La jolie France

wc public
guess where

Thought you’d like a peek inside one of these things.

My husband thinks I should give guided tours of them as I know where ALL of them are.  They’re not quite as picture-perfect as you’d imagine from the outside but they do the job.  But at 30 centimes a pop they could be cleaner!  It was a huge shock to arrive in France and find out I had to pay for these visits.  If I had a penny for every…

I asked Benji what the ‘WC’ stood for and he replied ‘wateerrrr closette’.  Oh right. So the French have stolen from us for once.

The outside looks slightly similar to this – the image on the cover of my old French textbook from school, “Un Deux Trois 1”.

un deux trois
The cover of "Un Deux Trois 1", R. Girod, P.O. Holmberg, A.Klum, 1981. Little did I know at the age of twelve that I would actually NEED French!! - won't tell you what we scribbled on the inside either...

Didn’t know I was going to live the dream.

wrapped in France

un coq francais
un coq francais

There’s a lot of things in France I can’t get enough of (‘like your husband?’ I hear him saying).   One of them is packaging.

I don’t know if it’s because the written word in French looks so cool (it’s always a shame when shopping for friends’ children and the t-shirts have ENGLISH on them!!) – or whether I just get attracted to the old-style of things here.  Some packets look like they haven’t changed in a hundred years.  Some probably haven’t.

a good old packet of flour never looked so good
a good old packet of flour never looked so good
la baleine salt
"baleine" (whale) sea salt - if you think the packaging looks a little rough around the edges, it is! There is a new version of this container out on the market but it's not HALF as lovely, so I keep decanting the new salt into this old one! ...Do I need help?
no tears, no reproaches onion cutter!
no tears, no reproaches onion cutter!
cream of chestnut
cream of chestnut - they even spread it on toast!
caroline rice
caroline rice
fish in the can
fish in a can
Mister Biscuit
Monsieur Biscuit ...classy!
Jacques Selosse bubbles
I love bubbles

And I think I have an addiction to tins!

tin collection
tins at home


alain gree egg

That’s pronounced ‘erff’, in case you wanted to know and is the French word for EGG!

I can’t connect the letters ‘o’ and ‘e’ on my keyboard, but normally they are attached and the French call this ‘o e colle’ – ‘glued’ – and it makes the sound of ‘er’ (don’t roll the ‘r’).

Enough of  my Very Basic French and onto this image of one very beautiful LARGE EGG!

egg in hand

Lilas (while we’re at it, you don’t say the ‘s’!) and I came home late last night from a school meeting and for a quick dinner popped her ‘lucky egg’ in the pan.

She’d met some chickens on the weekend and came home with an egg and was very excited to try it.

big fried egg!

It was delicious!! (even with the tomato sauce she’d added).

oeuf sur le plat
Et voila... Oeuf sur le plat

still time left for Winter food!

braised baby cabbage

Here I am, sat at the computer, trusty old ugg boots on my cold feet (can’t knock the Aussie out of this girl – thanks Mum for retrieving them out of the bin in Oz) and a roaring fire in the potbelly to my left.  Nearly all the vines in the area have now been pruned,  the days still mostly crisp amd summer seems an eternity ago!   It’s hard to imagine the abundant green leaves and plump fruits of the summer vines now that they’re bald and trimmed… BUT the days are longer and the blossom’s bright petals around the landscape signal Spring approaching.  Before too long the leaves will be sprouting all over again!  So now is the time to make the most of what’s left of the cold and enjoy some winter meals!


