Vistas of Snow: Fontevraud l’abbaye

Today the trees outside our windows are blossoming with snow..  We had planned to visit Blois today to visit friends, stay the night and to take a look at le Château royal de Blois where Mary, before she was Queen of the Scots, spent some of her childhood……However as soon as we saw those first flurries of fairy flakes yesterday morning it occurred to us that probably this journey would need to be deferred due to icy roads and not the most auspicious of driving conditions.

We couldn’t quite resist though the temptation to venture out to view this wonder world so went for a short drive this morning past the snowy scapes and to take some pics.

Between the trees and the icy river depths the birds seemed to be hiding and local wild life generally keeping a fairly low profile.   We did glimpse a group of children walking in a line carrying their toboggans elated no doubt that there is no school today so that they could be in search of slippery slopes.  Before we could snap them in a pic, elusive creatures that they were, they disappeared round a corner…

We came to the conclusion that travelling by helicopter is not only clearly one way to get about when it snows but probably a great deal of fun!  A Robinson R54 no less…..British…yes at least something is…..French registered so perhaps another example of entente cordial…Outside the top notch hotel La Demeure de la Vignole in Turquant this voyager we imagine is one of their guests.  Can you just fly about in your helicopter and land willy nilly?  Well we wondered, but it would seem so.

Across the snowy rooftops of Fontevraud            Bleak, stark white vineyards

and on wards to the forest..

Back home again we look out from our terrace and see the abbey, as majestic as ever, wearing a mantle of fine white snow.

Tonight apparently it is going to be minus, minus degrees cold so we will need to leave little drips with our upper floor taps lest our pipes freeze again as they did a few winter’s back.

Keep warm…from a very very cold Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre!

Chez Teresa Recipe Book is given a Special Award

The International Gourmand Awards

In January, 2018 we heard from Monsieur Edouard Cointreau, the founder and president of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards that the Chez Teresa Recipe Book had been awarded a special category award  by the selectors of the International Gourmand Awards.  As you might imagine this was a welcome New Year’s surprise for all at Chez Teresa.   Monsieur Cointreau had mentioned last year that the book was being put forward for the award, but now to learn  that it has received this accolade is a positive thing to hear especially in the bleak mid winter of 2018.

The above international initiative is a prestigious one and it is an honour to have been chosen and to be in any way a part of it.  There is an invitation to visit China in May to attend a ceremony attended by a host of Internationals from the world of cookery and tourism.

The list of all the finalists for these awards are now on cookbookfair.com.  I am in category A06 – Special Awards.  

There will also be an event later on in the Summer in France at the new Angers Gourmand Book Center, Angers where there will be a 2nd ceremony, so that should be interesting and enjoyable.

The Angers Gourmand Book Center in France(1

For more information about the International Gourmand Awards 2018 go to the following link:

http://www.cookbookfair.com/index.php/gourmand-awards/winners-2018

To recap it was certainly good to be nominated in the first place let alone receive a special cook book award and I am very appreciative of the fact.   Thank you to all involved in the selection process.**.

 

***

At a time when tourism is expanding throughout the world, we have in the 20th and 21st centuries reached a time when tourism is not only a driving force informing the choices for destination tourists, but also the way in which International food culture is presented and on offer to us all which is reinforced via television and social media networks.  This seems to me to be what the Gourmand International Cookery Awards are celebrating, and are all about.

Considering the huge impact on audiences of the many cookery and travel shows on the plethora of networks available to us today with their strong focus on food culture and the local dishes on offer from the British Isles to Barbados, we are now witnessing the impact of an International food revolution.  There are cookery shows with travel thrown in with their presenters discovering foodie delights and recommending places to eat and travel shows with local cuisine thrown in for good measure and what is more we are following their lead.  These programmes and revelations are par for the course these days and growing in numbers all the time.  Re-runs from the 1980s of Keith Floyd’s trips around France still make a mark and influence our cooking in the British Isles. Rick Stein’s Road to Mexico on the BBC is a more recent example of a cookery cum travel odyssey captivating audiences.   Who would not watch that programme and not wish to rush out buy the book, buy key ingredients for the Mexican dishes and if the budget allows book a trip to Mexico via California.  Today throughout the world chefs and cooks along with travel and tourism march hand in hand.  

