The fourth artist from Ménerbes…

Finally the sad fate of the French-Russian painter Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955) further suggests that living in Ménerbes is not sufficient to lift your spirits. The abstract artist bought Le Castellet, the little château at the top of the village, in 1953 but didn’t stay long and committed suicide two years later (the property is still owned by his family).

Nicolas de Stael was in fact Baron Nikolai Vladimirovich Staël von Holstein and was  born on January 5, 1914 (December 23, 1913) in St. Petersburg. He died on March 14, 1955 in Antibes.

The career of Nicolas de Staël spread over fifteen years – from 1940 to 1955 – through more than a thousand works, influenced by Cézanne, Matisse, van Gogh, Braque, Soutine and the wild beasts, but also by the Dutch masters Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hercules Seghers.

His painting constantly evolved. From the dark colors of his beginnings (Porte sans porte, 1946 or Ressentiment, 1947), it leads to the exaltation of colour as in the Large Orange Nude (1953). His canvases are characterized by thick layers of paint superimposed, passing from impasto to knife (Compositions, 1945-1949) to a more fluid painting (Agrigento, 1954, Railroad by the sea, Sunset, 1955).

Refusing labels he worked very hard and was notorious for destroying as many works as he painted. “In his frenzy of painting he constantly meets the abyss, finding chords that no one else had dared to attempt before. Painting tense, nervous, always on the wire of the razor, like the last paintings of Vincent van Gogh that he joins in the suicide “, said an art historian.

Nicolas de Staël died at the age of 41, throwing himself from the terrace of the building where he had his lodging and one of his workshops in Antibes. He is buried in the Montrouge cemetery.



Legend has it that the tarte tatin was a happy accident! In the 1880’s at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Paris, the sisters Tatin were the owners and managers. Stéphanie Tatin did most of the cooking, and overworked one day, she started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. It was too late to start again so she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. She cleverly turned the tart upside down and served it. Her dish was a huge success with that day’s diners and it has never looked back.

A true classic French dessert, French Chef Daniel Galmiche adds his own touch to the traditional apple pie to tickle your taste buds and bring you the best Tarte Tatin recipe ever!

Preparation time 15 minutes, plus chilling
Cooking time 1 hour


220g/7¾oz ready-made puff pastry
Plain flour, for dusting
120g/4¼oz/heaped ½ cup caster sugar
40g/1½oz unsalted butter
1 rosemary sprig, leaves only, roughly chopped
3–4 apples such as Cox, Reinette or Golden Delicious, peeled, quartered and cored
Large pinch of toasted flaked almonds, plus extra for sprinkling
Crème Fraiche, to Serve


best-tarte-tatin-recipe-everRoll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, then cut out a circle slightly bigger than the size of a 20cm/8in flameproof baking or tatin dish. Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and place the pastry on a baking sheet, cover with cling film and chill for 25–30 minutes. This will prevent the pastry from shrinking during cooking.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5. Melt the sugar gently in the baking or tatin dish over a medium heat until golden brown, remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Sprinkle about a quarter of the rosemary leaves over. Arrange the apples tightly along the edge of the baking or tatin dish in a circle, then make smaller circles of tightly fitted apples within this circle until the based is covered and all the apples are used. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining rosemary and toasted flaked almonds over the apples and place the pastry on top, pushing the edges into the dish. Return the tin to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.

Remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes. Put an upside-down plate the size of the dish on top of the tart and, holding both the plate and dish, flip to unmould onto the plate and sprinkle with extra almonds. Et voilà – a perfect tarte tatin with rosemary. Enjoy while warm. Delicious with crème fraîche.

This recipe was taken from The Good Life France Magazine September 2015 – free to read online and download – full of fabulous features and delicious recipes…


Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the heart of the Hout Bay fishing harbour, you’ll find the Market hiding in a large decrepit shed – a market ‘de luxe’.

A place where the creative energy and the vibrancy of South Africa comes alive in an old authentic fish factory in a working harbour …. where people of all ages and cultures gather alongside one another to celebrate our unique festive spirit …. where the hustle and bustle of a boisterous market fills the air …… where local traders exchange banter with customers …. “that’s a bargain, fo sho, medam! ” … an eclectic stylish wonderland of exquisite art, craft and fashion …. complemented by the delicious aromas of food to tempt all the senses…braaing fish, freshly baked breads and citrus fruits … you pass a robotic mime drawing gasps from giggling kids … the sound of a township guitarist and a groovy sax …… punctuated by singing seagulls …. where the beauty of famous Chapman’s Peak towers overhead across the bay and you have the Hout Bay Market.


