Life in the Loire on lock-down. 5th April. Day twenty two.

What do you need after a late night with friends? A cooked English breakfast that’s what. There’s nothing to beat it!

It’s a minor detail that the friends weren’t actually here of course. We feel like they were mind you, judging on the late and rather lazy start this morning.

Beautiful sunshine in the garden greeted us this morning. One, no two, no hang on, three swallows on the line, chirping and darting around. It must be spring. Oh, and a cuckoo in the distance somewhere.

Toasted bloomer with baked beans (yes another tin of the low sugar, low salt ones with the said ingredients being added back by me), grilled smoky bacon and a fried egg. A large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a black coffee. Heaven, and just what the doctor ordered to comfort a rather jaded palate on this sunny Sunday morning.

Our neighbours are clearly having a bbq as I can smell lovely chargrilled aromas wafting through the front door. Mmm, do you think they’d post a sausage through the gate for me?

Even though we’re far away from England we like to keep up with what’s going on at ‘home’. Where is home I ask myself? France has been our home for nearly 14 years now and we love it here. We still have family in the UK though; parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces. They are in confinement too, living through this strange time in a different country and sometimes with a different approach.

The Queen is making a televised address tonight at 8pm UK time. It’s exceedingly rare for her to address the nation and she has only done so on a handful of occasions during her reign (apart from her usual Christmas message). It will be (apparently), a very personal message giving thanks to those working on the front line (the NHS), care workers and those doing essential jobs as well as recognising the difficulties everyone are experiencing as a result of Covid19. She, and the Duke (now 98) are in good health.

Our super healthy fruit cake bars have run out so this afternoon I have tried another new recipe. Lemon bars from Martha Stewart. Seems easy enough and sounds right up our alley. A shortbread base with a super zingy topping made with loads of freshly squeezed lemon juice, egg yolks and a tin of sweetened condensed milk. They have to cool down and go in the fridge so I’ll report back on those tomorrow.

This afternoon I had a go using Zoom. Zoom is an app that allows you to share your screen with different people at the same time. I’m thinking of doing some live wine tastings from here in Loire that you can join in with. I need a bit of time to get the hang of it but it seems relatively easy to use. It would be fun connecting with you all in other parts of the world. I need to find wines that you can find too so we can have a shared experience. What do you think? It was Melissa’s idea. She’s a friend in Texas and her local wine shop imports a large selection of wines from France.

It was sufficiently warm to have our apéro outside in the garden this evening. We enjoyed a beer sitting on the terrace as the sun went down listening to the thud, thud, thud of our neighbour’s youngest son practising his tennis against the wall opposite. I remember doing that when I was young in the garden.

Dinner this evening was one of those what have I got in the fridge kind of meals. I made a chicken pasta bake. One onion finely chopped, a couple of cloves of garlic , half a pack of smoked lardons into a pan with a teensy bit of olive oil.

The rest of the tin of tomatoes (left over from making the daal), 3 little red peppers preserved in oil, a tablespoon of tomato purée, half a teaspoon of dried thyme and oregano.

One big fat chicken breast slicely finely went straight in. I didn’t precook it as I wanted it to stay moist and tender.

Lurking in the fridge for weeks, a tub of Marscapone cheese. I’d asked Nigel to buy me some for a recipe ages ago and he bought twice as much as I needed so it has sat languising at the back of a shelf ever since. There’s only so much Tiramisu I can tolerate.

This was its moment! I steadfastly ignored the use by date on the tub (I know, foolish maybe), and in went two big tablespoons which transformed the sauce into something rich and creamy and comforting.

I cooked (well slightly under cooked) 175g of pasta (can’t tell you the name of the shape but any pasta would do) and stirred it into the sauce. A liberal grating of Beaufort d’Eté (absolutely not a cooking cheese but the only hard cheese in the fridge), a little Parmesan et voila!

After half an hour in a hot oven it came out bubbling, brown and crispy. Very satisfying.

Antoine and Nathalie Leduc’s Anjou Rouge was our wine choice this evening. We’ve been fans of theirs for many years and their wines are amazing value for money. A lovely fresh, fruity Cabernet Franc, typical of the sunny 2017 vintage, ripe and attractive.