Life in the Loire after lock-down. 7th June. Day 28 of déconfinement.

So, we come downstairs, feed the cat who has just wailed to be let in, make a cup of tea, cats wails to be let out again, we let her out again and she races across the grass like lightening. Bam. Too late. Noooo. That poor baby chaffinch.

I just knew something awful was going to happen to it. Nature is so cruel. We’d tried so hard to keep Pesto in when the poor little thing was feeding.

It’s Mother’s Day today in France. You’ll probably remember (or maybe not) that I am perpetually in Mother’s Day limbo. Noone in the family knows whether to celebrate it on English Mother’s Day or French. Well this year, I got a lovely card on English Mother’s Day from the boys (and Rosie) in England and today I received a lovely cookery book from Rosie here in France.

It’s a book I’ve had my eye on since we went into lock-down. Baking School The Bread Ahead Cookbook. There was a sigh of resignation from Nigel when I opened it (“not another baking book he’s thinking, please no more sourdough”) but his eyes lit up when I told him it’s not just about bread. There are also recipes for doughnuts, cakes, cookies, bagels, shortbread and a rather nice looking lemon polenta cake that even he rather fancies.

It came to my notice at the beginning of lock-down. Bread Ahead is a bakery in London’s trendy Borough Market. Every day at 3pm on Instagram there have been live demonstrations on how to make something. I watched a few of them and that’s what sparked my interest. I made the grissini a few weeks ago that we both enjoyed and have continued to follow them with interest.

Not just me though it seems. Thousands of followers joined the baking bandwagon and it was nigh impossible to order their cookbook. Rosie clearly made a mental note and now that it has come back into print, she bought me a copy for Mother’s Day.

I decided to have a second go at making sourdough baguettes today. Now Nigel DOES like them. Mostly because he can pinch a bit as he walks past (which you can’t do with a big loaf). They’re quite tricky as I don’t have any moulds and they are best cooked with steam in the oven but I’m pretty happy with the result. They have a lovely chewy crust and are dense but soft inside. Perfect for our aperos spread with a little pork rillettes or smoked salmon and crème fraiche.

For lunch we enjoyed a simple tomato salad with some cold meats and a glass of Crémant de Loire from Domaine Leduc Frouin. The tomatoes are coming down in price now and are beginning to taste really good so you really don’t need to do anything with them apart from make a lovely dressing. The lettuce was from the garden (we have loads ready now so expect to see lots of salads on the menu shortly).

A small snooze was in order after lunch. Not because of the wine, just because it’s Sunday, I have nothing to do and why not. It’s Mother’s Day after all.

Early evening we caught up with my parents in the UK by FaceTime. They’ve finished a 1000 piece puzzle and have moved onto the next one. Normally ‘the bar’ opens earlier in their house than ours but on this occasion we had a drink in hand and they didn’t so my Dad soon put that right and we enjoyed an aperitif together. They’re holding up well considering they’ve not been outside the house for months now.

Nigel cooked this evening which was a treat. One of our favourites. Roasted cod on a bed of crushed Noirmoutier potatoes with a sauce vierge (diced tomato, slithers of black olive, chopped anchovy, flat leaf parsley, lemon juice and garlic with olive oil). He then dressed the dish with a drizzle of grapefruit infused olive oil. Two different ways of presenting the dish. Which one do you prefer? The one with the sauce tumbling off the top of the cod or the one with the sauce around the base of the fish?

I love the clean presentation of the one with the sauce around but also the freer look with the sauce falling off the fish.

We had a glass of the Saumur blanc to start with and then moved on to a red from Neive in Italy. Maté 2018 from Sottimano. A family estate since the 60’s, it’s probably most famous for its Barbarescos but this wine is an unusual grape variety, Grechetto. Total production of the domaine is around 85,000 bottles but just 6,500 are made of this wine.

Maté is fermented using natural yeasts for 7-8 days in stainless steel followed by 8 months ageing. It’s unfined and unfiltered before bottling.

Beautiful aromas of rosewater, nuts and spices, almost like nougat dominate the nose. It’s very light in style, almost like a very dark rosé. Perfect with fish and with lovely balancing acidity. Just delicious.