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.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ChristmasTraditions and Rituals

As I am not religious, I have always thought I didn't have Christmas Rituals and I don't, not for the 25th December persé, but somewhere around that time I do celebrate Winter Solstice and I must admit that I have very pinickity rituals for the decorations.

Every year around September I say that I won't put up any decorations, much to Bert's delight, little does he know what goes on in my head (probably he does, but doesn't want to jinx or provoke))

By the time November arrives, I have changed my mind umpteen times.

The weekend after December 6th, Bert and I will go out to buy a christmas tree, me prodding him on.

He will say "Let's get a fake one, eh"  I will ignore or pretend I didn't hear that. or if I am in awful mood (it happens) I will give him a mouthful of mild abuse.

He knows what is coming. I am very, very peculiar in choosing a tree : as large as we can fit into the sitting room, a perfect shape, beautiful branches, no spruce, but a noble fir or something like that. It means I have handled almost every tree that is for sale and if I cannot find it in one place, we'll be off to the next. Meanwhile I'll ask Bert to hold the tree upright, turning it, so I can see from a little distance if it will do.

The man who sells the trees is already scratching his head and tuttuting loudly.

I complain that the tall trees don't have roots on them.

When I have finaly found one, it is loaded onto the roof rack of the car and off we go.
We get home, we haul the tree inside, try to fit it into place, propping it up, tying it to whatever. Is it facing the right way ? etc, etc. By that time dear Bert is really fed up with all that pallaver and he lets me unpack all the christmas decorations. Ooooh, I have about 20 sets of fairy lights, all tangled up, only 2 working. I only like white lights,the non blinking ones. The last task I can make Bert do is untangle the fairy lights and then I'm on my own. I lovingly decorate the tree, the first christmas CD of the year playing, a glass of port, or two. I am so shattered at the end of it. I'll tidy up tomorrow.Gradually I will add more greenery and foliage to the house and then it's christmas.Lovely

We've always had people around for the festive season : friends, relatives, volunteers (wwoofers). A full house means a lot of cooking and do I love anything better than feeding people ?

This year it will be different. 
After 22 years with Bert I have finally succumbed to an artificial christmas tree and isn't it a beauty !?

I won't be cooking for hours (days) on end to get the perfect meal, in stead we have been invited to friends for christmas dinner. 
I will put up my feet and have the most relaxed festive season,  EVER !

Ding Dong

Well, coming back to edit this post and scrap the last line.

Looks like I will be cooking afterall, for 8 people (of which 3 vegetarians) on the 26th.  Better start planning the menu, methinks. 1o days to go !

The Ding Dong still stands.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Little Sunshine in the Dark Days of Autumn - Chilli Con Carne

Warm, glowing, deep red, spicy..... Comfort food to a tee. 
How is it that certain foods which have their origines in warmer climes can give us so much pleasure on a cold autumnal day.  I do think it goes further than reminscing about sunny summer days.  Like a bowl of soup or a great stew, it can give you a lovely hug and warm the cockles of your heart.

Anyway, there are as many recipes for chilli con carne as there are for ragu bolognese and here is mine.
I prepare it one day ahead, easy to reheat and the flavour gets better.


  • 1,5 kg of stewing beef  ( I like to use big chunks of meat on the bone, shin is best as it contains the bone marrow, but you can use boneless of course)
  • 3 onions
  • 3 or more cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne or chilli powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, pounded
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bell peppers (mixed colours)
  • 1 large Habanero pepper (if you want more heat, use more.  I have to take into account a person that goes all red in the face with the slightest bit of piquancy)
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree (concentrated variety)
  • 1 liter of good quality beef stock
  • Sunflower oil
  • Kidney beans 2 tins of 400 gr each approx. (I used dried ones, soaked overnight in cold water and cooked for about 1,5 hour -  300 gr dried beans)
  • Sweetcorn 1 tin ( optional, it doesn't really add to the flavour, but gives extra texture and colour)
  • Dark chocolate  50 gr
  • Seasoning : salt and a pich of sugar to taste.
  • Chopped fresh coriander

