Champêtre – Kate Hill’s creative and connected life in country France.

Champêtre – Kate Hill’s creative and connected life in country France.
Kate recounts stories of living on her barge, the Julia Hoyt, in her serialised memoir "Finding France: A Memoir in Small Bites".

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Guest: Kate Hill

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Kate Hill has lived an extraordinary life. As a young woman she loved to travel and cook and ended up buying a barge and travelling the regional canals of France until she found her little home which back then was a ruin on the bank of the canal. So she parked the barge at the bottom of the garden gate and continued to live on the barge for her first 25 years in the area of Gascony, until the ruined 300 year old building was eventually renovated 10 years ago for her to live in. Early on in the 35 years in total that Kate has lived there, she built her little dream kitchen and learned how to butcher and create charcuterie as well as then teach others to do the same.

Kate published an introductory book about how she ended up living this wonderful life, “A culinary journey in Gascony” which was published in 1995 (and is still in print!) She then wrote another book which contains everything one might need to know about Cassoulet, followed by a series of 12 seasonal monthly books, a compilation of her essays and recipes titled “A Gascon Year”. Through substack, Kate now publishes her memoir about how she found France, “Finding France: a memoir in small bites” is now released on a serialised basis.

I loved chatting to Kate about the slowness of her life, not that she is slow in her actions, but how life in her rural part of France has forced her to slow down and live a deep immersive life in her kitchen and potager in Gascony. Locals in her area kept explaining something to Kate that sums up their philosophy on how to prioritise the important things in life: “prendre le temps de prendre le temps” (take the time to take the time). In other words, they do things such as stopping on a Sunday to share a meal with family or friends, they stop and enjoy the smaller but precious parts of life. Kate grew into this way of life, she learned how to work a potager, how to raise chickens, how to be connected to her soul.

Now in her 70s, Kate is excited about more changes and choices she is making in her life. She is focusing on how to start anew at any age and how to live a connected country French life. This she calls “champêtre”, to be country. As part of this she will continue to host residencies at her Relais de Camont, but she will also have the time to create more herself, with her writing, her potager, cooking in her kitchen. The focus on what is really important to her is a recommendation for a more connected life for us all.


Kate’s links


A Culinary Journey in Gascony: Recipes and Stories from My French Canal Boat

Cassoulet: A French Obsession

A Gascon Year: Janvier: Stories and recipes from the Kitchen at Camont

The Camont Journals (Kate’s serialised memoir on substack)






Relais de Camont writers’ and artists’ residency



Francis Cabrel – Samedi soir sur la terre



Canard aux Navets de Printemps  (Braised Duck with Spring Turnips)

by Kate Hill – March 2024

Serves 4-6

This is the perfect marriage of duck and turnips, each supporting the other with complex flavors but in a most simple way. This is true French farmhouse cooking in a covered casserole on the back of the stovetop for a long, slow braise. Spring turnips do not need peeling and, if small, can be left whole. An orange squeezed into the pan juices is another traditional way to brighten the flavor.

  • one whole duckling or 4- 6 duck legs
  • 1 kilo/ 2 pounds of spring turnips, whole, halved, or quartered, depending on size
  • a handful of lardons (or 2 thick-cut bacon strips)
  • bouquet garni of parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and lovage or celery leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 glass of white wine & 1 glass of water
  • one orange, juiced and some zest.
  1. Render the lardons or bacon in the braising pot, remove when brown and then brown the duck in the rendered fat.
  2. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Add the bouquet garni, wine and water to the pot, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Squeeze the orange juice and add zest. Add the turnips to the pot, push them under the braising liquid, and cover. Continue to cook for another 25-30 minutes until the turnips are tender and the duck is cooked.
  6. Remove the duck, carve, and garnish with turnips to a serving platter; strain the pan juices and taste; adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve the sauce in a dish on the side.




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