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

Friday, September 30, 2016

New Sewing Machine.

And I really, really didn't want one. 
I've been best friends with my sewing machine for 27-odd years and I have an emotional attachment to it. My parents bought it for me at the time when I had just moved in with Bert. I wanted to make curtains for the living room windows, you see, because it was right on the road and every passer-by could look in of an evening.
Before all that, I had used my mother's old sewing machine to muddle through various sewing projects. Unfortunately, that was on its last legs.

Anyway, back to the present. In my last few sewing adventures my old buddy has been playing up. When it started sounding more like an old rusty harvester than a sewing machine I dusted and oiled all the cogs and wheels, making for a much smoother running machine.
But thread kept bunching up underneath the fabric, whatever I did to remedy, it would do a good job for 5 cm and start bunching up again.
I had to keep going to finish off the promised Cinderella dress 

Now a few days ago Bert went to the post office to pick up a parcel. It was a new sewing machine !

It's a Toyota Oekaki Renaissance.
And it's red !
And I'll have to go through a uni course of four years to be able to work with it.

It does loads of stitches and can embroider.  

I'll have my work cut out trying to understand the workings of this new machine. I guess the best way to learn is to use it and practice. 

There is this handy contraption, that attaches to the sewing machine, with the various stitches and codes for the 'operation panel'. 

Here they are side by side.
I feel very disloyal to my old harvester, but we will get it serviced and hopefully fixed.

Has anyone of my readers ever used one of these new-fandangled machines ?

Patricia xxx...x

Monday, September 26, 2016

Whoa There !

Every now and then I surprise myself. Yesterday was such an occasion as I got off my lazy bum and made a bit of food for the freezer. Not for the freezer as such but for us, to eat at a later stage and to make dinnertime prep easier for when I am busy doing other things.
Like sitting on my bum.

Bert has recently bought a pizza oven via t'internet (I really should keep him away from the 3 w's). It works with wood pellets. Which is great because we have them hanging around the house, seeing we normally use them as cat litter. As you do.

Anyway, I decided to make a head start with the dough. Just in case there will be a day somewhere in the future, without wind or rain, when he lights the pizza oven.
I made two batches of dough and divided each into 6 balls.

I wrapped them individually and placed them in the freezer.

 Last week I also organised two of our three freezers, by the way.

I still had massive beetroots from my friend Sophie which I had stored in the fridge.
They had a good roasting in the oven while I was busy doing other things. I saw this recipe on line for beetroot ravioli and thought if I portion off the right quantity of roasted beets, they can be frozen too.

The oven was hot from roasting the beets and I made use of that by chucking in two loaves of bread.

With the kitchen a mess, I thought, "what the heck! I'll make shortcrust pastry too"

Six portions went into the, yes, freezer and I made one pastry case for a quiche for today and one beetroot, goats cheese and smoked salmon tart for last night's dinner.

Layer sliced goats cheese, roasted beetroot and red onions sauteed with balsamico.
In a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Add fresh goats cheese blobs and return to oven for 5 more minutes. Leave to cool for 10. drape with smoked salmon and drizzle with reduced balsamico. Sprinkle with black pepper. I just wish I had rocket to set it off a bit better, flavour wise and for photographic purposes.

The pastry was yummy. There is a reason why this is usually served as a small portion for a starter. It's rich !

Patricia xxx...x

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Brown Gloop

Any type of chutney or relish with whatever ingredients, seems to always end up brown when I make it. I once made tomato ketchup with yellow tomatoes and yup, it was brown. 

Never mind. It still looks good on the shelves in the pantry and the flavour will probably be okay.

The other day I tried my hand at making kimchi.

Let's just hope that it doesn't turn brown too, eh.

Patricia xxx...x

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Children from Salt Creek.

That is what this photo (taken by my sister-IL, Joelle) reminds me of.
It makes me all sentimental and nostalgic.
A beautiful photo of a moment in time. They were watching the antics of a kingfisher, or so I've heard.

