Charles Hair’s studio of pots and more pots galore…

There is still time to catch the wonderful exposition at the studio of Charles Hair in Thizay en route to Chinon just along the road from Chez Teresa .  This exhibition is dedicated to the theme of le jardin where garden pots are in situ on the greenest of lawns with a backdrop of an abundance of beautiful roses and one brightly coloured azalea that was of such an intense bright orange that it reminded me of the azaleas and rhododendrons of Cornwall and my native Kent.

Pots in situ in the garden of Charles Hair

Charles in his garden at Studio surrounded by his ubiquitous pots!

Charles Hair’s studio is open most days and is at any time an interesting and vibrant place to visit whether you are a tourist or a local.  The garden has however a rather particular and tranquil quality to it and with the current display of Charles’ brilliant pots especially designed for gardens and patios, this is a treat of a place to visit, especially on a warm summers day.

The magic of pottery chimes at the window…..

Potter Charles, is mainly self-taught in his craft, but he also studied for a time in Japan where he learnt a great deal about technique and also says Charles ” about tea ceremonies”.

Initially when you walk through into the main studio space in Thizay (this is also the home of Charles, his partner Stephanie and their children) you will see a floor that looks rather like Jackson Pollock has recently paid a visit and decided to wildly splash vivid colours across it.  If you look closely at this next photograph you will see the Pollock effect floor!

A perfect pot for any occasion and in this instance for a display of glorious tulips

(Charles explained that if and when the tulips droop, the effect in this vase is like a fan)

By contrast the rest of the space is tranquility incarnate, with a large number of ordered pots on display on glass shelves and systematically arranged according to colour and mainly in straight lines.  These are product of an ordered mind I should think…perhaps Charles is a Virgo; I forgot to ask.

Symmetrically lined pots at the atelier of Charles Hair in Thizay

Charles makes his pots on his wheel and then dips them in a solution of mineral powders dipping them for long enough to create the desired colour effect that he wants.   The majority of his work is simple and plain with a wonderful sheen and luster to each pot of every size and hue…..Twenty – thirty years in the making there are literally thousands of pots, bowls and to my delight tea pots and jugs as well as decorated wall plaques.

The sun is a theme on the latter and one can see the influence of the orient on Charles’s work.

The Sun is King at the studio

The pieces are wheel-turned or hand-sculpted and are made using sandstone or porcelain.  What I like about this kind of art and these kind of pieces is the fact that they are decorative, but also useful reminding me of that old William Morris adage of:

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” 

That is my philosophy in life and I think that possibly it might also be the belief of Charles Hair and his family motto.

Pots galore at the studio of Charles Hair in Thizay, just along the road from Chinon

There are pots in the studio, pots in the various lofts and outbuildings; pots in the garden..pots..pots..pots and yet more pots galore…leading me to ask Charles if he could ever imagine himself stopping making pots and wasn’t this passion somewhat of an obsession albeit a glorious one?  He tells me that his wife sometimes poses the same kind of questions.   Pots are clearly his life along with his family of course and as we left I could hear laughter in the garden.  I do urge you to visit soon.

Our homage to Charles Hair and his pottery at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre

(if you look closely you can see Charles at his potter’s wheel)

We had a group of 14 artists in for a luncheon this week, and they very much admired the exhibits that we have on display of Charles’s work…in particular they referred to the quality and luster of the glaze on the blue bowl with one of them calling out to Kentucky based artist Mary Neely “Come look at this glaze Mary, it is just wonderful!”

This particular group of artists work as part of a co-operative called Artists Attic and are much respected and celebrated in Kentucky and form part of the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen.

I have long had a love affair with pottery and recall being enthralled when Tony and I visited the studio of Bernard and Janet Leach back in the late 1970s.

Since then we have loved the work of the Kent Potters and the pottery of Jean McCree in particular.  Check out her studio in Newton Road, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

but when in the Loire Valley please do not hesitate to contact the

1 rue des Marais
37500 THIZAY
LONGITUDE : 0.143406 / LATITUDE : 47.167461

02 47 95 90 01

Portes ouvert for Charles Hair

  • from 02/01/2017 to 30/12/2017 : from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00 (except Monday – Tuesday – Sunday morning)

Earlier on in the year Charles Hair co-hosted an exhibition at the studio of Einav Benzano, our local and very talented maker of original jewellery.  Here she is emerging behind one of Charles Hair’s pots…It was a unique collaboration.  Einav’s studio is next to us at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre

The very beautiful Einav behind one of Charles Hair’s fabulous pots…or is she emerging from it?  Who can tell?  I anyway love the luster and pattern on this pot!

