After a few days away…..

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Some of the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, and a courgette, that we found in the garden this morning, and a few more peppers:

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These are mostly Kandil dolma peppers that I’ve now stuffed with rice, onion, garlic, mint, cinnamon and paprika and cooked in diluted tomato purée until the rice was cooked.  We’ll eat them cold with a squeeze of lemon over the next few days.

The tomatoes, courgette and a couple of the aubergines became the main delights in our supper tonight, with some Manchego cheese and some jamón de Serrano we bought at the border yesterday.

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A basket of figs and several ways to preserve peppers

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Most of these will be jam by this evening, although we’ll leave out the best ones to eat as they are.  I’m thinking of trying to dry some of them – I’ll let you know how I get on with what will be my first attempt. To make the jam we’ll cut the figs into large pieces, quarters of the smaller ones, eighths of the bigger ones, mix them with two-thirds their weight of sugar and leave them for a few hours until the sugar dissolves.  Then put them in a large saucepan with the juice of a lemon, bring to the boil and simmer until the jam sets when you put a spoonful onto a plate – this can take an hour or more.  Bottle the jam and enjoy it all winter!

The aubergines in the garden are slowing down a bit now, but there are still plenty of smaller ones, perfect for making Ambrosiana’s eggplant stacks.  I made these for lunch today and they were delicious.  I altered the recipe slightly to suit the Midi (and what I had in the fridge) by replacing  the crème fraîche with goats’ cheese – hope you don’t mind, Ambrosiana!

The pepper plants are still producing wonderful quantities of red peppers and we’re enjoying them at almost every meal.  Yesterday evening Lo Jardinièr made a deliciously peppery (but not hot) poulet basquaise, chicken in white wine and sweet red pepper sauce with some pieces of chorizo added to it.  I’ve been finding as many different ways as I can to preserve the different varieties:

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Here, from left to right, are jars of: pickled long sweet red peppers and bell yellow peppers, simmered until tender in wine vinegar and sugar with bay leaves; sweet red peppers cut into chunks and packed raw into jars then covered with white spirit vinegar, with a teaspoon of salt and a dessert spoon of sugar added to each jar.  In front of the jars is one of the many strings of piment d’Espelette that I’ve made to hang around the house to dry.  I didn’t put them outside earlier in the summer because the sun was too strong and would burn them, but I think they could go outside now.

Here are some of the other paprika peppers in various stages of drying:

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Some of these, the smoother-shaped ones, are piment d’Espelette, and the mixed string in the centre includes chorizo peppers (spicy but not hot at all) and a new yellow variety we seem to have created and which I think is a cross between chorizo and kolaska peppers.

A Turkish lunch

Ever since I was a teenager when my family lived in Turkey I’ve loved Turkish food and often cook the dishes I remember from those years, as my mother did too for the rest of her life.  She was a vegetarian so it was a cuisine that suited her perfectly. Today for lunch we ate some variations on old favourites.  Most of the preparation was done yesterday so it made for a very easy Sunday morning.

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Clockwise from the left: Kandil dolma peppers stuffed with rice and minced meat; black olives; purée of red pepper and pistachio; stuffed baked aubergines; hummus with tahina.

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I’ve put the recipe for the aubergines on my Food from the Mediterranean blog. 

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The stuffed kandil dolma peppers were a variation on what has become a theme of the summer – these are red unlike the green ones I used earlier in the summer.  I used to think that the green ones tasted better and last year we allowed just a few to ripen so that we could save seeds, but since I realised that cooking them in tomato sauce rather than baking them really brings out the flavour of the peppers I think the red ones are equally good, and pretty too!  I’ll confess that I used beef for these rather than my preferred lamb because it’s difficult to get lamb here, especially minced lamb, but easy to buy steacks hachés – burgers made with 100% beef.  I bought two, used one for the stuffing and put the other in the freezer for next time.  I rarely buy beef as I prefer to eat more locally produced meat and there are no cows anywhere near here because we don’t have the grass they need.

The red pepper and pistachio purée was a variation, brought about by necessity, of a Turkish dish that combines red pepper and walnuts.  The village shop didn’t have walnuts yesterday so I bought pistachios instead with excellent results.  I put 75 grams of shelled pistachios in the blender and turned them into a slightly lumpy powder, added a piece of day-old bread and two long sweet Spanish peppers from the garden, blended them all to a purée and added some olive oil, some salt and a squeeze of lemon.  It’s good for dipping crusty bread into.

The hummus was made by combining a tin of (drained) chickpeas in the blender with garlic to taste (we like quite a lot), salt, lemon juice, olive oil, tahina (sesame seed) paste and a little water to make the consistency right for dipping bread into it, then serving it garnished with olive oil and paprika.

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Aubergine no. 200

One evening last week we went to the village bar in Neffiès, L’Escampette, a few kilometres away, for a wonderful supper with our daughter, her partner and some friends, and spent a very enjoyable few hours at a table in the village square outside the bar listening to funky live music by Fonky Nykon.  The food and the music, as we expected because we’ve been there many times before, were exceptionally good for a small bar and the highlight and beginning of the three-course menu was a dish of aubergines and goats’ cheese.  (The other courses were delicious and beautifully presented too:  salmon and gambas en papillote, gardiane de taureau (beef stewed in red wine) for carnivores, and creamy panacotta or tiramisu for dessert.)

