Thursday 31 December 2015

An Apothecary in Issoudun

The Hospice Saint Roch constructed a new balustraded gallery in 1711. It completed the south wing of the Hospice, between the women's ward and a building which served as lodgings.

The laboratory side of the apothecary.
Three arcades created a quite low space which served first of all as a shelter and an open passage towards the gardens and the cemetery. Around 1750 the apothecary was installed there, a century after its creation in the 1640s by Jean Perrot, who was director of the hospice from 1644 to 1662.

Up until the beginning of the 17th century the sisters procured remedies from an apothecary in the town. Then Jean Perrot organised for an apothecary to be installed at the very heart of the establishment. He ordered dressers to hold the apothecary's equipment and earthenware trivets and pots from Nevers.

 The large white lidded pot on the central desk was made for Jean Perrot in Nevers.
The space is divided into two, on one side the dispensary (Fr. officine), with its shelves and pots, on the other a laboratory. At the back there was the garden of medicinal plants and the cemetery.

 Big copper jugs in the apothecary.
The shelves and desks are original furnishings, as are accessories such as mortars, chafing sets and books. They form one of the most complete apothecaries in France. 

 The range in the laboratory section of the apothecary.
The apothecary sat at the centre of the hospice when it functioned as a hospital, just as it sits at the heart of the museum today.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Why are French Farm Carts Blue?

Traditionally in the Touraine, and in some other parts of France, horsedrawn carts were painted blue. There are several posited reasons [Source Au temps de Chaumussay by Michel Brouard]:
  • the base pigments used for the paint were Prussian blue and barium sulphate, a mixture known as bleu charron. The residue from the manufacture of the blue plant dyestuff guède or pastel (woad/indigo) was also added, and the concoction was an excellent insecticide.
  • the blue repulsed flies, which taking the colour for the sky, didn't land on the cart.
  • it's the best choice of colour for the job. Red was too agressive, green would mean the vehicles disappeared in the vegetation, yellow was too loud, black was morbid, white was pretentious and got dirty too easily.
I've heard a similar story about kitchens and pantries in the 19th century being painted blue, because it was believed to be a colour that discouraged flies. The colour is known as dipteran blue in English as a result. In France this colour blue is known as bleu charrette (cart blue). Personally I don't believe the colour of the cart would discourage a fly attracted by a cart full of muck. Nor do I believe that woad/indigo would kill wood boring insects (or that carts were in any danger from such creatures). I think the last explanation, prosaic as it sounds, is the most likely.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Apothecary's Mortar and Pestle

In 1646 the administration of the Hospice Saint Roch in Issoudun recruited an apothecary to care for the sick. They chose Master Maré, who had been working in Chateauroux. It was he who brought the indispensable utensils of his trade that today are the most precious objects in the collection of the apothecary section of the hospice turned museum.

A series of painted wooden boxes known as silènes; six pots from the end of the 16th century in tin-glazed earthenware from Lyon; and this superb mortar from the end of the 15th century. On its rim is recorded the name of the man who commissioned it and the year of its manufacture -- 'The year 1497 Thibault Pasquier had me made to serve in his business'.

The grinding of drugs to a powder constituted a long and necessary stage in the preparation of most remedies. Fixed to a block to set it at a comfortable working height the bronze mortar is closed by a wooden lid. The cover is a later addition and is open in the centre to take the pestle, but its purpose is to protect the practitioner from material which may be ejected while they work. According to the quantity and the nature (animal, vegetable or mineral) of ingredients to grind, mortars of specific sizes and materials (copper, tin, lead, marble, porphyry or glass) would be used. The mortar was usually enthroned in the middle of the workshop, it being one of the primary symbols of apothecaries, and numerous businesses adopted it for their signs and badges.

Monday 28 December 2015

Lions from Como

This funerary monument, with its rather personable lions, now displayed in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, came from the church of San Francesco in Como. It was made sometime after 1339 for Franchino Rusca, a member of an aristocratic family from Como. The sculptor was a Tuscan master, possibly Giovanni Balducci. Franchino died in 1335 or 1339 but the sculpture dates from about 1350. A representation of Franchino himself would have lain on a slab between the two angels in the middle. The well preserved monument is Gothic in style and very similar to a number of other contemporary Tuscan tombs.
A la cuisine hier: I'm fed up with oysters. I've decided I just don't like them enough to be bothered with the time and effort of opening them. I grilled a dozen for lunch, dressed with an Asian style mixture of lime juice, soy sauce and fish sauce with a smidge of salt and sugar.

