Dimange – le dimanche, je mange

What are weekends for, if not eating?! Hehe. Well for me anyway, as the weekend is when I catch up with friends and everything seems to slightly revolve around food or drink!

This weekend being no exception… So what did I do?

Firstly, I enjoyed the winter sunshine – it was 21 degrees celsius in Toulouse this weekend. It was incredible to be warm (and without a coat!) mid-November, sat on the edge of the Garonne. The sun setting at 5pm was a gentle reminder that it is indeed winter!

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On Saturday afternoon, I made a raw vegan mango cheesecake! Find the recipe here. This time I whizzed up a mango in the blender for the topping, instead of passion fruit. I also recommend using a good quality vanilla bean to make it even more delicious! After a long 3 hour wait for the cheesecake to set in the fridge, we enjoyed it for dinner before going out for drinks.

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The great thing about going out in Toulouse at the weekend, is that the metro runs until 3am. This is a new initiative in the city – before the only real option for getting home was to take a hire bike. Taxis are rare here. Walking around the streets trying to find an available bike isn’t the best way to end an evening, so I’m very happy to be able to hop on the metro and get home for a cup of tea!

On Sunday, I visited a château! Yes, more wine!:-/ after coming home in the early hours of Sunday morning, I made sure to set my alarm ready for a day trip away. After a couple of ‘snoozes’, I rushed out to meet my friends and we drove to Chateau de Lastours, which is about an hour away from Toulouse. My rushed morning meant I had a breakfast of wine and nibbles – as we attended the open day for the wonderful vineyard at the Chateau. I learnt a little more about wine, and we got to see the caves where the wine is produced. This particular wine isn’t sold to supermarkets so it was a treat to be able to buy a bottle or two of the 2005 Gaillac. A bit of wine education: this wine is labelled ‘recoltant’ which means that the wine maker has harvested their own grapes, and it is bottled on the estate.

IMG_1309.JPG …sadly not organic, but special all the same!

We then visited the local village called Lisle-sur-Tarn. The river Tarn runs through this region, and the village is a historic Bastide with wooden beamed houses and a central market square surrounded by arcades. We decided to have a bite to eat in a Basque restaurant called La Cantina, with a menu full of jamón and piment d’espelette and a selection of Belgium Christmas beers…

As you can imagine, on the return to Toulouse the car was half asleep… Back home for a cosy night in with a film!

Full of good intentions!

Full is a word I’ve used a lot lately… I’ve eaten a lot of lovely food and a lot of lovely wine to go with it.

The good news is that I can easily drink organic red wine here, even in a bar. I read this week that organic wine has 80% more resveratrol (an antioxidant) than non-organic wine. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But it certainly backs up my claim that organic wine doesn’t give me a headache the morning after. So last night, I quickly ordered the bottle of vin bio before anyone else could dispute. I have to say it also really helps me out with my lack of French wine knowledge, as my choice is reduced to one or two bottles I don’t need to worry so much about the controversial topic of region and grape…

So it’s not every evening and it’s part of my French assimilation of course, but after a final hurrah last night, I feel that me and red wine need a little break. Until next week… Tomorrow?

The last hurrah!

As I switched on the kettle this morning in a sub-conscious state of routine, and reached for my box of Tetley tea bags, I realised I actually didn’t fancy a cup of milky tea. So, full of good intentions this morning, I’ve decided to give up black tea. And milk. This is greatly helped by the fact I have one tea bag left and that the UHT milk in the fridge has lasted way longer than it should’ve…

Green tea here I come! I’ll also have less coffee, but I won’t deprive myself if I need a pick me up. Bear in mind, I have had breakfast tea in the morning for the last 23 years of my life.

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This means I’ll be one step closer to cutting out acidic foods. To celebrate I’ve had half a grapefruit for breakfast and will have a spinach smoothie mid morning. Today I will be Smug Susan.

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A classic combination of frozen banana, almond milk, spinach (which makes up half the cup), cinnamon and freshly cracked walnuts!🙂 yum!

