Breakfasts at our Biking Centre

September 24, 2014 by · Comments Off on Breakfasts at our Biking Centre
Filed under: Foodie cycling holidays 

Croissants and Pain aux raisins at our Biking Centre

You would think that it would be a simple matter to provide “petit déjeuner” for all of our  guests at our biking centre. But no, there are always complications, especially when doing the morning bakery run.

Dégagnac our local village has a small shop that is also a “depot du pain” but we would have to place our order a couple of days before, not always possible and anyway we like to choose on a daily basis from the feedback we receive.

So it’s normally a trip to the nearest boulangerie about six kilometres away at Salviac. There are two bakers there one which bakes via a very large wood burning bread oven. This started out as our first choice at first but complications arose. On the door they have their opening times which are printed as 8.00 – 12.30, seemed reasonable at the time. Our normal breakfast time is usually at a relaxed “holidayish” 9.00am, plenty of time to get back and lay the tables etc.

But no, apparently these times are in fact optional for the owner and vary on his whim. If he has trouble with the oven not reaching a hot enough temperature then there is a delayed opening or sometimes not at all! Just a sign on the door saying “fermeture exceptionnelle”. Ok we can understand that these things happen, but it appears the normal opening time is anywhere between 8.30 and 9.30, not very convenient. Sometimes there would be as many as twenty people waiting for him to open.

Of course that’s not the only problem. When he does actually open he normally has no bread on display or any cakes but nearly always lots of croissants. So I ask him for a loaf but I have to guess which ones he’s likely to have baked first, normaly it’s a cereal (multi grain) but not always. He will disappear and come out with one piping hot, dust off the flour and ask if I need anything else. Yes, more bread a different type and some pain aux raisins perhaps. Well pain aux raisins are the last things he bakes, so there is a window of opportunity to buy these as he never bakes enough and they sell out within about twenty minutes.So I uses to return with two of the same loaves and lots of croissants.

Lucky another baker opened in the village which opens each day at 7.30 and has all their stock ready for sales, although less varieties, so we now use this one.

But of course they close all day Mondays and whenever her young son returns to his school after the holidays.

Then it’s a trip to Gourdon about twelve kilometres away.

Biking Centre breakfast

Biking Centre breakfast














Of course some guests at our biking centre are gluten intolerant, paleo, low carb etc.

Nothing is simple…..


Recipe for croissants

Boulangerie at our Biking Centre

Slim despite fab food on our bike holidays?

January 19, 2014 by · Comments Off on Slim despite fab food on our bike holidays?
Filed under: Foodie cycling holidays, France 

So how did I lose that weight with all that fab food?

So how did I lose that weight with all that fab food?

Well first some history.

Up to about aged thirteen I was about the same height and weight as everyone else my age.

But from then onwards most of my friends grew taller – and continued to grow. I just grew until I was nearly five foot seven inches – and stayed there. Then the weight started to creep on, even though I was very fit.

A typical week for me was getting up early for a paper round by bike, then bike to school and back again. Lunchtimes in the summer involved running around the athletics track with weights around my wrists and ankles sometimes. This was supposed to make me faster when removed? I was running competitively for the county and higher. I was also in the school rugby team and playing at weekends football (soccer). But, like most youndg people, I ate a lot of chocolate and sweets together with fizzy drinks. I also drank quite a lot of alcohol after leaving school and did a lot less sport. Then I joined a local semi-pro football team.

A typical week then (age around 19):

Tuesday go for a thirty minute solo run as a warm up for training with Saturday team, followed by five a side.
Wednesday go for an hour run (with others) as a warm up training for my Sunday morning team followed by five a side.
Thursday go for a thirty minute solo run as a warm up for training with Saturday team followed by five a side.
Friday play five a side with a work team.
Saturday a full soccer match.
Sunday a full soccer match.
Plus if the games were fairly local I would cycle to them.
In the summer when no football I did more running and cycling.
Of course I was still drinking beer….

John in 1971 - too much fab food.

John in 1971 but very fit?













I never lost any weight from when I was aged fourteen! At one point I even went vegetarian and gave up alcohol for seven years –  still no weight loss.

I’ve continued to play football, run and cycle throughout most of my life only giving up five a side aged about fifty. This was not because I wasn’t fit enough just that it was interfering with my triathlon training!

