>More mussels and a precocious cauliflower / Encore de moules et un chou-fleur précoce

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I’ve been thinking about the mussels we ate last Thursday evening, bought from one of the two vans a week which bring shellfish to Gabian.  Mussels and oysters from the Bassin de Thau, a salt-water lagoon between Sète and Agde, seem to me to be one of the most sustainable foods available. 

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Mussel and oyster beds near Bouzigues
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Bassin de Thau

 

Je pense que les huitres et les moules du Bassin de Thau, une lagune entre Sète et Agde, sont très durable.

The shellfish are farmed and so do not deplete any of the sea’s natural stocks. The industry is a major employer in the area and is good for the environment because keeping the water clean and unpolluted is in the interests of the producers, who have to add an extra cleaning process to their production on the rare occasions when the water is found to be polluted.  As far as I can tell, the carbon footprint from the mussels lies mainly in the fuel used to bring them the 30 kilometres or so to Gabian.

J’écrirai plus sur la production de coquillages dans le Bassin de Thau bientôt, mais pour le moment je vous donne la recette du plat que j’ai fait jeudi soir:

I’ll write more about the shellfish production in the Bassin de Thau soon, but in the meantime here’s the recipe for the dish I made on Thursday:

Stuffed mussels with muscat / moules farcies au muscat

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Clean a kilo of mussels and cook in boiling water for a few minutes until the shells have opened.  Remove the half of each shell without a mussel and put the shell-halves with mussels in an oven-proof dish.  Cover the mussels with a mixture of 100 gm breadcrumbs, 3 finely chopped garlic cloves, a bunch of parsley and thyme chopped, salt and pepper.  Add a teaspoonful of muscat or other sweet wine to each shell and drizzle olive oil over them all.  Put under a hot grill for about 5-10 minutes until the breadcrumbs are crispy.  Serve with a slice of lemon. 

La recette sera sur le blog mediterranean-cuisine.

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This was the first time I’d made this dish and it was delicious – I’ll be making it again soon!

An early cauliflower

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We didn’t expect to have cauliflowers for another couple of months, but this small one suddenly appeared last week.  Yesterday it had begun to look slightly yellow and we thought it wouldn’t grow any bigger so we brought it home to cook.  As you can see in the picture, it was only about 10 cm across the head.

Lo Jardinièr quartered it and steamed it, then served it with cumin seeds and chopped garlic which had been very lightly sautéd in olive oil.  It was very good – but we hope the others will be bigger!

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>New plants and oysters

>The plants in our spring kitchen window – a jumble of daffodils, cyclamen and pansies which have brightened the view for weeks – are coming to an end now, so in yesterdays cold north tramontane wind and bright sunshine we went to buy plants to put in pots by the front door. Were lucky to be near Mèze where Pépinière Filippi specialises in plants for a dry climate. Unlike some garden centres which tempt us with plants which need too much water and would grow better in a more northern climate, Filippi suggests that we fill our gardens with plants which thrive here. If you cant get to Mèze, their website www.jardin-sec.com gives a lot of very useful information if you understand French. Even if you dont, the plant names are in Latin and the pictures are excellent. We bought a Gazania rigens, a Lantana montevedensis and a Rosmarinus officinalis var. repens, all recommended for growing in containers. On the way back we stopped at De la Terre à la Terre in Montagnac – another good place for Mediterranean gardeners, although it concentrates more on trees, olives, citrus and palms. We bought this unlabelled shrub with pretty pink flowers:

Does anyone know what it is?


Oyster beds near Bouzigues

We made a detour to Bouzigues for lunch. Bouzigues is an oyster village – the whole place is devoted to producing and selling oysters, with a few other shell fish – clams, sea urchins and mussels. Theres a line of cafés and restaurants along the shore of the Bassin de Thau, a salt water lagoon separated from the sea by a thin strip of land. We went to our favourite, Chez la Tchèpe.

You sit at plastic tables in the sun, choose your oysters from crates on the counter and eat them with a glass of Picpoul while you look out at the beds where the oysters grew, only a couple of hundred metres away. Picpoul is the white wine made from grapes grown in this small area between Pézenas, Bouzigues and the sea, whose slight piquancy makes it the perfect accompaniment for sea food.

Choose your lunch . . .