  • In your Dutch Oven (or any cast iron contraption with lid that works on the hob as well as in the oven) heat the sunflower oil and brown the meat.
  • Take the meat out and set aside.
  • Sautee the peeled and roughly chopped onions, garlic and finely chopped habanero in some oil.
  • Add the meat, all the spices and tomato paste. 
  • Cook out the tomato paste for a couple of minutes.
  • Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.
  • Put the lid on and put it in a preheated oven 200 °C
  • After 1 hour turn the heat back to 170°C and cook for an extra hour.
  • Take it from the oven and carefully take off the lid (HOT, HOT, HOT)
  • You can check on the tenderness of the meat and if it falls apart into shreds you are on the right track.
  • At this point you can add the roughly chopped peppers and the beans.
  • Put back into the oven for about 30 minutes.
  • When ready, take it from the oven, remove the bones that might still be in there, add the sweetcorn and season to taste.
  • Put the chocolate on top and let it melt into the chilli.  Stirr.
  • Add a good measure of chopped coriander on top.

I served it with roasted butternut squash, sour cream and grated gouda (but I like mature cheddar better)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rosie's Christmas Cake

This recipe was forwarded to me by my friend, Rosie Crouch, who is actually living in my old house in Ireland (no, she bought the house fair and square).  If she attempts to make this cake, she is definitely stepping in my footsteps and keeping up the good work ;-)

To be honest, I thought to tide you over with this posting, while I get my act together and write my recipe for the chilli con carne I made last week.  Time is a bit short as I am also redecorating our bedroom in between my long coffee breaks.

I will be back very soon, with more recipes and musings.


* 2 cups flour

* 1 stick butter

* 1 cup of water

* 1 tsp baking soda

* 1 cup of sugar

* 1 tsp salt

* 1 cup of brown sugar

* Lemon juice

* 4 large eggs

* Nuts

* 2 bottl es wine

* 2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the wine to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar.. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner.. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the wine to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the wine. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the wine and wipe counter with the cat.

Go to Tesco and buy cake.

Bingle Jells

Friday, November 05, 2010

Spiced Cauliflower Flan with Apricot Cardamom Sauce

This isn't my recipe.  I once spotted it in one of the many Country Living Magazines I have lying about.  Forgot about it for a long time and I don't know how this happens to pop back into one's head again all of a sudden, but the fact is I couldnt find the magazine with said recipe  anywhere , obviously.
So I tried good old Google and what-do-you-know, there it is.

I have made this a couple of times now with my homemade shortcrust pastry.  Oh, it is so good !  A very novel way of using cauliflower, this  and makes a nice change from a vegetarian quiche with a great combo of flavours.

I am super-duper envious of the oblong pie dish used for the flan in the Bonne Maman recipe, I had to make-do with a round one.

The recipe says to serve it warm, but I found it also very palatable, served cold - it could even go into the lunchbox  for work or it could take you out for a picnic ;oD

Receptje in het nederlands
Gekruide Bloemkoolflan met Sausje van Abrikozen en Cardamom

ingrediënten flan
  • +/- 375 gr kruimeldeeg
  • 1 grote bloemkool
  • 145 ml volle room
  • 3 medium eieren
  • 1 theelepel gemalen komijn
  • 1 theelepel gemalen koriander
  • zout en peper
  • Oven voorverwarmen op 220 °C
  • Een taartvorm bekleden met het deeg en in koelkast zetten
  • Kook de bloemkoolroosjes 'al dente' in kokend gezouten water
  • Laat de bloemkool grondig uitlekken en zet ze nog even op het vuur tot al het water verdampt is.
  • Zachtjes prakken met een aardappelstamper, maar niet te fijn. Laten afkoelen tot kamertemperatuur.
  • Eieren klutsen met de room, komijn- en korianderpoeder.
  • Roer doorheen de bloemkool.
  • Giet in de voorbereide taartvorm en bak in de hete oven gedurende 10 minuten, vervolgens temperatuur terugdraaien naar 180° C en bak nog een 20-tal minuten verder.
ingrediënten sausje
  • 3 flinke eetlepels abrikozen compote
  • 5 cardamoms
  • 2 sjalotten
  • 25 gr boter
  • 125 ml water
  • Sap van 1/2 limoen
  • Haal de zaadjes uit de cardamoms en stamp fijn in de vijzel
  • Hak de sjalotjes fijn en stoof gaar in een pannetje met de gesmolten boter.
  • Roer er de compote doorheen, samen met het water en de cardamom.
  • Breng aan de kook en laat sudderen gedurende 5 à 6 minuten.
  • Limoensap toevoegen en pureren met de soepmixer.

