Delicious, healthy options from Chez Teresa

Following the indulgences of the recent holidays it is a good time to look at our diet and to this end I have been enjoying experimenting with some new recipes. I know most people tend to go on a slimming diet after Christmas which is known here in France as la regime, but quite frankly when the weather is cold and last week we were bordering on minus 3, we surely need more then a lettuce leaf or two to keep us going?  With that thought in mind I have just made a tureen of healthy green vegetable soup made with broccoli, courgettes, parsley, garlic, potatoes and celery and a vegetable stock…. and yes some pizzas…..The latter smaller in size then perhaps is usual but delicious nevertheless and good to keep out the cold with an added hit of nutrition when served with fresh water cress and succulent, cerise tomatoes.   I’ve also made Country Potatoes using wonderful Loire Valley potatoes served in a light cheese sauce with some spicing on top including Paprika and Black Pepper with some added peppery fresh basil and water cress for an added flourish of healthy greens. Delicious, sustaining, nutritious and fairly healthy I would say…..

Delicious, healthy dishes for 2017 that are not going to make you feel deprived.

I think the secret is to make and serve smaller portions and instead of using full cream milk or heavy cheeses and cream look to incorporate other options in your recipes such as semi-skimmed milk and lower fat options such as Edam, Gruyere, Feta and Mozzarella.  Yagourt can be used instead of cream or use half fat cream.  Use less flour and sugar in dishes and consider using half wholemeal/semi complet for added nutrition for you sauces, pastries, cakes and desserts.

And for a dessert, a gateau aux armandes hits the spot…delicious served on its own, but for added richness serve with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt or for a more sumptuous appeal swirl with Chantilly.

This cakes is surprisingly light as well as tasty.   Try a slice with your morning coffee or with a pot of refreshing Darjeeling tea in the afternoon.  For a gluten free version use ground almonds and/or polenta flour – the latter as you probably know is made from corn.  You can rustle up this cake in no time at all.  Use either butter or olive oil for the fat content.  Sweeten with sugar or honey.  Always use free range eggs of course……..Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice and/or some grated orange rind for some added zing.

Next we have some brownies to tantalize the tastebuds…….not so sweet as the usual version and in this case gluten free.  These look indulgent and taste it, but are not so heavy on the sugar content and you can use less sugar if you prefer.  Plus I have decorated them with a caramel/butter topping which is not entirely necessary.  If you do decide to go for the latter topping you can always have a smaller piece!

Delicious, healthy options from Chez Teresa
 
Prep time
Cook time
 
Indulgent brownies, but made with fabulous ingredients and if you prefer gluten free.
Author:
Recipe type: Sweet treats
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 14
Ingredients
  • 8 oz ground almonds or
  • 4 oz of ground almonds and 4 oz of self-raising flour or polenta
  • 4 oz Molasses Sugar
  • 3 whisked free range eggs
  • 8 oz butter
  • 200g 70 % chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon of Ovaltine
  • pinch of sea salt
  • For the fudge topping
  • 3 oz of Caramel chocolate
  • 1 oz butter
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 oz icing sugar (optional)
  • A generous dash of full fat cream if you want a more luxurious topping
Method
  1. Melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in the microwave for 2 minutes
  2. Add the ground almonds, salt and/or flour and Ovaltine powder
  3. Add the whisked eggs
  4. Bake at 180 centigrade for around 30 minutes or until when you insert a knife into the center of the cake it comes out clean
  5. Remove and leave to cool on a wire wrack
  6. For the topping:
  7. Melt the caramel and butter in the microwave for about 1 minute or until thoroughly melted.
  8. Add a pinch of sea salt and the icing sugar and a dash of cream (avoid icing sugar and cream if you want a healthier cake)
  9. Decorate with nuts or chopped glace cherries.
  10. When the cake is cool, spread the topping onto the cake and cut into squares.

 Who can resist a Brownie?

Here is to a healthy, happy 2017!

from all of us at Chez Teresa, Fontevraud l’abbaye.

We hope to see you again this year!

Bon appetite!

A little taste of Mme Pompadour at Chez Teresa

Of late it has been bitterly cold here in Fontevraud l’abbaye so we really are looking forward to Springtime.  It is also, following the holiday rush, very quiet in the village so we are using this time to do some early spring cleaning and a re configuring of our various spaces including our salon de thé.