The way in which viewers often respond to such gastronomic discoveries revealed by chefs and cookery writers on and in the media is by a) demanding the accessibility and availability of international ingredients and b) by visiting specific countries and discovering professional and local dishes and delicacies.  The preponderance of ‘Street Food’ in local markets across the world and the popularity of culturally diverse foods at such markets especially in the UK is a case in point.  These are growth areas and in these difficult economic times of huge significance to our national and local economies.  With a follow up of holidays booked and tourists discovering for themselves and getting down and dirty with the local cuisine via a cross section of restaurants from posh to parochial – from  street food to the foodie offerings at local fetes, markets and fiestas all of this is immensely important for the global economy now and for the future and great for good cultural relations and mutual appreciation.

All this of course began, at least as far as Celebrity chefs, and food writers are concerned back in the 18th and 19th centuries with celebrated chefs such as Marie-Antoine Carême and Auguste Escoffier bringing their ‘high art’ French cooking to the tables of the Kings and Queens of Europe.  In terms of more recent times particularly in the United Kingdom that the impact of food writers and chefs on ordinary people is apparent.   It is to the inspirational Elizabeth David* who in the 1950s with her books on French and Mediterranean cuisine along with her many glorious observations and anecdotes about the dishes that she discovered on her travels that has encouraged us to extend our limited palettes and to choose foods from across the Mediterranean and beyond to even more exotic locations and cuisines.  At a time when many people did not know what an avocado or an aubergine looked like she told us where we might get hold of the ingredients reflected in her recipes…not so easy in those days when a bottle of olive oil was more likely to be found at the local chemist than at the grocers!  She encouraged us to use fresh herbs and garlic in our cooking and large numbers of us still buy her books and follow her recipes and look to visit the places and countries that she visited.  David’s book  Italian Food, published in 1954, was instrumental in popularising Italian cooking in the United Kingdom.  This kind of impact has now hit a culinary stratosphere with the discoveries across the globe of dishes and recipes with books, DVDs and other media on all sorts of international cuisine determining the gastronomic interests of many of us.  This goes right down to the kind of sauces, produce, spices and herbs that we now expect to find on offer in local supermarkets and delicatessens.  It is a truth now universally acknowledged that such writers, chefs, personalities and media presenters can even and often do determine fresh gastronomic trends for now and for the future.  

Since we moved to France in 2005 we have witnessed significant changes in what is on offer in local supermarkets and fresh produce markets..more choice and more international to be sure.  The other day I came across some sugar snap peas from Kenya at my local market and cranberries are a staple for some at Christmas time in France.  When we first visited France back in the 1980s it was actually quite hard to find a parsnip.  Now they are liberally grown here and generally available so making my Parsnip and Apple soup is easy.  That is not to say that the French have lost sight of what French cuisine is all about because of their gastronomy and classic cuisine they are intensely proud; though some may argue that point.  There is  however definitely more diffusion and more culinary diversity reflected in what is on offer in many French restaurants than for instance 20 years ago.   

With customers wanting and looking to buy and experience not only local but also international ingredients what is on offer in French restaurants was bound to alter to an extent.   Of course in France the Reunion and other colonies former and current have always had some impact on what is available; particularly Caribbean and Vietnamese cuisine and the essential ingredients for these.  Of late however we have noticed that Indian and Thai spices and sauces are now easily available and most supermarkets have an international food selection in direct response to current gastronomic interests and trends.  The latter is I feel sure because more and more people are either watching television programmes or visiting new countries and discovering new cuisines that they then wish to reproduce when they get home.   Some would argue that this might be the death of an indigenous cuisine..unlikely in the scale of things and indigenous peoples and visitors alike will always wish to enjoy and discover local dishes and regional specialties.  Regional cuisine will not be diluted it will continue to be sought after and celebrated.  There will however also be alongside a growing choice of what is on offer in the future determined by travel, tourism, television and other networks.  Travel broadens ones horizons in more ways than one and as well as being actual, physical travellers we can now be mental travellers as well…with the information and experiences that we are presented with and/or that we discover independently inspiring us to experiment with our tastes and trends.

