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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Quickest Lamb Tagine

Great that it was a quicky, as I had already bitten off Bert's nose earlier in the day and his head was going to be next.  The dieting is starting to get to me, as in, bad mood. I want to eat BREAD and PASTA, if not then I want POTATOES.

serves 3 normal portions, or 4 sparrows  (530 calories or 400)
  • 1 onion (56 grs), chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 230 grs carrots, peeled, cut into 3 cm chunks and quartered
  • 400 grs courgette, cut in a similar size to the carrots
  • 6 merguez sausages (360 grs), cut into 3 cm pieces (I didn't bother skinning them)
  • 1 tin of peeled tomatoes (400 grs), chopped up
  • red pepper (95 grs), cut into strips
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey (that just wasn't enough... I added 2 tsp stevia)
  • chilli, to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • seasoning
  • fresh coriander leaves and stalks, to taste
  • Heat the oil in a suitable pot, sautee the onion with the carrots
  • Add the garlic, chilli, courgettes and sausages
  • Sautee for 5 more minutes
  • Add the tomatoes plus water (the water from rincing the tin)
  • Simmer, with lid on, for 15 minutes, till veg are al dente
  • Add the peppers for 5 more minutes and the cinnamon
  • Season with seasalt, honey/sugar/stevia and maybe chilli powder, to taste
  • Finish off with coriander.

You can obviously eat with couscous. That's what I served Bert. I, however, had it without.
It really warmed the cockles of my heart.  You can now come closer again, I won't bite off your head. Promise ;)

Patricia xxx...x

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stuffed Courgette or Marrow - ( 310 cal) - 5:2

serves 2 - 310 cal/pp

  • marrow or courgette, halved lengthways and scooped out (I had 640 grs)
  • 1 onion finely chopped (85 grs)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • red pepper, finely chopped (75 grs)
  • soy protein, strips or minced (100 grs)
  • mushrooms, finely chopped (200 grs)
  • tomatoes, chopped (250 grs)
  • atichoke hearts, halved (120 grs)
  • 1/2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
  • dried oregano, 1 tsp
  • chilli powder or a dash of tabasco
  • seasoning, salt an black pepper

  • preheat oven 200° C, fan asisted
  • place the halved courgettes in a suitable oven tray
  • sautee the onion in the oil on the hob, with the peppers and oregano
  • add the soy protein and garlic, stir for a minute before adding the mushrooms
  • when they are near cooked, add the tomatoes and leave to simmer for a couple of minutes
  • season with sea salt, black pepper and chilli powder/tabasco
  • spoon into/over the courgettes and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, turning down the heat to 160°C after 10 minutes.
  • put the artichoke halves on top in the loast 5 minutes or so
  • the courgette marrow should be cooked through but al dente and still a bit firm (makes you chew, which isn't a bad thing)
  • serve with a sprinkle of spring onion greens and a few slivers of mild (or hot) chillies.
Patricia xxx...x

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    Celeriac Salad and Smoked Salmon (245 cal) - 5:2

    Celeriac is one of my (many) favorite vegetables. But I don't often use it in a salad.
    Trying to find some tasty recipes for our fast days and still having some celeriac nicely wrapped in the fridge, I suddenly thought of Jamie Oliver's celeriac salad that I once made, eons ago, from his book Jamie's Kitchen.
    We found it to be very tasty then when we had it with grilled tuna, which, for some sinister reason, we don't eat anymore.  Sourseability and extinction.
    So now, I decided, smoked salmon would do just fine.

    serves 2 - 245cal/pp
    • 300 grs celeriac, outer layer removed and sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
    • 10 grs anchovies, chopped
    • 30 grs capers
    • 50 grs gherkins, chopped
    • 15 grs grainy Dijon mustard
    • 15 grs sour cream
    • 30 grs yoghurt (low fat)
    • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
    • pinch of salt and black pepper
    • 200 grs smoked salmon
    • mix the mustard, sour cream, yoghurt and vinegar
    • add the capers, gherkins and anchovies
    • season with salt and black pepper
    • mix the dressing under the celeriac ribbons, maing sure they are nicely coated.
    • divide over 2 plates, in a nice pile (it looks like you have more then ;)  )
    • also divide the salmon (and no cheating pleasse, 100 grs each), and drape over the celeriac.
    • sprinkle with extra black pepper and spring onion greens/chives
    • and there you have it, eat it with gusto, but don't forget to masticate properly

    Patricia xxx...x

    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Intermittent Fasting - 5:2 - Part 3

    Another week, another story.
    Last fast went really well with the halloumi salad on Monday with fruit pickings during the day and on Tuesday we had tofu stir fry , again with some fruit and low fat yoghurt to fill some big holes.