New look Salon de thé at Chez Teresa  

Here is our smallest table displaying a plate of freshly cooked brownies made with ground almonds, 70% dark chocolate, free range eggs, olive oil, molasses sugar plus extract, walnuts and cocoa powder for extra chocolaty deliciousness!

In addition we have invested in some new crockery for the business.  What I like about these particular cups and saucers is that they are a) very pretty – they are named after Mme Pompadour, Louis XV’s maitress-en-titre from 1745 to 1751 and b) they appear to be hard wearing.  I recall when we first opened back in 2006 using for the business most of my best Victorian china some of which I had inherited from my Mother and Grandmother.  Of course in no time at all it was smashed to smithereens….We are optimistic that our new cups, saucers and matching plates will last longer…

Portrait of Madame Pompadour by François Boucher (1703 – 1770)

It is said that Madame Pompadour had a penchant for drinking tea and coffee which was all the rage among the upper echelons of 18th century society…..To partake in this indulgent, expensive and delicious beverage would have been one thing….but for it to be served in the exquisitely made Sèvres porcelain quite another.

This beautifully crafted and extravagant china in its array of rich colours although delicate in style, was also a symbol of power. A beautiful, intelligent and educated woman such as Madame de Pompadour loved Sèvres porcelain as much as she loved her position at the royal court. In 1745, when she became the King’s Mistress, the porcelain factory of Sèvres at Vincennes was allowed unique privileges to the court and in the country.

I like to think that depicted here is Mme Pompadour in happier days as she was courted by her Prince…

With this royal seal of approval, a law was passed which gave the factory exclusive ownership over the Sèvres mark.  Later, the factory moved to Sèvres which was close to Madame de Pompadour’s Chateau de Bellevue.  Not that I am suggesting that our modest crockery resembles the exquisite pieces created at Sèvres in the 18th century, but they are pretty and offer a taste of the style…

Not sure about the kind of food that Mme Pompadour ate.  Exotic perhaps, but not our idea of a good meal.  Apparently some of Mme de Pompadour’s own menus have survived.  One specialty created by her chef de cuisine, Benoît, was “turtle doves à l’impromptu” and “stomachs of riverside birds with sand-leek sauce”…nice…..Had this chef and his patroness visited the Loire Valley then I daresay such ingredients could have been easily sourced from our local river!

To this day Mme Pompadour continues to inspire some of our most celebrated chefs.  In Paris there is the restaurant called Benoît where the menu boasts ‘Lucullus-style calf’s tongue, heart of romaine with mustard…….’and in Edinburgh there is La Pompadour run by the Galvin brothers.  A quick glance at the respective menus of both these award winning places and we can see that even Mme Pompadour herself might not have found some of the fayre that she enjoyed at court so very different though to be sure I did not notice any river birds or turtle doves on the either menu.

This very gentle woman who came from the so called lower orders was without doubt a woman of intelligence and elegance.  Sadly after a painful struggle with tuberculosis, she died aged 42 at the Palace of Versailles on Easter Day in 1764 (April 15, 1764), . She was buried two days later, beside her daughter at the Chapel of the Capuchin Friars in the Place Vendome.

* *

Back on the subject of our make-over we also have in-situ a gorgeous new mirror in the tea room; an early Birthday pressie for me from my sister Mandy.   We had been looking for a larger mirror for the space for a while and this one is just perfect, being ornate but not overly so and because silver is such a good colour in terms of its reflective qualities it works well above the mantle piece in the salon.  Well we think so anyway…another little taste of Mme Pompadour though perhaps rather more simple in style than would have been the case in a more baroque age…..

Our new Mirror – if you look very carefully you will see Tony in the reflection taking the pic!

Work-life balance is an important thing for us all as I am sure you will agree and somehow this time of the year many of us will be thinking about the two strands of our lives.   Over the past few years at Chez Teresa I am not quite sure that we have got the balance right but because we love what we do it has not caused us too much a hardship.  However as we are quieter this time of the year, now is the perfect time for us to watch films that we have been promising ourselves that we will watch and to catch up on our reading.  Of course it is not the time to completely abnegate all responsibility for our business and we will be catching up on business tasks that need doing in time for the launch of the new season.