De flan warm opdienen met een lepel (of twee) saus, maar dit is ook lekker koud voor bv de lunchbox.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Head Count Pets Autumn 2010

Yup, it's that time of year again, that we do a stocktaking of the cats, dogs and chickens.  It might look like a silly thing to do, but the cats have been 'roaming' the countryside during the summer and are slowly but surely settling back into whatever cosy and safe spot in the house they can curl up in.
In all honesty, I don't stocktake in autumn.  I just would like to share with you the pictures of the animals that are living with us at this particular time.
It is a fact that in summer when one of the cats doesn't pop in every couple of days, I start panicking and worrying until they stroll out of the woodland as if to say " yeah, well, I have been rabbiting, haven't I,  and after the delightful meal,  I snoozed some in the cornfield over there.  Just calm down there, lady."

1. Sam  Greyhound, born 2005 in Ireland.  Came to live with us 30th August, 2008 after spending half a year with Suzanne, Kilcummin - Ireland, who rescued him from a harsh life, being mistreated and starving.

Only 2 weeks ago he lost his cast on his right hind leg after he fractured his toe in 3 places.  How do they do it, I often wonder ?  He is almost back to his former self now, except for the huge tick that is always hanging of his neck..........

2. ......... a tick, called Millie Spanish Galga, born 1st February, 2010 in Cadiz - Spain; rescued with her mum by a local animal shelter and came to us via Greyhounds Rescue Belgium at the end of March.

Boisterous from the start and hasn't let up since. We are all excausted, except Millie.  She chases the cats, the birds, Sam, us (especially me).  We have removed all the scatter cushions and lovely throws from the living room after she spread them out all over the garden. I could go on, but it would sound to much like complaining .....
She is getting a bit more attached to us and wants cuddles, sometimes without chewing off our ear or nose.  There is hope still.

3. Squirrel,  our princess cat, born in Ireland in 1997, has been with us since 1998 (female)

4. Juniper,  a foundling, born in Ireland, Cork in 1998 (female)

5. Xena, born in Ireland, Sneem in 2000, after her mother, Soda (who disappeared when we lived in France) adopted us. (female)

6. Gabrielle, Xena's sister. (female, obviously)

7. Roisin, foundling, born in France 2006 (female)

8. Fergus, a present from our French neighbour, Gisèle.  Born in France 2007 (male)

I would like to stress that I am not some kind of cat snatcher.  The cats that were foundlings, were, as a matter of fact, in need of a loving home.
No, really !

9, 10, 11, 12. Morgaine le Fay (black), Igraine (grey), Morgause (ginger) and Guinevere (white)
Now, Bert warned me not to post a picture of Igraine on the internet, or we could get a knock at the door from animal welfare.  I just would like to point out that she is in fact molting at the moment and that is perfectly normal.

13. Hoggie, the hedgehog.

He isn't really a pet, but is allowed inside every night for about 2 minutes, when he gets a ride in Sam's mouth and then promptly gets dropped on the floor in the sitting room.  We then grab a towel and put him outside again, somewhere safe, till the next day........

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stuffed Roast Tenderloin of Pork, Mashed Potatoes and Fondant Celeriac

Nothing added,  just the recipe.  I prepared it for 2 and had leftover pork, nice cold for lunch.

