Easy Recipe: Provençal Vegetable Casserole

This easy recipe can be served simply with a crusty baguette.  It can also be enjoyed by vegetarians and vegans!

You will need 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 large onions sliced thinly, 3 red bell peppers seeded and thinly sliced, 2 medium eggplants peeled and diagonally sliced, 3 medium zucchinis peeled and thinly sliced diagonally, 3 thinly sliced medium tomatoes, 6 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons chopped basil and Eggplant. Photo courtesy of www.vegan-magazine.com1/2 teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on moderate heat and cook onions until soft. Add the peppers, and reduce the heat to low, cooking until vegetables are soft ~  about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400°F.

Layer a 9×13-inch ovenproof baking dish with 3/4 of the onion mixture.  Follow with a layer of the eggplant slices, then layer on half the zucchini and the remaining onion mixture.  The next layer is the remaining eggplant, then the remaining zucchini and finally the tomato slices.  In a small bowl, mix together the rest of the olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper and sprinkle over the top.

Bake for an hour and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Pour off any excess olive oil.  Cut into serving pieces and serve hot.  Serves six.

Bon appétit!

[Photo credit:  http://www.vegan-magazine.com]

SOURCE:  Au Chateau News

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What is a chocolatine?

It is a debate that has raged across France for decades, if not centuries… what do you call the chocolate-filled
pastries so common in the country’s bakeries? Most expats will probably answer pain au chocolat, the term we tend to hear when first learning the language.  Much of the country would disagree, however, and vocally insist that the pastry is in fact a chocolatine.  A website has even been created to try to settle the argument once and for all and the results are in: of the 110,000 people surveyed 59.8% say pain au chocolat and 40.2% say chocolatine, but which you choose will most likely be decided by where you live. Those in the south-west of France almost all use chocolatine, with the remainder of the country opting for pain au chocolat
(see map).
The chocolatine camp feel they should no longer be overlooked and one group of pupils from the southwestern town of Montauban recently penned a letter to France’s president in a bid to get the word chocolatine added to the French dictionary. “It’s a word of our region, where a lot of people live, and there’s no reason why the rest of the country shouldn’t know it. We’re proud to be from the south,” one pupil told La Dépêche du Midi newspaper.  With linguistic battle lines drawn up, Bugle readers find themselves on the front line. In the Dordogne it is most definitely a chocolatine, a fact that pastry lovers in neighbouring Charente and Corrèze would agree with. Travel a short distance to the north, however, and your request may be met with blank stares in other departments of Nouvelle Aquitaine (see
table below). ■

Pain au chocolat (%) Chocolatine (%)

Dordogne              5              95
Corrèze                  6              94
Charente             10              90
Haute-Vienne    57              43
Creuse                 82              18

 

map

Source/Credit: The Bugle

6 specialties from Nouvelle-Aquitaines Dordogne

6-specialties-from-nouvelle-aquitaines-dordogne.jpg

NOUVELLE-AQUITANE, FRANCE – This region might be best known for its quality Bordeaux wines, but its food is an epicurean’s paradise. To the east of Bordeaux, the department of Dordogne (historically known as Périgord) is best known for its gourmet foods. With more than 2,000 years of history and numerous regionally protected products, there’s a plethora of choices to keep any food lover happy.

Truffles: Native to the Dordogne, the black Périgord truffle is coveted by gourmands worldwide for its complex aroma. From November to March, the expensive delicacy can be purchased for a fair price from Perigueux’s Place St-Louis market and Sarlat’s Saturday market. Connoisseurs of the black diamond are known to visit Sorges, about 19 kilometres northeast of Perigueux, to learn about the fungus at its charming truffle ecomuseum and area truffle farms. Or attend Sarlat’s truffle festival on the third weekend of January.

Foie gras: Despite its controversy, the traditional skill of force-feeding geese and ducks is still practised in Périgord and remains part of the department’s identity. Foie gras, a.k.a., fattened goose or duck liver, is served at most restaurants and found in specialty shops in Sarlat. There’s even a Route de Foie Gras for those wishing to meet the more than 60 producers of the specialty. Look for products labelled “Indication géographique protégée” (IGP) which guarantees the high quality product is strictly from Périgord.