    One of the problems that occur in my case is to pick up the next day and add enough calories to get to a normal target again. Once in a certain mindset it is hard for me to change that at the drop of a hat, so extra care needs to be taken to eat enough the next day.
    That goes for anyone doing this intermittent fasting malarkey. You NEED to eat sufficient calories for you as an individual (age/height/lifestyle/gender...) each day of your 'eat days'.

    This Saturday the family on my mother's side had organised a get together with food, lots of it.
    My mum is one of 9 children (8 girls and 1 boy) and since my grandmother passed away in 1992, the aunties and the uncles (that were still with us) they would come together on the last Sunday of each month.  I would also go, except for the time I lived abroad, so would some of my cousins and sometimes their children. 
    Quite a few of my aunts and all the uncles have passed away now, but those that are still around and are able to make it to the monthly get togethers do so.  Being mainly women at the meetings , you can imagine the noice levels. You'd think you had arrived in a hen house where every hen had just lain an egg.
    So, this time we rented a venue to try and get as many of the extended family together where every household would bring some food to make up a buffet.
    Unfortunately many did not come, other priorities like holidays, work etc, etc got in the way. Nevertheless all the family members that were present did have a great time.

    To take with us I started cooking  Friday morning.
    • Sushi - vegetarian and with salmon
    • Buffalo wings (7 kg !) with blue cheese dip and celery sticks
    • Turkey korma, naan, chutneys, raita, poppadoms
    I made sure to be at the pedicure's at 3.30 pm, only to realise when I arrived that the appointment was for the previous day ! All that calorie counting doesn't leave room for much else. Luckily the pedicure forgave me and a new appointment has been made.

    As I am the Hyacinth Bucket of the family, I was going to bring paper table cloth for the buffet table, serviettes (paper obviously) and bring some flowers for the table.
    It was 2 in the morning when I finished the posies for the tables. Mad or what ?
    Not mad enough, because I also made prints from old wedding photographs of the aunties and uncle, selected 5 hours + of easy listening music and 5 hours + dance music.  For the latter Bert had to dismantle the amplifier and sound boxes to take with.

    The Buffet Table

    It was a succes, but something to bear in mind is the day and date we will organise the next 'big' gettogether, so more people can be present.

    The weather was great and the kids played outside on the green (and later on with their cars on the table)

    Cousins I hadn't seen in yonks

    Sunday was another affair. Unloading the car, tidying up the mess that we brought back.
    Eating some of the leftovers and NOT counting calories, but didn't really eat in excess.  I was afraid I wouldn't make a great start on the Fast this Monday.  But Monday, another day, everything cleared in the kitchen and off we went. Back to calorie boredom.

    Hope I haven't bored you to sleep.

    Patricia xxx...x

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    Chicken Cacciatore (265 cal) - 5:2

    It might not be the exact Italian version, but it is a very tasty low calorie version. With a bit of tweeking you could even use it on one of you 5:2 fast days.

    serves 4
    • 4 fillets of chicken, 150 grs each
    • 2 onions, 200 grs finely chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
    • 1 tbsp tomato puree
    • 1 tin plum tomatoes, 400 grs, chopped
    • 2 tbsp greek yoghurt
    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • 1 tbsp dried basil
    • 1 very mild chilli, sliced in rings (I have them in my greenhouse, now I use them in and on everything, not for 'seriously spicy' food, though)
    • a few fresh basil leaves, to taste
    • preheat oven 170°C - fan assisted
    • on the hob, sautee the onion and garlic in one 1 tbsp of olive oil till onion has turned translucent
    • add the tomato puree and leave it to cook out for a minute or so
    • in go the chopped tomatoes from the tin
    • simmer for 10 minutes
    • take from the heat and add the dried basil, the chilli and stir in the yoghurt
    • season
    • heat a non stick pan on the hob with 1 tbsp olive oil
    • season the chicken fillets with salt and black pepper
    • sear them in the pan on both sides
    • transfer to a suitable roasting tin and cover with the sauce
    • in the preheated oven for 20 minutes to half an hour
    • the chicken fillets should be cooked through, but cheque to be sure.
    I served some pasta with it for Bert, it was a non fast day afterall and as I am staying off the carbs I topped mine with a spoonful of my rustic olive tapenade (recipe for this will be posted at a later date)

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Grilled Nectarine with Quark (50 cal) - 5:2

