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, September 30, 2015

Mushroom and Chorizo Ragout with Creamy Polenta

It's been a few years  (8, at least)  since I last made polenta. But the idea must have been on my mind because a couple of months ago I bought some in the wholefood shop in Kenmare. I stored it safely away in the pantry in case of an apocalyptic event.
That apocalyptic event happened on Monday when I ran out of steam after I sliced about 6 kg of cucumber, plus onions, salted the bejaysus out of them, ready for pickling the next day.
Starving I was.  Right, I have mushrooms.  I'll make an autumnal  mushroom ragout and thus I set to trawling the internet.  I used this recipe as a guide, adapting as I went along.
I used only fresh mushrooms and not my dried porcini as they are for another apocalyptic event. I also added 4 of our homegrown chorizo sausages.

My recipe went as follows.
For the ragout.
Ingredients - serves 2 to 3
  • sunflower oil, 1 tbsp (or thereabouts)
  • 4 chorizo sausages (or other, of good quality)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • thyme, a few sprigs - hard stalks removed.
  • butter, 1 tbsp
  • 3 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 200 gr closed cup mushrooms, quartered
  • 250 gr chestnut mushrooms, halved
  • tomato concentrate, 1 heaped tsp
  • white wine, 100 ml
  • chicken stock, 200 ml (from a cube is fine)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour in 1 tbsp of cold water
  • freshly chopped parsley,  a few sprigs
  • seasoning, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparation Use a pan large enough to receive all the ingredients at one stage or another.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and brown the sausages all around. Please don't turn them into lumps of coal, so brown them on a low to moderate setting. 
  • Remove from the pan when cooked through. Set aside.
  • In the remaining oil, sautee the shalots with the whole, but crushed garlic cloves and add the thyme
  • When the onions are translucent, add in the butter.
  • Turn the heat up a notch and sautee off the mushrooms.
  • Then stir in the tomato concentrate and let it cook for a minute.
  • Next in is the white wine. 
  • Let it reduce before adding the stock.
  • Cut the sausages in disks and add to the pan.
  • Let this all simmer for about 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced somewhat.
  • This is where I then add the cornflour if the sauce is too thin. Let it cook through for a minute.
  • Season to your liking and stir in the chopped parsley.
Oh the polenta !

I didn't even know instant polenta existed, therefore I used the guidelines on the packaging. I suggest you do the same.

  • 750 ml water to 120 gr polenta
  • chicken stock cube, bay leaf and sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • a splash (100 ml) of cream - I used double
  • a couple of handfulls (depending on the size of your hands, I've got shovels) of grated parmesan cheese.  
  • black pepper
  • Bring the water with stock cube and herbs to the boil
  • Reduce to a simmer and pour in the polenta in a steady stream while you whisk with a whisk to prevent lumps.
  • Revert to a wooden spoon and stir, this time to prevent sticking to the bottom and consequently burning your polenta !  Low setting.
  • Now, my packet said 30 flippin' minutes. Luckily, it was ready in 10 to 15.
  • Take off the heat and mix in the parmesan, butter and cream.
  • Season with black pepper and serve.

Don't let my long-winded post put you off, or the seemingly long list of ingredients, because it was a doddle and ready in half an hour.
The flavour was as rich and intense as the colour of the ragout. And boy did it shout autumnal!

Patricia xxx...x

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Sunday in the Garden.

Ahem.  What I am about to show you is not a garden. It is a piece of land, no, a swamp, or a bog.

And this is on a good day !

There are lumps and bumps and holes with water, lots of it. 

Nevertheless, it didn't stop us from planting a few trees and soft fruit shrubs there last March.  Sink or swim ! In total, on our land which is about 3.5 ha, we planted roughly 350 native trees.

That was very hard labour as it is either rock or bog. Most of the trees have survived so far, despite the fact that the grass and weeds sometimes grew higher than the little beggars.

Yesterday we were going to take up some of the trees and all the fruit bushes that we planted haphazardly on the break-a-leg-twist-your-ankle piece of land. When the men with their yellow machines come in, somewhere next week, we will have that particular plot drained, dug a pond and added loads of composted cow dung (from our lovely neighbour, Bernie's cows).

Before digging up the plants we went for a little stroll on the land. And no one, no one  is ever doing that without Xena coming along.

 This garden bench is placed so we can sit there and watch the chickens' shenanigans.

We have two little streams (when it's not raining buckets) meandering through the land and running along the bounderies.

Poor Bert. Carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

 Bog Myrtle 

The amount and variety of wildflowers on the land is amazing and we wouldn't want to disturb the ecosystem too much. A biiiig part of the land will stay wild, even if we will give a snip here and there over time, especially the gorse and rhododendron.
Right ! That was just the shortest of strolls, because there was work to be done. It didn't take too long.

