Invention, inspiration, influence


I bought another bouquet of small artichauts violets in the market and Lo Jardinièr asked me to do them ‘as I usually do them’.  Well, he should know that I rarely do exactly what I’m asked to do and I couldn’t resist trying something new with these, something very simple that may have been done by someone before me, but it was a first for me.  I cut the ends of the leaves, trimming down to the heart, peeled off the outer leaves and removed what little choke there was, all the time covering the cut edges with lemon juice to stop them browning.  I mixed a couple of tablespoons of stoned green olives, 3 cloves of garlic and a piece of stale bread in the liquidiser until they made a stuffing which I put into the hearts of the artichokes.  I then put them, stems pointing upwards, in a good layer of olive oil in a cast iron pan and added a glass of white wine and some salt and pepper, brought it all to the boil and simmered gently for about an hour until the artichokes were cooked.  Some of the stuffing escaped but that just seemed to add flavour to the oil and wine sauce.  Served cold with a slice of lemon they were delicious and luckily Lo Jardinièr agreed.

I was interested by a recent post by Cooking in Sens and the comments that followed about whether or not chefs ‘invent’ recipes.  As she says, ‘In cooking, there is really nothing new under the sun.’  But recipes do not always have to come from books or television programmes, or even the Internet.  I love cookery books and books about food and I have shelves of them – by Elizabeth David, Claudia Roden, Madhur Jaffrey, Giorgio Locatelli, the Moro couple, and many many more – but I rarely follow a recipe.  I use the books as inspiration, added to the knowledge I’ve amassed over more than forty years of cooking, from my mother, from talking to friends, especially here in the Languedoc (where no one I know uses cookery books at all), and from my own experience and experimentation.  I think if you have a grounding in cooking, from any of these sources, and a knowledge of which ingredients go well with which others, you can be inspired, influenced and then invent.  The salad that Lo Jardinièr made for lunch, which he described as a Mediterranean salad, for its colour and flavour, is another example of this:


Local goats’ cheese, chorizo, lettuce, wild rocket (picked in the garden this morning), pickled yellow peppers (from the garden last summer)….and garlic, of course.

In the garden today we planted out the corn plants, a Greek variety resistant to drought, grown from seed we saved last year – we had 44 very healthy looking plants.  I also saw what I think is a Wall butterfly, looking slightly battered:


the Lucque olive tree about to flower:


a snail enjoying a good meal of rosemary – we have plenty, we can spare some!


and some tiny wild violets:


11 thoughts on “Invention, inspiration, influence

  1. Nice idea with the artichokes. I still firmly believe that making food taste good is a thing that experienced cooks like yourself can do, but recipes are different. Creating and testing a recipe from which people can produce a wonderful dish, without fail, is a different skill. I very envious of your olive trees as mine took a beating this winter and I’ve had to give them a very severe pruning. Fingers crossed:)

    • I wouldn’t claim to write recipes that give fail safe results – if such a thing were even possible, which I doubt. I’m sure there’ll always be people who will want to buy books which claim to be foolproof, but I don’t think anyone will ever progress from that approach to having a real feeling for food. I think it’s sad that many in the younger generation have lost that direct contact with people who love food and try to replace it with instructions. That’s why I rarely give exact recipes in my blog, hoping to inspire others to make their own real food. Sad about your olive trees….I hope they recover. I’m sure they will, because olive trees always do, eventually.

  2. The artichokes look delicious. They are inspiring me to stop by my favorite grower and buy some, they are in full season here now and are very tender and flavorful. I’m like you, I have a large collection of cook books and recipes but I rarely follow a recipe to the letter. And I’ve been cooking for decades also so I have a lot of favorite techniques and flavor combinations that I can use to put together a good meal without a lot of effort. The books inspire me to try new things and teach me new tricks.

    How funny to see the snail in the rosemary! The local snails don’t seem to like rosemary, in spite of their European heritage.

  3. Your artichokes look perfect! I finally found some baby artichokes today; it’s been over a decade. Now if I can cook mine as well as you did yours …
    That wild violet is really striking. I’ve never seen one that shade.

  4. I’m with you on the cook books – I find they are good for inspiration but I always change the ingredients after comparing 3 or so recipes.
    I’ve got something exciting that I had with baby artichokes, coming soon 😉

  5. Beautiful artichoke recipe – you´re inspiring me and I agree with you and Mad Dog – most of my cook books are for inspiration, I rarely follow a recipe (apart from perhaps cakes) word for word. Beautiful photos!

  6. Does your corn variety have a name?Would you know where I could purchase some seed? Love your little violets, loveley dark purple! I’ve not found small artichokes at our markets here.We are moving so didn’t plant artichokes.I do have a cardoon plant that I love that I am going to figure out how to move. I love forward to your postings everytime.

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