Category Archives: Retreat Home

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Mousse au Chocolat Noir in Minutes

Our region has many famous and favourite desserts, like the Croustade aux Pommes et à L’Armagnac, a fruit tart that is not difficult to make but does take a fair amount of time. For our mindfulness and meditation retreats with the horses, I prefer something quick and easy that can preferably be prepared beforehand. Mouse au Chocolat is one of my favourites. I use chocolat noir, usually the Cote d’Or variety and I flavour it with mint leaves from the herb garden.

Ask ten French people how to make mousse au chocolat, and you will end up with ten different recipes. En plus, everybody has their own ideas when it comes to adding flavourings and toppings, but the main ingredients in a chocolate mousse always include chocolate, eggs and sugar. Some recipes also require cream, butter and your choice from a variety of flavourings.

As with any recipe that includes chocolate, the secret is using only the very best chocolate you can. Your mousse is only as good as your chocolate. This basic French chocolate mousse recipe is remarkable in its simplicity.

350g chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of strong coffee
3 eggs
1/4 cup of caster sugar
1 tablespoon real cocoa powder
300ml thick, heavy full-fat cream

Chantilly (whipped cream), fresh mint leaves and grated chocolate to garnish


Place the chocolate, butter and coffee in a glass heat-resistant bowl over a pan of boiling water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir slowly until all the butter and the chocolate has melted. Remove the bowl from the stove and set it aside to cool.

Place the eggs and the sugar into a large bowl and beat with an electric beater for 3-5 minutes until mixture is pale, thick, lemon-yellow and twice the volume. Carefully fold in the cocoa powder. Add the cooled but still liquid chocolate. Mix well.

Whip cream until thick but do not overdo it. Carefully fold the cream into the chocolate mixture,  keeping the mixture as light as possible. Divide mixture into 6 portions. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours. (The mousse can be refrigerated for up to a day.)

Top with chantilly, a mint leaf and grated chocolate to serve.

This recipe is included in my book Secure Your Promising, Purposeful and Prosperous Your Future.

Secure Your Future ebook

More recipes on my Recipes for Retreats Pinterest Board


Mental Path

The 22nd of April is Earth Day, an annual event first celebrated in 1970 and now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day 2017’s campaign focuses on Environmental and Climate Literacy.

According to, “we need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection.”

On our farm here in the south of France, we defend our natural environment by practicing sustainable tourism. We host Connect with Horses Mindfulness and Meditation Workshops and Walking and Wine Tasting Weeks and Weekends. Both these holidays include walking a section of The Way, the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, an 800-year old pilgrims route – an exceptional part of our environment certainly worth protecting.
You can find our more about how we protect our environment with sustainable tourism HERE.

Our entry for this week’s photo challenge, “earth,” is a picture of molehills, upturned earth, scattered around our horses’ paddocks.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the Earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
Henry David Thoreau

My favourite Tarte Tatin Recipe

I promised my friend Marina from Letters from Athens that I would share my favourite Tarte Tatin recipe some time ago.  It was voted their all-time favourite dessert by our mindfulness meditation workshop participants.

This is one of the ten French dessert recipes included in my new book Secure Your Future, due for publication on the 3rd of March and already available for pre-order on Amazon.

Before I share the recipe, I want to tell you about the accidental creation of the Tarte Tatin:

The now-famous Tarte Tatin was created at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron in France in the late 1900s. Two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin owned the hotel. The story goes that Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was flustered and overworked one day. She started to make a traditional tarte aux pommes (apple tart) but forgot about the apples cooking in the butter and sugar until the smell of burning filled the kitchen. She promptly smothered pan of apples with the pastry and shoved the lot, pan and all, into the oven. When the pastry was cooked, she turned the pan upside down and served the dessert to her guests who absolutely loved it! The concept of “upside down

The concept of “upside down tarts” was not a new one, though. Carême already mentions glazed gâteaux renversés adorned with apples from Rouen or other fruit in his “Pâtissier Royal Parisien” (1841).

