Thursday 26 July 2018

Pickled onions

I love pickled onions.  My pleasure in eating them is twofold: firstly, I like the sensations; that crunchy bite, the sharp and tangy flavours, and secondly eating one brings back memories of a particular incident of my youth.

I was with schoolfriends, we were on a canal boat holiday, cruising the backwaters of England in a narrowboat.  Each day ended up with us mooring in the middle of nowhere, and seeking out the nearest pub.  This particular evening, the pub sold pickled onions, and bottles of beers from a local brewery that we had not heard of.  So my mates and I decided that it would be a good idea to sample all of the different types of beer on offer from said brewery, with a pickled onion between each one to refresh the palate.  I don't remember the end of the evening as the memories fade out into a drunken mist, but I do remember the state of my mouth the next day.  Bottom of a birdcage doesn't come close.

Anyway, the good harvest of shallots this year has prompted me to pickle some of them.   The smallest shallots I am keeping to replant next year, and the biggest ones are for cooking.  It's the medium-sized ones that are getting pickled.  They're pretty much like onions so I am expecting the same pleasure on eating them.

The recipe is from the River Cottage handbook on preserves, using the option of almost no honey, and slight changes to the spice mix (can't get mace here).  I'll know the result in a few weeks.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday 22 July 2018

Patience is a virtue

When Spring comes along after a long Winter, I am impatient to get going with the vegetable planting.   Winter squash gets planted about a week before the last frosts so that the leaves emerge as soon as possible but without risk of being frozen to death.

This year I decided to make a special effort for the squash plants.  I got myself a trailer-load of sheep manure from my friend Louis, mixed it in with well-rotted compost from the heap, spread it all over about 20 square yards, then covered the lot with a tarpaulin.  I planted the seeds in small holes cut into the tarpaulin.  They grew like topsy.

Winter squash is a wonderful vegetable for the cold seasons.  You can cut them up and bake them, use them in stews, or as the basis of a nice thick warming soup.   Ideal for those chilly Autumn and Winter days.  Mine are delivering ripe fruits in July.  Perhaps I was a bit too impatient.

On the rest of the veg front, some success and some failures.  The tomatoes are going strong, I've had only one ripe one off them so far, but there are plenty of green ones coming along nicely.  The beetroot is looking good too, and I've already had a couple of them in a salad, with more to come.

On the downside, the runner beans have not done too well: I have plenty of flowers but not many  beans set.   My friend Mick who lives a few miles away has the same problem -  I wonder if we have a shortage of bees?  The broad beans didn't do too well either, but they got devastated by mice so I didn't end up with many plants.  I planted French Marigolds around them to ward off evil spirits, so at least I got some flowers.  The French beans have done very well, however.

The poatoes are dying back nicely, we have had a few of the early ones already, but I'm leaving the rest in the ground for use as and when needed.   The asparagus is also growing up nicely, I am hoping that it is storing its energy for vigorous and tasty shoots next year.

The swiss chard is doing fine, with nice shiny leaves and bright veins, but the brassicas, all of them have had an infestation of something that eats the leaves.  The cabbage, kale, cauliflowers and sprouts are nowhere.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Lots of Shallots

A couple of years ago I planted some shallots.  They did reasonably well, so I got more this year.  They have done very well.  I think I won't need to buy any until next harvest.

I decided to put the smaller ones aside to see if I can keep them to replant next year.  I might still buy some extra to plant because, apparently, you can pickle them, and I love pickled onions, so these will probably be good too.

The red onions are getting towards ripe too, but aren't quite ready yet.  The results are more variable than for the shallots, but we should have enough for summer salads.

Wednesday 11 July 2018


We have hosted groups of Morgan car owners here, several times, while they attend the Le Mans Classic event.   They came again this year too.   The group has changed somewhat in that now they are a French association, called Vinmogs, to connect the group to their love of French wine as well as Morgan cars. 

This year was special, however, as they generously gave us a ticket each and a parking space, to go and see the event on the Saturday.    We got a grandstand view, right on the bend just before the Dunlop bridge, where we saw a few spins, and with a clear view of a big screen that showed us what was happening elsewhere on the track.  We also had access to the paddock where we could look up close at the cars that were due to compete.

It was fascinating to see the old cars racing.  There are races over a 24 hour period, but the individual cars don't race for that long - they are too old.  Some of them date from way before I was born.  The first ever Porsche to be registered was there, driven around the track by the grandson of the founder of the marque.   Past 24 hour race victors were there driving around the track, along with other notables from the world of motorsport.

There was even a "Little big Mans" for kids who drove around the track in miniature (low-powered) race cars.

A fine day out.  And to top it all, the club sent us a nice bunch of flowers to thank us for the special efforts we had made to meet their needs as a group.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

Sale of the century

Seen at one of our local supermarkets.

Monday 2 July 2018


Flycatchers seem to nest in places around our gîte.  Last year it was in the roses on the wall of the lodge; this year I don't know where they are.  They like it here because of the Buddleja bushes that provide an "all-you-can-eat" buffet of butterflies.

This one was flitting back.and forth to a branch just outside my window, so I was able to take a couple of snaps through the glass.

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