It did bring back memories of a Swedish TV series that I watched as a child. The Children from Salt Creek, which was written by Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking) especially for the Swedish TV.
Vi p°a Saltkr°akan . It was shown on the Flemish TV channel from 1964 and repeats for many years after. 
Talk about feelgood TV. This was it. And I recognised it even as a young child.

The dog's name was Boatsman.

Patricia xxx...x

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Big Fat Harvest

Squash Futsu. Or that is what it should have been. My only fruit from 6 plants. 
It should look like
photo from The Organic Gardening Catalogue

Let's just say, if we had to live of the land we'd probably starve to death.
A grim, wet and rather cool summer has resulted in poor pickings.
From our many tomato plants I've managed to make one decent tomato salad. Chillies and peppers didn't do too bad, but ripening on the plant is not for this year.

Sweet pepper - Lipstick. A novelty, green lips. 

In the background - Early Jalapenos. Slugs have been munching away at them and I hope they enjoyed the sting when they did their number two's.
In the front - Hungarian wax. They have given a reasonably good harvest and I'll certainly plant them again.

Squash Butterbush. Similar to butternut but smaller/stockier. Only, mine are larger. The big one is about 25 cm long and these two are the only fruits from I-don't-know-how-many plants. Dire.
The real thing should look like 
photo from The Organic Gardening Catalogue

This should be a squash Tuffy. 
But a real one should look like 
photo from The Organic Gardening Catalogue

Pumpkin Rouge Vif d'Etampes.
They have done well in comparison with the other fruiting veg. Only one pumpkin per plant, mind. 
I had 8 plants in total of which 3 were wiped out by cold wind and rain early in the season. 

One other pumpkin got completely hollowed out by slugs.
Completely eaten away on the inside.

I don't know what more I could have done to get a better crop of vegetables. Even my courgettes have let me down this year with a produce of male flowers and hardly any fruit.

All is not lost. We still have spinach, chard, carrots, beetroot and two types of cabbage.
Next year better.

Patricia xxx...x

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ossobuco Milanese

My first ever encounter with ossobuco was on my first visit with the parents of my first 'serious' boyfriend. Lots of 'firsts' in that sentence. That was 36 years ago (where has time gone ?). My then boyfriend's mum, Nadine cooked this delectable, succulent, fall apart meat dish. 
When finished all four of the family where looking at my plate. "Don't you eat the marrow ?" Ready to pounce. "Oh, you eat that ? Okay, I'll eat it too then. " That's when I was completely sold.

It's been on the menu regularly since then in my own home, whenever I can get my hands on veal shin, that is. And that was a while ago now, until Sophie gave me some, from their own rosé veal the other day.

Ingredients for 2
  • 2 to 4 disks of veal shin (2 to 3 cm thick)
  • flour to coat the meat (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • olive oil (a glug)
  • 50 gr butter
  • 1 or 2 carrots, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 celery sticks, washed and chopped finely
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped
  • 5 sage leaves
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • a few shavings of unwaxed lemon peel
  • 200 ml dry white wine
  • 200 ml veal or chicken stock
  • seasoning and chopped parsley for finishing


  • Give the meat a dust bath in the flour. I usually do this by putting flour and seasoning in a freezer bag, drop in some meat and shake it around while closing off the bag with your hand. You don't want to give yourself a dust bath, do you ?
  • On the hob heat the olive oil in a deep and wide enough frying pan to place the meat in one layer. Brown the meat crusty on both sides. Put them on a plate and set aside.
  • Turn down the heat and melt the butter. Add the vegetables (carrot, onion, celery) together with the lemon zest, garlic, thyme and sage. Sautee until soft.
  • Turn the heat back on high, place the meat on top of vegetables and pour in the white wine. Let it bubble until the wine has reduced by half.
  • Add the stock and return the heat to the lowest setting, cover with lid and simmer until the meat is tender.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  • Sprinkle over the chopped parsely.
Serve this with creamy polenta, risotto or plain rice. We went for cappellini.

A year or so after the first visit with the boyfriend's parents, his mother made this again. It seems like we came full circle. He broke it off with me after that.
Oh well, I added a great dish to my repertoire and I've since met my wonderful husband, Bert. 

