>The sun is still shining from a cloudless sky, but the air feels different at the end of August. There‘s a coolness in the wind and a slight chill in the shade. I always feel a bit sad at this time of the year because summer is my favourite season – I love the heat, the light, swimming in the sea and the river, and all the summer vegetables. But when you garden there‘s always a new season to prepare for and look forward to. We‘re sowing radicchio, turnips and lamb‘s lettuce for the autumn and winter, and soon we‘ll be able to grow lettuces again. In the heat of the summer here we find they go to seed too quickly, but they grow well throughout the winter.
One feature of the climate in this area is the wind – the air is rarely still. Our friend Pascal came past yesterday and stopped to talk about the different winds and their names. There‘s the mistral from the north-east, the tramontane from the north-west, the Grèque (Greek) from the east, the Narbonnais from the south (the direction of Narbonne) and the marin or maritime from the south-east which comes over the sea. These winds are a mixed blessing. The ones that come from the north and east are cooling in summer, but icy cold in winter. The southern winds, especially the marin, are warmer and bring gloomy cloud but also much-needed rain. As Pascal says, we have a perfect climate here in which you can grow anything, so long as you protect delicate plants from the very occasional frost in January. I asked him what I should do with my lemon tree which is in a pot and spent last winter sheltered on the balcony, but has grown so much this year in the garden that I‘d like to put it in the ground. He said it should be OK so long as it‘s sheltered from the north wind and wrapped up in very cold weather. I have a few months to decide, and maybe to persuade Lo Jardinièr to build a wall to protect it in a sunny spot.
One nice thing about late summer is that we have a good crop of peppers / capsicums. The red ones are so delicious and sweet that we like to eat them simply, brushed with olive oil and grilled, or sliced and eaten raw.
Green peppers are good in tomato sauce for pasta or stuffed with either a vegetarian or a meat stuffing. Tonight we‘re having vegetarian friends to dinner so I‘ve made them without meat.
Stuffed green peppers
(serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a first course)
4 green peppers
1 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
breadcrumbs, made from about 4 cm of baguette
150 gm feta cheese, cut in small dice
50 gm raisins or currants
50 gm pine kernels
fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper
Cut the peppers in half lengthways and remove the stem. Put the bread / breadcrumbs in a mixer with the sweet onion and garlic until they are all finely chopped. Add the cheese, pine kernels, raisins, thyme, salt and pepper to the mix. Fill the pepper halves with this and put in an oiled oven-proof dish. Pour a little olive oil over them and bake in the oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes, until the peppers have softened. Serve hot or cold.
The tomatoes keep ripening, although at a slower rate than a few weeks ago. I’ve roasted and bottled some of them. I cut them in halves or quarters, depending on size, and put them in a roasting dish with olive oil, unpeeled garlic cloves and some salt and a few crumbled bay leaves. I roasted them at 180 degrees C for about an hour, then put them through the mouli légumes to remove the skins. I brought the juice and pulp back to the boil then put it into sterilised jars. It tasted wonderful and I’m looking forward to using it in sauces during the winter.