…errr what’s that? Boring healthy pictures?

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Haha!

Time for porridge

As the mornings are getting colder and colder, there’s nothing better than a bowl of hot porridge to start the day. And porridge never has to be boring!

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There are just a few steps to make perfect porridge – and as long as you follow the same 1:3 ratio rule, you can mix and match the different ingredients as you please!

Base: 1/2 cup rolled oats / gluten-free oats / steel cut oats / buckwheat / quinoa flakes

Liquid: 3/4 cup milk (almond, coconut, hazelnut, cashew…), 3/4 cup water

Seasonings: sea salt / cinnamon / nutmeg / cacao

Method: in a tall solid pan, heat the liquid until almost boiling, then add the base ingredient (eg.oats) a pinch of sea salt and any other dry spice you fancy! Stir with the back of a wooden spoon (I’ve been told that’s how the Scots do it..) constantly for around 5 minutes or until the porridge is a good consistency. Serve piping hot with toppings of your choice!

Top tip: toasting the oats first, in a dry pan until fragrant, makes them more tasty!

Toppings: probiotic yoghurt, fresh fruit, avocado, milled nuts and seeds, shredded coconut, stewed fruit, raw honey…

Combination ideas:

1 – rolled oats, almond milk, cinnamon, stewed apple and raisins and yoghurt

2 – steel cut oats, coconut milk, fresh strawberries and shredded coconut

3 – buckwheat, almond milk, cocoa, blueberries and yoghurt

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A favourite of mine at the moment is almond milk porridge with gluten free oats and grapefruit, avocado, yoghurt and shredded coconut. Don’t be put off by the avocado – it’s creamy and delicious with the porridge! Try it!

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Now, as I said the mornings are getting colder and unfortunately I don’t have a winter coat. That is one of the drawbacks of the Easyjet 20kg luggage restriction. So I’m off to buy one now, with just my porridge glow to keep me warm, wish me luck!

A day in Bordeaux

As it’s only 2 hours drive from Toulouse, I decided to go to Bordeaux for the day. And believe it or not, I went the whole day without a drop of wine! In my mouth that is, because actually the water in the fountain looked a lot like wine…..

IMG_1204.JPGThe crazy French!

So is it do-able; Bordeaux in a day? I’m going to say yes! But beware, there’s no dawdling involved.

Upon arrival at the train station, I took the tram to la Place de la Bourse – a beautiful square by the river where you will find the red fountain! It is also opposite the wonderful ‘water mirror’ – another fountain of sorts by the river that, when still, reflects the surroundings!

First stop coffee….

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With map in hand (from the tourist information office) I ventured off into the old city, where I came across lots of lovely cobbled streets with churches, quirky decorations and monuments…

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There are lots of shops and sights, including the grand National Theatre and the famous Mollat bookshop with every book you could dream of and ladders to reach those up high…

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A wonderful spice shop called Dock des Epices

IMG_1264.JPG Yes, that is an enormous bottle of wine! Next time I’ll have to go for a wine tasting!

Happily, there were lots of crafty and foody shops to keep me entertained… I recommend rue des Remparts for amazing girly shops!

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I had lunch at Karl cafe in la Place du Parlement in the heart of the old town. The food was delicious, I had a platter with stuffed vine leaves, sundried tomatoes, pesto and fromage frais. Yum yum!

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And after many more sights – I had a fresh mint tea in front of the cathedral.

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The gross cloche bell tower on Rue Saint-James is a must.

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That is the wonderfully weird fountain at Place de Quinconces!

With a bag of the famous Ballairdan canelés in hand (sweet speciality rum cakes for my housemates!) I left this lovely place to go back to my pink city!

Au revoir Bordeaux!

Autumn wonderings

I think Autumn is great. I love the colours, the smells and of course the food! Apples are abundant along with pumpkins and squashes in the markets, and the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air….

