THE STORY OF A HOUSE
An introduction to a wonderful new book (their second) written by our dear friends Louis and Hardy of La Creuzette, Boussac, France.
Now available on AMAZON!
Our dear friends Hardy Olivier and Louis Jansen Van Vuuren own a Petit Chateau in Boussac, France and have been the resplendent hosts to hundreds of lucky people from all over the world. Offering courses in art, writing and cooking while experiencing the French lifestyle at the same time, guests are taken to nearby places of interest, including gardens, brocantes as well as local markets. Accommodation is in their magnificent home, La Creuzette, where the ensuite bedrooms are beautiful and the beds are made up with exquisite antique French bed linen. The food, served on beautifully laid tables (Louis' specialty) is unforgettable. Louis and Hardy's arrival in Boussac 15 years ago has also resulted in the happy creation of our very special South African community, as some of the guests, including ourselves have bought homes there.
Louis and Hardy have just published their second book - "The Story of a House" which is now available on Amazon! Here is an excerpt:
"A South African couple’s search for the perfect home in France, and some of the beautiful dishes they create for their guests.
Louis Jansen van Vuuren:
A few years ago we bought a tiny little house on a crooked street in the middle of France. Our Parisian friends called the region of our new-found home La France profond. They rolled their eyes meaningfully at each other and pointed to a captivating shop window on the Place Vendôme.
“How far exactly is your little place from Paris?” Frédérique carefully took a sip of champagne. Her well-groomed nails were lacquered a fashionable shade. “Chanel,” she said, when she saw me looking at her fingertips. They looked like wild strawberries against the golden sparkle in her glass.
“Three and a half hours south from here.” The imposing towers of the Notre Dame cathedral were hazy through the restaurant’s decorated windows. Further along the embankment a gilded dome reflected silently in the Seine. I could smell the unmistakable aroma of roasting chestnuts being toasted over a distant brazier. The waitress took our friend’s order first: “I would like the Confit de Canard...” She licked her glossy red lips absent-mindedly.
The little house in the Auvergne was our refuge for two exciting years. Hardy was a banker in Cape Town and I lectured at the Michaelis School of Art. Months of long leave had accumulated over the years and I spent every possible moment in La France profond. I planted beds full of bearded irises and peonies and gazed at the robins frolicking in the maybush. I had only ever seen robins on European Christmas cards. I filled canvases with my new experiences, and after my second exhibition in Paris, I decided to retire and live full time in the French countryside. Shortly after that Hardy decided he had had enough of designer suits and silk ties. He had heard very clearly the seductive Gallic call.
The little house on the crooked street in the Auvergne would be too small for two full-time Frenchmen. The search for the dream home began. Whenever Hardy visited La France profond from the Cape, we would view literally a few hundred houses. There was the stone house with deep-blue, shoulder-high hydrangeas; the watermill that could be converted into a cottage; a derelict old barn in the middle of an apple orchard... If it hadn’t been for the offensive power standards on the boundary of the little farm, it might have been our new home. There was also a castle for sale in the Loire. When the agent fetched us in a shiny limousine, I realised that our pension funds and piggybank coins wouldn’t do it. But we played along and enjoyed the sham of
10 lounges and 20 giant bedrooms. Not to mention the 45 hectares of forest. Alas, our dream house was not yet destined to be.
During a lightning visit in autumn, Hardy called very early one morning from the Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris. He had a property magazine in his hands, and he was speaking with his mouth full. Most probably a pain en chocolat or one of those irresistible éclairs that the patisserie chefs fill with an exotically flavoured crème pâtissière. The fondant icing is my favourite. Only the French can become so excited about food that it is elevated to Biblical proportions. When the humble éclair is decorated with caramel, it is called a baton de Jacob. Imagine, the staff of Jacob!
“I think I have found the house of our dreams.” Hardy was breathless with excitement. In the background the departure of the train was being announced.
“Wait! Don’t hang up,” I yelled loudly into the receiver. “I think I have found it. Close by, in Creuse.” He was listening with half an ear, chewing away. Hardy was determined that the house he had discovered in the magazine would be the right one. The conductor blew his whistle and Hardy was gone.
I felt the same. The photo of the petit chateau in my magazine held me captive. I circled the stately sandstone house waiting in the tall grass with a heart shape in neon blue koki pen.
Later that afternoon Hardy arrived at the station at Montluçon. He hardly greeted me. The magazine was rolled up like a baton and folded at the page with the house of his dreams. I froze. “Wait until we get home, I want to show you what I found. We can compare the houses later.” I said, with a poker face.
I poured a glass of wine on the veranda. The view over the landscape stretched to the volcanoes of the Auvergne. I flipped to the page with the picture of my dream house. I placed the magazine in front of him. His eyes turned bluer than ever. It was the same petit chateau as his! He had bought the city edition and I the country edition. The rest, as they say, is history.
Somewhere on a branch in a two-hundred-year-old cedar tree the barn owl rustles its wings and winks a yellow eye at the manor house with the shutters."
Louis is an acclaimed artist and it is under his guidance that students of all levels leave La Creuzette inspired to create more and more. Louis teaches his students in his magnificent studio which nestles amongst the tree tops and his friendly encouragement is accompanied by beautiful music - mostly opera. How could you not be inspired!
Hardy, originally a banker, has, over the years developed into a chef extraordinaire! In "The story of a House", they share their recipes of some of the delicious dishes they serve to guests. The exquisite photos were all styled by Louis.
|Here they prepare a meal in the Summer Kitchen|
I've included a recipe from their book below:
Asparagus and crab charlotte
Asparagus and crab charlotte
1 bunch young white asparagus
1 tub Philadelphia salmon cream cheese 1 tin tuna
1 tin crab meat
1⁄2 tub thick sour cream (crème fraîche)
1 small bunch chives, chopped
1 small white onion or 2 spring onions1⁄2 lime or lemon
freshly ground salt and black pepper
1 pinch Espelette pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 ripe avocados
1 handful fresh, cooked broad beans olive oil, balsamic vinegar
Cut the asparagus tips in lengths of 4–5cm from the stem (we don’t use the bottom parts of asparagus stems). Peel the asparagus with a vegetable peeler and boil in salted water for 8–10 minutes until just tender, but not mushy. Refresh in ice water, drain and keep aside.
Prepare the filling by mixing the Philadelphia cheese, tuna and drained crab. Add the sour cream, chopped chives and spring onions, lemon or lime juice, and season with salt, pepper, Espelette and turmeric. Leave for at least 1 hour in fridge.
Remove skin and pip of avocado, and cube.
To serve: Cut the asparagus in half lengthways and arrange on the inner side of a 10cm metal tart ring. Cover the bottom of the ring with avocado cubes (keep 2 tablespoons to decorate the top). Fill the asparagus ring with chilled crab meat and sprinkle with remaining avocado cubes. Drizzle with lemon juice to stop them from browning.
Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Remove the tart ring, decorate the charlotte with halved cherry tomatoes or a bundle of fresh herbs (coriander leaves are good) scatter the broad beans around and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Espelette, and black pepper.
You can also prepare small charlottes instead of the bigger one by using smaller tart rings when assembling
Some of the beautiful images from the book are displayed below and I was so fortunate to have been given a signed copy which I cherish.
|A delightful photo!|
|The magnificent dining room at La Creuzette|
|Front and back covers of the book which fits into a beautiful sleeve, including a cookbook! I have previously written posts about La Creuzette and you can read them here and here .|
Go ahead and order yourselves a copy - you won't be sorry!