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French Connections

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  • £22 day return offer from Eurotunnel

    Eurotunnel is running a £22 day return offer for Easter period of 6 - 22 April. Cars, car-based vans or motorcycles and up to 9 people can travel for £22.

  • An Easter dish - Navarin of Lamb

    April is a beautiful month of the year, it heralds in the spring with a promise of all things new. It is my favourite time of year and I enjoy pottering in the garden and planning our French holidays!

    The garden is beginning to come to life as the spring bulbs begin to show through and very soon our laburnum tree will have a wonderful display of yellow flowers as the month progresses. The lavender is also beginning to show a new green growth and will in due course give us a beautiful display of fragrant lavender flowers down the garden path. I will use it for cooking as well as for lavender bags later on in the year.

    In France spring is a glorious time of year as the winter months give way to a warmer climate and beautiful countryside throughout the various regions..

    Easter this year begins Thursday 5th April with Maundy Thursday and there will be many celebrations in most of France for this period until Monday 9th April. It is the most important time of year for the Christian religion.

    So if you are considering a Spring break, April is an ideal time to take a holiday in France and enjoy the culture and cuisine. You will find many wonderful breaks with French Connections in most regions of France to suit all pockets.

    When I am on holiday (or just thinking of recipes in general) I enjoy making the most of what is available and in season at the time. Spring lamb is usually on the menu in most places and is traditional both in France and here in Wales in the United Kingdom.

    Lamb is of course the meat associated with Welsh cooking and is often served with a mint sauce. We are very proud of our Welsh lamb and its reputation for quality is well known.

    The lamb from France, particularly from the Normandy region is a truly delicious meat and is one of the meats usually chosen by most families at Easter or spring time for celebrations. Normandy lamb is from the lambs grazing on the shores of the English Channel and it has an unusual and delicate salty flavour.

    The lambing season usually coincides with the new growth of grass so this is probably why we associate it with spring so much. Of course lamb is readily available throughout the year nowadays and people don't seem to use mutton as much as in years gone by.

    Young lamb is firm and pinkish and the fat a creamy white and crisp. As it matures the flesh becomes redder and the fat more richly coloured.

    The leg of lamb or gigot as it is called in France (and Scotland) is the prime cut for roasting; the shoulder is sweeter and fattier. The chump has the juiciest chops - the part between the leg and the loin. The whole best end of the neck is called a rack and two of these, curved fat side in make a crown roast. Of course if these are stood face to face, fat side out, they make a guard of honour.

    Along with the spring lamb you will find an abundance of spring vegetables in France. Every local market will have the most wonderful displays of fruits and vegetables on offer so you will have a tremendous choice for whatever recipes you are planning to cook.

    For this month's recipe I have chosen a delicious lamb recipe which is a casserole of lamb with spring vegetables. It is best prepared the day before you are to serve it. The reason I say this is because lamb is often fatty and for this reason you can discard the fat from the casserole before the final cooking period by leaving it overnight in the refrigerator where it will surface and make it easy to dispose of it.

    Navarin of Lamb

    Ingredients

    • 3 lbs (1 1/2 kg) stewing lamb such as shoulder
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons flour
    • 4 cups (about 3 pints or enough to just cover) beef or chicken stock
    • 1 large bouquet garni
    • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
    • 1 1/2 lbs small potatoes (peeled)
    • 10 baby carrots
    • 1/4 lb (120gms) green beans cut in small pieces
    • 12 pearl onions, peeled
    • 6 medium turnips
    • 1 1/2 (about 6ozs or 225gms) cups peas
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
    • Salt and black pepper to taste
    • Fresh parsley to garnish

    Method

    Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
    Add small amount of lamb and cook until brown on all sides.
    Sprinkle the lamb with a little sugar and cook until it has caramelised.
    Transfer the lamb to a large flameproof casserole dish.
    Cook the remainder of the lamb as above and transfer to casserole dish.
    Sprinkle the flour over the meat and cook for about 3 minutes until browned.
    Pour in the stock, the garlic, tomatoes, bouquet garni and salt and pepper.
    Raise the heat and bring the contents to the boil.
    Skim off the foam that rises and reduce heat to simmer.
    Place lid on casserole and cook for about an hour.
    Allow to cool.
    Chill the casserole in a cool place overnight.

