Sunshine’s Macro Monday #14

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while enjoying flying visits to London to see my hygienist. You might wonder why I don’t see one in France. It’s because they don’t have them. Instead this work is done by the dentist. My hygienist is a highly qualified specialist and well worth the trek.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene who’s encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

 

 

 

 

 

Liebster Awards VIII, IV and X

I’ve once again taken the liberty of combining a number of awards. I’m most fortunate to have been nominated for a Liebster by the following amazing bloggers:-

Jyoti who blogs over at Jyoti’s Corner sharing her youthful thoughts with us all. I’m sure she’ll have done well in her recent exams.

Altair who blogs over at Altair 5G Theatre embracing the wonders of the 21st century. Interestingly, the name means Aiglons (Eagles), the nickname of OGC Nice, my local football team.

Beth who blogs over at Pilgrimage Studio and shares her knowledge of global cultural practices, customs, and traditions for transformation, wellbeing and healing.

So let’s start with the usual reminder. The Liebster Award exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. Note Der Liebster is a German not English word meaning sweetheart, beloved person or darling.

Once again, thank you so much to Jyoti, Altair and Beth for kindly nominating me

The Award Rules

1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.

2. Share 11 facts about yourself.

3. Answer the 11 questions the blogger(s) asked you.

4. Nominate 11 bloggers and make them happy!!

5. Compose 11 questions to ask your nominees.

As you know, I habitually ignore the rules!

Facts about me

It’s not easy trying to find something new to say after a number of these awards, so forgive if I repeat something I’ve mentioned before. I now have a teeny, tiny family, just me and my two sisters. None of us have any children (from choice). I was brought up in the Midlands (UK), studied at Loughboro’ University (East Midlands) where I met my husband. I married while still at university and set up home initially in Leicester, later London. I trained as a chartered accountant and spent most of my working career in Financial Services. I led the team that persuaded the City of London to change its planning laws with regard to tall buildings and gained planning permission for the building commonly known as “The Gherkin.” I moved lock, stock and barrel (thank heavens) to France 15 years ago where my husband and I now run our own consultancy business.

Jyoti’s questions

1. Have you ever read the book of Harry Potter or seen the movie of it? If yes, who is your favorite character?

No and no but my favourite character would have been the one played by the late Alan Rickman.

2. If you like a girl/ boy how you would approach him/ her? If you are married then, tell what you would do if you are not married?

I’ve been married (to the same person) for 42 years, goodness knows what I’d do. Probably cook them something. They do say the way to a man’s heart is via his stomach.

3. Your friends find you which type of person?

The person they ring if they need a problem solved or want something done.

4. Do you want to own a dream house or dream car? Choose one!

I already own my dream car (Smart Brabus with double bike carrier) and most people would consider I live in a dream apartment but I’d love a basement, wood-fired oven, library and a bigger kitchen.

5. Do you believe in aliens?

I assume you mean those from out of space? Why not!

6. Why do you follow my blog?

You write about stuff I find interesting. I love the enthusiasm of youth.

7. Why should I follow your blog?

No particular reason, only if you like what I write.

8. Any one thing which you want to eradicate from this world?

Disease, poverty, inequality – oops, that’s three!

9. You are in a new to a place and you do not know the people of that area very well. You went to a restaurant and when you were about to pay bill, you found that you have no money and no phone! What would you do to pay the bill?

This wouldn’t happen to me because I’d have checked beforehand that I had my money and credit cards, though it has happened to my beloved. I’d explain the situation to the restaurant owner/manager, promising to return the following day to pay and, if necessary, I’d leave my ID. (Everyone in France must carry some form of ID).

10. What do you like more sunrise or sunset?

I like them both but sunrise is the dawn of another promising day.

11. Okay, a simple question: suppose you are a police officer. You have a best friend with whom you have spent last 10 years and many good moments. One day, in a mission you got to know that he is a criminal. Would you be able to kill him?

Only in self-defence, if he/she tries to kill me.


Altair’s Questions

1. Do you like the epic register in movies and books?

I’m not sure what you mean by epic, do you mean “Blockbuster”? As someone who’s never seen a Harry Potter, Star Wars or Marvel movie, I guess the answer is “No.”

2 How do you drink your wine?

Always in a glass, necking wine from a bottle is a definite no, no.

3. If you were a temptation, which one would you be?

Probably gluttony

4. What do you choose between silence and speech?

Silence every time

5. If all humans are liars, when do you tell the truth?

Never

6. Do you like poetry?

Yes

7. Would you like to live with an extraordinary artist BUT unbearable?

Absolutely not!