Dordogne strawberries: Delicate, candy-sweet and a treasure of the region, the excellent, large-fleshed Dordogne strawberries are the only strawberries protected by the IGP geographic status. Thanks to ideal temperatures and soils, the region enjoys a long season that lasts from April to October. The main strawberry varieties, including Gariguette and Darselect in the spring, and Mara des Bois and Charlotte in the fall, can be found at most markets.

Traditional macarons: Ursuline nuns brought the traditional macaron to Saint-Émilion in the early 17th century. Although they’re made with the same ingredients — egg whites, sugar and almond flour — as their gussied-up sandwiched Parisian cousins, the rustic confection is chewier, straddling a soft biscotti and almond cake. Many shops sell traditional macarons, but the original recipe (a carefully guarded secret that’s only passed down to the business’ successor) is only available at Les Macarons de Saint-Emilion.

Caviar: A pioneer in river sturgeon breeding in Aquitaine, Domaine Huso in Neuvic sur I’Isle is one of three production sites in the Dordogne that specialize in high-quality caviar. Using methods that create minimal environmental impact, the prestigious products are processed and packaged, then marketed as Caviar de Neuvic. The 7.6-hecatre farm is open to visitors seven days a week. Tours of the facilities (that concludes with a caviar tasting) are available, but pre-booking is required.

Walnuts: Since the Paleolithic era (with evidence found in Cro-Magnon habitations from 17,000 years ago), walnuts have been widely celebrated for its many uses. At area ecomuseums or walnut-oil mills including Moulin de la Veyssière, you’ll find products such as vin de noix, a sweet and rich liqueur made from the green nuts, walnut flour, and walnut oil that’s been pressed from cooked nutmeal. For quality and authenticity, look for appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC)-certified Périgord walnuts.

Credit/Source: Info-Europa.com

Where to Invade Next & Crazy French Laws

French school dinners hailed, as restaurant quality Oscar-winning documentary maker Michael Moore haswhere-to-invade-next
heaped praise on French school dinners in his most recent film, “Where to Invade Next”. In the documentary, which came out in September, Moore visits countries around the world to investigate aspects of life and culture and to see where America can learn to do things better.
In the light-hearted film, Moore sits down with children at a primary school in northern France to enjoy a meal of scallops, followed by lamb and a cheese course, a menu he says would not be out of place at an upmarket American restaurant. “I entered a small village in rural Normandy and went to one of the finest kitchens in the country,” explained the film-maker during the documentary. “By my standards, it was a 3, maybe a 4-star kitchen. It was definitely the bestplace to eat in town… it was the school cafeteria!”
Watch trailer HERE
A Few Crazy French Laws: 
  • It’s illegal to name your pig Napoleon
  • Drinking alcohol at work is forbidden – unless it’s wine, cider or beer
  • Unlimited self-service ketchup is banned in school cafeterias
  • It’s illegal to kiss through the window of a train while it’s on a platform
  • You “can” marry a dead person, but you first need to get the president’s permission

Source/ Credit:  The Bugle

Dordogne named among the ‘best places in Europe’

Dordogne named among the 'best places in Europe'

Photo: Dale Musselman/Flickr

This rural southwestern département has made this year’s Lonely Planet list of top ten destinations in Europe for 2016.

Last year it was the mountainous Auvergne region that Lonely Planet shone a light on and now in the spotlight is an area in southwestern France that locals and expats have already cherished for quite some time: the Dordogne.

The area, often jokingly called Dordogneshire – given the huge number of British living there – came in fourth out of ten on Lonely Planet’s Best of Europe list.

Often referred to by its previous name, the Périgord, this département sits between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenées mountain range (highlighted in red below).

It takes its name from the stately Dordogne river that flows from the Auvergne mountains to the sea near Bordeaux.

“Nowhere does French art de vivre (art of living) quite like the Dordogne,” says Lonely Planet, going on to call it a “Garden of Eden… stitched from dreamy chateaux, market towns and walnut groves.”

Photo: Stephane Mignon/Flickr

You might know Lyon as the culinary capital of France, but Lonely Planet would beg to differ.

“For travellers following the increasingly hip ‘local produce, homemade’ mantra, this foodie region – without the crowds of Provence and 100 percent au naturel – has never been so alluring.”

