Monday, July 27, 2015

Smoked Chicken with Wild Rice Salad

Smoked Coquette with Wild Rice Salad photo by Mary M Payne

Just because it's hot doesn't mean I have given up on my pleasure for good food.  In fact, I am a great concoctor of salads and put this skill to use  when the weather is blazing.

  I have Monsieur bring home basic ingredients and then I improvise with what he finds. 

I got the idea for this preparation from an old favorite book called Christopher Idone's Salad Days published by Random House in 1989.  

 I didn't really know if I could find a smoked chicken but in fact we did find a fat little "coquelet" (young male chicken) instead.  It made enough for three large servings. 

The principal ingredients for this salad are:

a smoked chicken, 
a cup of wild rice cooked in chicken broth
one bunch of scallions ( often confused in French: onions vertes ou scallion being the most common terminology)
walnut pieces, toasted in butter
dried cranberries. 

sherry vinegar
juice of ½ orange
vegetable oil ( I used sesame oil and olive oil)
"Espelette" red pepper fine flakes

The original recipe called for kumquats, fresh cranberries , oriental sesame oil, hot pepper oil, grainy mustard and a garlic clove.  

I always hate to shop for just one recipe so sorry.... no kumquats or fresh cranberries ( they aren't even cultivated in France) were in the house. 

 I left out the garlic on purpose because I find raw garlic can easily become over-powering and the mustard was unhappily encased in ice in the back of the "frigo" ( but that's another story).

    I put hot pepper from Espelette on the table and Monsieur went for that.  He always likes his dishes hotter than I can stand.  Jack Sprat. 

Wild rice is not really a rice but a grass and I like the way it adds a chewy element to salad.   I also had a bunch of young green beans lying around so I steamed some of those and added them.   And I just happened to stock dried cranberries which added a nice sweet touch ( they always add sugar to them in France).

The trick with the scallions is to slice them and cut them into long strips and then put them in ice water to crisp them up.   And of course, the salad is better if the beans and rice are refrigerated a bit before serving. 

Wild rice and smoked coquelet can be found in Nice at Galeries Lafayette at Cap 3000 and maybe other stores. 

 We found this meal delicious with a cold glass of rose.  Bon Appetite. 

Hottest July ever on the Cote d'azur

It is now 34 degrees ( 93F) and there is a hot wind blowing outside. 
 Luckily the humidity is down today to only 34 percent.  Even at 5h30 in the morning , when Monsieur and I get up to take our exercise, the stickiness is already in the air. 

The local"rag" , The Nice Matin, has reported that the average temperatures for this July on the Cote d'azur is the hottest on record. This has to do somewhat with the fact that the night time temperatures are also high.   The place is not cooling down!

The French are not fond of Air Conditioning in the home ( its expensive, not necessary and can even make you sick) ...but now I think the stores are selling more units than ever.  I know some Americans who are buying them. 

 However, Monsieur and I have stayed French in this matter and have only 3 small fans in our house.  We sit in front of one each and there is one for the bedroom. 

Mostly the locals will say that if you go in the sea in the morning, the cool of the water will stay with you all day.  I think this is true.  However, a few days ago,  in St. Jean Cap Ferrat,  the water was too warm to be refreshing at 2pm ( It did cool off a bit later).

Along with vacation come glitches in the various systems while workers are away and things break down.  My internet has been working only sporadically for the last few days and the water bill hasn't come through even though we paid it weeks ago.  

But hey, its holiday.  Things will work themselves out eventually. 

 And now, I am starting to sound French.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


A glimpse over the garden walls.  Dulwich, photo by Mary M Payne

Although I lived in the London for some months years back,   it was a surprise to me to find an enchanting, leafy enclave only 17 minutes from London Bridge where I was to stay for a visit.   It is called Dulwich village and has both East and West Dulwich included in the area which falls mostly in the borough of Southwark( with parts in Lambeth borough as well).      

 This area to the south of London, has mansion houses,  at least 8 excellent schools ( plenty of kids everywhere in various uniforms) and transport links into both the "City" and central London,  but surprisingly, Dulwich is not just the home of the very wealthy. 

   I learned that the Dulwich Estate, a charity that historically managed the area, (and still owns and controls local development) maintains and owns smaller flats as well as large family homes offered at various price levels.    It was in one of the flats that I enjoyed several London days as guests of my English friends.  

