The Queen Mother’s Favourite Fruit Cake

For the cake:

  • 225g dried dates chopped
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g dried walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 275g plain flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 75g butter

For the icing:

  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Grease and line a 23cm x 30cm tin.  Heat oven to 180ºF.

To make the cake:

Put the chopped dates in a bowl and pour over a breakfast cup of boiling water. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in. Set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar in another bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter, sugar and egg mix, then the dates and incorporate well. Scrape the batter into the baking pan and spread it right to the edges. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. To make the topping: In a small heavy saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and cream over a low heat. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil gently for 3 minutes, stirring all the time. Pour over warm cake. When cool, store in an airtight tin.

Credit/Source:  Julia Watson, The Bugle

 

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Festive traditions in France & Christmas Vocab List

  • L’Avent – Advent
  • Un ange – angel
  • Une chandelle – candle
  • Une carte de Noël – Christmas card
  • Un chant de Noël – Christmas carol
  • Le jour de Noël – Christmas Day
  • Le réveillon de Noël – Christmas Eve dinner
  • La veille de Noël – Christmas Eve
  • La fête de Noël – Christmas party
  • Un cadeau de Noël – Christmas present
  • L’arbre/Le sapin de Noël – Christmas tree
  • Le père Noël – Father Christmas
  • Un santon – figurine in a Nativity
  • Un jeu – game
  • Un jouet – toy
  • La crèche – manger
  • Joyeux Noël! Merry Christmas!
  • La Messe de minuit – midnight Mass
  • Le gui – mistletoe
  • Le jour de l’An – New Year’s Day
  • La Saint-Sylvestre – New Year’s Eve
  • Le réveillon du Nouvel An – New Year’s Eve dinner
  • Un cadeau – present
  • Un renne – reindeer
  • Un ruban – ribbon
  • Un traîneau – sleigh
  • La neige – snow
  • Une boule de neige – snowball
  • Un bonhomme de neige – snowman
  • Une peluche – stuffed animal
  • Noël sous la neige – white Christmas

French children traditionally leave their shoes in front of the fireplace on la veille de Noël (Christmas Eve) before they go to bed. Père Noël (Father Christmas) visits them while they sleep and if they have been good leaves presents in and around the shoes. In northern and eastern France, there is a parallel tradition which celebrates Saint Nicolas on December 6th. Adults traditionally wait until le jour de l’ An (New Year’s Day) to exchange gifts, although, increasingly, families are exchanging gifts on Christmas Day.

Festive traditions An important aspect of Christmas in France is the Nativité (Nativity) with its crèche (manger) and santons (figurines). The latter are often hand-made and passed down through the generations. Mistletoe is hung above the door and is considered to bring for good fortune. Note that it does not have the ‘kissing’ connotations of other countries! The sapin de Noël (Christmas tree) is not as important in France as, for example, in the UK, but it does still form part of the Christmas celebrations. Christmas trees are decorated a few days before Christmas and Père Noël will often leave sweets and treats on its branches in addition to the present in the children’s shoes. Unique to Lyon is the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights), where every house in the city will place a candle in their windows, producing a spectacular effect. The celebration usually lasts four days, culminating on 8th December.

Le réveillon de Noël The most important Christmas event in France is la Messe de minuit (midnight Mass) followed by the eating of a meal known as the réveillon de Noël (from the verb réveiller, to ‘wake up’ or ‘revive’). Although fewer and fewer French attend midnight Mass, it is still an important part of Christmas for many families. The ré- veillon represents a symbolic awakening to the meaning of Christ’s birth and is one of the most important meals of the year. Traditionally the réveillon is a family affair and the meal is eaten immediately after midnight Mass at home or in a restaurant. The meal varies from region to region, but typically will involve seafood, followed by a cooked bird and the traditional bûche de Noël (Yule log). This cake is made from chocolate and chestnuts and represents the log burned from Christmas Eve until Epiphany in parts of France. The log-burning is itself based on an ancient pagan Gaul tradition of burning a log for the duration of the winter solstice. La Saint-Sylvestre – 1st January French New Year is celebrated with a feast called the réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre.

On New Year’s Day friends and family exchange good wishes and sometimes gifts. The president also uses Saint-Sylvestre to make his annual address to the nation. L’Épiphanie – 6th January The final celebration of the festive season in France is Épiphanie (Epiphany) on 6th January. The tradition on this day revolves around the eating of a special cake known as the galette des Rois (literally ‘cake of the kings’). A small figurine or fève is placed inside the cake. The cake is cut into pieces and distributed by a child, known as le petit roi, or l’enfant soleil. Whoever receives the piece of the cake with the gift inside is declared King or Queen for the day and gets to choose a partner.

en Français

Ala veille de Noël, les petits enfants français laissent traditionnellement leurs chaussures devant la cheminée avant d’aller au lit. Le Père Noël leur rend visite pendant qu’ils dorment et s’ils ont été sages, il laisse des cadeaux dans leurs chaussures. Dans le nord et l’est de la France, il existe une tradition similaire : c’est la célébration de Saint-Nicolas le 6 décembre. Traditionnellement les adultes attendent le jour de l’An pour échanger les cadeaux, bien que les familles le fassent de plus en plus le jour de Noël.