8. Are you more of a pessimist or optimist?

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool optimist

9. If we save only one thing of our humanity, what would you choose? (the living arts, science, poetry, painting, music, sculpture, monuments, philosophy, etc.)

Tough choice but it would have to be science.

10. Can we succeed in proving his love?

Whose love? Do you mean God’s? I have no idea.

11. If we can actually climb Altair, will you come to see us, all the “Altair” we are?

Again, not sure what you’re getting at with this question. Not too keen on climbing as I don’t like heights.


Beth’s Questions

1. If you could know the absolute and complete truth to one question, what question would you ask?

Is there life after death?

2. How long do you think you would last in a zombie apocalypse?

I had to look this up as I’m not a fan of horror movies nor am I a gamer. It’s  “a widespread rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilisation.” Do zombies eat? If they do, I’d persuade them to let me live with my cookery skills. If not………………………………………….

3. What is something most people learn only after it is too late?

Time is finite


If you’ve managed to read this far congratulations, you’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award. Feel free to answer any of the above questions either in a post of your own or below in the comments.

Have a great week-end!

The Musette: beef casserole

With the nights starting to draw in and the mercury dipping, thoughts turn to warming recipes. This is another of my one-pot recipes which happily cooks while I’m out cycling or watching live bike racing. If I’ve the time and/or inclination, I might marinade the beef beforehand in the red wine but I find it works just as well without.

You may notice an absence of herbs and spices in the picture of ingredients. That’s because it’s another dish where I would encourage you to use what you have in your cupboard – experiment.

I’m going to ‘fess up. The bottle of wine has a screw top. You may be shocked since I always say “cook only with wine you’d be prepared to drink”. This was a very acceptable red wine – for drinking and cooking – I found in my local branch of Lidl for €2.19 a bottle. There, my secret’s out. I am not, and never will be, a wine connoisseur.

Ingredients (serves two cyclists)

  • 1 beef cheek cubed (approx 400g/14oz of meat)
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or beef dripping
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 small turnips, finely chopped
  • 12 small carrots peeled and left whole
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 6 anchovy fillets preserved in oil
  • 500ml (2 cups) of red wine
  • 500ml (2 cups) of beef stock (home-made, tinned or cubed)
  • 1 bouquet garni (fresh or dried)

Method

1. Mix together in a sealable plastic bag the flour, paprika, salt, pepper and dried thyme. Add the beef chunks, seal the bag and shake to coat. This helps to seal the beef and thicken the sauce slightly while it cooks.

2. Heat your fat of choice in an ovenproof casserole (dutch oven) or saucepan on the stove on a medium-high heat. When the fat is hot add the beef in a single layer. Do not crowd the pan. If necessary cook in several batches. You want to sear the meat to lock in flavour, not boil it!

3. Brown the meat on all sides. It should take around ten minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put aside.

4. Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until the celery softens and the onion is translucent – 10-15 minutes. Add the cubed turnip and whole carrots, the crushed garlic and the anchovies. Don’t turn your nose up at the anchovies, they impart a delicious taste and no one will know they were even there. It’ll be our secret! Break the anchovies up with a wooden spoon, stirring until they melt.

5. Add the bouquet garni, red wine and the beef stock, bring the mixture up to a simmer; add the beef and any juices. Cover the ingredients with a damp, scrunched-up piece of greaseproof (cartouche) – which prevents the dish from drying out – add the lid and pop into a pre-heated slow oven on 140°C/120°C fan/gas mark 1 (275°F/250°F fan) and leave to gently cook for anything up to eight hours.

6. Remove from the oven, fish out the bouquet garni, stir, check the seasoning and serve with your side dish of choice. I served mine with mashed celeriac because it cooks quickly. But equally, you could use mashed or baked potatoes to mop up the delicious winey juices.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. This is a very forgiving recipe. As I said above you can use lots of different ingredients with the beef. Just think about things which go well together. You can make the dish go further with the addition of more vegetables. Anything you add to the casserole which is finely chopped tends to mush down into the sauce while large pieces of vegetables soften but remain whole. For example, I might fry pancetta lardons with finely chopped leeks rather than onions, add a packet of frozen button onions to the casserole and a handful of whole button mushrooms. Instead of whole small carrots, I might use parsnips, cut into finger-sized pieces. Or even add small whole potatoes still in their (cleaned) skins.

