All the family arrived yesterday so we barbecued brochettes of gambas, scallops, chorizo and onions, to eat with grilled peppers straight from the plants, followed by tomato salad, also straight from the plants. Isn’t summer wonderful?
These earthenware cazuelas are definitely part of my essential kitchen equipment, well worn, chipped and some slightly cracked, they are used almost every day. As soon as one of these dishes begins to heat up on the hob or in the oven a characteristic earthy smell fills the kitchen and I’m sure that they add flavour to anything that is cooked in them. They are widely available in markets and shops here and over the border in Catalunya and Spain, sold with varying advice on how to treat them to make them last ‘for ever’. I don’t believe that they do last for ever, but they aren’t expensive so if one does crack too badly it can be replaced. When they’re new they should be soaked for an hour or so in water before use, but after that I find that so long as they are heated slowly, on a low flame to start with if used for cooking on gas, they last for years.
I used one today to make a chorizo, pumpkin and haricot bean stew – very simply, with tinned beans added near the end of the cooking time when the pumpkin was done.
At last we have a cloudless sky today, for the first time for over a month, and with a dry north wind and bright light we have the weather we expect during late autumn and winter in the Midi. I feel as though I’m home again after a long stay somewhere very dark.
The market looked very lively in the sunlight and with people coming out after days indoors (because no one here likes going out in the rain). I was too busy buying meat, fish and garlic and chatting to friends to remember to take photos there but some of the ingredients I bought went into my lunch:
Lo Jardinièr wanted a mackerel and I wanted prawns, so we each bought our own choice. I made a small collection of tapas – my lazy, less hot version of gambas al pil pil, made with a chopped chorizo pepper which is spicy rather than hot and lots of garlic (Chica Andaluza has a more authentic version), some of the last green peppers of assorted varieties, that we’ve harvested at the very end of the season so they’re very small, fried in olive oil, and some slices of chorizo made not in Spain but in Lacaune where our market charcutier comes from. And, of course, some crusty paillasse bread to mop up all the olive oily juices. I did share the peppers and chorizo with Lo Jardinièr and he said his fried mackerel was excellent too. It was a great way to celebrate the sunshine!
On yet another rainy day, Lo Jardinièr and I talked as we were eating a lovely lunch of pizza left over from yesterday when he made it, accompanied by a salad of grated carrot (not from the garden) and slices of green and yellow pepper (from the garden). As we often do, we remarked on how easy it is to make delicious food so long as we have certain basic essentials in the store cupboard and fridge.
There are ingredients we would never be without, some of which are so essential I haven’t included them in the photo: rice, pasta, the tomato purée we make at least 50 jars of every summer and which last us through the winter and spring until we have fresh tomatoes in the garden again……salt and pepper too, of course. But apart from these, here are a few others: capers (although when I can find them I prefer the salted ones to these in brine); anchovy fillets; olive oil (of course); raisins or currants; chorizo; garlic (again, of course!); piments d’Espelette or other paprika peppers, fresh or dried); lemon; black olives; bay leaves (and other fresh herbs as available in the garden, thyme, rosemary, basil…..). Even if we have no other meat or vegetables we can always make something tasty to eat with these.
And as I write this I remember other essentials we almost always have in the cupboard: red and white wine, tinned chickpeas and haricot beans, tahina, walnuts, spices – coriander and cumin especially – and so much else. But these in the picture are the basics.
For the photo I put all these in a dish which for me is another essential as it’s been in my family almost as long as I can remember. It was made in Sicily and my mother bought it in Benghazi soon after we moved there in the 1950s. She passed it on to me after she had used it many times especially, as I remember, for rice salads when we had big family parties.
Coming home hungry at midday, Lo Jardinièr and I managed to make lunch in only about 10 minutes: a courgette fresh from the garden, sliced and fried in olive oil; some slices of langanisse, a long spicy dried sausage; cherry tomatoes, also from the garden; huevos revueltos, a Spanish version of scrambled egg, this time with onions and peppers sliced and sautéed in olive oil before adding the beaten eggs and some chopped chorizo added to the mix as well.
