Tag: Mas d’augustine

chambre d'hôte guests

“Company’s Coming!” Owning and Running a Chambre d’Hôte in the South of France

Jane and Gary are down to the wire readying Mas d’Augustine  near Uzes for the chambre d’hôte’s new season.  Let’s see how it’s going…


Counting Down The Days

Only a few more days to go until our first chambre d’hôte guests of the season arrive. It’s funny how you think there is plenty of time to get all the work done and then we always end up rushing around like lunatics to get things finished !

chambre d'hôte guests

The new gravel for the parking and the courtyard was delivered last week, on the first day it had rained for a week. Because the delivery lorry can’t get through our gates, they just left the two (huge) one ton sacks blocking the road outside the front of the house and there was no other option but a shovel and a wheel barrow. All day in the pouring rain, we shifted gravel and raked it out on the two areas – I never knew I had so many muscles to ache.

chambre d'hôte guestsThe pool was filled last week and the heating turned on yesterday and already it’s warm enough to swim (24/25C). We changed the colour of the pool this year and I am very pleased with the result. It was a nervous decision to change from blue to yellow but, thank goodness, it looks wonderful – a pale turquoise – calm and relaxing. The poolside furniture is in place and it’s all beginning to take shape.

The garden is nearly ready, I have planted up all the pots and troughs – we have a new colour scheme this year, having moved away from the bright pinks and pale purples and have chosen a very sophisticated deep red geranium mixed in with the lovely white solanum and a few trailing daisies in yellow and a burnt orange.

chambre d'hôte guests

The last two days of rain have been very useful. I managed to get all the vegetables planted in the newly extended vegetable garden just before the rain arrived and they have now bedded in nicely. We have planted a lovely selection of heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colours which are great for salads and garnishing dishes. A different variety of new potatoes this year – instead of Ratte we have planted Belle de Fontenay for our potato salads. The red and yellow pepper plants are in, plus the courgettes and haricot beans, so all I need to do now is sow the roquette and the winter parsnips.

chambre d'hôte guests

 

 

Gary is away in London this weekend, it’s his grandson Oliver’s first birthday and, despite having so much to do, there are some occasions that can’t be missed! I have pressed on with repainting windows and doors and the table on the terrace is now a wonderful Provençal blue, which is complimented very nicely by the lemon trees.

chambre d'hôte guests

I am spring cleaning the chambre d’hôte guests bedrooms and making up the beds, adding a few new additions to the rooms such as cushions and ornaments and bedside lights – we like to add new decorative items every year.

Gary just needs to finish building the new barbecue which we have added to the courtyard outside the cuisine ete. We had so much fun last season playing boules and drinking rose with our guests before dinner, that we decided to hold weekly barbecue and boules evenings. Needless to say, building the barbecue wasn’t quite as easy as we first thought, but it’s taking shape and now all we need are some wonderful warm south of France evenings.

chambre d'hôte guests

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

Friends and Family for the Holiday at Mas d’Augustine

“Legally” it’s Christmas until Twelfth Night here in France. To stay in the holiday spirit just a bit  longer, let’s visit the Langton’s at Mas d’Augustine for a chambre d’hôte holiday. We’ll take a glimpse of holiday decorations and parties and best of all, Jane will share her secrets on how to create the perfect traditional Christmas cake. 


Christmas Time at the Mas 

chambre d'hôte holiday

Holiday party at Mas d’Augustine

Jane and Gary are ready for guests

The chambre d’hôte is decked out for the holiday party

The aperos are prepared and ready to be served 

Time for the party to arrive!

chambre d'hôte holiday

Traditional Christmas Cake

chambre d'hôte holiday

 “Whilst I absolutely love living in France, when it comes to Christmas there are a few things that I really miss and one of them is a traditional Christmas cake.  Gary does not like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pies and so in previous years I have made a yule tide chocolate log or, as they are called in France, a Bouche de Noel. This year, however, I decided to make myself a proper English Christmas cake and I have a very quick and easy recipe.  I have used this recipe for many years, whether making a Christmas cake or Wedding cake, and it always turns out rich and moist (although it might be something to do with the extra brandy I pour over the base!).”

