the filling with the rest of the pastry making sure to seal the edges.
  • Brush with the other beaten egg and place a small funnel in the centre of the pie to allow the steam to escape during cooking. (You can make a funnel with a small piece of cardboard rolled in the shape of a cigarette)
  • Bake your pie for about forty five minutes and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the rolled cardboard and brushing the surface with melted butter.
  • Cut into individual slices whilst it is still warm.

This pie is delicious eaten warm for an autumn or winter's meal but it is also very tasty eaten cold with a salad or pickles and chutney.

Bon Appétit