>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. 

>Beginning of a new season

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Today we seemed to be turning over a new leaf into autumn:

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Because we were so busy over the summer we didn’t get round to sowing leeks, cabbages and cauliflowers, so we’ve bought plants and we’ll be planting them out during the next few days.  Today I sowed turnips and Lo Jardinièr planted out Rougette and Oak leaf lettuces.

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We have five good pumpkins like the two above, which should keep for the winter.  We’d given up hope of getting anything from the Butternut squash plants that our neighbour had given us because they seemed to be producing only male flowers.  We’d even given up watering them when we noticed this surprise one growing on a plant which had climbed up the pea netting.

And some more figs….

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The figs are ripening well on our friend’s trees and we picked some more this morning, but not enough to make jam yet.  I baked some with butter and local garrigue honey this morning (just 20 minutes at 180 degrees C), and we’ll eat them tonight with crème fraiche.

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean diet

I was delighted at the long comments my last post attracted and it was interesting to read what others thought.  I should emphasise, though, that I make no claims about health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, or any other diet, except to report that it is said that a Mediterranean diet can lead to a longer life.  I know it doesn’t always, though, from early deaths in my own family.  Mediterranean food is the kind of food I enjoy eating most – that’s why I eat it.  And, of course, it’s available locally for me.

>Mediterranean diet

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Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco have applied to the UN for world heritage status for the Mediterranean diet (although these are not the only countries bordering the Mediterranean and with similar ingredients) and a decision will be made in November.  According to an article in the Guardian this week, a spokesman for an Italian farmers’ group said: ‘Not only is this culture, but it also makes you live longer and better.’  There have been many claims for the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, particularly for its combination of olive oil, garlic, fresh vegetables and fish.  And, of course, red wine is supposed to be healthy too, in moderation.

Here in the Languedoc we eat what would be described as a Mediterranean diet, in my case because I love all its constituents and because it is what is available locally.  For me, local food is important… so where does this leave those who don’t live in a country where aubergines and wine grapes grow?  When I was in Wales earlier this summer I found that most of the tomatoes I ate were completely tasteless and usually unripe.  Maybe in countries further north it is better to eat tasty vegetables, varieties which are suited to the climate.  Everyone can enjoy olive oil and wine, but then there is the problem of transporting food long distances, with all the environmental damage that can do.  I don’t know what the solution is for those who live further away from the Mediterranean, those people must make their own choices, all I know is that one of the great pleasures of my life is the diet that is readily available to me here.

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Nardello and Corno di toro peppers from the garden and figs from a friend’s tree by the river near the village, all picked this morning.

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Lucques olives on our tree and Cardinale grapes ripening on our vine – the birds have left us a few!

Our lunch today:

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Terrine of joue, pig’s cheek, bought from the charcuterie stall in the village market, carrot salad (not very Mediterranean, perhaps, but it seemed to go with the terrine), cherry tomatoes from the garden, rosé wine from the Domaine des Pascales in the village and some of the figs we picked this morning.

>Autumn fruits / Les fruits d’automne

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The olives are growing well and we have fruit on both our small trees this year.

Les olives poussent bien et il y a des fruits sur les deux arbres cette année.

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The aubergine plants have flowers on them and some nice aubergines too. / Les aubergines fleurissent et il y a des bonnes aubergines aussi.

DSC08670We’ve sown carrots and radishes in the same row as they are supposed to do well together. The radishes are just emerging from the straw we’ve put down to conserve water. / Nous avons semé des carrottes et des radis ensemble parce qu’ils poussent bien ensemble. Les radis commencent à pousser entre les morceaux de paille que nous avons mis pour conserver l’eau.

Figs / Les figues

A friend said that we could have the figs from her trees and yesterday we picked 6.5 kilos of green figs and 2 kilos of black figs. / Une amie nous a dit que nous pouvons ramasser les figues de ses arbres et hier on a ramasser 6,5 kilos de figues vertes et 2 kilos de figues noir.

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We’ve made jam and we’ve bottled some in syrup using the recipe on gintoino’s blog, although ours don’t look as nice as his! / Nous avons fait de la confiture et nous en avons conservé quelques unes dans le sirop en suivant la recette sur le blog de gintoino.

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And a salad of goats’ cheese, cured ham and figs / Et une salade de fromage de chèvre, jambon cru et figues

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I made a salad with a dressing made from a teaspoonful of honey, 2 teaspoonfuls of Banyuls vinegar (balsamic vinegar would work too), salt, pepper and olive oil. It would make a good first course. We at it as a light lunch. The goats’ cheese, ham and figs were all strong flavours which went very well together.

