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French Connections

Find Holiday accommodation in France

Summer appears to be coming to an end here in the UK but you will be glad to hear it is not quite the same in France where the weather is still good in many regions.

As children prepare to return to school, in France and elsewhere, many regions will be much quieter and more relaxing for a late summer holiday. So if you still want a much earned break or just need a pick me up, you have to consider France as your holiday destination – why? Because it has so much to offer.

September is also the time when there are many reductions on flights and on hotel bookings. This seems a little unfair especially when you have young children and have had to pay extra during the summer term holidays for accommodation and travel costs.

But for those of you wanting a holiday at this time of year, you will undoubtedly find somewhere in the regions of France that will have something to offer whether you want to simply relax in a pretty French village; choose a walking holiday; go hiking in the hills; horse riding; enjoy a canal holiday on the canal mid; or site seeing and shopping, there is something for everyone.

Then of course there is the food! To me there is nowhere quite like it on earth for good food and wine. I am not talking about fancy gourmet food but the simple good quality everyday French food that you get in the small restaurants, the bistros, the market towns throughout France, in fact the kind of food that the French housewife will cook herself for her family. This is the food of France.

This time of year is also the time when many people choose to go to France to take on casual jobs for the season, usually picking fruit on one of the fruit farms. There are many in Normandy as well as elsewhere and it is one way to get to know the language whilst you are having a good time meeting new people and having fun.

There are often other jobs to be done as well as fruit picking, including helping with the animals on the farms including goats, chickens, ducks and geese, sheep and cows.

It sounds great if you are young doesn’t it, but it is not just the young who choose to take on this kind of work. I read of a lady who was in her sixties who went to Normandy as a volunteer to do just this and she had a wonderful time and whilst working alongside younger people; she improved her French as well as making some good friends.

She was fortunately fit for her age and that is all that matters, as long as you can do the job, age is of no restriction. However, on that note, it is hard work so if like me you are in your sixties, I would think very carefully about doing it.

These kinds of casual jobs can be paid or you can choose to volunteer for which you get free board and lodging. If you want to improve your French, it is a great way of doing this whilst learning about French life in the country.

Of course Normandy is famous for its apples and their Normandy apple tart is known all over the globe. But they also make Calvados from apples and pears. The fruit here are not the eating variety but a much smaller variety with a high acidity which is needed for this purpose.

Calvados must contain around 70% bitter varieties and 30% sweet varieties and this is why pears are used in order to bring some of the sweetness it requires.

Pears are also cooked to make the most delicious desserts in France, including such things as pear and almond tart. However, I have chosen a dessert which is simple to make and yet has a really big impact on everyone.

I am talking about pears cooked in red wine. Trust me, this really is a delicious recipe and you cannot fail to enjoy it. You have the sweetness of the pears with the contrasting spicy aromas of the red wine sauce – truly beautiful and you may well want more!

Pears in Red Wine

This recipe is for six people.

The pears must be ripe but still be firm. A good pear is the comice pear which has a really good flavour and sweetness. If you cannot find this variety, any good pear will be suitable as long as it is ripe and firm.
The recipe also includes a tablespoon of arrowroot. This is preferable than using cornstarch/corn flour as arrowroot does not have a taste and therefore does not alter the taste of the ingredients you are using for this dish. However, if you only have cornstarch, please use this anyway as it will still be a really tasty dessert using this, but for the future, try the arrowroot and see the difference.

Ingredients

  • 6 large pears
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • ½ cup of soft brown sugar
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot or 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 5 cloves
  • Zest of small orange
  • Zest of one lemon

Method

  • Mix one tablespoon of arrowroot with two tablespoons of red wine and leave aside.
  • Put the remaining wine in a saucepan along with the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, orange and lemon zest.
  • Simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Take your pears and peel them gently, leaving the stalks on.
  • Place the pears in the saucepan of wine and flavourings, put a lid on the pan and gently poach them for about twenty minutes or until they are tender.
  • Remove the pears using a slotted spoon and place in a deep serving dish.

Now to make the sauce:

  • Strain the red wine through a sieve to remove the cinnamon stick, zest and cloves.
  • Pour the wine back into the saucepan, give your arrowroot a stir and add it to the red wine.
  • Stir the mixture over a low heat until it thickens.
  • Pour the sauce over each pear and leave to go cold.

Your pears in red wine can be served just as they are or with some fresh cream or crème fraiche.

Bon Appétit

food   cooking