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.

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........
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