Rain, and olives again

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We need it desperately for the garden, but I still don’t like it when it happens.  Normally we get several heavy thunderstorms in September that fill the rivers and reservoirs again after the dry summer, but this year there was hardly any rain until last week, the end of October.

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The olives that I started curing in salt just over two weeks ago now no longer taste bitter so I’ve added water to the jar so that they will be rehydrated slightly (you can see in the photo that they’re quite wrinkled now) and preserved in brine until we’re ready to eat them.  A few days before we intend to eat them I’ll drain them and put them in a jar with olive oil and herbs.

While I was working this morning, Lo Jardinièr made a very tasty lunch of pasta with chicken, red, green and yellow peppers (some of our last ones) sautéed in olive oil and garnished with chopped garlic, basil and grated parmesan.

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Aubergines again

I think I’ll have to rename this blog ‘Olives and aubergines’ as we have so many this year.  It’s because we’ve put too many plants into the garden, but I’m not complaining as I love aubergines and it’s nice to have plenty to give away to friends who’ve given us vegetables.  Today we picked another 10, but we’ve given most of them away.  I was glad of a chance to make one of my favourite aubergine dishes that I discovered in Murcia in southern Spain.  We went to a restaurant and ordered a selection of tapas, one of which was called morcilla de verano (summer morcilla).  I was expecting it to be a meat dish and, when all the dishes had arrived, was surprised not to see any morcilla (blood sausage), but then realised that the aubergine dish was made with pine nuts, like morcilla, and it must be made when the weather is too hot to risk hanging blood sausage to dry.  It was a surprise, but a delicious surprise.  This is my version:

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I used 4 small aubergines, a large sweet onion, 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped, a bunch of fresh mint, chopped, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of paprika, 2 tablespoons of raisins, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, salt and plenty of olive oil.  Chop the aubergines and onion roughly into small chunks and put in a large pan with a lot of olive oil – aubergines soak up oil, so you just have to see how much it needs to keep the vegetables from getting dry in the pan.

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Once the aubergine and onion pieces are cooking and softening in the oil, add the other ingredients and continue to simmer in the oil for about three-quarters of an hour.  They should almost be melting into each other.

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Allow to cool, and serve – as for so many delicious dishes – with crusty rustic bread, and with other tapas or salad dishes.

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I often use oregano instead of mint in this dish, but today I had plenty of mint but had forgotten to pick oregano – both are good.

And, just for a change from aubergines…..

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This evening I made carpaccio  de tomates – slicing a large coeur de boeuf tomato very thinly, sprinkling chopped garlic, basil leaves, salt and pepper over the slices and then adding olive oil.

Pizzas on a rainy day

I don’t know where the Mediterranean summer has gone, but it’s been cold, windy and pouring with rain here for two days now.  We need the rain – for the garden, for the vines and to stock up reserves for the long dry summer, but it’s still not a very cheerful sight.  Under dark chilly clouds it seemed a good time to make bread and pizzas, so that’s how we spent the morning – making tomato and basil pizzas for lunch and rosemary focaccia just for fun.  For more than 20 years when we lived in Wales we made all our own bread because it was difficult to buy good bread there.  Here, with an excellent boulangerie only 50 metres from our house, we make it much less often, but it’s still fun to do it occasionally.

Our basil plants are just getting to the stage where we can use leaves from them, so this is what gave us the idea for the pizzas.

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The recipes for the pizza and focaccia on the Food from the Mediterranean blog.

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>Two tomato salads and some autumn food festivals

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Usually our tomato plants continue producing until November and in past years we’ve eaten tomatoes picked green and then ripened in the house as late as December.  This year will be different and production has already slowed down almost to nothing.  The Ananas plants seem to be having a late renaissance, though, and we’ve also picked some of the Long Andean variety which is more suitable for making purée, but we’ve used them in salads too.

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Left: Long Andean tomatoes sliced with garlic, chopped green pepper and anchovies and basil leaves. 

Right: Ananas tomatoes with basil, garlic and sliced mozzarella cheese.

And here’s a link from the Observer website to some amazing-sounding food festivals in Italy, France, Norway, Croatia, Crete, Sardinia and Mallorca.  If I lived nearer I’d be especially tempted by the Fête des Legumes Oubliés (Festival of Forgotten Vegetables), but it’s in Normandy – a very long way from here – and the olive festival in Mallorca, and…. well, all of them really!