 

Ingredients

400g Currants

250g Sultanas

300g Glace cherries, rinsed, quartered and dried

75g Candied peel

4 tbls Brandy

300g Plain flour

1 tsp Mixed spice

½ tsp Grated nutmeg

300g Soft unsalted butter

5 Eggs

300g Soft dark sugar

1 tbls Black treacle

Extra brandy

Method

 

Place all the fruit and candied peel into a bowl and pour over the brandy, leave overnight in the fridge to soak.

 

The next day line the sides and bottom of a 20 – 23 cm tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat your oven to 140C or, for a fan assisted oven, 120C.

Place all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, starting slowly with an electric whisk, beat until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

Stir in the brandy soaked fruit, ensuring the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the cake mixture.

Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and cover the top with greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for 4.5 – 5 hours, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Remove the cake from the tin and turn it upside down, using the skewer make random holes in the cake and pour over your additional brandy (about 2 tbls).

At this stage, if you are efficient and have made your cake in plenty of time (ideally 3 months before you want to eat it), you can keep adding brandy (about 1 – 2 tbls) each month to enrich the cake.  Make sure it is well wrapped up and stored in an air tight container.

Decorating

 

The next stage is the marzipan and you can make your own or buy it and, I must confess, I buy mine.  The French love marzipan and so I can buy excellent quality marzipan in our local stores.  For some reason, rather than being golden or white as it is in England, it always comes with a pink, white and green stripe.  But it tastes delicious and these colours will not show under the icing.

Roll out your marzipan to the right size.  Heat a little apricot jam in a saucepan and brush this on the top and sides of the cake – this will keep the marzipan in place.  Make sure you cover your cake completely and allow the marzipan to dry out for at least 2 days before you attempt the final icing and decoration.

I decorated mine with a plain white fondant icing and golden sugar granules. I made the holly leaves, red ribbon and twisted rope from coloured sugar paste and carefully frosted everything with edible glitter.

“I confess, I did not think about making my cake 3 months in advance, but probably put it together over about 10 days – but It still tastes great.”

chambre d'hôte holiday

Happy Holiday to All from Mas d’ Augustine

See you in the New Year!

chambre d'hôte holiday

 

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

chambre d'hôte life

If Owning a Chambre d’Hote in France Is Your Dream, Spend a Day Picking Olives

How many of us have dreamed of owning a chambre d’hôte in France? Jane and Gary have taken the lunge and they’re willing to tell us all about their chambre d’hôte life. Today they’re picking olives at their B&B – Mas d’ Augustine in the south of France. There’s a favorite recipe from Jane’s kitchen too, so enjoy! 

chambre d'hôte lifeChambre d’hôte life … from Jane …

It’s Olive Time.

I’ve just been for my morning stroll around the gardens, checking what needs to be done today, as even in the winter there is always so much to do to make sure we have a beautiful garden ready for our guests next year. I’ve decided that the olives are ready for picking, the weather is sunny and bright, albeit very cold for the next couple of days, so it’s perfect olive picking weather! We only have 8 trees, but they produce about 50 kilos of olives which in turn provide us with about 7 litres of our own olive oil to enjoy the following year.

chambre d'hôte life

Armed with step ladders, bowls and our olive crates, we decided to make a start. It’s not exactly difficult to pick olives, just rather tedious and very cold.

 

chambre d'hôte life

I think the dogs and cats enjoy the task far more than we do, racing around and around the trees and then lying, panting in the winter sunshine.  Merlot, our Beauceron, is very troubled by olives……. he tries to eat them and then spits them out in disgust. You can tell he is completely bemused as to why we would want to tenderly collect these disgusting, bitter little fruits.