2. If you use a more gelatinous cut of beef say, the blade (shoulder), I would advise marinading the meat for 12 hours beforehand in the wine.

3. If you don’t use anchovies, add 1 tbsp of soy sauce or more salt. I sometimes add a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

4. You can remove the meat, whiz up the sauce with a hand-held blender and serve it as that Niçois classic daube with small meat-filled ravioli. Personally I find this too heavy but have happily served it with gnocchi or panisse, a sort of Niçois polenta but made with chick pea flour. I make these up in batches, in a square cake tin and freeze the excess.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (4 cups) of water
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • ¾ tsp of sea salt
  • 285g (2¼ cups) finely ground chick pea (garbanzo) flour

Method

1. Lightly oil a 23cm (9 inch) square cake tin and line with cling film (plastic wrap).

2. Bring the water, oil and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan. Don’t let it boil!

3. Whisk in the sieved chick pea flour and continue whisking, to avoid lumps, until it thickens – about three minutes.

4. Switch to a wooden spoon and continue to stir until the mixture becomes very thick. This generally takes around ten minutes and helps you work up a bit more of an appetite.

5. Pile the mixture into the oiled and lined baking tin, smoothing the surface with a pallet knife and leave it to cool.

6. Once cold, tip out onto a chopping board and cut into servings. These can be the size of fat chips or even larger. In Nice they’re shaped a bit like flying saucers because they pour the mixture into saucers to set. They’ll keep for a week in the fridge but I generally freeze any excess for up to three months.

7. Use enough olive oil to coat the pieces and put them into a medium hot oven at 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F fan) on a shallow baking tray for 30 minutes to brown, turning them over after 15.

8. Alternatively, you can shallow fry them in a frying pan of hot olive oil until they’re crisp and nicely browned, approximately five minutes on either side. Drain on kitchen paper before serving.

9. They also make rather nice pre-dinner nibbles if cooked in bite-sized pieces and served warm, on cocktails sticks, with plenty of freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

Friday Photo Challenge – secrets

“Secrets” ……….hmmm, it’s a tricky topic for this week’s challenge. I had to put my thinking cap of for this one, but eventually I found a few photos that fitted the bill. I hope you agree?

I wonder who’s ridden this bike? Maybe they might have some secrets to entertain us?

Like me, this tandem has seen better days!

If this dinosaur could talk, I’m sure he’d have a few tales to tell us. Maybe, even a few secrets?


This really  old property in the Saint Paul area of Le Marais (Paris) must surely harbour a few secrets.

Thursday doors #40

Here’s a few more doors from Australia. As I mentioned last week, I don’t have a particularly large selection because most of the wooden doors on older buildings appear to have been replaced with metal ones.

A rather elegant entrance in Brisbane
Art Deco block in Spring Hill
One from Townsville
A door in Sydney though probably not the original one

And finally, a trio from Brisbane’s beautiful City Hall

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

(Another) Postcard from Sydney II

Our last night in Australia was, for convenience, spent at a hotel in the International Terminal of Sydney Airport. This afforded my beloved a catch up with his Australian distributor while I enjoyed a final day in Sydney in Hyde Park and at the NSW Art Gallery.

I took the train from the airport to St James station and enjoyed the short stroll in the sunshine across Hyde Park. As I neared the gallery I noticed hoards – and I do mean hoards – of school children heading in the same direction. Luckily, they were split into smaller (and quieter) groups and escorted round the gallery by guides.

On entering the gallery I headed for the lower floors displaying Aboriginal Art making my way back up to ground level. The gallery is set on a hill overlooking where we stayed when we first arrived in Sydney all those weeks ago.

I was particularly interested to see the winners and main participants in the Archbald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes for contemporary living artists. Of course, I also had a pit stop in the cafe and bookshop!

On emerging from the gallery, I confess I did stray into the main shopping area for a spot of window shopping, and further refreshments, before heading back for dinner with my beloved.

We later boarded our overnight flight to Dubai. On red-eyes I tend to follow a similar routine. A glass of champagne, followed by sleep. I cover my eyes with my own sleep mask, plug in some soothing music, wrap myself in my cashmere shawl and affix my “DO NOT DISTURB” sign to my seat. Nine hours of blissful sleep later and I’m ready for a stroll around and a spot of breakfast before landing.

Hard to believe we’d shortly be back home. Like all holidays, this one passed in a flash. Our next trip to Australia, scheduled for 2021-22 will be much longer.

