Sharing France with you
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From the smallest village to the biggest city there’s a Christmas market to suit everyone’s taste – here’s a selection of just a few:
Bordeaux – 29th November to 29th December 2013. This traditional market covers the Allees de Tourny in the centre of town with over 100 boutiques housed in wooden chalets. All the finest regional artisans are represented. From chocolate and wine to pottery and glass – a great place to stock up with gifts and enjoy a little vin chaud along the way.
Strasbourg – 29th November to 31st December 2013. A fairy-tale setting for one of the oldest (since 1570) and largest markets in France known as the Christkindelsmärik. Centered in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral the market spreads throughout the city with concerts, events and activities to suit all ages. Being so close to Germany it’s worth crossing the river and visiting the Christmas markets there.
Also worth a visit are the markets in Sarlat (14/12 to 4/1) with its outdoor ice-rink and Christmas cookery classes; help raise money for Cancer Research France by visiting the village of Monteton at their market on 16/12 or combine your Christmas shopping with a bracing walk along the beach in St Jean de Luz – Christmas celebrations from 6/12 to 5/1.
Slow-braised Pigs’ Cheeks – Serves 4
Winter casseroles don’t come much better than this – don’t be put off by the pigs’ cheeks – they are utterly delicious, economical and easy to cook – a real winner!
Preheat oven to 140 centigrade.
- 4 pigs cheeks (noix de joue de porc)
- flour – for dusting
- olive – for frying
- 2 onions – peeled and cut into chunks
- ½ leek – peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 large carrot – peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 sticks of celery – cut into 1cm cubes
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 100g tomato puree
- ½ bottle of dry red wine
- 300ml stock (beef or vegetable)
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf 1.
- Season the meat and dust with a little flour. Heat oil in pan and brown cheeks until golden on both sides. Remove and set aside.
- Add onions, leek, carrots, celery and garlic and fry gently until lightly browned. Add tomato puree and a little red wine. Reduce until puree starts to caramelise. Carry on adding the wine in stages, reducing between each addition until the sauce is rich and dark.
- Return the meat to the pan and pour over just enough stock to cover. Add peppercorns and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
- Cover with lid and cook in oven for 4 hours. Careful it doesn’t dry out – add more stock if necessary.
- Remove cheeks and sieve sauce into a clean pan. Bring to boil, reduce and season.
Serve with vegetables of your choice around a roaring fire – bon appetite!
The French Apero - Do’s and Don’ts
It’s a fabulous feeling when you receive your first invitation to aperitifs at a French friends house but can also be somewhat daunting. Just follow these simple rules to ensure your visit goes with a swing!
- Do remember to arrive (and leave!) on time - don’t stay longer than 2 hours.
- Do remember not to ask for wine – a kir or a vermouth or perhaps a gin and tonic.
- Don’t forget to take a small gift – some chocolates or a little plant but never a bottle.
- Don’t ask for a tour of the house – most French are very private people.
And finally, do remember to enjoy yourself!
UK Stores that deliver to France
While there are many wonderful shops in France it can occasionally be difficult to get hold of familiar brands or particular clothing sizes. Here are a few websites that make shopping from the comfort of your own home just that bit easier.
- www.johnlewis.com - department store shopping at it’s best
- www.boden.co.uk - very good quality clothing for all the family
- www.chemistdirect.co.uk - a great alternative to Boots the Chemist
- www.thewhitecompany.co.uk - lovely bedding and knitwear
- www.marksandspencer.fr - delivered direct from the Paris store
- www.letterbox.co.uk - great selection of toys and gifts
- www.lakelandplastics.co.uk - full of products for the kitchen and home
- www.shoes.co.uk - covers all styles and, most importantly, sizes
- www.debenhams.co.uk - another good department store
- www.thebookdepository.com - an alternative to Amazon
A Capon for Christmas
Many of us in France spend an inordinate amount of time searching for the elusive Christmas turkey. Please don’t! Here, the capon is king. With a large proportion of white to dark meat and a creamy, delicate flesh it really is the only way to go this Christmas and is readily available in both the supermarkets and the local butchers. A standard sized capon will happily feed 8-10 people.
Treat your capon with the same love you would lavish upon your turkey –with a sweet chestnut or sage and onion stuffing. Alternatively go local and serve with a cognac and mushroom sauce or, if you are feeling really decadent, splash out on a few truffles.
Wood for winter
Not all of us are as organised as we like to think we are and, as the temperature starts to drop, many of us visit our wood piles for the first time since Easter only to find that we really didn’t have as much as we thought we did. Ideally firewood should be ordered in September for the coming winter season however it is available throughout the year. Undoubtedly the best way to find a reliable wood supplier is word of mouth but this is not always easy when you are new to an area. A good alternative is to use www.bois-de-chauffage.net. Simply enter your postcode, select your commune and your requirements (size, type (hardwood, fruit etc) and amount and those chestnuts will be roasting in no time!
Let your inner author loose! If you have an experience to share about moving to, living in or simply visiting France then we'd like to hear about it. Write a maximum of 300 words, attach a photo and we'll publish the best here.
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