Traditions festives En France, la Nativité est un moment important de Noël avec sa crèche et ses santons souvent faits main et transmis d’une génération à l’autre. Le gui est suspendu au-dessus de la porte afin de porter chance mais sans la tradition du baiser des autres pays! Décoré quelques jours avant Noël, le sapin tient une part importante dans les célébrations mais moins cependant que dans d’autres pays tels que le Royaume Uni. Le Père Noël laisse souvent des friandises sur les branches lorsqu’il dépose les cadeaux dans les chaussures. Célébrée uniquement à Lyon, la Fête des Lumières se tient sur 4 jours, le moment phare prenant place le 8 décembre. Les habitants dé- posent une bougie sur le rebord de leurs fenê- tres, ce qui produit un effet spectaculaire.

Le réveillon de Noël Pour les Français, la messe de minuit suivie d’un dîner appelé «le réveillon de Noël» (du verbe «réveiller») est le moment le plus important de la célébration de Noël. Bien qu’en nombre décroissant, de nombreuses familles se rendent toujours à la messe. Le réveillon permet de revivre symboliquement la naissance de Jésus et c’est l’un des repas primordiaux de l’année. Le réveillon se passe généralement en famille et le repas est consommé juste après la messe de minuit, à la maison ou au restaurant. S’il varie d’une région à l’autre, le menu typique se compose de fruits de mer, d’une volaille rôtie et de la traditionnelle bûche de Noël. A base de chocolat et de noix, le gâteau symbolise une bûche qui se consume de Noël à l’Épiphanie dans certaines régions de France. C’est l’héritage de rites païens qui consistaient à faire brûler une bûche pendant le solstice d’hiver pour garantir une bonne récole. La Saint-Sylvestre – 1er janvier La nouvelle année est fêtée lors du réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre.

Le jour de l’An, familles et amis s’échangent leurs meilleurs vœux et s’offrent parfois des cadeaux. Le président choisit ce jour pour adresser son discours annuel à la nation. L’ Épiphanie – 6 janvier La saison festive se conclut le 6 janvier, lors de la célébration de l’Épiphanie. Les familles et amis se partagent alors une galette des rois. Une fève y est dissimulée et un enfant désigné comme «le petit roi» ou «l’enfant soleil» distribue les parts. Celui qui trouve la fève devient le roi ou la reine d’un jour et doit choisir un partenaire de sexe opposé.

Credit/Source: Sophie Arsac for The Bugle

Saturday Market in Sarlat

Sarlat’s population is approximately 10,000 but in summer jumps to around 100,000.  It’s late May and today, I saw two tour buses, strategically parked for attending the weekly Saturday morning market: the main street through town becomes an avenue of vendors, as well as throughout the historic center and its side streets – a true medieval maze of sights, smells, and flavors!

Regional specialties are walnuts, foie gras, strawberries, confit de canard, and a cheese made from goat’s milk, called “cabecou.”

cab_cou

walnuts

Walnuts

crown of flowers

Couronne de fleurs

nutcrackers

Nutcrackers

Piella

Paella

food covers

Incense

incens

Incense

baskets cremerie flowers hats

olives

food covers

Food screens & dream catchers

main square

Place de la Liberte (main square)

main street

Rue de la Republique

street tablecloths

confit de canard

Confit de canard

bread cheese

food stand strawberries

May the ‘Feve’ Be With You!

(My French husband’s slice of this year’s King’s Cake hid a special feve/charm – see photo after recipe)

Epiphany:  The Christian holiday when a special cake eaten on or around January 6, called the ‘galette des Rois,’ is well know in France and celebrates the arrival of the three kings in the Bethlehem stable.

galette

There are three different styles of the cake dependent on the area in France. In the north, puff pastry and almond filling; the south’s ‘gâteau des Rois’ is a circular brioche decorated with candied fruit, and galette briochewestern France has a sweetened shortcrust, rather than puff pastry. Both galette and gâteau are widely available – and even variants with chocolate, apple purée and nuts. All come with a cardboard crown and a “fève”, which traditionally used to be a bean before trinkets were introduced, often in the form of a baby Jesus, but today, it is just as likely to be a blue plastic “Schtroumpf” (Smurf). The cake is eaten with friends, family and colleagues, and the person who finds the fève is crowned king or queen for the day (a crown is sold with the cake).

Personal Note: A dried bean can be used in place of a figurine for the fève for a DIY version. In order to make sure the cake is served randomly, the French tradition is for the youngest member of the family to sit under the table (or simply close their eyes) and call out the name of the person to be served the next slice of the cut cake. Everyone tries to guess who got the feve and they are declared king or queen.

