>Last days of the year

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The weather has become much milder than it was a couple of weeks ago and the days are getting longer. This evening it was just about light until about 5.30 p.m. There’s a chance that the plants in the garden, which have been in a kind of suspended animation for the past few weeks, will begin to grow again. We still have work to do – clearing the last remaining pepper plants and getting the ground ready for the goat manure we hope to collect during January.

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Even in the very cold weather we’ve been picking leeks and salad leaves, and this cauliflower.




The sea

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On Saturday at Le Grau d’Agde the sea was grey and cold. The statue of a woman represents the women who wait and watch for the fishermen to come back to port. She had no need to worry this time because all the boats were in the harbour. Going through Roujan we were amused to see this large olive tree on the back of a lorry ahead of us. A nice late Christmas present for someone?

Sunday sunset

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From near Roujan we could see as far as the Pyrenees and Mont Canigou (above), which is 2,784 metres high, and the sunlit trees looked golden against the dark sky.






And our Christmas day lunch …

We’ve had to postpone our family mid-winter festivities because of travel problems last week, but even though we were on our own on the 25th, Lo Jardinièr and I had a good lunch!

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Apéritifs in the garden, with some of the olives from our own tree.

DSC00746 DSC00745 Lo Jardinièr opening oysters (left) and beating the chocolate fondant mix (above)

DSC00750 Foie gras with salt, red and black peppercorns and a glass of Cartagène. DSC00752 Oysters gratinées
DSC00755 Leg of lamb slow roasted in wine with garlic and rosemary, with leeks from the garden. DSC00754
Potatoes dauphinoises
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Chocolate fondant.
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And, finally, cherries in Armagnac with our coffee.

We didn’t eat anything else until the next day!

>A perfect Sunday lunch / Un déjeuner parfait du dimanche

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One of many, of course ….

Apéritif:

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A glass of rosé from Domaine des Pascales in Gabian, cucumber from the garden, carrots from our neighbour’s garden and olives (from a shop). / Un verre du vin rosé du Domaine des Pascales, Gabian, du concombre de notre jardin, des carrottes du jardin de notre voisin et des olives (achetées dans un magasin).





First course / entrée

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Sweetcorn from our neighbour’s garden grilled on charcoal – the photo of the cooked ones didn’t come out very well, so here they are as they came off the plant). / Du maïs du jardin de notre voisin.





Main course / plat principal

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Barbecued lamb chops and courgettes, cucumber and yogurt salad with red wine from Domaine Estève at Roquessels. / Côtes d’agneau et courgettes grillées, salade de concombre et du yaourt et du vin rouge du Domaine Estève, Roquessels.





Salad / salade

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Borlotti beans, sweet onion and tomato salad. / Salade d’haricots Borlotti, oignon doux et tomates.






Cheese / fromage

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Goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland, near Gabian. / Fromage de chèvre de Mas Rolland, près de Gabian.






And a little desert / et un petit dessert

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A friend gave me the fruit from her small citrus tree – not a kumquat, but a bit like it – which I crystallised and dried in the oven. / Une amie m’a donné les fruit de son petit orangier – pas le kumquat, mais qui le rassemble un peu – que j’ai fait confire.

A very good lunch after we’d spent the morning bottling tomato sauce and making tomato purée for the winter. It’s nice to see the shelves filling up with jars again!

>Local food again / La nourriture locale encore

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Lo Jardinièr and I spend a lot of time talking about and eating local food. We try to eat food which is produced as locally as possible, and much of it comes from our own garden. We do try not to get obsessional about it, though, and Lo Jardinièr often points out that some trade between communities and between countries is essential. It’s unrealistic to expect people in the twenty-first century to have the way of life which was common in rural areas during the nineteenth century. We’ve both read an interesting book by Gillian Tindall, Céléstine, about life in the Berry region of central France 150 years ago. Tindall discovered from letters written at the time that people in the village of Chassignolles very rarely went to the nearest town, La Châtre which was only 7 km away. The only things they needed to buy there were needles for sewing. Everything else was produced in the village. This kind of self-sufficiency is almost impossible to imagine now.