Stuffed Roast Tenderloin of Pork

  • Piece of pork tenderloin +/- 500 gr
  • Minced pork 150 gr
  • Minced beef 150 gr
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 1 small apple peeled, cored, grated
  • Sage leaves 2 or 3 (depending on size) chopped finely, except one.
  • 1 egg or a gluck of olive oil
  • Handful of breadcrumbs
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg
  • Some slices of streaky smoked bacon
  • Mix the minced meat, onion, apple, chopped sage, seasoning, breadcrumbs and egg or olive oil together.
  • 'Butterfly' the pork and stuff with the mince.
  • Roll as tight as possible and stick your whole sage leaf on top.
  • Wrap the streaky bacon around it and if you're smarter than I am, you will tie it up with some kitchen twine (cotton string).  My roast kind of fell apart, but it didn't take away from the flavour.
  • I made this on top of the cooker, so take pan , pour in a little olive oil and add a knob of butter.
  • Sear the meat on all sides and turn the heat lower, add a drop or two of water and put the lid on.  Leave to simmer for about 45 minutes. Check regularly, it shouldn't run dry. If it does, add a bit more water.
  • Take from the heat and let it rest, covered under some tin foil.
  • The meat juices can be used for gravy.
This roast could also be made in the oven, of course

Fondant Celeriac

One whole celeriac might be just too much for this recipe, but you can cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge for some time. There are plenty of wonderful dishes to be made with celeriac on another day.

  • 1/4 celeriac, peeled
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Knob of butter
  • 25 cl vegetable stock
  • Sprig of thyme
  • Seasoning : salt and black pepper to taste

  • Cut the celeriac in 2 cm thick slices, you can also cut them into 5 cm diam. discs with a cookie cutter, if you wish.
  • In a pan or pot heat up the olive oil and the knob of butter.
  • Spread the celeriac out on the bottom of the pan and slightly brown on both sides.
  • Add the thyme and vegetable stock.  Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes until cooked al dente.
  • Any leftover liquid can be added to the juices of the meat for your lovely gravy.
  • If your stock had already salt in it, you maybe don't need to add any more. 
Now, if you need a recipe for mashed potatoes, you can ask me nicely and I might put it up for you.  I added olive oil to mine, chopped parsley and grated nutmeg.

Just cut thick slices of the meat and arrange 1 or 2 on the plate.  If you really want to be fancy you can use a mould for the mashed potatoes and put a disc of celeriac on top, but it is not a necessity. Drape your gravy onto the plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper.

Forgive me the quality of pictures, but sometimes, just sometimes I like to eat my food while it's still hot and then I have no patience for taking artistic shots.

Recipe in Dutch will be added soon.
Recept in het nederlands volgt later.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Butternut Squash & Sage Lasagne

When I take to the road in the car, all of twice a week,  I have noticed since moving back to Belgium, that from August onwards every blummin' house  has pumpkins lying near the front door as decoration.  It makes me want to scream !!!  It was never a tradition before I left, 15 years ago.  Most people didn't even know what a pumpkin looked like and only just a few might have made soup out of them once in a blue moon. What has happened ?
I agree that pumpkins can make a great display, but it's not special and it just looks daft and tacky when everyone is doing it.  Never seen anywhere with a bunch of leeks in a decorative fashion beside a front door.
They are first and foremost food, people ! And not just for soups. Don't just waste them on a decorative display that you have to throw in the bin in a month's time.  Yes, in a month's time, because they have been harvested too early and therefore won't keep that long.

I'm feeling better already for getting that of my chest.  Pffft.

Let's tuck into the butternut squash,  just harvested.  Only had 8 sheets of lasagna left in the box, so why not use them for this recipe.

ingredients  this one I prepared for Bert and myself and there were no leftovers - for once.

  • 1 butternut squash,
  • 3 onions
  • a couple of garlic cloves
  • 1 chilli
  • a bunch of fresh sage leaves
  • pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • olive oil
  • course sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • parmesan cheese - freshly grated
  • 8 sheets of lasagna


  • Preheat oven to 250°c
  • Cut the butternut squash in half, length ways, scoop out and disgard the seeds.  Cut roughly in chuncks of a similar size.  No need for taking the peel off as it will go tender.
  • Spread out on a baking tray.
  • Peel and chop the onions, in same size chunks.  Add them to the squash.
  • Throw in some cloves of garlic, unpeeled, they will steam in their peel and you can squeeze them out over the vegetables when they are ready to be served.
  • Finely chop chilli, a few of the sage leaves and sprinkle over the squash and onion.
  • Just  drizzle with olive oil and throw over some sea salt.