 

 

 

Potterin’ in Port Douglas

Our final port of call in Queensland was Port Douglas, some five hours up the road from Townsville. The last stretch from Cairns is an hour’s drive along one of Australia’s most scenic coastal roads with the rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other – truly magnificent. I can say that as someone who’s driven along the Great Oceant Road (Melbourne to Adelaide) in both directions.

We arrived at our billet for the next three days, late afternoon, having eaten lunch en route in Innisfail. Actually, I just had a glass of water as the cafe where we stopped couldn’t really cope with a vegan, our first (and only) dining fail.

The town has a large retail centre with plenty of small specialty shops, many housed in a large and diverse range of Art Deco buildings. The CBD was largely rebuilt in this style following a cyclone in 1918 which destroyed much of the town. It sits on the Warrina Lakes, a 50 hectare recreational park with kilometres of walkways through open parkland, lakes, wooded areas and rainforest trails. We learned that in 2017 the town broke the record for the World’s Longest Banana Split!

Having stretched our legs and taken a few photos, we resumed our journey and were delighted as we approached our hotel, overlooking the beach. It was another one-bedroomed apartment, with yet another spa bath, great in-house dining and spectacular views.

Given that Port Douglas is the gateway to the World Heritage wonders of Tropical North Queensland, the closest mainland port to the Great Barrier Reef, and only a short drive into the heart of the Wet Tropics rainforest at Daintree and Cape Tribulation, you might be expecting we enjoyed a busy couple of days exploring. But no, we were rain-forested out and spent the time relaxing on the beach, cycling round town investigating its lovely shops and dining options. We basically chilled for our last few days in the Tropics.

Named in honour of a former Premier of Queensland, John Douglas, the peninsula was the traditional home of the Yirrganydji people until European settlement turned it into a remote port and fishing village. Port Douglas really developed in the 1980s, thanks largely to the late (now disgraced) entrepeneur Christopher Skase, becoming a sophisticated and upmarket resort town in contrast to Cairns’ tourist scene. Largely because it’s better connected: the outer Great Barrier Reef is less than an hour offshore, the Dickson Inlet and estuary is packed with fish and crocodiles – steered well clear of these – and sunset sailing from the marina is too good to pass up.

We really liked the town, it’s an intimate and relaxed place where food, wine, arts and culture are much appreciated. It also has a fabulous long sandy beach, some spectacular property porn, a large and lively Saturday market and some lovely walks around town and the headland. After three restfull days (and nights) we flew back for an overnighter in Sydney. We’d much enjoyed Port Douglas, it’s yet another place we’d be very happy to revisit.

 

Sunshine’s Macro Monday #13

These photos were captured on my iPad mini while generally wandering around. I’m still taking photos of stuff that doesn’t move though I did manage to catch a bee – purely by chance!

Thank you for all your helpful feedback and kind comments on these posts – most encouraging.

Sunshine’s Macro Monday is a challenge hosted by Irene encouraging us to scrutinise the smallest of details by getting up close and personal and bringing someone or something to life in a photograph. It’s a one day challenge without prompts.  Irene posts a Sunshine’s Macro Monday post each Monday, just after midnight Central Time (US) so don’t forget to use the tag SMM and mention Sunshine’s Macro Monday somewhere on your post, create a pingback or add a link in the comment’s section of her post.

 

 

 

 

 

Real Neat Blog Award III

I’m very grateful to be nominated again for the Real Neat Blog Award. Thank you so much to the Dragon Warrior over at Den of Dreams for nominating me. Your poems, writing and paintings are so amazing for someone of her tender years.

You may recall that I’ve decided to interpret neat as being cool!

 

Dragon Warrior’s Questions

1. Are you messy or organised?

I’m incredibly organised, my beloved is not.

2. What do you want to share through your blog?

Anything that takes my fancy

3. Do you like origami?

I admire the discipline but don’t personally indulge.

4. What was your favourite childhood game?

Gosh! It was so long ago I don’t really remember. I recall I used to have a tent in which I’d conduct tea parties for my toys. I’d close it from the inside to keep my pesky younger sister out. She was too young to appreciate that pulling out the tent pegs would’ve collapsed my tent.

5. What was your favourite food that your parents cooked?

My mother was a fantastic cook and I enjoyed everything she cooked. My father only had to learn to cook (thanks to Delia Smith) when my mother’s Alzheimers advanced to where she couldn’t remember how to cook. He used to make a cracking omelette.