To follow the oysters was a fridge soup based on this one. The spice mix is too peppery but otherwise it's a good basic soup. You can keep to the spirit of it and keep it vegan with the cashew cream, but I added milk to it instead. I included swede in the veggie mix.

Sunday 27 December 2015


Bombax is a genus of large tropical trees, one of which, B. ceiba, is native to northern Australia. This one, with its impressive array of pointy protrusions on the trunk, was photographed in a picnic area in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Au verger hier: I sprained my thumb trying to extract a volunteer cherry tree that has established itself on the edge of one of the fallow vegetable plots. Its main root is about 5cm thick and it's been there about 18 months. I think I'm going to have to poison it. It will take forever to dig out.

I have a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus (Fr. un Lièvre d'Europe) back in residence. As usual, it was invisible until I got to within about 10 metres, then it shot out of its form (nest in the long grass) and disappeared over the field beyond. It looked big and fluffy, in good condition. I was also joined by a twittering phalanx of Long-tailed Tits, moving from bush to tree searching for insects.

I picked some small broccoli heads for dinner and tidied up some prunings into neat piles to dry out and become next year's kindling.
A la cuisine hier: Leftovers for lunch -- a casserole made from diced leftover roast guinea fowl, carrots and potatoes, mixed with a small box of bechamel and some green flageolet beans.

Dinner was bavette d'aloyau steak from the butchers with a slab of homemade foie gras on top, served with potatoes from the new rotisseried chicken stall at the market and our homegrown broccoli.

Gingernut biscuits, with good crunch and plenty of ginger.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Gallo-Roman Altar, Vendoeuvres

In 1856 a Gallo-Roman votive altar, probably 2nd century, was discovered during the demolition of the 12th century Romanesque church of Vendœuvres. It was buried in the ground where the first arcade on the left now is, as you enter the current church which was to be constructed shortly after the demolition of the old. The altar was then sealed into a buttress on the south side of the church.

The altar measures 1.02 m high, 0.50 m wide and 0.60 m long. It was sculpted and erected to honor the pagan gods and dedicated to the divine Augustus.

The Mars and Apollo face.
The main face has a half destroyed inscription at the top. Below that is a trophy decorated with a very simple helmet without crest and resting on a shield. In one of the corners there is the end of a bow. These are the attributes of Mars, the god of war. The bottom of the panel has a tripod around which a snake is coiled. This probably symbolises the god Apollo.

 The Juno face.
The face on the left shows a seated woman, wearing a loose robe. Her breasts are exposed and she is nursing a child. Next to her a smaller character is standing, naked, winged and holding a spear. Below, three large well executed acanthus leaves occupy the entire bottom space. My first impression on seeing this face was that it was Christian imagery, showing Mary with the infant Jesus, joined by an angel. However, this is Juno, goddess of marriage, fertility and mothers. The winged character may be a personal spirit, known as a genius.

 The Minerva face.
The right face, the one that was once hidden in the masonry of the new church, depicts two birds, one facing us and one in profile. They are probably owls, the symbol of Minerva, goddess of intelligence and the arts. This face was unfortunately very damaged when the stone was embedded in the buttress of the church building. It was visibly hacked about, probably to make its insertion in the new masonry easier.

The Concordia face.
The back shows two tightly clasped hands. This is the symbol of Concordia, the divinity who presides over the harmony of the imperial family. Underneath is a beribboned garland of flowers and fruits.

The altar was probably consecrated to all of the above -- Augustus, Concordia, Mars, Apollo, Juno and Minerva.

In 1864 a stone carved with Celtic images, including a seated antlered god, and two characters standing on snakes, was found in front of the church. On the back of this stone was a depiction of Apollo playing a lyre. Celtic gods were beginning to be merged with Roman gods.

In 1892 another Gallo-Roman altar was found in a garden in the middle of Vendoeuvres. This one now resides in the museum in Chateauroux. It appears that in Roman times Vendoeuvres was a place of some importance, a town rather than a village.

Vendoeuvres is built on a slight rise overlooking the surrounding countryside. Most likely it was a significant Celtic community before becoming a Gallo-Roman town. The parish church is dedicated to Saint Stephen (St Etienne in French) and this indicates that the population was Christianised in the 3rd century. The name Vendoeuvres is a corruption of the Celtic 'Vindo Briga', meaning 'white fortress'.

