La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France. We chose it while on the road, moving home, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, that is back in Ireland.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stuffed Roast Tenderloin of Pork, Mashed Potatoes and Fondant Celeriac

Nothing added,  just the recipe.  I prepared it for 2 and had leftover pork, nice cold for lunch.

Stuffed Roast Tenderloin of Pork

  • Piece of pork tenderloin +/- 500 gr
  • Minced pork 150 gr
  • Minced beef 150 gr
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 1 small apple peeled, cored, grated
  • Sage leaves 2 or 3 (depending on size) chopped finely, except one.
  • 1 egg or a gluck of olive oil
  • Handful of breadcrumbs
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg
  • Some slices of streaky smoked bacon
  • Mix the minced meat, onion, apple, chopped sage, seasoning, breadcrumbs and egg or olive oil together.
  • 'Butterfly' the pork and stuff with the mince.
  • Roll as tight as possible and stick your whole sage leaf on top.
  • Wrap the streaky bacon around it and if you're smarter than I am, you will tie it up with some kitchen twine (cotton string).  My roast kind of fell apart, but it didn't take away from the flavour.
  • I made this on top of the cooker, so take pan , pour in a little olive oil and add a knob of butter.
  • Sear the meat on all sides and turn the heat lower, add a drop or two of water and put the lid on.  Leave to simmer for about 45 minutes. Check regularly, it shouldn't run dry. If it does, add a bit more water.
  • Take from the heat and let it rest, covered under some tin foil.
  • The meat juices can be used for gravy.
This roast could also be made in the oven, of course

Fondant Celeriac

One whole celeriac might be just too much for this recipe, but you can cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge for some time. There are plenty of wonderful dishes to be made with celeriac on another day.

  • 1/4 celeriac, peeled
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Knob of butter
  • 25 cl vegetable stock
  • Sprig of thyme
  • Seasoning : salt and black pepper to taste

  • Cut the celeriac in 2 cm thick slices, you can also cut them into 5 cm diam. discs with a cookie cutter, if you wish.
  • In a pan or pot heat up the olive oil and the knob of butter.
  • Spread the celeriac out on the bottom of the pan and slightly brown on both sides.
  • Add the thyme and vegetable stock.  Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes until cooked al dente.
  • Any leftover liquid can be added to the juices of the meat for your lovely gravy.
  • If your stock had already salt in it, you maybe don't need to add any more. 
Now, if you need a recipe for mashed potatoes, you can ask me nicely and I might put it up for you.  I added olive oil to mine, chopped parsley and grated nutmeg.

Just cut thick slices of the meat and arrange 1 or 2 on the plate.  If you really want to be fancy you can use a mould for the mashed potatoes and put a disc of celeriac on top, but it is not a necessity. Drape your gravy onto the plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper.

Forgive me the quality of pictures, but sometimes, just sometimes I like to eat my food while it's still hot and then I have no patience for taking artistic shots.

Recipe in Dutch will be added soon.
Recept in het nederlands volgt later.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Butternut Squash & Sage Lasagne

When I take to the road in the car, all of twice a week,  I have noticed since moving back to Belgium, that from August onwards every blummin' house  has pumpkins lying near the front door as decoration.  It makes me want to scream !!!  It was never a tradition before I left, 15 years ago.  Most people didn't even know what a pumpkin looked like and only just a few might have made soup out of them once in a blue moon. What has happened ?
I agree that pumpkins can make a great display, but it's not special and it just looks daft and tacky when everyone is doing it.  Never seen anywhere with a bunch of leeks in a decorative fashion beside a front door.
They are first and foremost food, people ! And not just for soups. Don't just waste them on a decorative display that you have to throw in the bin in a month's time.  Yes, in a month's time, because they have been harvested too early and therefore won't keep that long.

I'm feeling better already for getting that of my chest.  Pffft.

Let's tuck into the butternut squash,  just harvested.  Only had 8 sheets of lasagna left in the box, so why not use them for this recipe.

ingredients  this one I prepared for Bert and myself and there were no leftovers - for once.

  • 1 butternut squash,
  • 3 onions
  • a couple of garlic cloves
  • 1 chilli
  • a bunch of fresh sage leaves
  • pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • olive oil
  • course sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • parmesan cheese - freshly grated
  • 8 sheets of lasagna


  • Preheat oven to 250°c
  • Cut the butternut squash in half, length ways, scoop out and disgard the seeds.  Cut roughly in chuncks of a similar size.  No need for taking the peel off as it will go tender.
  • Spread out on a baking tray.
  • Peel and chop the onions, in same size chunks.  Add them to the squash.
  • Throw in some cloves of garlic, unpeeled, they will steam in their peel and you can squeeze them out over the vegetables when they are ready to be served.
  • Finely chop chilli, a few of the sage leaves and sprinkle over the squash and onion.
  • Just  drizzle with olive oil and throw over some sea salt.

