Thursday, 25 June 2015

Let's take peek over the garden fence into an expat kitchen garden in Charente - for 99c #RPBP

Hello and welcome to Sarah Jane's secret garden!
Yesterday, sitting with Dave and Buster in the garden, I remembered how busy my garden and my kitchen was in the summer of 2013. As the summer weather gives some of us the opportunity to get outdoors it's a great time to share the foraging recipes and funny stories from my French kitchen garden.
Described as 'an amazing and insightful culinary memoir that is a keeper for summers to come' it's now just 99c/99p. So enjoy and eat well, frugally!l

Extract from Chapter 5 - June
As the sun continued to shine, and June arrived, while harvesting my peas I was informed by AndrĂ© and Yvette that my haricot verte (green beans) should be in the ground by now. After months of me being the first to plant and harvest crops, I was now the one who was behind schedule. How did that happen? And why must I call them haricot verte even though they are green beans? Apparently it’s just the way it is here in France, I can call all the other vegetables by their English names but not these beans. I wondered if this had something to do with the numerous varieties of beans, as I remembered as a child that my grandmother always called them French runner beans. On Yvette’s daily inspections of my vegetable patch, she admired my flags that marked and named the rows. For some of the plants, which she recommended, I translated my English labelling into French for which she would give me the thumbs up if it was correct. This was indeed an honour because Yvette speaks ‘patois’ or old French which is thought to originate from rural regional dialects. I wasn’t sure if there was a special way to write this as I couldn’t find any guidance on it. Either way she obviously understood the words. At last I was making some progress with the language, even if it was only in writing it!

The second planting of leeks took place in the area where some of the lettuces had been. The soil is getting richer and improving in drainage with each planting of the various above and below ground crops. On the 10th June, we harvested the first crop of beetroot. I deliberately harvested them while they were small to medium sized as I didn’t want to risk them developing a flavourless, woody texture as I intended to pickle them. We have always enjoyed baby beetroot which are delicious with salads or sandwiches any time of year therefore I was eager to preserve as many as possible. 
My first garlic plait of 2013
When the girls were young, I used to plait their hair every morning for school just as my mum had done for me when I was a child. Therefore, I did not anticipate any issues with plaiting some dried stalks of garlic. Naive? Most definitely. I sat on my fluorescent green plastic chair in the garden with my box of garlic. I knew what I wanted it to look like, but my mind was completely blank as to how to achieve the layered garlic look with no straggling stalks. After a few failed attempts, I resorted to some internet research. I read and reread the instructions that reminded me of reading a Haynes car mechanic manual; it made no sense to me at all without the pictures. So after some further research I found a YouTube video and then I was ready. 

 In very basic terms you take the three largest bulbs and lay them on a flat surface, you plait the three stems as you would hair to about one inch in length. Take a new bulb and lay it in the centre beneath the middle bulb and add its stalk to the plaiting. Plait again for one turn then add a new bulb to the right, plait again then add a bulb to the left and continue. And so it continues adding one bulb at a time centre, right then left keeping the braid tight. If any of the stalks snap then a simple trick is it to tie a piece of garden string around the plait above the break. Then tie it to the broken off stalk and then continue to plait incorporating the end of the string to keep it looking tidy yet secure. It sounds quite horrendous when you try to write or explain it, but in reality it’s quite easy once you get started. 
Our Frugal Summer in Charente is available at:
It's also on the subscription service Scribd - which offers a 30-day free trial.
If you prefer a paperback it's only £3.99 -