>Weekend food


We haven’t done much gardening this weekend, even though the weather has been sunny and mild, but we have eaten some very good food. As always on Saturday morning, the coquillage (shellfish) van came to the village from Bouzigues and I bought a kilo of mussels for our lunch.

Saturday lunch

We started with celery soup that Lo Jardinièr had made with celery from the garden, garnished with cream and parsley.


Then we cooked the mussels, breadcrumbed them and fried them in olive oil:


Mussels are so beautiful that I always want to take too many photos of them:

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Duck… twice

Last night we ate with the rest of the Cercle Occitan members in the village bar and the main course was duck legs in mushroom sauce. It was very good but Lo Jardinièr and I laughed when we saw them because we had bought duck legs for our Sunday lunch. I cooked them in a very different way, though, and the recipe for duck legs with apricots is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.


We usually eat whatever vegetables are available in the garden, according to the season, and a lot of the tomatoes that we bottle during the summer, but sometimes in winter I long for my real favourites, the summer Mediterranean vegetables – aubergines, peppers, courgettes. So I bought an aubergine and some courgettes to make our first course for lunch today – cooked in olive oil with onions, garlic and rosemary and served garnished with chopped green olives and croutons.




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!

>Warm enough for a lizard / Assez chaud pour un lézard


lizard_1 Suddenly it’s spring and the lizards are out in the sun …


Tout à coup, c’est le printemps et les lézards sortent au soleil …



Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

Last month I was away on the 15th so I missed it, and we didn’t have many blooms in the garden anyway.  This month is much more colourful:

Le mois dernier je n’étais pas chez moi le 15, et il n’y avait pas des fleurs au jardin.  Aujourd’hui il y a beaucoup plus de couleur:

anemones …
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apricot blossom / fleurs d’abricotier …
aubretia …
daffodils / les narcisses ….
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and grape hyacinths / et les muscaris.
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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Moules gratinées

On Friday at an otherwise excellent restaurant in Agde, I ordered moules gratinées and was shocked to find when they arrived that they were huge, green-shelled creatures which I knew don’t grow near here.  I asked the waiter and he said that they came from New Zealand!  Although he added that they used local mussels for moules marinières.  Agde is only about 10 km from the nearest mussel beds in the Bassin de Thau.  These New Zealand mussels had suffered from their long journey and months in the freezer – they were tough and tasteless.  How sad, because apart from this the food was good at this family-run restaurant on the quayside, where the woman chef came to our table and explained her ratatouille recipe in great detail – and it was the best ratatouille we’d ever had in a restaurant, as good as we make at home!

Vendredi j’ai commandé des moules gratinées dans un restaurant à Agde et j’ai été étonnée de trouver qu’elles sont des grandes moules au coquilles vertes qui ne viennent pas d’ici.  Elles sont venues de la Nouvelle-Zélande.  Agde n’est que 10 kilometres du Bassin de Thau.  Cettes moules ont souffert de leur voyage long et les mois qu’elles ont passé au congelateur.

At home tonight, I made moules gratinées (garlic, parsley, white wine, bread crumbs, grated cheese and a little paprika) with mussels from Bouzigues and they were delicious:

Chez nous ce soir j’ai fait les moules gratinées – les moules de Bouzigues à l’ail, persil, vin blanc, chapelure, fromage rapé et un peu de piment doux – et elles sont delicieuses:

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Followed by Lo Jardinièr’s chard and goats’ cheese tart:

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In the garden / Au jardin

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We planted out 10 celery plants from seed given to us by Kate.  I sowed the seed in October and they have grown very slowly on the windowsill through the cold weather.  They’re doing well now, though.  Thanks, Kate!  The artichoke plant on the right is supposed to be the same variety as its bigger neighbour – Violet de Provence.  I can’t remember whether the others had similar smooth-edged leaves when they were small.

>This long cold winter / Cet hiver long et froid


I know it’s still only January, but this winter does seem to be going on for a long time. The cold weather started early, in November, and we haven’t had nearly as many bright sunny days as we usually do in winter.

Je sais que ce n’est que janvier encore, mais cet hiver durent longtemps. Le temps froid a commencé tôt, en novembre, et nous n’avons pas eu moins de jours de soleil que d’habitude en hiver.

I can’t wait to start sowing seeds ready for spring, but it’s hard to imagine that anything will grow. Salad plants usually grow through the winter here but some celery seedlings, from seeds which Kate brought and which were sown in October, have been in a kind of suspended animation – still alive but not growing – for months. They are just beginning to respond to a bit of sunshine and the longer days.


J’attends avec impatience le temps pour semer les semences de printemps, mais c’est difficile d’imaginer que les plantes pousseront. Normalement ici les salades poussent pendant l’hiver, mais des petites plantes de célérie, des semences que Kate a apporté en Octobre, ont été dormant pendant des mois. Elles commencent enfin à réagir à un peu de soleil et les journées plus longues.

A trough of mizuna and lettuce seedlings are finding it hard to get enough light and some are collapsing weakly in spite of being brought indoors at night and having a home-made cloche to protect them when they are out during the day.

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Des plants de mizuna et de salade n’ont pas assez de la lumière et quelques uns écroulent faiblement bien qu’ils passent la nuit à l’intérieur et qu’ils soient couverts le jour au balcon.

The vineyards are still winter brown, dotted with figures of growers who slowly work their way along the rows pruning the vines ready for the spring growth. The air in the distance looks slightly hazy because of the fires which burn the trimmings.

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Les vignes sont toujours d’un couleur brun hivernal. Les viticulteurs tailles les vignes afin qu’elles soient prêtes à pousser en printemps. L’air est un peu brumeux de la fumée des feux qui brulent les brins taillés.

There’s some hope, though. The mimosa flowers – the first sign of spring in the Midi – are beginning to appear. / Il y un peu d’éspoir – les fleurs du mimosa, le premier signe du printemps dans le Midi, commencent à apparaitre.

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>Fish from the market / poissons du marché


Today its grey, cloudy, autumnal, a day for the market and the kitchen rather than the garden. We bought fresh anchovies for lunch – a rare treat – and a bream for Lo Jardinièr. We ate the anchovies with salsa made from tomatoes, capers, basil and sweet onion.

Aujourdhui il y a des nuages gris dautomne, le temps pour aller au marché et pour cuisiner plutôt que le jardin. Nous avons acheté des anchois pour notre déjeuner – un plaisir rare – et une dorade pour Lo Jardinièr. Nous avons mangé les anchois avec une salsa de tomates, câpres, basilique et oignon doux.

And a glass of muscat sec (dry muscat) from the Domaine des Pascales in Gabian went very well with this meal.

Et un verre du muscat sec du Domaine des Pascales à Gabian a accompagné très bien ce repas.

Click here for the recipes

Cliquez ici pour les recettes

From now on I shall put the recipes on a new blog – at mediterranean-food.blogspot.com – to make it easier to find them.

À partir daujourdhui je mettrai les recettes dans un nouveau blog –

mediterranean-food.blogspot.com – pour les faire plus facile à trouver.

We sowed seeds for celery and some salad plants which Kate brought us – which we hope will make salads and soups during the autumn and winter.

Nous avons semé des graines de céleri et de salades pour les salades et les soupes de lautomn et lhiver.

And a friend has given us some chestnuts which well roast in the oven this evening. Well keep some to cook on the barbecue when the weather improves.

Et un ami nous a donné des châtaignes que nous ferons cuire au four ce soir. Nous en garderons quelques-unes pour griller sur le barbecue quand le temps fera mieux.