I have a trusty mother-in-law who provides me with ideas for new dishes (is she worried her only son won’t be eating well enough?!), and the first time I cooked this was last Autumn (ahh, the beautiful Minervois Autumn! – for a glimpse, see below).

spectacular Autumn in the Minervois
spectacular Autumn in the Minervois

This recipe is perfect for the Autumn/ Winter chill!  It’s a braised cabbage dish, that you leave simmering slowly on the stove for a few hours.  I bought the baby cabbages at our local Tuesday market from Valerie, an organic producer whose beautiful garden we visited a few months ago.  It’s a luxury having access to such amazing produce. Her stall is one of my regular stops on Tuesday market day as her produce is so fresh and delicious – and after seeing her garden I’m in awe of how much hard work goes into filling her baskets of food each week.   And no matter how frosty the market mornings get at this time of year, Valerie always has a huge smile and happy to share recipes.  Merci Valerie!  p.s.  her home-made jams are worth trying too – especially the Muscat Jelly which is an incredibly good partner to aged ‘fromage de brebis’ (ewe’s milk cheese)

Here’s how I make the VERY SIMPLE braised cabbage:

+ Cut cabbage up into quarters (or halves if small) and steam for about 15 mins.  Remove. ( this step is quite important if you suffer unwanted gaseous situations!)

+ In a heavy frypan or cast iron cooking pot, fry a couple of thinly sliced onions until golden in sunflower oil.

+ Add about 250g of chunky ‘lardons’ pieces (bacon) and fry together until browned.

+ Place cabbage pieces on top and cover with lid and cook on very low heat for about 2 hours.

Serve this on its own for a simple lunch dish, or with pan-fried crumbed veal.  If you want something lighter than cabbage, use ‘endives’ instead.  I think we call these ‘witlof’ in Australia?  No need to parboil!

Whether you’re eating this on its own or with an accompanying meat, this tastes delightful when paired with a crisp, dry white.  We often serve this with Benjamin’s Picpoul de Pinet 2009… which we actually enjoyed with friends last night!

whoops, it's all eaten!
oops it's gone
...knew I should have taken the photo earlier


So just who are the vigneron and his wife?

Let’s get going and invite you in!

You’ve found us!

I’m Australian, Benjamin is French and we live in a remote, rural area in the south of France.  He is the vigneron, I am his wife and he makes wine that I love to drink.

Our daughter attends school in the local village (we call her the ‘Aussie frog’) and it almost feels like Little House on the Prairie except she wears jeans!

We’ve been living here for the most part since 1998, making and working in wine.  It is wine that led us here and wine that keeps us here.  Our life is inextricably linked to it and why I’ll probably be talking a lot about it here!  …And I guess living where we are, food may get a mention too!!

To outsiders it’s a quiet and very isolated life, if you compare it to the razzle dazzle of a city but delve deeper and, like anywhere, you’ll find a lovely hum of people busy in all sorts of interesting actvities.  People from all walks of life – the locals born and bred here, French people from other parts seeking change and a  growing community of ‘etrangers’  are all enjoying the wonderful landscape and quality of life that this region offers.

Influences and arguments fly in all directions.  In this mix, food and wine are two major elements of the day and what connects us.   There is an almost ritual-like approach to making or serving food and wine that I hadn’t encountered before living with a Frenchie in this area.  I can’t think of a better way of getting to know all these people either!  A few good wines and good food always seems to help my fledgling French.

I may not be sharing any images of the Eiffel tower, baguettes in hand, candlelight dinners overlooking the Seine – or frilly French knickers for that matter (who said all Frenchman were romantics?)… but a no-frills account of what we get up to here in this part of France. I’m not going to spend 365 days eating only foie gras and camembert either, but I will make a good go of drinking Benjamin’s wine – and a lot of others,  cooking and sampling foods  and sharing these experiences with you.

first blog collage - the wonders of La France
The jolie things I see around here…

Welcome to our home, warts and all, happy that you might visit!


p.s.  I know I promised no snowdome scenes of idyllic life, but  there are some beautiful sights around here that I’d love to share that are unmistakably ‘French’. Sometimes you do actually get those ‘ooh la la ‘ moments that take your breath away .  This occurs almost daily for me here and it helps keep the homesickness at bay!

…and I do LOVE the Eiffel Tower.