[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #0B0B61;”]Happy Saturday everyone. It’s been a few posts since my last “adventure” so you know what that means? Time for pretty pictures! Everyone say “yay” 🙂 This time I haven’t ventured that far afield – I kept meaning to pay a visit to somewhere exciting but just never got around to it. We went to lunch at a friend’s place last weekend and the weather was fantastic. A crisp autumnal day with a brilliantly blue sky and a bright, warming sun to cut through any chills. I decided that what better than to show you around my local area. I’m very lucky in that there is a forest right next to my apartment so I never have any problem at all when I want my “hit” of nature. The forest pretty much surrounds my town and once you enter it there are a great many paths leading off in all manner of different directions. You can either head straight through and go towards to the bottom end of Versailles, or you can branch off and come out in the smaller towns just outside Versailles, such as Porchefontaine, Chaville or Viroflay. Our trip took us through towards Versailles and it was indeed a wonderful decision to walk instead of taking the car.
I don’t live in Japan, or anywhere surrounded by fantastically beautiful maple trees, dropping glorious red and orange leaves every fall. Around here we have a lot of chestnut trees. The leaves tend to turn from green, to yellow, to golden brown. It’s not quite as vivid as other parts of the world, but when the day is like this it’s no less enjoyable. We were lucky to catch them before any rain-fall. The leaves were loose and crisp underfoot – instead of being slushy and slimy! We spotted some browning ferns bathed in sunlight on an embankment and most impressive of all, as I mentioned earlier, was the sky. You can’t really tell from the photos above because it’s a bit bleached, but looking up, it was this colour:
… and not a cloud in sight! Wandering onwards we came across this sight. They do some logging in the forest each year and always leave the logs stacked up alongside the paths. I never see (or hear) anyone doing anything – these giant piles of logs seem to appear so suddenly, stay for several weeks, and then just as suddenly disappear without a trace. Almost makes me wish I had a house with a fireplace! (What, me? Sneak in to the forest in the middle of the night and make off with giant sackfuls of free, ready cut logs? I’d never commit such heinous crimes!)
Coming out of the forest and crossing over the railway bridge we then enter Versailles. It’s a rather unassuming entrance to the city, compared to the vast tree lined “Avenue de Paris” stretching all the way up from the town of Viroflay right up to the Chateau gates. Following the road down will lead on to one of Versailles’ train stations – “Versailles Chantiers”. This station is mainly served by SNCF trains, with a direct link to Paris’ Montparnasse station, from where you can go south to Bordeaux and other such pleasant places should you like. You can also get to Chartres directly from Versailles Chantiers. A rather beautiful town with a splendid cathedral and an attraction called “La Maison Picassiette”. A house completely decorated inside and out with mosaics made from pieces of glass and pottery. If memory serves it was the life’s work of the artist who lived there – a very memorable sight!
Arriving at our friend’s house I just had to grab a quick photo of this. I find it very funny that no sooner had I finished a whole load of posts on quinces, but then I run across a bush (or maybe it’s considered a small tree?) growing quinces outside his apartment building. Here you go people – this is how quinces look in their natural state. I told my friend this and he announced that he’d be heading down to … ahem… “acquire” these fruits.
Having had a wonderful (and incredibly filling) lunch we wandered back home again. By now the sun was low in the sky and the temperature was dropping a little. I paused to take a picture of the setting sun, and then we hurried on home – encountering two horses with their riders out for a late afternoon exercise on the way!
So, that’s my local forest – I hope you enjoyed looking around. As with my other photos, you can download the full size versions if you so wish – desktop wallpaper or simply to look at in more detail. You can do this on my downloads page. Now on to the recipe though!
Beer bread! Sounds alcoholic and boozy? Surprisingly not. It’s basically a no-knead, no-yeast bread which is incredibly fast to make, makes awesome gifts for people (in it’s un-mixed form) and can be customised about a million and one different ways. The beer acts as a rising agent, along with the baking powder, and gives a pleasant end flavour to the bread. It’s more compact than other breads but so much fun! In this recipe, I used half spelt flour and half plain flour with added grains and seeds. For spices I used oregano, tarragon and cumin, although my wife likes to add cheese and garlic as well. You can even change the beer used. I used a lager, which gives quite a light flavour. Using a bitter or a stout would give an amazingly rich quality to the bread I think, and I’m even going to put this in the “under €1” category because if you buy one of these nasty cheap lagers which is barely worth the can it’s contained in then you can make the whole loaf for about 50 cents! Enjoy 🙂
- 500g Flour (Any flour (or flours!) of your choice
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Baking Powder
- 2 tsp Salt
- Spices/Herbs of your choice (Rosemary and crushed black pepper for example. (Minced garlic and cheese is also excellent))
- 33cl Beer/Lager/Bitter (1 regular sized can)
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. If you’re giving this away as a gift it’s probably best to avoid ingredients which may go off, such as fresh garlic or cheese. Grind up any herbs or spices you’re adding and mix them in. If you want to give it to someone as a fun gift then transfer it to a clean, suitably sized, nice-looking mason jar or similar, with an air-tight seal and then close up. You can then give it to them and say “Hey, stick in a can of beer and bake! Enjoy :)”.
- If you’re not giving it away as a gift though then you’ll need to crack open that beer round about now and pour it all into the bowl with the flour. Oh, you probably want to pre-heat your oven round about now to about 200 degrees Celsius as well!
- Mix well to form a wet dough. (I never tried making a drier dough and seeing what would happen. If you happen to do this, feel free to report back!)
- Take an appropriately sized loaf tin and rub the sides with butter. Transfer the dough into the tin and squish down to fill the corners. Smooth over the top slightly and then place into your pre-heated oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, by which time the top should be a golden brown colour.
- Check it’s baked through by removing from the tin (careful, it’s hot, ouch!) and tapping the underside. If it sounds hollow then it’s good to go. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack and allow to cool before cutting (or just eat it hot!). Enjoy with some butter, cheese, chutney, pickles, cold meats, soup… 🙂