Living on site means that you often have a lot of contact with guests – it is par for the course to be asked to book restaurants, horse riding, golf, or go with guests to the doctors, hospital, and on occasion, a police station to translate. Last week, however, I had an unusual request. An anxious guest knocked on the door, quite upset, who said that his little girl had been playing with his wife’s wedding ring and it had fallen through the little gap between the floorboard and the wall (the walls are open stone wall and therefore unpointed). Would it be possible to look for it?
I called my man who can and we managed to take up the floorboard next to the wall. To our horror, there was a hole underneath between cavity wall and we thought the ring would never be found. We then decided to take up a little more floorboard and low and behold, the ring was there on a little ledge, together with a comb that was a previous victim of the gap and also fallen through it at sometime in the past. If the ring had fallen 5cm to the left and it would have disappeared, possibly forever. It was one of the best moments I’ve had since starting running the gîtes when I gave back the ring to the delighted and very relieved guests.
Postscript: The slight gap between the floorboard and wall has now been filled, to prevent any further occurrences of this nature happening!
Due to popular request (although it maybe that guests are just being polite!) here is the recipe to my cake that I leave as part of the welcome pack.
Literally translated as ‘four quarters’, this traditional Breton cake consists of 4 ingredients (eggs, sugar, flour and butter), all portions of the same weight.
Pre-heat the oven to 170°C
1. Weigh the eggs (I usually use 4 medium eggs, which together weigh 220g). The weigh out equal amounts of plain flour, castor sugar and butter.
2. Soften the butter, then mix together with the sugar.
3. Separate the eggs, add and mix in the yolks to the sugar and butter mix, put the whites in a separate bowl.
4. Gradually mix in the flour, plus a pinch of salt to the cake mixture.
5. Whisk the egg whites until solid. It is important that they are well whisked because they are the rising agent in the cakes – there is no baking powder in this recipe!
6. Gradually spoon and fold in the egg whites to the cake mixture. It must be done gently, and by hand (not in a mixer) to ensure that the cake rises.
7. I usually add choc chips to my cake at this point, but it is delicious without, or you can add apple slices as an alternative.
8. Butter a cake tin or mold, around 26cm diameter. Add the mix, then bake in the preheated oven at 170°C for around 45 minutes. To test if the cake is cooked, stick a knife in the centre and if it comes out clean, it is ready.
Moules à la crème
The local mussels (moules de bouchot) from the Baie de Mont St Michel are wonderful – so good, in fact, that they have been awarded an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). The mussel producers are hoping that this will prevent other mussels being misleadingly sold as ‘moules de bouchot de la baie de Mont st Michel’.
The term ‘moules de bouchot’ means that the mussels are grown on wooden stakes (’bouchots’) planted in the seabed. This keeps them safe from predators and also means that they are exposed to the marine air when the tide is out, which helps give them their distinctive flavour.
The moules season is from July – late November in this area, any you eat in local restaurants ouside of these months will not be the from the Baie of Mont St Michel.
For 4 people (allow 500g mussels per person).
6 cloves of garlic
20cl muscadet wine
25cl double cream
juice of one lemon
1 big saucepan/casserole pan with lid
1. Rince the mussels in cold water and remove the beards and barnacles on the shell if necessary. Discard mussels with broken shells and those which are open
2. Chop the shallots and garlic
3. Melt the butter in the pan and add the chopped shallots and garlic and sweat them for 5 minutes.
4. Add the mussels, wine and lemon juice, put the lid on the pan, turn up the heat and cook until the mussels are open, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to overcook the mussels or they will go very rubbery.
5. Drain off most of the juice, leaving about 1cm depth in the bottom of the pan.
6. Add the cream, stir, then serve with crusty bread or chips
Very Naughty Chocolate Cake
Not a local recipe as such, but soooo good, I have to put it on the blog! It is a recipe from my friend Jenny, who has some fabulous luxury holiday homes on the Ile de Ré and makes this cake as a welcome gift for her lucky guests.
200g (7oz) good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter
170g (7oz) chocolate and hazelnut spread (Nutella)
5 medium eggs, separated
150g (5oz) brown sugar
200g packet ground almonds
23cm (9in) cake tin
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven), 325 F, gas 3 and grease and base line the cake tin with greaseproof paper. Melt the chocolate, butter and chocolate & hazelnut spread in a bowl set over a pan of hot water.
2. Use a blender to whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, then stir in the almonds. Transfer almond mixture to the chocolate mix and stir to combine. Whisk egg whites until firm peaks form. Mix one third of the whites into the chocolate to loosen the consistency, then carefully fold in the remaining whites.
3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 55-ish minutes until lightly set, then allow to stand for 1 hour before serving.
Dust with icing sugar.
It freezes well too – so you don’t have to eat it all at once!
We are lucky to have lots of footpaths and cycle tracks in the local area. The Mairie and tourist office produce very detailed maps of all the circuits, and for the most part they are very well signposted. We also have a disused railway line which runs from Antrain to Fougères (about 30kms in length), 800m from the house. It is very well maintained and ideal for cycling or walking, the other advantage is that it doesn’t get muddy in mid winter, like some of the footpaths, so it is ideal for walking with a buggy. It is possible to cycle to both St Brice en Coglès and Tremblay, our local villages, in around 20 mins. It is also brilliant for running – I run 5km every morning and it is a lot easier to run on than the local roads!