Archive | October, 2018

Tour de France

21 Oct

I’ve just got back from a week’s holiday in France. I don’t think I have ever been on holiday to another country by car so this was a bit different because we drove 1’000 kilometers to Bordeaux. The main reason was because we wanted to bring back some wine and that isn’t possible when you fly. It also gave us the opportunity to stop off in a few places on the way back.

Here is a bit of what we did while we were away:

Bordeaux

I went to Bordeaux last year and one of the conditions of going back there was that I could go back to eat crab at Le Crab Marteau. Dinner is basically a huge crab served with potatoes and sauces. Delicious! The couple on the table next to us were also British but she obviously hadn’t come face-to-face with a crab before eating it and actually hid the crab under a napkin so that she didn’t have to look at it!

We went to the Dune du Pilat, the biggest sand dunes in Europe. This was an incredible place to go to. The sand dunes are huge and great fun to climb up. It did start to rain a bit while we were up at the top and I can imagine getting caught up there in the rain wouldn’t be a great idea.

We visited Le Cité du Vin which I hadn’t been to before. It’s a museum about the history of wine and has lots of interactive exhibits and information about the importance of wine in French culture. A free wine tasting was also included in the price.

We also visited Musée du Vin which had exhibits about the history of wine in Bordeaux and information about how bottles are corked and how wine barrels are made. There was also a tasting at the end and we were able to learn more about how the wines in the Bordeaux area differ in taste.

St Emillion

We stopped at this small village for a day. I found the whole place fascinating. We took a tour of the underground church and learn so much about the origin of the place and who Saint Emillion was. Of course, the village only really exists today because of the wine industry and it isn’t uncommon to see buses full of tourists arriving each hour before rushing onto the next place. I might write another blog about St Emillion in the near future because I enjoyed it so much.

Lyon

We only had a bit of time in Lyon. It was a shame because there are lots of things to see here. Our time in Lyon was mainly to break up the journey on the way back. However, we did get to see the Roman ruins and to the Basilica at Fourviére which is spectacular. You never need to worry about going hungry in Lyon as there are restaurants on literally every corner. Once again the weather was kind to us and we could enjoy a long walk along the side of the river.

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Burgundy

We spent two nights staying at a chateaux in Burgundy. It was a great location to be based to visit some other towns. The village of Beaune was only a 20 minute drive and we visited Hotel-Dieu, a Medieval hosptial that was sent up help the sick and dying by a wealthy couple and was in use until the 1980s to look after the elderly. The ticket for this museum was also valid for entry into the Musée du Vin, which was another museum about wine.

We also had some time to visit a mustard factory. The Edmund Fallot museum still uses traditional methods to make their mustard and the tour was interesting. We could also taste some of the various mustards (curry mustard anyone?) that they produce and we got a few free samples to take home with us.

Staying with the mustard theme, we drove the next day to Dijon. By this time, we had seen enough wine degustations and mustard shops! They have a owl trail that you can follow around the city and see the main sights. So, we did that before heading to a wine expo that we had been invited to by the owner of the chateaux that we had been staying. All of the sellers at the wine fair were small, independent people and it was interesting to see how many different wines were produced in the region that we had been staying in.

All in all, a very successful trip. I personally learnt a lot about wine and mustard. It was nice to have a small break from reality and to be able to try some new wines and foods along the way.

Pumpkin time

9 Oct

As we bought a pumpkin last week at Jucker Farm, I decided it was finally time to cut it up and make something with it. Even though the pumpkin was one of the smaller ones, I knew that I would need a couple of recipes to use it all up. I decided to make: a vegan pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin gnocchi and roasted pumpkin kernels.

Pumpkin pie

This was a vegan recipe that I adapted slightly. I needed to purée the pumpkin first which mean steaming it for 50 minutes before putting it through the blender. I then added silken tofu, a variety of spices and some sugar (but not as much as the recipe recommended to put in!) I made the crust using porridge oats that I had grounded down to a powder in a blender, water and oil. It then took about an hour in the oven to bake. I actually ended up making two pumpkin pies because my baking tin was clearly not the same size as the one that was used in the recipe. My initial idea was for my boyfriend to take one of the pies into the office with him so that we didn’t have to eat both of them but that didn’t happen because they were too delicious.

Pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup is one of my favourites. I added some fresh ginger and served it with roasted pumpkin kernels and some delicious pumpkin oil.

Pumpkin gnocchi

I haven’t made gnocchi before. I have always thought that it was far too complicated to make it at home but I found an recipe online and it looked fairly straightforward. It also meant that we wouldn’t be left with 5 litres of pumpkin soup to eat. It turned out to be easy to make, although I think that I didn’t cut the dough into small enough pieces. If I do it again, I know that I need to make them smaller. I served it with a butter and sage sauce.