Summer is a “comin in loudly sing cuckoo…”

Come in for a cuppa and a chat to Chez Teresa about pottery and the arts anytime…

6, av Rochechouart, Fontevraud l’abbaye

just next to the l’abbaye royale…

For more information about the work of Jean McCree check out the

Kent Potters Association Picture Gallery – Jean McCree

Jean McCree. I am an established sculptor and potter having worked, exhibited and taught for over 20 years and am an active member of the Kent Potters …

Happy Easter/Joyeuses Pâques


Just the quickest of messages to wish all our customers, friends and family a very very Happy Easter time 2017 from Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre in Fontevraud l’abbaye!

I love the highly painted Easter Eggs from Russia

Years ago we met a lady called Lady Rupert Nevill and visited her home near Lewes.  She collected Fabergé eggs and had quite a collection…..Very beautiful and extremely valuable, these fabulous  jeweled eggs were created by the House of Fabergé and were manufactured under the supervision of Peter Carl Fabergé at the height of the reign of Czar Nicholas II.  There is something very comforting about the shape of an egg.  I recall as a child blowing eggs with my father, John and painting them in various colours.  

We have just made the hot cross buns for Good Friday and for Easter Weekend, so fingers crossed they have risen!  Mentioning Good always strikes me as strange that in a still fairly devout country, most of France does not actually mark Good Friday with a Bank Holiday.   Apparently they do in Alsace Lorraine, but not here in the Loire Valley.  I’ve probably remarked on this before, but it does strike me as a little strange.  Probably some folks do take the day off, but as part of their annual leave.

An Easter Tree meets Cherry Blossom at Chez Teresa

Anyway the hot cross buns have risen and here they are again fresh from the oven……..To my mind Good Friday wouldn’t be the same without one or two toasted for breakfast with lashings of butter.

Asparagus quiche is also on our Easter menu served with a crisp green salad..I always think that there is something very spring like about asparagus which is why I also made a potato, mint, spring onion and asparagus salad which has turned out rather well.  This salad is dressed in a mix of mayonnaise with a smidgen of Dijon mustard.  Especially delicious served warm!

Chez Teresa’s Potato, mint, spring onion and asparagus salad

Simply boil up some new potatoes cook until tender but firm.  Next finely chop a few spring onions, fresh chives, hint of sea salt, black pepper and a sprinkling of chopped mint.  Roughly chop the asparagus and mix with some best quality mayo and a hint of Dijon mustard.   Sprinkle with a few flaked almonds if you want a bit more decor, texture and/or novelty…..This kind of salad is also very tasty spooned into avocado halves and sprinkled with paprika.

 Potato, mint, spring onion and asparagus salad in am avocado

A Veggie Easter Treat!

We have lots of chocolate delights and Easter treats treasures on display this year in our salon and have created a range of Easter themed gateaux for our customers and visitors.

Rustic Easter Cake 2017

A Smartie encrusted chunky chocolate cake also goes down quite well this time of year especially with the children, so we have them to serve.  Bit lop sided this time, but tasty just the same; and when you cut a slice or two who will know?

We’ve gone to town this year with our Easter decorations with painted eggs and even a few illuminated ones and we haven’t forgotten the Easter bunnies and chocolate brownies!

Just noticed this poem on the net which I thought was quite cute:

Something that Easter always brings

Easter duck and Easter chick,
Easter eggs with chocolate thick.

Easter hats for one and all,
Easter Bunny makes a call!

Happy Easter always brings
Such a lot of pleasant things.

–Written by Elsie Parrish

Well, whoever you are Elsie Parrish I thank you for sharing this sweet little ditty: Something that Easter always brings….well for some of us anyway and thankfully this is us!


Don’t forget your Easter Bonnet!

In fact my Mother, Joy Irene used to tell me that when she was a child each year all 5 children were bought new Easter hats and outfits.   What a lovely tradition.

We raise our Easter bonnets to you all and we hope that you have a happy and peaceful one!


Chickadees galore…..

Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre, Fontevraud l’abbaye, 2017

A Madeleine Moment at Chez Teresa

*My mother sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ’petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses…..*

This is the moment in Marcel Proust’s  novel À la recherche du temps perdu when his character, Charles Swann bites into the sweet, buttery deliciousness of a cake à la Madeleine dipped in tea and is transported into a revelry of sheer bliss..

