La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, that is back in Ireland.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Strawberries, Strawberries ! Fresh Organic Strawberries !

Still not tempted ? Then scroll down and look at the amount of fresh yummyness I picked today.

We started off last year with 10 strawberry plants that my mother brought with her from Belgium. Now the whole raised bed is covered and more. I must admit that they are getting a bit crowded and in late summer I need to find another place for them in the garden that will give them more space so that the fruits can enjoy the full sun and develop even more flavour.

I think I know what we will be having for dessert tonight.
Strawberries and cream.... or , I still have some gulab jamun (Indian dessert) and we could eat them with that.... or, vanilla icecream and strawberries.....or, ..........

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Unfortunately, I might not be able to add recipes to my blog for the next couple of months as my schedule will be rather busy, with the garden, the holiday cottage and the guests. I do not know if many of them will have evening meals, but we've had a few so far. Here's a taster.


miso soup

Sarah & Ezra plating up

I will however, keep you up to date with projects, garden progress and miscellaneous drivel, not forgetting lots of pictures.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

New Arrivals

And here they are ! Four ginger chooks !
I feel a bit embarrassed to tell you that we started building their little house almost one year ago. It was a slow process, but we weren't in a hurry in getting chickens the same year, what with the birdflu and all that. Over the christmas period we put up the fence for their run. Last month we hung up a gate to their run. A couple of weeks ago we saw to it that there was a perch and laying boxes. And then on the 15 th of this month we ordered the critters, to be collected on the 23 rd. Now there's another story.

Off we went, me driving, with 4 volunteers (everyone wanted to share the experience) to the garden center in Privas. We took two cat travel carriers, put some hay in them. Everything to make the chooks feel comfy.

When we arrived, the man who sold the chickens hadn't arrived yet, so we bought 20 kg of mixed grains in the garden center. By the time we came out, your man had arrived and we were last in the queue. We sat down on some garden timber with our two cat carriers in the hot sunshine looking on to the people before us. It was great ! Your typical Ard├Ęchois farmers and farmer's wives (funny that 3 of the 4 women had their hair dyed in a bright gingery colour). The chickens were put in boxes by the dozens (yes, chickens per box). I suppose it prevents them sliding around on these bendy roads.

One woman had her boxes and wanted to write a cheque to pay what was due : it is € 49, quarante neuf, love. She always got distracted by the conversations around her that she had to ask about 5 times, 'how much ?'. By the end, everyone there was about to shout : 'quarante neuf !'

Another woman had her boxes carried to her car by a friendly farmer. While she was paying, the chickens had escaped from the box and were all lined up at the rear window of the car. No problem, she paid, got in the car and drove off. With the chickens able to take in the view of the lovely country side. We all laughed so hard, even if we did bring a camera, we wouldn't have been able to shoot some pictures.

At last it was our turn. Two chickens in each cat carrier, please. If the man thought we were strange, it didn't show. We drove back home again, greeted by Kerel, our dog. He was very excited. He remembered we had some similar creatures when we lived in Ireland, and as 'they' had stolen 'his' compost heap. this didn't forbode well. The excitement of the first day has worn off and he isn't going beserk anymore. When you ask him : 'where are the chooks ?' he is very eager to show you, clever dog.

They seem to have settled in nicely, only they don't want to use their perch and the laying boxes are used as a perch and not to lay eggs in. After coming back from his mini trip to Belgium, Bert was adamant that the perch was too high and did we think the chooks were monkeys. I'll let you in on a public secret : it was 'him' who told Ezra (our American volunteer) how high it should be and where it had to be placed. I was there ! And, I said at the time I had my doubts about the height. That aside, I found the first egg the next day in the grass, where I had seen two of them huddled up previously. I thought they were taking shelter from the heat. Proud as I was, I had to take a picture, and also because the other people in the house might think I had just taken the egg out of the pantry.

We are all proud of that first egg, as Sarah shows you in the picture below. We've had three more after that, but all of them were found in the grass. So if someone can give me some advice on how to get them to lay in their boxes, that would be greatly appreciated.

And now, let's get this perch sorted.

Thanks to Friedel (Travelling Two) for the first 2 photos.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Elderflower Champagne

I have been wondering if this is a very British thing to do, making elderflower champagne. I have certainly never come across anyone in my home country or in France, where I live now, trying their hand on that. In a way, I can understand that the French, who have so much wine available, have no need to attempt making elderflower champagne. They would probably be horrified that the name 'champagne' is being used.

In Belgium, people have completely lost the knack of foraging, let alone making such a delicious drink like this. I can't blame them though, this tiny country is so urbanised and over-populated, that I doubt there are many elder trees left. The ones that are, will be poluted by exhaust fumes from cars.

The first time I made elderflower champagne was last year in spring and it is our favourite spring-time beverage. So this is for you, relatives and friends from Belgium and France.

You will need :

1 large non corrosive bucket
10 elderflowers heads (by all means use more if you want to)
2 lemons
1.5 kg sugar
5 liters of water
a dash of cider vinegar

Sarah, our Belgian volunteer, will show you the proceedings.
Put all the ingredients in your bucket
First elderflowers
Then juice the lemons, and also add the squeezed skins.
Pour in the sugar
The water

A dash of cider vinegar.

Ready for the 24 hour fermentation, stirring regularly
After 24 hours, strain through a colander and tea towel or muslin. Pour into bottles with screw tops. Ready to drink after a couple of days. Beware ! Check regularly and loosen the tops from time to time as the fermentation will continue and natural carbonation will appear.
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