Life in the Loire on lock-down. 23 April. Day forty.

Busy day ahead. My mini-vegetables have arrived, I’m making another sourdough loaf (sorry Nigel) and I have procured a couple of masks.

Did you know that McDonalds has reopened it’s drive through facility here in France? Hundreds of French people have been queuing for hours for a burger? It rather sticks in my throat that big companies like McDonalds will probably come out of this ok while smaller independent local businesses will fall by the wayside. I feel a bit ashamed too. You thought the French had a reputation for eating well didn’t you? Well it seems you were wrong.

Attestation downloaded on my phone, I’m off to Vouvray to collect my mini-veg. I can’t tell you how excited I am. And I know just who I’m going to look to for inspiration when I get them home. Alain Passard, Michelin star chef and veggie expert. We have his book ‘Legumes’. It’s a beautiful book full of wonderful ideas for things to do with vegetables. Many of the recipes are simple and hilariously many of the recipes contain meat (you can’t take meat away from the French!).

So, I’m back and I have my veg. Oh let me tell you they are so divine. I have mini leeks, mini carrots (in several colours), mini navets, mini spring onions, mini beetroot (in pink, purple and gold). Even mini purple artichokes. They are so beautiful it almost seems a shame to use them.

Perfect mini vegetables from local restaurant supplier Le Jardin des Roys

On the way home I called in to collect my masks. Juliette Gidon, Peter Hahn’s wife of Clos de la Meslerie (we drank his Vouvray last night) is super creative and has run up lots of masks on her sewing machine.

It was great to have a chat with them albeit at a distance. Peter is keen to have a go making sourdough so I’m going to give him some of my starter to get going. We stood in the garden outside their lovely home and just for a moment it felt like everything was normal. I nearly left without the masks.

Sewing is not my thing. I absolutely hate it. I don’t have the patience and am all fingers and thumbs. Turning up a pair of trousers has me in a spin and I don’t have a sewing machine anyway. It’s funny how we can have patience for some things and none for others.

I have infinite patience when it comes to cooking. I’ll happily spend hours pottering in the kitchen, making perfect pasty cases, chopping, dicing, sweating, simmering, piping, icing (less often with the piping and icing, I’m more of a savoury person).

But, give me an instruction booklet, and I can go into meltdown within minutes. When we replaced the landline a few months ago it took me weeks to sort out how to record a message on the ansaphone. And as for assembling furniture (yes Ikea I’m talking about you), forget it. I have to pass on that and let Nigel do it.

Now, he has infinite patience for things like that. He gets all his screws and washers and nuts in little piles placed strategically on the floor. But give him the computer – he has little patience with that. Guess that’s what makes the world go round. We’re all different thank goodness.

Running a little behind with my sourdough prep. My errands this morning meant that Sally starter was falling fast when I integrated her into the flour so hoping that will be ok. It’s a full time job making sourdough bread. Still I feel a little more confident this time round (famous last words) and will endeavour not to turn out a pork pie this time (mental note to self “don’t get too carried away with the cuts pre-baking”).

So the afternoon was spent folding my dough north, east, south and west, leaving for half an hour and repeating. By 18h00 it was looking pretty good. Wobbly when shaken with a nice amount of bubbles at the edge. Time for shaping.

It looks so easy on other people’s videos. You just repeat the folding and then ‘tighten’ it up into a nice ball (eyes roll to the ceiling). Chance would be a fine thing. It doesn’t ‘tighten up’ into a nice ball, it sticks to the work surface and once again, I’m struggling to get it into any shape at all let alone a nice tight ball. I think I need to make a less sticky dough. Or use water instead of flour (taking advice from ‘Bake with Jack’). Eventually I managed to lumber it into its floured basket where it can recover from the abuse overnight.

Nigel was in the kitchen again tonight and prepared a lovely light summer dish of poached chicken breast with asparagus, broad beans and some of the perfect baby radishes that came in my panier earlier. A light dressing of white balsamic, mustard, dill, mint and cream finished the dish. It was delicious but I’d say it’s more of a lunchtime dish.

Poached chicken with asparagus, radish, broad beans and a creamy herb dressing

The real success of the day was the wine pairing. It’s not that often that you feel you really get it bang on. We served a Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine des Corbillières. It’s a Touraine Oisly, an appellation within Touraine created in 2011 for Sauvignon Blancs. Oisly is a village (one of several included in the appellation) and has long been considered one of the best terroirs in the region. Les XVI rangs 2017 (the 16 rows) is just that – a wine that comes from just 16 rows of 54-66 year old vines planted on a sandy gravel on clay soil. Aged for 16 months on its lees, it’s a beautiful wine. Elegant, sappy and herbal with delicate fruit and freshness. It was a perfect match with the herbs and asparagus in the dish.