    It's quite simple really. You've just had about enough of going passed the fruit bowl and pick out a bunch of grapes, a nectarine or an apple to munch on.  It's ok, fruit is good. But sometimes you want something that is just a litlle bit sweeter. A bar of chocolate maybe ?
    If you are like me, at a certain stage in your life that you need to be a bit more careful with what you put in your mouth, you can always go for this option.
    • take one non stick frying pan or a griddle pan and put it on the hob (fire underneath obviously)
    • grab a nectarine (or a peach), wash it, dry it, hack it in half and remove the stone 
    • place the cut side down in your hot pan and let it caramelise for a minute or so
    • turn and repeat (not easy on the round side, but you'll be ok)
    • now bring out your most favourite dessert bowl and transfer the nectarines from the pan, flat side up
    • dollop a tsp of quark on each half (you can also use sour cream)
    • eat and savour the sweet, sweet delight.
    • you've got to agree, it tastes even better eaten from you most favourite dessert bowl
    Patricia xxx...

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Tofu Stir Fry (235 cal) - 5:2

    Tofu Stir Fry    235 calories pp
    Recipe serves 2

    • 125 grs firm tofu, cubed into bite size pieces
    • 2 tbsp shoyu
    • 1 garlic clove, grated
    • 1 tsp ginger, grated
    • 1 cm ginger, finely sliced into strips
    • chilli pepper, finely sliced - as much as you can handle
    • 100 grs red pepper, sliced
    • 175 grs leeks, cleaned, washed and sliced in rings at an angle - that's for autenticity
    • 180 grs mushrooms, sliced (I had for semi large ones, hence the odd weight)
    • 1 tsp sunflower oil (ouch !)
    • Mix the garlic, grated ginger, chilli and soy sauce.  Marinate the cubed tofu in this for 20 minutes.
    • Heat up the whole one teaspoon of oil in yer wok.
    • Stir fry the ginger first, before adding the leeks and red pepper.
    • In the last minute or two, add the mushrooms.
    • Transfer the veg to 2 plates.
    • Bring the wok back to heat and stir fry the tofu till coloured slightly.
    • Rinse the container from the marinade with a splash of water and add it to the wok.
    • Take of the heat and divide the tofu between the two plates.

    Enjoy the simple and fresh flavours !

    PS I used chopsticks for once, it prevented me somewhat from wolfing it down.

    Patricia xxx...x

    Halloumi Salad (255 cal) - 5:2

    Halloumi Salad 255 cal

    Inspired by fellow food blogger Lavender & Lovage

    • 65 gr halloumi cheese, sliced 200 cal
    • lettuce, mixed leaves and basil, loads - 100 grs only contains 10 calories
    • 30 grs red pepper, sliced 15 cal
    • 60 grs cucumber, sliced wow 5 cal
    • 160 grs tomatoes, I used yellow, sliced and cherry toms, halved 25 cal
    • 1 tbsp Balsamico, mixed with a smidgen of stevia powder. Let's say 10 cal to be on the safe side
    • 5 grs fresh from the greenhouse mild chilli pepper. I'm not even counting those calories !
    • arrange the salad leaves on a plate, mix in some basil if you have lots.
    • place the other vegetables in an orderly fashion on top
    • heat a non stick pan on the hob and fry off the sliced halloumi till golden.
    • arrange the halloumi slices over the salad.
    • drizzle with balsamico
    • from a hight (you can stand on a chair if you like) sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

    I'll be visiting Lavender and Lovage quite often in the future and steal all the recipes to eat myself back to health and a long life. ;)

    Patricia xxx...x

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Intermittent Fasting - 5:2 - Part 2

    Well, here I am. Not knowing this morning that today would be one of the 2 fast days.
    Bert had some appointments elsewhere and was going to have lunch along the way.  We would start the 2 day fast tomorrow (Tuesday).
    I've kept busy. Tidying the kitchen, scrubbing the work surfaces, emptied the dishwasher, filled it up again.... and counted some calories.  See, I'm becoming a calorie bore !
    It has served me well over the last week to count calories. I've stuck to the eating smaller quantities and kept off the refined sugars, pasta & bread (weeellllllllll, I had 2 slices of wholewheat bread of 30 grs each in one week - surely that isn't a punishable crime)
    I feel less lethargic, sleep better (don't have to get up in the middle of the night to go for a piddle), have a bit more energy (which could have been more if it wasn't for 40°C during the last few days), eat more fruit and think more about what I put in my mouth.

