Archive for the ‘food and drink’ Category

Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche

Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche, Carrouges

Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche, Carrouges

This weekend sees the annual summer fair at Château de Carrouges.  Themed around horseback hunting and fishing, the “Fête de la Chasse et de la Pêche” attracts over 75,000 visitors to Carrouges each year.

The entry ticket includes a tour of the château interior – the Château de Carrouges is always worth a visit and is open all year round apart from Xmas Day. See separate posts Château de Carrouges for details of visits at other times of year.

The fair is spread over 30 hectares in the grounds of this magnificent château, with shows and demonstrations on various topics such as dogs, horses, hunting horns, fishing, forestry, Normandy produce (cider, cheese, calvados etc.),  sheep dog trials taking place throughout the first weekend of August 5friday to Sunday).

Both official and friendly competitions and events take place during the weekend.  Lots of food ans snack stalls, bars, tastings etc. plus special temporary restaurants serving full menus from 15€ to 23€ for a “menu gastronomique”.


Adults 9€, up to 15 years old free.

Outline Programme for the Weekend Fair:

Friday 31 July 2009
From 10am: Visits to the Castle, produce stands and “villages”.

Saturday 1st August 2009
9 am: Start of competitions and events

14h30 to 18h30: many shows and demonstrations

Demonstrations of carriage driving and horsemanship from the world famous Haras du Pin, drag hunting, working dogs, falconry displays, hunting horn playing competitions … and much more


Sunday 2 August 2009
9 am: Start of competitions and events

Mass in celebration of SAINT-HUBERT

14h30 to 18h30: shows and demonstrations, see Saturday

20.30: Entertainment, music, dancing



Carrouges is about 30 minutes from our bed and breakfast, just to the the north-east of Alençon.


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soupe_angevineThe days are getting warmer, the sun is shining and thoughts are turning to outdoor entertaining and barbecues. This easy-to-prepare cocktail always goes down well for aperos – like an x-rated homemade lemonade. Beware, as the fresh, zingy taste hides a real kick!

The name “Soupe Angevine” literally means “Angers Soup”, Angers being the chef-lieu of Maine-et Loire, formerly part of the province of Anjou and now a department of the Pays de la Loire, and whose inhabitants are known as “angevins”.


– 1 bottle of fizzy white wine (e.g. a crémant or mousseux, no need to break the bank)
– 1 ladle* of lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
– 1 ladle of sugar syrup (can be made by heating equal volume of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves – don’t overheat or it becomes caramel!)
– 1 ladle of orange liqueur (e.g. Cointreau or Grand Marnier)


Not a lot to it really: all of the ingredients should be chilled in the fridge and are then mixed together in a punch bowl or similar just before serving.

Dampen and dip rim of glass in sugar for those with a sweet tooth. Serve with a slice or twist of lemon.



* Regular kitchen ladle = about 6 fluid ounces, but a bit more or less doesn’t make too much difference.

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Pear Blossom at La Basse Cour

Pear Blossom at La Basse Cour

The pear and apple blossom is about to burst on our fruit trees and I’m reminded that we’re coming up to the perfect time of year to follow the Pear Tree Trail, or “La Route de Poiré”.

This 75km (40 mile) circuit meanders through the pear orchards of Lower Normandy to the west of Alençon, taking in Domfront and the lovely towns of Barenton, Saint-Fraimbault, Mortanais, Sept-Forges and Passais-la-Conception. The route is signposted along its length and easy to follow in a car.

This quiet corner of south Normandy is a delightful mix of market towns, half-timbered barns and working farms, some of which sell their own ciders, perries and fruit juices. Châteaux, manors and pretty villages lie along the route and the pear trees themselves come into glorious blossom towards the end of April and throughout May.

At Barenton “La Maison de la Pomme et de la Poire” is a visitor centre offering free tours and tastings. Here’s an unusual suggestion – visit the Maison de la Pomme et de la Poire from 20h30 onwards on Saturday the 16th May to see the centre under a different light, when a pathway lit by candles, torches and lamps will guide you on a route of discovery around this former cider and pear farm.

Normandy Pear Route

Normandy Pear Route

“Rendez-vous sous les poiriers” is planned to be a free and open (unguided) visit from 20h30 to 23h30 and is planned for the 16th May 2009. Check details in case of last minute changes with:

Bérengère JEHAN
La Logeraie, 50720 BARENTON
Tél. 02 33 59 56 22
E-mail : maisonpommepoire@parc-normandie-maine.fr

Maison de la Pomme et de la Poire

Open Ist April to 15 October 10h00 to 12h00 and 14h00 to 18h00.
July and August from 10h00 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 18h00.

Free entry.

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Confiture de lait

Confiture de lait

Confiture de lait or “milk jam” is similar to “dulce de leche” but here in Normandy it is made from whole milk rather than condensed milk.

It is often eaten in Normandy on bread, toast, or pain au lait, or as a topping for pancakes or ice cream.

