Winter market

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The last market day in the village before les fêtes and a chance to stock up with a boxful of Spanish oranges, lemons and clementines, as well as more local garlic and fennel, and apples from northern France. I was pleased to see a new stallholder, who says he will be coming every two weeks from now on, selling Catalan fuet – cured sausage – in many different flavours. By the time there is another market the days will be getting longer again and we can look forward to spring. The panforte I’ve made today, to more or less the same recipe as last year, will be finished too!

Summer landscape

First add the sound…

then magnify it by a lot. I’m not sure where this clip was recorded, but the cicadas sound a lot more polite than ours!

Now imagine the scent of fennel wherever you walk at the edges of the vineyards where the fennel plants are just begin to flower:

The vines are green, their leaves hiding this year’s grapes, sheltering them from the heat while they’re still growing.

At the roadsides and in the uncultivated spaces the wild flowers are almost over and the plants are dying back, to re-emerge when rain comes again in the autumn.

Through the dry stems I could see right down to the sea – the hill rising in the distance on the left is near Le Grau d’Agde where I swam the other day – and still the cicadas were singing, wherever I went when I was out this morning.

Veal casserole with wild fennel

wild fennel

There seems to be wild fennel all over the place in the garrigue and at the sides of roads at the moment and I picked a bunch of it to bring home.  I’d bought 300 grams of sauté de veau (pieces of veal for casseroling) in the village shop and the fennel suggested a recipe to me.  I softened a sliced onion in a little olive oil with a chopped slice of poitrine salée (salted bacon cut in thick slices would work as well) in a cast iron casserole dish. I added the veal cut into small pieces.  When they had browned slightly I added two chopped cloves of garlic, two teaspoons of tomato purée and the chopped fennel (you could use the leafy tops of fennel bulbs if you can’t find this herb in the wild).  I poured a large glass of white wine over it all, added some salt and pepper and simmered it for an hour.

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We ate the casserole with potatoes mashed with olive oil, garlic and green olives – a favourite of ours.  It was a wonderful mix of flavours.

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Two dishes in one

When I was in the butcher’s buying the lamb chops we had for Sunday lunch I saw a kind of sausage I hadn’t seen there before: saucisson à cuire pistaché Lyonnais à l’ancienne.  Well, I can never resist anything new, especially if it has pistachios in it and especially if it’s a traditional recipe, à l’ancienne, so I asked Mme Perez how she would cook it.  First, she said it should be boiled in water.  Could you add vegetables to make a soup at the same time, I asked.  Oh, yes, she said, that’s what I’d do.  So that’s what I did yesterday.

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I chopped some carrots, half a fennel bulb, some garlic and a large potato and put them all in a pan with some herbs and the sausage, brought it to the boil and simmered for 35 minutes.  I took the sausage out but continued cooking the vegetables for a little longer as they weren’t quite soft enough for soup.  If you were going to eat them as a vegetable they would have been fine with the same cooking time as the sausage.  Then I left it all overnight in the fridge, although it could have been eaten straight away.

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We decided to liquidise the soup and eat it with croutons as a first course – it was a lovely tasty soup, fennel flavoured, thick and smooth.  The sausage was cold, of course, so I sliced it, peeled it and we ate it with potatoes roasted in duck fat as our second course.

Lyonnais sausage

Lyonnais sausage with potatoes

While we were eating it we remembered that we’d had a similar Lyonnais sausage cooked in brioche as a first course at Le Train Bleu, the ornately decorated restaurant in the Gare de Lyon in Paris.  This restaurant was built in 1900, in elaborate art nouveau style, with painted ceilings by three different painters, ‘Paris’ by Flameng, ‘Lyon’ by Debufe and ‘Marseille’ by Saint-Pierre, representing the main cities served by the station from which ‘le train bleu’ travelled to the Mediterranean.  It’s a rather over-the-top style for me and Lo Jardinièr, and it’s hardly a station café, with the tasting menu costing 98 euros per person, but once, a few years ago when we were coming home from Paris, we did treat ourselves to the ‘quick’ menu which I think cost about 50 euros then.  It was a memorable experience!  But we enjoyed our Lyonnais sausage today, too, in rather more relaxed surroundings.

It’s worth having a look at the restaurant’s website – here – if you haven’t been there.

>Preparing for winter, while the summer harvest goes on

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The tomatoes are coming to an end, and some of our gardening neighbours have already uprooted their plants, resigned to its being a bad year for them.  We’re picking and eating peppers every day and we’re pleased we planted so many different varieties which all have their own characteristics: the ones on the left of the photo above are Corno di Toro which are good for stuffing; there’s a spicy Kolaska next to the aubergine and some Longues des Landes on the right – they’re both good varieties for grilling on the barbecue.  In the centre there are a few red chillies.

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For lunch today we grilled some green peppers and the aubergine on the barbecue.  I then skinned the peppers, which is very easy when they’ve been grilled and the outer skin has blackened.  I made a salad with them, some oregano and chopped garlic, goats’ cheeses from Mas Rolland and some cherry tomatoes, added a bit of salt and some olive oil and served them with fresh Aveyronnais bread.

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We picked another five or six kilos of figs this morning and made some more jam.  The recipe is very simple: for each 600 gm of figs, chopped and put in a large pan, I added 400 gm sugar and the juice of half a lemon.  I brought them all to the boil and simmered until the jam thickened and began to set when a spoonful was put on to a cool saucer.  Then bottle in sterilised jars.  We now have twenty jars of mixed, green or black fig jam, so we know we’ll have something for winter breakfasts.

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Mussels for supper

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As usual on a Saturday morning, the coquillage van from Bouzigues came to the village, so we bought a kilo of mussels and ate them this evening in a sauce made with onions, garlic, wild fennel, lardons, white wine and crème fraiche.  And as usual they were delicious.