Wednesday, 20 August 2014

7 Ways to Free Up Freezer Space

Posted by Rosie

Hopefully if you are a fruit or vegetable grower you will be bringing home the harvests now and probably having more produce than you can eat.  If you are freezing this excess there is a good chance you are suffering from:


Our rapidly filling freezer!

This can be a serious problem if you still have produce to store, but fear not, there are ways to free up freezer space so you can store more of your wonderful harvest without having to buy another freezer!

7 Ways to Free up Freezer Space

1.  Flash or Open Freezing

Flash freezing is a method of freezing certain vegetables and fruit so they remain separate or free flowing instead of freezing together in a solid mass.  It works well for large amounts of veg like peas and beans, and delicate fruits such as raspberries.  Prepare the produce as normal, blanching if needs be and then spread them out on a tray in a flat layer.  They can just touch as long as they are not too wet.  Place the tray in the freezer and once frozen slide the individual pieces into a freezer bag.  This way the loose produce will fit better into the freezer and you can use small amounts as needed rather than waiting for when you need to use a big amount.

Flash Freezing Raspberries

2. Use preformers

For "wet" produce eg stewed tomatoes/fruit etc, freezing in small plastic tubs works well but often this leaves empty head space in the tub.  Therefore once the product is frozen, pop it out of the plastic tub (the preformer) and place it in a plastic bag.  Now you are not freezing air and the tub can be used again to freeze more produce.  The pots to the left in the photo above are not ice-cream but are stewed red cabbage and ratatouille, waiting to be put into smaller plastic bags once fully frozen.

3.  Brick Freezing

If however you do not have a selection of small plastic tubs but you do have a large one you can use this method.  Place your produce in the large tub and once it is almost frozen, take it our of the freezer and cut it into suitably sized blocks, freezing these in individual plastic bags.

4.  Keep an inventory and label things well

The bane of every freezer owner, the bag of something unknown that slips to the bottom of the freezer and never gets eaten thus taking up valuable space.  If you keep an inventory and label your produce well, you can track what you have and use up old supplies before adding new.  I won't mention how I once found 7 year old Worcesterberries lurking in the bottom of our freezer .... !

5.  Make soups with less liquid

If you turn your vegetables into soups and stews make them with less water/stock and add this after defrosting. Just make sure you label what you need to add.

6.  Cook produce to reduce space

Some fruit and vegetables take up less space when cooked.  For example stew your rhubarb or roast your tomatoes and purée them, then freeze in preformers as detailed in point 2.

7.  Use other methods to preserve produce

Bottled passata, roasted tomatoes and fruit

Do not always think that freezing is the only method of long term preservation.   Here at Eco-Gites of Lenault I bottle a lot of fruit and passata.  Other methods you can use include making jam, pickles, chutneys, sauerkraut, wine, syrups, fruit vinegars or dehydrating produce.  Many vegetables such as parsnips and leeks will happily stay in the ground over winter and others such as pumpkins, potatoes and carrots, using the correct methods, can be stored overwinter without the need to freeze them. 

My friend at Colour It Green says she plays Freezer Tetris at this time of year - taking one thing out and trying to add two more and then spending ages trying to get everything into the freezer!  I so know this feeling and all I can say is it is nowhere near as fun and a lot colder than the computer game of Tetris! 

Are you reaching freezer saturation  point?  Do you have any other methods you have used to make more space in your freezer?  

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Seed Pictures

Posted by Rosie

In the sixth of our series of nature games and activities for children today we have:

Seed Pictures

For this activity you need a selection of seeds that use use to create a picture of your choice.  You can either add the seeds onto a template or build up your own image.

Robin pictures made with seeds

To make Seed Pictures you will need:

  • A selection of seeds
  • Paper or cardboard
  • PVA Glue
  • Paintbrush  
  • Toothpick and/or tweezers
  • Paper or cardboard
  • Black and white templates (optional) 

Seeds from your kitchen - soup mix, red lentils, aduki beans, split peas, quinoa, soya beans


  • Collect together your seeds - if they are gathering from outside and they are are wet you will need to dry them.  If collecting seeds is not an option or you need more, you can use seeds left over in garden seed packets or you can raid the kitchen cupboards - suitable seeds include dried beans, lentils, rice, pumpkin, sunflower, chickpea, spice seeds, poppy seeds etc.
  • Find and print off a template if you are using one.  I went to Google, typed in robin and searched under black and white plus line drawings ... be warned though, in this instance I had to trawl past a lot of batman type Robins first!
  • Add glue with a paintbrush to the first the part of the picture you want to add the seeds to.  
  • Add the seeds.  Large seeds can be added individually and smaller seeds poured on.  Seeds can be pushed gently into place with a toothpick or placed more accurately with tweezers. Once this is completed, shake excess seeds off the dry areas move to the next section.  I would not recommend adding lots of glue in one hit as seeds easily get dropped and land in the wrong place.  
  • Continue until the whole picture is filled in with seeds.

