A Taste of Summer

P7680401I have to start this with an apology. I feel I have been rather distant and remiss of late, but I promise it’s just a start of summer sort of thing. The children are on holiday, everyone has been here, there and everywhere and I have been rather pulled in every possible direction; super busy yes, but absolutely loving it all the same! As you know, last week I was in San Marino with our youngest daughter and wow, what a country!

One drives for hours through the Alps, with scarcely another car in sight,

IMG_1815 surrounded by wide open roads and stunning scenery, through endless tunnels carving their way quite literally through the mountains

IMG_1838and then half-way through this underground passage there is a tiny European flag; blink and you would miss it. It proudly announces that we are in Italy. Nothing changes except for the language, and we suddenly realise we cannot understand the road signs very well!


San Marino is the most extraordinary country.

IMG_1865 I have never been there before, the views are incredible from the historic centre which sits at the very top of this tiny Republic. One can see for miles and miles all around; to the west are the rolling hills of Italy

IMG_1912and to the east are lowlands which look out over the Adriatic Sea towards Croatia.


After any length of time though it is always good to be back at home, to stroll through the garden and see what has changed and to give it some much needed attention!



In the potager I’m always aided and abetted by Coco, who is now 12 weeks old.

P7680434She’s actually going to live with friends in England, but won’t be leaving us until the end of August. She’s an absolute bundle of trouble in the best possible way, and she and Evie, her mother, are never far away when I’m working. However, unlike Evie – who has learnt to use the paths and not to walk all over the beds – nowhere is out of bounds to Coco and this has caused me to squawk in indignation rather more than normal! Of course, when I tell her to stop chewing the sweet potato vines, she just looks at me with the face of pure innocence and as soon as I turn my back she goes back to munching!

Call her and she’ll coming running, for half an hour she’ll race around full of life and then collapse and sleep like the dead!


Despite all the distractions I have managed to get a fair amount of my neglected weeding done. It’s been so hot and dry that the vegetables have come on apace and we have eaten our first home-grown melons of the summer, always a cause for celebration!


The aubergines are ripe and we have far too many courgettes – I never seem to learn, and I always plant too many! We’re overrun with lettuce and cucumbers but incredibly they don’t go to waste; being a large family we can happily eat one a day and the chickens happily mop up the scraps.




We are certainly very lucky, in addition to the glut of summer vegetables our hens are in fine fettle, laying prolifically; it feels so good to be eating so much that comes straight from our own land.


And then there are the tomatoes. Oh so many of them! The ones we enjoy most are the small sweet juicy cherry ones that we all love to eat straight from the vine, right there in the middle of the potager; they’re warm from the sun, nature’s natural candy. We also have some Italian plums of some variety and a few of enormous beefsteak ones which Roddy always insists on as they are excellent for cooking. They always take a little longer to ripen though,  and typically come to fruition in a couple of weeks.


Tomatoes are a very staple part of our diets all summer and one of my favourite recipes is one that is incredibly simple and very French –  I thought it would be rude of me not to share it and perhaps introduce its delights to anyone not familiar with a true taste of France – it’s my take on la tarte a la tomate Provençale.


You will need one packet of puff pastry (I must confess I use a good quality store-bought puff pastry as here in France there are several different makes and they’re all perfectly acceptable if you have a busy lifestyle; they do not contain any sugar which is a quite unnecessary addition and using store-bought pastry saves me a whole heap of work, to be frank).

You will also need:

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 cup of grated emmental or gruyere cheese
5 or 6 good sized tomatoes, thinly sliced.
Olive oil
Salt, pepper and fresh herbs (I use rosemary and thyme)

Roll out the puff pastry and lay it on a baking sheet, round or square, it’s your choice.

Roll over the sides by about 1 inch but don’t press them down. This forms the edges of the tart.

Spread the mustard over the base thinly.

Add the grated cheese in a fine layer over the base – not too much, as it melts it acts more as a liquid-proof lining than anything else.

Arrange the tomatoes over the top of the cheese. It is best if they do not overlap as this will make the tart too wet.

Drizzle all over with olive oil and then grind a good amount of pepper and also a little salt for flavour.

I like to then add a generous sprinkling of fresh herbs, thyme and rosemary work very well, as stated.


Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/390F for approximately 25 minutes.


Serve hot or cold.

P7680461It is perfect for a picnic, a leisurely lunch or as part of a long lazy outdoor supper on a warm evening. This really is one of the best flavours of summer. Couple it with a glass of wine, and some freshly caught grilled sardines, and I am in heaven!


Bon appétit


67 thoughts on “A Taste of Summer

  1. Never apologize, personally I don’t know how you fit it all in anyway and then you give us all so much pleasure with you writing and photos for nothing.