  • 1.  Dulwich Village was first recorded in AD 967 as Dilwihs, meaningdill meadow’.
  • 2. London’s last remaining tollgate is located on College Road. Constructed in 1789, today the standard toll for non pass holders is £1 per single journey. ( is anything one pound anymore?)
  • 3. In the Second World War, Dulwich was hit by many V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets.....a possible explanation being that the British military when announcing V-1 and V-2 explosions deliberately gave incorrect map co-ordinates in an attempt to protect densely populated central London and let the drops fall on the open spaces in the suburbs instead. 
  • 3. Despite its close historical links with Camberwell, to the north-​​west, Dulwich has remained distinct and has long been more exclusive. This is almost entirely due to the role of Dulwich College, founded in 1619 by the actor Edward Alleyn as the College of God’s Gift, which consisted of almshouses and a school for under­-priv­ileged boys
  • 6.  Dulwich Picture Gallery is the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery: it was founded in 1811 when Sir Francis Bourgeois RA bequeathed his collection of old masters “for the inspection of the public”.
  • Rembrandt’s portrait of Jacob De Gheyn III has been stolen from the Dulwich Picture Gallery four times since 1966. It was found every time, once in a taxi, once in a train station, once underneath a bench and last on the back of a bicycle.   

Here is a peek inside and out.    I trust that my friends won't mind if I play "nosey parker" with a few pics.  

Row of houses where I stayed.   Dulwich,  photo by Mary M Payne  

My room was very welcoming....and doubled as a sitting room.  Photo by Mary m Payne

Levitation of favorite reads.  Photo by Mary M Payne

Window tableau with my blue striped reflection by Mary M Payne

Pattern upon pattern handwork: by Mary M Payne

Close up of the beautifully woven traditional Welsh by Mary M Payne

The house with lots of art and the flower and vegetable garden were a treat,  as was the  neighborhood... filled with varied sizes of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses and resplendent with mature trees ( Elms?) 

 Near our house,  I found this reminder of the days when the "stocks" made physical punishment and public humiliation a hoped for deterrent to petty crimes.   That would be 1760. 

Former location of Village Stocks,  " It is a sport to a fool to do mischief to thine own...Wickedness shall correct thee." photo by Mary M Payne
 The short walk to the renown Dulwich Picture Gallery was lush with playing fields, old cemeteries, Alleyn's Almshouses, ( still in use for the elderly) and Dulwich Park.     A few decorous shops and eateries make a comfortable little village. 
Can't stop looking at British pastries....Mary M Payne
 The only thing I could find for the residents to complain about in Dulwich were the annoying nightly visits of foxes tipping the garbage bins.  

So if you ever want to escape the hub of London, head into this part of London, go to the Dulwich Picture Gallery and have lunch there.  Its well worth a visit and you can see a bit of "the green of England" while still in the city.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wordsworth House

Wordsworth House, Cockermouth,  photo by Mary M Payne

When I was a kid I got a break from domestic work each summer .  We children could memorize a poem or we could choose from a list of chores to do that day.   So it is no surprise that I know at least two poems of William Wordsworth  by heart,  "Daffodils" and "Written in March". 

  "I wandered lonely as a cloud" has gotten me through some difficult moments not least of which are are the easing of boring I was happy to find that William Wordsworth's childhood home is in Cockermouth, Cumbria. 

The outside of the house is much more impressive than Bill's father would have been able to afford as agent to a powerful landowner.   But he was given the house to live in as one of the "perks" of working for a wealthy man, Sir James Lowther, or "wicked Jimmy". 

I will try to be brief and not go through the house for you room by room..nothing could be more boring than having it all second-hand. 

  But I will give you a few interesting points.  First of all William was just eight years old when his mother died and only 13 when his father died.  He and his favorite sister, Dorothy were split up and sent to relatives (as were the three youngest boys.)  Later he and his sister wrote fondly of their years in Cockermouth. 

Unlike other children of his time William was allowed to explore freely in the surrounding meadows and rivers.   One can see that the Lake District had a strong influence on some of his greatest work.    Whether he was allowed to do this because his family was more enlightened than families of the 1770's ( or today) or because his mother was just overwhelmed with responsibilities of a house and 5 young children is not known for certain. 

 Other Stuff I learned: 

1. The front rooms of the 12 room house were for  important guests and adults and the five children were not welcome.  They had their own room and parlors to use and the garden. 

2.  The chamber pot was just a few feet away(in a sideboard) from the formal dining table in the dining room ( not shown) so that male guests never need leave their port wine and rum at the end of a meal when the ladies had removed to another room. 

3.  Hens at the time were not selected for egg size and some of these early breeds are being kept on the premises now.   I have a photo of their offerings.  You will note the varied sizes of looks as small as a quail's egg.

4.  The "maid of all work" did the cleaning for the entire house, the fires, shopping and food preparation.  She was the first to rise in the morning and the last to retire.   She was paid the least of three servants having many more duties than the two men servants.