***

ref: * Check out An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, by Elizabeth David.  If you have not yet discovered Elizabeth David then you are in for a treat.  Within this volume is a collection of articles originally written for among others The Spectator, Gourmet magazine, Vogue, and The Sunday Times. It is the ultimate in not only erudite cookery writing but writing that bursts off the page with vivacity and anecdotes positively evoking the deliciousness of the food described.***

The Chez Teresa Recipe Book: Sweets and Treats: from a Loire Valley perspective

**The Chez Teresa Recipe Book features detailed recipes of some of the delicious sweet treats and savory dishes that we serve in our tea room Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre in the Loire Valley in the West of France.  The Book also includes ideas for creating the perfect ambiance for a successful afternoon tea party – from place settings – to music – to floral displays.  Blending this with information about the fabulous local markets of the Loire Valley with all its wealth of fresh regional produce, the author has produced a book, with photographs by Tony Dolan, containing favourite tried and tested recipes.  It presents a snapshot of the history and gastronomy of the locale within a touristic context.  The book provides an insight into a day in the life of our lives running our business here in Fontevraud l’abbaye focusing in particular on the dishes and desserts that along with my family we like to cook and serve.  Equally it is also a celebration of what is on offer in this lush region of the Loire Valley.

A vegetarian Tajine is in fact one of our current most popular dishes and Tony and Jay make mean curries; neither recipe appears in the Chez Teresa Recipe Book.  This selection is more about the lighter, sweeter cakes and desserts that we serve in our tea room as opposed to the more hearty dishes that we serve to our guests from across the globe.  I am in the process of producing a new book of our popular recipes and the flavour of this one will focus on more International cuisine.

Bonne découverte des nouvelles cuisines et cultures internationales!

Teresa Dolan

Fontevraud l’abbaye, 2018

 

 

 

Chez Teresa’s Super Soups

When our son was a wee lad the only way I could get him to eat his veggies and hence absorb good nutrition and get his 5 + veggies a day was by making soups as he loved them; still does.  I did try a teddy bear shaped multi vitamin supplement as well, but these as I discovered one day when pulling out the sofa for a thorough vacuum had decided to end their days looking somewhat worse for wear lined up rather like teddy soldiers though mostly in a regurgitated form!   Not the most astute monetary investment I have ever made.

To this day every one to two days, I make a fresh soup and/or the thicker variety called Pottage here in France.  It has become along with making fresh scones, every day somewhat of a tradition.

If there is an art to good soup making it is one that all of us can learn as this dish must surely be one of the simplest ways to cook something that is delicious whilst also giving a nutritional hit.

Of course you can elect as I often do at Chez Teresa as our Soup du Jour to make individually themed soups by choosing just one or two vegetables such as :

Carrot and Coriander, Leek and Potato; Spicy Sweet Potato; Water Cress Soup; Lentil Soup; Cream of Tomato; Garlic and Potato; Mushroom soups  – with cream or not; Celery Soup and also Celeriac the latter a personal favourite of our son’s);  Broccoli and blue cheese and generally enjoy spicy Indian style soups.

Parsnip and Apple Soup has a subtle and delicious taste.

A classic French Onion Soup is something of wonder.  Interestingly enough the latter soup seems of late to be conspicuous by its absence in many of the French Restaurants of today.  A curious culinary absence when one considers that this is such a wonderfully tasty soup and packed with vitamins.  From time to time we make our own variety here at Chez Teresa though to be honest most fishmongers and also the supermarkets sell good versions though of course there is nothing like looking down into a steaming bowl of fish broth and seeing all the fresh ingredients.

