Tag Archives: south-west France

TRAVEL – Bacchanalian break


Hwee Hwee Laurence reports from south-west France:

October is the time for les vendanges or grape harvest.  The wine of this southwest region of France is classified under the Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) Cahors and is a dark- red, almost black wine.  The vineyards of AOC Cahors are found around the city of Cahors and along the banks of the River Lot. Grape harvest is always an important and festive time and when we hear, in the distance, the familiar whrr-whrr-whrring of the grape-harvest machine, we always pray for good weather for the farmers to complete their harvest.

The vineyard behind our house belongs to the family Grialou of the Domaine du Buis.  This is a totally family-owned and -worked farm which also rears cows.  When the Grialou family is here trimming or inspecting the vines, I always make it a point to bake a cake and invite them for a cup of tea.


Domaine du Buis harvests its grapes by machine.  Of course, it is not as romantic as harvesting by hand, but nevertheless very impressive.   Usually, the vines are trimmed for one last time before the harvest to get rid of excess leaves and to leave the bunches of grapes hanging clear.  At harvest-time, the machine passes over each row of vines and literally sucks up the grapes.   The grapes (juice and all) are then emptied into a truck and brought back to the domaine to be processed.  After the harvest, our garden and the land around always smells strongly of wine due to the crushed grapes and spilt grape juice.

There are many other domaines within walking distance of our house but the one I like best is Château la Gineste.  The owners, Ghislaine and Gérard Dega, are very friendly people who allow me complete freedom to bring my Singapore or overseas visitors to oohh and aaahh over their beautifully-kept château and vineyards, and of course, to indulge in a session of wine-tasting. Their vineyards are pesticide-free and grapes for their best wine (Grand Secret) are hand-harvested.  The majority of their wines are aged for about sixteen months in oak barrels.  Hand-harvesting is a family affair – sometimes relatives come from far and wide to help.  Workers laugh and chat while harvesting, and look forward to the truck (to collect the grapes) bringing them some sustenance of dried sausage and baguettes.

After the harvest, October continues to be a busy month for the wine-producers, with grapes to be pressed and juice stored for fermentation.  After things have quietened down, the  domaines often host a feast for family and friends, rather like Thanksgiving in America.

As I look out of my window, the now-silent vineyards are slowing turning gold.  Soon the leaves will drop, making a nice rustling sound as they are blown by the wind, and the bare but sturdy vines will remind me that, before long, winter will be upon us.


FOOD – Apple Crumble, anyone?

My friend Hwee Hwee Laurence lives with her husband and two sons in the French countryside with mountains, lakes, fields of sunflowers, grapes and various other fruits that she dries or pickles. In her village, houses are unnumbered because the postman knows everyone by name, and time is measured by the feel and yield of passing seasons. Over here in one-season Singapore, I note the growth of her boys as their photos show them changing from baby- to boyish-cute.

Hwee Hwee shares some of the simple joys of country life with city slickers whose apples come from supermarts  –


It’s apple-harvest time in the southwest of France!  In our garden, we have many apple trees of different varieties – some for eating, some for cooking.  Apples, when stored carefully, can keep through the winter.  But there are still many which are bruised or slightly bitten by birds or wasps, and these have to be used quickly.  Every year, I make jars and jars of savoury apple sauce (good with pork chops), apple-tomato chutney (for roast meats), apple butter (yummy on toasts) etc.  And during this time, there is always an apple tart or strudel on the table when hungry kids come home from school.


Since apples are relatively cheap and easily available in Singapore, I thought I’d share with you this recipe for apple crumble.  It’s an easy no-fail recipe and something fun to do with your kids.

And most delicious with a dollop of vanilla ice cream!



For the apple base:

5 or 6 (or as many as you like!) apples, peeled, cored and cubed

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

10g butter

For the topping:

80g plain flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

40g butter

40g castor sugar

Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Put all ingredients for the apple base in a glass bowl and microwave on high for about 4 min until butter is melted and apples and hot and starting to soften.  Mix well.
  3. Spread evenly over a glass or pudding baking dish.
  4. To make the topping, place flour and cinnamon in a bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour using your fingers until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in sugar and salt.
  5. Sprinkle topping evenly onto the apples.
  6. Bake for about 45 min until apples are softened and crumble is golden and crisp.