Léo mentioned our beehive issue to fellow students in Bordeaux, where he is studying. It turns out that the ‘Bordelais’ refer to the Landes, which is just to the South of Bordeaux, and where we live, as the ‘Wild West’. As such, beehivegate resulted in philosophical shrugs and ‘c’est normal pour les Landes’ comments. This seemed pretty accurate a few days later when, at the notary’s office on other business, we mentioned the problem. We explained that we had rogue beehives on our land, and that we were looking for compensation in honey. We fully expected him to refer us to page 1043 of the Beekeeper’s Code of Conduct, or some such. Instead, his advice was to make absolutely sure they gave us proper heather honey, and not ‘that disgusting sunflower crap’!
Jazz, the horse we acquired recently to accompany Bijou, another of our horses, has not dealt well with the recent rain fall. Arab horses have particularly sensitive skin and seemingly, Jazz is no exception. Despite three shelters, he got very wet on Friday, and this very nearly catapulted him into a nervous breakdown. Outwardly, he showed the signs of a horse with colic: rolling, pawing the ground, looking despairingly at his abdomen… What didn’t make sense was that he kept alternately jumping up in the air as if on springs, and then sitting on the ground like a dog. When I noticed that rubbing him with a towel seemed to bring comfort, I realised it wasn’t colic; it was a full-blown damp-coat hissy fit. As soon as I got inside, I ordered him a raincoat, thinking, trust us to end up with a horse with severe weather neurosis.
Recipe for rum raisin and almond chocolates
- 50g raisins
- 2 tablespoons of rum
- 50g almonds
- 200g good quality dark chocolate (I use this one, which is excellent for cooking)
Soak the raisins in the rum for at least four hours, overnight if possible. Toast the nuts in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant, let cool, then chop coarsely.
You can just gently melt the chocolate in a bain-marie, stir in the rum-soaked raisins and almonds and then fill the silicone moulds (I use these) with the mixture and leave them to set in the fridge. Or for a really shiny, flawless finish, you will need to temper the chocolate (see below).
To temper dark chocolate
Untempered chocolate is less controlled and uneven, resulting in a duller appearance. Untempered chocolate is also more sensitive to heat and humidity, and melts more easily.
Finely chop the chocolate and place two thirds in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Place a digital thermometer in the chocolate, which you should stir frequently with a rubber spatula. The temperature of the chocolate should never exceed 48°C. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Stir in the remaining third of chocolate little by little, letting it melt before adding more. Leave the chocolate to cool to about 28°C, then immediately place it over the simmering water again. Reheat to 31-32°C and remove the bowl again once you have reached the temperature. The chocolate should now be ‘in temper’ and must be used quickly before it cools and sets. If it does cool and solidify before you have finished using it, it should be re-tempered (i.e. reheated to 32°C).