Seed robin by P, aged 3

Do let me know of you have a go at making seed pictures and I'd love to see your masterpieces.  You can either post them up on Twitter linking to us at @ecogiteslenault or pop them on our Facebook page.

For more children centred activities why not head on over to Let Kids be Kids and see what other children have been playing at this week.  You can also see all the nature games and activities we have detailed so far by clicking here.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Battle for Lénault

Posted by Rosie

Last Sunday I posted up a picture of the memorial in Lénault honouring the brave soldiers who liberated the village from the Germans in WWII. Since then I have been trying to find out a bit more about what happened 70 years ago in August 1944.  My searches online have not proved massively fruitful but this is what I have come up with some information.

The 7th Somerset Light Infantry who liberated Lénault were part of the 43rd Wessex Division and they landed on the Normandy beaches about 2 weeks after D-Day.  They may well have been involved in the battles for Hill 112 (where a friend's father lost his leg but survived) and Mount Pinçon, just north of Lénault.  Mount Pinçon is the highest point in Calvados, making it strategically vital for the Allied troops to secure.  The result was extremely heavy bombardment to the surrounding villages and town of Aunay-sur-Odon at it's foot.  There was much loss of civilian life.  A memorial on the Mount has been erected by the 13th/18th Hussars by way of an apology for this destruction.  

Memorial on Mount Pinçon

Lénault's neighbouring village of Le Plessis Grimault also took a battering as the Germans were holed up in the tower of the old abbey church with a large gun.  It was finally liberated on August 7th, 3 days before Lenault.

Allied troops in Le Plessis Grimault

For Lénault these may have been saving graces.  Once Mount Pinçon and Le Plessis Grimault were secured German troops may have withdrawn with less of a battle leaving Lénault empty.  I am only guessing this mind.  I do know that the house at the end of our drive was destroyed by a bomb during the war - I do not know when though.

What I do know for sure is that no part of the army took a direct route in any of their campaigns of La Bataille de Normandie.  On this map Lénault is just to the east but you can see what convoluted routes different battalions took.  After Lénault, the 7th Somerset Light Infantry headed north east to Clécy and ultimately east to Berlin.  One of the soldiers in this battalion was Thomas Yearsley who would later unveil the plaque now on the wall in Lénault.  However his story poignantly illustrates that whilst the battle for Normandy saw defeat for the Germans it wasn't until the following year, 9 months later that war in Europe ended and another 3 months after that for it to end in the Far East.  Thomas was later captured by the Germans and served out the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.   There was still much suffering before peace was finally secured.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who may have more information on the war around Lénault.  Please do get in touch either in a comment or by emailing us here.  Many thanks.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

From Kent to Normandy ...

Posted by Rosie

7 years ago today we were about to say farewell to this view in Kent.  It was our last day there before heading to Normandy, France for our new life at Eco-Gites of Lenault.

Farewell Kent

A week day later we had started our veg patch and our move towards a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle had begun!

Bonjour Eco-Gites of Lenault

Friday, 15 August 2014

Word of the Week - Preparation

Posted by Rosie

The Reading Residence




The action or process of preparing or being prepared for use or consideration.

As we move towards the second half of August the return to school known in France as La Rentrée draws ever closer.  And with La Rentrée comes preparations for school.  In France pupils have to supply their own exercise books and many other things including art materials, pens etc, file paper, folders, plastic pockets ... and so the list goes on.  At the end of the summer term a list is sent home and parents are giving the onerous task of gathering together all the supplies.  Yes, I can see anyone with school-age children in France quivering slightly at this point and fully understanding what this involves!

It is something I absolutely dread because there are so many variations on each item yet each teacher seems to ask for a specific thing, slightly different from the next.  Take A4 exercise books.  The lists that Ben and Tom have asks for 4 different types:

  • A4, 96 pages, small squares, not spiral bound
  • A4, 96 pages, large squares, not spiral bound
  • 24/32, 96 pages, small squares, not spiral bound*
  • 24/32, 96 pages, large squares, not spiral bound*

* These are slightly larger than standard A4 and are apparently preferred by teachers who get their pupils to stick lots of A4 sheets into their books.

