The seasons have officially changed and autumn is here. September passed by very much under the star of transition in our home. From lazy summer days and everyone being home to a new and busier every day routine. My days now start before the sun has risen. Getting the boys ready for school and nursery, around the kitchen table for breakfast and sending them out the door. And then settling in behind the desk and starting my work day. So from the first moments of each day, it's full on.
Since the mornings here are often grey and gloomy, I want to make sure that breakfast is more nourishing and filling than during warmer and sunnier times. I like to make sure that the boys are properly full and ready to take on their day before Jean-Pierre leaves for the morning school run with them. So we usually have oatmeal with honey, cinnamon, bee pollen, apple compote or jam. The boys love dried fruit so we usually add dried cranberries, apricots or anything we happen to have. Me and Jean-Pierre will have our morning coffee, black for him, with milk, sugar and cinnamon for me. Bertrand will have warm milk with honey, cinnamon and a teaspoon of unsweetened coco powder. And Aurélien will have some bread or banana, as a social courtesy to us, since he has already had his morning milk.
One great things about working from home is that I can spend every spare minute I happen to have in my kitchen. So preparing dinner is something I can get done during lunchtime. One of my favourite things to prepare and eat around this time of the year is stew. The great thing about stews is that you can make a big batch of it and it will get better with every time you heat it up. Stews also pretty much take care of themselves. So I can get the stew started and get on with my day. All you have to do is chop up the ingredients, put them in a pot and let them do their thing. The stew I´m sharing here is one of my favourites as it uses red wine base stock, making it perfect on a cold and rainy autumn day. And cooking with red wine is always like aroma therapy, making the whole house smell cosy and delicious.
Red wine stew with orecchiette
1 bottle/75 cl of red wine
1 tablespoon of butter
500g of mushrooms
200g orecchiette pasta (or another small pasta)
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or dried)
2 bay leaves
2 cubes of stock (I used chicken but you can use vegetable of beef)
Salt (to season at the end, depends how salty you prefer )
2 tablespoons of flour
Peel and chop the shallots and carrots. Roughly chop the mushrooms, carrots and potatoes (I don´t bother peeling them). Soften the shallots in a pot over a low heat until translucent. Sprinkle with flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the red wine, all of the herbs and crumble in the stock cubes. Mix together and then add the chopped vegetables. Pour in enough water to cover the vegetables and cook with the lid on for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 15 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the lid to let the sauce thicken. Check how much time your pasta needs for cooking and add it right before everything is ready. So for me 9 minutes before the end, I added the orecchiette. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Goûter in France is like teatime for children. Usually enjoyed between lunch and dinner, a time to indulge in some little cakes, biscuits, fruit and yogurt. Now, I am an adult but I have always enjoyed, and often needed, a little pick-me-up before the end of the work day. Usually, just before finishing work for the day and before picking up the boys, I take a little pause to relish the last of peace and quiet around the house and treat myself to something sweet and a cup of coffee. Another cosy comfort dish for this time of the year is my all time go-to apple recipe - apple crème fraîche tart. It´s rustic and easy to make and always disappears one slice too soon. It's perfect for dessert, goûter or even breakfast, if there happens to be any left. I love preparing this in the evening when the boys are asleep. That way it gets to cool and set in the fridge until the next morning and I can be sure that there will be some for breakfast.
Apple crème fraîche tart
1 sheet of shortcrust pastry (I used already rolled out)
3 apples (peeled and chopped into small pieces)
400g crème fraîche or sour cream (full fat)
3 tablespoons of cane sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of white wine or lemon juice
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
Blind bake the sheet of pastry for 15min at 180°C. Same time peal and chop the apples and mix with all the other ingredients in a bowl. Once the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven, add the prepared filling from the bowl and put it back in the oven for 40 minutes. Let it cool down and set completely before serving. I like to put it in the fridge to speed up the process.
After dinner time and once the boys are finally asleep, I like to make myself a cup of something warming and seasonal to end the day in a calm and relaxing way. As the flu season is upon us, an unnecessary addition to the global health risks already going on at these times, I like to have something warming and with ingredients that boost my immune system. My choice of drink might differ from night to night, so it might be elderberry and echinacea tea with almond milk, chai tea with almond milk and honey or if I´m feeling really under the weather, my golden milk. The ingredients are known to support and boost immune system and it´s thoroughly warming from the inside out.
Ingredients (for 1 cup):
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
A pinch of black pepper
A pinch of cardamom
A sprinkle of bee pollen
Over medium heat mix together all the spices in a cup of milk of your choice (I usually use almond milk). Stir constantly and let it come to a simmer but do not boil. Add honey for sweetness, if preferred.