I’ve attempted to create my version of the aubergine first course, even though it was rather fiddly to make – my presentation style is a bit more rustic than this usually.  I used our 200th aubergine of the season, cut into rounds and roasted in the oven, a fresh goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland, mixed with thyme, chopped garlic, chopped pine nuts, salt and pepper and a little crème fraiche to make it easier to mould and sandwich between the layers of aubergine, and a sliced orange pepper and cherry tomatoes to garnish.  At the bar they had garnished it with salad leaves but we haven’t any in the garden at this time of year as it’s too hot for them.  I think I’ll go back to arranging food more anarchically across the plates in future, rather than building upwards, but maybe this slightly leaning tower is a good way to celebrate our overproduction of aubergines!

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Summer Sunday lunch

It’s been very hot again today and we’ve stayed indoors most of the time, keeping out of the sun until it’s cool enough to go out for a swim in the lake at Vailhan.  On an aubergine theme again, I put together a dish which I’m sure must have been made by someone else before me, using just two of the 20 or so aubergines waiting for me in the kitchen.  I’ve put the full recipe on my Food from the Mediterranean blog.

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Chicken with aubergine, red peppers and mozarella

And to follow we had some grapes from our Muscat d’Hambourg vine.  This is the first year we’ve had edible grapes on it – they’re small, but sweet and full of promise for a better crop next year as the vine matures.

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An exciting discovery

A delicious aubergine dish I hadn’t eaten before, made by daughter and her partner for us yesterday evening.  Whole aubergines grilled on the barbecue, skinned, halved and covered in parsley, garlic, feta cheese and olive oil.

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To follow, we had quail and saffron rice – just as delicious but, as it turned out when I looked at my photos, not so photogenic, so I’ll leave them to your imagination.

The results

Some of the tomatoes from yesterday’s kitchen table –

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Those 23 Long Andes tomatoes were roasted and reduced and mouli-ed into these four small jars of purée that tasted wonderful.  In the background are jars of ananas and Languedocian tomato purées.

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And an aubergine and red and yellow cherry tomato tart, just as it came out of the oven.

We’ve got family arriving this afternoon so I won’t have much time over the next week or so, but I’ll try to post some photos of the food, something we’re all interesting in – cooking it and eating it – in our family!

The kitchen table this morning

After yesterday evening’s harvesting in the garden:

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The tomatoes in the foreground are the Andes Long variety – they are fleshy with very few seeds.   I’m going to roast these, halved and salted, in the oven and then put them through a mouli legumes to make tomato purée, reducing it by simmering in a pan before bottling it.  I don’t make it as concentrated as the purée that comes in tins or jars, but the roasting does give it a nice rich flavour.  The other fruits of the garden are: red Spanish peppers, a couple of piments d’Espelette, a couple of the yellow chorizo peppers, mixed yellow and red cherry tomatoes, several assorted other varieties of tomato and, out of shot in the blue crate, some aubergines.  Lo Jardinièr is going to make an aubergine tart with some of them, slicing them and frying them in olive oil, arranging them in a pastry case, covering them with a layer of halved cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper and chopped garlic, and baking it in a hot oven.

Aubergine and pepper salad

When we had a good vine wood fire burning on the barbecue to cook our supper in the garden the evening before last I took the chance to grill some aubergine slices and some whole peppers for later.  You can grill them indoors, but the vine wood gives them an extra smoky flavour.  Next morning I skinned the peppers (easy to do once the skins were slightly burnt by the fire), cut them and the aubergine slices into narrow strips, added some chopped garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and left them to marinate in the fridge for the day.

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In the evening I arranged them on plates with some slices of tomato, pieces of feta cheese (or goats’ cheese would work well too), green olives, a few basil leaves and a little more olive oil and garlic.  With some crusty bread from the nearby  boulangerie and a glass of rosé from the Domaine des Pascales in the village, these salads made a tasty supper at the end of a very hot day.

Pan bagnat

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The Provençal/Occitan words pan bagnat mean ‘bathed bread’ and it’s a wonderful alternative to a sandwich for picnics or, as we ate today, lunch in the garden.  Originally from Nice on the Côte d’Azur, it’s now eaten all over southern France and further afield.  Our daughter says it was a favourite lunch for her when she lived in Toulouse, where she used to buy it made with the traditional Niçois round bread from one of the may wonderful boulangeries in the centre of la ville rose.  I make them using a simple baguette, and sometimes with ham which is not very authentic.  Today I used the more traditional tinned tuna, sliced tomatoes, some chopped garlic, some chopped black olives, capers and basil leaves.  You can also add anchovies or sliced hard-boiled eggs.

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I sliced the baguette lengthwise, poured olive oil on the cut surfaces and filled it with the other ingredients and a little salt and pepper.

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Then I closed it firmly and pressed the two halves together.  The idea is that the bread soaks up all the delicious juices.  It can be wrapped in aluminium foil and kept in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to eat it, then it can be sliced into portions for serving.

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The weather here is still cooler than usual for July and one of the advantages of this is that it’s not too hot to eat lunch in the garden.  Normally at this time of the year we stay indoors at midday with the shutters closed and wait for the cooler temperatures of the evening.  Today we sat in the shade to eat our pan bagnat after harvesting some more vegetables and a huge crop of apples from our small tree.

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peppers and aubergines