The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Cannelés bordelais

Not much to do with Richelieu really - but they are rather nice and the Abbé Henri has just perfected their preparation.  Cannelés (or if authentically from Bordeaux 'canelés bordelais') are small caramelised crunchy/gooey cakes that taste like vanilla ice cream but without the ice and without the cream.  Served with a crème anglaise or custard the are pretty nice to eat, so here is the recipe:

Step 1:
Cannalé moulds; individual moulds of tinned copper are very pretty, but don't be tempted by authenticity as getting the little blighters out when they are hot is a a lovely new silicone 8-cannelé mould from a cooking shop.

Step 2:
Ingredients for 16 cannelés (ie two 8-cannelé moulds)
A 0.5 litre full milk
B 2 whole eggs
C 2 egg yolks
D 2-4 vanilla beans (fresher are better than dried out; not vanilla extract)
E 1.5 tablespoons dark 'Navy' rum
F 100 grams plain flour
G 200-250 grams caster sugar (more or less sweet to choice)
H 50 grams butter (reduce to 25 grams? - omit entirely?)

Step 3 
Preparation stage 1
1 Split the vanilla beans length-wise and scrape out the precious seeds
2 Add beans seeds and butter to the milk, bring to the boil and take off heat
3 Mix the flour, sugar, eggs and egg yolks in a bowl
4 Whisk at high speed for 3-5 minutes
5 Remove bean casings from the warm milk and transfer it gradually into the flour mix bowl
6 Add all the vanilla milk to the flour (with all the seeds but not the beans)
7 Whisk for 3-5 minutes as before
8 Cool the mix for 1 hour and then mix in the rum
9 Cool the mixture overnight in a fridge (or some say for 24 hours)

Step 4
Preparation stage 2 (next day)
1 Preheat the oven to 270 deg C (520 deg F); this is usually right at the maximum for most domestic ovens (slightly less for fan ovens)
2 Fill all the 8 moulds to 80%; don't leave any empty
3 BAKE at high temperature for 6-9 minutes (more or less caramelised outside), then
4 Reduce oven temperature to 180 deg C (350 deg F) and BAKE for at least another 1 hour (more or less gooey/cakey inside)
5 Cover with aluminium foil after 20 minutes of the hour
6 Take the mould out of the oven and invert onto a pie grid and let cool
7 After 10 minutes tap the canelés out from the silicone mould without damaging them

Step 5; Consumption
Two each. They are best after 1 hour; they can be frozen; they go rubbery if left out any real time.
Serve with real custard or crème anglaise (or maybe with real vanilla ice cream).

Would be nice with a bottle of Coteaux de Layon, or even a half bottle of Bonnezeaux

Monday 22 September 2008

Bowled over by melons

The summer months of July and August are those of the orange fleshed cantaloupe melon, which is extensively farmed in Haut Poitou just next to Richelieu.  We were directed to go to Chapeau Melon - halfway between Richelieu and Loudun - and award them the family supply contract.  It is astonishing just how much melon one can happily eat on an August evening.  And the peak season prices are a delight.

p.s. un chapeau melon = a bowler hat; geddit!

Thursday 18 September 2008

The façade of 14 Grande Rue

There are 28 mansions that line the Grande Rue, each originally built to the same design specification.  It is one of the largest collections of authentic seventeenth century houses in a single artistic composition in France. Until recently, several of these grand houses were in very poor condition, and finding the right use for such large houses has not been entirely easy.  They are too large for any individual's funds but too modest for a national monument. There is much earnest discussion as to appropriate use and whether 'any old use' that allows prompt restoration would be more relevant than patiently awaiting the perfect restoration context, perhaps ensuring complete and terminal dereliction.  No.14 was in truely awful condition. For a while it seemed to be in the sights of the Mairie, to act as the town's own museum mansion for visitors and tourists.  It was favoured as the particular site allows a rear public emergency exit to rue Henri Proust. But when the town chose No.28 Grande Rue instead, this building was reconceived as apartments for seniors, people in retirement (there are a lot of people en retraite in France as a consequence of the generous  provisions of the modèle sociale).