The shops however also supply exercise books with different numbers of pages and spiral bound and A5 and  plain .... and we poor parents have to trawl through them all to find the right ones.  Oh and then you have to try and work out if it is cheaper to buy multipacks or a different make and not forget that you need to buy the right number of protective covers to fit the number of different sized books you are asked to buy!!!

Oh and don't get me going on file paper (Feuilles).  The boys have been asked to get:

  • Feuilles simples A4 large squares
  • Feuilles simples A4 small squares
  • Feuilles doubles A4 large squares
  • Feuilles doubles A4 small squares
  • Feuilles simples A5 large squares


So this week I have been trying to pin down the boys to go through what they have left over from last year before bravely heading to the shops to stock up on everything new they need.  I may have been making preparations for La Rentrée but I reckon my word of the week could just have easily have been stressed or exasperated or confused or broke!


Mum - "There we go!  I don't think we've forgotten anything!"
Boy  - "Yes! A giant school bag to store this lot in!"

If you are you in the midst of preparations for the return to the school, how's it going?

THe Mad House

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Womens Rugby World Cup 2014

England have beaten Ireland in the Semi Finals earlier this evening and Canada just (and against the odds) beat France.  Both were very exciting semi-finals.  Follow this link to find out about the event - RWCWomens.


So lets hope for an exciting final on Sunday in Paris at the fantastic Stade Jean Bouin. Canada and England drew in the pool stages so it should make for a good match.  And even better Tom, Ben and I, and our friend Ian, will be there - I bought tickets a few weeks ago.  So I'm really excited now.  

The Amazing Stade Jean Bouin

We get to see three matches as the teams are seeded.  The first match is between the USA and New Zealand (who have won the last three World Cups and against the odds knocked out this time round).  The second is for the third and fourth place play off between Ireland and France and finally the final. Did I say England are in that? 

I must admit having watched earlier pool matches I thought it was going to be a France v Ireland final.  How wrong can you be? Then after England beating Ireland I thought England were going to play France. But Canada played a brilliant game and overcame France to get to the final for their first time.

Having been to this stadium before I know the atmosphere will be great and a fun day will be had.

Good Luck to England

Le Jardin de Fougères

Posted by Rosie

As I wrote about on Monday we recently spent a day in Fougères, a medieval town about an hour and a half from Eco-Gites of Lenault.  It had a large and varied market, some great architecture and this fabulous castle:

Fougères Castle

It also has some delightful gardens with a great range of floral displays.  

These grasses growing above the lower herbaceous border reminded me of fireworks and with a theme of De l'ombre à la lumière (from darkness to light) maybe this was the intention!

Grass fireworks?

The soft, curved planting in front of the more angular church made an interesting comparison but we have to say we had no idea why the aeroplane/large insect sculpture was there!

Fougères Town Gardens

On a more formal note we assume this is the town crest for Fougères.  It is beautifully detailed and maintained so well.

Fougères Town Crest

These unusual umbelliferous plants caught my eye. I thought at first they were wild carrot but I don't think they were and with the amount we saw they must have been planted rather than a pleasant weed invasion!  The spiralling of the flower heads was so pretty and not something I had seen before. 

Did you also know that all all umbellifer plants including plants such as cow parsley, carrot, parsnip and dill bear hundreds of flowers.  Each flower head like this, is in fact made up of hundreds of tiny individual flowers?  A closer inspection will reveal that what might at first apear to be just a petal is in fact a whole flower complete with all the relevant parts that I learnt about at school but have now mostly forgotten!

Hundreds of flowers

To reach the castle and medieval town from the more modern town you need to climb down a steep hill.  The gardens continue all the way down the slope and include this formal French knot garden perched high over the old buildings below.  I pity the people who had to flatten out this area to create this garden and the person who has to clip the hedges now!

The flowers were not just restricted to the town gardens and this orange and blue bed near the castle entrance also caught my eye - I just love the colour combination that managed to shine out despite it being a relatively dull day.