Roasted pumpkin kernels

As I don’t like to throw anything away, I decided to roast the pumpkin seeds so that we can use them on other soups and salads. I just put them in the oven with some butter and salt until they turned brown. Although you can buy these in the shops, it did feel satisfying to use every part of the pumpkin so it was worth the effort.

Now I am a bit pumpkin-ed out! I am tempted to go to the supermarket and buy another one so I can have homemade soup again. But as the pumpkin season will run until December, I have plenty of time to get my pumpkin fix before the end of the year.

The most wonderful time of the year

4 Oct

You might be thinking that this post is about Christmas. You’d be wrong. I am definitely not the type of person to be already counting the days until Christmas.

For me the most wonderful time of the year is when the outside temperature is cooling and the dark nights are drawing in. Because that can only mean one thing. It’s Raclette and Fondue season. Cheese is as Swiss as the Matterhorn and Toberlone and, since becoming a Swiss Miss, I am a big fan.

I’m so pleased that it’s that time of year again and I have wasted no time in tucking into the cheese. Of course, you can have Raclette and Fondue in the summer but only tourists really do that. Plus, it is far too hot to be eating melted cheese when it’s 20-plus degrees outside because you end up melting yourself.

To begin with I wasn’t too sure about just eating melted cheese and bread for dinner but I could eat easily eat it for breakfast now.

Apart from my obvious cheese addiction, there are other downsides to this time of year. If you are not careful, the apartment ends up constantly smelling strongly of cheese that lingers for days irrespective of how long you leave the windows open. You end up getting so used to the smell that you only realise how back it is when you come back home and smell how bad it is.

Therefore, it’s always best to be invited to someone else’s house or a restaurant to avoid nasty odours at home. Or you could do what we did and brave the colder temperatures and sit outside!

Things I’ve learnt in September

1 Oct

As it is already October 1st, I am a bit late with this post but it did take me a while to come up with five things that I have learnt in September. However, here are five interesting things that I learnt last month.

1. There are only two dates in a year when you can set off fireworks in Switzerland without a permit.

It’s hardly surprising that pryotechnics, like lots of other activities in Switzerland, are regulated. It hadn’t occured to me before some mentioned it the other day. Perhaps this is a reason why people really do go crazy on 1st August and 31st December here. It sometimes feels like being in the middle of a war with the amount of fireworks being set off on these days but I guess people are just getting their money’s worth and saving on some paperwork.

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2. Son always grow to be taller than their mothers.

Obviously this is only valid when the son doesn’t have a genetic growth disorder or something similar and when the son has reached his maximum height and isn’t still growing. I am convinced that this is true. I have visually gone through virtually all of the men that I know and they are taller than their mothers. I am so obsessed by this that I am tempted to ask men when I first meet them, if they are taller then their mother just to gain some more evidence to support this theory. If you know of anyone who doesn’t fit this theory, please let me know!

3. It is possible to make a cake without any dairy products at all.

I have been dabbling with veganism recently. I found a recipe for a cake. This recipe doesn’t have any dairy products in it and didn’t have any vegan-friendly dairy substitutes. It was made with baking soda and fizzy water. I was expecting it to taste awful but actually it was great and didn’t last long.

4. There is more than one type of pumpkin.

I visited a pumpkin farm last week and I was surprised by how many varieties of pumpkin there are. I didn’t know that butternut squash was classed as a pumpkin. There were even some pumpkins there that looked like if you put it in water you would be able to recreate that grainy black and white photo of the Loch Ness Monster. I don’t know what time of year that photo was taken but if it was during pumpkin season then I would say that this was a good explanation for the hoax. Anyway, I wasn’t brave enough to buy a pumpkin that resembled a mythical, Scottish monster, so I bought a regular Halloween pumpkin and I am looking forward to cooking and eating it soon.

5. I’ve taken the summer for granted… again.

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The nights are already dark and the weather is getting colder and the list of things that I wanted to go this summer (mainly hiking and outdoor activities that I won’t be able to do when the snow finally comes). I always have a good intentions of having picnics, relaxing back the lake and swimming in the lake. I have only been swimming in the lake once this year, which is pretty pathetic by anyone’s standards. However, it was a glorious evening when I did go swimming so perhaps quality not quantity is the best way to look at it. It’s now too late to do anything about my summer to-do list… apart from roll over the things that I wanted to do this year to my Summer 2019 list.