Friday 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Simon went crazy and bought a Christmas decoration!

Merry Christmas to all our readers.

Thursday 24 December 2015

A Tithe Barn and Dovecote in Chaumussay

The dovecote.
Under the porch situated to the left of the entry to the church you will find the former tithe barn (Fr. grange dîmière) with its door and some lovely carpentry. Over the centuries this space was used to store tithes destined for the church. Today it is used by the local council for materials and equipment. Behind, to the left, you will find in an old opening in the barn a remarkable small dovecote, a real artisanal masterpiece in zinc, with additional motifs in wood. It has six openings above rounded landing platforms from where the occupants can coo (and poo) to their hearts content. According to a theory developed by a 20th century historian, this dovecote might have been moved in the 19th century from the Priory of Saint Valentine to the tithe barn. If this is the case it is a significant artefact, since virtually nothing remains of this substantial and once important priory.

Carpentry in the roof of the tithe barn. Remind you of anything?
Continuing along the barn wall you will find a much older wall, recently restored and capped to prevent water infiltrating. This wall runs along the path taken by the priest each evening as he read his breviary in its shelter. 

The tithe barn (the church is to the left, visible through the arch).
Source: Au temps de Chaumussay by Michel Brouard.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

The Chapel of Saint Sulpice, Vendoeuvres

 The interior of the chapel.
This small, very simple edifice from the 16th century, constructed in Brenne sandstone, is situated in a clearing in the heart of the Forest of Lancosme.

The chapel of Saint Sulpice. 
The very red sandstone tells you the building is not in the Touraine.
According to legend, the finest ox in a herd grazing in the clearing was noticed incessantly circling a bush. The ox didn't graze, but didn't lose condition and the grazier who owned him was intrigued. Going to the spot the young man discovered the corpse of Saint Sulpice, former Archbishop of Bourges.

A shelf fitted with spikes for votive candles, 
which have deposited a heavy layer of soot on the wall.
The Archbishop was interred and from the place indicated by the ox flows a spring to which was attributed the power to cure pain and convulsions in children. The first Sunday after 25 August is the traditional date for pilgrimage to the shrine and it looks to me as if it is still an active pilgrimage site. I wonder how many curistes strip off and go for the full immersion plunge in the spring? It would have been jolly tempting this summer.

The healing spring.
A la cuisine hier: A bûche de Noël, somewhat randomly iced with assorted buttercreams left over from past Cake Club efforts. Tasted good though.
Au verger hier: Onions, garlic, broccoli rabe, cavalo nero, some unidentified brassicas and chard all marking time for next year. I still have lettuce, and regular broccoli which I should have picked but got sidetracked and forgot. The beds are full of phacelia and poppies acting as green manure/weed suppressants. I don't know if they will make it through the winter.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Church Well

This well in Chaumussay which probably dates from the beginning of the 16th century is close to the sacristy which it served. It provided water to dilute the communion wine so it would go further, amongst other things. In the old days practically every household in the village and surrounding hamlets would have had a well and a bread oven. Sometimes the well would have several people with the right to use it, which was a source (no pun intended...) of conflicts and some fairly outrageously extreme stories (Fr. rocambolesque, meaning incredible, fantastical, far-fetched.)

Source: Au temps de Chaumussay by Michel Brouard.

Winter started at 05.49 this morning. We didn't get out of bed to celebrate (if that is indeed the word) because sunrise isn't until 08.39, and no-one gets out of bed almost 3 hours before sunrise. Our latest sunrise isn't for another 2 weeks, but yes, from here on in the days are getting longer.
A la buanderie hier: In early December we attended the annual Christmas dinner for our car club and Elisabeth B managed to spill red wine all over me. I was wearing a sunflower yellow boiled wool skirt and a handmade purple felted wrap which was a gift from Liselle. We frantically dabbed all the red wine with white wine and hoped for the best. I washed the skirt on returning home, using stain remover and it has just about come out. There is a faint shadow if you know where to look. The skirt is old (probably 10 years) but a favourite. Luckily it is machine washable so I didn't hesitate to launder it myself. The wrap was a different matter. It has no care instructions, but I knew its creator had developed a unique method of fusing handmade felt to a fine background cloth and that it was hand dyed. Fortunately because of its colour the red wine spots were not visible (even I couldn't identify them). However, I didn't want to leave it impregnated with wine as it would smell and attract insects. I didn't want it being munched full of holes while I wasn't looking. Yesterday I plucked up courage, put it in a white pillowcase and carefully hand washed it in tepid water with a drop of dishwashing detergent, then rinsed in cold with a dash of white vinegar. It leaked almost no dye which was a relief. Still in the pillowcase, to support and protect it while wet, I gently squeezed some of the water out then set it to spin in the washing machine. I figured it was better to extract the water to reduce its weight while it dried draped over the rack upstairs. It appears to have survived the experience perfectly well, with no apparent distortion or loss of colour. Phew.
A la cuisine hier: The kimchi is clearly up to something. Tiny bubbles are filtering up through the shredded veg. Packing it in glass jars to cure has proved a good idea. I can see what's going on without disturbing things.

