Life in the Loire after lock-down. Weekly update. 30th August 2020.

This week seems to have been a week of eating and drinking. Well no change there you might say. And you’d be right to a certain extent.

We certainly live to eat and love to drink and it’s a big part of our lives. But we haven’t been doing much entertaining of late and this week we did!

The weather is beginning to turn and it begins to feel a little autumnal particularly in the mornings. The sky is still blue and the sun is still shining but there’s a chill in the air as we move towards harvest.

There’s been a little rain. Too little too late in the opinion of the growers. Berries are small and rain at this late stage is always a bit of a worry as grapes take on the water and split. It’s not too serious but something to keep an eye on.

The tomatoes in the garden are coming to an end. Lots still on the vine but most are green so some polenta crusted fried green tomatoes will be on the menu some time soon.

I made another batch of rhubarb compote this week. It continues to push. We might just get one more ‘cut’ before things settle down for the winter.

I love rhubarb. Such an English thing. In compote, in a crumble, with porridge for breakfast, stirred into Bircher muesli, in a cake and this week, in a tiramisu when friends came for dinner on Thursday. More of that later.

My big news this week is that I’ll be following the vintage at Domaine Careme and posting pictures, videos and live Instas on their behalf when harvest kicks off. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get up really close at a time when we would normally be overrun with guests.

September is normally one of our busiest months of the year so we are unable to spend time with the growers (and the growers don’t normally have much time to give either!)

So, there’s a positive to come out of this strange year! Harvest 2020 will be one like we’ve never seen before.

Duck ragout with pasta was on the menu this week (although I was too busy eating to take a photo for once). I was looking for fresh duck legs to cook slowly but as is often the case in France, they were not available the day I went shopping. So – I bought a tin of duck confit.

Duck confit is one of life’s great comfort foods. Duck legs, cooked very slowly in duck fat until practically falling off the bone and then covered with more fat to preserve them. It’s a storecupboard item that I always brought back from France before we lived here and remains a firm favourite today.

There’s nothing more delicious than tender duck and crispy skin served with potatoes cooked in more duck fat. Yes, I know your doctor is not going to recommend you eat this every day but you know the old saying – everything in moderation.

And so, duck was on the menu twice this week. Once in the ragout and then again, served with little roasted potatoes and crispy sage leaves.

The highlight of our week (well my week), was Thursday night when an old friend from my Haslemere days came for dinner with her partner. We’d not seen each other for 15 years. Our daughters were friends at primary school and despite keeping in touch tenuously through social media we’ve really not had any contact since.

What a lovely evening that was. I felt a touch emotional when we saw each other. Sorry, social distancing went out the window just for a brief moment as we had a hug. And we talked and talked and caught up with each other’s lives. We talked of mutual friends and ourselves, our children and our experiences these past 15 years.

French women don’t seem to do things with their girlfriends like we do in the UK (and maybe US and other countries). Perhaps the only thing that I have missed from the UK since we moved to France has been that. Maybe I should clarify that – perhaps it’s married French women? I don’t know.

I’m happy to say that since moving to Noizay, that has all changed. I’ve met some wonderful new friends from all over the world (French, South African, English, American) and we do all sorts of things independently of our spouses! Walking, writing, reading, chatting, lunching from time to time. A supportive network of friends who all look out for each other personally and professionally.

There is a great sense of solidarity around here. 2020 has brought us all closer together and more then ever resolved to help each other.

Our wines of the week were those we enjoyed last night. An amazing bottle of Saumur Champigny from Mathieu Vallée, his 2011 Chateau Yvonne was just fabulous and the pairing of the week goes to Peter Hahn’s Vouvray 2010 that was such a perfect match with our dinner last night we could barely believe it.

Nigel cooked some fresh Coco de Paimpol beans (white beans) with garlic, bay and pink peppercorns and marinated some pork chops with apple juice, sage and olive oil. I simmered some shallots gently for about an hour in apple juice until they were squidgy and tender and the sauce was sticky. The apple juice was sweet but the acidity marked after being reduced, the onions soft and tender and the wine, well it just merged in to the dish like it was meant to be there.

So many people write off ‘sweet wines’ saying they don’t like them. They’re seriously missing out. The 40g of residual sugar in the Vouvray was practically imperceptible. Why? Because it perfectly complemented the sweetness of the apple juice. A drier wine just wouldn’t have worked in the same way.

And so that rounds up our week. A week of eating and drinking, of sharing memories and enjoying a glass or two with each other and our friends.

Until next week. Stay healthy and support the wines of the Loire.