Ingredients: (Can serve 12 people)

1/2 cup ground almonds
1 stick butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup of sugar
2 sheets puff pastry
powdered sugar

Directions: 

Grind almonds in food processor

For the Frangipane filling:

Beat sugar and butter
add two (2) of the eggs and almonds.

Next:

– Butter a flat baking sheet and unfold thawed puff pastries and using a pie pan as a template cut into two circles
– Spread the Frangipane filing in the center of one pastry layer and place a dried fava bean or ceramic figure
– Using the last egg, beat and paint the edges of the dough
– Place the second pastry circle on top and seal the edges
– Brush top with egg.
– Bake for 25-30 min at 375oF

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Being City Smart & Staying Safe

French former policeman turns to animation to warn tourists of crime

Safety Scouts Advice is a series of free clips designed by Christophe Gadenne that advises on how to avoid scams in Paris and other European cities

French gendarmes patrol Gare de Lyon train station in Paris.
French gendarmes patrol Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. Photograph: Jacques Brinon/AP

Today, four years after leaving the police force, Gadenne, 35, has produced a series of free, short, animated video clips advising holidaymakers how to avoid being robbed and ripped off. The Safety Scouts Advice series covers most of the scams that tourists face when they arrive in Paris.

You are sitting on a sunny cafe terrace enjoying a drink when someone slaps a petition on the table and asks you to sign it. You smile politely and shake your head and they disappear … along with your phone or purse. Or a complete stranger come up and hugs you while rifling through your pockets, or insists you accept a “gold” ring they have supposedly picked up from the floor. Or maybe the taxi has taken you way out of your way en route from the airport to your hotel and is demanding an extortionate fare.

WATCH VIDEOS HERE

The videos, most of them less than a minute long, are produced by Gadenne with the help of English-speaking friends, and have been translated or subtitled into other languages, including Chinese, Korean and Romanian. They were originally made for visitors to Paris, hence the Eiffel tower in the landscape, but have since branched out to common crimes in other capitals.

“When I was a police officer, I dealt with literally thousands of victims of aggressions and crimes like this,” Gadenne told the Guardian. “I have seen how these scams can totally ruin a holiday. I’ve had a family with little children in tears in front of me crying because they have been robbed and aggressed. Some tourists are completely traumatised. Nobody can be indifferent to this when they see how it affects the victims.

Credit/Source:  The Guardian

French Riviera Travel Savings

To help tourists diversify their holidays, and experience as much of the French Riviera as possible, the Comité Régional  du Tourisme Riviera Côte d’Azur has launched a new pass called the Côte d’Azur Card: a prepaid electronic passport that provides access to over 110 activities in the region- from the coast to the mountains – museums, nature parks, water sports activities, excursions, and tours. There’s something for everyone and every interest, so check it out!

Priced at €39 for a three-day adult pass, the Côte d’Azur Card is also a great value. According to the Côte d’Azur Tourism Office, an adult pass has the cash value of nearly €1,000, and a child pass corresponds to a cash value of nearly €560. The card can be purchased online or at local tourist offices.

cacard_pascher

Source/credit:  France Today

A 1680 -1780 Costume “Bal des Favorites”

Le Bal:

Held in the Hotel de France (l’ancien hôtel de Jean Baptiste Colbert, Marquis de Saint Pouange et de Villacerf) in their “Galerie des Glaces” reception room, the period costume ball began with each person/couple’s entrance into the ballroom being announced by an “aboyeur,” then walking under an archway of swords into the room.

The music playing was period music by Lully for the evening’s festivities, accompanied by a dance instructor giving verbal instructions on how to do the various period dances, including the farandole. We even did the line dance “Madison” (equivalent to the Electric Slide) to period music, but with more graceful foot movements, of course.  There were period dance demonstrations and a sword fight presentation to entertain the 100 or so attendees (age range was 20’s to 70’s).

It truly felt like a Cinderella moment, as I was transported back in time and history – via dress, manners, dance, and etiquette – I didn’t want the evening to ever end.  Starting at midnight, the music changed to modern (Prince, Marvin Gaye, Robin Thicke), and it was fun, but somewhat strange, to dance in costume to rock/techno beats – and of course, Cinderella had to eventually leave the ball.

The following day, about 28 of the attendees (all in costume) visited the Conciergerie, then walked by the Louvre pyramid on our way to have lunch. Walking through Paris in costume was also a wonderful experience, as passersby and drivers looked and commented. This time, I felt like a star being ‘chased’ by paparazzi, as 15-20 photo takers at a time clicked away when we posed as a group every 5 minutes. Everywhere we went, people had a big smile as we approached, some commenting and/or asking questions, and of course, also posing with us for photos.

(3 dance videos & 1 sword fight video)

(Costume photo gallery to follow in a separate post)