  • Put it in the hot oven for around 20 to 30 minutes.  You need to spread the vegetables out and see to it that they are not on top of  each other, or they will steam instead of roast.
  • They will be ready when you can easily stick a sharp knife through the squash. You don't want them too soft, they shouldn't fall apart. They should also have a light brown colour on at least one or two sides.
  • In the meantime bring some salted water to the boil and cook the pasta al dente.
  • In a small pan, heat some olive oil  and fry the other sage leaves.  Scoop out and drain on kitchen paper.  The crisping of the sage goes very quickly, so no distractions, please.

  • When the oil has cooled of a little it can be poured in with the drained lasagna sheets, it'll give extra flavour and a nice shine.

  • Put a lasagne sheet on a plate, then a serving spoon of roasted squash, a sprinkle of  parmesan.  Repeat until you have used up your ingredients. End with some squash, black pepper, parmesan, toasted pumpkin seeds  and not forgetting the fried sage.

Link naar recept in het nederlands

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vegetable Count Autumn 2010

We have a serious problem concerning the garden.  Never do we stay long enough in one place to really enjoy the fruits of our labour.  Now don't take this too literally, because we do have nice crops of whatever we grow.
A garden, even the kitchen garden is an ever evolving process and best results are really noticable when you give it at least a few years of your undivided attention.
Last spring we had a rainwater tank of 5000 liters installed, underground.  Yes, we brought a digger in and moved some earth around. This rainwater harvesting will hopefully see to next year's watering of the vegetables in and around the greenhouse.  We will benefit from it for a good while in early summer, unless we have a scorcher of a summer, like the one past.
Yup, we have a greenhouse ! Not just any old greenhouse !
Ta Da ......

Yes, I know, I know, it looks like we will be starting our own little  Eden Project .
Last February, I started nagging Bert for a 'smallish' greenhouse, just for the benefit of not having all my seedlings in the kitchen, while cats trample over them or just take a snooze on top of my trays with freshly sown seeds.
Bert not being happy with 'any old greenhouse' he trailed the internet to find him one in the shape of a dome.  Now, before Bert makes up his mind, several months pass us by and  when he finaly opted for a supplier somewhere near end of May - by that time, I've had a few months worth of seedlings in the kitchen.....once again.
He ordered his dome shaped greenhouse from the UK, here at Geo-Dome .
As Paul from Geo-Dome makes them to order, we were well into 'high'summer, before Bert and a friend of our's, Marc, collected it with a van.  It comes in kit, but it was remarkably easy to put together and took Bert about two days, all in all.
It isn't 'ready' for full use yet as we want to make raised beds, so fingers crossed that by next sowing season I will be able to do it in the geo-dome.
I admit, I didn't have  too many seedlings, as I used up all my old seeds that I had acquired whilst living in France and I bought maybe a few new packets of lettuce seeds. Some worked, some didn't, but that was fine as I didn't have anywhere yet to plant them out.  Bert made some lovely raised beds with old wooden pallets, which we filled with the soil that had been dug for the rainwater tank and compost.

Earlier in the year I had dug some 'flower beds' and I used every little space I could find to plant some veggies.

Over the summer we've had some yellow patissons (only had one white that suddenly appeared late September), a couple of tomatoes, rainbow chard and lots of salad leaves.

Now that autumn is here we've collected our four mini pumpkins and lovely buternut squashes.

Also a few mini aubergines, they weren't meant to be minis, but they didn't get the best start in life as I rescued a plant that looked so miserable in the Aldi-supermarket, for which still I paid the full asking price of € 2.49

My chillies are still green, because I didn't sow them until late in the season.

Next'll be a succes !
We are lucky, though, that my cousin - I call her Auntie Mia, don't ask - who lives nearby, gives us loads of vegetables that her husband grows so succesfully in their garden.  Hopefully, by next summer I will be able to repay them in kind, you know, some sort of veggie swap.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Carrot Cake

The first time I had carrot cake, must have been in 1995 in Killarney,  Ireland.   Hermans Continental Coffee Shop, a tiny place with about 4 tables and a counter full of baked goodies, located in the Innisfallen Shopping Center. 
Even though the baker, himself, was German, the women serving in the café were full Oirish colleens and it was a quirky kinda place, that we visited every trip to Killarney, after that first time.
I cannot remember, however, if I consciencely chose carrot cake or if I just pointed at what looked interesting at the time.
A good slice of moist, dense texture, with the right amount of  cinnamon, pecan nuts and the most beautiful orange specks of grated carrot.  It was nothing like the cakes I knew from my neck of the woods, that are usually dry, overly sweet and to my mind, uninspiring. 
The cake was in two layers, filled with cream cheese frosting, flavoured with lemon zest.  The frosting was also spread, in a rustic kind of way, over the top and sides.
While living in Ireland, there was no need for me to bake Carrot Cake, ever, because the numerous tea & coffee shops did all the work for me and what I liked most about these places, was that cakes and scones would be homemade and they all looked so rustically gorgeous.
Now, I am dreaming away to The Riverside Café in Sneem.  A lovely mug of strong tea, sugar bowls on the tables, also large jugs of the best milk with a help-yourself-attitude.

