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Jan 25

French Recipe: Hachis Parmentier

As the temperatures cool down, there is nothing I like more than cooking warm, hearty meals. That means it is time to break out one of our favorite recipes: Hachis Parmentier.

Hachis Parmentier is a well-known French comfort food, and is similar to the British shepherd’s pie. Even better, it is relatively easy to make–as well as absolutely delicious. Named after the eighteenth-century nutritionist and inventor Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (who famously pioneered potatoes as a staple food crop), Hachis Parmentier has become a staple of French cuisine.

Just get ready for some chopping, as hachis means “chopped” or “minced” in French.

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Typically, the basis for the recipe is leftover beef stew. If you don’t have leftover stew, no problem! This recipe includes how to make beef stew from scratch to include in the casserole.

Ingredients

For the stew:

1 large onion

2 carrots

1 leek

2 garlic cloves

1.5 pounds of ground beef

pinch of thyme

pinch of rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

For the mashed potatoes:

2 lbs potatoes

1 cup milk

1/2 cup cream

2 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper to taste

grated parmesan or gruyère to top

Instructions:

Peel and quarter potatoes, then boil them for 15 minutes or until tender. When done, mash the potatoes with the remaining ingredients (under the “mashed potatoes” section) and set aside. Chop carrots, onions, and leek. Saute the onions with garlic and ground beef with a little olive oil, then add carrots, leeks, thyme, and rosemary when meat is browned.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and continue to cook the mixture until the carrots are tender. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a glass of French Wine (drink sensibly).

While cooking, grease a casserole dish. Layer the ground beef mixture on the bottom of the pan, followed by the mashed potatoes. Cover the top of the mashed potatoes with grated cheese.

If you have additional beef and potatoes remaining, you can continue to layer them in the casserole dish. Put the casserole in the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the cheese is brown.

You can pair Hachis Parmentier with a simple green salad and a glass of red wine.

Bon Appetit!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Jan 5

Welcome to 2017 In French

Le nouvel an est ici (the new year is here) !

The whole world is celebrating as 2017 is welcomed and we say au revoir to 2016.

While la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve) is all about welcoming in le nouvel an, the traditions around it can vary around the world, from la boule horaire (the time ball) in New York to eating des raisins (grapes) in Spain and other Spanish-speaking cultures.

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“Turning the Corner” by Donald Kautz on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Bonne Année – Welcome 2017 In French!

En France (in France), le reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve) consists of du champagne et du fois gras (champagne and foie gras) with kisses exchanged at midnight, traditionally sous une branche de gui (under a mistletoe branch). People take a moment to make their vœux du nouvel An (New Year’s resolutions) during la Saint-Sylvestre and échanger les étrennes (exchange New Year’s gifts).

Les étrennes is a special word for un cadeau, but only un cadeau de Noël or un cadeau pour le nouvel An. The word finds its origins in the Roman goddess of the new year, Strena (Strenua). In ancient Rome she was celebrated on January 1st with various gifts in the hopes of bringing good luck.

There is also a lot of noise made during the celebration with cries of “bonne année” (Happy New Year) and the sound of les klaxons de voitures (car horns) across all of France. If you fall asleep, all the noise may wake you up even if you forgot to set an alarm!

À Paris many people gather along les Champs Élysées and under la tour Eiffel to watch les feux d’artifice.

À 20 heures (at 8 o’clock), a few hours before the start of the new year, le président de la république française gives an address to the country stating their vœux présidentiels for the year that is about to begin. This was the last time François Hollande will be giving his vœux présidentiels as he is not running in the 2017 election.

As things wind down and people start waking up with la gueule de bois (a hangover) there is still time to think about les bonnes résolutions. Traditionally les vœux du nouvel An can be made up until le 31 janvier.

In the spirit of la Saint-Sylvestre, write your vœux du nouvel An!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Dec 18

More French Christmas Treats

While Christmas Day may be winding down, the season isn’t really over until the New Year. Christmas has many traditions, and many of them are tied to food. Everyone loves family meals consisting of a baked ham or turkey, savoury sides, and delicious desserts (miam ! yum!) – and we’re not even counting the sugar overdose from all those homemade cookies and fudge.

