Life in the Loire after lock-down. 14th June. Day 35 of déconfinement.

And so my friends, today marks the last day of blogging daily. I’ve blogged now for 3 months exactly to the day and so it seems fitting to choose this day to finish.

My first post was the day before we went into lock-down and today will be my last daily post. I’ll still be blogging about Life in the Loire but on a weekly basis from now on.

I must concentrate on my ‘paying’ susbscribers, give them the wine education and information I promised them and I must also turn my attention to finding other ways of generating an income to keep our business afloat.

So, yesterday afternoon I grilled some new season’s French apricots with a little dark muscovado sugar sprinkled over the top until they started to caramelise at the edges.

Last night I put some oats to soak in a little milk and today I mixed in a liberal quantity of creamy Greek yoghurt and just a hint of muscovado sugar.

And so for breakfast we each had some of the creamy oats topped with the slightly tart apricots and a further sprinkling of muscovado sugar. A cup of coffee and Andrew Marr (very bad idea watching him – so depressing).

I had a sourdough disaster this morning. The first one since I joined the fraternity. It comes to us all at some point I guess. Let me tell you the story.

In the workshop in the garden there is a big fridge that we use to chill wine for the business. It’s not been working well so we turned it off during the winter months thinking maybe it was the surrounding atmosphere that was affecting it.

This week Nigel turned it on, we got out the thermometer and popped it in. 9°C it said. Hmm, not cold enough to chill a rosé or sparkling BUT, the perfect temperature for cold proving my sourdough overnight (according to the sourdough school that says domestic fridges are generally too cold and so you put it in the warmest spot you can find).

I’ve made two loaves this week (well one and today’s disaster). The first one proved beautifully, better than normal and I got the best rise I’ve ever had in the oven. That’s the one I took to lunch at Jim’s (thank goodness). Then this morning, when I went to get my loaf to put in the oven, what do I see? A monster climbing out of the bowl, spilling over the sides. A great wobbly overrisen mass of dough that I just know will collapse when I turn it out.

I remembered reading something about over proving your dough in the Sourdough School book that Rosie gave me so had a quick look for advice and voila! There it was staring me in the eye.

“If the dough has over proved and you feel like bursting into tears (yes), don’t completely despair. You can rescue it by transferring it to a tray, dimpling the surface and throwing over olive oil, garlic cloves, coarse sea salt and a handful of rosemary sprigs in and around the dough – it will pass as a very respectable focaccia’.

So that’s what I did – and it’s delicious. We had some for lunch with a couple of salads and I’ve frozen chunks that I can defrost and we can eat with our evening apero warmed and cut into tiny cubes drizzled with a little more olive oil.

The only problem is that now we don’t have any bread. Back to baking again tomorrow morning.

What an odd day it is. One minute it’s glorious and we’re able to have lunch outside, then the clouds come over and it’s grey as anything. The sun comes out again and we put the washing out, then a gale starts to blow and we end up retrieving knickers from around the garden. Safely put back it suddenly pours down with rain and we run inside grabbing as much as we can. And now it’s beautiful again.

Just reading an article on Forbes site that worries me a little. It says that American travellers are unlikely to be welcomed back into Europe this summer and maybe not even this year. I hope that’s not the case as it would be very bad news for us (although I do understand the reticence of European countries to allow people in from countries where the rate of infection is very high).

I know it’s Sunday and I know we should be eating something special (well maybe a little more special than normal), but we have little in the house. Dinner is going to be a challenge.

There are three remaining boneless pork chops in the fridge and that’s about it. What can I do with those to a) make them delicious and b) create something completely different from last night?

Quick check up of other ingredients available. Not much in the way of fresh veg apart from a couple of tomatoes. No potatoes. Plenty of pulses and dried bits and pieces.

I made some fresh breadcrumbs, bashed the pork chops until they were thin and then floured, egged and breadcrumbed them. That’s a start. Now what to go with them?

Aha. I found onions and garlic (a good start) so I fried a finely chopped onion in a little olive oil, added the garlic and then the two tomatoes finely chopped plus a tablespoon of tomato purée (in the fridge). A little red wine, some salt and pepper, a pinch of sugar, 20 minutes gentle simmering and blitz. A fresh tomato sauce.

Finally, a cup of bulghur wheat ready prepared with teeny bits of pepper and tomato (just add an equal amount of boiling water), a big bunch of finely chopped herbs from the garden (sage, flat leaf parsley, marjoram), a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, a little salt and pepper.

We’re there.

Mise en place all done, we sat down at 20h00 to watch Macron’s update to the nation. Not many changes. All schools to return from the 22nd June and it will be compulsary. Restaurants in Paris will be able to reopen. European borders to open tomorrow but no international travellers for now. Much talk about coming together to address racism and prejudice in the country. Praise for the way in which we have dealt with the lockdown and reassurance that the virus is under control. Recognition that although we are returning gradually to a state of normality, the summer of 2020 will be a summer like no other.

Gin and tonic finished I set to bringing dinner together.

I pan fried the breadcrumbed pork until crispy in a frying pan with a little olive oil. The bulghur wheat with its herbs went in the bottom of a bowl, the cutlet placed on top, a generous serving of the fresh tomato sauce, a few herbs and a small slice of lemon to dress. A drizzle of olive oil here and there and a table!

Herby bulghur with fried pork escalopes and tomato sauce

Our wine of choice this evening was Chateau du Petit Thouar’s Amiral 2010 Cabernet Franc.

I’ve talked about this wine before. A press wine, it’s rich and chunky with dark dark fruit and lots of spice. Quite atypical – and delicious. Already 10 years old and going nowhere soon. Quite the wine to match our spirit.

See you next week and thanks for reading.