So far, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a sunny and warm autumn, and really the only sign that it wasn’t still summer has been the darker evenings and the changing trees. Along the Canal du Midi, the trees have become more and more sparse and the path is carpeted with golden leaves, which makes for a crunchy running route!🙂

On Thursday, I visited Albi, a lovely medieval city about an hour’s drive away from Toulouse. Albi is famous for its huge brick cathedral and the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

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On this sunny day, the most beautiful thing about this city was the river and all the autumnal colours….

IMG_1223.JPG I definitely recommend visiting Albi if you’re in Toulouse with a car!

However, today has been the first day since I arrived in Toulouse that it’s rained. The blue sky that I’ve become accustomed to, has turned all white and grey and miserable. Us Toulousains need cheering up… no better a day then, to make soup!

Roasted butternut squash, chestnut and apple soup

Ingredients: 1 butternut squash, 500g chestnuts, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 Bramley apple, 1.5 litres of vegetable stock, 4 tbsp cream (almond or cow), 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp Mediterranean herbs

Method: Chop up the squash and roast it for 20-30 mins until brown, remove the skin and set to one side. Slice crosses into the flat sides of the chestnuts and roast for 10 minutes, remove the skins. Meanwhile, chop up the onion garlic and apple and fry in the olive oil until softened and slightly browned. Add the squash and chestnuts, the stock and the herbs. Season and simmer for 10 mins. Blitz in a blender, then return to the pan and stir in the cream.

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Serve with slippers and a film of your choice!

I hope everyone else is embracing Autumn! Yes it turns into night-time too early, but that just means more cosy evenings in and the promise of Christmas to come🙂

My first french recipe

One leafy vegetable that the French love and we don’t eat much in England is endive. Very similar to chicory, it’s those slightly bitter yet sweet crunchy leaves sometimes found in salads…

Did you know that endives belong to the daisy family?🙂

When I was in the local supermarket I picked up a recipe card for endives, wrapped in ham and baked in a Roquefort and walnut sauce. So I thought I should try it!

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Endives au Roquefort

Ingredients: 4 endives, 4 small slices of ham, 80g roquefort cheese, 40g gluten free flour, 40g butter, 30cl milk, 40g grated gruyere cheese, 2 tbsp coarsely chopped walnuts, 1 clove of garlic (sliced), 2 pinches of nutmeg, salt and pepper

Method: steam the endives for 10 mins. Meanwhile, make a roux with the flour and butter and slowly add the milk. Then add the cheese, garlic, nutmeg and walnuts and season to taste. Wrap a piece of ham around each endive and place in a oven proof dish. Cover the endives in the sauce and bake for 25 mins at 200 degrees celsius.

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Serve with a green salad with tomatoes and pears! And for your gluten-eating friends, a stick of french bread!

Sorry I don’t have a picture of the finished dish, but I can assure you it was delicious!

Busy bee!

Monday morning calls for an energetic breakfast, to get the week off to a good start. For me that calls for a cup of tea and a berry smoothie.

There aren’t many superfood supplements readily available here in Toulouse, and I have to say, I’m missing my maca and chia seeds! I’ve seen spirulina a few times at the market, but other than that the only other superfood I’ve noticed is bee pollen. So, as well as stocking up on a lot of fruit and veg this weekend, I bought a jar of these golden granules to see what all the fuss was about.

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I’ve read that pollen contains a high percentage of protein, vitamin B and also gives a boost of energy! Sounds good to me.

Monday blueberries

Ingredients: 1 handful of spinach, 1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries, a few frozen raspberries, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 tsp flax seeds, 1 dollop natural yoghurt, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup water – blend and sprinkle pollen on top!

IMG_1121.JPG In my favourite vitamin cocktail cup! Not the best colour unfortunately.

The berry blast was yummy and overpowered any taste from the pollen which may be a good thing. They had a slight crunch but other than that, I think I could start adding them to all smoothies.

I’m glad to have a supplement back in my life and I’m going to see if I notice a difference in energy…

Hang on, are those trainers on my feet?!

…it works!

Marathon and market day!