    1. Ha! As you will notice, this weekend was rather full of things to do as well, so apologies for the late reply, Shari! Happy you all put up with my tardiness. 🙂

  2. Loved this post so much, makes me feel hungry just looking at it, tarte a la tomate here I come

  3. We’ll be trying this out next summer, when hopefully we’ll have our first crop of Charente tomatoes. 👍😉

    1. An eggplant recipe, Linda? One of our favourites is thick slices of aubergine, coated in beaten egg and then dipped in a breadcrumb/parmesan mix (or any other dry cheese – Roddy likes Pecorino, but don’t use cheddar as it has too much oil), baked on a sheet in the oven at about 180˚ till the topping is slightly browned. Eat cold or hot (my preference – with a fried egg), even our little ones like aubergine like this. Glad you enjoyed the photos!!

  4. Please, no apologies, it’s wonderful that you’re spending time doing fun things with your family. Thanks for the tarte recipe; sounds delish and we are finally getting some fresh tomatoes here in northeast Wisconsin, so I can give it a try. Always fun to read and see what’s going on in your part of the world.

  5. Thank you for introducing me to a country I did not even know existed!! I always assumed that San Marino was just a town in Italy! Now I am kicking myself for not visiting when I was nearby….which means I have to go back. And the tomato tart looks just scrumptious, I like to make them too…they are the taste of summer!

  6. Susan, you must be so exhausted, but what an exciting ride. Coco is a beautiful little puppy….that little face would be hard to resist. The people who will claim her are very fortunate. You have mentioned much about the garden, but not about the figs. The are very important to me. I can remember eating so many that I thought I would burst.
    When you catch your breath, we would love to hear some news.
    Ali xxx

  7. Thanks for showing me a lovely little country that’s new to me. I also enjoyed the trip through the garden. The eggs make me hungry, the recipe sounds delicious, and we love, love, love the sweet little cherry tomatoes. I’ve been appreciating the Alps these last three days while wallowing in watching the Tour de France. I do love it.


    1. Janet – that is what summer is for surely 🙂 Glad you’re enjoying the Tour – I have not had time to watch a single stage yet in TV. I wish I had more daylight hours, to be honest. 🙂

      1. I fully agree about the daytime hours. Watching the Tour is my indulgence and of course, we don’t have children at home anymore, which helps as far as time goes, although my part time job interferes sometimes. 😉

  8. I was hoping you were going to keep Coco. She is simply adorable. Your potager is magnificent, this year I just have courgettes. Could not plant due to my hand surgeries so it did not get done and my 6 tomato plants were all destroyed in the last storm. Oh well! These things happen. With me being alone here I am drowning in courgettes and I only planted 2 plants! Those things are incredible.

    1. Courgettes are one of the few vegetables I have successfully (as in great taste) frozen; slice them quite thickly, blanche them in boiling water and freeze in portion-size batches. They will last all through the winter, Nadia. I hope your hand heals for the better and you are back to full health soon! XX

  9. What a lovely post. Can’t wait to ave the tart! And the photos in the Alps made me feel so lovely and cool in our heat wave.

  10. What an absolute corkingly huge disappointment. You must have driven pretty much through Grenoble and I wasn’t there to cheer the International Tennis Superstar in the making on and give her mummy a huge hug. Tant pis … hopefully if there is a next time I will be safely installed in my proper home and able to give you a journey break. Coco is an absolute treasure and yours for a while longer. Will Evie be grieving when she eventually goes, do you think? I am dog sitting a 15 week old puppy (have been for 5 weeks with at least another week to go) and we will really miss her when she moves on. Even The Bean, never known for her gracious welcoming of other dogs on her turf is smitten to the extent that we are discussing getting a puppy when we are back in France. Trips away are wonderful, particularly when you get to explore little known territories but homecoming is always the best bit and I am glad you are back safely xx

    1. CORKINGLY = 5 stars for usage, and 5 stars for taking me back to my childhood. I giggled when I read it too. 🙂 Sorry you were not about for tennis, it would have been wonderful to meet up, we are still on a promise!

      Not sure if Evie will be unhappy or not – Coco is growing so fast and their playfights have already started to become a little more even. Bentley won’t care less – all he wants to do is sunbathe, of course. Goodluck with a new puppy if you get one ! We will require photos, of course.

      1. Our own puppy will need to wait until we get back to France …. the thought of a transatlantic flight followed by a 6 or 7 hour drive with two dogs makes me faint! In the meantime, this pup will come and stay regularly and keep The Bean on her toes. I’m certain your dogs will just adapt to the new normal and Evie will probably be ready to let her little one fly. Bentley will see it as an opportunity for more food, surely?!