5. It was a habit of the time for the parents to each have his own bedroom. 

6.  The "privy" garden has been designed with the help of archaeologist and researchers to recreate as close as possible the one in which Dorothy and William loved to play. 

7.  There was a clark's room as well. William Arnott was clerk for at least ten years and was paid 20BPS a year.  

8.  Writing was kept as small as possible ( with a quill) on all documents or letters as paper was expensive. Sometimes the paper was used both horizontally and vertically for the same document.

9. When the flood of 2009 came to Cockermouth  the water reached the Georgian cellars of the house ( larder, wine etc.) and the furniture  (some of it antique and authentic) was quickly moved to the top floors.  The garden was completely destroyed but none of the other floors were breached before the flood subsided. 

Drawing Room for guests only, a beautiful recently made harpsichord at the other end.  The carpet has been recreated to match the one that Sir James owned. 

Mrs Wordsworth"s common parlor where she would have done accounts, writing menus, spinning, sewing etc. and feeding the children. 

Food that would have been served to guests.  Wordsworth House, photo by Mary M Payne

A "modern" kitchen with a smoke jack for spit roasting, charcoal burners for sauces, copper to heat water and even an oven.    Wordsworth House, Photo by Mary M Payne

An "exciting" dish of flowers in batter.  Wordsworth House,  photo by Mary M Payne

Mint leaves in Sugar, Wordsworth House,  photo by Mary M Payne

Eggs laid on the premises by an ancient breed of chickens.  Note the tiny one.  Wordsworth House, Cockermouth, photo by Mary M Payne

The children's bedroom,  It is believed that they all shared this room.  A chamber pot chair was disguised as a night stand.    Wordsworth House, Mary my Payne

Wordsworth House, photo by Mary M Payne

The garden re-planted after the flood of 2009..... Used mostly as a kitchen garden. The far terrace looks over River Derwent. 

Wordsworth House Garden,  photo by Mary M Payne

Looking at Wordsworth House from back Garden.  photo by Mary M Payne

Wordsworth House, Photo by Mary M Payne

Near the chicken yard. Wordsworth House, Cockermouth  photo by Mary M Payne

Wordsworth House Garden,  photo by Mary M Payne

10.  The National Trust does a lovely job with this property. Great care has been taken for authenticity.   We see and hear actors renditions of Wordsworth's poems and Dorothy's letters.  Several rooms have interactive elements for visitors to try.   For example, in the clark's room, I found out it's damned hard to write a small script with a quill pen.  Below is one of my "task saver" poems by Wordsworth.

Written in March

The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!

Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The plowboy is whooping- anon-anon:
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

Find more pics and information of Wordsworth House at :

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Hamlet of Cockermouth, Cumbria  photo by Mary M Payne

To get to Cumbria to the Wool Fest we chose the newly privatized British rail system owned by Virgin group of Richard Branson. 

 The trains were comfortable but crowded and we had to juggle seats since we hadn't purchased a reservation in advance ... and the ticket wasn't cheap.  (the price for the return trip was about a100 pounds for 2nd class...pricey as compared to French subsidized train fares).    

But the voyage was ideal for getting a look at the stunning natural beauty of the Lake District....fields of sheep; ancient stone walls; skies of soft cerulean lashed with whipped clouds, (not a pale or periwinkle blue sky as we see in Nice). 

From Penrith we called for a taxi and so arrived at the ancient town of Cockermouth. 

Cockermouth, originally a market town retains a medieval layout   enlarged in the 18th and 19th century and largely restored after 2009 to the  modern hamlet of today.  It is a beautiful village-like town of  around 9000 souls.  

One of the first things one notices is that the sky is never quite dark at night.  We are so far North that there often is the effect of the Northern Lights.  I awakened in the night to see the sky lighter than when I had retired.   It was a bit of a thrill for this southern "girl". 

Peering in at the Castle owned by Lady Egremont until her death in 2013.

Neat, small terraced houses in Cockermouth, photo by Mary M Payne

Crown Street of Cockermouth, photo Mary M Payne

A "Georgian gem" town,  Cockermouth, Cumbria    Photo by Mary M Payne

Christ Church, 1865,  Cockermouth photo by Mary M Payne

The suggestive sexy moniker of Cockermouth derives from the name of the River Cocker as it flows into the River Derwent. 