We are taking a fresh look at our marketing materials and the way in which we present our image to our customers.  When we opened in the summer of 2006 we were one of only a few places to drink, eat and stay in Fontevraud l’abbaye, now the village is teaming with such places so although this has resulted in a more vibrant, interesting and culturally diverse place where visitors can find a range of wonderful places to visit this has also made what we all do rather more competitive then certainly we had initially envisaged 10 years ago,  We actually do prefer the new entrepreneurial life that has come to Fontevraud l’abbaye over the past few years.  All of us businesses however are undoubtedly aware that although we all try to be supportive to each other we also need to be on our toes and create the best possible environment and ensure that what we offer is as good as it can be.

We’ve just heard that plans are afoot to create a bridge in the village that will enable visitors to drive straight into the abbey grounds and by-pass the village…….Apparently when the abbey was a triple monastery there were actually five bridges leading into the abbey.  It will be interesting to see if the current proposal comes to fruition.   Sounds a bit barmy to us, and a hugely expensive project.  Time will tell.  Perhaps if is one of those urban or in our case ‘village’ myths…

I feel with our business, back in 2006 when we started out with an agenda it was our unique selling point i.e. our British-ness and our links with history and in particular the Plantagenet connection as the royal house of England from 1154 to 1485 that gave us credence.  This historic link remains to this day our focus.   I recall a journalist from the Sunday Times in his feature called ‘The Loire without Lycra: mentioning who had come in to Chez Teresa for a light lunch, that we had a perfect historic right to be here not to mention plenty of ammunition in our tea room what with all the china that we sell, to start our own battle with any challengers and/or counter army.  An interesting idea that made us all laugh!

At a time when Europe seems to a degree to be imploding in on itself we all hope that here at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre that we can continue to offer an experience that visitors, locals and guests alike will appreciate.

I think of all the infamous mistresses of the kings of France and of England I would rather have enjoyed sharing an afternoon cuppa with La Pompadour.

Another sumptuous portrait by Boucher.

Très belle année 2017!

For more on the life and times of Mme Pompadour I would recommend Mme de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford (Penguin).

Christmas Greetings from Fontevraud l’abbaye

 

carousel-with-mouse

The Magic of Christmas in our salon at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre

With the whole house again filled with the all pervading scents of hot spice and rum we are beginning to decorate our salon with coloured baubles, angels and other Christmas paraphernalia including a musical Carousel.   To be frank I am not sure that we will have the musical element of this object playing throughout the whole of the Christmas period as we would be in danger of driving our customers insane with what is actually a very loud rendition of Silent Night; a misnomer of a carol in relation to this item if ever there was one.  Still it is a pretty object and children love it.

Today I made our first batch of Miniature Christmas Cakes; a rich fruity mixture liberally laced with spices and Almond Liqueur, baked in a tray and cut into squares, cooled and topped with freshly made marzipan and royal icing and decorated with our home made hollies.  Our first plate of Mince Pies adorned with stars has also emerged from our oven.  The pastry this year is made with almonds, flour, butter, sugar and a hint of fresh orange juice.

mini-christmas-cakes-2016

Just the mention of spice can set me off on a revelry of images and dreams about different spices and what it must have been like centuries ago when the intrepid Captains of exploration from across Europe set off on pioneering seafaring missions returning from such places as Persia and the orient with sacks and boxes filled with exotic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and saffron along with coffee and cacao beans and vanilla pods.  Such a sensuous array of colours, textures and scents must have been a revelation to the senses and the palate of the Elizabethans.  In particular the introduction of salt and sugar must have been transformational.  Imagine a Christmas Cake or Pudding without sugar or molasses and you would have a very bland affair.  No wonder that prior to the introduction of such additions meat was used to flavour, enrich and embody such recipes.  In fact even as late as the 18th century mince might be added to a Christmas Pudding.  Not for the vegetarian to be sure.