One of the wonderful aspects of buildings of this period is that they restore so well, and soon show the graceful quality of much French 17th century art.  So it is now with No.14.  There is a general policy to remove any commercial activity on the ground floor of these mansions and even if some retail is unavoidable by established rights, to restore the fenestration so that only the spandrels below the original window openings are altered. The incorporation of complete modern glassy retail façades is taboo. Commercial activity is to be encouraged in the two main squares, as was the intention of the original conception of designer Jacques Lemercier and the Cardinal Duc himself.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

The château & town's water system (2) - in photographs

A former post written by chief architect of Les Monuments Historiques, Arnaud de Saint-Jouan, described the château and town's water supply system. Here are sylvan pictures of the various installations to match the very interesting and informative text. (Items references refer to the text).

Click here for the text.

The 17 century spring chamber at Bisseuil (item O)

The water aerator outside the castle (item P)

The town's old water tower fed from Bisseuil 

The Bollée hydraulic ram building (item J)

The old electricity generator building (item J)

The sluice from the ram and the powerstation (item G)

The sluice flowing past the hydraulic ram (item G)

The current supply canal in its 19 century relocation (item D)

The grand canal looking south towards the original 17 century feeder canal and sluices location (item E), now largely blocked and silted up

The sad location of the derelict embarquadère on the grand canal, demolished in 2007 (item L)

The inaccessible location of the reservoir, within the walled hunting park with the wild boar (item M)

The view of the grand canal's exit sluices from the main park (item F)

The main exit sluices (item F)

The sluice's stonework abutments (item F)

The final overflow pond before the entry to the town's moat, now partially planted with poplars (item I)

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Where the money goes on a baguette

I found this interesting picture on another blog.  I'll never eat another baguette without thinking about profit and loss!  I should date this picture as September '08.  What  a lot of salaries, n'est-ce pas?  Is this the effect of crazy 'social costs'?

Fête de Locomotion 2008

The Richelieu Festival of Locomotion is held in the domainal park of the Château of Richelieu every other year.  This year it took place on the weekend of the 6 and 7 September 2008.
Saturday is really a day of set up, but in the afternoon there was an auction of historic and sporty cars run by auctioneers from Chinon.  This year the sale included the world's largest collection of Velos Solex, the front-wheel power-assisted bicycles that seem associated with berets, onions, Gaulloises and other iconic clichés of la douce France.  Now they are a rarity as everybody drives cars.  
Twenty or so ancient or sporty cars were sold off to an expectant audience, and bargains were to be had.  How much would you pay for a classic Citroën H van in rare pick-up format? - believe me, the lucky purchaser was delighted at what he paid.  The next day the main event started with a gracious tour of the locality at the speed that can be achieved by 1926 Citroën saloons, which stopped off at a château behind Fay-la-Vineuse for a vin d'honneur and a session admiring the collection of cars.  The long line of cars was protected by WW2 Willys jeeps marshalling the 2008 traffic; the military vehicles complete with very pretty girls of the Free French forces riding shotgun with the Yankee liberators. Followed of course by déjeuner together under the trees of the park.
Well done to the Amateurs d'Utilitaires de la Vallée de la Loire for the whole event. 
(p.s. vallée n. f. is a valley, so surely de la vallée rather than de le vallée?  
Quelle horreur!!)

thanks to Susie for the pictures - Abbé Henri Proust's old Box Brownie is acting a bit dickie at the moment...

Friday 12 September 2008

The new Richelieu stamp (2)

Thank you Jean et Caroline for getting us an immaculate first day cover (5th August 2008) of the 0.55 cent stamp depicting the Duc-Cardinal and the Porte de Châtellerault of the town of Richelieu.

This follows an earlier post in this  site, warning of the issue by La Poste.

Thursday 11 September 2008

Back in the saddle

Abbé Henri Proust, who writes most of these blog posts, has finally arrived back at his presbytery computer, so the stream of Éminence Rouge blog posts, all about the gorgeous little town of Richelieu, can now resume after les vacances.

Welcome back M. l'Abbé!