Xmas Log

We have our traditional pies, and France, Quebec, and certain French colonies get to chow down an elaborate and historical dessert known as une buche de Noel. Called a Yule log in English, it’s simply a sponge cake rolled and filled with a chocolate buttercream and designed to resemble a log. Some cake makers will cut out branches to stick out of the log. Others will whip up meringue mushrooms, add fresh berries, make fake holly, or sprinkle powdered sugar on top to resemble snow. The cake as we know it today emerged during the 19th century, but the origins of the actual Yule log date back before the medieval era.

At this time, Gaelic Europeans and Celtic Brits believed trees held special powers and burning them to create les cendres (ashes) would increase the strength of this power. Before the winter solstice, people would search out a huge log, decorate it with holly and ivy, and burn it to celebrate days finally becoming longer. The log’s ashes would be collected and used in medicines. In addition to its healing benefits, the ashes also guarded against evil and accidents. It was also believed that spreading the ashes in les champs (the fields) would yield a nice harvest. Certaines personnes (some people) would keep charcoal or cinders from the original log because relighting them during a thunderstorm would protect your home and property from being struck by lightening.

When Christianity spread through Europe, this tradition still continued. The logs were brought in and burned in the hearth, the fireplace area. Onlookers would observe les flammes (flames) and make predictions about the upcoming year – important things like how many calves would be born that year and how many marriages would take place.

Au fil des années (over the years), heaths in houses were built smaller, and people weren’t bringing full-sized logs into their homes anymore. It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when people stopped burning the Yule logs in their homes and created edible versions instead, but some research suggests that the cakes date back the 1600s judging from popular ingredients of the time. The traditional buche de Noel has meringue and marzipan decorations, and both of these were common treats at that time. Same goes for sponge cake –  it was mentioned as early as 1615 in Gervaise Markham’s “The English Huswife.”

Want to try one of these delicious, calorie-laden Christmas desserts? No problem. You can make it yourself by following one of the many recipes online, but make sure you have time and patience. Some of the recipes require more than 8 hours of your time!

Baking not up your alley? Just head on down to your local patisserie (bakery specialising in sweets) and order one. You’ll find more simple ones à prix abordable (at an affordable price) – about 20 euros – but you can easily drop more than 100 euros for a fancy one.

Bon appétit!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 146
Dec 9

Jingling Your Bells in French

It’s December, and before you know it, Santa Claus will be flying son char à travers les cieux (his sleigh across the skies). The tree is up, and the stockings are hung by the chimney with glee, and outside the snow… well, it’s currently very mild here.

I love December. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” is definitely my mantra. Et les chants de Noel (and Christmas songs?)? I love them. Sometimes I even listen to them in July, but don’t worry. I do that privately so as not to annoy anyone else.

Lots of people claim to not like this festive music, but I won’t focus on these negative grinches at the moment. Throw on a Santa hat, and let’s be jolly.

“Jingle Bells” is an absolute classic, literally every single person can sing along. The song talks about the joy of riding in the a horse-drawn sleigh through the snow, and while I have my reservations about spending anything more than the necessary amount of time in the snow, I think I would give that a go given the chance.

“Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh…” You can certainly finish this verse and the chorus, but did you know there was more to the song?

There’s Miss Fanny Bright, an unfortunate slipping incident, and some dating advice...

Cle France Christmas

Jingling Your Bells in French

Et la version française (and the French version?) ? Completely different. Rather than focusing on the winter transportation, the French praise the winter wind and wish people a Happy New Year. And like the English version, there’s a little story in there, too.

While the words are very different, l’air reste le même (the tune is the same).

Chantons (let’s sing!) :

Vive le vent, vive le vent,

Long live the wind, long live the wind,

Vive le vent d’hiver,

Long live the winter wind,

Qui s’en va sifflant, soufflant

Which goes whistling, blowing

Dans les grands sapins verts, oh !

In the big green pine trees, oh!

 

Vive le temps, vive le temps,

Long live the weather, long live the weather,

Vive le temps d’hiver,

Long live the winter weather,

Boules de neige et Jour de l’An

Snowballs and New Year’s Day

Et Bonne Année grand-mère !

And Happy New Year, Grandma!

 

Sur le long chemin

Along the path

Tout blanc de neige blanche

All white from the snow

Un vieux monsieur s’avanceAn old man comes closer

Avec sa canne dans la main

With his can in his hand.

Et tout là-haut le vent

And all above the wind

Qui siffle dans les branches

Which whistles in the branches

Lui souffle la romance

Blows on him the romance

Qu’il chantait petit enfant, oh !

He sang as a little child, oh!