Monday 21 December 2015

Fruits and Fleeces on the Ceiling

Many of the rooms in the Castello Sforzesco have painted ceilings. This vaulted one was decorated with bunches of fruit and leaves. I have in my mind that it dates from Ludovico il Moro's time (the last years of the 15th century) but I see that one of the motifs is the Golden Fleece. He doesn't seem to have been a member of this chivalric order, so this part of the decoration at least presumably dates from slightly later, probably from when the encumbent duke was a puppet of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Charles always used the 'standing ram' emblem of the Golden Fleece extensively.

The fruits depicted will have been carefully chosen for their symbolic values. For example, the pear, which features numerous times on the ceiling, is a symbol of the Virgin Mary. At a guess I'd say it was proper fresco (ie painted originally on wet render).

A la cuisine hier: Spiced Pear Upside Down Cake, which uses puréed pears as a substitute for fat. The cake is nicely spiced, the texture squidgy and you can do a pretty pattern with pear slices which get nicely coated in syrup.

I added some chilli to some of the picadillo and turned it into natchos with some corn chips and cheese.

Sunday 20 December 2015


As many of you will know, the ancient and fragile Australian natural environment is now plagued by feral and introduced animals which cause damage ranging from extirpating native species to erosion and desertification. What you may not be fully aware of is just how many different types of animals have gone feral in Australia. There are goats, cattle, camels, cats, horses, donkeys, buffaloes, pigs and dogs all roaming freely in National Parks or other public lands, and on large farming properties.  Quite apart from the non-domesticated introduced wild animals such as foxes, rabbits and deer.

In many places feral horses, known as brumbies, are a big problem. Whilst the public is willing to accept government programmes to shoot feral donkeys, buffaloes and goats, horses are seen as special. As a result, in the Northern Territory, the control of buffalo and donkeys is well established and adequate. Horses are another matter. The mob (as herds are called in Australia) in the photo above were enjoying the grass at a visitor centre in Kakadu National Park. The Aboriginal woman who runs the centre told me they were a pain, leaving manure where she has to sweep it up and being a danger to tourists who want to go up to them and pat them. These horses are not tame, and although habituated to people, the stallion will get aggressive if he feels people are getting too close to his harem. On a more serious environmental level, these are hard hoofed animals in a landscape evolved for soft footed kangaroos, and Australian native dung beetles don't know what to do with horse manure.

Much as I like horses myself, and despite being an avid reader of Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumby stories as a child, these horses have to go. I spent my childhood on the fringes of the Victorian high country, where there is also a significant brumby problem. To read more about it, see this article in the Guardian from last year.
A la cuisine hier: Fingers crossed for some kimchi I laid down yesterday. Simon developed a taste for the spicy Korean fermented cabbage and vegetables dish when he was in Korea ten years ago. We bought a Korean book translated into English on how to make the stuff, but the recipes are all a bit off and my one and only attempt was way too salty. This time I'm using a recipe from French food writer Clotilde Dusoulier, so hopefully any lack of authenticity is made up for in good practical kitchen common sense.

I took off the outer leaves of the cabbage and blanched them for use stuffed with the boring leftover picadillo. Jazzed up with a good strong tomato sauce they ought to be alright.

Saturday 19 December 2015

What I did for my Birthday

Friday was my 56th birthday so as a birthday treat Simon took me to lunch and on a little outing. We went to Vendoeuvres, in the middle of the Brenne. Not as you might assume to birdwatch. Neither of us are bird nerds and winter isn't the best season for birdwatching in the Brenne.

We went almost on a whim. Simon had read that the church there housed a Celtic altar, and we knew the town had at least two restaurants offering a worker's lunch menu of the sort we like, although we'd never eaten at either before.