Plenty of places to eat and drink.

Seen at The Post House, Greyton

Seen at The Post House, Greyton

More on the Meerkat adventure to-morrow!

More on the Meerkat adventure to-morrow!


Finished roosterkoek in Blaauwklippen

Finished roosterkoek in Blaauwklippen

Another stall at the Blaauklippen Country Market sells roosterkoek. A firm South African favourite.

As ‘Cook sister’ says…

Roosterkoek (literally grill cake – say “roor-stir-cook” and try to roll those r’s!) is the traditional bread to accompany a braai or BBQ. The roosterkoek are simply balls of bread dough cooked on a grid over the coals, and are best eaten piping hot and straight off the grill. There are other traditional braai breads (e.g. potbread), but these require a cast iron three-legged pot with a flat base, whereas all you need for roosterkoek is some dough and a fire! My earliest delicious memory of roosterkoek is eating it at a now-defunct restaurant in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. 

To read more, click here.

Making roosterkoek?

The raw dough is placed on the grid

The raw dough is placed on the grid

Remember your roosterkoek is cooked on open coals, so once you start making the dough, also light your fire, or use the warm coals after you have braaied your meat. You must be able to hold your hands over the coals for 10 seconds without burning, then the coals are ready! Any warmer than that and you will end up with charcoal offerings. Also make sure your grid is very clean and I spray my grid with Spray ‘n Cook! You can also make roosterkoek on a griddle pan if you yearn for them and there is a gale force storm outside!


The all important braaing on the side stage

The all important braaing on the side stage

One of the many recipes – this time from Cook Sister:

The recipe below is a slightly adapted version of the one passed along to me via my dear friend Donald, from Tannie Joan – thanks Tannie! For those of you who want to perfect your roosterkoek skills, it may also be helpful to bear in mind the following hints and tips:

make sure the dough is on the stiff side (reduce the liquid if necessary). If it is too runny, the dough is going to drip through the grid before the rolls have a chance to bake!
get your braai grid as clean as possible if you are going to make roosterkoek – blackened reminders of the Ghosts of Braais Past clinging to your roosterkoek is not pretty or clever.
to stop the rolls from sticking to the grid, lightly oil your grid. Also make sure the rolls are shaped on a floured board so that they have a little some flour clinging to the outside.
be very careful with the fire you plan to cook these on. It should be neither too large (i.e flames licking the rolls!), nor too hot (black outside + runny inside = “No thanks, not really hungry today!”). Use the hand-over-the-coals endurance test as described  – if you can hold your hand there for 10 seconds or more, you are probably OK. Also make sure that the coals are distributed as evenly as possible before putting the roosterkoek on the grid.

ROOSTERKOEK (makes about 12)


300g plain flour

10ml instant yeast

5ml salt

15ml sugar

30ml sunflower oil

180-200ml warm water


Mix the yeast and sugar together in a small cup together with a little of the warm water and stir. The mixture should foam after a minute or two. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and salt, then add the oil and water while mixing continuously. When the mixture comes together to form a dough, add the yeast and sugar and mix well.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased plastic bag or in a lightly greased bowl covered with a damp tea towel and allow to rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in volume.

Divide the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces and shape into slightly flattened balls on a floured surface. Place on a baking sheet and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rise for another 15 minutes.

Place the braai grid over evenly distributed direct coals and allow to heat for 5 minutes. Lightly grease the grid and place the rolls directly on it for about 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, place the baking sheet in an oven at about 180C/350F for 15-20 minutes.

When half the cooking time has elapsed, turn the roosterkoek over. The roosterkoek are done when they are lightly browned, crispy on the outside and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the fire/oven, split open and serve hot with butter.

Good luck!

It’s that time again. The shelves are groaning with the first 2015 vintage – zany labels et al.




Side by side with the Quiver Forest is a camped off area that the Noltes have called The Giants’ Playground. The reason being that there is a formidable collection of stones and rocks which have settled in many different formations . The event must have happened many aeons ago.




There is a little walking track running through the Playground. A fun morning!


Time for a picnic!


It’s a great fRench institution – le picnique. And, we are great fans of it. Pack up the car, chill the wine, grab a baguette and off you go. The Perigord was no exception.


Quaint village overlooking the Dordoyne




Baling up the hay for winter. Fodder for the famous Charolais cattle.


Looking down on some buildings at Entrevaux outside of the village walls in High Provence


The Durance river near Entrevaux

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