I think that we are fortunate in France in so far as we have strong links with les Réunion…just the sound of Guadeloupe and Martinique sounds exciting to my mind transporting me on what is today a rather dull winter’s day to warmer shores where lush and vibrant coloured flowers sway in the sea breeze.  Incidentally on the theme of the exotic a new spice shop has opened near to us just this year called Aux Saveurs De Dame Nature.  Based in Saumur I love it.  Many of the spices in stock are sourced from the islands.  This morning I bought some intoxicating spices for our vin chaud and they even stock Sumac and a range of Indian and Moroccan spices which of course we adore and that are often quite difficult to acquire locally at least in terms of a rich colour and absolute freshness and quality.  I sampled some Muscovado sugar from Martinique and it was delicious.  The colour of the Tumeric – in France this spice is called Curcuma or Safran des Indes a far more exotic sounding name to be sure – is more vivid in colour then any that I have ever seen in any supermarket.  This really is to my mind a truly magical store where you can find lots of your ingredients for Christmas for cakes, for exotic dishes and for vin chaud…..There is also a salt grotto where you can buy a range of salts including the gorgeous pink Himalayan salt perfect for salting food but also to put in a luxurious and soothing bath.  Along with spices and fragrant herbs, also for sale are hand turned and crafted wooden bowls and spoons which are pricey but beautiful.  Check out Aux Saveurs De Dame Nature on You Tube.

This year we have received a few commissions for our Christmas Cakes and one is from a local club who wanted to have guns on the top.  I asked if they wanted Père Noël to be shot more as a joke than anything, but apparently “yes” they do want a gun theme so this year on this particular cake we have Santa Claus carrying a sweet teddy bear and yes this particular Father Christmas is being attacked by a character on a Segway jousting a gun…Sandwiched between them I have placed a dove as a token of peace declaring Paix et Amour pour Noël.  My conscience is salved.

 

Other themes this year are of a more traditional nature.
 Liberally laced with rum or almond lacquer, we have iced varieties available and also a couple decked with candied fruits.
This time of the year we are quite an industry here at Chez Teresa with me baking and Tony wrapping the cakes in cellophane and festooning them with ribbons etc…
Something to tantalize the taste buds, what could be more reviving then a slice of rich fruit cake with a glass of our delicious local sparkling wine  la Crémant de Loire?   Interestingly enough this year the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s in the UK are championing this particular crémant.  I am not surprised as it is rather tasty so do get hold of some whilst stocks last!

Christmas displays at our local town of Saumur are of the automated and huge variety again this year with a drunken Princess Bear being one of the exhibits….Interesting idea….

drunken-princess

A Christmas themed tea party with Père Noël in attendance is another exhibit at the center so all good fun for the children.

christmas-tea-party

In our boutique this year we have a range of Christmas gifts on offer to whet the appetite including Christmas themed baskets and tins, filled with a delicious range of Chez Teresa edible products from biscuits to cakes to sweets plus a few decked out with cruelty free soaps and other beauty accoutrements.

christmas-goodie

Gorgeous gifts at Chez Teresa

The other day the Bijoutière Einav Benzano next door to Chez nous offered an evening of porte ouverts where there was vin chaud galore and an opportunity to check out Einav’s latest pieces……

A particular favourite of mine in terms of the stones Einav has used in her work this year is her use of Lapiz Lazuli…. a colour which must surely transport us back to the colours of the Renaissance and appropriately for this time of the year of the Madonna and her robes as depicted by the likes of Titian, Raphael and the glorious Botticelli.

Pure magic at the window…..

The display was designed by the talented créateur de ménagerie en verre, Sophie Touet….Love, love, love her use of coloured glass in all its rainbow colours……Hopefully you can catch a glimpse of the splendour of this wonderful installation whilst it is in situ at Einav’s studio thoughout the Christmas season.

 

 

* * *

A sad note on the subject of des Sapin de Noël...

Tony has just got back from the Boulangerie in Montsoreau where he discovered that the boutique next door, La Ringlette have had their Christmas Tree stolen.  Honestly we know money can be tight, but to steal someone’s Christmas Tree is surely plummeting new lows…. This area is relatively free from crime so it is always a bit of a shock when we hear of such things.

This year our colours for our trees have again be prescribed by our Maire and this year the colours are violet et blanche.  We had fun decorating them and we hope that they stay around long enough to be enjoyed.

Not exactly what we expected…..