 Auberge Saint Sulpice.
The aforementioned restaurants are both on Place Saint Louis. When we got there one was closed, so that made the choice easy. We ate at the Auberge Saint Sulpice, and very good and convivial it was too.

The menu du jour was tuna and tomato salad followed by mussels in cream sauce with what appeared to be proper homemade chips, cheese, and a dessert of three sorts of creme brulée. 

 Me peering into the limpid depths of the magic spring in the forest.
The salad and main were both simple and very tasty. The chips were excellent -- hot, crisp on the outside, floury on the inside, the best I've had for a very long time, and these days it is rare to get chips made from scratch in the kitchen. The cheese was dull, just camembert and a hard cheese of some sort. The dessert came in three tiny pots, all with their sugar flaming. They were vanilla, coffee and chocolate flavoured. The whole lot, plus coffee and wine, came to under €30.

We noticed that the paper serviettes had a picture of a chapel printed on them and we asked if the chapel really existed. 'Oh yes,' we were assured, 'it's just down the road. Turn right at the stop sign then turn left at the bridge, towards Neuilly le Bois.'

Me waiting while Simon photographs the gallo-roman altar.
So off we went, after lunch. The chapel, and its inevitable magic fountain, is hidden in the forest in a lovely peaceful location. We were charmed. After inspecting it inside and out, marvelling at the quantity of water flowing from the spring and enjoying the sun we returned to Vendoeuvres to check out the church.

The day was incredibly mild. There was no need for a coat outdoors, and it was probably the warmest birthday I've had since we left Australia. The church was noticeably chilly nonetheless, and much colder than outside. The altar turned out to be gallo-roman strictly speaking, and is displayed in a side chapel.

More on the chapel and the gallo-roman altar will be forthcoming in future blog posts.

Friday 18 December 2015


The thirty one painted oak wooden boxes from the beginning of the 17th century, the legacy of Master Maré, apothecary to the Hospice Saint Roch in Issoudun in 1646, are amongst the oldest of their kind in France. They feature a rich ornamental decoration of flowers, animals or human figures. A Latin inscription in the upper cartouche identifies the remedy contained within. The use of wooden boxes, in chestnut or oak, sometimes cylinder shaped, was advocated from the Middle Ages to keep hydrophilic drugs, dried plants, roots and barks, gums, resins, horns, nails, bones and ivories. 

Pyrethrum was used in poultices for headaches. 
I have no idea why it is represented by a boar-cum-fish.
Rabelais described them from 1534 in the prologue of Gargantua: [My translation] Silènes* were small boxes which you used to see in apothecary shops, painted on the outside with joyous and frivolous figures, like harpies, satyrs, bridled goslings, horned hares, basted ducks, flying bucks, lemon tree antlered stags, and other such painted enjoyable counterfeits to make everyone laugh...but inside them they store fine drugs like balm, ambergris, cardamom, musk, civet, jewels and other precious things.'

Labdanum is a resin from rockroses Cistus spp, gathered in medieval times
 by combing it from the hair of the goats that grazed on the shrubs. 
There is no connection to unicorns so far as I know.
The painted representations of strange animals, associated with products from Asia or the Americas are borrowed directly from scientific works of the 16th century, such as 'Monsters and Prodigies' by Ambroise Paré, published in 1585 or the 'Universal Cosmography' by André Thevet, from 1575.

Opium has been used as a painkiller since Neolithic times. I'm interested
that the image on the box is not of bog standard single lilac coloured flowers, but of a fancy (quite common) mutation which produces flowers like a pompom.
*There doesn't seem to be an English language term for these boxes.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Guitars in the Windows

The organisation that trains master craftsmen in France is called les Compagnons du Tour de France. This is a trades guild that has existed since medieval times, but was perhaps most active in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a wonderful museum in Tours dedicated to the organisation. The companions, or master craftsmen, have left their mark in all sorts of surprising places if you know what to look for. For example, several times we have enjoyed meals at the restaurant run by the guild in Paris, Aux Arts et Sciences Réunis, where they have many carpenters' masterpieces on display.

A relatively simple guitarde with pincer ties in Chaumussay.
In Chaumussay, a tiny village just down river from Preuilly, there are two dormer windows (Fr. lucarnes). They are to be found on adjoining houses in the main street. They are of a type that is rare, being unusual and complex in form. They are made from curved and deliberately warped pieces of timber, making their assembly difficult and requiring specialist skills. They are clearly the work of a compagnon du devoir (master craftsman) and are in a form known as guitardes (guitar-like), a reference I assume to refer to their curved roofline. Similar complex decorative arrangements supporting a square balcony or dormer are known as capucines (I assume because they were thought to bear some resemblance to the hood on a cloak).