    By the time 6 o'clock arrived I had only eaten 6 Reine Claude plums (they are really small) worth 67 calories and one slice of Cobourg ham 42 calories. 2 cups of coffee with milk 20 cal.
    So I thought if I make Karen's Halloumi Salad I could still have my fast day today.  I went into the greenhouse and collected lettuce leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, red pepper and very mild chillies.

    I still had halloumi in the fridge so that was that sorted.

    Halloumi Salad   255 cal  Click here for my slightly adapted version

    Seeing I only had 384 calories today I'll now be moving myself towards the fridge and get me a yoghurt with fresh nectarine chopped up. 

    Patricia xxx...x

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    Intermittent Fasting - 5:2 - Part One

    Continuing from my previous post about diet here

    I started lowering our calorie intake Friday after our visit to the doctor.
    On Sunday, however, I started the prep for the fast. During the week I had bought a humongous watermelon.
    Hack it to pieces is what I did.  What better way to brighten up your day than a lovely fresh and colourful fruit salad, eh ?
    A very ripe and juicy mango was next, and a few of halved grapes.

    Fruit salad for Monday and Tuesday

    Made 4 portions. Mine 85 cals, Bert's 135 cals

    85 calories
    • 100 gr watermelon (36 cal)
    • 1/4 mango  (16 cal)
    • 33 gr grapes  (50 cal)
    135 calories
    • 150 gr watermelon
    • 1/4 mango
    • 66 gr grapes
    I squeezed some lemon juice (which didn't have calories - wink wink) over the portions and stored them in separate containers in the fridge.

    Sushi rolls for Monday

    Made 2 rolls for each of us.  With salmon for Bert, prawns for me.
    I cooked 250 gr of sushi rice. Whoops ! Mistake number one. Too many calories.
    Oh well, never mind.

    519 calories
    • 125  grs sushi rice (429 cals)
    • 100 grs of cooked and shelled prawns (90 cals)
    • 2 sheets of nori
    • a few strips of spring onion, cucumber, red pepper
    • a dash of rice vinegar
    674 calories
    • 125 grs sushi rice (429 cals)
    • 120 grs cooked salmon (245 cal)
    • 2 sheets of nori
    • a few strips of spring onion, cucumber, red pepper
    • a dash of rice vinegar
    Note I didn't do a calorie count for the nori, veg, etc.  I didn't see the point after going way over with the other ingredients.
    We both had a cup of miso soup and our fruit salad, which made our first day not perfect. Bert 837 calories and I had 631.

    I made soup on Monday to eat the next day.

    Carrot and celeriac soup

    650 calories in total
    • 550 gr carrots, chopped (250 cal)
    • 300 gr celeriac, chopped (110 cal)
    • 170 gr onions, chopped (75 cal)
    • 1 clove of garlic (15 cal)
    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil (200 cal -whoops, again)
    • 1 tbsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tbsp ground coriander seeds
    • cayenne pepper, to taste
    • seasoning
    • water
    In hindsight I didn't really need oil for the soup, so I could have saved some calories for something else. You live and learn.
    The yield of soup was 1 liter each, which gave us 325 cals each.

    My total for Tuesday was 500 calories. I added an extra 90 to my fruit salad with watermelon.
    Bert's total was 583 calories as he had some cereal in the morning with milk (123 cals) - and I think he has been picking on some grapes when passing the fruit bowl.

    OMG I am becoming a calorie bore !

    Next fasting starts Monday the 20th
    What to keep in mind :
    1.  Don't use carbs such as rice on the fasting days. It doesn't leave room for anything else to eat.
    2. One mug of soup should suffice, plus solid foods.  It was wrong (for me) to eat nothing but soup and fruits.  My bowels didn't like it, at all, at all. As a result I am not feeling too dapper this Wednesday morning.
    Off to browse t'internet for interesting recipes and to start planning our dinner (salivate).

    Patricia xxx...x

    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    On a Diet ?! Intermittent Fasting

    Never in a month of Sundays did I expect to be writing about dieting on this blog. EVER.
    But time has come. The verdict is in.  I HAVE RAISED BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS ! 
    Since my visit to the docs last Friday I really got my act together.  Oh, I knew I was on the wrong track, for a while anyway.
    I have stopped drinking alcohol all together just after christmas and since then I have been stuffing my face with sugary and starchy crap. Somehow I could sense that my body was trying to tell me something, but my brain just said, stuff your face with crap.
    Now when there was feck all on tv last week we decided to watch something interesting for a change. Namely, Horizon on BBC 2 (I think it was Tuesday)  Eat, Fast, Live longer with Dr Michael Mosley.
    I am not planning to get into detail about the programme, there are plenty of people already doing that here , here   and here