Nous essayons de manger la nourriture locale et beaucoup de légumes qu’on mange vient de notre jardin. Mais, le commerce est necessaire. En outre, vivre comme les gens du dix-neuvième siècle c’est peu réaliste. Nous venons de lire un histoire d’un village dans le Berry il y a 150 ans, Céléstine, de Gillian Tindall, qui raconte la vie du village de Chassignolles donc les habitants ont visité la ville de La Châtre très peu, seulement pour acheter les aiguilles. Tous leurs autres besoins étaient produit dans le village.

Kate at Hills and Plains Seedsavers has recently been writing about local food, too. With the eyes of someone new to French markets she has remarked on things which we sometimes take for granted, like the fact that almost everything you buy here is marked with its département of origin. In the markets here in the Languedoc very locally grown fruit and vegetables are marked ‘pays’, meaning the countryside around, or even the name of the village or small town near which they were grown, like the grapes from Clermont l’Hérault.

Kate a écrit sur le blog Hills and Plains Seedsavers au sujet de la nourriture locale. Une australienne en France, elle a remarqué des choses que nous ne remarquons plus, comme les départements d’origine de tous les produits qui sont indiqués sur les marchés.

Our aim is to eat mostly food which is produced within 100 km of Gabian, but to allow ourselves some foodstuffs, most importantly coffee, which come from further away. Sometimes during the winter I can’t resist buying an aubergine which has come from the south of Spain and we eat citrus fruits from Valencia and dried fruit from north Africa, which I tell myself is almost local, just the other side of the Mediterranean. We’ve always eaten a lot of rice, occasionally Basmati rice from India, but since we’ve been living in Gabian mostly from Spain and Italy and the Camargue (about 100 km away), which I thought was the nearest rice production area. So I’m very excited to have found an even more local rice producer in Marseillette which is only 80 km away.

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Je suis ravie de trouver un producteur de riz qui est très proche – 80 km de Gabian à Marseillette dans l’Aude.

La Rizière de l’Etang de Marseillette

Laurent Malis grows long grain, red grain, round grain and whole grain rice in what was once a salt water lagoon which was drained at the beginning of the nineteenth century. His website has all the details (in French) of the area, the range of rice he grows and recipes. And, best of all, the rice is delicious!

Laurent Malis cultive le riz à Marseillette, sur un étang qui a été asseché en 1808. Le site Internet a des renseignements sur la gamme de riz, le terroir et des recettes. Et le riz est délicieux!

Lamb and aubergine casserole with rice / Casserole d’agneau et d’aubergine au riz

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I made a casserole with some pieces of breast of lamb, onions, garlic, white wine, paprika and tomato passata. When it was nearly ready I added some reconstituted dried aubergine slices which we grew last summer, and served it with the Marseillette rice.

The recipe for this casserole will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. La recette sera sur le blog Mediterranean cuisine.

Tapenade

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This was a very local dish. We made tapenade with some of the olives given to us in November by friends who live about 4 km away. We cured the olives and they are now ready to eat. You can add anchovies to tapenade, but this is a simpler recipe. We removed the stones from the olives, leaving about 300 gm of olive flesh. I chopped 3 cloves of garlic and some parsley in the food processor, added the olives and processed them, then added the juice of half a lemon, a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil and some salt. Et voilà! Serve the tapenade with lemon wedges and crusty bread or toast. These olives give it a lovely reddish colour.

>Dydd Gŵyl Dewi / St David’s Day / La fête nationale du pays de Galles

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Today we’ll be celebrating by serving the Welsh dish cawl (a soup or stew of lamb, leeks and potatoes) to a party of our Occitan friends.

Aujourd’hui on fête la Saint-David en servant le plat gallois cawl (le ragout d’agneau et des légumes) pour nos amis occitans.

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The main ingredients of cawl are meat, leeks, onions and potatoes. In the hills of west Wales, where my family comes from, it is usually made with ham or with lamb. The high land there is so poor that it can only be used for raising sheep, and all smallholders would have kept a pig as well, as a way of recycling waste. Potatoes, leeks, carrots and onions would have been grown in the garden or in a small field. This is the ultimate sustainable food – as most peasant dishes are, the world over. In more fertile areas of south Wales, where the land is good enough for dairy farming and cattle-rearing, cawl is made with beef.