In many ways 2016 has been the most bizarre of years…….a time when all the things we thought could not possibly happen such as the outcome of the UK referendum on whether to stay or not in the EU, the result of the US Presidential elections were not at all what we thought they would be.

I am reminded of the words of Sydney Carton who in the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities declares that

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

(A Tale of Two Cities, Para.1, Line, 1, pub 1859)

Words of a former age of course, but of a time not dissimilar from ours in terms of its radical opposites with not a little chaos and conflict thrown in for good measure.  Curiously Dickens was writing about a European issue and France in particular.

I will anyway put on some more Strauss and waltz about the kitchen, do some more baking and hope so very much that everyone we know and love has a superb season ahead and has a blast of a Christmas time!

Here are some youngsters certainly having a blast at this years atmospheric Marché de Noël at Souzay, just along the road from Fontevraud l’abbaye.

Best wishes from us all at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre from the fabulously historic Fontevraud l’abbaye!

A huge thank you to all our customers and guests!  A bientôt!

We hope that 2017 is a good year for us all!

Don’t forget to feed the birds your Christmas left overs…

Chez Teresa’s highlights for La Saison, 2016

It seems to have rapidly come round to that time of the year again when we take stock of the summer season behind us.  This is a time when we begin to think of the nights drawing in, of  putting into place our plans for Christmas including our menus and present ideas and of course planning for next year, 2017!

The season of 2016 was generally a good one for us with lots of guests staying in our Chambre d’Hotes and quite a few tourists in to sample our light lunches and afternoon teas and to purchase items from our boutique.  Overall we received excellent and complimentary reviews so this is obviously a boost to our confidence.

In fact we had some fabulous guests stay at Chez Teresa  from all over the world with quite a few from Spain and the United States in this year.  One couple from San Francisco even included a two night stop off at ours as part of their honeymoon which filled us with joy that they would choose to stay with us.   Another couple from Mexico said that they chose to stay at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre here in Fontevraud l’abbaye because they did not have time to visit the United Kingdom, but wished to include a taste of England in their mammoth trip across Europe!  We could hardly believe that the latter couple were in their 70s as they looked so youthful and energetic.  It must be the fact that they are vegetarians and appear to enjoy life to the full.  In fact Richard was at Woodstock in that summer of love of 1969, so of course we sang Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock to commemorate that fact.  Tony and I were too young to have attended this legendary festival ourselves, though I do recall buying the as a single the version by Matthew, Southern Comfort and therefore sampling a little of the stardust at the time.

One of our regulars, artist Andrew Painter gave us one of his fabulously idiosyncratic paintings which now adorns one of the walls in our dining room.

woman-by-andrew-painter

If you have a chance do think of attending one of his annual exhibitions.  The next one is on 24 November, 2016.  With Christmas almost upon us, one of his quirky paintings would make an excellent and unusual gift.  Tony and I both love his work and his vivid use of colour and design.  Each painting has a hidden secret embedded within it.  See if you can spot the one in the above painting?

flyer-for-andrew-painters-exposition-24-nov-2016

Another of our guests, young Caitlin, even crocheted us a Chez Teresa sign which we thought was very kind of her.  It is so thoughtful when guests give us gifts.  This one stood out because of the patience and skill involved in its making.  Gary and Michael gave us some specialty chocolates from California and I am with her blue sticker in support of Hilary Clinton; the latter we duly affixed to our front door.  If we were eligible to vote we would definitely be pro Hilary as opposed to the ghastly alternative.

chez-teresa-by-catlin

The fabulously talented Ricercar Consort performed again at the abbey at Easter time and it was wonderful to again see Musical Director Philippe Pierlot and his lovely wife Brigitte.  We hope that they return again next year as the music that the consort play is sublime and we are always delighted that Philippe and his wife choose to visit Chez Teresa.  We have almost begun to see them as our ‘musical family’……We frequently play their music in our tea room and visitors often ask what is playing?