When I was training for triathlons I took it very seriously (I used to train about twenty two hours a week plus races and at the beginning football) I kept a spreadsheet of all my food and drink intake. But of course I had read all the current info and was carbo loading, having isotonic drinks during training and races to replace water quicker? Also protein replacement and recovery drinks. I still wasn’t losing weight and I wasn’t drinking alcohol. I had a thirty four (five maybe as everything felt tight) inch waist and could not reduce any more. I wasn’t overweight – but I was definitely ‘chunky’!

In September 2006 we moved to France and I carried on running and biking but not as much as before. I put on a bit more weight as I was finishing off the croissants and pain au raisins left over from the guests’ breakfast! Plus the local wine – well it is Malbec! Aileen is also a very, very, good cook and we were both eating pretty much the same  fab food as she cooked for our bike holiday guests.

So just over two years ago Aileen started reading about the Paleo diet and lifestyle on the Mark Sisson Blog  and it all seemed to make a lot of sense to us. Plus I was pretty impressed by his results!

Mark Sisson aged 58 fit and different fab food!

Mark Sisson aged 58













So we started following the Paleo diet.

I remember when I was younger if you were putting on a bit of weight people would say “cut down on the bread and potatoes.” Of course now there is also pasta and rice, pizza and pies, plus a plethora of fast food and packaged goodies everywhere you turn.

Basically on the Paleo diet, you cut out the starchy foods and all grains. I don’t believe we are designed to eat grains.

The first three months I just ate what Aileen cooked for lunch and evening meals keeping my muesli or porridge for breakfast. But I started to lose weight and my waist started to decrease. I also discovered that if I ground up some nuts and added yogurt it replaced my muesli and tasted better – so I kept that up too.

So now I weigh about 150lbs/68 kilos and am a 32in/81cm waist. The slimmest and lightest I’ve been since I was 14!

More details on next post?

Author:  John Despard

A new dessert for our cycling guests in 2014?

December 30, 2013 by · Comments Off on A new dessert for our cycling guests in 2014?
Filed under: Foodie cycling holidays 

Aileen during the winter months trys out new recipes and ideas for the next season of our cycling tours.
Here is one we have all enjoyed over the festive season.

Raspberry and white chocolate mascarpone meringue roulade for our cycling tours?

Cycling tour dessert - Raspberry meringue roulade









4 large egg whites
225 grams caster sugar

250g Tub of mascarpone
100ml double or whipping cream
Fresh or frozen raspberries
150g white chocolate
Toasted almonds and dark choc to decorate


Whip egg whites until stiff peaks, gradually add in sugar and whisk til completely smooth.
Tip mixture into swiss roll tin (shallow sided baking sheet ) lined with baking parchment.
Bake at 190 deg C for 20 mins – leave to cool
Tip onto a larger piece of baking parchment

Meanwhile melt chocolate over hot water. Whip cream into mascarpone until slackened. Carefully whisk in slightly cooled chocolate until all well mixed.

Spread mixture over meringue and top with raspberries.

Roll up from the long side and tuck seam underneath.

Pipe/flick dark choc over and top with a few toasted flaked almonds.

Raspberry and white chocolate mascarpone meringue roulade - cycling food?









For another recipe from Aileen for walnut tart follow this link:

For another recipe for a raspberry roulade for UK residents visit this site:

Fig-tastic Day! Preparing for next season’s cycling holidays.

October 10, 2012 by · Comments Off on Fig-tastic Day! Preparing for next season’s cycling holidays.
Filed under: Foodie cycling holidays, Gastronomy of south west France 

Dear son Sam is here for a visit and we’ve spent a fig-tastic day cooking up a storm with the glut of figs from our 2 very mature fig trees.

Just a couple of weeks back our cycling holiday guests were asking where all the figs were? We were doubting whether we were actually going to get much of a crop this year as, after the heavy spring rain and very hot and dry August, the fruits were looking small, green and immature. But the last 2 or 3 weeks, with a mix of showers and warm sunshine, has brought them on a treat.

So today we’ve made: fig chutney (with chillies, ginger and golden sultanans); a really tasty fig and Banyuls vinegar compote to accompany our roast duck breast this evening; the best ever ground almond, yogurt, star anise and fig cake – sticky, moist and arromatic (a Yottam Ottolenghi recipe) plus a liqueur made from figs, sugar, orange peel and eau de vie de prunes – which will have to steep for a while and should be perfect at Christmas! If there’s any left our biking guests might get to taste it next season!

