Life in the Loire after lock-down. 28th May. Day 18 of déconfinement.

Up bright and early today. A girls’ lunch is on the menu which will be nice. It’ll be the first time I’ve seen one or two since the lockdown in March.

It’s a ‘pot luck’ lunch. Everyone takes something along to eat. That way, no one has to slave over the stove all day and everyone shares the cooking.

I’ve decided to take some crostini. I made a fresh sourdough loaf first thing this morning and will put them together just before I go at midday.

We are eight so I griddled 8 slices of sourdough until crispy on the outside. Sourdough makes delicious toast but takes an age under the grill. When you griddle it you get those lovely crunchy charred bits on the edges and more colour in the centre. Altogether a different style.

As soon as they came off the griddle I rubbed each slice with a cut clove of garlic and drizzled with a little olive oil.

The next layer was a thick helping of fresh ricotta seasoned with salt and pepper.

Finally, I piled on a tablespoon of cooked, shelled broad beans that I had mixed with the finely grated rind of a lemon, a little lemon juice, a tablespoon of finely chopped mint, two tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

A little more lemon rind and shredded mint to dress. A sprinkle of sea salt and a generous drizzle of good olive oil and they were ready to go.

Broad bean and ricotta sourdough crostini

Lovely bright, fresh summer flavours. It’s so easy and you don’t have to use fresh broad beans. Frozen are fine (I used frozen). You just have to have the patience to stand and shell them (or buy ready shelled but be careful not to overcook them as they can go to mush).

Andrea brought along some green and white asparagus cooked with breadcrumbs and parmesan. That was delicious too and a coincidence that both of us chose to take Italian inspired dishes. No surprise on Andrea’s part, her Grandma is Italien and her recipe is a family favourite.

So that was our entrée (starter or appetizer), accompanied by a glass of sparkling Vouvray from Chateau de Montdomaine sat in the garden under the shade of the trees.

Next on the menu – two quiches. One slow cooked leek and another quiche lorraine (with lardons). Crisp, buttery pastry and creamy fillings, a simple green salad with a wonderful dressing served alongside. Just perfect for a lazy summer lunch.

Of course there will always be cheese. Today, a local goat’s cheese, a Camembert and a Comté served with fresh cherries from the tree and nutty, seedy bread from the boulangerie.

And last but not least – dessert. A zingy lemon tart and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream from Yvonne (our host). The tart was bright and fresh, tingling our tastebuds with fresh lemon and the crumble just as I love it, with chewy bits of crumble and little pockets of cinnamon scented apple that seep through the top.

A cup of coffee to finish.

What a lovely afternoon that was. So lovely to catch up with everyone and meet one or two new people too.

A brief stop at Montdomaine on the way home and I finally walked back in the door just before 6pm. Now that’s what you call a French style lunch!

We’re all set to go with the Guided Tasting Case now. Labels for the rosé are due to be delivered tomorrow, Louisa has edited the little video we did, the information has been added to the website. All that remains is for me to send out the information over the weekend. Can’t wait to get it on the road.

Upon returning to the computer in the tasting room (my office) I find bird feathers all over the place.

Pesto would have us believe that she’s had a successful hunting trip, but we know better. Sadly, a bird flew at the salon windows and came to a rather abrupt end earlier today. That’s the third one in as many weeks to suffer the same misfortune.

Is this telling me I should stop cleaning the windows?

Despite having had a really big lunch, I still found room for dinner this evening but was scratching my head a bit for ideas.

I looked to the fridge for inspiration and staring out at me was the big bowl of stock that I made a couple of days ago when we had the simple chicken and chickpea salad. I had a risotto in mind but there was no risotto rice in the cupboard.

Hmm. What can I do instead? It’s not the weather for soup. Hang on a minute. I had a moment of inspiration. There in the drawer was a bag of orzo. I’d read that you can substitute orzo for rice and make a sort of pasta risotto. So that’s what I did.

I gently fried an onion and half a packet of smoky lardons in a frying pan and after a few minutes added a clove of finely chopped garlic. When the onion was soft and the lardons browned, I added 150g of orzo and then deglazed the pan with a glass of white wine (exactly the same method as when you make a risotto). I then added hot ladles full of chicken stock one at a time and continued stirring until the orzo was cooked but still had a bite.

Just before it was cooked I stirred in one large grated courgette and a few tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan. A little more Parmesan and a sprinkling of flat leaf parsley et à table.

Nigel had a large bowl and I had a small bowl. It was great and I’d definitely do it again. It just goes to show that you can create something out of practically nothing if you have a few storecupboard essentials. To be honest, it was the stock that made it. Made using a raw chicken carcass plus the wings, fresh onions, cabbage leaves, bay, thyme and a couple of carrots, it had bubbled for hours on the stove and was rich and flavourful.