Goats and kids, cheese and meat

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One evening a couple of days ago we drove a few kilometres up into the rocky, garrigue-covered hills to the goat farm at Mas Rolland to buy cheese and to see the newborn kids. The farm has a website – here – in French, explaining the way they work, grazing the goats naturally in the open countryside and making cheese every day. By chance, a couple of late kids had been born that afternoon. Unlike the slightly older ones that were scampering all over the place, trying to eat our clothes and moving so fast that all my shots of them were a blur in the low light of the shed, these ones kept still, resting after the shock, perhaps, of birth, in a plastic box.

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Most of the adult goats were being milked or waiting to be milked:

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We bought some cheeses, having already bought a quarter of a kid from the farm at the butcher’s shop in Roujan. The kids look lovely, I know, but realistically they exist only to cause the adult goats to produce milk for cheese-making. Many of the female kids are kept to replenish the herd, or sold to others who want to build up a herd, but for most of the males life is short. This is the reality of all dairy farming – sheep, cows and goats must produce offspring which are surplus to the requirements of the herd and, therefore, are eaten. We roasted the quarter kid for lunch today. It weighed about 1.25 kilo and took about an hour to cook uncovered in a hot oven. We put it on a bed of wild thyme, picked in the hills near the village, with garlic, salt, pepper, tomato purée and white wine. Half way through the cooking time we added some parboiled pieces of carrot, potato and pumpkin, so that it was a one-pot meal.

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While we were waiting for the meat to cook we had an apéritif: Cava, olives, fuet and chorizo.

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And then the main course was ready, deliciously fragrant with the thyme and garlic, nice tender meat and a delicious sauce made from the juices, wine and tomato.

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And the cheese course? A selection of goats’ cheeses: tomme, a hard, matured cheese, demi-frais, a couple of days old, and cendré, rolled in ashes, a style that I assume was developed for keeping the cheeses fresh, and which gives a lovely flavour to the cheese.

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Just for the record, yesterday we planted out our cebas – sweet onions from Lézignan-la-Cèbe.

A tale of three cities

As well as the joys of celebrating a very special day and spending time with family and friends in Wales and England, we ate very well indeed while we were away. While we were in York we had lunch at the fantastic Le Lenghe Italian restaurant where the beams were lined with panettone:

6 panettone beams

In Cardiff we shopped for ingredients for Sunday lunch at the Riverside farmers’ market, almost underneath the imposing Millennium rugby stadium.

1 cardiff - Riverside market

There are so many different flavours here, including a stall selling elderflower cordial to warm us on a cold morning, Taste of Persia baklava, and a meat stall where we bought a delicious farmyard chicken – ‘like the chicken of thirty years ago’, said the stallholder (and it reminded us of the best chicken still available in the Languedoc today as well). There were cheeses – the wonderful Teifi Cheese, made near where we used to live in the Teifi Valley and still going strong, luckily, and Cothi Valley goats’ cheeses that were as good as those from Mas Rolland even!

2 Teifi cheeses

4 Cothi valley goats' cheeses

And there was a very varied range of vegetarian and vegan burgers and pies, including very pretty round balls of beetroot which tempted even me, and I don’t like beetroot much.

3 vegetarian burgers

And, while still in Cardiff, I must mention the tasting menu we all enjoyed so much at Bully’s restaurant to celebrate our daughter’s wedding. I can’t really do justice to the experience here in a few words, but apart from the joyous occasion it was a gastronomic experience unlike any other I’ve had, with each course accompanied by a different carefully chosen wine and an unpretentious explanation from the owner, Russell Bullimore. Most of the dishes would be too complicated for us even to think of making at home (this is the sign of a special meal for me) but something we will try is their way with goats’ cheese which came as part of the cheese course. A fairly fresh goats’ cheese had been dressed with black pepper, olive oil and honey and then a sprig of rosemary which was then burnt with a blow torch just before serving. It gave the cheese a wonderful smokey flavour.

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We spent the last night of our trip with our son in Fulham and once again were amazed by the variety of foods and flavours available just at the end of his road. One delight was this wall of spices:

5 wall of spices

Even though our bags were already full, we managed to fit in some packets of spices that are hard to find in the Languedoc. And for our last supper on that side of the Channel we found Palestinian felafel, merguez sausages, little aubergines and green peppers, ful medames, Turkish grape syrup to mix with tahini, and more, and flat breads to dip into it all. It’s nice to be home again, but we certainly haven’t missed good food while we’ve been away!

Peynirli börek – Turkish cheese pastries

These pastries are made in many shapes and sizes in Turkey – sometimes baked in the oven in a large dish and then cut into portions like a pie, sometimes they are cigar-shaped rolls, and often they are these little triangular delights.  They are usually  made with filo pastry, filled with sheep’s or goats’ cheese and herbs.  It’s quite difficult to fold them tidily when you have a huge sheet of pastry, as they were sold in Istanbul when I was young.  When my mother wanted to serve böreks for a party she used to ask a Turkish helper to make them for her.  I’ve found an easier way to make the folded pastries here in France because I can buy Moroccan brick pastry which is sold in circular sheets about 30 cm in diameter.  This pastry looks different to filo pastry, but the finished result once cooked tastes the same to me as I remember from Turkey.