Okay, back to the here and now. 
Don't know what happened, but about a month or two ago I suddenly thought about Carrot Cake and I was going to make one

I didn't have to look long on t'internet to come to my favorite website for baking.  The trusted  The Joy of Baking website.  I have used it before for other baked treats and it is very, very good.
So here is the recipe for Carrot Cake , but as per usual I didn't follow it to the letter, I added grated apples that came from our small tree in the garden.  No, just no ! No pineapple !

For the lovely people in the choir I will translate it 'roughly' into dutch.

Worteltjes Cake   Nederlands recept


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chestnut soup and recipes for disaster

Next week will be the first aniversary of my participation in the choir Cantate from Aarschot.
It took me a while to get back into singing after a break of about 6 years, but I enjoy it tremendously. Meeting people and singing together is fun !
One of the issues I have, is that because I spend a lot of my days on my own, with Bert only joining me after his work day and as we all know, he ain't no great conversasionalist, I tend to go beserk when I go to the choir practice and I talk, talk, talk to anyone catching my eye.
Not only do I talk incessantly, but I also show signs of hyper-activity. I start flapping, laughing, joking, acting clumsily, just being an embarrassment, really.
So yesterday evening, the choir had a concert, titled No Depression In Heaven and we performed songs from The Great Depression in the US during the 1920's - 1930's, together with Norbert Detaeye, who is a fantastic jazz-pianist. After the concert the choir had organised a drink and a Bowl of Soup, for which I prepared a Smooth Chestnut Soup.
As I like helping out where I can, I joined a chore group in the morning to prep everything for the reception.
It all looked very pretty, with Lena's gorgeous little flower arrangements and all. Glasses were set out on tables to serve from, beers in the fridge, soups (also included here were Jos's Pumpkin Soup & Tineke's Tomato Soup) in the fridge. We had sweeped the floors, laid nice tablecloths etc. . Perfect !
When we were about to leave, I just kept on rabbitting and not looking where I walked, I ran into the table with the glasses on !!!
The Sound of Breaking Glass ! The feeling that goes through your entire body, filled with dread, humiliation, not knowing if you want to cry or start laughing hysterically.
Lucky for me, my singing companions haven't lost patience with me, ....yet, so they started cleaning up all the mess and in the end only four glasses got broken, even though it looked like the whole shebang got blown to smithereens.
Okay, I can live with one public embarrassement a day, but not two !
This is what happened when the concert had finished. People were already leaving for the reception, still plenty around to notice what I did next.
The venue being a 'modern' church from the 60's/70's, I walked down the steps from the altar and tripped ! No I didn't fall with my knickers on show ! I gripped one of the gold-sprayed aluminium banister uprights of the pulpit instead. Only, it came loose at the bottom end.
Can't really remember what happened after that, it's a bit of a blurr, only know that some sympathetic choir members helped me to regain my balance and tried to slam the upright back into place.
How do you brush yourself off and walk away with your dignity intact, after such a stint ? Should I lock myself up and let someone else throw away the key ?
No, I think I should just take a deep breath before I go and mix with people, take a step back and relax instead of being like an uncoiled spring once I leave my own four walls.
I can but try.

Chestnut soup

I will say this again. This recipe is only a general guidline and if you want to add a bit more of this and less of that, it will still make a fantastic soup.

A splash of olive oil, you can use butter if you like
2 or 3 onions, peeled and chopped
1 or more cloves of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1/4 celeriac, chopped
fresh sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
3 liters of vegetable stock ( I admit using stock cubes - organic from Kallo)
About 250 grams of roasted and peeled chestnuts
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pan, sautee the onion & garlic.
Add the thyme, bay leaf, carrots, celeriac and chestnuts.
Sautee for 5 more minutes, before adding the stock.
Let it come to the boil and let it simmer till the vegetables are soft.
Take of the heat and fish out the woody thyme stalks and bay leaf.
Blend with your handheld blender until the soup is smooth and velvety.
Season with salt & freshly ground black pepper.
I did make an extra topping for the soup based on Delia Smith's recipe for bacon and thyme croutons.
I fried in olive oil some smoked lardons, onion, croutons, loads of fresh thyme, some extra chesnuts (roasted, peeled and chopped), when cooled I added oodles of freshly chopped flatleaf parsley.
Add as little as a tablespoon on top of your plate or bowl of soup. Autumn (or fall) on a plate.
Note : You can also add a splash of sherry, port, brandy or whatever tickles your fancy, to the soup. It gives it another dimension.

As a gesture of gratitude to the choir members for putting up with me this last year I'll be baking a 'carrot cake' for the next choir practice. They won't know what hit them. First chestnut soup, then carrot cake, whatever next !

Nederlandse versie van dit recept

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