In our first winter at the Mas we didn’t know when to harvest our olives until someone advised us to pick them for oil. Picking that first year, in December and in the sleet and rain, was miserable – it was so cold and it is impossible to pick olives wearing gloves. I had no idea what they were supposed to look like; some were green and some were black and so, to be on the safe side, I put green ones in one crate and black ones in the other crate. This obviously made the task even more tedious, as every tree had both colours and we were careful not to mix them.

chambre d'hôte lifeAfter 2 days and 10 long hours of picking in awful weather we had 2 crates of olives, one black and one green. The next morning we proudly took the olives to the local moulin. Not understanding the process and, at that time, with very limited French, we stood in the queue to have our olives weighed. To my absolute horror they took my crate of green olives and tipped them into the crate containing the black olives – all that work to keep them separated was a complete waste of time!

I now know that the green olives produce a very green, peppery oil and the black ones a much smoother golden oil, the idea being to blend the colours to give a rich smooth oil with a good peppery finish.

We were given a ticket with the weight of our olive crop, 49 kilos and told to come back in 4 days to collect our oil.

chambre d'hôte life

 

The next Friday we returned to the moulin, a little unsure what to expect and handed in our ticket. What a lovely surprise when we were given 2 plastic containers containing approximately 7 litres of olive oil – not a bad result!

chambre d'hôte lifeThe following year, having taken advice and consulted the internet, I realised that our trees needed to be cut back as they were far too tall and very dense. Apparently, a good olive tree should be shaped like a martini glass with enough room between the branches for a swallow to fly through without touching its wings. We had some serious pruning to do! Unfortunately, due to our hard pruning, the next year our crop was very small and the year after that all the olive trees in our area were badly eaten by insects, with the remaining olives beaten from the trees by terrible storms – so for two years we had nothing to take to the moulin.

This year is much better and we have taken about 40 kilos of mixed green and black olives down to the moulin for pressing and are currently awaiting our plastic bottles!

BFB Note: 

Funny how Jane talks about “we” yet the photos tell a different tale. Lots of photos of Gary’s chambre d’hôte life and only this one of Jane… hmmm….

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From Jane’s Kitchen at Mas d’Augustine 

CHICKEN TAGINE WITH OLIVES AND PRESERVED LEMONS

SERVES 2

Ingredients
2 chicken breast and 2 thighs
olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1.5 tsp. turmeric
1.5 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. coriander seeds, cracked
350ml white chicken stock or vegetable stock 130g large green olives, pitted
1 preserved lemon cut into wedges
10g of fresh coriander, chopped

Method

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the sliced onions over a high heat until soft and caramelised. Put them into a tagine dish or an ovenproof pot.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade

Season the chicken pieces, add a little more oil to the frying pan and fry the chicken until golden.

Turn down the heat and add the chopped garlic, turmeric, paprika and cracked coriander seeds.

Cook for a few minutes to bring out the flavours then add the stock, bring to the boil and pour into the tagine dish.

Sprinkle over the olives and preserved lemons. Cover and put in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.

Remove the lid, check the seasoning and drizzle in a little olive oil.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve with bulgur wheat or couscous.

chambre d'hôte life

A proper Tangine dish

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

 

 

Visit Uzes

An Expat’s Life in A Chambre d’Hôtes in France: Jane’s Story

After visiting new friends Jane and Gary Langton at Mas d’Augustine, the chambre d’hôte they own and run in the south of France, I asked if they would talk about chambre d’hôte living with me and Barefoot Blogger followers.  Happily, they agreed!

The original post about the Langstons, The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France, told us the history of Mas d’Augustine, the eighteenth century silk mill converted to a luxury B&B that’s located outside of Uzes. The personal bits of the first story were told by Gary. Now it’s Jane’s turn to talk about chambre d’hôte living.

chambre d'hôte living

Jane preparing lunch for our visit

Whose idea was it to own and run a B&B? Yours or Gary’s or both?