Photo: Jonny/Flickr

Indeed, apart from its gorgeous countryside and flourishing British expat population, the area is famous for its cuisine, often based on duck or goose. Foie gras, confit de canard, truffles, and walnut cake are just a few of the local specialties. 

Lonely Planet recommends that to take full advantage of this foodie region, you need to “dive into the markets”, “dine at the region’s top tables”, “quaff the local wines”, and “gorge on truffles”. 

After that, the travel guide advises checking out the area’s abundance of castles which have earned it the nickname “The Other Chateau Country” (after the Loire Valley) as well as the multitude of prehistoric cave paintings, Lascaux being the most famous.

Photo: @lain G/Flickr

It’s not only Lonely Planet that has taken notice of the Dordogne; British Airways just started offering direct flights from London.

Best go now before the crowds move in.

CREDIT/SOURCE: Le Local

Product of the month: The Périgord Walnut

The Perigord walnut is an extremely healthy and versatile nut grown in southwestern France. Perigord is the old walnutsname for this region, which is now usually referred to in English as the Dordogne. Most of the Perigord walnut production area is located in the Dordogne department, but there are also significant amounts produced in the neighboring Corrèze and Lot departments and small areas of other neighboring ones.

It has benefited from a Protected Designation of Origin status since 2002, but the walnut has had a history in the region that dates back thousands of years. While the walnuts grown today aren’t quite the same, walnuts themselves have been found at 17,000-year-old prehistorical Cro-Magnon sites in the Périgord walnut-producing region.
The Périgord walnut production area is located in and around the départment of Dordogne in southwestern France.

Walnuts continued to play a major role in the culture of the area ever since then and are inextricably linked to the region’s history. During the early Middle Ages, peasants would often pay off their debts with Perigord walnuts and by the 13th century, tithes to local churches were paid in walnut oil. The oil was at one time considered to be worth its weight in gold and contributed greatly to the wealth of the region due to its widespread and many varied uses. In 1730, it was found that more than three fourths of the national peasant population used nothing but Perigord walnut oil for cooking. Besides culinary uses, the oil can also be used as body oil or in painting.

The Périgord walnut can be used in so many ways in cuisine that the list of culinary dishes it can’t be used in is probably a lot shorter than the list of dishes it is included in. The possibilities are almost endless: Salads, mousses, covered in chocolate, baked in breads, used in cheeses, roasted or used as oil – the Périgord walnut is a versatile nut that has thousands of applications. It’s even used to make a type of liqueur, Eau-de-vie de Noix du Périgord, and a type of wine in the region (vin de noix – “walnut wine”), bringing a subtle, nutty flavor to the drinks.

 

There are numerous health benefits of consuming this walnut. The Périgord region of France has one of the lowest rates of heart disease – by some estimates it has the second-lowest rate in the world. The cholesterol-lowering properties of the walnut, which play a large role in local cuisine, certainly help to play a part in this. The walnut is also rich in fiber and antioxidants, high in protein, and filled with healthy minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium.

Credit/Source:  French Food in the U.S.

French eating habits: An introduction for your kids

French eating habits are traditionally very healthy, and food is first and foremost a pleasure. Most French children will devour food that children in other countries may never even encounter: Roquefort cheese, mussels, vinaigrette on green salad and vegetable soup. So what’s the secret?

In her book ‘French Kids Eat Everything’ Karen Le Billon describes a scene she experienced in a French restaurant, of a toddler dining with his parents: “He sat patiently as the meal progressed, eyes glazing over until he slumped over and fell asleep while his parents continued their meal undisturbed. When it was time to go, their child was woken up without ceremony. Popping his thumb in his mouth, he placidly allowed himself to be carried out of the restaurant without making a sound.”

French eating habits see French children not only eat what is put in front of them, but they are also taught to treat food and meal times with respect. Food, they learn, is an art form: an object of fulfilment to be shared with others. They will eat wholesome, natural food, try new flavours and participate in discussion at the dinner table. So how do we teach our children to do the same? Here are some tips for introducing your children to French eating habits.

