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Eating a la Mode

With Vivienne Bolton
In this section of the French News Online "Lifeslyle" Section, craft and food writer Vivienne Bolton shares favourite seasonal recipes based on what's out there now in local markets.

Fresh ingredients at open air markets in France
Buy it fresh on France's country wide open air markets,
and often straight from the local farmer

Today's Recipes

Christmas Gifts from my Kitchen

Toulouse violets
Toulouse Violets

Special Treats for Christmas
I regularly thank the good Lord that to survive I must eat - little gives me as much pleasure as food, and Christmas being the time of giving I have spent time in my kitchen preparing special treats.

I have made boxes of Violet Creams, bags of Parmesan Crisps, Candied Orange Peel and various curds, jellies and marmalades. ..... here are recipes for just a few tasty treats.

Violet Creams in a Guilded Box
Violet Creams are one of the many homemade feminine extravagences that make life worth living.

Melt-in-the-mouth, delicately fragranced and deliciously sweet and incredibly simple to make, if you haven't tried one you need to! This year I have made Violet Creams galore - I have made little boxes from guilded watercololur paper for all my girlfriends and my daughters.

To make the Violet Creams sift 225g icing sugar into a bowl, add an egg white and 4 drops of essence of Violets. Mix to a good paste and set aside to rest (about 10 minutes). Dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out the paste to about a centimetre in thickness. Cut out shapes with small biscuit cutters, I prefer simple disc-shapes. Place the cut sweets on baking parchment or greaseproof paper to dry.

Sometimes I add a little violet colouring to the mixture but this year I have roughly gilded the dried Violet Creams with edible gold - if you can't get hold of any at this late stage you could consider dipping the sweets in chocolate or leaving them plain, there is nothing wrong with simplicity. To present, place in cellophane bags tied with ribbon or little chocolate boxes.

Candied Orange Peel in Chocolate
Chocolate and orange, if you want to indulge me, feed me orange peel dipped in the darkest chocolate and I will purr!

To make, melt 250g good dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Add 1/2 teaspoon runny honey and stir. Remove from the heat and dip narrow fingers of candied orange peel into the chocolate. Set to harden on a cake rack and serve with a cup of good coffee - or place in a box or bag tied with ribbon!

A Jar of Whisky Marmalade
My Christmas Whisky Marmalade has something of a following!

Marmalade is incredibly easy to make and all I do is add a couple of tablespoons of whisky to each homemade jar, stir well and seal. Once cool I label and wrap for favoured gentlemen friends!

Peel and chop 8 oranges. Slice the rind thinly (or thickly according to your want) and add the juice of two lemons. Place in a saucepan and add water to cover the fruit. Bring to the boild and simmer for a few minutes to soften the rind. Now you need to measure the contents of the saucepan and add sugar, cup for cup. Bring to the boil and keep boiling until set is achieved. To achieve this you will need a chilled saucer and a spoon. After aobut 10 minutes of boiling place a spoonful of the mixture on the chilled saucer, leave for a couple of minutes to cool and if 'set' has been achieve it will wrinkle when your attempt to move it. If not, boil for a further few minutes. When set has been achieved pour the jam into clean jars and stir 2 tablespoons whisky into each jar, then seal. Label and wrap.

So there we have it ........ Christmas is upon us - and I wish you a very merry Christmas ...... I've had a call from my youngest daughter asking me to check supplies of Grenadine and raspberries as this year we will be drinking Mimosas - I can hardly wait! (one part Champagne, one part freshly squeezed orange juice, a dash of grenadine and a spoonful of homemade raspberry syrup).

Parmesan Crisps
Simplicity itself .... simply place half-teaspoonfuls of finely grated parmesan on baking parchment and bake for about 6 or 7 minutes at about 160C (or just a little hotter). You will need to experiement to get the temperature and timing right for your oven. Too hot or cold and the crisps taste bitter. Too hot and the crisps burn and are bitter, too cool and the cheese becomes bitter from extended cooking..... but once perfected they are deliciously different!! Pack into cellophane bags for gifts or serve with homemade soup.

Vivienne Bolton

Vivienne is a prolific writer, designer and creator of all manner of things. Her latest book From Mother to Daughter, Traditional Housekeeping for the Modern Home is published by Kyle Cathie and available on Amazon. This book is a useful mix of recipes, household hints, memoir and tradition, warm and homely, packed with information taken from a life’s experience of mothering and country living.

Vivienne Bolton
Vivienne Bolton

Publications include:
From Mother to Daughter: Traditional housekeeping for the modern home

published by Kyle Cathie and available from Amazon by clicking the link.

The Spirit of Christmas: Traditional Recipes, Crafts and Carols
published by New Holland and available from Amazon by clicking the link

Recipes: Vivienne Bolton

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Previous Recipes by Vivienne Bolton - click the image to view recipe
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Cherry Clafoutis
Walnut and Fig Conserve
Fig Pastries
Pumpkin + Lemon Risotto
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Pumpkin Pie
Watercress Potato Soup
Chestnut and Orange Biscotti
Mushrooms & Creamy Sauce
Pear Poached or 'Crumbled'
Chantrelle mushrooms, red peppers and shredded chicken - a warm winter salad recipe - click here
Delicious Jerusalem artichoke recipes - click here to view
French Black Truffle recipes - to view, click this image
To view a recipe
- click an image -
Warm Winter Salad
Jerusalem Artichokes
French Black Truffles