Where is spring?

By | Australia, summer | No Comments

I’ve been back from Australia, less than a week and my body clock is still playing up. I’m tired when I don’t expect and hungry at the oddest times. I knew it wouldn’t be warm when I returned, but I’d hoped for some respite from the long winter. It seems it’s not to be. Not only is it cold, but bitterly cold with the wind chill plunging the temperature to -14C. That feels even colder after the warmth of the Antipodes. I’ve dragged out my winter coat however, I refuse to wear my boots, after weeks in light summer sandals I can’t deal with their weight.

At least I’ve had 3 weeks of paradise and memories of coffee on the deck, walking along the beach and swimming are keeping me warm. As the sun streams into my office and all I can see is blue sky, I flip through my photos and am instantly transported back, it’s good to know my friends are warm and drinking gin and homemade tonic water. It will warm up here, eventually but I’m not sure how long I can wait.



By | Summer cooking | No Comments

Most of the herbs I grow on my deck are for cooking or eating. There is always a good supply of basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary and chives. It’s wonderful to step out of the kitchen and pick a handful of herbs to add to a dish. I also have a bay tree. I’m a big fan of bay leaves, I can’t boil a potato without a bay leaf. Most of my herbs die over the winter, but if I’m lucky the chives and thyme return in the spring. My rosemary and bay trees get special attention, they spend the winter indoors, in my stairwell where it is bright and cool. Oh, to live in a climate where they could stay outside all year.

Another herb I nurse through the winter is lemon verbena. Its leaves have a potent aroma and almost overpowering lemon flavour so only a small amount is needed. As the leaves are rather tough, I use a sprig when flavouring a custard, or syrup then I can remove all the leaves before serving. Lemon verbena’s power also makes it perfect to balance the intensity of quinces. However, my favourite way to enjoy this herb is as tea, or tisane in French.

A pot of it sits right now on my window ledge as I write this post.


By | Summer cooking | One Comment

Some years ago in Luberon a beautiful region of southern France, my husband and I discovered Rinquinquin – it’s pronounced ‘ran-can-can’ through your nose, if you can. Rinquinquin is a popular aperitif but the reason we first tried it was, of course, its name.

In French the verb requinquer means to buck up – “un bon grog vous requinquera” – a hot drink will cheer you up – well despite ours being cold being served over ice, Rinquinquin had a definite restorative and relaxing effect on us.

Since then, Rinquinquin has been for me the perfect summer aperitif, as opposed to cocktail and then it is gin and tonic. Its rich peachy flavour is muted by a slight bitterness. It’s made by marinating yellow and white peaches, the cracked peach kernels and even the leaves for six months to a year, in a mixture of alcohol and wine.
The solids are then distilled and mixed with the infused liquids, sugar is added and voilà a drink that weighs in with 15 % alcohol. It’s a good idea to add ice.

Alas this peachy aperitif is not easy to find outside of France. Even in France it is not that well know but Lavinia the big wine store near the Madeleine church always stocks it and luckily my local Monoprix does too.
I brought two bottles back with me in June as it is not available in Ontario. There is only one distillery making it and they are better know for the very popular pastis, a licorice flavoured drink similar to Pernod. Their pastis, Henri Bardouin won a gold medal at the General Agricultural Competition Paris 2008

It ‘s obviously their best seller as the letters HB are embossed into all their bottles, even my Rinquinquinbottle. They make a range of aperitifs flavoured with orange, nuts and gentian. Gentian is a flowering plant, found in Provence, the Auvergne where it’s root used to make Gentiane and Suze.
Although I like bitter aperitifs, Campari for example, I prefer them in the winter – for the summer it’s the sweet taste of peach. I could create some recipes using Rinquinqun but I’d rather just be on my deck, sipping it over ice.