    Somehow the Intermittent Fasting idea of eating 500 calories on 2 consecutive days combined with 5 days of eating normal - yes, normal, Patricia, meaning around 1750 calories a day, not 3000+ - appealed to both of us. We made plans there and then we were going to start on the following Monday (yesterday)  Aye. Bert too, he can have 600 cals. His blood test results will be in tomorrow and he asked our doc to have his  IGF-1 tested.
    She (the doc.) had also watched Horizon and is all behind us for doing the 2/5 experiment.  
    I have been on weight loss diets before.  The first time was in my twenties when all my weight problems started. Finishing my studies at 22 I was 58 kg.  Moving out of my parents house I was a loose cannon with food and alcohol.  After a year or so I reached a hefty 83 kg.  I dieted - lost the weight. Then ate 'normal' again - gained weight plus some extra.  And so on and so on.
    I stopped dieting 15 years ago. What was the point ?  I was happy the size I was, I love cooking, I love eating...

    But now, having only recently 'celebrated' my fiftieth birthday and having had a wake up call I need a change in life-style.  No, the end goal is not to lose weight (but it will happen anyway), but to live a healthier life without the risk of diabetes type 2, hart disease, etc, etc
    Cutting down on carbs and sugars is my aim, while still ejoying culinary delights from time to time.

    So today is our second day of fasting, so far so good.
    In my next post I'll be showing you what we had to eat over the two fast days.

    If by chance you have some tips or advice for us, please let us know.  Moral support is also greatly appreciated.

    Patricia xxx...x

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Tomato Flan

    Simple and fresh.

    Ingredients  quantities depending on the size of the flan and on how many of them you'll be making. I'd say for 3 eggs, use one tbsp cream cheese and 150ml double cream.  It really doesn't have to be very accurate.
    • shortcrust pastry
    • eggs
    • cream cheese
    • cream
    • seasoning
    • dried basil
    • cherry tomatoes, cut in half
    • fresh basil leaves to serve
    • Preheat the oven 200° C - fan oven
    • Line a pie dish with baking paper.
    • Roll out the shortcrust pastry and line the pie dish, prick with a fork and put in fridge until ready to fill and bake
    • Beat the cream cheese and cream smooth and add the beaten eggs.
    • Season with salt and pepper, dried basil.
    • Pour into the pie dish - don't over fill.
    • Arrange the halved tomatoes on top with cut side up.
    • Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then turn down the oven to 170° C, bake further for about 15 to 20 minutes, till the egg mixture is firm and the pastry cooked.

    Sunday, August 05, 2012

    Flea Market.

    My mother lives in a lovely little estate that is called 'de tuinwijk' or in English 'Garden Estate'.
    In Belgium many towns developed the garden estates just after the first world war at the edge of the town. The premise was to create enjoyable living surroundings for families. Houses with front and back gardens,  a communal area with lots of greenery which was unusual for towns. Shops, pubs were not incorporated. And up to this day they haven't changed the ideology. Every street has a 'flowery' name
    I don't know when the estate was build in my mum's town, but the houses in her street are mainly from the fifties.

    Wow, I digressed somewhat. 
    Well, a while ago I was visitng my mum and she got a flyer in her letterbox to let people from the estate know there would be a flea market on the 5th August. 
    That's when our eyes start to sparkle.  " Will I put our name down and book us a place ?" she asked, possibly hoping I wouldn't be interested. "Yes, why not." said I.
    So we did.  In the weeks leading up to today, we rummaged our belongings. My cousin', who is moving house soon, brought half the contents of her house  (and lots of her stuff is now in my home - of course) to add to our market stall.  My sis in law came with a mountain of baby clothes.

    Mum displaying the baby clothes

    Ready to roll

    This morning, before 8 am, we were ready to set up the family business of  flea market stall holders.  This evening we were pooped and decided that we might not be doing this again in a hurry.  People were scarse, takings were low.  But did we enjoy it ? Yes, I believe we did.  A bit of family bonding behind a market stall is something not to be sniffed at. 

    Bert, Mathias and SIL, Joelle munching away on ham and cheese sarnies

    Cousin once removed, Katrien, playing a tune on her squeezebox,

    which unfortunately didn't sell.

    Cousin Irma, enjoying the sunshine.

    And our stall was the nicest looking of all. So there.

    Love it when you pass by.  Love it even more when you leave your comments.
    Patricia (who has probably written more oddities in her post than ever before - because she is pooped)
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