Left, above, oranges on a tree in the car park next to the village bar. Right, a delicious soup Lo Jardinièr made from pumpkin, carrots, onions, haricot beans, pasta and chunks of chorizo sausage, flavoured with a little chopped chilli pepper, thyme and bay and garnished with chopped garlic and basil. Very warming on a cold November day!
The chorizo peppers on the balcony are still ripening in the sun, although we bring the plant indoors at night now and the plant has suffered a bit from cold winds during the day.
Believe it or not, this photo was taken in the middle of the day … and so were these:
The rain will be good for the garden, but for today it means we can’t do any gardening.
It’s time to eat comforting autumn food like this rabbit and chorizo casserole, with some of the last courgettes of the season, and a glass of red wine.
This may have been the last butterfly of the summer, in the garden last weekend when we were sowing broad beans and peas.
There doesn’t seem to be much to say about the garden – it’s doing what we expect in August: producing a lot of tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers. We’ve planted cauliflowers and leeks for the winter and we’ve sown some more haricot beans. / Il n’y a pas beaucoup à dire quant au jardin: il nous donne beaucoup de tomates, aubergines, poivrons et concombres. Nous avons planté des chou-fleurs et des poireaux pour l’hiver et nous avons semé encore d’haricots.
The Wednesday market seems quieter these days. The vegetable seller doesn’t come in summer – perhaps too many of us in Gabian have gardens and he goes to Cap d’Agde instead where there are a lot of holidaymakers. / Le marché du mercredi semble plus tranquille en été. Le marchand des légumes ne vient pas – peut-être parce que trop de gabianais ont des jardins – il va au Cap d’Agde ou il y a beaucoup de touristes.
The fish stall from Valras was there and we bought two cuttlefish to grill for lunch. The stallholder cleaned them for us and we marinaded them in lemon juice, garlic, paprika and olive oil and grilled them for just a few minutes. There were lovely with grilled green peppers! / La poissonière de Valras était là et nous avons acheté deux seiches pour griller au jardin. La poissonière les a nettoyé pour nous et nous les avons fait mariner avec du jus de citron, de l’ail, du piment doux et d’huile d’olive. Elles étaient très bonnes avec des poivrons verts grillés!
A cloudy day in the garden! And we harvested the first red chilli peppers to dry in the sun. / Une journée nouageuse au jardin! Et nous avons récolté les premiers piments rouges pour secher au soleil.
There are many Spanish people living in Gabian and so the charcutier who comes to the market has a lot of Spanish charcuterie. I noticed some small chorizo sausages and luckily at the same time one of his Spanish customers who has given me advice about cooking morcillas arrived, so I asked her how to cook them. We had them this evening, heated gently in a frying pan. We added a little red wine and ate them with fried courgettes. / Il y a beaucoup des espagnols qui habitent Gabian, donc le charcutier vend de la charcuterie espagnole. J’ai remarqué des petits chorizos et au mème moment, heureusement, une de ses clientes espagnoles est arrivée et je lui ai demandé comment on les cuits. Nous les avons mangés ce soir, rechauffés doucement dans un poele. Nous avons ajouté un peu de vin rouge et nous les avons mangés accompagnés des courgettes poelées.
We started the meal with gazpacho – cold soup – which I had made with vegetables from the garden: red pepper, green pepper, cucumber, tomatoes and onion. Perfect for a hot day. The recipe will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. / On a commencé le repas par le gazpacho – la soupe froide – que j’avais fait du légumes du jardin: un poivron rouge, un poivron vert, un concombre, des tomates, un oignon. Parfait pour une journée chaude. La recette sera sur le blog Mediterranean cuisine.
Bordeaux mixture (copper sulphate) is a treatment against fungus and other diseases which is permitted in organic agriculture and horticulture. It is used on the vines here in the Languedoc and in other vine-growing areas and perhaps because it’s so commonly used in the vineyards gardeners in Gabian use it on a wide range of plants: fruit trees, olive trees, roses, potatoes.
