Sunday, 25 May 2014

Foraging & wild food in the Limousin

The Limousin region is an abundant, fertile area rich with wildlife and natural vegetation.  On a short walk in the forests and countryside around our home I can find wild sorrel, elderflower, beech nuts, nettles, and an abundance of wild fruits - from cherry, strawberries and apples to rosehips and blackberries. You have got to be quicker than the birds to get the wild cherries though!  I am still learning, as there is much more to discover, but I thoroughly enjoy cooking and eating the abundance of wild food that I find in the Limousin, and look forward to what each new season brings. 

rosehip in bud
wild cherry blossom
ripening wild cherries
Foraging for wild food is natural to the rural French way of life.  It was a way of eating for free when times were hard and supplementing the diet with healthy, fresh foods full of nutrients.  It is a traditional skill held in rural communities across the world, that will die out if people are not willing to learn and have these skills passed on, instead choosing the convenience of ready packed and pre-prepared foods.  It's also a great way of trying new foods and flavours that can't be bought in the shops and adds a bit of creativity to your usual cooking repertoire.  

One of my favourite foraged foods to cook with is wild sorrel - which is abundant at this time of year in the Limousin.  Sorrel has got a lemon-spinach flavour - and is great made into a pesto or raw in salads - and is particularly good in a potato salad with mint and dill.  Elizabeth David in her classic book; French Provincial Cookery also has some simple and delicious recipes for sorrel soup.  

Elizabeth David - picture credit wikipedia
wild sorrel
Foraging for mushrooms, and in particular the prized cep (or cepe) is a common pastime in rural Limousin.  However finding out where to find this elusive fungi appears to be a case of; 'its not what you know but who you know'.  I have been told tales of locals being followed and rival fungi foragers hiding behind trees to find out the 'best spot'.  All in the name of friendly competition I am sure!  

Cèpe de Bordeaux (Boletus edulis)
The Cepe - picture credit: wikipedia
Another wild food that the Limousin region is famous for is the chestnut (or chataigne) - the best being the Marigoule and Bouche de Betizac.  They are used in patés, cakes, jams and the chestnut blood sausage - boudins aux chataignes.  The Perigord-Limousin chestnut has AOC status and is internationally renowned for its superior quality and flavour.  I like them simply roasted or stir-fried and added to slow cooked red-cabbage - a great side dish with roast duck.  

With all foraging, always get expert advice and don't pick or eat anything that you are not completely sure of. The pharmacies in the region are often a good source of information - particularly in helping to identify mushrooms. There are also courses and training available in foraging and wild food too if you want to learn more.  

I hope you get a chance to visit the beautiful Limousin region soon and explore the unspoilt countryside and wild food on offer - and you never know if you are very lucky a kindly local may even show you where to find the elusive cep!  

Bon Appetit!  

We look forward to welcoming you at De Tout Coeur Limousin.  Do please get in touch and check out our website for more information about our accommodation and holidays in the beautiful Limousin.

An edited version of this post is also on Travel France Online - a great Free Online Resource that helps you discover and enjoy French History and Culture.  

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Explore, Discover & Create - Join us at De Tout Coeur Limousin - bespoke special interest holidays in the heart of South West France

the garden at De Tout Coeur
La Maison De Tout Coeur 
Lac de Vassiviere at Broussas
Stay with us in our traditional 19th century farmhouse set in 2 acres of private garden and woodland. Located in Royere de Vassiviere in the heart of the Millevaches National Park in the Limousin region of South West France, minutes away from the shores of Lac de Vassiviere – one of France's largest Lakes.

The Millevaches (a thousand springs) is an area of unspoilt protected forest, mountains and waterways also known as 'the Lake District' of France.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Spend a week or two at De Tout Coeur enjoying the great outdoors of rural South West France. The co-owner Peter is a keen road cyclist, experienced ride leader and veteran of many a French and UK sportive and can advise on local routes and good cycling areas. Great routes for road and mountain biking straight from our front door. Whether you want hard training with plenty of climbing (even 40 milers have about 1000 metres of ascent), or just to roll along the Circuit Raymond Poulidor (used 3 times as a TT circuit for Le Tour de France) which meanders around the beautiful Lac de Vassiviere, this is fabulous cycling country in the
'spiritual home of cycling' 

Peter after riding the Circuit Raymond Poulidor - just minutes from De Tout Coeur
A wide variety of other outdoor sporting activities are available in the area all year round, from trail runninghorse riding, fishing, hiking, geocaching and walking. Grande Randonnées (France's national network of marked trails and footpaths) and other marked walking routes run right by the house.  There is open water swimming available in the Lac de Vassiviere – with 5 designated swimming beaches around the perimeter of the Lac. Perfect for triathlon training.  There are of course numerous water sports and activities available.  From kayaking,canoeing and windsurfing to pootling around on a pedalo. 
Lac de Vassiviere

There are also a wide variety of other activities available. From a vibrant contemporary art scene to regular live music and cultural events in the area. 

the awesome lighthouse staircase on the Ile de Vassiviere
International Art Centre on the Ile de Vassiviere
Thomas Houseago exhibition  at the International Art Centre on the Ile de Vassiviere
view from the top of the lighthouse on the Ile de Vassiviere
Or you can of course just take time out and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the beautiful rural area - a haven for nature lovers, artists, photographers and birdwatchers alike.