It was back in the late 1980s, 1989 to be precise and the year of the bi-centenary of the French Revolution of 1789 that we first visited Dieppe and tasted the fabulously delicious Fish soups of Normandy – we are Pescetarians here as opposed to 100% vegetarian.  Whilst I appreciate that eating fish may not be completely ethical, it is so good for us and much more ethical for the planet than eating meat.   It also combats D-3 deficiency and supplies us with lots of Omega fats so eating fish is a winner for me.  I have also thought that there is something fundamentally courageous and heroic about men and a few woman I daresay in these times, who risk their lives every day that we might eat by negotiating our wild and dangerous seas.

The fish soups of Normandy can be very sustaining

A classic consommé is another soup that we do not appear to see very much – at least on local restaurant menus here in the Loire.  Perhaps the labour intensiveness of this clear soup traditionally involving straining the stock though a bag  in these busy times prohibits the frequency of it making an appearance in that many contemporary restaurants.

Chez Teresa's Super Soups
 
Prep time
Cook time
 
This fresh tasty soup offers something all year round....Perfect for summer time or anytime really as when served during the grey, darker days of winter it offers not only something to tantalize the taste buds but also a taste and look of sunshine in a bowl.
Author:
Recipe type: Carrot and Orange Soup
Cuisine: Starter or Main Meal
Serves: 5 - 6 bowls
Ingredients
  • 375 g organic carrots
  • 1 shallot or half a small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbs Olive Oil
  • Pinch of sea salt and some white pepper plus a generous grind of black pepper when serving
  • A shake or cumin grains
  • 600 ml vegetable stock, or 1 veggie stock pot (Knorr or Maggi are good)
  • Juice of 1 small orange
  • Parsley to decorate
Method
  1. Scrape the carrots then shred them on a coarse grater.
  2. Heat the Olive Oil and add cumin
  3. Sautée the shallot and the potato in a thick pan with the warmed oil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper
  5. Cover the pan, and leave over a very low flame for about 15 minutes, until the carrots have almost melted to a purée.
  6. Pour over the stock, and orange juice and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  7. Sieve or blend then return the purée to the pan - Taste to see if you are happy with the seasoning - add more if you need to
  8. Add a little chopped parsley to taste and a flourish of ground black pepper
  9. Serve with croutons or crusty bread

 

Cold soups pack an especially neat nutritional punch and Gazpacho is a particular favorite with many who visit us during the summer.  I make cucumber and apple and tomato Gazpacho for visiting tourists and guests.

                                                  A cold soup can be just as tasty…

I am also extremely keen on the Pistou soups so popular in France in areas such as the Languedoc Roussillon but especially in Provence.   In fact we nearly moved to Bezier in the Languedoc back in 2005 and I sometimes wonder what our lives would have been like if we had.  What might or might not have been aside this glorious soup is easy to make and so delicious.  You can make a cheat’s version by making a thin soup with veggies in and ladling a spoonful of  Pesto on top and/or sprinkling a generous smatter of grated parmesan, pecorino or a similar hard cheese.

Pistou soups a dish originally from Provençe

The origins of Pistou hail from Provençe in the form of a cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. It is somewhat similar to the Ligurian sauce pesto which is why I suggest in my cheats version of the soup (see above) that you add a dollop of pesto as you serve.  If a good chef offers to make you his/her Pesto go with it as it is bound to be truly divine.  We have had a couple of meals out in Tours at the Ristorante del arte which is virtually next to Ikea and I fancied some Pesto with my meal and after a short wait the chef came out baring a large bowl of freshly made bright green and garlicky infused Pesto..truly the best that I had ever tasted!  Or you can buy a jar of perfectly acceptable pesto from most supermarkets or better still from an Italian deli.  Down at our local market held every Sunday in Montsoreau there is an excellent stall  (opposite Betty Honey Stall) where you can purchase freshly made basil infused pesto which is delicious.

Tips for super soups:

Always use a good stock – either home made or bought from a deli or supermarket

If stock is not to hand use the best quality stock pot or cube such as those made by Knorr and Marigold

The trick for a really tasty soup is to sauté your onions and garlic (if you are using these ingredients at the beginning of your recipe that is).  We use olive oil to sauté ours.  The longer you sauté your onions and garlic the more depth of flavour you will build up.   If you let onion and garlic go brown however (never black), remember that this will colour your soup.