We also ate fresh figs, Roquefort cheese and our own fresh walnuts for lunch… it’s a hard life!

More figs.....








Figs in the saucepan








Fig Chutney








Fig cakes











Fig liqueur











Easter Bike Tour Menus

April 9, 2012 by · Comments Off on Easter Bike Tour Menus
Filed under: Cahors Malbec Black wine, Foodie cycling holidays, Gastronomy of south west France 

Menu for Thursday 5th April 2012

 Tasting plate of locally reared duck:

Magret séché, fritons, rillettes, foie gras,

gésiers en salade,

fig and walnut chutney, aperitif de figues

Fillet of beef with Cahors red wine sauce

Dauphinoise potatoes

Green beans, carrots,

roast garlic and herb crusted tomato

Cheese Platter

Crème Brulee

Coffee and Armagnac
Wine: AOC Cahors – Château Chantelle

Menu for Friday 6th April 2012

 Asparagus, mozzarella and Serrano ham

Rocket salad

Pan – fried fillet of cod

Saffron, mussel and leek risotto

Braised fennel

Cheese platter

Chocolate and chestnut cake,

Vanilla crème fraiche

Walnut wine
Wine: AOC Cahors – Château Chantelle

Menu for Saturday 7th April 2012

 Ricotta herb and pepper stuffed squid


Spiced lamb stuffed aubergine

 with Manchego cheese

Fennel, chicory and ornage salad, tahini dressing

Patatas bravas

Rocamadour, honey and walnuts

Vanilla panna cotta,

roast spiced plums,




Wine: AOC Cahors – Château Chantelle

Menu for Easter Sunday 8th April 2012

Pea and leek cappuccino

Gruyere and thyme twists

Pork medallions

Agen prunes steeped in Armagnac

Cider cream sauce

Celeriac mash, Savoy cabbage in mustard dressing

Cheese plate

Apple crumble cheesecake



Wine: AOC Cahors – Château Chantelle

Ripe tomatoes = great gazpacho

August 19, 2011 by · Comments Off on Ripe tomatoes = great gazpacho
Filed under: Foodie cycling holidays, France 

Our tomatoes are coming thick and fast now in all shapes and sizes. The cherry ones are particularly sweet and delicious – in fact we are eating them like sweeties!
Incredibly hot sunny day again yesterday – so what better than a gorgeous, chilled bowl of gazpacho as a starter for our 9 cycling guests’ dinner last night. It was followed by a huge seafood Paella and then Crema Catalana to continue the Spanish theme.








By popular demand a recipe from Aileen

November 6, 2009 by · Comments Off on By popular demand a recipe from Aileen
Filed under: Foodie cycling holidays, France, Gastronomy of south west France 

We’ve been picking walnuts for the past 2 weeks, some from our own trees. So as it’s the season for fresh walnuts why not try this delicious walnut tart recipe.

Shortcrust pastry:
225g plain flour
130g butter and shortening eg Trex (half and half)
Pinch of salt
1 egg
cold water

Tart filling:
225 g walnut kernels (preferably freshly shelled)
50 g plain flour
225g butter
225 g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
tspn vanilla extract
slug of Armagnac
Large spoonful of raspberry or plum jam

Blitz together the flour, salt and fats in a food processor (or rub in by hand) until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add beaten egg and a couple of tblspns of cold water and blitz briefly until mixture just comes together. Tip onto floured board and press gently together into a ball. Roll out to fit a buttered 20/22 cm tart tin and leave in fridge while you make filling.
Cream together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy (I use an electric whisk), then gradually add the beaten eggs, whisking all the time. Add the vanilla extract and Armagnac and whisk briefly again. Now grind the walnuts in the processor to a large crumb then add the flour an grind again briefly to a finer crumb – but still retain some texture. Fold the walnuts carefully into the sponge mixture.
Spread the jam over the base of the pastry case and top with the walnut sponge mix.
Bake the tart for approx 50 minutes at 180 deg C.

Serve warm with some cream – creme fraiche is nice, but if I was eating this in the UK I would have it with clotted cream! An espresso and an Armagnac go down nicely with it too… Enjoy!

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