  • Put it in the hot oven for around 20 to 30 minutes.  You need to spread the vegetables out and see to it that they are not on top of  each other, or they will steam instead of roast.
  • They will be ready when you can easily stick a sharp knife through the squash. You don't want them too soft, they shouldn't fall apart. They should also have a light brown colour on at least one or two sides.
  • In the meantime bring some salted water to the boil and cook the pasta al dente.
  • In a small pan, heat some olive oil  and fry the other sage leaves.  Scoop out and drain on kitchen paper.  The crisping of the sage goes very quickly, so no distractions, please.

  • When the oil has cooled of a little it can be poured in with the drained lasagna sheets, it'll give extra flavour and a nice shine.

  • Put a lasagne sheet on a plate, then a serving spoon of roasted squash, a sprinkle of  parmesan.  Repeat until you have used up your ingredients. End with some squash, black pepper, parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds  and not forgetting the fried sage.

Link naar recept in het nederlands

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vegetable Count Autumn 2010

We have a serious problem concerning the garden.  Never do we stay long enough in one place to really enjoy the fruits of our labour.  Now don't take this too literally, because we do have nice crops of whatever we grow.
A garden, even the kitchen garden is an ever evolving process and best results are really noticable when you give it at least a few years of your undivided attention.
Last spring we had a rainwater tank of 5000 liters installed, underground.  Yes, we brought a digger in and moved some earth around. This rainwater harvesting will hopefully see to next year's watering of the vegetables in and around the greenhouse.  We will benefit from it for a good while in early summer, unless we have a scorcher of a summer, like the one past.
Yup, we have a greenhouse ! Not just any old greenhouse !
Ta Da ......

Yes, I know, I know, it looks like we will be starting our own little  Eden Project .
Last February, I started nagging Bert for a 'smallish' greenhouse, just for the benefit of not having all my seedlings in the kitchen, while cats trample over them or just take a snooze on top of my trays with freshly sown seeds.
Bert not being happy with 'any old greenhouse' he trailed the internet to find him one in the shape of a dome.  Now, before Bert makes up his mind, several months pass us by and  when he finaly opted for a supplier somewhere near end of May - by that time, I've had a few months worth of seedlings in the kitchen.....once again.
He ordered his dome shaped greenhouse from the UK, here at Geo-Dome .
As Paul from Geo-Dome makes them to order, we were well into 'high'summer, before Bert and a friend of our's, Marc, collected it with a van.  It comes in kit, but it was remarkably easy to put together and took Bert about two days, all in all.
It isn't 'ready' for full use yet as we want to make raised beds, so fingers crossed that by next sowing season I will be able to do it in the geo-dome.
I admit, I didn't have  too many seedlings, as I used up all my old seeds that I had acquired whilst living in France and I bought maybe a few new packets of lettuce seeds. Some worked, some didn't, but that was fine as I didn't have anywhere yet to plant them out.  Bert made some lovely raised beds with old wooden pallets, which we filled with the soil that had been dug for the rainwater tank and compost.

Earlier in the year I had dug some 'flower beds' and I used every little space I could find to plant some veggies.

Over the summer we've had some yellow patissons (only had one white that suddenly appeared late September), a couple of tomatoes, rainbow chard and lots of salad leaves.

Now that autumn is here we've collected our four mini pumpkins and lovely buternut squashes.

Also a few mini aubergines, they weren't meant to be minis, but they didn't get the best start in life as I rescued a plant that looked so miserable in the Aldi-supermarket, for which still I paid the full asking price of € 2.49

My chillies are still green, because I didn't sow them until late in the season.

Next'll be a succes !
We are lucky, though, that my cousin - I call her Auntie Mia, don't ask - who lives nearby, gives us loads of vegetables that her husband grows so succesfully in their garden.  Hopefully, by next summer I will be able to repay them in kind, you know, some sort of veggie swap.
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