La bouillie bordelaise est un traitement contre les maladies qui est permis dans l’agriculture biologique. Les viticulteurs du Languedoc et les autres régions vigneronnes la mettent sur les vignes et ici à Gabian les jardiniers la utilisent pour les arbres fruitiers, les oliviers, les pommes de terre, les rosiers etc.
It must be used at least 14 days before harvesting and for fruit trees the best time is in spring before the fruits form. I’ve been waiting for a calm day to spray our trees and although today wasn’t completely still there was less wind than there has been for the last couple of weeks.
Il faut traiter les plantes et les arbres au moins 14 jours avant la récolte et pour les arbres fruitiers le meilleur temps est le printemps. J’attendais une journée calme pour vaporiser la bouillie bordelaise sur nos arbres. Aujoud’hui il y avait moins de vent qu’on a eu les dernières deux semaines.
The powder and the liquid once it’s mixed with water are a lovely deep blue colour which makes the leaves and flowers look pretty ….
olive leaves / les feuilles d’olivier
and polka-dot apricot blossom / et les fleurs d’abricotier à pois.
Chorizo and chickpeas / Chorizo et pois chiches
After a hard morning’s work in the garden we were ready for lunch and I made a quick stew of tinned chickpeas and some little chorizo sausages which we’d bought in the market earlier, with garlic, thyme, tomato passata, a glass of red wine and a green sweet onion.
Après le travail du matin au jardin on était prêt pour le déjeuner. J’ai préparé un ragout express des pois chiches et des petits chorizos qu’on a acheté sur le marché ce matin, avec de l’ail, du thym, de la purée de tomates, un verre de vin rouge et un oignon doux.
Tomato and pepper sowings update / mise à jour des semences de tomates et de poivrons
The tomato seedlings enjoying the sun on the balcony – when they have two true leaves we’ll transplant them into individual pots. / Les petits plants de tomate au soleil au balcon – quand ils auront deux vraies feuilles nous les repiquerons en petits pots individuels.
The pepper seeds germinated very quickly on our heated seed-starter box. The Corno di toro, Nardello, Kolaska, Lipstick and Italian Red Marconi germinated in about 7-8 days. The Kandil dolma and the Spanish long pepper (seeds given to us by our neighbour) have been slower but are showing signs of germinating now. / Les semences de poivron ont germé très vite sur le boîte chauffée: 7-8 jours pour: Corno di toro, Nardello, Kolaska, Lipstick et Italian Red Marconi. Les semence de Kandil dolma et long d’Espagne (ce dernier de notre voisin) commencent a germer maintenant.
A sustainable supper
We’re so lucky here in Gabian that the coquillage van comes to the village twice a week bringing fresh shellfish from Bouziques. Oysters seem to be one of the best foods we can get from the environmental point of view … and they’re delicious and very good value.
In the Guardian newspaper last Saturday Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was encouraging readers to eat oysters, raw or cooked. He gave some recipes – including one for oyster and chard fritters, which I want to make sometime soon, and another for oysters with chorizo. This recipe was for six oysters to serve six people as a starter – well, here in the Midi we eat oysters in larger quantities than that, but the recipe sounded very tempting. I had a nice chunk of chorizo which I’d bought from the charcutier at the market yesterday and realised that I could combine this with one of my favourite ways with oysters – huitres gratinées, putting them under the grill with white wine and cheese.
We started with some of our leeks, and onions, sautéed in olive oil and then served with shavings of parmesan.
Les poireaux sautés aux oignons et l’huile d’olive. Servir au parmesan.
Oysters gratinées with chorizo / Huitres gratinées au chorizo
We added chopped garlic, olive oil, white wine and grated Cantal cheese to the oysters in their shells and put them under the grill for about 5 minutes until the cheese began to brown. In the meantime we cooked the diced chorizo in olive oil, then served it with the oysters and poured the spicy oil from the frying pan over the oysters.
We finished this Thursday evening feast with some of the lovely Spanish clementines which are in all the local shops and markets at the moment.
We felt we deserved all of this after a few hours’ hard work earlier on, spreading another trailer-load of goat manure on the garden.