Today I used ricotta cheese, but usually I use a fresh sheep’s cheese called brousse, and you can use any soft, creamy cheese. They’re nice made with chopped sweet onion and oregano, but I didn’t have these today so I added some chopped thyme, a couple of finely chopped cloves of garlic, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of ground piment d’Espelette (paprika) to 250 grams of ricotta.  Then I began to fold the böreks using a method I found described once on a packet of brick pastry:

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I cut all the circles of pastry in half and then take one at a time and fold down the rounded side over the straight side.

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I put a spoonful of the cheese mixture at one end of the pastry, leaving enough to fold over at the end.

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I fold the flap over and then carry on folding over the triangle until I reach the other end.

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For the last turnover I brush some water onto the pastry so that it holds together.

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When they’re all ready they can be fried in olive oil – you need to use quite a lot of oil as they burn if they are too dry.

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The böreks should be served hot, on their own as a first course or with other mezes or tapas.

Just before I made these at lunch time today I saw this wonderful field of poppies next to a vineyard near Pézenas.

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Between seasons

Yesterday in bright sunshine Lo Jardinièr lit the barbecue in the place at lunchtime to cook chicken and red peppers on skewers.

chicken skewers

Today we had rain, great for the garden but not so good for our spirits.  The market was grey and wet, with the sun awnings being used to shelter customers from the rain rather than the heat.

grey market

And the lunch menu was equally delicious but almost wintry: pumpkin soup with chopped garlic and croutons, and two fromages fermiers, one sheeps’ milk cheese from Lacaune and a cows’ milk one from the Aveyron.

pumpkin soup

fromages fermiers

And flags….

When I saw Chica Andaluza’s new flag counter I couldn’t resist trying to add one to my blog and inadvertently added it as a post at first.  It’s now in its proper place at the foot of my blog, showing the different countries of origin of its readers.  Thanks for the idea, Chica!

Autumnal

Over the past three or four days in our département and its surrounding area of Languedoc-Roussillon between 100 and 400 mm of rain has fallen, depending on location.  Although we’re used to long dry periods followed by downpours, the storms are normally quite short and this is as much rain as we usually have in six months.  The worst is over now and the storm has now moved eastwards into Provence and the Côte d’Azur and south-westwards to the Pyrenees, but it is still raining.

For our first autumnal Sunday lunch of the season I roasted the remaining quarter of the pumpkin we made soup with the other day….

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peeled it and cut it into chunks, put it in an oven-proof dish with olive oil, salt and pepper, a couple of sprigs of rosemary and some bay leaves, and some unpeeled cloves of garlic.

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I put it in the oven at 180 C for about an hour, until the pieces of pumpkin were nicely browned at the edges.

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There’s something very warming about the sight of an earthenware dish filled with roast pumpkin!  It went very well with some pot-roasted duck legs – recipe on the Food from the Mediterranean blog.

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The wine we drank with it was a red Mont Lequio from Domaine des Pascales in the village.  There they also sell cheeses from the Aveyron, brought back from the farm where they are made when they deliver wine to that area.  We followed our main course with this St Nectaire fermier, perfectly aged with a full flavour and a still-creamy tasting centre.

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Somehow, the weather didn’t seem so bad after lunch!

Green peppers, and an indulgence

Coming home to the garden, I found a lot of small green peppers that probably won’t grow much more or ripen so late in the year.  I picked some thinking of pickling them (something that worked well last year) but in the end decided to cook them for about 5 minutes or so in olive oil with a little chopped garlic.

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The peppers went well with the tortilla Lo Jardinièr made for lunch.  The indulgent part was the blue cheese sauce our daughter told us she’d had with tortilla in Sevilla once.  Mixing blue cheese (here, our local bleu des causses) with crème fraiche doesn’t seem very Mediterranean, but who cares when it tastes as good as this!

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Swallowtail butterfly

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At this time every year there’s always a day when I take a ridiculous number of photos of one of these beautiful butterflies on our lavender flowers. Today was that day.  Sorry, the lamb chops etc. seem to have found their way onto the butterfly slideshow.

Thanks to Chica Andaluza for pointing me in the direction of A Dash of Domestic’s post and thanks to her for her post on how to make a slideshow.

And then lunch ….

Lamb chops on the barbecue

Earlier in the year we bought half a lamb from the Domaine des Pascales where we buy our rosé and white wine.  One of the family lives on a sheep farm in the Aveyron and brings the lambs from their small flock to sell.  These were some of the chops from that purchase.  They were delicious with yogurt mixed with chopped garlic and mint, lemon, and barbecued aubergine and small green peppers straight from the garden.  And a glass of red wine, of course.

Lamb, aubergine and green peppers

And to follow, some farmhouse St Nectaire cheese, also from the Aveyron and also bought from Domaine des Pascales, bought from one of the places where they sell their wine – a good trade!

St Nectaire fermier