The oven is crap!

Delia finally agreed that the oven was crap. The oven is totally unpredictable – no idea what temperature it’s going to cook at except that, even on the top shelf, it burns the bottom and undercooks the top – almost as if its cooked on the hob. Speaking of the hob – no simmer unless carefully balanced between max and off. Anyway I’d postponed resolving the issue since it would involve worktops and stuff. But, Leroy Merlin (our favourite diy centre) had a special offer until the end of April on the worktops we thought we preferred. Now the logistics… 4 two and a half metre worktops – obviously we need a van… so what else do we need that requires a van… scaffolding for doing the repointing soon… plus the oven and the hob. Shopping around I got the same model of oven at two thirds of the Leroy price, likewise the hob. But all separate suppliers and here the idea is often to go to pickup points – the oven is now awaiting pickup a few hundred metres from Leroy. We visited Leroy to look at the worktops and… too thin! They have ideal ones a bit more expensive and not on special offer so no hurry getting them. I’m going to try to rearrange things; Our friends Steph and Rob arrive for a few weeks early May and I am sure Rob will enjoy being on the other end(s) of 2.5m of several worktops and scaffolding. So watch this space for ongoing photos (but don’t hold your breath).

The hob arrived and it needs a 32amp supply (thought I had one but no, only 16a) plus it will take us over the 6kva edf currently supply is with and we need to upgrade the ‘package’ – the electrician arrives on Tuesday! I tried out the new induction hob (just one hob so not overloading the fuse) – cool, literally it needs ferrous pans and only heats them not the plates, supposed to be the most efficient form of hob. I knew some our aluminium pans wouldn’t work but our stainless steel saucepans don’t either -they say inox but they aren’t magnetic so I think it’s a fib. Only our big Jamie Oliver pan and a cast iron griddle work. Some kitchen-ware needed, hey it’s my birthday soon!

See above about the oven I guess. Not much new otherwise food-wise. I’m going to have to be pro-active and do stuf to write ebout rather than vice versa. Still Delia should be doing me a cake for my 60th next Saturday and we’re hoping for a restaurant/bar with jazz this Friday so I should be able to make up for my lack of inspiration this week.


Bluebell walk yesterday.

bluebells-1 spring walk-1

Stig of the Dump*

That was me this week – many trips to the déchetterie with various déchets (rubbish) that had bred in the garage and piles of turf and grass clippings for which there was no room in the compost bins. Those big ikea bags come in very handy since any bigger and I wouldn’t be able to lift them. The car’s a bit of a mess though! I think it’s the same in the UK now that most dumps operate a card system so only locals allowed. I think I’ve mentioned this but our garbage collection is now limited to a basic 12 collections per year (for 150€) and 2.50€ + 0.25c/kg for any more – so when I had some fertiliser bags I was disposing of, I used a partly filled kitchen rubbish sack – but the déchet police caught me and I was reprimanded with a “poubelle est interdit!(forbidden)”  I honestly didn’t know (guv) but I should have guessed from the close inspection some flytipped “poubelle” was receiving outside the dump’s gates by a council employee in a council van. Poubelle (beautiful poo?) is distinct from déchet, one man’s déchet is another man’s trésor but poubelle is poubelle.

I also extracted some mature compost from the compost bins and dug it into Delia’s potage. How is one supposed to get it out? I just managed the bottom front bit before less mature stuff collapsed on me. Oh well it probably saved us a couple of bags from the garden centre.

My feta (see last week) turned out to be quite good despite its inauspicious beginnings of curdling before even adding rennet. But we’ve mostly been enjoying the tomme and the cantal we bought from our grocery van at our lunchtimes (with fresh baguette of course).

This morning out we couldn’t pass the patissier without buying some delicious millefeuilles – couldn’t stop Delia so the photo show a partly demolished one.

mille feuilles-1

Other news this week is that our darling dog has become a “woman” and so far we haven’t had to fend off amorous dogs from miles around but I’m carrying a stick just in case – and booked une ovariectomie at the vets.

*for you Aussies, just google”Stig of the Dump” for an explanation

Feta or not?

A quiet week for me but not for Delia. One of her associate virtual pa’s was out of circulation and had to pass her work across to Delia so I saw little of her during the day, working, as she was, at her desk. Only a little bit of marking for me so I was able to spend a bit more time walking the dog and taking some photos. Delia managed to join me a couple of times for Siena’s early afternoon long walk. On one of these Siena ran into the living room of one of the usually unoccupied houses. Fortunately the people staying there were friendly and weren’t bothered too much and we managed a chat about who we all were – interestingly two of the men were engineers for the Royal Opera and lived in Lille. Like many of the houses that aren’t lived in all year round this was a ‘maison secondaire’ and the owner lived in an apartment in the city. Here is a snap I took when composing a panorama of my favourite lakeside view to find our pretty dog had appeared in shot.

Siena and View

Siena and the lake




An import from Tesco this week. Delia thinks we should stick to what we can get over here but some items are marked up so much whats wrong with importing more competitively. Quorn mince – a healthy alternative to real mince we cannot get at all here, low grade porridge oats are also not available over here just the good ones (I like my porridge stodgy) at more than 5 times the price, similar price difference with marmite, golden syrup (to go with the porridge) is not available. Skimmed milk at about 1€ a litre is comparable to UK prices unless there is a special on – and there was so I bought three 3 litre containers. Why? Well feta is rare over here and whilst I can make it at the usual price of milk it is hardly worth it… enter Tesco specials… so I made a batch of feta yesterday. The problem is that I put about 5 times too much calcium chloride (an “enricher” for non-farm fresh milk) and the milk actually clotted whilst heating up before I had even added the rennet. I proceeded doggedly with the recipe though and I have a wheel of white- something currently sitting in brine that might (or might not be) be feta.

Style over substance

Tax returns this month! I got “How to fill out your French Tax form 2015” which I hope will do exactly what it says on the label. I can’t download the form until 7th April because they are “updating after the January changes”. My cunning plan was to not earn enough to pay tax which since delia is now earning it looks like we might need another plan. 25% social charges feel enough to me but might disagree. We did manage to get our topup health cover added to the 70% we already have which I guess kind of brings us up to UK levels. But the food and wine isn’t as good in the UK of course (see below)

Our ex-neighbours from Lindfield visited this weekend and guests usually mean that we eat out more. Eclairs to start off the experience and that evening I cooked a “traditional” leg of lamb, stuffed with ras al hanout spiced dried fruit, nuts and rice – I’d never be a butcher though, it took me nearly an hour to get the bones out of the leg to stuff it! Our first lunch out was our guests’ treat to us, in Brantôme where I indulged in a salmon fillet on creamy tagliatte, the others all had steak but I think I did better. My salmon had a nice brown crust yet was tender and moist inside. More éclairs. Then next off to Limoges for a moist day wandering through the medieval quarter and lunch in the library (well ex-bibliotheque) Crusty cod on lentils much much tastier than it sounds, poire de boeuf (rump/upper leg?) and a very well made hamburger.
On the way home we made another visit to a patissier and chose some easter patisseries The thing about most French patisseries seems to be that they look fantastic but the taste doesn’t always come up to scratch These easter cakes were essentially sponge rolls on their side covered in chocolate vermicelli, filled and topped with butter cream and a couple of sugar eggs Butter cream is never my favourite. Style over substance. Now on the other hand there’s the blueberry custard tart I am looking forward to for tonights dessert and lets not forget Delia’s lovely home-made hot cross buns at breakfast this morning.