Saturday, 28 December 2013

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

What Was A Beautiful Barn...

Vacheresse, Vallée d'Abondance, Haute-Savoie, France
17th April 2012

I saw a beautiful old barn, crying out for love and devotion, tender loving care; someone wanting to renovate and turn a tumble down barn into a beautiful chalet style, wooden, environmentally friendly family home, with stunning views up and down the valley.

9th June 2013

I saw the barn again and was not only saddened but quite shocked to see it had fallen, or perhaps been pushed; given a helping hand to fall. Perhaps a bulldozer will move in, shove the debris to one side: A huge crane will come in and maybe a beautiful family home, environmentally friendly, with stunning views up and down the valley will take its place.

I hope so.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Will Spring Come This Year (and if so, before summer...)?

Exactly two months since the last posting... and what has happened?

It would seem not much, if one takes just the weather and seasonal change into consideration. Winter seemed to end late, and then returned, went away again for a day or two and then came back once more. The past 2 weeks have been cold, and wet; very wet. 

Snow has fallen regularly on higher ground. I fear for the small garden birds. Insects are not as abundant as they should be and birds having returned to these northern climes need as many insects as they can find to feed their young that are struggling to survive in these unseasonable temperatures.

At least my neighbour's wisteria looked quite beautiful in the first morning sunshine we have seen for over a week.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tamarind Seeds and how to prepare them for cooking...

I have always had trouble finding certain spices since coming to live in France, and although I had been used to finding Tamarind in both 'dried block form' and in jars, in England, I have not been successful here in this part of France. My nearest big town is Geneva, in Switzerland, but it would be a tad extreme to drive 50 kilometres just for a jar of paste! 

And so I was delighted to find boxes of Tamarind Seeds in a new branch of the supermarket chain Grand Frais . I bought them having no idea of how to deal with them but knew I had recipes from Madhur Jaffrey's various books. In her Far Eastern Cookery, a BBC book, she shows how to use dried tamarind as sold in block form... so it couldn't be much different could it? A quick web search came up with ready made stuff and so I thought I would share this attempt. And it worked well.

 Above: opened box of Thai 'Sweet Tamarind, with the pods or shells clearly visible.

 Above: Take a bowl and crack the fragile pods. Within will be found the seeds covered by a sticky paste and what appears to be a 'net' of sorts. At the end of each pod is a pointed nipple. This can be easily broken off and pulled away, and with it a fibrous element that resembles a thin net. The paste covered nuts can then be separated and put into a bowl before the next stage; cooking.

 Put the sticky pasty nuts into a pan and add just a little water. It should not be too runny because what you want to end up with is a paste that can easily be spooned out, and thick enough to allow for a rounded spoon. Cook this water and tamarind seeds mixture until the sticky pasty covering starts to separate from the seeds. This should not take many minutes. Stir it to help the separation.

When you are satisfied with the consistency of the mixture spoon some of it into a fine sieve and, using the back of a spoon or a ladle, press the paste through into a clean bowl. As you do so, take your spoon and scrape the pressed paste from the underside of the sieve and dollop that into your bowl too. 

 As you continue the action you will see the seeds (photo above) becoming much more less covered of the sticky paste and your bowl filling up with ready to to use Tamarind Paste. I junked the seeds and the mess left over, but I suppose you could always plant the seeds, grow a tree and take it from there...

Finally you should be left with a good amount of ready to use, freshly made Tamarind Paste. Now find your recipes; Thai, Indian and Malaysian and make some great Asian meals.
I made Daging Nasi Kandar translated by Madhur Jaffrey in her book Far Eastern Cookery as "Beef Curry with Thick Onion Sauce" and Pacheri Terong which she translates as "Aubergine in a Thick, Hot, Sweet & Sour Chilli Sauce". Both dishes I have to say were wonderful; I have been using Madhur Jaffrey's books since the early nineteen eighties, when I was too poor to eat out (mortgage- raising young family etc.,) and in any case, with Ms Jaffrey's instruction both on BBC television and in her books I found I could cook better Indian (style) meals than the average restaurant, at the time, served.

If you should try this as given above, I would love to hear your comments...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Snow covered chalets and refuge on GR5...

Just below the Cornettes de Bise mountain, on the GR5, 
above Vacheresse, Haute-Savoie, France.

A lone skier makes his way through the buildings
having descended from the Col d'Ugeon.

He had to stop several times to clear ice and snow;
 stuck to the bottom of his skis,
in the sheer cold.

As he passed; and greeted us on his way down,
he looked thoroughly pissed off.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Weather-brought White Stuff...

 And this was what the weather delivered between 10th and 12th of February... and so I thought;
if that is the amount fallen down here,
then what amount of lighter snow is there 'up there'?
 Here was the answer. An abstract view of a lot! Shapes against a French sky; 
deep and crisp
and even...
My son, wrapped against the cold, buttoned up and snow-skirted against 
the powdery white stuff that will find a way in;
strapped upon his snowboard, 
about to plunge down the slope, between the pines and through the
soft, soft snow.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Sky's Weather Warning

A few days ago I noticed from my balcony,

overlooking the lake, a cloud formation, that at the time looked weird.

As the cloud formation changed I sensed that a weather change was upon us although I had not heard any particular forecasts...

The following morning
I was welcomed by this view...
Beautiful light against a threatening sky.
Yet more was to come.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Winter landscape above Abondance, Haute-Savoie

Not always is the sky so blue 
above the mountain's snows...
Sometimes, the weather changes and southerly winds blow
bringing the clouds dark with rain
to make the snow dangerous to ski.

That happened Tuesday last
as I went for a randonnée a ski
up from Abondance;
 towards the Pic de Corne.

This was only an exercise in exercise 
but tiring and hugely enjoyable nevertheless.
A good climb of about 470m rewarded 
with a bol de soupe à l'oignon, 
and a few glasses of 
spring water.

A good ski down as the clouds let go their snow
was as much as I needed.
That and a promise to return when skies
above the snows are blue.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

What peace in the snow.

A soft delicate day full of snow 
falling constantly; 
the quiet in the woods as I walked uphill,
 my skinned skis sliding silently 
through the powder.

Later, having reached the plateau, 
and fortified by coffee;
I unpeeled the skins, packed them away,
and started skiing down
fast and quietly,
passing no one but seeing only tracks.

What had taken me an hour and a half
to climb up, had taken a matter only,
of minutes to descend.

But what bliss. What blood;
pouring through my heated veins.
What air; clean and 
deep in my cooled lungs.

What exhilaration; 
rushing through my brain.
What peace !