The Tarte became the signature dish of the Hôtel Tatin, even though the sisters did not set out to create a “signature dish” and they never wrote a cookbook or published their recipe.

According to legend, Louis Vaudable, the owner of Maxim’s, once tasted this tart and adored it from the first bite. He described his discovery, “I used to hunt around Lamotte-Beuvron in my youth and had discovered, in a very small hotel run by two elderly ladies, a marvellous dessert listed on the menu under tarte solognote; I questioned the kitchen staff about its recipe, but was sternly rebuffed. Undaunted, I got myself hired as a gardener, but three days later, I was fired when it became clear that I could hardly plant a cabbage; however this was long enough to pierce the secrets of the kitchen; I brought the recipe back and put it on my own menu under Tarte des demoiselles Tatin.”

Originally, the Tarte Tatin was made with two regional apple varieties: Reine des Reinettes and Calville. Over the years, other varieties have become more popular, including Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji and Gala. When choosing apples for a tarte Tatin, it is important to pick a variety that will hold their shape while cooking, and not disintegrate into apple sauce.

Tarte Tatin can also be made with pears, peaches, pineapple, tomatoes, even with vegetables, like onions.


Pate sucrée (or puff pastry)
1/4 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
8 apples, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cored
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of nutmeg


Preheat oven to 200°C.
Choose a 20 cm pan that can go both on top and inside the oven. Roll the pastry into a 4cm thick disc the size of the pan and put it in the fridge.

Toss the apples with the vanilla. Melt the butter and the sugar together in your pan on top of the stove. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and apples.

Caramelise the apples over moderately high heat until deep golden brown. This usually takes 20 to 25 minutes. Put the pan with the apples in the oven and bake for another 20 minutes at 180°C.  Cover the pan with the pastry disc and bake for another 25 minutes at 180°C.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes.

Just before serving, invert a plate that is larger that the pan over it and flip the whole thing upside-down. Use oven mitts. Brush any excess caramel from the baking dish over the apples. Serve immediately.

The trick is in the flipping (needs to be done FAST) and in deciding when to take the pan with the pastry out of the oven.

Watch this hugely entertaining video to find out more:


Sunday Photo from the south of France

Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.
Ernest Hemingway

The theme of this week’s photo challenge is “Names.” It took me a while to come up with an idea for this one, especially as we are entreated to make sure the names in our photos are clearly legible.

I was standing in the kitchen, looking around at all the bits and pieces left over from the memorable meal we had shared with our friends on New Year’s Eve: chocolates, crisps, nuts, a couple of half-drunk bottles of wine and…of course, several empty champagne bottles, sitting next to the dustbin, on their way to the recycle unit in the village. I picked up a bottle. The name was only just visible.  I put it down and turned hopefully to the fridge and there it is, a single unopened bottle with its name clearly visible!

Since we live deep in the heart of the wine lands of the south of France, since our farm is literally surrounded by vineyards and since we host walking and wine tasting holidays here in the summer, I thought  a picture of a wine bottle with its label clearly visible would be the perfect for this week’s challenge.


Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilisation and the art of living.
Robert Mondavi

Saturday Photo from the south of France


This is Merlin, the oak tree that stands right in front of our house. It has been standing there for at least 200 years, probably much longer. It is under this tree that we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner during our summer stress management ‘Connect with Horses’ workshops.

Once it stood surrounded by a forest of family members. Now they are all gone. Merlin alone has endured, the embodiment of determination and resilience.

The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.
Joshua Waitzkin


This is our house, with Merlin in the foreground. It has been standing here for at least 200 years, but we have found references to it in literature dating from the 17th century.

In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.
Albert Bandura

In this house, people have had exactly that, a sense of self-efficacy expressed as self-sufficiency. Today we enjoy the fruits of their resilience, a beautifully preserved, sympathetically-restored authentic maison landaise, that has offered a safe haven to many generations while they struggled with the inevitable inequities of life.


Weekly Photo Challenge theme: resilience