Surviving and thriving , three months on.

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As the mad summer season fades and we have time to catch our breath, I am happy to post that Le restaurant de Montcléra has not only survived its first three months of opening, but is thriving, winning its own loyal clientele, and looking forward to a winter season of delicious lunches and sociable theme nights…

We survived a fully booked staff training dinner, when the worst seen tempest in several summers hit the terrace just as we were trying to seat 60 people at the same time – lessons learnt, but at least they didn’t see the storm that arrived actually in the kitchen (through the lights!) the day before during prep…

We survived our gendarme visit with all contracts and verifications in place (despite the many last minute arguments with different bodies who could not agree with each other) – I wanted a photo taken with the smart gendarme in his powder blue matching flak-jacket and shirt, and range of weaponry, but didn’t dare ask!

We survived a suspected heart attack in the middle of a busy Saturday night service, complete with flashing lights everywhere and a table full of Pompiers coming to the rescue (thank goodness!)

The next Saturday we survived doing a Spit roast for a wedding in 40plus° heat

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and the one after that we had champagne bottles exploding in the cellar (probably because of the same heat.)

We have learnt to speak kindly to a temperamental new Italian oven that was once burning all crostinis and pavlovas  – now producing food looking fabulous

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We managed to feed 93 extra people at the last minute for a menu for the music festival at the chateau – plus another unexpected 40 turning up in the restaurant itself (note to self, ask to be in complete charge of the food for the festival next year!)

And along the way we have established fabulous suppliers, have enjoyed using as much clean and crisp organic produce as possible 005(thank you Les jardins de la mouline and Ferme de Lalgas) and are improving our dishes every day to provide fresh and simple menus . We have explained what  pies are to locals on the weekend we sold 200 of them, and have them enjoying fish and chips on Friday lunchtimes. Relaxed folk are appreciating coffee and cake (with wifi!) in the mornings, and everyone agrees the puddings are the best part of the menu!

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Albeit my favourite things are the edible flowers grown for me by my neighbour 010 031

and the cheerful greeting you will always get when  you arrive at our door…

So, three months on, we are now looking forward to being open at lunchtimes, taking bookings for evenings only, doing the occasional Sunday lunch and promoting our first wine tasting dinner (Sat 10th October, details to follow) oh, and having time to finish the website so you can look up our information anytime, promise!

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Autumn Gourmand

We have been watching Geese fly south, and displays of yellow trees suddenly disappear in a high wind. The school ‘run’ with the youngest, which is a pleasant walk down our lane, now incorporates picking up twigs for kindling for the stoves.
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Sometimes, we meet one of our neighbours on his morning walk. He was born in the house he lives in and went to the same school 60 years ago. His brother built a house next door to his. These two are the last still here of a hamlet that was once made up of several small holdings, all with orchards, gardens, vines and animals. The well for the hamlet was (and still is) on our property, the bread oven on the back of the brothers’ old farm house. There are unused wine chai’s (storage buildings), abandoned orchards, dying walnut groves, and bat filled barns with tiny houses at one end dotted round. Some of the old trees provide us with fruit and the pleasure of picking it throughout the seasons.

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But the best remnant of this dying era is our neighbours’ garden. Large, tilled with a hand machine, seasonal. Best of all, full of organic produce sometimes gifted to ourselves. Right now it is pumpkins. Huge, dense, rich tasting (especially when roasted) pumpkins. We love our neighbour.
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We love ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP.
It doesn’t require any fuss, unless you count making some delicious chicken or vegetable stock – but this time of the year when the wood stove is going, it is easy for me to pop on top a pot of veg scraps, herbs and water in the morning, to simmer away for a few hours.
Don’t worry about precise amounts of ingredients to use – whatever is to your taste!
– Chop a pumpkin up into even size chunks or wedges (sort of the size of a normal wedge of cake!) Leave the skin on, but scrape off the seeds with a spoon. You can save the seeds to roast and eat too, but that’s another recipe…
– In a bowl sprinkle the wedges with salt and drizzle with oil then mix together with your hands. Lay them on a baking tray and roast for about an hour in a medium hot oven.
– When cooled, scrape the flesh off the skins.
– Sweat a little onion and garlic together in a large pan until cooked and then add the pumpkin. Try adding a tiny bit of a flavour you like too – cinnamon, or ginger or chilli for example.
– Add enough stock of your choice to cover-plus-a-bit-more and simmer for just half an hour.
– Blend in the pot with a hand blender and then add some cream at this point, or swirl it about on top once it is in bowls. Garnish with parsley or coriander and some croutons…

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