Cake Salée au jambon et aux olives

I tried this cake back during my first month working here. At a track and field day the high school teachers had the most amazing picnic and I was invited along to taste everything. Looking back on it now makes me salivate just a bit. Everything was homemade and there were so many specialties from regions all over France. Among the quiches, canelés and tartes des pyrénées, I discovered this little guy: cake salée au jambon et aux olives.

As the title states, it’s a savoury loaf filled with ham, olives and also gruyere cheese. It has a dense and moist texture because it’s packed with all this plus four eggs. Mmmmm it is so good. Right when I tried I knew I had to get my hands on a recipe (and an oven). When I finally had both this was at the top of my long cooking & baking bucket list.
It is so incredibly easy to make, as you will see when you read down to the recipe. French food doesn’t always have to be confusingly complicated.

It is perfect for a picnic, all sliced up and brought along to the beach. Wow, when was the last time I went to the beach? The summer seems like ages ago!
Do yourself a favour and bake this loaf.

Cake Salée au jambon et aux olives
Ingredients :
·         150 gr flour
·         200 gr ham
·         150 gr green and pitted olives
·         75 gr shredded gruyère cheese
·         4 eggs
·         100 mL milk
·         3 tsp baking powder
·         1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180C
Cut the olives into thin rounds and the ham into small pieces.
Mix the eggs into the flour, followed by the milk and olive oil. After it is well mixed add the ham, olives and cheese, and stir them into the batter. Lastly add the baking powder and stir to evenly combine.
Pour the batter into a greased 9 inch loaf pan. Bake in the oven at 180C for 40-45 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven, let stand for a few minutes then remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve!


La fête des rois

Like I said in the previous post, one of the benefits of living in a small village is the people here are so warm and welcoming. They say hi to me in the streets, and don't just brush me off like some American tourist when I have a difficulty understanding/saying something in French. On the contrary, as soon as they discover that I have an accent and I'm Canadian they get so excited.

The other day I was told that being Canadian makes me exotic. When did the land of snow and maple syrup (their perception of our country) become exotic?


I think I am quite lucky to be at such a great school with nice (and for the most part) well-behaved kids, and a great staff. I work alongside 6 different English teachers, all of whom are friendly and kind. Some of them I have gotten to know quite well and they often invite me for dinners, parties and weekends spent at their homes with their families. I guess everyone just wants to be friends with the exotic Canadian.

Part of why I am here is to participate in a cultural exchange. I think I'm definitely accomplishing that. But again, je crois que j'ai de la chance!

Spending so much time with French families has enabled me to discover and experience so much of their culture. During the first weekend of January in France a tradition takes place called la fête des rois (Three Kings Day). It is the celebration of the Christian tradition of Epiphany and it involves a king, a queen and a special cake. The type of cake depends on the region. In the south of France, the brioche (pictured in this post) is traditional while in the north they enjoy a galette, which is a circular pastry filled with frangipane. Originally a small bean (la féve) was hidden inside the cake, but today small figurines are also used. While the family is seated around the cake, the youngest member climbs underneath the table and designates who receives each slice. This way they have no way of seeing who will receive the bean when the cake is cut and the baker can't cheat. Whoever finds the tiny surprise in their slice is crowned the king for the day, and chooses his queen.

I think it's such a fun little tradition and because j'ai de la chance, I got to participate in two fêtes des rois. I celebrated with the family of two students I tutor in a neighboring town, and we enjoyed the nicest brioche I've had yet. The next day I was invited to an english teacher's house for a party with tons of their family, friends and a few other teachers. I was treated to delicious homemade galettes made with flakey pastry and soft frangipane. With such a large group it was really fun watched the slices being distributed and the kings being crowned. Sadly I didn't find a bean in any of my cake slices that weekend. I did, however, go home with two tiny figurines, so that next year I can introduce this tradition to my family and have our own fête des rois.

As I only participated in eating that weekend, and not cooking, I don't have a recipe for you. But Emma of Poires au Chocolat did happen to post one: Galette Recipe


Les Hautes-Pyrénées

There are many pros and cons to living in a tiny, remote village in the south of France:


 I live in the south of France
I live in a valley surrounded by stunning mountains, which are currently snow-capped
I live so incredibly close to Spain; it’s only a two hour drive to the border. This allows for impromptu Spanish weekends.
The staff and students at the school where I teach English are all very polite and friendly, and because of the proximity of Spain we have many Spanish students.
Apart from the English teachers I work with, hardly anyone speaks English. I choose to see this as a pro because it means I am forced to improve my French.
The people here are so welcoming and friendly. Whoever said the French are rude, smelly and stuck up were wrong (or perhaps just talking about the North).
I am not alone! I have a lovely French roommate of the same age who comes from Bordeaux. We get to share different parts of our cultures, practice French (and her English), and we continue to learn so much from each other every day.
·         I am not the only assistant! There are others from Mexico, Columbia and Germany. We’ve got a nice, little international club goin on. 
It’s warm and sunny, like all the time
The students go skiing every week and need volunteer supervisors – aka I get to ski for free every Wednesday
·         I have become good friends with many of my colleagues who are sharing so much of the French culture and lifestyle with me. They welcome me into their homes for parties, full weekends spent with their families, and they feed me endless amounts of fantastic food. I am so lucky.
Wine and cheese are CHEAP


My village has a grand total of 3500 inhabitants. There is zero nightlife… well not much life in general.
 It is extremely lacking in the way of shops, bars, restaurants, a gym, galleries, etc. BUT plentiful in boulangeries. And sheep.
The town is isolated, and with no train station and buses that decide not to run (when you have to get to the next town to catch a train to Paris) it is a bit tricky to escape from.
Likeways, it is also difficult to get to. You must take a train to a nearby town and then the bus to my village, which stops running around 6:00pm, a taxi, or if lucky enough have someone pick you up. 
I see my students EVERYWHERE
It’s January and there’s no snow on the ground. Need I say more?
I don’t have internet in my apartment. Writing this makes me want to cry.
It is too easy to get bored.
Many of my friends live in other towns or Toulouse, which is a two hour drive, or longer on the train.
Because the town is so small it doesn’t have the possibility of taking a cooking class.
I will probably be fat by the end of my contract.
At some point, I am going to run out of money.