Les ingrédients principals du cawl sont la viande, les poireaux, les oignons et les pommes de terre. Sur les collines de l’ouest du Pays de Galles, d’où vient ma famille, on fait le cawl avec l’agneau ou le jambon. Le terrain haut est si pauvre qu’il ne supporte que les moutons, et tous les paysans élévaient des cochons aussi – un façon de recyclage. Les pommes de terre, les poireaux, les carrottes et les oignons poussaient dans les potagers ou dans les petits champs. C’est la nourriture durable, comme la plupart de plats paysans autour du monde. Dans les régions plus fertile au sud du Pays de Galles ils font le cawl avec le boeuf.

The recipe for cawl is simple: just put lamb (or ham), potatoes and carrots in a large pan, cover with water, add salt, pepper, bay leaves and parsley, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour. Take out the lamb and remove the meat from the bone. Cut into 2 cm chunks and return to the pan. Add chopped leeks and simmer for a further half an hour. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley, with a good tasty farmhouse cheese and some crusty bread. Quantities depend on how much meat you’ve got – this is a good dish for making meat go further as you can use less meat and more vegetable. Some of the meat should be on the bone as this makes a better stock, and some of the meat should be quite fatty – to create a ‘starry’ effect on the surface of the cawl.

>Greece again / La Grèce encore

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Once again I’ve invited Greece into my kitchen … MaryAthenes’ challenge on the blog en-direct-d’athenes … with this simple, delicious recipe. 

Encore une fois j’ai invité la Grèce dans ma cuisine … c’est le jeu de MaryAthenes sur le blog en-direct-dathenes … avec cette recette simple et délicieuse.

Exohiko ou agneau en papillotte façon campagne / Country-style lamb parcels

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Ingrédients :
Pour 6 personnes :
1,5 / 2 kilos d’agneau dans le gigot sans os, en petits morceaux / lamb cut into small pieces
3 oignons coupés en 2 ou 4 / onions quartered
3 oignons verts (oignons nouveaux) en rondelles / spring onions sliced in rounds
3 carottes en rondelles / carrots sliced in rounds
3 pommes de terre en morceaux / potatoes cut in pieces
350 g de gruyère (κεφαλογραβιέρα) en cubes (j’ai mis de la feta) / gruyère cheese (or feta)
le jus d’un citron / juice of a lemon
200 ml de vin rouge liquoreux (mavrodafni : vin utilisé pour la communion à l’église orthodoxe) / fortified red wine [I used Banyuls, the sweet strong red wine from Roussillon / j’ai utilisé le Banyuls, le vin doux du Roussillon]

200 ml d’huile d’olive / olive oil

1 càs de romarin écrasé / soup spoon of crushed rosemary

1/2 càc de cumin ou thym ou origan / teaspoon of cumin or thyme or oregano

sel, poivre / salt, pepper

Préparation :

Mélanger tous les ingrédients dans un grand récipient et laisser reposer au frigo une demi-heure. / Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave for half an hour in the refrigerator.
Découper 12 morceaux de papier sulfurisé. / Cut 12 pieces of greaseproof paper.
Déposer sur le papier doublé 1/6 de la préparation. / Put one-sixth of the mixture on each double sheet of paper.
Fermer à la ficelle. / tie up with string.
Mettre les 6 papillotes dans un plat et faire cuire au four préchauffé à 200o pour une heure et demie. / put the 6 parcels on a baking tray in the oven at 200 degrees C for one and a half hours.

Ouvrir les petits paquets et servir tout de suite ! / Open the parcels and serve them straight away!

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I love these all-in-one dishes – all the flavour is preserved inside the parcels and they are so easy to serve to a large number of people.  In Greece, according to MaryAthenes, this dish is served at family gatherings at weekends.

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It’s the kind of dish that makes meat go a long way as you can vary the proportions, adding more vegetables and less meat if you wish.  We bought a shoulder of lamb which made four of these papillottes, and four servings of tagine.  I then put the shoulder bone into a soup-pan of water, and added onions, leeks and potatoes to make the Welsh dish cawl.  Recipes for the tagine and the cawl will be on the recipe blog mediterranean-cuisine.blogspot.com.