Our year in France has come to a close. Having struggled so hard with their French school, making friends, coping with the language and the four-course lunches, the twins finally came back to Blighty, to their Grandma, they missed her close proximity, as did I.
After suffering four days of excruciating pain, tension and frustration, he finally let go and accepted his fate. Day five saw him arise, tablecloth around his waist, tea-cup in hand, “any cake left?” he enquires.
After the earlier rains rotted all the sweet dark cherries, I turned my attention to the other cherry trees in the garden. They held a smaller, very red cherry. The French call these cerise originel, the Yanks sour cherry and we often refer to them as the morello cherry.
Nothing can be more fulfilling than preparing a feast of epic pleasure for your dearest and oldest friends. To lay a table with glasses, flowers, champagne and evening sunshine.
To present the ones you love with rich, simple tastes, to spoil them with fresh seasonal flavours and to sit together and toast your 30-year friendship with laughter and memories. What could be sweeter than simply being together under a star packed sky.
A dish of perfectly juicy and roasted quail teamed with baked aubergine, tomatoes and local goats cheese, sets off the main course. The quail marinated in crushed garlic, herbs de provence, salt and pepper and oilve oil for as long as you have – pan roast the tiny birds so they become golden and crisp – roast them off in the oven for a little time – constantly check them to keep them pink and juicy. Place the sliced aubergines in a dish, drizzle them with olive oil and anoint with S&P, bake in a hot oven for twenty minutes before placing the sliced tomatoes and crumbled cheese on top – roast again for another ten minutes until all is caramelised and soft A rich red poured into deep glasses to drink with. The time gentle floats around you as you savour each mouthful and smile with your luck.
A good ripe Coulommiers camembert, a super poky roquefort and a hard pourtalet, the last of last autumns creamy walnuts and a juicy pear make for the perfect cheese course.
Hours later, the sun has well set, the stars, planets and satellites course above our heads, the wine and food has left us mellow and at peace. Finally we finish with a plate of roasted nectarines – dusted with cinnamon and served with a generous spoonful of creme fraiche mixed with natural yogurt, icing sugar and fresh vanilla – adorning them. We have feasted like kings and we are at peace with the world – all is good and we are blessed with this moment.
June has been awash, literally, with lashings of rain, buckets of sunshine then lashings of rain. The guests have poured south and it has been back-to-back entertaining.
The washing line has groaned under its weight of duvet covers, sheets, towels and pants. Every night for nigh on a month we have dined like rich, gluttonous lords. The wine has been swimming, the cheeses oozing, the salads crisp, the meat roasted and juicy, the melons fat and swollen and the gout ready to make an appearance.
Despite the sweat and hard work involved in having fun 24-7, several bottles of sweet refreshing elderflower have been made, and consumed.
Fortunately the sour cherry crop is fabulous, though nearing its time now, their sour sweet almost over-ripe taste is divine. The sour cherry jam produced is a thing of beauty, its crimson jelly sweet and dripping off the finger the fat cherries sitting on top glistening like sweet red lips. Several kiln jars of sour cherry vodka have been rustled up in anticipation of autumn and a glassful of sweet lingering summer memories.
The blooms have been abundant this May, and as the blossom has blown off the trees so has the small buds of fruit taken their place. Cherries, sweet and sour, adorn the branches, small green bumps begin the pears and fat, bright green stumps creep down the branches of the fig.
This is the place where the beautiful people sit on the quayside of the charmed capital, St Martin de Ré, sipping ice-cold glasses of Chablis, whilst dining on plates of fat langoustines glistening in the hot sunshine, their large Chanel sunglasses perched atop their well-coiffured heads, incurably clean, stripy Breton tops and strappy heels slap their well-toned ankles as they artfully glare at one another whilst sucking out the fat, white flesh from their grilled and buttered crustaceans.
In need of fresh salty air and escape from the family head-quarters we flung some trunks, a tent and the children in the car and went in search of our own piece of heaven. At the north of the island we found a small campsite, nestled next to a spectacular beach, seemingly untouched by human hands. We spent several days there holed up beneath some pine trees, the sea just yards away. Every morning and evening the tide went out leaving myriads of rock pools perfect for the children to poke and peer, however the waves were to big for swimming.