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

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chicken Pie, an ode to British Cuisine

Yes, I am the biggest fan of British cooking and here is the recipe for my chicken pie, covered with yet again, mashed potatoes.
Normally, it would be topped off with pastry (flaky, shortcrust or puff), but I didn't fancy making any, due to many other jobs that needed doing about the house.

Ingredients  This was plenty for at least 4 portions
  • 3 chicken filets
  • 2 ltr organic chicken stock
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • Florets of 1/2 brocolli and 1/3 cauliflower
  • Frozen peas, 200 grs
  • Butter 100 grs
  • Flour 100 grs
  • Tarragon, 1 tbsp
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • Seasoning to taste (salt, black pepper and nutmeg)

  • Put the chicken filets in a pan and cover with stock.
  • Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for another 8 minutes.
  • Take them out with slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Bring the remaining stock back to the boil and add the carrots, cook al dente, drain and repeat with the cauliflower and brocolli.
  • Cut the chicken in chunks of 2 cm, arrange in an oven proof dish.
  • Add the vegetables and lastly the still frozen peas.
  • The stock will be used for the sauce. At this point, while it is still hot, add the tarragon to the liquid.
  • In a pan, melt the butter and stirr in the flour.
  • Add  part of the stock and reduce heat.  Keep stirring to prevent lumps.
  • Keep adding the stock and if the sauce gets too thick, you could add some extra milk or water.
  • Bring to bubbling point for at least one minute and keep on stirrrrring.
  • Stirr in the sourcream, season to taste.
  • Distribute over the chicken and vegetables.
  • After it has cooled down slightly, top off with a layer of mashed potatoes.
  • Bake in the oven ( preheated 200 ° C) for 35 to 40 minutes approx.

Enjoy !
Patricia xxx...x

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pan-fried Cod, Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Leeks and a Wannabe Beurre Blanc Sauce

Sharp flavours that make my taste buds tingle.
I used homegrown leeks, the size of spring onions, but that didn't take away from the taste.

ingredients for the leeks and sauce. (serves 2)
  • 6 of the finest leeks (or 2 of a normal size)
  • 30 gr butter
  • 100 ml chicken stock
  • 1 or 2 tbsp capers
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Seasoning : salt,black pepper and nutmeg
  • Clean the leeks and slice in rings
  • Sautee in a little of the butter
  • Add the chicken stock and simmer for another minute or so.
  • Scoop the leeks out of the stock (or drain them in a colander)
  • Reduce te stock a bit more
  • Add the lemon juice and capers.
  • Take it off the heat and stirr in the rest of the cold butter, bit by bit.
  • Add seasoning to taste
For the fish
  • Use cod or other white fish filets from a sustainable source (+/-200 gr per person
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • Vegetable oil (I used Olive oil) and yet another knob of butter.

  • Dry the fish thoroughly and coat with the flour.
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • In a pan heat the oil with the butter.
  • Pan fry the fish for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side,depending on the thickness.

Scoop some mashed potatoes on your plate
Arrange the fish on top (that is something my husband will never understand)
The leeks (that you kept warm) can also be arranged in a delicate manner (or not)
Scoop some (a lot) of the sauce over the fish and let it drip onto the leeks.
Finish off with a good few turns of the pepper mill.

Let the taste buds tingle

Patricia xxx...x

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Springlike Day

After busying myself with some bookkeeping  this morning, I just had to join the dogs out in the garden and sniff the crisp springlike air.

Now, what mischief can we get into ?

Don't ask, it's just a piece of an old blanket.

Nice new hairstyle you've got going there, Sam.

And then I spotted the wood pigeons up in a nest in the tree.  Surely, that is way too early ?

Patricia xxx...x

Monday, February 07, 2011

Scorzoneras or Black Salsify

It conjures up sweet memories of childhood.
My parents owned a shop of electrical appliances in the sixties and first part of the seventies. Behind the shop was my father's workshop where he did repairs, and going through the hallway at the back of the house was a large kitchen, which was my mother's domain.
It was there that she used to prepare the scorzoneras, while I often sat in the sittingroom upstairs, already hooked on TV.  No, I wasn't hooked on TV, there was no broadcasting around the clock as there is today and my father wouldn't have allowed it.  Probably I was just playing with my dolls, reading or drawing. 
Anyway, I digress.
I remember the almost, coal black roots that my mother peeled, to uncover a lovely, ivory coloured spear.  Her hands became very sticky and black (or that is how I remembered it) and I had a fascination for this vegetable, because of it.