        One of these days we will be able to make that meeting and it will be just the right time. These things always happen at just the right time if one lets them 🙂

  11. Beautiful scenery in San Marino. I hope Gigi had fun! The tart looks wonderful. We are still awaiting our first ripe homegrown tomatoes here in Mississippi.
    Could you share about your stove and your oven? I wonder if you have and I might have missed it.

  12. Amazing!! Thank you! I did not know that San Marino was a country. Have driven past the signs but kept going to Ravenna. Beautiful photos and adorable puppy.

  13. Lovely photos of San Merino. Coco is lovely…what a difference a few weeks make. Did you keep a puppy for yourself or is she the last to go. Evie is looking a lot better now. I am going out to buy pastry tomorrow so that I can make your tomato tart…ours are just starting to turn red though we have an abundance of cucumbers like last year.

    1. Hi Denise – we were thinking of keeping a puppy for ourselves, but we only had the one girl and she was already on a promise, so we will wait for the next time – if Evie is up for it, probably the year after next. Cucumbers? Mmm, try a cold soup with mint if you want a change! Our kids love it!

  14. Gorgeous views from San Marino. Thank you! And thanks for the tomato tart recipe – tomorrow’s dinner. Little Coco is precious – I particularly love that black comma on her tail. Do tell us which pup you are keeping. Oh, and not to be a nudge, but some of us are still waiting for your patisserie crème recipe!

    1. Ooops, I shall get bacxk to you with that, I have to look up a quantity or two, my apologies! As said above, we’re not keeping one this year, but will next time around XX

  15. So, how did your wonder-girl do then, in SM? It’s a lovely, tiny, beautiful, cool little country, dear San Marino – and you’re one lucky mum (even though you don’t have a terribly enviable job doing so much driving, coaching, etc etc) to go to all those places with GG!
    Coco must stay – I can’t bear thinking that the last little one is leaving too… Evie must feel deprived – and so must you all.
    Your raised beds, your whole garden is a paradise (and much work!). I did well NOT to plant any veggies as I’m literally never at home – but today I bought 2.5kg Swiss toms for under CHF3.- Even though it’s horrendously dry and hot, it seems that the Swiss got a great crop and have now a problem to sell all the produce. When I get back to F very soon, I hope to be able to buy some too for around €1.-/kg. I adore toms, could eat them every day, love them on tarts as you pictured too, in sauces, as cazpacho, as salads (with cheese, mozzarella, w/o but with tons of onions, mixed with cucumber or rocket leaves, always with aceto di Modena, a really good olive oil, basil, pepper and a dash of sea salt…. they are the most perfect summer delight. I can’t believe how beautifully and with what a rich bounty your beds are ‘wooing’ you, nobody would have believed that in March. Isn’t nature just wonderful?
    Have some rest, all the same…. And find me a buyer for our paradise home so that we can return to our home country. THEN we can visit you – unencumbered by job, garden work, ‘playing hotellière without an income’, visit-receiving and cooking endless meals…. I can’t wait to have some time just to myself!
    Love to all – Kiki

  16. So glad you are back at home in the garden. With doggies! It all looks so comforting and appealing. I will try this tomato tarte this weekend! Xoxo

  17. We are all in the same boat Susan. We welcome you back whenever! I envy your potager and your garden. I am hoping we will make it to Provence in the fall if not next Spring!

  18. Lovely update Susan. That pottage is looking wonderful! My little tomatoes in the hanging basket are coming along nicely but not yet quiet ripe. The raspberries are fruiting but not very many in this first year, although very delicious! Called Polka and are Autumn fruiting so much easier with the pruning! Coco looks adorable!! I wonder how Evie will feel when she goes? We too are so busy there’s not been time to stop and even read your blog! But I’m now caught up! Have a lovely weekend. x

    1. You too! Why is summer so busy? 🙂 Raspberries are something we keep thinking about but Jack adores them much though, so not sure how many would actually get out of the potager alive!

  19. Could you adopt me—I could work in your garden! I love everything about your life there & esp. the pup! I always download your recipes! Brilliant. I am still dreaming about moving to the Provence–probably in another life. Enjoy the beauty God has given you there & know that we will be here in the fall when life moves from the fast lane.

  20. Have to smile! The dearest frienf I have made on the Net has his parents coming from San Marino and so I ‘have be4en there’ on quite a few occasdions ex Chicago, Illinois in the past few tears . . . . have to send him your great photos . . . Enjoy your summer . . . our ‘windy’ early spring is soon to commence . . . not

  21. I’m thoroughly missing you….. Hope all is well and no ungo(o)dly things have happened….. Am in Devon now and it’s über-glorious!
    Love from TQ 🙂

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