We are now in France for our permitted 180 days, having gone to the trouble of getting visas so that we can spread that time over nine months by coming and going just like we used to PB, (Pre-Brexit.)
To arrive in mid March is what we always used to do and is ideal. We can get the house warmed up, clean and vermin free for the spring and summer, get the garden tamed and planted so that we can keep on top of the work and enjoy it for the rest of our stay.
We haven't been able to do this for the last two years due to the pandemic, arriving during the summer by which time all we wanted to do was to be thankful that we got here at all and enjoy the place. Consequently the housework and gardening took a back seat for two years and this year there has been a lot to catch up on. It's been a labour of love, mostly. (We were not too chuffed about the plague of mice that ate the covers of all three sofas, but, thank goodness, although we got them from Ikea many years ago, they still make them and you can still buy new covers for them. Phew.)
For the first two weeks the weather was mild but this weekend temperatures fell to freezing. However, this did not deter us from getting out and about and enjoying the first brocantes of the year!
For those who are not familiar with these events, a brocante or vide grenier is similar to a car boot sale and most villages in France hold one or two a year. The streets are closed and lined with tables where people sell their unwanted stuff. A lot of it is not of much interest to us but just to be able to be there at all was a great joy. There were no brocantes at all in 2020 and not very many in 2021. We are now looking forward to a whole year of browsing other people's junk every weekend, just because we can!
At this one in our nearby village of Neuilly-le-Brignon the sun was shining, there were plenty of stalls and I bought a nice red real leather handbag for €3.
We then moved on to the next one, not far away, at Azay-le-Ferron. By then the sun had almost gone and it was very chilly! We had a sausage sandwich and chips from one of the stalls and dutifully wandered up and down peering at the tables. I felt for the people who had turned out to display all their stuff on such a freezing cold day and felt we owed it to them to at least look, smile and exchange a few words!
We bumped into a couple of friends, chatted for a few minutes and headed home to thaw out!
Which is what brings me to the garlicky potatoes.
As soon as we got back we lit both log burners in the house. The one in the kitchen is mainly a wood burner but has hot plates and a small oven and we do use it for cooking when what we are cooking is not too temperature sensitive!
For dinner we planned to make filet mignon de porc (see here) and a recipe for potatoes that I spotted in Mary Berry's book "Simple Comforts". It's essentially sliced potatoes cooked in butter, stock and garlic, the perfect accompaniment for anything on such a chilly day!
The recipe in the book served four but was easily adapted for just two people. I chose two largeish potatoes, one each. The little oven behaved itself, they were not too crozzled and the kitchen smelled wonderful because of the garlic! They were delicious and I shall definitely be adding this to my repertoire of regular potato dishes. (One of which is the equally delicious and in many ways very similar hassleback potatoes that you can see here.)
2 largeish potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced into about 1cm (½") thick slices.
2 large knobs of butter
250ml chicken stock (I used a French gel stock pot). You may not need all of it.
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Grease a suitable sized roasting tin generously with one of the knobs of butter. Arrange the potatoes in lines of overlapping slices in the tin. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour about half of the chicken stock over the potatoes and bake at about 200°C or thereabouts for about 30 minutes (depending on your oven) until they are almost tender.
Remove from the oven. Melt the other knob of butter and stir in the crushed garlic. Dot this over the potatoes and pour over some more stock if you think they might be in danger of drying out. (I did.)
Return to the oven for about 15 more minutes by which time the stock will be absorbed, the potatoes tender inside, crisp and browned on top.
Serves 2 people.