She cut them into 3 cm pieces, cooked them in boiling water and served them with a bechamel sauce, seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg, pepper and some salt.
I loved their nutty flavour.
They must have gone out of fashion as time went by, because you could hardly find them in their fresh state at the grocer's or supermarkets anymore.  Unless, you went for the jarred version . 
It's what I usually do, to my shame. I have jars of scorzoneras in my pantry, as an emergency standby.
Now, I have thought of having them in the garden, but they have a long growing season and consequently occupy their space for good part of the year. I am about to order seeds and I'll make some  space to home these lovely winter vegeables.
Luck would have it that since living not far from my cousin, she and her husband sometimes supply us with homegrown produce and a while back she gave me some fresh scorzoneras.  Lovely.

I prepared them very simple by peeling, boiling for 10 minutes or so till al dente, then sautee in a knob of butter, dress with a splash of lemon juice, seasoning and chopped fresh parsley.

Sit them in cold water with some lemon juice when peeled, they will discolour otherwise.

How wonderfully tasty

Thank you for reading.
Patricia xxx...x

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Evelyn's Balloons

It was early in the week that I spotted some balloons high up in one of the oak trees at the edge of our property.

This afternoon, while adding a bit of height to our fence to keep our escape-artiste, Millie, at home, I found the postal card lying in the long grass.

Birthday Balloons from a girl, named Evelyn, who lives in Karben.  I looked it up and it is a small town near Frankfurt in Germany.
The card will be send back to Evelyn and I will write down the link to this post, so she can see her balloons once more.

I found this such a feel-good story that I thought of sharing this with you.

Patricia xxx...x

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

You can take a peek in my cupboard

To any Domestic Goddess, my home must look like a tip.  
Frankly, these days I just cannot, for the life of me, get a grip on the mess that is invading our space.
I say invading, but it has been here for just over two years (it moved in at the same time we did) and it has been plotting this coup,  from the basement of the house upward, all this time.
How does one start on a Herculean task ?
It keeps me occupied......thinking about a strategy to fight back, but it also paralyses me and I lose sight of what I should tackle first.  So, I make lists.  At least then it is out of my head for a couple of days. That's when I start hearing the bulging noice of clutter, plotting again.

I have never been good with laundry, much to Bert's despair, and mine, because let's face it, after the wardrobe is empty, with just two lonesome items of clothing left, then the choice of what you'll wear that day is pretty grim.
Oh, I will have washed a couple of loads, but that would be left in the laundry basket, nicely folded..... crumpled, more likely. 
Yes, my mother has told me many times that I should keep the laundry under controle and get into a routine, and fold it straight away, when it comes out of the tumble dryer or of the washing line. It makes it easier to iron, that I also should keep on top off. Then when everything is folded and ironed it should be put in the wardrobes pronto. 
Well, I know what I should do, but at the ripe old age of 48 it's never going to happen, is it ?

Or maybe it will.  Never have I been the proud owner of a proper wardrobe or dressing that is suitable for modern day life. I love our antique wardrobe, it is beautiful, so is the dresser with mirror,  but only a small percentage of our clothing fits in there and it just isn't very practical.
We have recently decorated the bedroom and landing, I might even post some pictures at a later stage. Off the landing there is to one side a rather small (think 'very' small) storage space under the sloping ceiling - well that is where our miniature dressing room is being made.  We can just about stand upright, if we don't venture to far in, but it will work with careful planning.
The antique wardrobe and it's cousin, the dresser, will still be used, albeit in a different way.
And the laundry ? I made a start and will continue to take pleasure and also a bit of pride in ironing, folding and putting everything in it's proper place.

The sensible thing to do now is slay one dragon at a time, tidy one room at a time, tackle one thing at a time.

Now would you like to take a peek in my cupboard ?  It has been surprisingly tidy for a long long time.

Thanks for reading
Patricia xxx...x
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