Patricia xxx...x

Friday, September 09, 2016

Warning ! Meat !

This was Tuesday, at our friends, Sophie and Ruud's place.

They had decided not to keep their two calves till next spring, which would mean they'd had to feed them all winter at an extra financial cost. The calves had been weaned and were grazing over the summer months. The meat of such calves is called rosé veal.

The actual slaughter is done by the local butcher, but I wanted to give them a hand with de-boning and cutting up the meat. Ruud and Sophie have helped us so often and given us so much over the last few years. It was totally my pleasure. To top it off they are both exhausted after a full spring and summer looking after their homestead and growing veg for the local pubs and restaurants.

At the end of the day, I took home the bones and pulled a fantastic stock.

I picked the meat off the bones , which got divided into 1.5 kg meat for veal croquettes which Sophie likes to make and more than 1 kg went for a veal terrine in aspic. 

Which is basically the meat with stock and extra gelatin.
When firmed up completely, slices can be cut and eaten between a sandwich or roll. A chunk of it would go well as part of a ploughman's lunch.

The lesser meat I kept for the dogs.

The fat that surrounds the kidneys (suet) I rendered down to tallow, excellent for frying chips/French fries.

Everything is now packed and ready to deliver the goodies back to these dear friends.

From experience I know that keeping and butchering animals is an Herculean task, and to move all the meat in one day needs an army of people ideally. And then there is the clean up ! 

Heh heh (that's a contended sigh in Dutch/Flemish), I think I missed my calling. I should have been a butcher. ;-)

Have a grand weekend !
Patricia xxx...x

Monday, September 05, 2016

We Have a Winner !

We have a winner for the gift voucher in honour of my 10th blogiversary !

The answer to the question is three (France, Belgium and Ireland)

Marlene from Simple Living is possibly spending the voucher on Amazon as we speak. ;)

Congratulations, Marlene !

Thank you all for participating.

Patricia xxx....x

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Bacon and Cabbage

This traditional Irish dish never appealed to me. The idea of boiling cabbage for however long (to death) in the bacon cooking liquid, fills me with sadness.
I've never 'boiled' cabbage of the white or green variety in my life and I certainly won't start any time soon.
I've always sauteed cabbage in a bit of butter with yes, a little water or stock if necessary, and only to the stage of  'al dente'. Seasoning with salt, freshly cracked black pepper and a good helping of nutmeg, grated on the spot.
In modern Ireland sauteed cabbage is more and more the norm. Fortunately.

The bacon used is cured in brine and then boiled in water with flavourings like bay leaf, onion, carrot, celery....

We have smoked bacon from our pigs in the freezer and cabbage from the garden and I set to work to make a, for us appealing, bacon and cabbage dinner.

For the bacon
  • 1 bacon joint (enough for the family and/or leftovers)
  • cider (I used 2 ltr for this)
  • water
  • Put the joint into a cooking pot.
  • Pour in the cider and top up with cold water till meat is covered.
  • Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer 25 minutes per 0.5 kg (500 gr), plus an extra 20 minutes.
  • Take the bacon out and keep warm
For the cabbage
  • green, savoy or spring cabbage, 1 or 2, depending on size and density.
  • a knob of butter or lard
  • a splash of bacon cooking liquid
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • seasoning (salt, black pepper and nutmeg)

  • Trim the cabbage of outer leaves, halve or quarter it and shred/cut into largish strips.
  • Melt butter in a cooking pot and turn heat up high.
  • Add the cabbage, stir and turn heat low again. 

  • Sautee until al dente
  • You might need that cooking liquid to prevent burning the cabbage.
  • Add the mustard and season.
  • If you wish you can add cream or thicken with cornflour in a bit of milk.
Serve  this with a thick slice of bacon and boiled or steamed potatoes.

Now don't discard the cooking liquid. Store it in the freezer or make a soup with it straight away. I did. I made a whole pot of delicious erwtensoep/snert or pea soup in English.  Recipe to follow soon.

Patricia xxx...x

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