Ingredients for 2 jars of confiture de lait:

  • 1 l of whole milk
  • 500 g sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod or 4 packets of vanilla sugar (in which case, deduct equivalent weight from the 500 g of sugar)


1. Pour the milk, sugar and split vanilla pod into a large saucepan

2. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours

3. Stir every 10 minutes – important!

4. When the mixture takes on a golden caramel colour and thickens, remove the vanilla pod

5. The milk jam is ready when it forms a paste (like Nutella or thick honey)

6. Fill sterilized jars (a dishwasher will sterilize the jars), seal and turn upside down. The turning upside down helps seal the sterilised jars.

7. Once cool put in fridge. Keep jam milk in the fridge and wait 2-3 days before eating.

The milk jam will keep for several months in the sealed jars.

Here is a variant for chocolate milk jam:

To make chocolate milk jam,  then just at the point when you remove the vanilla pod stir and melt 50 grams of chopped-up chocolate in the mixture.

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Normandy Mussels

Normandy Mussels

Forget your Michelin restaurant haute cuisine – moules-frites is the favourite French dish in the seafood regions of the north and west of France.  All sorts of shellfish such as oysters, scallops and mussels  are harvested along the Normandy and Brittany coastlines – the picture opposite was taken on a recent trip to the coast.

Here’s a simple but tasty traditional way of preparing mussels, to be served with frites and crusty bread.  The Normandy version of “moules marinières” with cider in place of wine.  Obviously, you can substitute equivalent good quality ingredients for the Normandy butter, cider and cream according to what’s available in your locality.

Serves 4


  • 2 litres of wild mussels (approximately 1.6 kg)
  • 2 shallots
  • a bunch of parsley
  • a branch of thyme
  • 20 cl of Normandy cream (or crème fraiche)
  • 90 g Normandy butter
  • egg yolk
  • dry Normandy cider
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper


Soak the mussels in a bowl of cold water.  Scrape and brush the mussels clean. Remove the beard.  Rinse in a colander under running water.  Discard any mussels that are chipped and any that do not close when tapped. Peel and chop the shallots. Wash and chop the parsley.  Mix together the egg yolk and cream.

Pour two to three tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron casserole/pot. Add mussels and chopped shallots and sweat on medium-high heat for a few minutes. When the shells open, add a glass of dry cider, a branch of thyme, butter and egg/cream mixture.  Add pepper to taste. Do not add salt. Cover and allow to cook over medium/low heat for a few minutes until mussels are fully open –  do not allow to boil.

When cooked, sprinkle the mussels with finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately in the casserole with side dish of chips and some dry Normandy cider.

Moules frites

Moules frites

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Most people are aware that Normandy is famous for cider, but not so many know that it was once also a major wine producing region. Wine used to be produced throughout Normandy until the reign of Louis XIII when, because of taxes on wine, the vineyards in Normandy were nearly all pulled up and the cultivation of apples developed and improved.

However, wine production on a small scale continues to this day.

For instance, just a few miles north of us in the Orne is the vignoble of Hanaps. So well known is this particular winegrowing denomination that I lived here 5 years before I found out about it.

The tiny Hanaps vignoble is in the area around the small Normandy town of Vingt-Hanaps. An association has been formed to promote the wine and they are beginning work on a cave for storing the wine on the site of the principal domaine in 2009.

A short distance to the south of us are two better known AOC regions in the Sarthe – Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir. This wine growing region (sometimes called “Touraine”, after Tours) lies just south of Le Mans along the Loir river (without an “e”) and is highly regarded, though not well-known in the UK.

Jasnières are white wines produced from Chenin Blanc (also known as Pineau de la Loire) – floral and fruity, with a hint of honey. It is the northernmost of the Loire wine producing regions, lying between Tours and Le Mans. There are approximately 20 producers of Jasnières wine.

Coteaux du Loir are mainly reds made from Pineau d’Aunis, Cabernet, Côt and Gamay, plus some rosés with the addition of up to 25% Grolleau – they are all light and aromatic wines.

Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir

Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir

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Crême de Mûres Recipe

Crême de Mûres or Crême de Cassis Recipe

Creme de Cassis

Creme de Cassis

Blackberries grow in abundance in local hedgerows – we pick them in late summer/early autumn and use them for jams, crumbles and for making home-made crême de mûres, similar to crême de cassis. It is often used to make kir (an aperitif where it is mixed with chilled, dry white wine) or kir royale (mixed with dry champagne, crémant or other bubbly).

Here’s a simple recipe for this delicious home-made liqueur. In place of blackberries (mûres) you could use blackcurrants (cassis), blueberries (myrtilles) or raspberries (framboises).





1 kilo blackberries (or blackcurrants, raspberries or myrtilles)
2 litres decent, medium-bodied red wine


1. Wash fruit and mash in a blender.
2. Add red wine and leave it to macerate in a covered bowl for 48 hours in a cool place.
3. Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth.
4. Weigh the juice and add an equal weight of sugar.
5. Bring the mixture to the boil in a pan and leave to boil for 5 minutes.
6. Allow to cool to about 40 degrees (tepid) then strain again (if necessary) and bottle.

The crême de mûres (or cassis, or myrtilles) is ready to drink after a couple of weeks, keeps indefinitely.

NB This is a low/no alcohol recipe; if you want to make an alcoholic version add 20cl of pure eau-de-vie (70°-90° ABV) per 70cl of liquid before bottling.

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