A few of our guests keep in touch via email…..which we appreciate very much.  One of whom is Deirdre Doolan from Massachusetts, but for one letter she could practically be related!   She came into our tea room late summer for lunch and a chat with her husband and was so delighted with her purchase of a blue beret that she has gone on to order some more for Christmas pressies.  Over the summer we have stocked a range of lovely hats including traditional style woolen French berets in a number of vibrant and pastel shades.  We also currently have some rather stylish men’s hats in stock.

beret

Fontevraud l’abbaye was awash with thousands of tourists this year and the cultural center at l’Abbaye Royale put on some very interesting events and exhibitions including a fabulous paperwork exhibition as part of the theme of the ideal Cité  this time expressed through miniature reconstructions of buildings and towns made of paper and card.  I have always been fascinated by miniature worlds so this particular exhibition holds great appeal and not a little magic.  As a child I used to love to visit miniature villages in the UK such as Ganymede in Hastings and Bekonscot Model Village and Railway in Buckingham.  There are quite a few in the UK but I am not aware of many in France apart from France Miniature located in Élancourt in the ÎledeFrance that features scale models of major French landmarks such as the Effel Tower and other monuments set in parkland.

architecture-de-papier

architectural-exposition-at-labbaye-2015

For more information about the exhibition at l’abbaye Royale and other events at the center consult their website:

Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud – L’émotion est dans l’inattendu

www.fontevraud.fr/en/

The commune of Fontevraud l’abbaye hosted a few events this year such as vide greniers, fetes and exhibitions some of them located at the local Presbytery.  Bijoutrice, Einav Benzano, curated a fascinating exhibition on the theme of women and the history of France, Histoires de Femmes which gave its audience a unique opportunity to view hundreds of years of French history through a feminist lens using the medium of textiles, crafts, jewellery, fabric and paint.

Mme Napoleone

Portrait of Napolione…..by Sophie Puls

There were also a few village fetes throughout the year.   One included the wearing of traditional regional French costumes accompanied by traditional french music and dancing which was rather splendid to behold.

french-national-costumes-2

 

 

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Traditional, regional French costumes were the order of the day in Fontevraud l’abbaye earlier this year.

outside-the-mairee-in-costume

We had fun this year giving a bit of a revamp to Chambre Flora.  We added just a few new bits and pieces, but we hope that our guests like the subtle or not so subtle changes.

chambre-flora-oct-2016-001

Chambre Flora, newly appareled

Meeting award winning writer Hazel Manuel was another highlight this season not the least because she is such a lovely person and very easy to talk to about writing, living in the Loire Valley etc.  She has been in to Chez Teresa a few times this year and we have also visited her writer’s studio where she holds retreats and seminars.

Hazel approaches the Secret Garden

Hazel in her garden were some of the

creative writing workshops are held.

Having just completed my latest children’s story, Alisha Joy and the Kingdom of the Beasty Bugs, it was great to talk to Hazel about some of its themes and she was kind enough to proof read it for me, so now I am all set to have it printed.  For those who may be interested in reading it, copies will be available in our boutique soon.  The story is about eight year old Alisha Joy who has an intense dislike and fear of insects but who through the power of friendship and magic gets to know the inhabitants of the Kingdom of the Beasty Bugs and valiantly overcomes such fears.  The book will be dedicated to the Rosie May foundation.

aj-becomes-a-butterfly-princess

On becoming a Butterfly Princess, Alisha Joy.

Of course this was the year that a large number of people in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and this has provided endless scope for conversation with our guests and other visitors to Chez Nous.  We see ourselves as English, British and European, so we are in fact mortified that such a decision has been made to leave the European Union…. not the least because there appears to have been absolutely no plan or draft agreements put in place that would inform any decision of the British public to vote to leave the Union in any intelligible way.  We cannot help thinking that those who were swayed to vote to leave were misinformed and that there was simply not enough research done into the implications and consequences of what leaving the EU would have

Had there been a longer lead in time before such a momentous thing as a referendum was offered to the British Public, and had the pros and cons been properly mapped out and mythic assertions such as 350 million a week to be invested in the NHS in the event of the UK pulling out of the EU dispelled, then the outcome might have been very different.  Of course it is too late now and we can only hope that the economic future will not be a bleak one for the UK.  For our part we are thankful that we came over here 10 years ago to start up Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre, because of course now it would be well nigh impossible for anyone outside of the EU to set up the kind of enterprise that we have.  We are not sure what the future holds, but we will continue to celebrate both French and British cultures, cuisine and hospitality for as long as we are able to.

goats-cheese-and-blue

Gorgeous French cheeses galore….perfect at any time.  Apparently there are 365 cheeses in France, one for every day!

