>Definitely autumn


Our son was staying with us this week and, while it was warm enough to have lunch in the garden a couple of times, the sea wasn’t warm enough for swimming.

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Barbecued lamb and peppers for lunch, but the sea was chilly at Portiragnes-plage.

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We’re still picking plenty of aubergines and peppers – the red ones are Kolaska, a delicious spicy variety, the green ones are Marconi and Corno di Toro which I don’t think will ripen now as it’s too late in the year. They’re very tasty when they’re green, though. The Praying Mantis seemed to be looking for somewhere to lay its eggs.

Pézenas market

On Saturday morning, before going back to London, our son wanted to buy jambon to take with him… we saw a few other stalls as well:

denim and sunflowers…
IMGP1993 baskets….
winter hats and scarves….
IMGP2005 olive oil and salt cod…
IMGP2007 fritters and sea food salads IMGP2009 eggs and charcuterie….
IMGP2010 bread…. IMGP2025
and fish.

Sunday lunch

On our own again after our son went home, we consoled ourselves with a very good lunch:

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Aubergine slices with goats’ cheese, garlic and oregano, with honey and balsamic vinegar dressing for our first course, followed by pieces of shoulder of lamb slow-cooked with figs, shallots and white wine, served with rice.

Quinces again

We picked a basketful of quinces to make membrillo (quince paste), as we usually do at this time of year – the recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. The quinces this year are of much better quality, bigger with fewer bugs in them, so easier to cook.

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And a beautiful sunset this evening


>Last days of the year


The weather has become much milder than it was a couple of weeks ago and the days are getting longer. This evening it was just about light until about 5.30 p.m. There’s a chance that the plants in the garden, which have been in a kind of suspended animation for the past few weeks, will begin to grow again. We still have work to do – clearing the last remaining pepper plants and getting the ground ready for the goat manure we hope to collect during January.


Even in the very cold weather we’ve been picking leeks and salad leaves, and this cauliflower.

The sea

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On Saturday at Le Grau d’Agde the sea was grey and cold. The statue of a woman represents the women who wait and watch for the fishermen to come back to port. She had no need to worry this time because all the boats were in the harbour. Going through Roujan we were amused to see this large olive tree on the back of a lorry ahead of us. A nice late Christmas present for someone?

Sunday sunset




From near Roujan we could see as far as the Pyrenees and Mont Canigou (above), which is 2,784 metres high, and the sunlit trees looked golden against the dark sky.

And our Christmas day lunch …

We’ve had to postpone our family mid-winter festivities because of travel problems last week, but even though we were on our own on the 25th, Lo Jardinièr and I had a good lunch!


Apéritifs in the garden, with some of the olives from our own tree.

DSC00746 DSC00745 Lo Jardinièr opening oysters (left) and beating the chocolate fondant mix (above)

DSC00750 Foie gras with salt, red and black peppercorns and a glass of Cartagène. DSC00752 Oysters gratinées
DSC00755 Leg of lamb slow roasted in wine with garlic and rosemary, with leeks from the garden. DSC00754
Potatoes dauphinoises
Chocolate fondant.
And, finally, cherries in Armagnac with our coffee.

We didn’t eat anything else until the next day!

>World Food Day


There are serious food issues affecting developing countries and many parts of the world where people do not have enough to eat. According to the United Nations one-sixth of humanity is undernourished. In the developed world the issues are more to do with over-consumption and waste of the earth’s resources. Sometimes it seems as though there is little that an individual can do. But I think that growing as much as we can of our own food and buying food that is locally produced are important small steps that each of us can make, to conserve the earth’s limited resources and to minimise exploitation of people in the developing world. You can find out more about World Food Day here.

Big commerce is bad for food. This is my 201st post on this blog and, on World Food Day, I would like to make it a celebration of local food. In our village we’re lucky to have a weekly market, an excellent épicerie (grocer’s shop), a small supermarket, a boulangerie (baker’s shop) and visiting vans which sell meat and shellfish.

DSC09355 The charcuterie stall at the Wednesday market. DSC09433
The butcher’s van on Friday morning.
The boulangerie – bakery.
The épicerie – grocer’s shop, full of good food and friendly advice.

We, and anyone else who lives here, can buy all we need in the village. It is excellent quality, good value and much of it is produced locally. We find we need go to supermarkets only to buy toiletries and Italian coffee. In Roujan, a larger village 2 km away, there are two excellent butchers who sell an enormous range of good meat and, best of all, will advise on how to cook it, as well as other friendly small shops.

But the small shops in Roujan, and maybe Gabian too, are threatened by the construction of a supermarket there.

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This is the site of the planned supermarket where, as in Gabian, more plane trees have been felled to make another new roundabout at its entrance.

This is bad news for food. In the UK it has been shown that when a supermarket is built on the outskirts of a town it sucks the lifeblood from the centre. The food sold in supermarkets is mass-produced and generally of lower quality than that in small shops. It is transported long distances, wasting resources and causing pollution. Because of their centralised distribution systems supermarkets cannot support local food as well as small shops can. And the profits made leave the area, feeding big business rather than being ploughed back into the locality.

