Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Winter Soul food

How do you gladden your heart, lift your spirits and feel grateful to be living in such a freezing environment as Ile de France in winter?

You take a slice of the beauty of France, share it with someone else, mix in a little of one of your interests and then top it off with a little bit of 'home' from the other side of the world.... for something a little bit special, contrasting and memorable.

I'd like to share this recipe with you.

For the past week the snow from last weekend has remained everywhere due to the very low temperatures and the occasional sprinkling of 'icing sugar'. I haven't been able to use my bike; the bus and kind lifts from Clotilde or Virginia have sufficed to get me to and from work. I had been disappointed not to be able to take photos of the snowy countryside around Jean-Claude's home last weekend so I was determined to capture scenes of it this time. It had diminished from the trees but not the ground.

JC and I went for a walk with our cameras along the river bank. This river is a tributary to one of the canals dug in Louis XIV's time to supply water to the palace at Versailles. The little tributary runs beside the old abandoned railway line; abandoned during WWII because it was bombed and too expensive to fix for such a rural community.

JC's dog was overjoyed to be allowed outside the main property. She bounded and sniffed and hunted. If she was slow to come back when called she got a zap from her electric collar. Hunting is forbidden in the snow because the prey are too helpless and vulnerable but you can't stop dogs bred for hunting from following their natures.

There wasn't anything to find nearby but we did find rabbit tracks in the snow on the lawn behind the house. JC can read the tracks rather well, the spoor too. Taking photos of the white snow was rather challenging at times. The whiteness affected the exposures so sometimes we ended up with unwanted whiteouts but I really enjoyed being out there in nature; no wind, a little sun and seeing something a little different to how I'd seen it before.

Cold winter days encourage one to stay indoors and experiment in the kitchen.

Pavlova is New Zealand's signature dessert. It's a Kiwi creation, not an Australian one, in honour of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova's Tour of NZ in the first half of the 20th century. Light, sweet, fresh, beautiful and you always want more. Bad news if you are on a diet which is why I never ate very many. They had a reputation for being difficult to cook so I shied away from doing that all my life.

Trouble is, when you live in a new country the inhabitants are naturally keen to try your traditional dishes. Nothing for it but to give it a go. I did a lot of research on the internet for recipes and read all the user comments-I thoroughly recommend this method of preparation.

It's almost impossible to impress a Frenchman with NZ cooking but I'm proud to say I succeeded with this dish. He declared it magnificent as soon as he set eyes on it. JC told me he had the urge to plunge into it like a diver. Goodness!

After the first taste he couldn't stop. I had one piece, he demolished the rest and announced it was fabulous. So fabulous I'm allowed to make it again but not too often because he paid for his over-indulgence. Special occasions only!

And on Friday I'm meeting with a free-lance journalist who's putting together a series for France 3 TV. She's hoping I can advise on the French connection with NZ. Let's see where that goes...


Alison said...

I was never successful getting cream that would whip! How did you do it?

Frances Harrison said...

Make sure it's full cream not light. Have your bowl cold from the fridge. Whip with an electric beater with two beaters or a hand one with two beaters. Have it half whipped before you start adding icing sugar and vanilla.

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