>After the storm / après la tempête


The storm which rushed across southern France and northern Spain, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, yesterday was the worst for ten years, with winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour. We were warned to stay indoors and high-sided vehicles were forbidden from using the roads. Sadly, at least 15 people were killed during the storm, by falling trees and buildings, including four children in the Catalan town of Sant Boi Llobregat.

La tempête qui a fait rage à travers le sud de la France et le nord de l’Espagne, de l’Atlantique à la Mediterrannée. hier éatit la plus forte pour dix ans, avec des rafales de vent de 150 kilometre par heure. On nous a conseillé de rester chez nous et les grands camions étaient interdits sur les routes. Malheureusement, au moins 15 personnes ont étés tuées pendant la tempête, y compris quatre enfants à Sant Boi Llobregat en Catalogne.

Although Gabian was only just outside the red alert zone, we were lucky here and suffered little damage. When we went to the garden this morning we were surprised to find it just as we left it before the storm. It was a beautiful, calm, clear day – hard to believe what the weather had been like only 24 hours earlier!

Bien que Gabian soit juste dehors du zone d’alerte rouge, on avait de la chance ici, et il y avait peu de dommage. Quand nous sommes allées au jardin ce matin, nous étions étonnés de trouver tous comme avant la tempête.

shelter _ passion fruit_1_1 passion fruit_1_1

The passion fruits were still ripening on our shelter. We had worried that this shelter might have been damaged by the wind, but luckily the whole garden is sheltered from the north and north-west (the direction of the storm) by trees and 4-metre high bamboo.

Some of the palm leaf fronds had been woven together by the wind:

woven palm leaves_1_1_1

rosemary flowers_1_1 garden plan_1_1

The rosemary was flowering and we sat in the sun making plans for the coming seasons in the garden.

Le romarin fleurait et nous avons passé du temps assis au soleil en faisant des projets pour les saisons qui viennent.

>Summer’s ending?

>The sun is still shining from a cloudless sky, but the air feels different at the end of August. Theres a coolness in the wind and a slight chill in the shade. I always feel a bit sad at this time of the year because summer is my favourite season – I love the heat, the light, swimming in the sea and the river, and all the summer vegetables. But when you garden theres always a new season to prepare for and look forward to. Were sowing radicchio, turnips and lambs lettuce for the autumn and winter, and soon well be able to grow lettuces again. In the heat of the summer here we find they go to seed too quickly, but they grow well throughout the winter.

One feature of the climate in this area is the wind – the air is rarely still. Our friend Pascal came past yesterday and stopped to talk about the different winds and their names. Theres the mistral from the north-east, the tramontane from the north-west, the Grèque (Greek) from the east, the Narbonnais from the south (the direction of Narbonne) and the marin or maritime from the south-east which comes over the sea. These winds are a mixed blessing. The ones that come from the north and east are cooling in summer, but icy cold in winter. The southern winds, especially the marin, are warmer and bring gloomy cloud but also much-needed rain. As Pascal says, we have a perfect climate here in which you can grow anything, so long as you protect delicate plants from the very occasional frost in January. I asked him what I should do with my lemon tree which is in a pot and spent last winter sheltered on the balcony, but has grown so much this year in the garden that Id like to put it in the ground. He said it should be OK so long as its sheltered from the north wind and wrapped up in very cold weather. I have a few months to decide, and maybe to persuade Lo Jardinièr to build a wall to protect it in a sunny spot.

One nice thing about late summer is that we have a good crop of peppers / capsicums. The red ones are so delicious and sweet that we like to eat them simply, brushed with olive oil and grilled, or sliced and eaten raw.

Green peppers are good in tomato sauce for pasta or stuffed with either a vegetarian or a meat stuffing. Tonight were having vegetarian friends to dinner so Ive made them without meat.

Stuffed green peppers

(serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a first course)

4 green peppers

1 sweet onion

2 cloves garlic

breadcrumbs, made from about 4 cm of baguette

150 gm feta cheese, cut in small dice

50 gm raisins or currants

50 gm pine kernels

fresh thyme, chopped

salt and pepper

olive oil

Cut the peppers in half lengthways and remove the stem. Put the bread / breadcrumbs in a mixer with the sweet onion and garlic until they are all finely chopped. Add the cheese, pine kernels, raisins, thyme, salt and pepper to the mix. Fill the pepper halves with this and put in an oiled oven-proof dish. Pour a little olive oil over them and bake in the oven at 180°C for about 45 minutes, until the peppers have softened. Serve hot or cold.

More tomatoes

The tomatoes keep ripening, although at a slower rate than a few weeks ago. I’ve roasted and bottled some of them. I cut them in halves or quarters, depending on size, and put them in a roasting dish with olive oil, unpeeled garlic cloves and some salt and a few crumbled bay leaves. I roasted them at 180 degrees C for about an hour, then put them through the mouli légumes to remove the skins. I brought the juice and pulp back to the boil then put it into sterilised jars. It tasted wonderful and I’m looking forward to using it in sauces during the winter.