 

Vive le vent, vive le vent,

Long live the wind, long live the wind,

Vive le vent d’hiver,

Long live the winter wind,

Qui s’en va sifflant, soufflant

Which goes whistling, blowing

Dans les grands sapins verts, oh !

In the big green pine trees, oh!

 

Vive le temps, vive le temps,

Long live the weather, long live the weather,

Vive le temps d’hiver,

Long live the winter weather,

Boules de neige et Jour de l’An

Snowballs and New Year’s Day

Et Bonne Année grand-mère !

And Happy New Year, Grandma!

 

Joyeux, joyeux Noël

Merry, Merry Christmas

Aux mille bougies

To the thousand candles

Qu’enchantent vers le ciel

Which light up toward Heaven

 

Les cloches de la nuit.

The night’s bells

Vive le vent, vive le vent

Long live the wind, long live the wind

Vive le vent d’hiver

Long live the winter wind

Qui rapporte aux vieux enfants

Which brings to old kids

Leurs souvenirs d’hier, oh !

Their memories of yesterday, oh!

 

Et le vieux monsieur

And the old man

Descend vers le village

Goes down toward the village

C’est l’heure où tout est sage

It’s the time when everyone is good

Et l’ombre danse au coin du feu.

And the shadow dances near the fire

 

Mais dans chaque maison

But in each house

Il flotte un air de fête

There’s a festive air

Partout la table est prête

Everywhere the table is ready

Et l’on entend la même chanson, oh !

And you hear the same song, oh!

 

Vive le vent, vive le vent,

Long live the wind, long live the wind,

Vive le vent d’hiver,

Long live the winter wind,

Qui s’en va sifflant, soufflant

Which goes whistling, blowing

Dans les grands sapins verts, oh !

In the big green pine trees, oh!

 

Vive le temps, vive le temps,

Long live the weather, long live the weather,

Vive le temps d’hiver,

Long live the winter weather,

Boules de neige et Jour de l’An

Snowballs and New Year’s Day

Et Bonne Année grand-mère !

And Happy New Year, Grandma!

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Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 113
Nov 23

Etiquette for Gift Giving in France

If you are invited to a French home this festive season for a formal meal or asked to pop-round just for Aperos then we have some useful tips and insight for you so you don't make too many gaffs, as I still do today!

Cle France and Gift Giving

Faye Boulanger at Flickr.com

Many people bring up the idea of cultural etiquette during this season of gift giving and receiving. For example, you might have heard that, in Japan, you should accept gifts with both hands. Or that it is common for Singaporeans to graciously refuse a gift several times before accepting it. It is important to have a certain level of cultural intelligence to make sure that you won’t mistakenly insult the person with whom you are interacting. But it is also important to realise that cultures norms are often very complex and do not follow monolithic rules.

What time should you arrive? this is a complex issue and unless you find out by making the mistake once and then applying the rule on future occaisions, it is difficult to know the local etiquette first time around. I think being 'on time' is the best default position BUT not in Mayenne department of Pays de la Loire where they have what is known as the 'Mayenne quart d'heure' where the polite time to arrive is 15 minutes late, yes late! presumably giving the host a little time to perfect the ambience?

I’ve often heard that it can be insulting to your French host to bring a bottle of wine with you when invited to a dinner. The idea behind this is that wine plays such an important role in a French dinner that your host has probably already selected the perfect bottle for your table. This is an “old society” rule and, frankly, most French hosts would take this rule with a grain of salt (or, in the French idiomatic expression: ils prendraient cette règle avec des pincettes).

The same goes for the rule that, when offering a bouquet, you must include an odd number of flowers in it; I’ve never seen someone count the number of flowers they have just received. Rather, most of the time, they are impressed with the generous gesture and will thank you by kissing your cheeks.

If you are invited to a French home this holiday season for a formal meal, it is considered good form (especially in Paris) to send them over the day before to be used as decoration for the meal or in the days following the meal, along with a thank you card.

So while it is important to be aware of different cultural forms of etiquette, it’s also important to know that these traditions are oftentimes flexible or depend on varying degrees of formality and friendship.

For example, I might send flowers ahead of a formal dinner with business colleagues, but not necessarily to a more casual dinner between intimate friends.

If you follow your own common sense and always act with kindness and thoughtfulness, you’ll be fine no matter what culture you find yourself in.

Just how do the French celebrate Christmas where you live or visit?

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Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

1 CommentsViews: 148

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