>A hint of spring?


This morning for the first time for weeks the sun felt hot and it was 16 degrees C in the garden.  I know the winter’s not over yet – we’re not even half way through January – but there was a suggestion in the air that spring may arrive eventually.

The garden in January

Just for the record, this is what the garden looked like this morning.

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The rosemary has been flowering all winter and there were bees on it today.  The broad beans look much better than they did this time last year and don’t seem to have been affected at all by the cold nights we had last month.

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Olive pruning

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I spent some time pruning the second of our two olive trees, the Lucque,  not too drastically as it is still a very young tree that we planted only five years ago.

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Before (left), during (above) and after (right)

The main aim when olive pruning is to open out the centre of the tree so I pruned any branches that were growing inwards, and I cut some of the straggly branches at the top.  It’s growing into quite a nice little tree and it produced some good olives last year.

And a cauliflower


We picked this cauliflower – probably our last for this year, but there are still plenty of leaf vegetables: lettuces, red and green cabbages, spinach and chard, as well as some turnips, to feed us for the rest of the winter.  The garlic and onions we planted in the autumn are all growing well too.

>From a frosty garden


We’ve had a couple of very cold nights, below freezing with frost in the garden.  Not nearly as cold as further north, and no snow here at all, but it’s still been quite wintry.  There were a few olives left on our Lucque tree, that weren’t quite ripe when we picked the others, but they seem to have gone rather mushy as though they’ve been affected by the frost, although I’d be surprised at this since some varieties aren’t harvested until January and there are almost always freezing temperatures before then.

Red cabbages and cauliflowers
The artichoke plants will soon recover
IMGP3790 Lettuce, which will also recover, we hope. IMGP3791-1 This little radicchio plant looks completely unaffected by the cold.
IMGP3798 The frosted aubretia  leaves looked pretty in the sun. IMGP3799 The broad beans have been protected by the layer of bamboo leaves.
Frost melting on the palm leaves.
IMGP3802 Low sun sparkling through the fence.

And the building work goes on

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Above right, two big machines and a lorry…. it’s very noisy in our garden now.  Above left, you can see how close the work is to the garden.

>A little rain


We’ve had a couple of thunderstorms and two cloudy days – a little rain but not nearly enough after a summer that’s been even drier than usual.  When the first thunderstorm came the night before last, I was worried about the turnip seedlings that had just emerged the day before.  Last year some of these got completely washed away by heavy rain.  I needn’t have worried, though, they’re still there:


Planting out the winter vegetables



We’ve planted out the red cabbage, green cabbage, cauliflower and leek plants which we bought because we didn’t get round to sowing them earlier in the summer.  Neighbours have given us lettuce seedlings, too, so we should have lots of leaves for salads and soups in the autumn and winter.



And the aubergines seem to be starting again, with new flowers and a few new fruits, one of which we ate for lunch today.

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Market day

The market was busier than it has been over the summer – there were stalls selling household goods and our usual charcutier was back from the break he took last week.  We bought pork chops to barbecue outside in the place, sharing the fire with our neighbour as we often do.  While they were cooking we had goats’ cheeses with thyme, garlic, olive oil and cherry tomatoes.

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This morning we went up into the hills to Mas Rolland to collect a trailer-load of manure – the first of several we hope.  Last year we did this and it made a huge difference to the soil, and its ability to retain moisture especially.

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It was cold and grey.  The hillsides looked dry and wintry, with just the evergreen plants and trees, like these holm oaks in the foreground above, contrasting with the rocks.  The milking goats are still indoors in their winter quarters but this billy with amazing horns was outside watching us.

DSC01187 We now have the first pile of manure in the garden ready to spread on the ground and we’ll go to fetch some more later in the week.  In spite of the cloudy, cold weather, it feels as though we’ve started the new gardening year now, and that’s a good feeling.  The artichoke plants  – just visible in the background here – have suffered from the cold, but they should recover.  Everything else looks fine.

Winter harvest

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We picked our last cauliflower and dug up a couple of leeks.  Our neighbour gave us some beetroot and some celery stalks.  I put the celery into the dish I made when we got home, with haricot beans, pancetta, carrots and onions, which we ate with toast and tapenade and a glass of red wine.  A very warming lunch!

>Last days of the year


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.


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




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!


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
Chocolate fondant.
And, finally, cherries in Armagnac with our coffee.

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

>J’invite la Grèce dans ma cuisine / I’m inviting Greece into my kitchen


A tempting challenge – to invite Greece into my kitchen – and one which isn’t too difficult for me. Greek and Turkish cuisine have many similarities, so many of the dishes on the blog En-direct-dathenes resemble the food I ate while I was growing up in Istanbul and have been cooking ever since.

Pour participer au jeu de MaryAthenes j’invite la Grèce dans ma cuisine avec ces keftedes au cumin et ouzo:

As my entry in the game suggested by MaryAthenes I’ve made keftedes with cumin and ouzo:

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(pour 30 de keftedes / to make 30 keftedes)

600 g de viande hachée / minced meat**

1/2 pain blanc rassis / stale white bread

1 gros oignon haché / minced onion

2 oeufs / eggs

1 càc de cumin / coffee spoon cumin

1 1/2 càc d’origan / coffee spoon origano

1 verre à liqueur d’ouzo / liqueur glass of ouzo*

sel, poivre / salt, pepper

farine / flour

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Faire tremper le pain rassis dans de l’eau. Essorer. Mettre en miettes.

Soak the bread in water. Drain. Make into crumbs in a mixer.

Melanger le pain et la viande hachée à la main. / Mix the bread and the meat by hand.