The plants will be okay for a while in the recycled bags of the pig feed, as long as we prevent them from drying out.  They will thank us in the long run.

We then went indoors for a drink before we would tackle some planting out of hydrangeas, etc that I still have in pots. 
Our friend, Jo phoned to ask if we were doing something that afternoon. Why ? You know, you always have to ask why, because people might suggest you do something that you don't want to do....
Jo was going to bake a cake and did we want to come over for a cuppa and yeah, cake.
Hmm..dilemma.  Work in the garden or going for a visit and eat cake. Difficult choice.

We downed tools. There is always tomorrow !

Patricia xxx...x

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Was I Thinking ?

At 6.30pm on a Thursday ?
I was thinking I need to make a serious dent in the amount of eggs we have. Urgently.
Pancakes !
I quadrupled my usual recipe and added a few more eggs for good measure. An hour and a half later and 20 eggs less in the pantry I had baked 64 pancakes.

I did give myself a little fright when I saw the amount of batter in my bowl, wondering if and how I was going to get through it before my bed would call me.
Two pans !
Once the pans get to a certain temperature, making pancakes is a doddle really and I can't even remember when I last had to eat the manky first one.
I do use plenty of sunflower oil each time, say 1 tablespoon, it makes for a nice moist pancake. Nothing worse than eating a rubbery dry sponge, in my opinion.
You need a nice golden colour on the first side before flipping it over.  I don't toss. I use a spatula. Can't be arsed to peel pancake of the ceiling or floor and tossing cools off the pan too much.
The last side only needs 15 seconds at the most.

The ingredients list can be found here , I just added one egg extra per 250 grams of flour.

Not feeling up to inviting the village for a pancake fĂȘte, the lot (bar a few, of course) was wrapped and put in the freezer.
The thing is, right, I can't keep up with the chickens. They lay more eggs than I can use and eat. And no one wants any, not even for free !  Best get delving for recipes that use lots and lots of eggs, eh.

Patricia xxx...x

Friday, September 25, 2015

Multi-Seed Bread

Bread making is something I've been doing for over 20 years. I've made many different types of bread and in numerous shapes and sizes. I don't get started unless I can bake a batch to be stored in the freezer.

My trusty little helper here is my Kenwood mixer.

One of our staple loaves is the multi seed bread and I thought it was about time to share a bread recipe here.

I am not a person that measures off all ingredients usually. I kind of did for once so I could write it down for anyone who might be interested. The bit that shocked me was the amount of instant yeast I normally use. Eek! I take 3 scoops, like I always do, and weighed it on the kitchen scales. 30 grams.
That seems like an awful lot, but I wasn't going to pull the wool over your eyes by telling you I use less than that amount. So here goes.


  • 700 gr plain flour
  • 300 gr coarse wholewheat flour
  • 30 gr dried instant yeast
  • sesame seeds, 2 heaped tbsp
  • flax seeds, 2 heaped tbsp
  • poppy seeds, 1 heaped tbsp
  • sunflower seeds, 3 heaped tbsp
  • 20 gr salt
  • 20 gr sugar
  • sunflower oil, 3 tbsp
  • 600 ml tepid water (could be more, could be less - that depends on the moisture content of the flour)
  • pumpkin seeds, 2 heaped tbsp


  • In the bowl of your mixer, spoon the flour and yeast together.

  • Add the sesame, flax, poppy and sunflower seeds and mix them into the flour.

  • Next add the sugar, salt, sunflower oil and a little water (this to prevent a dust cloud covering your kitchen worktop)
  • Start the mixer and gradually, add more water. Do this on a low setting.
  • I usually add water in stages as sometimes the flour absorbs more liquid than other times.

  • The Kenwood does its work on a low speed for about 5 minutes.
  • By this time the dough should be a homogeneous ball. When you pull off a piece, it should feel supple and elastic. 
  • This is the stage where I add the pumpkin seeds. If you add them in at the beginning they tend to colour the bread slightly green which I find  unappetising, plus they break down too much.
  • And back to the kneading for another 5 minutes.
  • The dough shouldn't feel too dry, as mine did. You can always add another splash of water and knead a little longer.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest in a bowl covered with a clean towel or clingfilm.
  • Leave it to rise to double the size.
  • Preheat the oven to 210 C fan.
  • On a floured surface tip out the dough and divide it into 2.
  • Press slightly out and roll the dough into a loaf shape.

  • Put them in lined bread tins.
  • And leave to rise for another half hour.

  • Cut with a knife diagonal lines into the loaves and brush with water.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes. You can check if it is ready when you take the bread out of the tin and tap it on the bottom. It sounds hollow if it is ready.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.

And there you have it. My multi-seed bread.

Enjoy the weekend !
Patricia xxx...x
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