    About 2 hours before serving, remove the fat from the surface with a spoon and dispose of it.
    Wipe the surface with paper towels to remove all fat.
    Prepare the vegetables, cutting the potatoes into quarters, the carrots and turnips into small chunks.
    Place the vegetables into the pan with the meat and stock.
    Bring to the boil then simmer for about 45 minutes.
    In the meantime, cook the peas and beans in a little boiling salted water for a few minutes until almost cooked. Drain in a colander and run them immediately under cold water to stop the cooking and to keep the colour.
    About 10 minutes before serving, add the green beans and peas to the casserole and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir gently to mix the contents.
    Stir in about 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

    Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

    I hope you enjoy this recipe, it really is delicious and if you need a light refreshing dessert to finish your meal a choice of desserts can be found on my website but I recommend a light crumbly lemon citron tart which you can find here

    Bon Appétit

  • Bargain Easter holidays in France

    Easter Saturday falls on 19th April this year, so the evenings will be lighter and the flowers blooming for this spring holiday. Easter is a lovely time in France as the days become warm and sunny, especially in southern parts. And we have an almost unprecedented number of special offers for April 2014, including Easter and the two preceding school holiday weeks, so there’s even more reason to plan a trip to France.

  • Beat the crowds, see the wedding and enjoy the long break at a holiday home in France

    Around one fifth of the British workforce will be looking to escape the UK for the long Easter and bank holiday break. But many will also want to avoid battling through the major airports or missing the big wedding.

  • Fish, flying bells and eggs ? Easter in France

    As Easter - or Pâques as it’s known in France – approaches, shop windows throughout the country are filling with colourful, festive collections of chocolate rabbits, chickens, bells and fish.As Easter - or Pâques as it’s known in France – approaches, shop windows throughout the country are filling with colourful, festive collections of chocolate rabbits, chickens, bells and fish. We’re familiar with Easter bunnies and chicks – but why fish? Well, traditionally April 1st is marked by children taking delight in sticking a paper fish – the famous ‘Poisson d’Avril’ - on the back of unsuspecting adults. It’s a kind of April Fool trick that goes back hundreds of years and may originate in the story of some poor ingénue being sent to market for freshwater fish when it was out of season. And bells? These are not normal church bells but “Cloches Volantes” or Flying Bells. They acknowledge the Easter French Catholic tradition that on Good Friday all the church bells in France miraculously fly to the Vatican in Rome, carrying the grief of those who mourn the crucifixion of Jesus. Happily, the bells fly back on Easter morning, this time bringing chocolate and eggs that are hidden in the house and garden for children to find when they wake up in the morning. Later on Easter Sunday extended families attend church together and then share a meal that traditionally features roast lamb and perhaps a quiche or omelette dish.
  • Late deals for Easter and Springtime in France

    Easter is fast approaching – and if you’re looking for a late deal, then France is a really attractive, value for money option. Our owners are still offering gites, chateaux, villas and B&B for Easter week 4th to 11th April, so you can still grab a beautiful property in a fabulous location.

    Late availability B&B starts at just £47 per night for a double room and you can rent a charming self-catering cottage or apartment for two to four people from only £160 for the week. Among our special offers, owners are offering 20% and even 50% discounts for April weeks.

    Add to this the euro-sterling exchange rate, now at its best for seven years at nearly 1.4 euros to the pound, making it cheaper to buy petrol and eat out, and there really is no excuse for staying home this Easter!

    Why not try a new part of France this Spring? Timeless countryside, wide open beaches, rolling hills, dramatic mountains, rivers, lakes and waterways, historic towns, medeival villages are all yours to discover by day, with top notch food and wine to savour when the sun goes down.

  • Special Easter offer at a Loire Valley Chateau

    Want to live like a lord for the holiday weekend? The Comte and Comtesse de Vanssay are offering an elegant Easter break with a complimentary extra night at their Chateau de la Barre, which is featured in our latest competition.