Ajouter l’oignon, les oeufs, le cumin, l’origan, l’ouzo, le sel et le poivre et bien malaxer. / Add the onion, eggs, cumin, oregano, ouzo, salt and pepper and mix well.

Laisser reposer 1 heure au frigo. / Leave in the fridge for 1 hour.

Former des petites boules, les rouler dans la farine et les faire frire. / Form the mixture into small rissoles, roll them in the flour and fry them.

Vous pouvez les manger chaudes arrosées de just de citron ou froides. / Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon or cold.


*Parce que je ne suis pas en Grèce, au lieu de l’ouzo.
j’ai ajouté du pastis.

* Because I’m not in Greece, instead of ouzo I added pastis (the Midi equivalent of this aniseed spirit).

** You can use beef, veal or lamb (lamb would be most likely in Turkey) for this or pork, which is what I used because it is easily available here.

And from our lunch today, a couple more meze ideas …

quelques autres idées pour un repas de mezes …

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Crushed haricot beans with sweet onion, black olives and toasted sesame bread. Cauliflower fritters. Recipes for these will be on the mediterranean cuisine blog.

>Spring in the air? / Du temps printanier?


January often does this – makes me feel as though it’s spring when it’s too early.  But I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.  The sun felt hot today at midday, although the nights are cold and clear with temperatures below freezing.

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apricot branch and a clear, blue sky

C’est souvent comme ça en janvier – il semble que c’est le printemps, mais c’est trop tôt.  Mais je vais en profiter pendant que le beau temps dure.  Au soleil à midi aujourd’hui il a fait chaud, bien que les nuits soient froides et claires, et les températures au dessous de zéro.

The mangetout peas are growing well and today we put netting up to support them.  / Les pois mangetouts poussent bien et aujourd’hui on a mis une grillage en plastique pour les supporter.

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And we picked a salad to accompany our barbecue in the sun – lettuce, spinach, parsley, sorrel and oregano – so much flavour in the middle of winter!

Et on a ramassé une salade pour accompagner notre grillade au soleil – des feuilles de laitue, épinards, persille, oseille et oreganum – tant de gout en plein hiver!

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Cauliflower problems

Another of our cauliflower plants has produced a tiny cauliflower – has anyone got any ideas about what we’ve done wrong with them?  Last year they did well.

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


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
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


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!


>Winter salad / la salade d’hiver


I may have given the impression in my recent post on the changing shape of the garden – the garden changes shape – that there wasn’t much growing in the vegetable garden at the moment. But it’s just that winter crops grow lower than summer tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, they huddle near the ground for shelter, making the garden flatter. This morning it was cold, 3 degrees C, but we still managed to pick the ingredients for a salad from our garden:

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Salad of lettuce, rocket, chicory, spinach, sorrel, mizuna and oregano, all fresh from the garden today.

Une salade de laitue, roquette, endive, epinards, oseille, mizuna et oreganum, ramassés du jardin aujourd’hui.

Even in winter, we eat something from the garden every day. In the last week we’ve eaten leeks, turnips, chard, spinach, red cabbage, green cabbage, lettuce and mizuna.

Même en hiver, on mange quelque légumes du jardin chaque jour. Pendant la semaine dernière on a mangé: des poireaux, des navets, des épinards, des choux rouge et vert, de la laitue et du mizuna.

chard / blettes
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mangetout peas
spinach / épinards
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broad beans / fèves

Some of the vegetables which are thriving in the garden in spite of the cold weather / quelques légumes qui poussent bien malgré le temps froid.

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the peas are germinating / les petits pois germent
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2nd crop of leeks doing well / 2ème récolte de poireaux poussent bien
the radishes taste good /
les radis sont bons
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and the red cabbage leaves are beautiful / et les feuilles du choux rouge sont belles

I love the summer vegetables best – tomatoes, aubergines, artichokes, courgettes – but even in December there are still plenty of good things in the garden!

J’aime les légumes de l’été – les tomates, les aubergines, les artichauts, les courgettes – mais même en décembre il y a plusiers de bonnes choses dans le jardin!

>A winter’s day in November / Un jour d’hiver en novembre


It’s only mid-November, but today was a perfect winter’s day, with a cloudless sky and a cold north wind.  This is the kind of day I try to describe when people who live in northern climates ask me what winter is like in the Languedoc.  It’s dry and bright and the sun still feels hot so long as you’re out of the wind.

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C’est mi-novembre, mais déjà c’est une journée parfaite d’hiver aujourd’hui.  Un ciel sans nuages et un vent froid du nord.  C’est la sorte de jour que j’essaye décrire quand quelqu’un qui habite un climat du nord me demande: ‘l’hiver dans le Languedoc, c’est quoi?’.  Il fait sec, la lumière est éclatante et le soleil est chaud si on est à l’abri du vent.

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The low light shines through the olive branches, silvering the undersides of the leaves against the dark shadows and the bright sky.

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Today was the right phase of the moon for garlic, so we planted ours around the terracotta pots which Kate has written about on Hills and Plains Seedsavers, 7 cloves around each pot.

Nous avons planté l’ail autour des pots en terrecuite duquels Kate a écrit sur le blog Hills and Plains Seedsavers.

lettuce seedlings 2_1_1  We planted the lettuce seedlings from the seeds Kate gave us.
red cabbage caulifflower_1_1 The red cabbages and the caulflowers are doing well, but the mizuna is struggling a bit against the snails.

Les choux rouges et les choufleurs vont bien, mais le mizuna se bat contre les escargots.

mangetout_1_1 I love sowing peas and broad beans – the seedlings come up looking so sturdy and hopeful.  A good omen that spring will follow the winter. broad bean_1