Begin treating meal times as an event

Eat at least one meal a day as a family and treat it as an event to look forward to. Use pretty plates, glasses instead of childish cups and a tablecloth. Karen Le Billon suggests putting in place a meal time ritual where each member of the family recounts their favourite part of the day. Do not allow electronics or toys at the table. Mealtime should be for sharing and discussion and you and your children should have each other’s full attention. Allow your children the fulfilment of participating independently in the meal by letting them set the table and serve their food themselves.

Introduce new foods gradually

Many French people believe in the phase d’opposition, a phase that begins at age two in which children begin to reject new foods. For this reason, they gradually introduce a large amount of new foods throughout the first two years of life. They begin by offering soft, mild food to babies before progressing to stronger flavours and different textures. So, you will more likely find a French baby eating soft Roquefort than cheddar, and beginning with leek purée before moving on to whole vegetables.

If your children dislike vegetables, start them off with a smooth soup of carrots or courgette. You can have fun with the colours, pureeing beets for a pink purée or red pepper for a bright red soup. You may have to serve the soup a few times before they begin to enjoy it. Serve new foods alongside food that your children already like. Pasta can be tossed with spinach, for example.

Let your children see you tasting new foods, too. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and discover new flavours with them! Once your child is enjoying a certain food in one form, you should try serving it in a different way. After they have discovered carrot soup, serve thin slices of steamed carrots as part of the next meal. Do not put pressure on you children to eat new things. French eating habits dictate that everyone must taste, but they aren’t obliged to finish if they dislike something. Forcing a child to eat a particular food will cause a long term aversion to it.

Everybody must eat the same

My French Life™_French eating habits_Child eatingThe menu for meal times should be the same for everyone: this means no alternatives for picky eaters. Do not fuss if your children do not eat at first—this will create anxiety and make the problem worse. You want your children to see eating as normal and a source of pleasure they don’t want to miss out on, not something they do as a favour to you.

Most importantly, you must abide by your own rules: your children cannot be expected to change their eating habits if you are not leading by example, so try to adapt French eating habits yourself.

Reduce unnecessary snacking

Numerous western cultures are prone to offering their children snacks every few hours, but French children eat one big snack a day. This is usually a bowl of fruit, a sandwich or apple compote. The French teach their children that it’s okay to feel a little hungry between meals, and believe that reducing snacking means their children will eat more at meal times, including the vegetables served.

My French Life™_French eating habits_Cherries

It may be hard to get children out of the habit of snacking, and into French eating habits—especially if they are used to eating between every meal. Instead of abolishing snacking completely, you could offer just fruit when your child asks for food. Plan snack-time for mid afternoon; French children have the gouté at around 4pm. Get your children involved in choosing their daily snack: fruit salad one day, banana bread the next. As a treat, they could even have Karen Le Billon’s chocolate stuffed baguette! Everything in moderation is the key.

Include your children in meal prep

You are in charge of the menu in your house, but this does not mean that your children should be denied a choice. Instead of disguising healthy food, encourage children to help you put family meals together. Allow them to choose a type of vegetable for each meal, or a healthy dish from a selection you have given them.

Children can participate in the cooking too. Preparing a meal will give them more of an incentive to eat it, and will teach them where their food comes from and how the different flavours come together. Have your child stir the pot on the stove or chop soft vegetables with a butter knife. Children love to feel included and if you trust them with these jobs, they will begin to see your new ‘food rules’ as a family choice. In this way, French eating habits will become second nature.

Treat food as a pleasure

Healthy food choices are a part of French eating habits, providing a path to enjoyment and health and definitely not as a way to lose weight. Explain this to your children in a way they will understand: “wholesome food will help us grow, strengthen our bones, give us more energy and feel more satisfying.”  Treat food as something to delight in. Eat slowly and discuss the taste and texture of the food you are eating. Suggest that the children take small bites and ask them what they can taste in their cheese, or what the mousse au chocolat feels like on their tongue.

My French Life™_French eating habits_Chocolate mousse and pumpkin sponge cake

French eating habits are such that parents never use food as a punishment, reward or bribe. There are no cookies as an incentive to keep children quiet in the car, and dessert is rarely taken away for bad behaviour. This would undermine the positive aspect that the French teach their children to associate with food.

Credit/Source: Written by Stephanie Williamson for My French Life, May 2016