The Loire Valley is celebrated for its goats cheeses.  We enjoy creating assiettes des fromages for our guests featuring local cheeses.  There are six AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) cheeses: Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Selles-sur-Cher, Valencay, Pouligny-Saint-Pierre, Chabichou du Poitou and Crottin de Chavignol all perfect served with a glass of Saumur Champigny or one of the white, dry wines.  Another favourite local cheese of ours is Chaubier, a semi-firm tomme.  A glass of Sauvignons blanc, such as Menetou-Salon, Pouilly Fumé, Quincy, Sancerre or Savennières are delicious served with the local cheeses.

chevre-frais

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At Chez Teresa we like to serve our cheeses with local honey, walnuts, local apples and salad.

Thanks so all our regular customers and to all the new ones who came through our doors at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre this season.  Your support means a lot to us all.

Writer’s Retreat in the Loire Valley

Come and find inspiration at a fabulous new Loire Valley Writer’s Retreat…..

Hazel Manuel in action

Hazel giving a reading of her latest novel, The Geranium Woman

Meeting writer Hazel Manuel the other day – she came into our Salon de thé, Chez Teresa here in Fontevraud l’abbaye for an afternoon tea with her friends – was a pleasure and a revelation. I say revelation because it was really good to meet someone that I could talk with about literature and writing.  Hazel as I soon discovered is a very proficient writer with a number of publications under her belt including her first novel Kanyakumari, set in India during the 1960s which won the Cinnamon Press award for 2013.   The Geranium Woman is her latest novel published this summer so hot it’s off the press.



Hazel at her desk

Hazel at her desk, clearly relaxed and clearly enjoying her craft

Hazel’s latest venture is to share some of  her wordsmith wisdom by running writing workshops in the area at her place in Bizay.  Here budding and established writers who wish to spend time in tranquil and picturesque surroundings can bounce their creative writing ideas around and share their writing with established writer Hazel Manuel..Being a residential retreat writers can stay for a few days and be among kindred spirits in order to find inspiration and literary connectivity.


I asked Hazel what had motivated and inspired her to establish a writers retreat here in the Loire Valley?

 

To which she replied that the area is a truly beautiful and inspiring place to write.

“I spend a large part of the year at my house here to work intensively without distraction on my current novel, and I wanted to offer other writers a similar immersive experience”.

Hazel's houseEchoes of Miss Haversham perhaps…. but here at the retreat writers will discover plenty that is comfortable and also uplifting and inspirational….

I wondered if Hazel’s concept for  Loire Valley Writing Retreats is a new initiative

“Yes”, replied Hazel “the idea grew out of the writers salons that I run in Paris.  Following lots of requests, we ran our first week-long writers retreat in April 2016 and it worked so well that we have decided to run retreats throughout the year here in the Loire Valley”.

I asked her how writers should prepare for the retreats?
“The retreats are a combination of structured workshops, free writing time and group feedback and that in point of fact…..  There is no need to prepare in advance”.

 

Continues Hazel ” although we encourage participants to bring along their work-in-progress they can also just bring along an idea for a writing project they’d like to start.  My approach is flexible”.

I wondered what her own expectations were in terms of who should apply to attend?

“Writers at all stages of their writing Journey are welcome”, she assured me.

So what can participants expect from the retreat?
“Participants can expect support and the company of other writers who share similar goals.  They will also receive focused help with work-in-progress and writing ideas”.

Other areas covered are

* what makes a great opening

* structured workshops around issues that matter to a writer’s mindset including tips on how to create fascinating characters and ideas on how to maintain tension in a story and the practicalities of how a writer can market themselves

In addition Hazel offers lots of positive encouragement and feedback along with one on one time with her as an established writer.

All this is offered in beautiful surroundings, where participants can enjoy delicious homemade food, local wine, barbecues in the summer and all set within lovely shared accommodation including a garden surrounded by lush countryside.

Supper at the Retreat

Inspirational conversations over dinner are part and parcel of what

is on offer at the retreat

Fabulous views from the garden

Fabulous views across the countryside from the garden at the retreat.