Grow your own herbs……Even if you do not have much space – we have a roof terrace and window sills here at Chez Teresa and this is where we grow our basil, rosemary, chives, mint and thyme – all fabulous herbs for soups!

We also grow strawberries in hanging baskets which if you are inclined to make cold fruit soups and coulis in the summer time as we are makes them quite accessible for picking

Of course by all means follow a specific recipe…doing this will obviously ensure that you create and can replicate the soup for another time.   A other times you may choose to throw caution to the winds by just throwing everything into a large pot with your stock, bring the mix to the boil and simmer until your veggies are soft and you are ready to serve piping hot either with your veggies in tact – more of a stew – or following the blitzing stage

Serve soups with a dollop of La crème fraîche or Greek yogurt

Croutons (as a garnish), crusty breads, garlic breads and crispbreads are great to eat with soups

Before serving garnish  your soups with fresh herbs and according to taste a grind of black pepper or for a more spicy soup decorate with a few pink peppercorns

To blitz or not to blitz that is the question….which all depends of course on whether you want a chunky or smooth finish to your soup!

…and by the way sometimes a soup may start out hot but can yet be served cold and taste perfectly delicious…….Soups to my mind that work best in this form are tomato (add some smoked Paprika or Worcestershire Sauce for a kick) and even you home made cream of mushroom soup

When it comes to creating and making soups do not let your imagination limit you……most combos of veggies work and you can even throw in the odd fruit if you so wish as is illustrated by the old Cranks recipe – very much a soup from my childhood and teens viz Parsnip and Apple (see my earlier blog for the recipe).    Carrot and orange soup is also another classic that goes down very well with our guests and other visitors.

Serving soups in attractive bowls and tea cups:

Examples of pottery bowls that you might choose to serve your soup in!

It was Marcus Gavius Apicius who in the 1st Century who purportedly coined the phrase

We eat first with our eyes..”

A a Roman gourmand he compiled one of the first Italian cookery books so the look of the soup is important and I find when I serve a dish such as soup or some home made muesli in a beautiful bowl I enjoy it all the more.

The local pottery in Thizay just along the road from Fontevraud l’abbaye has some fabulous Japanese style pots.  We also have a few examples here on display at Chez Teresa

Soup by the way was also a dish favoured by Ancient Rome such as for example Minestrone and Tomato and Bean Soup to name but two varieties, so perhaps we are in good company with our love of soups depending I suppose on how we view Ancient Rome…….

Why not serve your soup with, or even inside either a large Yorkshire Pudding or inside a couple of small Yorkshire Puddings?  We often serve our soups with popovers here at Chez Teresa and for the uninitiated, popovers are mini Yorkshire Puddings..So delicious and especially tasty sprinkled with some grated cheddar cheese if you make too many you can always as my Mother did when we were children, later on in the day fill them with jam or lemon curd and serve with whipped cream.  Not I hasten to add if you have sprinkled cheese over them, though I daresay that if you hail from the United States you might quite enjoy cheese Yorkshires with jam and even in Yorkshire itself it is not unknown for a slice of fruit cake to be serves with a slice of mature cheddar, so what do I know?

Yorkshire Puddings, not just for high days and Sunday’s

Another delicious option to place a crusty piece of bread or a crouton with a slice of goat’s cheese in the center of your bowl of soup and enjoy a taste of melting bliss….

Soup is undoubtedly a relatively quick and easy way of providing us all with a good nutritional punch offering a tasty and sustaining dish which especially during the bleak mid winter can be extremely satisfying.  Along with stews and bowls of steaming vegetables whilst being the ultimate comfort food it also has the merit of being a virtuous one.

Soup is one of the greats and a bon souper simple anytime!

Happy Soup making!

Teresa

Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre

The peculiar origins of Christmas Sweet Treats….

