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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

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A slow drive back from Castres and it feels like summer used to feel–a season fully committed.

Flaming June, going on July, bursting out all over!

The sunflowers are showing thick and healthy on the ground this year.

Green and medium build at the moment but growing fast. I spotted one in flower but shy–just peeping out in the clump.

Rain and sun in equal measures have made them strong.

They’ll be a picture in a couple of weeks just as the Tour de France moves south–days to go before “the off “.

It’s always great to see the TV shots of the pelaton, a multicolored snake strung out along a stretch of road–half hidden behind a field of yellow tops, enjoying their moment of fame.

Garlic gath’rers pass,

 Leaving the scent in the air;

 It’s that time again.

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Men stripped to the waist (as if that’s going to help)–why not wait until the sun retreats? It makes no sense to labour thus in a sweltering 30 degrees.

The workers’ cars compete for shade under the fully-leafed walnut trees, already ladened with green fruit.

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(I shall be ready in early October and on the prowl–but hunting walnuts rather than hares and rabbits.)

The youngsters, Ben and Midnight, lie full length in the shade beneath the fig in the courtyard–their black coats soaking up the heat–just too much effort to move indoors.

Young Midnight jumped from a first floor window into the driveway this morning–startled by a sudden human presence. He hesitated a nano second, Meredith says, then decided there was no alternative and leapt.

Cats can do such leaps, she says, and land on their feet uninjured–and I have to believe it. Nine lives and all that–but just writing about it gives me vertigo.

But there he is under the fig–no worse for wear, more bothered by heat than heights!

I need him in the kitchen. Just spied a tiny mouse sheltering from the heat. He spotted me at the same moment and disappeared into the fireplace.

Not a safe place for mice here! Stay put, Mr. Mouse–there’ll be a quiet time later when you can  move on safely.

Cats generally don’t fly in the dark–though one shouldn’t second guess a cat called Midnight!

* “back in the days”

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Marie A Bright wrote plaintively on Facebook yesterday after the post on Sugar:

What if you have a sweet tooth but don’t want to use sugar? I know artificial sweeteners are no good either but sometimes, you want a bit of sweet. Robin, I know you don’t really have a sweet tooth and you are so lucky but is there anything out there that is natural but not harmful to your health? Thanks.

Without much reflection I suggested a square of 80-90% cacao chocolate, a slice of apple, a dried fig or apricot or a bowl of raspberries. 

It is the season–supposedly! Summer arrives officially in a week, though it’s hard to credit.

I’d bought a small punnet yesterday in a new vegetable & fruit shop in Castres.

They looked good–but not exactly home grown.

But mixed in with some Realmont Market strawberries from a trusted source–they made a colorful addition to my breakfast bowl and lifted the spirits.

Soon after, from somewhere in deep cover in the garden, Meredith announced :

We have raspberries!” Hardly a bowl of them yet, but thanks to the rain and now the sunshine we live in hope.

Beau was on the case too–Watson to Meredith’s Sherlock.

Here’s perhaps more than you need to know about raspberries!

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Here’s a recipe to celebrate the first day of summer.


SOL–sun    STICE--still

The day the sun is so high it appears to stand still; the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere.

And a song to hum while preparing the vegetable salad–(watch out for the end of the seventh line though, if you’re singing the words with company!)

Inspired by and adapted from a book with an unusual title and many wonderful recipes:

Crazy Water Pickled Lemons  by Diana Henry

Roasted Aubergine [eggplant] slices with Feta and a mint vinaigrette.

for 4

2 large aubergines [eggplant]

I used the purple speckledy ones this time.

–cut crosswise or lengthwise into thickish slices (2cm/3/4″), lightly salted and left for an hour or so to drain through a sieve or collander

olive oil for brushing the foil and the aubergines

salt and pepper

a small slab of feta cheese to crumble on the top of the salad (optional)

The Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon white wine or cider vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves pulped with a little salt

2 fl oz olive oil

a large handful of mint leaves–roughly chopped

  • Heat the oven to hot–240C/450F.
  • Lightly brush the aubergines slices with olive oil.
  • Cover shallow oven trays (you may need two or to repeat the process) with foil.
  • Brush the foil with oil to prevent the slices sticking.
  • Spread the slices on the trays.
  • Place the trays in the upper part of the oven for 10 minutes–
  • then take the tray(s) out of the oven and turn the slices over–
  • return them to the oven for a further 10 minutes.*
  • Make sure the aubergine is done by piercing the thickest part with the tip of a knife–
  • Underdone aubergine is uneatable.
  • Take them out of the oven and spread them on a serving plate.
  • Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and pour it over the slices while they are still warm.
  • Flake the feta–if you are using it– over the top.
  • Serve at room temperature–leaving a little time for the flavours to meld.

* alternatively, you could griddle the slices–which gives them a slightly smoky taste.

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“—It’s going to be a busy night” to paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve

rounded off by a lunar eclipse (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jun/15/lunar-eclipse-moon-red).

Meredith’s passion–Circle Dancing (http://www.findhorn.org/)aka Sacred Dancing–learned at the Findhorn Foundation(http://www.findhorn.org/) north of Inverness in Scotland.

She has a regular circle of enthusiasts, who dance each month on the night of the full moon for a couple of hours.

in full swing…

John–honourable retiree.

Everyone brings a dish to share after the dance.

My contribution–Courgette soup— is adapted from the River Cafe’s recipe.

It was spotted by our friend and fellow dancer, Sonia,

who grows courgettes herself and brings us a shining green handful from time to time.

It is simple and satisfying, with a light green hue and creamy texture.

for 4

1 kilo courgettes/zucchini–fresh as possible–cut into 1″ square pieces


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic–chopped
500ml/1 pint stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
1 small pot/125gms low/no fat yogurt
50gms grated parmesan— add more to your taste
salt & pepper

a handful each of chopped parsley and chopped basil

  • Fry the courgettes and garlic in the oil until they are very tender and browned a little–about 30 minutes.

a double batch

  • Add the stock and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper– taking care with the salt assuming there is salt in the stock.
  • Let the soup cool a little.
  • Remove a quarter of the courgette pieces and liquidise the rest with a food mixer or handheld liquidiser.
  • Return the whole courgette pieces to the soup.
  • Stir in the cheese and yogurt followed by the parsley and basil.
  • Reheat gently.
  • Check the seasoning and bring up to a simmer.
  • Serve in warm bowls.
–there’ll be no need for seat belts* though!
(B Davis’ famous line in the film–“Fasten your seat belts–it’s going to be a bumpy night!”)

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