6. What is your current favourite food?

Lobster

7. Something you collect?

I’m not much of a collector though I confess to having a rather large (British understatement) collection of shoes, scarves and handbags, all neatly stored.

The Rules

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer the questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.

4. Nominate any number of people.

5. Come up with questions for the people you nominated.

Nominees

Thank you so much for reading. As usual, I’m not nominating anyone directly, instead I’m encouraging those who are interested to join in and answer The Dragon Warrior’s questions either below in the comments section or in a post of their own.

Have a great weekend!

The Musette: coconut financieres

When I make  crème anglais (custard), ice cream and lemon curd, I have a lot of leftover egg whites. But I don’t throw these away Instead I store or freeze them to use later in meringues, buttercream, angel food cake, pavlova, mousse, nougat, marshmallow and financieres. The latter were created in the late 1800s by a bakery near the Paris Bourse, currently being renovated and opening in 2020 as the Pinault Collection.

Paris Bourse (image: Wikipedia)

The cakes were named and made for the wealthy bankers who frequented the shop. They’re rich with brown butter, small and crumbless for portability, shaped like a gold bar – ideal for a busy banker or handy for a cyclist’s back pocket. Financieres are very forgiving and versatile cakes which can be made in a variety of small shapes and flavour combinations. Typically they’re made with ground blanched almonds which have little flavour so I like to play around with them and one of my favourite combinations uses coconut and coconut sugar which I think gives them a more unctuous and interesting flavour.

Defrosted egg whites to the left (image Sheree)

Ingredients (makes 72 petit four sized cakes)

  • 180g (3 cups) desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 150g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 75g (¾ cup) coconut sugar
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 225g (8oz) egg whites (7-8 egg whites)
  • 90g (3oz) butter ‘beurre noisette’
  • 110g (4oz) clarified butter
  • 120g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

Method

1. Prepare the beurre noisette (‘hazelnut’ butter, so called for the scent of hazelnuts the browned butter produces), cut the butter into pieces, melt it in a small saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once the butter boils, keep a close eye on it — you want it to turn a golden brown. The deeper the colour, the better the flavour, but be careful not to let the butter burn and go black — something that can happen very quickly.

2. Melt the rest of the butter in another saucepan over a low heat, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool and for the milk solids to settle.

3. In a large mixing bowl combine the coconut, sugars and salt and fold in the egg whites.

4. Add all the butters (but not the solids) in three steps, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

5. Sift the flour onto a piece of greaseproof (parchment) paper and add in three stages folding gently each time to incorporate.

6. Cover the batter with cling film (plastic wrap) and chill for several hours or overnight in the fridge. The batter will firm up considerably.

The batter will firm up in the fridge (image: Sheree)

7. Take the batter out of the fridge. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC/170ºC fan/gas mark 5 (375ºF/325ºF fan).

8. Generously butter  – financiere batter is notoriously sticky – and then sugar your preferred baking moulds – the smaller the better. I use mini muffin and mini financiere tins.

9. Fill mould three-quarters full – I use a very small ice cream scoop so that they’re all the same size – place tins on baking sheet, put in centre of oven and bake for about 15 minutes. The cakes should be a dark golden brown, springy to the touch and easy to pull away from the sides of the pan.

10. Unmould the cakes as soon as you remove the tins from the oven. If necessary, run the handle of a teaspoon or a blunt knife around the edges of the cakes to help ease them out. Transfer the financieres to a wire rack and allow them to cool to room temperature.

11. The cakes are best eaten they day they’re made but they’ll keep in the cake tin for 1-2 days, providing you can resist temptation, or sit in the freezer for a month.

Little bars and coins of chewy deliciousness (image: Sheree)

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.

2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the financieres in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.

3. With financieres it’s all about the ratio of crisp exterior to soft chewy interior which is why they’re so often served as petit fours.

4. If you bake yours in silicone moulds, still generously butter the form as it’ll create the much-desired crispy outer crust.

5. Once you’re conversant with the recipe, experiment. I often use ground pistachios instead of coconut and add some matcha tea powder to intensify that gorgeous green colour.

6. If you make larger ones you can pop some fruit in the centre, raspberries with pistachios, pineapple with coconut, apricots or peaches with almonds – there’s no end to the possibilities.

7. You can even make savoury ones but leave out the sugar!

8. The batter will keep for a week or so in the fridge so there’s no need to bake them all at once.