Lac de Vassiviere
Take a moment to stop and enjoy the view
We offer lodge style accommodation for up to 10 people. 6 people in double/twin rooms and up to another 4 in an attic dormitory/family room. Full board available with good and plentiful home cooking by your other host Ema – a passionate home cook, serving up big plates of big flavoured food – perfect for refuelling after a day enjoying the great outdoors.  

Ema is also a registered Reiki Master-Teacher and offers Reiki treatments and training.  A lovely addition to your break with us at De Tout Coeur.  

As well as being a keen cyclist Peter is a singing teacher and vocal coach with over 25 years experience.  As well as offering singing lessons and songwriting workshops to groups and individuals we also host singing holidays at De Tout Coeur.

sing from the heart singers May 2014 
the barn workshop space
relaxing in the workshop barn at De Tout Coeur
the barn workshop space at De Tout Coeur

The lounge at De Tout Coeur
double/twin room at De Tout Coeur
double/twin room at De Tout Coeur
double/twin room at De Tout Coeur
Polish plum cake
butternut squash, brie & wild garlic frittata
samphire and tomato salad
cumin roast lamb with za'atar spiced chickpeas & rocket
You can either join one of our organised breaks or create a bespoke week for your group (friends, family, cycling/sports club etc.) from as little as £250 pppw. 

Do get in touch with any questions and we will do our best to help create your ideal holiday in beautiful South West France

Bespoke, affordable special interest and creative holidays in the Limousin 'the hidden gem' of South West France. We look forward to welcoming you soon to De Tout Coeur Limousin

De Tout Coeur Limousin

Sing from the Heart Singing Holiday May 2014

Eric le Chien working on his harmonies for 8 days a Week
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the lovely Sing from the Heart singers May 2014 
WOW!  What a week!  We have just waved a fond farewell to our lovely group of singers.  A group of friends old and new from the UK and France.  An inspiring week of hard work and commitment from all.  

It was our first Sing from the Heart Holiday here at De Tout Coeur Limousin, and also the inaugural use of our barn workshop space.  Just days (OK hours) before our guests arrived the barn was still in a very "barn like" state.  Straw, dust, small animals under the floor boards etc...  But after much sweeping, hoovering and a few rugs and tea lights we were away.  A workshop and performance space with great acoustics and a certain rustic charm.  

Deni and Deborah (avec Jogi and Eric the dogs) relaxing with a bit of crochet between rehearsals

The end of the week culminated in our performance night. Showcasing what the group had been working on.  An informal, relaxed soiree with some wine and nibbles.  

At the start of the week we had no audience, but slowly and surely by the final night we had a lovely mix of neighbours, friends and friends of friends. Both myself and Peter were moved by the friendly show of support from our neighbours and the local community. It was a real welcome and enabled us to show what we do and who we are, as well as the opportunity to meet and chat with new people. 

We learnt and performed a range of songs including Happy by Pharrell WilliamsThe Beatles 8 Days a Week and The Feeling's Never be Lonely.  Learning Happy resulted in a few tears and cries of 'that's a pile of poo' (to put it more politely). It was a fast and at times complex arrangement which took us out of our comfort zone.  But the result was a fabulous, energetic performance full of heart and soul, which got the audience clapping along with us.  The moral to the story being don't always take the easy road as it usually pays off. 

The individual performances from the group members were next and were a great example of doing what you love with love. Everyone shined and sung from their hearts. From the bouncy Buddy Holly Medley from Neil to the glamourous Anglo-French folk stylings of Pamela.  Deborah beautifully sung a personal favourite; Dream a little Dream by Mama Cass. Doug and Deni were next with their rocking rendition of Dr Hook's The Cover of the Rolling StoneI sung Sandy Denny's classic, Who Knows Where the Time Goes - a beautiful song I had long been wanting to learn. 

Deborah singing Dream a Little Dream - only her 2nd solo performance - EVER!
Doug and Deni with their rocking rendition of Dr Hook's The Cover of the Rolling Stone

Pamela singing Francoise Hardy's Tous les Garcons
Neil's Buddy Holly medley - got all the audience clapping along!
Peter (my co-host and our vocal coach for the week)sung his own composition "Don't be Afraid" - inspired by the famous poem "Footprints in the Sand".  

Peter singing Don't be Afraid at De Tout Coeur
A lovely summation of the evening and highlighting what we are trying to communicate and help others with here at De Tout Coeur.

The night ended long after the singing had finished, with a bit more wine, chatting with our welcoming and appreciative audience and ended with a midnight chicken sandwich, digestive biscuit and tea feast before a well deserved sleep.  

A big thank you and merci beaucoup to all who took part and attended.  It could not have been better.  Looking forward to the next one already...

Do get in touch if you would like to book one of our organized singing holidays in France or create your own tailor made singing break here at De Tout Coeur Limousin.    

We look forward to singing with you soon.  

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Pamela and Peter rehearsing in the garden at De Tout Coeur

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the ukulele taking a break by the cuisiniere 

De Tout Coeur