 We walked along the banks of these gentle seeming rivers one day to see the mouth where they actually converge.  That day yielded up a Constable sky and a path festooned with wild daisies and well kept gardens.  Note the height of the walls.  
Convergence of the two rivers: Cocker and Derwent.  Photo by Mary M Payne

Stone bench along the Rivers in Cockermouth, Cumbria  photo by Mary M Payne

The meeting of the mighty....?  Cockermouth  photo by Mary M Payne

Daisy like flowers grow wild everywhere in Cumbria,  Photo by Mary M Payne

 I mention the walls because the biggest fear for the residents seems to be the tendency of the Rivers Cocker and Derwent to overflow their banks.  
 The last big flood took place on 19 November 2009 and murals and wall markings in shops serve as reminders of the devastation and the actual height the water had attained.   The photos of merchandise and debris floating down the main streets tells the real story of the cost of damage to the town.  Since that time, more barriers have been erected in an effort to thwart Mother Nature.

River Cocker flowing through Cockermouth,  the restaurant on the left is called The Honest Lawyer,  photo by Mary M Payne

This is the charming facade of my friend's home never touched by the flood. 

This beckoning "porte de jaune" is the country home of my friends. There I passed an exceptional three days .    The house is called Tardis after a reference to the popular British TV series, Dr Who.   

The wall on the left is deceiving . When you get inside the house there is more space than you expected. ..... just as the interior of the Tardis Spacecraft is much bigger than one expected.  

Dr Who reference for the Cockermouth house. 

The house is charming inside with lots of personal touches and a well conceived garden....... but I will try not to pry.   I must say though that it boasts a third floor den with three walls of book shelves.  I know a lot of folks that would love to move right in,  Monsieur included. 

 English kitchen in Cockermouth... photo by Mary M Payne

Garden Visitor

My shadow on a corner of the garden behind the house with the yellow door,  

Gigantic red poppies are a favorite in by Mary M Payne
Night sky...only the clouds are dark.  Cockermouth, England  photo by Mary M Payne

Maybe tomorrow I will wax poetic about the Wordsworth House or the Quince and Medlar Restaurant, not to be missed in Cockermouth. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wool Festival: Cumbria 2015

Showpiece robe commemorating the year of the Sheep, Photo by Mary M Payne, Cumbria wool fest
Shown in one of the sheep shearing demonstration pens. 

I just returned from a visit to the Cumbrian Wool Festival in the lovely lake district of England.    I went especially to see some London friends and this was a singular invitation to go together to the festival and to stay in their house in Cockermouth, near the Scottish border. 

What is a wool festival?  Well, actually.... I found out what the Cumbrian Wool Festival really is not.  It is not about machine processed yarn.   None of the mainstream commercial yarn vendors were present. All of the yarns represented were hand dyed and spun. 

In fact, the festival in Cockermouth is more about the rich culture of raising rare breeds of sheep and the creativity and crafts that are derived from their wool.

 That means that there were stalls with yarns, spinning wheels, carders; unusual buttons; hand made rugs and clothing but also hand crafted  beads and fasteners; antique fabric pieces and  woodworkers making spindles, needles and wheels.  

 And of course , there was food and local country  music .    

And there were bags of wool, wool and more wool.   

Not to mention the sheep themselves...
special ones, appealing ones all quite different from one well as alpacas and angora rabbits.

Hand crafted  wool settee and pillows, photo by Mary M Payne

 Valais Black Nose Sheep  Photo by Mary M Payne Cumbrian Wool Fest

Local basket maker at work  Photo by Mary M Payne  Cumbrian Wool Fest

The Portland is a heathland breed from the Dorset area linked to
the Wessex tan-faced group of sheep.  Photo by Mary M Payne

My best photo...he's lovely, non?  Photo by Mary M Payne, Cumbrian Wool Fest

A fellow demonstrating a carding machine making batts ready to spin.  This is how the variegated yarns can be made by adding bits of different colors to the mix  Photo by Mary M Payne, 

One of the Alpaca boys (called Alpaga in France).   Photo by Mary M Payne

Teeswater Sheep with unusual lustrous coats .  Photo by Mary M Payne

He needs a scrunchy.  Photo by Mary M Payne

Angora Rabbits used for their fur.  Their fur is sheared or combed to use as yarn.  Photo by Mary M Payne

Woman trying her hand at spinning  Photo by Mary M Payne Cumbrian Wool Fest

Mary had a little lamb....  Photo by Mary M Payne

Wool ready to card or use for felting or stuffing..Photo by Mary M Payne

Silk and wool blend yarn I bought from Natural Born Dyers, photo by Mary M Payne, Cumbria Wool Festival

The show was fascinating and I did come away with luscious wool for knitting. ...but mostly I was enthralled by the variety and originality of the crafts and people involved.   Crafters are themselves a special breed.