Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baked New York Cheesecake

Bonjour ETD Peeps! 

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post – I’ve been letting Gaffa take the reigns of the blog for awhile... even though I was a tad bit saddened by his recent rabbit post... :(

During our time at the Chateau in St. Ferriol, France, I’ve had the chance to bake some  very delicious cheesecakes! Queen Sophie is a huge lover of cheesecakes – who isn’t? Before she even met us, she checked out our blog and saw my Oreo Cheesecake post. I think that’s what sealed the deal for her letting us come stay! 

The first cheesecake I made for her to try was of course the Oreo Cheesecake. Queen Sophie was a bit alarmed by the number of calories in it (not sure exactly how much, but LOTS is an understatement!) But it went down well and even better with Prince Guilhem who yearned for cheesecake every night, so much that it was used as a good bargaining chip. “If you don’t do this, then no cheesecake for you!” Gotta love bribery!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lapin, Lapin

Bonsoir, Mes Amis!

Bienvenue à une nouvelle journée trépidante avec nous ici en France, ses amis et disciples de Mangez.Voyage.Plongée.

This week has been filled with lots of work outside, lifting huge old lumps of stone, digging holes, plus cleaning and clearing junk in the cellar.  Most importantly I’ve been getting the chance to get stuck into lots of cooking, and kitchen fun-times.

I’ve had a go at anything foodie that’s come my way, and I’ve learnt so much about cookery on my travels – the journey from single guy eating pre-made box meals to making my own meals and having cooking fun with the wonderful Winnie has been so cool.  Today I want to share with you my first attempt at butchery.

Whilst shopping for new and exciting local ingredients an incredible idea popped into my head:

“...POP - French & Versatile!...”

Yes! French and Versatile; I would pick a cheap seasonal meat (fresh from the hunt) and combine it into one of my tried and tested versatile cooking recipes…One thing I had to change was herb/spice choices and a different local wine, since we are in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.  On requesting a local deal on meat at the local supermarket charcuterie, I was given a challenge/new option: Rabbit.  It had been skinned, and I would need to butcher it myself.

“…Challenge: Butcher My Own Rabbit & Cook It…”

So, With a Rabbit and a bottle (or two) of Languedoc “La Clappe” in our groceries, I headed to the chateau’s herb garden to pick some fresh home grown yummies to complement our ex-bouncing, carrot munching fluff-ball…I went for some bay leaves (aka Laurier in France) and a sprinkling of seasoning and paprika.

Nimbus & Gucci - The Ones that got away...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weaving Willow & Hazel

Bonne Journeé!

Hello readers of Eat.Travel.Dive. - Back in the loft in Carcassonne, relaxing and enjoying the cosmopolitan vibe; I’ve just had a lovely hot chocolate with Chantilly cream and toasted almonds whilst sitting in La Place de Carnot. 

I am going to talk about weaving willow and hazel.  I’m going to post this here, and link it to the Queen Sophie’s Chateau facebook page also.  I reckon a few more hits onto their page might inspire more people like us to offer our services/experience/professional skills in exchange for a cultural working experience plus an opportunity to travel more (which we all love, right?).  PLUS it’s a pretty interesting project to renovate a Medieval French Chateau – maybe in the strangeness of this universe, you might see an opportunity for you?

“Why would a diving, travelling foodie want to talk about weaving?”

Well, as we’ve been travelling (especially so during our workaway experiences), Winnie and I have been acquiring new skills that we want to share with you all.  Learning is key, new skills can take us anywhere..but more powerfully, sharing is caring.  Maybe you might want to do some weaving in your garden?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chateau St Ferriol


As I begin this post its Sunday morning 10am and we are sitting in our cosy gîte, listening to the church bells ring out..dong..dong…. 

We’ve just indulged in some fresh pain, fromâge, pâte, some delicious patisserie all topped off with a lovely local café espresso.  As we sit here, basking in the beauty of our surroundings, we feel disconnected from the hectic world yet strangely connected to a deep seeded sense of community.

Where are we?  Well, my fellow Eat Travel Divers, we are in France.  Not just touristic, cosmopolitan France from the glossy magazines.  Oh no.  We are in rural, traditional France.  
Quaint Esperaza's Boulangerie
Winnie and I recently decided to take our travels back on the road once more, but in the true spirit of travel and contribution we are doing this trip a little differently.    Whilst staying in Edinburgh we met a couple of Aussie girls who told us they had been working on a farm in Spain, in return for food and accommodation.  This means very low budget travelling, with the possibility of long term exposure to something that most travellers seek – true culture and the essence of being part of something bigger.  The girls gave us the web address for the organisation responsible for this opportunity, told us that you join with a small membership fee and you can contact (or be contacted by) potential hosts for the locations that interest you.  Workaway is a great idea.  It enables you to really try anything that is in your imagination, thus helping you plan and execute the travel that you always wanted.

