I’ve just realised that I haven’t posted on this blog for a week and I haven’t yet posted everything I want to from my Valencia/Xativa/Barcelona trip. I will during the next few days but in the meantime here are some shell fish we’ve enjoyed over the past few days and their place of origin, the Bassin de Thau between Bouzigues and Sète. These are just a few of the hundreds of frames covering a stretch of the lagoon from Bouzigues to Marseillan, an industry that gives employment to 3,000 people in this area.
With relatives staying who love shell fish, we ate oysters and mussels and other coquillage supper at home on Saturday when Lo Jardinièr opened the oyster shells using a special knife and a wooden device to hold the shell and make it less likely that he would cut himself.
Yesterday lunchtime we went to the source and ate at Chez la Tchepe on the waterfront at Bouzigues. This is a wonderful, simple café with tables out on the roadside terrace and indoors next to the counter where the raw shell fish which is their speciality is displayed in plastic crates. We ordered platters of oysters, raw mussels, cooked prawns and escargots de mer (sea snails), and a species we hadn’t eaten before – violets or sea potatoes, strange creatures with a leathery skin and a sea-flavoured edible centre. Having started with tielles, the sea food pies that are a local speciality, we were served the shell fish with a basket of white and whole grain bread and a bottle of Picpoul, the white wine grown in this are which goes especially well with fruits de mer.
Above, the violets served cut in halves, and below, a few of the empty shells at the end of our lunch: