Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Home Away from Home

I have come to the conclusion that I am basically a homebody. I like to stay home. I like to cook. I like to walk around our property. I like to sit in a comfy chair and read. I like to spread my "stuff" out. As much as I love to explore the world with Ed, I miss the creature comforts of home.

I think we've hit on a solution – a way for me to feel at home, away from home. On our recent trip to France/Spain we rented an apartment in Paris and a farmhouse near Toulouse. Both were fabulous. Both were far larger than a hotel room and more reasonably priced as well.

I'll tell you about each. Maybe you'll be inclined to try this way of traveling. I know we will again.

In Paris, we stayed in the heart of the Marais district at this apartment, which we rented from airbnb.  From the airport, we took the RER train into Paris, changed trains once, and then walked two blocks to our very own apartment. Here's a photo taken from our living room window, overlooking a private courtyard.

For the next four days, we attempted to live more like Parisians than tourists. Our apartment had a bedroom, living room, small kitchen and bath. It was beautifully (and sparsely) decorated. It was perfect for the two of us.

From Paris, we took a train south to Toulous, where we rented a car and drove about an hour to La Ferme De Boyer, a farmhouse we rented through VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). The owners, Robert and Harriet, live in the converted garage next door to the farmhouse and they couldn't have been more charming and helpful. Since we were arriving late in the afternoon, we dined the first night with the owners, who prepared a wonderful meal that began with Roquefort Soufflés (see recipe below).

The next day we drove into Mirepoix (about 10 minutes away) to shop at the weekly market. We purchased some olives, fresh trout, local asparagus and fava beans as well as a bottle of wine and an apple tart. I cooked our meal in the farmhouse kitchen – something I've always wanted to do.

The next few days we spent driving around the region, hiking in the Pyrénées (in the snow), and enjoying sitting in the garden of our farmhouse.

Once we left our farmhouse, we headed to San Sebastian, Spain. For the rest of the trip, we stayed in hotels – which were just fine, but not as fine as having your own space. I'll save our adventures in Spain for another time.


Harriet at La Ferme de Boyer prepared a lovely dinner for us. We began our meal with a cheese souffle, hot out of the oven. I begged her for the recipe, which she graciously provided.

Our hosts: Harriet and Robert with Dilby, the dog.
I made them this week and was immediately transported back to our time in France. Here's the recipe.

Little Roquefort Soufflés

50g butter (4T)
50g flour (1/3 cup)
300 ml milk (10 oz)
125g Roquefort, crumbled (10T)
4 eggs
300 ml cream or creme fraiche (10 oz)
grated parmesan

Butter 6/8 ramekin dishes. Boil a kettle full of water. Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return to the heat and cook gently for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the egg yolks and salt and pepper.

Whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir a heaped tablespoon into the cheese mixture, then gently fold in the rest.

Spoon the mixture into the ramekins. Place in a roasting pan and pour boilding water into the pan to come 1/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Place in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until well risen and set. Remove from the pan and leave to cool. Turn the soufflés into a buttered ovenproof dish. Chill until required.

To Serve: Pour cream over the soufflés, sprinkle with parmesan, and place in a preheaded 400F oven for approximately 10 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Serve with salad leaves and crusty bread.

Bon appetit!

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