The origins of Christmas Pye’s etc…

A customer came in yesterday; she was French, and as she was enjoying a slice of Traditional British style Christmas Cake and a Mince Tart with some brandy infused butter she asked us what the origin of Christmas Puddings, Cakes and Mince Pies was?    Well that we informed Madame is a long story.  She was quite shocked when we told her that once upon a time viande/meat would have been one of the essential ingredients and that the filling is the stuff of legends….

The origin of such buttery, fruity, boozy delights in fact originate from Medieval times when the crusaders brought the idea of pies filled with spices and actually meat from the Middle East.  Pies were a great favourite then and especially during Tudor times when that illustrious albeit ogre of a King,  Henry VIII was especially partial to meaty fruity pies. Inside there could be found anything from lamb’s meat to Swan’s.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/74/85/4e/74854e7e663f7ef437ffef052bbf52d6--christmas-pies-christmas-carol.jpg

A Tudor Pye at Christmas

Over the years, they’ve had an array of different names including ‘shrid pies’ ‘Christmas pies’ ‘crib cakes’ and ‘mutton pies’. They were even called ‘wayfarers’ pies’ at one time, as they were given to visitors during the Christmas season.  Monks are as legend has it given such pies to the homeless at this time of the year.

For many centuries, certainly as far as the tarts were concerned, it was the filling itself that was the core delight with the pie crust acting as a kind of shell for the filling – modern day cling film as I heard a TV presenter recently describe it.   When Miners went down the pit in the 18th century their wives created the pie crust to keep the filling fresh and clean and the modern day pasty was born.    In what has become known as the Cornish Pasty there would be two fillings one side savory and the other half containing a sweet filing such as caramelized apples.  The pie crust itself would be discarded mainly of necessity and hygeine due to the fact that down the pit hands would be caked in coal.  With today’s Mince Tart the pastry is as much the star as the sumptuous filling.

Here at Chez Teresa we make our pastry for our Mince Tarts with flour, salt, ground almonds, butter, an egg some grated orange peel and a squeeze of orange. Next we roll it out on a board dusted with a liberal amount of icing sugar and make a number of small and big tarts.


Early mince pies were much bigger than modern treats – and had a sweet and savory meat-based filling…This is the Chez Teresa version of the bigger tart sans viande.

The very first mention of a pie filled with an array of different spices and meats appears in a 14th century English cookbook originally written on a scroll, titled A Forme of Cury.  It is the “tartes of flesh” that are of interest to us here. Consisting of ground pork, hard-boiled eggs, and cheese they were flavoured with spices, saffron, and sugar.  As a vegetarian this hardly endears them to me, but still it is an interesting fact.   The appearance and inclusion of spices to the mix bares testimony to the extensive and ancient trade links  with India, China and the Far East.  The ingredients for our modern mince tart can be traced to the return of the European crusaders and the spices used were seen as symbolic by Christians and ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg were included to represent the gifts given to Jesus by the three Eastern Kings. 

Other recipes redolent of today’s mince pies include one that appears in Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife, published in 1615 so at a time of many sea faring adventures. The recipe for Mince Pyes includes an entire leg of mutton, three pounds of suet along with salt, cloves, mace, currants, raisins, prunes, dates, and orange peel. Not for the faint hearted these pies were suitable for large banquets given by the wealthy such as by Merchants, nobles and at court.

One legend has it that if you eat a mince tart on each day of the 12 days of Christmas you will be granted happiness for the next 12 months.   In the UK there is even a Mince Pie Club

The frivolous and godless tart!

Oliver Cromwell although he banned Christmas in general along with all holy days and ceremonies (the spoil sport) was allegedly partial to a pie so mince pies were allowed, bit hypocritical that but such was the man.

With the glorious Restoration of the monarchy in the mid-17th Century of Charles II, Christmas was thankfully restored to its rightful place in our seasonal calendar.   Samuel Pepys wrote one year that he went to the Christmas service alone, “leaving my wife desirous to sleep, having sat up till four this morning seeing her mayds make mince-pies. He even mentions mince tarts as featuring at a friend’s wedding anniversary in January, 1661.   For each year of the marriage there was a mince tart to mark it.   He also appears to have expected them for Christmas and when one year his wife was too ill to make them he ordered some and had them delivered.