And local wine …


This evening we went to a tasting to celebrate the arrival of the primeur wine at the Cave Co-operative at Neffiès. The vin primeur is the first of the year’s wine to be ready to drink, a light wine which takes only three weeks or so to make. It’s a good reason for a party and the tasting at Neffiès was fun, with roasted chestnuts (another seasonal local product) to eat with the wine, and live music. The cave at Neffiès has recently amalgamated with the one at nearby Alignan-du-vent (a sign of the times and the economic crisis in wine-making), but we were pleased to hear that some of the high-quality wines from Neffiès such as their Cathérine de Juery will continue to be made.

Hot roasted chestnuts to accompany the new wine.
Tuning up for the music and wine tasting.

And home to a local supper

We came home from Neffiès to a supper of roast saddle of lamb, bought in one of the butcher’s shops in Roujan, and aubergines stuffed with tomatoes, both grown in our garden. A delicious local supper! We marinaded the saddle of lamb with rosemary, garlic and lemon juice for a few hours, then roasted it, adding a glass of white wine to the roasting dish, until it was just done and still a bit pink inside. We served it with halved aubergines topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic, thyme and olive oil and baked in the oven.


Bilingual blog / le blog bilingue

Over the next few weeks I shall not have time to write my blog posts in French as well as English. I’ll resume the French version as soon as possible, but in the meantime I apologise for not being able to produce a bilingual blog.

Pendant les semaines qui viennent je n’aurai pas le temps pour écrire les articles sur ce blog en français. Je reprendrai la version française aussitôt que possible, mais pour le moment je m’excuse de ne pas produire un blog bilingue.

>A perfect Sunday lunch / Un déjeuner parfait du dimanche


One of many, of course ….



A glass of rosé from Domaine des Pascales in Gabian, cucumber from the garden, carrots from our neighbour’s garden and olives (from a shop). / Un verre du vin rosé du Domaine des Pascales, Gabian, du concombre de notre jardin, des carrottes du jardin de notre voisin et des olives (achetées dans un magasin).

First course / entrée


Sweetcorn from our neighbour’s garden grilled on charcoal – the photo of the cooked ones didn’t come out very well, so here they are as they came off the plant). / Du maïs du jardin de notre voisin.

Main course / plat principal


Barbecued lamb chops and courgettes, cucumber and yogurt salad with red wine from Domaine Estève at Roquessels. / Côtes d’agneau et courgettes grillées, salade de concombre et du yaourt et du vin rouge du Domaine Estève, Roquessels.

Salad / salade


Borlotti beans, sweet onion and tomato salad. / Salade d’haricots Borlotti, oignon doux et tomates.

Cheese / fromage


Goats’ cheese from Mas Rolland, near Gabian. / Fromage de chèvre de Mas Rolland, près de Gabian.

And a little desert / et un petit dessert


A friend gave me the fruit from her small citrus tree – not a kumquat, but a bit like it – which I crystallised and dried in the oven. / Une amie m’a donné les fruit de son petit orangier – pas le kumquat, mais qui le rassemble un peu – que j’ai fait confire.

A very good lunch after we’d spent the morning bottling tomato sauce and making tomato purée for the winter. It’s nice to see the shelves filling up with jars again!

>Dydd Gŵyl Dewi / St David’s Day / La fête nationale du pays de Galles



Today we’ll be celebrating by serving the Welsh dish cawl (a soup or stew of lamb, leeks and potatoes) to a party of our Occitan friends.

Aujourd’hui on fête la Saint-David en servant le plat gallois cawl (le ragout d’agneau et des légumes) pour nos amis occitans.

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The main ingredients of cawl are meat, leeks, onions and potatoes. In the hills of west Wales, where my family comes from, it is usually made with ham or with lamb. The high land there is so poor that it can only be used for raising sheep, and all smallholders would have kept a pig as well, as a way of recycling waste. Potatoes, leeks, carrots and onions would have been grown in the garden or in a small field. This is the ultimate sustainable food – as most peasant dishes are, the world over. In more fertile areas of south Wales, where the land is good enough for dairy farming and cattle-rearing, cawl is made with beef.

Les ingrédients principals du cawl sont la viande, les poireaux, les oignons et les pommes de terre. Sur les collines de l’ouest du Pays de Galles, d’où vient ma famille, on fait le cawl avec l’agneau ou le jambon. Le terrain haut est si pauvre qu’il ne supporte que les moutons, et tous les paysans élévaient des cochons aussi – un façon de recyclage. Les pommes de terre, les poireaux, les carrottes et les oignons poussaient dans les potagers ou dans les petits champs. C’est la nourriture durable, comme la plupart de plats paysans autour du monde. Dans les régions plus fertile au sud du Pays de Galles ils font le cawl avec le boeuf.

The recipe for cawl is simple: just put lamb (or ham), potatoes and carrots in a large pan, cover with water, add salt, pepper, bay leaves and parsley, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour. Take out the lamb and remove the meat from the bone. Cut into 2 cm chunks and return to the pan. Add chopped leeks and simmer for a further half an hour. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley, with a good tasty farmhouse cheese and some crusty bread. Quantities depend on how much meat you’ve got – this is a good dish for making meat go further as you can use less meat and more vegetable. Some of the meat should be on the bone as this makes a better stock, and some of the meat should be quite fatty – to create a ‘starry’ effect on the surface of the cawl.