J’ai preparé une salade avec un assaisonnement de miel, vinaigre de Banyuls, sel, poivre et huile d’olive. Elle serait bien comme une entrée. Nous l’avons mangée pour un déjeuner léger. Le fromage, le jambon et les figues ont des bons saveurs qui sont très biens ensemble.

>First day of summer time / Le premier jour de l’heure d’été

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Last night the clocks went forward and today is the first day of late sunsets and long evenings in the garden. To help the plants along we had a day of rain yesterday, the first for nearly two months, so they are getting the perfect combination of water and warmth.

Dans la nuit l’heure a changé et aujourd’hui est le premier jour du coucher tardif du soleil. Pour aider les plants on a eu une journée de pluie hier – donc ils ont la combination parfaite de l’eau et chaleur.

In the garden / dans le jardin:

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the bay and the broad beans are flowering / le laurier sauce et les fèves fleurissent ….

pea flowers_1_1 and so are the peas, although they shouldn’t be – the plants are too small.

et les petits pois aussi, bien qu’ils sont trop petits.

The fig leaves are unfurling / les feuilles du figuier s’ouvrent …

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rosebuds_1_1 the climbing rose is about to cover the shelter with flower / la rose grimpante est sur le point de couvrir l’abri de fleurs.
courgette plants_1_1 In the cold frame the courgette plants are growing well / Dans la petite serre les plantes de courgette poussent bien.
And on the balcony we have salad leaves and mizuna to go with the wild rocket from the garden / Et sur le balcon il y a des feuilles de salade et de mizuna pour accompagner la roquette sauvage du jardin. balcony salad_1_1

Summer time? Perhaps not yet, but it’s beginning to look as though it may happen! / L’heure d’été? Peut-être c’est un peu tôt pour dire ça, mais ça va venir!

>Cold wet garden, tapas at home for my 100th post / Un jardin froid et les tapas chez nous

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For nearly a week we’ve had grey skies. Today it’s raining and sleeting. Usually here it’s cold, but clear and bright at this time of the year. We haven’t been able to do any work in the garden, although we did manage our traditional aperitif in the garden on Christmas day, with a brief moment of sunshine.

Pour presqu’une semaine il a fait gris. Aujourd’hui il pleut et un peu de neige fondue tombe de temps en temps. Comme d’habitude ici à cette saison il fait froid, mais clair. Nous n’avons pas pu faire aucun travail au jardin, mais on a pris l’apéritif au jardin le jour de Noel, pendant un petit moment de soleil.

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It’s strange to see olive leaves covered in rain / c’est bizzare de voir les feuilles d’olivier couvertes de pluie.

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Yesterday we went to Grau d’Agde and the sea was grey and rough. / Hier on est allé au Grau d’Agde et la mer était gris et agitée.

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Not the usual view of the Mediterranean!

At home in the evening we cheered ourselves up with a meal of tapas and North African pastries: / Chez nous le soir on s’est remonté le moral avec un repas de tapas et de patisseries maghrébines:

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sheep’s cheese and anchovies
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cured ham and artichoke hearts
stuffed peppers_1_1 Spanish red peppers stuffed with potato and salt cod nafrican pastries_1_1
Almond, apricot, fig and walnut pastries.

>Mellow fruitfulness / moisson moelleux ?

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quince / coing

A friend said that we could pick the figs and quinces from her trees. The figs are wonderful. Two varieties – black and green. The black ones are so ripe they almost taste like jam already. The green ones have a more interesting flavour. We’ve made jam with each – I added a pinch of cinnamon to the green figs – and we’ve eaten them fresh. We’ve baked them with honey from a neighbour’s bees, poured Armagnac over them while they were still hot and added crème fraîche – a real fig feast!

green figs / figues vertes

Une amie nous a dit que nous pouvions ramasser les figues et les coings de ses arbres. Les figues sont superbes. Deux varietés – noire et verte. Les noires sont si mûres qu’elles ont déjà le gout de confiture. Les vertes ont un gout plus complex. Nous avons cuit de la confiture avec chaque varieté – j’ai ajouté un peu de cannelle aux figues vertes – et nous les avons mangé toutes fraîches. Nous les avons cuit au four avec du miel des abeilles de notre voisin, puis nous avons versé de l’Armagnac quand elles étaient chaud et ajouté de la crème fraîche – un vrai festin de figues!

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The quinces are still waiting … more on these later.

Les coings nous attendent encore … on en parlera plus tard.