Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hailstone storm in October and a recipe for carrot cake

It was a glorious sunny October day, we had just planted our winter lettuces when without warning “cataplun” a loud thunder and hailstone galore everywhere.  It was unbelievable how soon the weather changed from our late Indian summer to a winter storm.

We had to come in because of the ferocity of the storm, but we took advantage to warm ourselves up making a delicious carrot and cinnamon cake with the freshly collected carrots from the garden.   This is a great recipe easy to make and fantastic to get your little ones to eat their carrots.  My little ones love making this cake and usually the cake disappears as soon as it arrives to the table!  

Carrot and cinnamon cake

For the cake you will need:

  • 225g of self raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 150gr dark sugar
  • 150gr carrots
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons of milk

For the glazing you will need:

  • 50g butter
  • 2 tablespoons of orange juice
  • ½ orange rind grated
  • 225g icing sugar

To make the cake, place the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix.  Add the sugar and finely grated carrots.  Add the eggs, then the oil and milk.  Mix well until evenly blended.  You can do this with a mixer or with a wooden spoon. 

Place the mixture in a greased tin and bake in a previously heated oven.  Cook for 40 minutes at gas mark 4. 

To prepare the frosting, melt the butter with the orange juice and orange rind.  Add the icing sugar and mix well until you have a smooth paste.

Once your carrot cake has completely cooled down, swirl the frosting over the cake and that’s it, ready to eat!

Just in case you were wondering about our lettuces… they did survive the hailstone storm. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fun things to do with Children at Royan

Fun things to do with Children at Royan

Royan is one of my favourite places in the French Atlantic coast.  Every time I can, I pack up a few things, get my little ones ready and we go there for a few days.  It is a great place to visit with children as there is always something for them to do.  Even when it is cloudy or rainy we can just have an afternoon at the cinema or visit a museum or exposition.  

However, during sunny summer and spring days, we like to go to the Jardins du Monde, a beautiful park not far from the town centre with lots to offer to curious children and adults.  

Visit the Jardins du Monde

The Jardins du Monde is a beautiful park where you will find:

  • A dwarf goat’s farm: My little ones loved this, I couldn’t get them away from caressing and playing with the dwarf goats.

  • An Orchids tropical greenhouse, the Japanese gardens, the English garden, etc. Enjoy the 18 acres of exotic gardens!

  • A water spring esplanade with fountains spouting randomly, ideal to refresh your little ones during a hot day.

  • A pedal go cart track

  • A live butterfly hot house where exotic butterflies flutter among the visitors.

  • The Bouncy village: a fun area with giant slides, bouncy castles, trampolines and adventure tracks to amuse children and parents alike.

  • Do not miss the bamboo maze.

  • For older children there are remote controlled boats and electric boats trips through the marshes and the park waters.

At night time, when you leave your little ones at home or the hotel you can come back to the Jardins du Monde and enjoy the party at the Butterfly bar, an open bar in the heart of the Jardins du Monde park, open every night during July and August and during the weekends on May and June.

For more things to do in Royan you can check my Family holidays in France article on HubPages.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Growing raspberries

Raspberries are very easy to grow as they are tolerant to most types of soil. You can grow raspberries on open ground or in garden pots. Once you have planted your first raspberries there is very little to do but to water them. I usually just let mine thrive for themselves in the garden during autumn and winter and start pruning them in January. I have never applied any fertiliser to my raspberry orchard, it looks like just keeping the old branches and mulch of rotted leaves on the surface of the soil surrounding the bush is enough to keep them going. Once the warmer weather starts showing I just water my raspberry plants when necessary –which is not very often.

Once the fruit starts to show, that is when your work starts and you need to start watering regularly to slowly see your fruit swelling. Raspberries are very thirsty, so make sure that you keep them well watered.

Raspberries are best left to ripen on the tree. Only harvest your fruits when they are ready to eat. Pick individual berries carefully, preferably leaving the white “plug” on the plant -only if the fruit is ready it will detach easily from the white plug. Eat them on the same day or keep them in the fridge for eating the day after. Raspberries start to deteriorate very quickly once they are harvested.

Easy Raspberry Recipe:  Crowdie
This is an easy and delicious traditional mixture of oatmeal, raspberries and cream which I learnt to make from my Scottish period.
It only takes about 10 minutes to make and even less to eat! 
You will need:
  • 50g. medium oatmeal
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of good whisky
  • 225g fresh raspberries
To prepare this delicious and easy to make raspberry dessert start lightly toasting the oatmeal under the grill.  Make sure it gets a golden colour and it doesn’t burn.  Once the oatmeal is toasted put aside to cool down.  
In a deep bowl, whip the cream until is firm and then add the icing sugar and whisky.  With a spoon slowly mix in the cream most of the raspberries and the oatmeal.  
To serve place in individual glasses and decorate with the remaining raspberries.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Free French Classes

On September the 5th I’ve started my new free French classes in my local Licée.  The French classes are part of the program of national education.  The classes are aimed to adults who want to learn French as part of the GRETA structure. 

For those not familiar with the educational system in France, the GRETA is part of the national adult educational system.  Greta prepares adults for most jobs based on the local economy; you can do a whole diploma or just a single module.

Greta offers free  French classes, but they also offer English classes for the French and a few other free subjects like logical thinking.  If you want to take part in a Greta program near your area you’ll need to find the nearest Greta address to your home.  The classes are free of charge but the number of students per group is limited to the number of subventions given to the program by your local authorities.  For example for this semester, my French class is limited to only 14 students.  Anyone else who wants to take part in the class will need to pay its own fees or wait until the next semester starting in January 2012.  The number of places available varies from semester to semester and sometimes the classes are separated in different levels so you can take a beginners, intermediate or advanced class, according to your French abilities.

For more information in French about GRETA you can visit their official site in de Indre region. 

Free French classes are not easy to find in small towns and villages in France, that is why the Greta program is so good.  Also, the French classes are very flexible in the sense that they try to accommodate to the students’ level of French and their main interests for learning the language.  This is the second time I am part of a Greta class in my area.  The first time was a few years ago, when I just arrived to France and all I could say was “oui” and “merci”.  Now my level of French has improved but I am coming back to the classes because I feel that now I need to learn to properly write in French.   Hopefully, by the end of the year, I will notice some improvement!

At Chateauroux, Châtillon, Argenton, La Châtre... Get more information on the Espaces Libres Savoirs du Greta about all the courses financed by the regional councel.  There are also the visas Centre on: éco-citoyens, Internet, bureautique, languages and-tourisme.