At the beginning of the Restoration in 1661 the following rhyme was popular:

“All Plums the Prophet’s sons defy

“And Spice-broths are too hot

“Treason’s in a December-pye

“And death within the pot.”

Sounds rather punitive to me and something that might have come from the lips of Oliver Cromwell.

Perhaps a more important change in mince pies has been the transition from meat to sweet. Hannah Glasse wrote her Art of Cookery in 1747 and her recipe consists of currants, raisins, apples, sugar, and suet, which should be layered in pastry crust with lemon, orange peel and red wine before being baked. She then adds,

“If you chuse meat in your pies parboil a neat’s tongue, peel it, and chop the meat as fine as possible and mix with the rest.”

and if you were wondering what a neat’s tongue it is a cow’s tongue!  Nice…

By the 18th century choice seems to be the key word here……..and the fact that at this point in time the Mince tart could be either savory or sweet.

19th century Christmas Classics:

As sugar became affordable and easier to get, due to the rise of sugarcane plantations in the West Indies, and unfortunately due also it has to be said to the hideous slave and indentured labour trades; sweet pies and sweet treats in general became popular.

Christmas pudding originated as a 14th century porridge called frumenty.  This was made with beef and mutton plus raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices.  Apparently the consistency was more like a soup then the pudding we know today.  Frumenty was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas.  Sounds a bit like gruel to me and not at all like the deliciousness that is our contemporary Christmas Pudding.

By the 16th century Figgy pudding as it became known was in fact much more like the Christmas pudding  that we know and love today.  Being made with a large quantity of figs it was baked and steamed in the oven, boiled or fried.

Later in Mrs Beeton’s celebrated Book of Household Management first published in 1861 instructions were given for a meat-free sweet fruity pie.

The importance of the Christmas Pudding as a core part of Christmas festivities began to be reflected in the 19th century when its image was reflected on the Christmas cards of the day. Certainly by the time of the Victorians, Christmas fayre as we know it today was beginning to look quite recognizable and suddenly for those who could afford it more and more people were enjoying Christmas figgy puddings along with Christmas tarts and Christmas cakes.  Christmas trees, Christmas Presents (not often wrapped as it happened) and also the giving of Christmas Cards were also becoming the rage thanks in particular to Queen Victoria’s much adored Prince Albert.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/03/03/79/030379fd27e0c5fb7c8e5f489df8fa80.jpg

Pic from the Illustrated London News

When I was a child I recall that Christmas Puddings for the elderly and the very poor could be prescribed by your Doctor on the NHS.  Perhaps this is a possibility that it would be helpful to return when for so many families money is tight, especially at Christmas time.  Christmas puddings though very sweet definitely provide a nutritional punch.

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 A Traditional Christmas Pudding

and lest you forget at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre in Fontevraud l’abbaye

click to play

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin.
We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Now bring us some figgy pudding,
Now bring us some figgy pudding,
Now bring us some figgy pudding,
And bring some out here.
Good tidings …

For we all like figgy pudding,
For we all like figgy pudding,
For we all like figgy pudding,
So bring some out here.
Good tidings …

And we won’t go until we got some,
And we won’t go until we got some,
And we won’t go until we got some,
So bring some out here.


 


 

Places to visit and ideas for Christmas & New Year’s gifts

At Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre we are delighted to promote the following studios and events during the season ahead.  Places where you can be assured of a warm welcome and where you can buy last minute Christmas or New Year’s gifts for your friends and family

Last minute ideas for presents:

Top of our list is the Atelier-Galerie Charles Hair where until the 23 December in Thizay near Chinon there is a fabulous exhibition of table place settings and pots to lend a touch of pottery class to your Christmas dining experience .  At the studio visitors will find literally hundreds of ideas for gifts.  Hot off the kiln are some new pots illustrated with a Haiku theme and inspired by the masters of that ancient Japanese art such as the one featured below.