According to the director of the Musée du compagnonnage in Tours there are only three guitardes which incorporate this star motif in the Touraine [Source: Au temps du Chaumussay by Michel Brouard]. The star is possibly a 'secret' guild sign representing the Seal of Solomon. 

Starred guitarde in Chaumussay.
The second guitarde on the neighbouring house is different in design, simpler, but nonetheless interesting. The two houses were owned by the same person at the end of the 18th century.

For an example of a guitarde and two capucines side by side, check out a house on your left as you come through Perusson on the way to Loches. It's the balconies you want to look at, not the dormers, in this case.

According to Le Compagnonnage, chemin de l'excellence (ATP Editions Musées Nationaux):

[My translation] A guitarde is a wall dormer, circular or ellipsoidal in plan. It takes its name from the assemblage of pieces of curved wood called 'guitar ties'. Dormers on a square or rectangular plan are known as capucines but the term guitarde is equally used when the carpentry uses 'pincer ties', whether on a circular or square plan. The complexity of the assemblages, but also the aesthetic, drew out genuine master pieces from elder companions and even independent artisans in the 19th century and up to about 1950. A survey by Christian Chenault in the 6 départements of Région Centre has identified over 300 guitardes and capucines. [Click to see photos of some]
The guitardes were used by elder companions to signal to younger journeymen companions who were making their tour around France gaining experience that here under the guitarde was the workshop or home of a potential mentor.
A la cuisine hier: Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke and Leek Soup, using a small pot of fresh goats cheese (Fr. faisselle de chèvre) instead of cream.

Picadillo, a Cuban savoury mince dish that I had never heard of, which turned out to be fairly ordinary. I had some difficulty getting brown rice to serve with it and in the end had to settle for the quick cook variety from the supermarket. It was OK, but not as rustic as the real thing.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Neige aux pommes pour les grands

Hah! I bet you thought the apple recipes had finished and the billion trillion apples dealt with. Not quite yet, but we are getting there. The apples are down to one big tray and one small tray, and this recipe uses a whole kilo of apples. Hurrah!

Apples, peeled, cored and diced, ready to be stewed.
Apple Snow, which I figure is neige aux pommes in French, is the sort of dessert that in its simplest form you may well have seen quite often on the table in your childhood, made by your mum. Usually it is just stewed apples and uncooked meringue, sometimes with the addition of lemon and/or whipped cream. Although quite common and well known (but old fashioned) in [some parts of] the Anglo world, it appears to be almost unknown in France. 

Stewed apple, with just the right proportion of purée to dice.

Since I was making the dessert as my contribution to the shared lunch at our foie gras workshop I thought I would make a slightly more sophisticated version (pour les grands means 'for grownups'). Apple Snow is essentially a syllabub (ie cream or milk thickened by whipping sweet wine or similar into it and often folded through tart fruit, sometimes with meringue). The English have been eating it since Elizabethan times.

Whipped cream and calvados.

1 kilo apples (use several varieties, some which will turn to pulp and some which will hold their shape)
½ cup water
Juice and grated zest of 2 limes (or lemons or oranges)
120 g sugar (for the apples) + 50 g sugar (for the meringue)
4 egg whites
¼ cup calvados (or cider or pommeau)
Powdered cinnamon or ginger (optional)

  1. Peel and core the apples then chop into 1 cm dice.
  2. Put the apple, water, lime juice and sugar in a saucepan, cover and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. Leave to cool completely.
  4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, add the sugar and whisk again to incorporate.
  5. Put the cream in a bowl and if it is very thick loosen by adding the calvados.
  6. Whip until soft folds form. 
  7. Stir the calvados into the apple if it isn't already in the cream.
  8. Fold the cream into the apple.
  9. Fold the meringue into the apple mixture.
  10. Put into 8 serving bowls, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. (Sprinkle with spice if using.)
  11. Serve with a biscuit, such as shortbread, sablé, gingernut, macaroon or biscotti.
 I nearly forgot to take a photo of the finished dessert...
It occurred to me that a pineapple and coconut version might be nice too, using crushed pineapple and coconut whipped cream (but would you use green ginger wine or Malibu...?).