Jane: “A small boutique hotel has been my dream since my thirties.  I wanted to work at something I love doing. My vision was to combine my love of beautiful things and my passion for cooking into a business. To create a holiday place where guests could enjoy a stylish décor, superb food and exceptional service.  Unfortunately, chambre d’hôte living was far from Gary’s dream. It was probably his worst nightmare.”

Did it take much persuasion to convince Gary?

Jane: “It took a lot!  Fortunately he couldn’t come up with an alternative way for us to work together in the sunshine,  so he gave in !”

How did you decide on a business in France?

Jane: We thought long and hard about our where we would locate and we considered various different countries.  South Africa was probably my favourite destination but we thought it was too far away from our combined family of seven children. We considered Spain because I had lived and worked there and I loved the sunshine, the food and the wine. However, I was not keen on the ex-pat lifestyle on the Costa del Sol. France seemed the obvious choice — as long as we headed south. 

chambre d'hôte living

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

What was the condition of the property and house when you bought it?

Jane: “Once we decided upon France, we searched the whole southern coastline and came across Uzes by accident.  A friend recommended that we stop by Uzes and visit the Place Aux Herbes at lunchtime if we happened to be nearby. We did and we loved it !  Focusing our search in and around Uzes, we looked at about fifty properties until we found Mas d’Augustine. It was love at first sight for both of us.  The old mas was badly in need of some TLC but it offered us the opportunity to create our five ensuite guest rooms  — and still have our own private family house with two ensuite rooms.”

What prepared you for taking on the project of a B&B?

Jane: “Nothing prepared us! It has proven to be much harder work than I anticipated!  I have cooked and cleaned for a large family for twenty years, at the same time carving out a successful career, so I thought this challenge would be easy —  it wasn’t. It is incredibly hard work.”

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How do you divide up responsibilities?

Jane: “We have a very clear division of responsibilities. There are certain jobs involved with chambre d’hôte living that Gary simple will not do. For example, he will not clean the bathrooms. Gary scrubbing toilets is just never going to happen.  So I clean the rooms and make up the beds. I’m very fussy, so in the long run, its easiest for me to just do them myself. Gary does all the washing and ironing and he does it well. There are no creases in our bed linen. He takes charge of the front of house and I take on all the cooking. Gary loves to talk and I love to cook, so it works. Gary looks after the pool beautifully, it’s always glistening. I’m in charge of the garden and have had lots of successes and lots of failures trying to work out what grows down here and what doesn’t.  I spent ages planting daffodil bulbs only to find they bloomed in January when we were closed. By Easter, when we opened for guests, I just had lots of straggly leaves! Gary, under strict supervision, does all the chopping and hedge trimming. Left on his own, my flowers seem to disappear.”

chambre d'hôte living

 

What has been the most fun about renovating the property?

Jane:”The original renovation was great fun, we spent 18 months creating the finished property. From the shell we bought, it now looks exactly as I imagined, inside and out. So it is my dream home.”

 

chambre d'hôte living

What has been the least enjoyable part about your new life venture?

Jane: “The worse part has been sorting through all the French bureaucracy to get ourselves, and the property, registered and operating legally.  Gary had to take two courses in French, in order to understand how to get the correct licences for a Chambre d’Hotes in France.”

What’s the hardest part?

Jane: “Getting up every morning to prepare breakfast. There are no days off once the season starts. Its every morning.”

What did your family think?

Jane: “First of all, they said we had made them homeless by moving abroad, but once they saw the project, they understood why we wanted to do it.  Now they love coming over whenever possible and all think they have the best back garden possible!”

chambre d'hôte living

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

 

Do you ever regret your decision?

Jane: “Not at all, we are both very happy with our new lifestyle. We work together extremely well.  Going from seeing each other just at the weekends to working together 24/7, it was a risk. But it’s great fun and we both love it!”