Comme l’un de nous
Le chat est là
Prenant congé de l’an
Kobayashi ISSA (1763 – 1827)‍

Which I think means that ‘as one of us, the cat is there taking his leave of the old year…’or words to that effect.  Such word smithery appeals to us here at Chez T. because we love all things appertaining to le chat and the pithy lyricism of the three lined Haiku is perfectly suited to the deftness and agility of the cat.

For more information about Charles’s creations check out  www.charles-hair.com

We also have a small selection of his pottery on display at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre.

In addition if you are still looking for that special present for the one you love then do visit Einav Benzano’s studio next door to Chez Teresa here in Fontevraud l’abbaye where you will find all sorts of treasures made from the finest jewels, crystals and even meteorites..

Over at Thouars you might wish to visit la Boutique éphémère where until 7th January 2018
the work of Myriam Grelier is on display including her paintings, mood lamps and small decorative objects.  Apparently the artist keeps the remains of culinary plants to make her lamp shades throwing a whole new light on the concept of recycling.  Varying in shape and color, each piece is unique. 

Some of the shades says the artist “are fragile and delicate; others very resistant”.

The artist compares the transparency of the lampshades to that of glass thus creating I would imagine a chiaroscuro effect.

In addition the artist does not recommend the eating of her lamps!

“they are not to be ingested except in the case of extreme food shortages!”

La Boutique éphémère is located at 14 rue Saint Médard – 79100 THOUARS
and is open from 14h to 18h30 (every day except Monday) and by appointment
Contact ! 06 88 75 50 26 if you would like a private rendezvous.

Keeping your visitors entertained:

If you are looking for ideas for visits with a seasonal theme during and after Christmas and into the New Year why not offer especially the children some joie de vie by visiting the fabulous Christmas extravaganza at  the glorious Château de Brézé (about a 20 minute drive from Chez Teresa/Fontevraud).  On the 23 December and on Christmas Eve there  will be a traditional French themed fête de Noël and for those worried about what to do with the kids from 23 December 2017 until 7 January 2018  there will be workshops and activities for children as follows:

  • A riddle-themed game on the theme of Santa’s little red-nosed reindeer entitled “In search of Rudolph”.
  • A workshop featuring Christmas cookies where you can make a typical Christmas recipe with the children
  • A Christmas salt dough class inviting children to create a magical decoration in salt dough
  • A Snowman Workshop where children can make a snowman in Styrofoam

and

  • A workshop called “My Christmas Bread” where you can shape a spicy bread for Christmas

These  workshops and games are recommended for children from 5 to 12 years old

https://www.ouiinfrance.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/IMG_3187.jpg

Next door at the abbey they are, hallelujah hosting a Christmas extravaganza until 7th January 2018…How wonderful is that?  Our guests will be thrilled.

Featuring story telling,  writing workshops, graphic design and sacred music this extravaganza of a season is a first for our Cultural Center of the West and promises to offer something for everyone from children to adults.

For more information about the line up check out:

Du 09/12 au 07/01 : NOËL À FONTEVRAUD À L’ABBAYE ROYALE …

www.fontevraud.fr/Planifier-sa-journee/…/Noel-a-Fontevraud

A dusting of snow and ice..it has been cold of late, but there again not as cold as a few winters ago when our water pipes froze at Chez Teresa for 2 weeks…a rareness of course as the weather here in the Loire is generally mild during the winter and still is today..

Now in the week before Christmas with the misty rains it is really quite warm for the time of the year albeit a little dark but with the winter solstice on the 21 December on the near horizon we can but anticipate brighter days to come.

Visit us at Chez Teresa for Chocolat chaud, vin chaud plus we have a selection of Christmas Cakes, tarts and other sweet treats to tantalize your palette.

so please come in for a taste de Noël, English style at 6. av Rochechouart, Fontevraud l’abbaye where we will be serving light lunches and after noon teas with a Christmas laden franglais twist…. 

We also have our delicious Christmas Cakes for sale in differing sizes and prices so do pop in and sample a piece.

It would be wonderful to see you and to raise a glass to the parting year and give a toast to 2018.

Peace and good will to you all

Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre a Fontevraud l’abbaye