I asked Hazel what her background was…She told me that formerly she was a company CEO in the industry but is now a full time writer.

Hazel surrounded by books

“I’ve been writing full-time since I moved to France three years ago”.

Hazel is a busy woman and spends her time, when she is not in the UK, in Paris and in the Loire.  Her first novel ‘Kanyakumari’ won the Cinnamon Press Debut Novel award in 2013 and was subsequently nominated for the Wales Book of the Year.  Her latest novel,The Geranium Woman is available to buy now.  In addition to these successes Hazel has also contributed to a celebratory anthology of writing on the theme of ‘place’.

Visiting Hazel with Tony, at her somewhat remote property in Bizay near Epieds..which is of course a perfect setting for a retreat and is in fact only 4 kms from Fontevraud l’abbaye, I can now bear testimony to the fact that this is a wonderful place to visit and stay…The house is late 19th century and is set in a wild and rather romantic garden with an ancient tree in the garden.  I found it a very tranquil place.   She lives there with Pierre and they have an abundance of labyrinthine caves under the grounds and some adjacent farmland.  Following a cup of delicious coffee Hazel gave us a tour of the property and showed us round.  We talked about literature and politics and it was so refreshing to relax and just talk and feel unguarded in such an inspirational and calming space.
Hazel tells us that she has recently been commissioned to write a book about an Ashram in Kerala in Southern India.  She has visited India a number of times over the years and evidence of this can be seen around her home and the spaces for the retreat in the form of certain iconography and fabrics.  There is even a slight air that is redolent of what I would imagine the serenity of an ashram and its atmosphere about not only Hazel’s retreat but also Hazel herself.
 

Hazel approaches the Secret Garden

Hazel Manuel at the entrance to a more secret part of her garden.

Hazel informs me that she is currently working on her next novel “a mysterious story set in rural France”.

All in all I am of the opinion that Hazel Manuel is a whirlwind of creativity and that if anyone aspires to make a success of their writing they could do no wrong then to subscribe to one of Hazels forthcoming retreats.   Places are at a premium but their cost is fair and not at all expensive for what participants receive in return. I get the distinct impression that Hazel is not running the workshops for income but because she is passionate about writing and she wants to encourage and share that passion.  Hazel will even arrange to have you picked up from Saumur railway station so you cannot ask for more than that can you…..

Quotes from former students who have attended the writer’s retreat:-

“Exceptional week with a wonderful and diverse group of writers. The retreat offered beautiful surroundings in the French countryside, constructive working environments, useful feedback sessions and fun group chats over the dinner table and by the fireplace.” Margaret Rodgers,
novelist
“Warm, supportive, and encouraging. For a writer to be able to experience this kind of mutual understanding and critique is hard, and great to find.” Cris Hammond, short story writer

“Hazel’s critiquing was very insightful and extremely helpful to my project.” Nancy Meunchinger, novelist

“Hazel’s workshops were well-structured and planned, and it was an opportunity to look at the big picture of work in progress.” Ruth Druart, novelist

“My writing potential transformed into two new chapters and a great edit to the key scene in the novel.” Ksenya Novozilova, novelis

******************************
I am of the opinion that these workshops promise to offer a splendid experience and that sometime in the not too distant future I hope to attend one myself!  As someone who is passionate about writing and literature (I wite as some of you will know and have also run creative writing workshops in the past)  I cannot help but feel that we are fortunate that Hazel Manuel has moved to the area to enrich the local literature scene.

For more specific  information about these fabulous Loire Valley retreats and when the next one takes place check out the website http://www.hazelmanuel.net/retreats.html

For a list of published work by Hazel Manuel take a look at the following page:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hazel-Manuel/e/B00IO0PM0G/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Hazel Author pic

Hazel is also involved in an initiative with an invitation for writers to attend working lunches..sounds inspiring to me.

Here is the link.

Loire Writers Working Lunches

Saumur, FR
4 Writers

Loire Writers Working Lunches gives aspiring writers an opportunity to hone and develop a work in progress by giving and receiving honest, helpful feedback. We work in a relax…

Next Meetup

Loire Valley Autum Writing Retreat

Sunday, Sep 11, 2016, 6:00 PM
1 Attending

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