The Madeleine Moment was beautifully evoked by Marcel Proust

The good news is that we can  recreate such a moment in our own kitchens through baking and sharing such delicious treats and experiences with friends, family and of course for us here at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre with our customers.  In a way I see whisking up such sumptuous delights as our own kind of time travel i.e. making and baking tried and tested recipes that have been handed down over the years perhaps from your own family and in some cases since time immemorial.  My Mother enjoyed baking and as a child coming home from school to a sweetly scented kitchen with swirls of sifted flour haloing my Mother’s face heralded the fact that a freshly baked sponge cake was definitely going to be presented for tea.  All the Aunties baked and our Aunt Lydia used to present quite elaborate cake confections including highly decorated cakes topped with Crinoline ladies made of icing sugar adorned with a veritable garden of sugared flowers. 

My Mother’s baking was of a more home spun kind.  In fact when we were children she often made small buttery cakes very like Madeleines which is probably why every time I see them in a Patisserie window here in France my heart skips a little beat and I am transported back to childhood.  Something about the colour I think rather than the shape, though mentioning that the shape is of course a key element of this cake’s identity like to a sea shell scallop.  The shape was possibly because in the 18th century metal moulds began to be used in cooking so suddenly perfectly shaped patisserie was possible in a more exact way than ever before.

A patisserie legend is born…..

It is said that the Madeleine was originally from the town of Commercy in Lorraine and that it was the creation of a local peasant woman called Madeleine. How wonderful to be immortalized in cake….  As the story goes; back in 1755 the then King of Poland, Stanislas Leczinski who happened to be the  father-in-law of Louis XV tasted the little cake then introduced it to the court and launched a fashion at Versailles then when his daughter Marie, wife of Louis XV delighted in the little cake she introduced into Parisian society…

The first recorded recipe for Cakes à la Madeleine comprised:

One pound of flour, one pound of butter, eight egg whites & yolks, three fourths of a pound of fine sugar, a half glass of water, a little grated lime, or preserved lemon rind minced very finely, orange blossom praliné; knead the whole together, & make little cakes, that you will serve iced with sugar.

Source: Menon, Les soupers de la Cour ou L’art de travailler toutes sortes d’aliments, p.282 (1755)

Legendary chef, Antoine Carême, was famous for his ‘grande cuisine’ for kings and queens was also known for his Madeleines and other more elaborate confections.   Carême opened his Pâtisserie de la rue de la Paix, in Paris which he ran from the 1790s until 1813.  The Pâtisserie gained fame for its  pièces montées which were elaborate constructions often inspired by architecture that were displayed in the pâtisserie window.

The elegance of an 18th century drawing room and the partaking of an afternoon tea; part of the ritual of high society life

The passion for Madeleines grew…They were especially popular during the Napoleonic period.  By the 1840s over 20,000 Madeleines were baked every day in Paris alone.  Priced at 30 centimes La Pièce this sounds somewhat très cher to me, but I guess these were rather special little cakes and one of the favoured delicacies of the richer in society at that.

To create your own 24 perfect little Cakes of buttery deliciousness à la Madeleine you will need:

2 large eggs (whisked and frothy
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup self-raising flour
200g unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

+  Icing sugar (for sprinkling)

Melt the butter in a pan and add the sugar then gently fold in the frothy eggs  Then gradually add the rest of the ingredients until you have created a smooth battery mix.  It should be pale in colour.  Next spoon the mixture into the individual moulds of a buttered Madeleine tin.  Bake in a pre-heated oven (180c) for around 12 minutes or until golden brown and springy to the touch.  Remove the individual Madeleines from the tin and sprinkle with icing sugar.  They are also delicious coated in a layer of melted good quality milk chocolate or alternatively sprinkled with flaked almonds.  For the latter you will need to sprinkle the flaked almonds just before you put them into the oven to bake.  Another tasty topping is to glaze them with a zesty lemon or orange icing.

You will not be disappointed with the aromas wafting through your house as you bake your own Cakes à la Madeleine
For a zesty topping you will need:
3/4 cup (150g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice
a little grated zest of your chosen citrus fruit
2 tablespoons water
Mix and apply to the cooled cakes.
Serve with a pot of light fragrant tea such as a pot of Darjeeling (first flush)
Savour a perfect Madeleine Moment at Chez Teresa/A Taste d’Angleterre in Fontevraud l’abbaye
A combination of chocolate coated and lemon drizzled madeleines

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.
Recipe type: Sweet treats
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 14
  • 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
  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).