Describe the very best day you’ve spent so far. 

Jane: “The best days by far have been our daughters’ special celebrations here: Frankie’s 21st birthday party with all her friends and Kathryn’s wedding for 40 guests and family.”

chambre d'hôte living

 

And the very worse day?

Jane: “The worst day was right back at the beginning.  We completed the sale on the house in August 2010 and scheduled to move down in December.  In August, we planned and ordered our new kitchen. The idea was for it to be installed prior to our arrival in December, in time for Christmas.  When we got to October and had heard nothing from the kitchen company, we became suspicious.  Then we got the news. The company had gone into receivership. So not only would our kitchen not be fitted but we had lost our very sizeable deposit.  We moved down in December, the house was freezing, the fire just billowed smoke and we had no kitchen! But we sorted the fire, got the heating going, bought a little hot plate and, using this and our George Forman grill, we had a great Christmas lunch!”

Since you love to cook, will you share a favorite autumn recipe with us … or two?

Jane: Of course. Here are two recipes we enjoy serving ourselves and friends in November — after the guests have left for the season. They’re easy to prepare and remind us it’s Autumn.  Spicy parsnip soup and a lovely apple cake. 

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Spicy Parsnip Soup  

A tasty warming soup for the winter months, made with simple ingredients.   You can omit the chili if you prefer less heat and the flavor will still be wonderful. This soup makes a filling lunch, or serve smaller portions as an impressive starter to your evening meal.

chambre d'hôte living

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Ingredients – serves 4

2 Large parsnips

½ Onion, finely chopped

20g Butter

500 mls Chicken stock

150 mls Cream

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Ras el Hanout

1 Large clove of garlic peeled and crushed

1 Piece of ginger (about 3 cms long), peeled and grated

1 Small red chilli, deseeded and chopped – optional

Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Peel, core and slice the parsnips, place them in a saucepan with the butter and sweat until they soften.
  1. Add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger and chilli (if used) and cook for a further 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.
  1. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes to allow the flavour to develop. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the parsnips are very soft (about 15 mins).
  1. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly and then liquidise until really smooth.
  1. Place back on a gentle heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste with black pepper and sea salt.
  1. The soup can be thinned down by adding water if required.

To serve, reheat the soup gently and serve garnished with some finely chopped parsley or coriander, crispy croutons and some crusty bread.

our breakfast buffet for our guests and then also as a dessert, warm with cinnamon ice cream.


Apple Cake

Apples are in season now!  This cake was a great success with our guests, lovely and moist and not too sweet!  It would also be really good served slightly warm with some vanilla ice cream.

chambre d'hôte living

Apple Cake from Jane’s kitchen at Mas d’Augustine

Ingredients – serves 8

3 Eggs

25g Ground almonds

225g Soft butter

200g Castor sugar

25g Vanilla sugar

(I use vanilla sugar in this recipe but, if you can’t find any, use a tsp of vanilla essence and 225g of castor sugar)

500g Apples (Granny Smith or similar)

225g Self-raising Flour

2 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp of Powdered cinnamon

Butter for greasing the tin

Lemon juice

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan assisted). Line the bottom and sides of a 24cm loose bottom cake tin with baking parchment.

 

  1. Peel and core the apples, then chop into cubes and toss in the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Set aside.

 

  1. Whisk the butter and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until thick, pale and creamy.

 

  1. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

 

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and fold gently into the mixture.

 

  1. Gently stir in the ground almonds and chopped apple. Mix thoroughly.

 

  1. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour.

 

  1. Check the cake after 30 minutes and, if it is becoming too brown, place a piece of tin foil or baking parchment loosely over the top.

 

  1. After one hour, check to see if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into its centre – it should come out clean.

 

  1. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Serve cold on its own for tea or breakfast, or warm as a delicious dessert with crème fraiche, mascarpone, cinnamon or vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!!

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

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