    The offer includes a VIP welcome and tea in the salon, a private tour of the château, a festive Easter Sunday Grand Siècle dinner with fine wines and champagne in the XVIIth century grand dining room, using the family silver and crystal, and two nights’ accommodation with breakfast - plus an extra night free. All for 390 to 490 euros per person, depending on the room chosen.

    See more about Chateau de la Barre

  • There's still time to book an Easter break in France

    DomaineCrestet

    Easter is just around the corner and there’s still time to book a holiday in France during the Easter break.

    Easter in France means age-old community traditions and joyful celebrations. In the countryside, Spring is evident all around in field, forest, vineyards and verdant hillsides – so it’s an excellent time for getting active outdoors.

    French churches hold an Easter Mass on Saturday evening and the Sunday is marked by a long family lunch with plenty of local produce and wine, which seems like a pretty good model to follow if you’re holidaying in France!

    Book now and you can even grab a bargain from our discounts and special offers. The Syrah House at Domaine du Crestet, a Mas Provencal in Vaucluse shown in our photo, sleeps 4 and has southwest view towards vineyards and the historical village Crestet. There’s an Easter discount of 150 euros a week in the period 19th March to 9th April 2016

    In Finistere, Brittany Ty Glass cottage is only 500m from 2 secluded beaches. It’s set in a large private garden and sleeps 6 people. From 26th March to 15th April, prices are reduced by £100 a week and in May all rates are reduced by 10%

    La Montagne is a two bedroom gîte that sleeps five people, located in the Minervois, Aude region of soutrh west France. There’s 20% off all bookings of four or more nights during the months of March and April, including Easter.

    Check out all our special offers and search by date for last minute availability at the links below.

  • There's still time to book Easter in France

    Spring has definitely arrived and there's good news for anyone dreaming of a last-minute Easter getaway. Not only is France a fantastic destination, but you can also still choose from a range of fabulous accommodation from budget to luxury, giving you a chance to savour the romance of Paris,  the glorious Normandy countryside or the glamour of the Cote d'Azur along with all the traditions, celebrations, food and drink associated with the season of Pacques.

    If you feel lured by the charms of Paris, then check out the peaceful one-bedroom Greneta apartment in the buzzing Montorgeuil district, close to the Eurostar terminal. At £100 a night for two people, it's excellent value and allows you to live like a Parisien for the weekend. Also great value is La Barberie, a beautifully restored and modernised rural cottage in the Calvados area of Normandy. With two bedrooms, it has plenty of space for four people and costs just £250 for the week.

    Anyone looking for luxury in Normandy with a larger group of people will surely be delighted by the mouthwatering Chateau du Mont, set in its own gated 50 acre estate and resplendent with French antiques and period features at 6,000 euros for a week for up to 16 people. Luxury is also on offer at an architect's villa near St Tropez on the Cote d'Azur, with a pool and amazing sea and Corniche views. La Lezardiere has five bedrooms and four bathrooms and accommodates up to 10 people for £1,500 per week.

  • Win Easter at a Languedoc Wine Estate!

    We at French Connections have teamed up with Bonnes Vacances digital magazine to offer the fantastic competition prize of a week at Domaine de St Ferreol, a beautiful traditional wine estate near the picturesque medieval town of Pezenas and gorgeous Mediterranean beaches. Two people can stay in Le Catalan, a spacious, luxury villa, any week from early April to mid May, including Easter.

    The 11th century Domaine is run by friendly hosts Jorje  and Ania Maslakiewicza to offer guests a tranquil oasis of  superbly equipped villas furnished to the highest standards. The Domaine stands in the midst of vines, on a huge estate with a heated swimming pool, private fishing and abundant wildlife.

    This historic area of the Languedoc is great for cycling, walking and exploring and the competition winners will enjoy an exclusive tour of the vineyards and winery with a private tasting of the Domaine's award-winning wines and a special wine gift. So, grab this fantastic opportunity and enter the competition now at Bonnes Vacances!