The French Connection

So, after the issues and experiences of Egypt, plus the highs and lows of family borne-politics in the UK, Winnie and I are here in France.  We are enjoying every second of an experience that is really honestly priceless.  So, here’s the low down on what, where and how.
Fromage, Pate, Jambon et Pain

We were contacted by a very cool lady, who we shall call Queen Sophie.  Queen Sophie is the owner and controller of a lovely Chateau.  Chateau Saint-Ferriol is located in a small village called Saint-Ferriol, which is 60 minutes south of Carcassone.  
This is rural countryside; rolling hills with grape vines, olive groves.  This is a location where everybody knows everybody else, where food is an integral part of life – where the local boulangerie, charcuterie and farmers can sell their produce straight from the source.  This morning we were up at 7am, and were greeted to the welcoming smells of local meats being cooked, herbs and spices and so much more… aromas that tantilised me from my slumber and out into the main square.  We are 10 minutes from the Chateau, staying in a private and uber cosy gite.  This is similar 

to a small 3 floored town house.   Our gîte is situated in Espéraza, and a hot spot for farmers markets.  Ok, back to the chateau.  It is an ongoing project to say the least.  It is circa 1500 medieval French.  It is big, is very handsome and like all handsome things…it needs work, time, love and careful renovation.  The chateau is a monster, and Queen Sophie has been living and working on this since 1997.  She and King James have recently added to their family.  Their son, Prince Guilhem is a polite and excitable 3 and a half year old, always willing to get stuck in!  Two other fairly major elements of this whole set-up is the two awesome “Standard Poodles”, named Joy and Esther.  Between the workload of the chateau, life with a 3 year old and lots of dog walking, our hosts are pretty tired.  It’s a nice feeling for us to be contributing to something bigger than ourselves.  To assist on a project on such a grand scale, to remove the load from them is awesome…and remember, we’re doing it for food, accommodation and to experience life in this amazing place.
Café Espresso avec chocolat
Now, as you can imagine the work here is varied.  So far, we’ve been involved in everything from cleaning and organising, to babysitting, to digging trenches and learning new skills.  This blog post has stretched itself over the past week…and it is now Tuesday.  We’re in another gîte, this time a more cosmopolitan version located in Carcassonne.  We’ve been working hard in the chateau and Queen Sophie needs our help in this place, assisting in some redecorating and refurnishing….bring on the local Markets!  (Winnie will love that).  Anyway, more on that later.

So what I would like to do is tell you all about some of the amazing things I’ve learnt this week.  In my usual manner, I will blog about each in some level of detail and take photos!  Here’s what I plan to discuss:

  1. Chateau Saint-Ferriol Ground Keeping
  2. Herbs – how to pick and grow them
  3. How to prune Willow Trees
  4. Weaving Willow & Hazel to make structures (raised flower beds)
  5. Traditional Cobbling with “Pierre-Grilles” the Builder
  6. My First attempt at Butchery – Rabbit
  7. Rabbit & French Red Wine Stew with Rosemary & Paprika Dumplings (Versatile Cooking)
Teaching Winnie to cook
Expect more, but that is a glimpse of the past few days for Winnie and I.  If you want to see more about the workaway website, or the chateau check out the links I added above.  

This trip ranks as one of the best experiences for me - so glad we decided to get involved with this.  I sit here with cuts on my hands, and a smile on my face.  We’re honestly working hard, and enjoying every second. 

St Ferriol Chateau
Esperaza Gite

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

To all of our ETD Readers! Hope your New Years Eve celebrations were fun filled. Gaffa and I decided to see the new year in quietly... We stayed in, watched movies, played on the Wii and had Chinese take-away for dinner (Gaffa misses my Mum & Dad's cooking!)

No Matter What... Be Happy!
So what are all your 2012 New Year's Resolutions? 

Team WINGAZ's 2012 Plan:
- Get back in shape and improve it
- Only do things when we're ready to
- Decide on future career paths
- Don't let the f*#kers get to us
- Say no and live by our own rules
- Smile even when we're not feeling so good

2012 is the year of the FLIPSIDE for WINGAZ, now it's OUR turn to do things our way, by our rules without interference from any external factors. Just US!

We hope that 2012 is a safe and happy year for you all. And may it bring you all the successes and achievement that you all hope for.

Why not start the new year off by subscribing to this blog if you haven't done so already. Then you can get up to date emails whenever we publish a post. Just enter your email address in the top right box and confirm the email that gets sent to your inbox. You never know, we could inspire you! But more importantly, knowing that we have readers who are actually interested/enjoying our stories and updates - inspires us to keep going. So leave us comments, it's good to hear your thoughts.

Success is just a measure of how hard you try to succeed...have fun trying!
Make this year your year. It doesn't matter if you win, lose or completely mess it up. What matters is that you tried. Give it your best shot! 
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