I should be back with more garden updates form the garden hear at Eco-Gites of Lenault next week.  Now though, for more garden blogs why not head on over to the How Does Your garden grow linky run by Annie over at Manneskjur:


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

7 reasons to visit Normandy in Autumn

Posted by Rosie

As we move through August there is a very slight hint of Autumn in the air:  the nights are a touch cooler, darkness falls a bit earlier and a few leaves are showing some Autumn colour.  However there are still plenty of reasons to visit Eco-Gites of Lenault this Autumn.

1. Often September days are lovely and warm here in Normandy and we usually get some good beaches visits during the month ... sometimes we even get hot weather in October as happened in 2011:

Ouistreham beach - October 2011

2.If the nights (or days) do turn a bit chilly the wood burner in the gite will keep you warm and cosy and there's a fire-guard if you need to keep little ones safe.  Snuggle up with a glass of wine and a good book, watch a film or play a board game.

The woodburner to keep you cosy

3. All the usual attractions are open and will be much quieter, so no long queues to get in or buy an ice-cream!  Bayeux, Mont St Michel, the D-Day Landing Beaches and Museums, Falaise Castle, Festyland, The Velo-Rail, Jurques Zoo, local art galleries and museums (the list goes on) are all within easy reach of the gite.  (Please note some attractions may have limited opening times).

4. There are plenty of special events, boot fairs, brocantes, festivals and one off activities to attend with more details here.  This year there are a  lot of special exhibitions as part of the celebrations for the  70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings as well as a Kite Festival at Dieppe, the World Water Polo Championships at Thury Harcourt and a Festival of Cider and Dragons at Merville-Franceville!

African Music at Clécy - Sept 2010

5. You can go blackberry picking along the footpaths that start straight from our gate - great for crumbles, pies and jam but should you choose not to make jam we have plenty for sale.

Blackberry crumble anyone?

6.  The countryside looks wonderful in Autumn - why not have a look at our Normandy in Autumn Pinterest Board.  Think fabulous leaf colours, orchards laden with apples and morning mist hanging in the valleys!

7. Finally we have availability from September 13th 2014 so there's still time to bag an Autumn holiday at Eco-Gites of Lenault.  A week in September costs just £400 and  and for a short break our nightly rate is £65 (min stay 2 nights).  The gite sleeps 5 plus a baby.

For further details please click here to visit our website
or email us by clicking here 
or Telephone 0033 231 09 27 51 (up to 8pm UK/9pm French time please)

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Chilli Courgette Pickle

Posted by Rosie

Being an expat there are always a few things you miss from home.  Take Branston Pickle.  Now we can get Branston Pickle when we go back to the UK and we can buy it from the English section of the local supermarket if we are prepared to pay an exorbitant price but really we needed to find something that we liked as much as Branston and also hopefully used some ingredients we often have an excess of.   Enter my friend J with her hot chilli courgette pickle recipe.  It has a similar texture to Branston and a taste not too unlike it, although quite a bit  hotter which we like, and perhaps most importantly,  it helps use up the annual courgette glut.

Chilli Courgette Pickle


  • 2.7kg/6lb Courgette finely- a mixture of yellow and green courgettes give a nice colour to the pickle
  • 425g/1lb Onions finely diced
  • 3 hot chillies very finely diced with seeds (more if you like things really hot)
  • 1litre/2 pts cider vinegar
  • 500g/1lb 2 oz dark brown sugar 
  •  225g/8oz Demerara sugar
  • 3tsp Turmeric
  • 3tsp dry mustard powder
  • 30g/1.5oz cornflour

Diced courgettes


Makes 6 x 425g/1lb jars

1. Steep courgette in the salt for 3hrs
2.  Rinse the courgettes well and drain in a tea towel/muslin in a colander or in  a jelly bag overnight.   
3.  When fully drained boil up the courgettes with the rest of ingredients (except sugar and cornflour) until the vegetables are just soft.
4.  Add the sugar and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
5.  Mix the cornflour with a little cold water, add to the pickle and then boil to thicken, stirring to stop it sticking.
6.  Pour into hot sterilised jars and put the lids on when hot.

Chilli Courgette Pickle ready to pot up

Leave the pickle for a month to allow the favours to develop and then enjoy!

Tom and I particularly love this pickle - it's great with so many things including cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, curries and salads.

Chilli courgette pickle

Do you have a favourite pickle or courgette recipe?  Please do let us know about it if you do.  We still have a lot of courgettes to get through!

Linking up with lots of food linkies including TastyTuesday, Recipe of the Week and #FoodieTuesday

Link up your recipe of the week
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