This week has been fun! It’s the Toussaint holidays here in France, which means 2 weeks of exploring for me! Toulouse is bustling, the temperature is getting more crisp (especially in the mornings) but still so very sunny!

It started off well with my first item of French post from the best brother ever🙂

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I’ve visited two very English Salon du Thés – Bapz and Salon d’Eugénie, and would recommend them both. They both have flowery crockery and delicious looking cakes as well as a detailed tea menu (to put us English to shame!)

IMG_1114.JPG …a picture of an English scone! Sadly not glugar free!

When a French person asks me what tea I usually drink, I feel ashamed to say Twinings or PG tips.. even though that’s the truth! Although, green tea with ginger is my favourite.

My Aunty and Uncle came to visit, we spent the day wondering around the city.

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We had a gorgeous lunch at Ô3C, a small restaurant near to the Place de la Daurade with lovely colourful decor and homemade food. I had yummy sardine rillettes followed by coley cooked ‘en papillote’ with courgettes and fresh herbs.

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I’ve visited the magnificent Église des Jacobins, a wow factor church that you must visit if in Toulouse. There is a mirror at the base of one of the columns inside the church to give you a sense of the height and splendour, which is brilliant.

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I went to a salsa lesson and I’ve been bowling?!

IMG_1102.JPG I lost.

And to end the week in a wonderful way, I woke up to the sound of the marathon on my doorstep, with live music…

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Just the wake up I needed to go the market!

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Home with a basket of fruit, veg and flowers🙂

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Now I better get back out and into that glorious sunshine!🙂

Je voudrais une glace s’il vous plaît

That was the first thing I learnt to say in French – when on holiday in the South of France. I probably said it for the first time when I was about 5! What does it mean? I’d like an ice cream please!

It’s not so easy nowadays to have an ice cream when out and about, as sadly shop bought ice cream is full of sugar and doesn’t comply to a glugar free lifestyle. That doesn’t mean we can’t have it! No no.

Already we’ve had frozen banana ice cream, which never gets old. If it does, you just add more flavours… Nut butters, coconut, cinnamon or other fruits. However, I wanted to up my game. Banana ice cream is too easy. I decided to have a go at cashew ice cream, and oh my I’m glad I did.

With cashew nuts making the creamy base of the ice cream, you can pretty much add whatever you want for the flavour. With fruits, the sweeter you use the better as when frozen they do tend to lose some of their sweetness. Therefore I opted for a deliciously ripe mango and a fresh vanilla pod.

Mango I scream!

Ingredients: 1 ripe mango diced, 1 cup of cashew nuts (soaked in water overnight), 1 cup of ice, seeds from 1 vanilla pod, 3 dates (or more for a sweeter tooth)

Method: after soaking the cashews over night, drain and blend together with the mango and vanilla. Add the ice, blend again until fully mixed and then pour into a freezable container. Put in the freezer and try to give it a stir each hour until frozen.

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Serve a little defrosted. I served mine with a crumble topping of mixed seeds and goji berries. Absolutely delicious, especially during the Toulousain Indian summer🙂

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“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

…said Michael Pollan. And I agree!

Today, is plant day. Meet free Monday. What better way to spend a sunny day in Toulouse than to go to the Jardin des Plantes? Hehe.

The Jardin des Plantes is a public park and botanical gardens in Toulouse, with lots of lovely trees, flowers and statues. As this fortnight is the Toussaint holiday in France, there was also lots of fun things there for kids. The park is also home to the Natural History museum, but being a Monday it was closed so I’ll have to go back for that.

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When I got home, I noticed my basil plant was looking far too healthy for the windowsill. So it was time to make pesto!

Walnut pesto

Ingredients: 1 cup basil, 1/3 cup walnuts, good glug of olive oil, 30g Parmesan, 1/2 clove garlic, salt and pepper – blend

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I served the pesto with courgette spaghetti, sweet corn and tomatoes and a rocket and Parmesan salad.

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Love Life Glugar Free

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