>Greece again / La Grèce encore


Once again I’ve invited Greece into my kitchen … MaryAthenes’ challenge on the blog en-direct-d’athenes … with this simple, delicious recipe. 

Encore une fois j’ai invité la Grèce dans ma cuisine … c’est le jeu de MaryAthenes sur le blog en-direct-dathenes … avec cette recette simple et délicieuse.

Exohiko ou agneau en papillotte façon campagne / Country-style lamb parcels

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Ingrédients :
Pour 6 personnes :
1,5 / 2 kilos d’agneau dans le gigot sans os, en petits morceaux / lamb cut into small pieces
3 oignons coupés en 2 ou 4 / onions quartered
3 oignons verts (oignons nouveaux) en rondelles / spring onions sliced in rounds
3 carottes en rondelles / carrots sliced in rounds
3 pommes de terre en morceaux / potatoes cut in pieces
350 g de gruyère (κεφαλογραβιέρα) en cubes (j’ai mis de la feta) / gruyère cheese (or feta)
le jus d’un citron / juice of a lemon
200 ml de vin rouge liquoreux (mavrodafni : vin utilisé pour la communion à l’église orthodoxe) / fortified red wine [I used Banyuls, the sweet strong red wine from Roussillon / j’ai utilisé le Banyuls, le vin doux du Roussillon]

200 ml d’huile d’olive / olive oil

1 càs de romarin écrasé / soup spoon of crushed rosemary

1/2 càc de cumin ou thym ou origan / teaspoon of cumin or thyme or oregano

sel, poivre / salt, pepper

Préparation :

Mélanger tous les ingrédients dans un grand récipient et laisser reposer au frigo une demi-heure. / Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave for half an hour in the refrigerator.
Découper 12 morceaux de papier sulfurisé. / Cut 12 pieces of greaseproof paper.
Déposer sur le papier doublé 1/6 de la préparation. / Put one-sixth of the mixture on each double sheet of paper.
Fermer à la ficelle. / tie up with string.
Mettre les 6 papillotes dans un plat et faire cuire au four préchauffé à 200o pour une heure et demie. / put the 6 parcels on a baking tray in the oven at 200 degrees C for one and a half hours.

Ouvrir les petits paquets et servir tout de suite ! / Open the parcels and serve them straight away!

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I love these all-in-one dishes – all the flavour is preserved inside the parcels and they are so easy to serve to a large number of people.  In Greece, according to MaryAthenes, this dish is served at family gatherings at weekends.


It’s the kind of dish that makes meat go a long way as you can vary the proportions, adding more vegetables and less meat if you wish.  We bought a shoulder of lamb which made four of these papillottes, and four servings of tagine.  I then put the shoulder bone into a soup-pan of water, and added onions, leeks and potatoes to make the Welsh dish cawl.  Recipes for the tagine and the cawl will be on the recipe blog mediterranean-cuisine.blogspot.com.

>Autumn clearing / nettoyage d’automne


After nearly two weeks of cloud and rain, today we finally had a day in the garden in sunshine doing all the jobs which we’ve been wanting to do. We cleared the tomato plants which were looking very sad, still with some red tomatoes and a lot of green ones, but it was time to get rid of them. We’ll ripen the remaining tomatoes in the house.

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Après presque deux semaines de nuages et de pluie, aujourd’hui enfin nous avons passé une journée de travail au jardin au soleil. Nous avons déraciné les tomates qui avaient un regard très triste. Il y avait encore quelques tomates rouges et plusiers de tomates vertes, mais c’est le temps de nous débarasser des plantes d’été. Les tomates qui restent va mûrir à la maison.

While the rain stopped us from keeping an eye on the garden, the snails and caterpillars were enjoying our cabbages. The caterpillars are the worst – chomping their way through the leaves. I disposed of several and a lot of snails too.

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Cabbages eaten by cater-pillars and snails / les choux mangées par les chenilles et les escargots
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This caterpillar has had its last meal! / Cette chenille a mangé son dernier repas!

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The climbing rose is still flowering / La rose grimpante est toujours en fleur. And while we were in the garden today the mangetout peas germinated and small seedlings appeared in the sunshine!

Olive week recipe: Lamb and olive tagine

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I sautéed an onion with some pieces of breast of lamb, added a quartered lemon, some chopped mint leaves, chopped garlic, bay leaves, roughly chopped garlic, a spoonful of harissa paste, some halved peeled potatoes, salt, water to cover, and covered the pan and simmered for an hour.

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Then I added some picholine olives and simmered uncovered for a further 20 minutes. Meanwhile I sautéed a sliced green pepper in olive oil. I served the tagine, garnished with the sliced pepper and with a bowl of yogurt with crushed garlic, salt and chopped mint leaves.

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Click here to see the recipe on Mediterranean food / cliquez ici pour voir la recette sur le blog la cuisine mediterrannéenne