La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France at the time. We chose it while on the road, moving house the first time round, 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 we did and 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, after yet another stint in Ireland, we're back in France @ Le Mas d'Ayen

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chestnut soup and recipes for disaster

Next week will be the first aniversary of my participation in the choir Cantate from Aarschot.
It took me a while to get back into singing after a break of about 6 years, but I enjoy it tremendously. Meeting people and singing together is fun !
One of the issues I have, is that because I spend a lot of my days on my own, with Bert only joining me after his work day and as we all know, he ain't no great conversasionalist, I tend to go beserk when I go to the choir practice and I talk, talk, talk to anyone catching my eye.
Not only do I talk incessantly, but I also show signs of hyper-activity. I start flapping, laughing, joking, acting clumsily, just being an embarrassment, really.
So yesterday evening, the choir had a concert, titled No Depression In Heaven and we performed songs from The Great Depression in the US during the 1920's - 1930's, together with Norbert Detaeye, who is a fantastic jazz-pianist. After the concert the choir had organised a drink and a Bowl of Soup, for which I prepared a Smooth Chestnut Soup.
As I like helping out where I can, I joined a chore group in the morning to prep everything for the reception.
It all looked very pretty, with Lena's gorgeous little flower arrangements and all. Glasses were set out on tables to serve from, beers in the fridge, soups (also included here were Jos's Pumpkin Soup & Tineke's Tomato Soup) in the fridge. We had sweeped the floors, laid nice tablecloths etc. . Perfect !
When we were about to leave, I just kept on rabbitting and not looking where I walked, I ran into the table with the glasses on !!!
The Sound of Breaking Glass ! The feeling that goes through your entire body, filled with dread, humiliation, not knowing if you want to cry or start laughing hysterically.
Lucky for me, my singing companions haven't lost patience with me, ....yet, so they started cleaning up all the mess and in the end only four glasses got broken, even though it looked like the whole shebang got blown to smithereens.
Okay, I can live with one public embarrassement a day, but not two !
This is what happened when the concert had finished. People were already leaving for the reception, still plenty around to notice what I did next.
The venue being a 'modern' church from the 60's/70's, I walked down the steps from the altar and tripped ! No I didn't fall with my knickers on show ! I gripped one of the gold-sprayed aluminium banister uprights of the pulpit instead. Only, it came loose at the bottom end.
Can't really remember what happened after that, it's a bit of a blurr, only know that some sympathetic choir members helped me to regain my balance and tried to slam the upright back into place.
How do you brush yourself off and walk away with your dignity intact, after such a stint ? Should I lock myself up and let someone else throw away the key ?
No, I think I should just take a deep breath before I go and mix with people, take a step back and relax instead of being like an uncoiled spring once I leave my own four walls.
I can but try.

Chestnut soup

I will say this again. This recipe is only a general guidline and if you want to add a bit more of this and less of that, it will still make a fantastic soup.

A splash of olive oil, you can use butter if you like
2 or 3 onions, peeled and chopped
1 or more cloves of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1/4 celeriac, chopped
fresh sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
3 liters of vegetable stock ( I admit using stock cubes - organic from Kallo)
About 250 grams of roasted and peeled chestnuts
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pan, sautee the onion & garlic.
Add the thyme, bay leaf, carrots, celeriac and chestnuts.
Sautee for 5 more minutes, before adding the stock.
Let it come to the boil and let it simmer till the vegetables are soft.
Take of the heat and fish out the woody thyme stalks and bay leaf.
Blend with your handheld blender until the soup is smooth and velvety.
Season with salt & freshly ground black pepper.
I did make an extra topping for the soup based on Delia Smith's recipe for bacon and thyme croutons.
I fried in olive oil some smoked lardons, onion, croutons, loads of fresh thyme, some extra chesnuts (roasted, peeled and chopped), when cooled I added oodles of freshly chopped flatleaf parsley.
Add as little as a tablespoon on top of your plate or bowl of soup. Autumn (or fall) on a plate.
Note : You can also add a splash of sherry, port, brandy or whatever tickles your fancy, to the soup. It gives it another dimension.

As a gesture of gratitude to the choir members for putting up with me this last year I'll be baking a 'carrot cake' for the next choir practice. They won't know what hit them. First chestnut soup, then carrot cake, whatever next !

Nederlandse versie van dit recept


  1. This brings back memories of a dinner we had in a small village on Madeira Island that is known for its chestnuts. All their dishes had chestnuts in it. That was the last time I ate chestnuts. It was just too much.

  2. Myriam, as I can understand your aversion, due to chestnut overload, I can also see the other side of the coin, so to speak.
    If in Madeira they use one their resources, like chestnuts, that should only be encouraged and aplauded.
    We use wheat flour, daily, I'm sure and don't think much of it.
    Where I used to live in France, it was also known for chestnuts. It is seasonal and you can create wonderful dishes with it. BTW they also make flour from chestnuts, so very good for pancakes.
    This year, there is an abundance of chestnuts, so may I suggest you give this soup a try ;)


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