Tuesday 20 April 2010


Today's challenge.

I would like to order a reclining armchair from IKEA. Cost 329 euros.

Check on internet to see if it is available at Toulouse which is 2 1/2 hours' drive.

Only available to order, not available in shop.

BUT have to have home delivery which is another 175 euros.

Can I have it delivered to Toulouse store for collection?

Yes, but you have to go to the store and make the order.

Can't I do that over the phone? No have to go to the store.

So I can't order it on line or by phone to have it delivered to Toulouse. No.
So I have to drive 2 1/2 hours there to order, 2 1/2 hours back then 2 1/2 hours there to collect and 2 1/2 hours back??

Is there anyway round this problem (don't you want my bloody order)

And you can hear the gallic shrug down the phone line.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Not a very good day

Just come in from the garden and found an email from a dear friend who is living vicariously through me as I have stolen her life - well today you are welcome to it! I am not having a good day and no I am not going to be pleased that it is a gorgeous sunny day and the garden is looking beautiful and the asparagus is growing better than I have ever seen it!

Yesterday evening we discovered that, a generally below par Arthur, had nasty wiggly white worms. No problem, know very little about them but I've done them for children so how hard can it be. We can go and see the nice vet tomorrow. Called in to see her, got the pill at vast expense. Got pill home, mashed up in yoghurt for Arthur who always eats pills like that - but not this time - proceeded to try to bury it rather than eat it. Back to vet for another one which we eventually got down him I think though it may have dropped in the grass. Meanwhile found huge tick on him.

Got back from first trip to vet to find Him Outdoors down in the pump hole for the swimming pool swearing. Definitely broken. OK well if it needs a new seal then we have to drive 15 mins to the shop now because it will soon be noon and the shop will then be shut until Tuesday. Rush off to find that the shop was shut anyway. (Why would the pool shop be open on the first warm Saturday when the kids are starting Easter Holidays and the tourists have arrived?? The same reason as the DIY store had absolutely no stock of any swimming pool chemicals.)

Phone call from friends in Australia who were due to fly out today for a three week French holiday, 1 week in Paris and 2 weeks with us. They are stuck because of the Icelandic volcano which is stopping all flights into Paris. Soooooo disappointed for them. No one really knows when the airspace will be open, one rumour has 11 days but we're not going with that. They hope to fly to Malaysia tomorrow and then see.

Postman brings letter from the stairman's insurer saying that it is not an insurance problem so in order to get any money back we will have to take the stairman to court. Don't think we're going to do that.

Catalogue arrived from Landsend which is one of my favourite catalogues with long enough clothes. They are now delivering to France, Yippee. BUT they are using an exchange rate of at least 1.50 euros to a pound which makes everything VERY expensive.

Nothing like a good rant on a blog for making me feel better and wondering what all the fuss is about :-)

Saturday 3 April 2010

The trials of Raymond Blanc's Apple Croustade

We had planned to have a leg of lamb for lunch on Easter Sunday. So was vaguely planning to make a bit of effort. Out of the blue we got an email from a cousin of Him Outdoors that we have seen only occasionally who is in the area and is now joining us for lunch. Co-incidentally we saw Raymond Blanc cooking Apple Croustade on the television and waxing lyrical about how you must try it (the best pudding ever), it only takes 2 days to cook! Well what else are we doing this horrible dull weather. Here goes.

First challenge is to find the recipe on line and print it off. Fight temperamental printer. Only one new printer cartridge to find.
Careful study of the recipe reveals that there are two occasions when you have to leave the pastry overnight so how does that make 2 days. But that's ok, we are ahead of ourselves.
Serve with honey and ginger icecream. Lets admit defeat here and serve with good vanilla. We could put some stem ginger in syrup on the top.
But we can make the apple sauce. Well, we could if we'd got the apples. M Blanc says Coxes Orange Pippins - bet votre mere didn't use them when she made it M Blanc. All going well until 'transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend'. Oh no it's all leaking out the bottom. Help........ Aaaaah so that new gasket wasn't entirely successful then. Hand held thingy will do. It's a bit runny and we haven't got one of those cheffy squirty bottles but never mind.
Its going to need clarified butter. Vaguely remember that but better check. Potter about melting. Umm muslin. Used to have some of that in the attic. Move box of photos and spend half an hour browsing. Find muslin but it's holes are too big, decide to use the kitchen roll I first thought of.
Day 2. Make the pastry.Two eggs umm but we only have bantams'. How many of those to a normal egg? Out with the scales. Then M Blanc does all the kneading in a Kenwood Chef with a dough hook. Have the Chef but not the dough hook. Diversion via ebay to put in a bid for a dough hook even though there is no chance that such a thing will be available by Day 3! Immediately outbid, don't really knead (!) one. Ten minutes kneading is fine. Quick check on iPlayer to check that I'd done it right. Only to find that the timings of kneading and leaving were different anyway. Oh well bung it in the fridge 'overnight' and think about it tomorrow.

Day 3. Oh no, it needs 4 hours to come to room temperature before we can stretch the dough. It's already ten o'clock and the room is freezing, I don't think that's 'room temperature'. OK light fire, put pastry near.

Him Outdoors has decided that making the apple rosace bit is his job. Must be the use of tools and the Calvados. (Need 1 1/2 tsps so have to have a bottle.) Where's the apple corer? What apple corer, we've got a thing that chops apples into segments will that do? Quick trip to the shed to find a tool to loosen the screws of the mandolin to make the slices thinner, and moan about the general state of the tool. After a fairly steep learning curve they are all beautifully aranged and in the oven. Bravo.

Oh no, it says 40 minutes at 200C and after 20 minutes they are soft but burning not 'caramelised'. Umm put them back at a lower temperature with some sugar sprinkled on and hope. All ok. Getting more like M Blanc's as they cool.

Now for the pastry. They did it over a cushion big enough to spread the pastry on. First find your cushion. After a lot of pulling and stretching and making holes we end up with a nearly big enough square. No way are they going to make crusty baskets. Leave to dry the butter/sugar misture you have to paint them with and manage to make some fairly lumpy baskets.

Leave to dry for another 24 hours. Then after an already boozey lunch, try and assemble calmly in our open plan kitchen, next to waiting guests.
Et voila!!

By the end of it, we were bored with the whole thing. It tasted ok and next time will be much better but not sure it's up there with 'best pudding ever times ten'. Ho hum, definitely not my sort of cooking. Much prefer 'mix together in ten minutes, bung in the fridge and serve as required'. Trouble is need more than chocolate brandy cake and lemon crunch which everyone seems to have had often!