 

IMGP0509-1  The pumpkin festival near Lucca in Italy reminded me to ask our neighbour whether we should be protecting ours from damp by keeping them off the ground, but he said there’s no need as they have such thick skins.  They should be left while the stems are still green and then can be brought inside.  Our plants seem to be rejuvenating themselves and we have several new small pumpkins growing to join the five large ones already there.  I don’t know whether there will be time for the small ones to grow before the weather gets colder.  The big ones are not as big as I’ve seen them in western France, where there’s a lot more rain, but they’re not doing badly.

>It’s good to be home

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We’re home again after three weeks away. We’d planned just a one-week break but had to leave unexpectedly a fortnight earlier because of a sudden death in the family, so after a sad time it’s very cheering to come home to a wonderful harvest of aubergines, peppers and tomatoes, thanks to our neighbour who watered the garden for us. We’ve got a busy weekend ahead now making tomato puree to store for the winter because the Roma tomatoes are just waiting to be picked.

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and two delicious salads

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A Greek salad, left, made with cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions from the garden and feta cheese and black olives. On the right, tomato, Red Marconi pepper and basil salad.

>First tomatoes!

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We’ve been watching several of our Languedocienne tomatoes turning red and ripening over the past few days and today we picked the first four.  What a treat it was to have a salad for lunch made with tomatoes, basil and garlic from the garden and arbequine olive oil from the Moulin du Mas St Pierre which we bought when we visited in April.

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A cicada case and rampant pumpkin plants

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When cicadas hatch out they crawl up onto a high plant or branch and emerge from these casings.  Lo Jardinièr found one today.  By the time he’d fetched the camera the cicada had flown off, but the casing was left.  Our pumpkin plants are making a bid to take over the whole garden – compare this with the extent of the plants only eleven days ago!  We’ve been watering the garden ever other day (economising a bit on other years when we’ve watered every day, and the plants still seem to be getting enough), and during two days in between waterings earlier this week the plants had completely covered the hosepipe, growing about half a metre.  We’re hoping to have some nice big pumpkins in the autumn, and the butternut squash plants seem to have settled in well too.

>September days / Les jours de septembre

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The nights are getting cooler and the days shorter even though it is still hot during the day – up to 30 degrees C and we still haven’t had any rain! We’ve given up hope for the tomatoes as they just will not seem to ripen – maybe we can make something with green tomatoes. A couple of years ago Lo Jardinièr made green tomato jam which went very well with goats’ cheese.

It upsets me to spend too much time in the garden at the moment with the sound of the chainsaws felling the plane trees down the hill on the main road.

Les nuits deviennent plus fraiches et les jours plus courts, mème si il fait chaud encore pendant la journée – 30 dégrées C et il n’a pas plu. Les tomates ne mûrissent pas, mais peut-être on peut faire quelque chose des tomates vertes. Il y a deux ans Lo Jardinièr a fait de la confiture de tomates vertes qui accompagnait très bien le fromage de chèvre.

Ca me peine passer trop de temps au jardin en ce moment, en entendand le bruit des tranconneuses qui abbatent les platanes au fond de la colline.

Pesto

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This morning I cut the basil and ground the leaves with olive oil, pine nuts and grated parmesan cheese to make pesto which we’ll eat with pasta. I’ve frozen some of the chopped leaves so that we can make pesto in the winter.

Ce matin j’ai aceuilli le basilic et j’ai moulu les feuilles avec de l’huile d’olive, des pignons de pin et du fromage parmesan pour faire le pesto pour accompagner les pâtes. J’ai congelé des feuilles hachées afin qu’on puisse faire du pesto en hiver.

Radicchio

We had one radicchio plant which didn’t get eaten by the snails and we ate some of it yesterday with salmon and courgette rice paper parcels and some today in a salad with the last cucumber of the summer.

On avait un plant de radicchio que les escargots n’avaient pas mangé. Nous l’avons mangé hier avec des nems de saumon et de courgette et aujourd’hui dans une salade avec le dernier concombre de l’été.

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And the vendange goes on / et la vendange continue

All around the village there are grape-picking machines in the vineyards and tractors pulling trailers full of grapes back to the domaines and the caves cooperatives. Winemakers are bottling last year’s wine to make room in the vats for this year’s new grapes. It’s an important time of year here.

Autour du village il y a des machines qui ramassent les raisins et des tracteurs qui tirent des remorques pleins de raisins aux domaines et aux caves cooperatives. Les vignerons misent en bouteilles le vin de l’année dernière pour faire de la place dans les cuves pour les raisin de cette année. C’est un moment très important ici.

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A lorry with bottling equipment outside a cave. The wine is bottled inside the lorry, the bottles are corked, labelled and then packed into cartons to emerge on the blue conveyer belt, and the 2008 vintage is ready to sell.