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!

Pot-roasted lemony chicken

Yesterday I bought a poulet fermier (farm-reared chicken) from the excellent butcher’s shop in Roujan.  It was a large bird – 2.4 kilos – and it had lived.  Its flesh was firm, the leg meat dark and tasty, nothing like the chickens available in supermarkets.  I chopped some pickled lemons and garlic and marinaded the chicken for a few hours with these and some olive oil.

I added a glass of white wine and a little salt, brought it to the boil, put a lid on it and simmered for about an hour and a quarter.  While the chicken was simmering I made a relish with two more chopped pickled lemons, a tablespoon of chopped pitted green olives, a little chopped parsley and two chopped garlic cloves.

Lo Jardinièr prepared some rice to which he added sliced onion sautéed in olive oil, a handful of raisins, and a dozen green apricots previously cooked in syrup, stones removed and chopped.  He used half a cupful of the syrup from the apricots with the cooking water for the rice.

When the chicken was almost cooked I removed it from the liquid (wine now turned into a delicious sauce) and put it in a roasting dish in a hot oven for half an hour until the skin was browned.

The chicken, apricot rice and lemon relish all went very well together, and with a glass of Faugères red wine from the domaine d’Estève at Roquessels.

Lo Jardinièr has now posted the piece about jachère that I trailed the other day on his blog – here

Rice with vine leaves, and a pickled lemon relish

Yesterday I noticed that the wind had blown one of the branches off our table grape vine.  It needed pruning anyway, but I didn’t want to waste the fresh leaves.  The obvious use for them would be dolmas – stuffed vine leaves – but I didn’t really have time to make them, so I used them to make a layered rice dish.

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I cooked some sliced onion in olive oil until it was soft – this takes at least ten minutes and preferably longer, and a sprinkle of salt helps bring out the sweetness in the onion.  For the last few minutes I added a couple of chopped cloves of garlic and a teaspoonful of ground piment d’Espelette (paprika).  I removed them from the pan, added a little more olive oil then began to layer the vine leaves and rice. A layer of leaves, half a cup of uncooked rice, half the onions, half a teaspoon of salt, half a chopped, peeled tomato, some chopped oregano and a tablespoonful of raisins. Then a layer of leaves followed by another layer of the other ingredients, and all finally covered by a layer of leaves.  I added three cups of water and cooked the rice slowly for about half an hour until all the water had been absorbed.

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The vine flavour had permeated the layers of rice wonderfully and my new dish went well with a pot-roasted chicken and some pickled lemon relish.

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For the relish, I used three Moroccan pickled lemons, a couple of chopped garlic cloves and a bunch of chopped mint leaves, simply mixed together.

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On a grey, thundery evening the light was disappearing by the time the chicken was cooked and I couldn’t take a good photo of it, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was delicious too!

Very lemony

Lemon tarts

I sliced one of the lemons we were given the other day and cooked it with sugar to make a thick syrup. Lo Jardinièr made pastry, adding the grated zest of one of the other lemons to the mix, then baked the cases blind for 10 minutes.  Once the lemon slices had been added they went back in the oven for another 10 minutes.  A lovely citrus flavour and the kitchen smelled as if we were making marmalade!

A gift

a gift of lemons

While I was in the garden this morning covering the strawberry plants and the broad bean shoots with le voile d’hivernage to protect them from the cold nights that are forecast for this week, our neighbour gave me these lemons from his tree.  He’s one of our oldest friends in the village, the first who welcomed us here ten years ago, and his gift made me very happy to be part of this community and its cultural and linguistic mix.  It’s a village where I can have three conversations in three different languages – Occitan, Spanish and French – in the 50-metre walk from my house to the shops and where languages are spoken, discussed, enjoyed and compared in conversations at the market stalls, where as well as the more familiar local Occitan words and the Spanish words used by many of the inhabitants I can chip in with examples, matches and counter-meanings in Welsh and English.  It’s a village whose population appreciates the traditions and histories that brought them all together, the past feeding into the present and on into the living future, a place where diversity is valued, where the big picture is noted, world events and concerns discussed, but where it’s also recognised that we are all small pieces of the huge and colourful mosaic that makes up humanity.  This morning’s gift of light made me so glad to be here.

Store cupboard essentials

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.

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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.

Lemon granita

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For a very easy dessert for these last hot evenings of summer, I adapted Elizabeth David’s wonderfully simple recipe in Italian Food.  I used less water and more sugar than she did (and metric measurements).  The juice of these six lemons amounted to 250 ml.  I made a syrup with 250 ml of water and 250 grams of sugar.  When the syrup had cooled I mixed the two together in a freezer container and put it in the freezer, taking it out from time to time as it was freezing to mix it with a fork.  Next day, or at least several hours later, it needs to be taken out of the freezer about 10 minutes before serving, garnished with mint leaves and a slice of lemon as I’ll serve it this evening when friends come to supper.

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>Lemons, courgettes and morcilla / Citrons, courgettes et morcilla

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Our own lemon tree has produced only three fruits, but lemons are cheap at the moment – 4 for 1 € in the market on Wednesday – so I bought eight to preserve, using two recipes from Catalan gardener’s blog. So it’s not my recipe, but I couldn’t resist putting the pictures on this blog – such a lovely colour!

Notre citronier n’a produit que trois fruits, mais les citrons sont moins chers en ce moment – 4 pour 1 € sur le marché mercredi – donc, j’en ai acheté huit pour faire les citrons confits selon les deux recettes de Catalan gardener.

I sliced five of the lemons, salted them and left them to drain overnight in a colander (left, below) / j’ai coupé en tranches cinq citrons, j’ai ajouté du sel et les ai laissé pour la nuit dans une passoire (à gauche).

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I quartered the other three lemons and rubbed salt into the cut surfaces, put them in jars and used Tomás Graves’s trick with the olives, a couple of bay leaves and a bay twig to keep them under the boiling water which I added to the jars. / J’ai coupé en tranches les trois autres citrons, j’ai mis du sel sur les surfaces coupées et des feuilles et brins de laurier sauce pour les garder au dessous de l’eau bouillante que j’ai ajouté aux bocaux.

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This morning I put the slices of lemon in jars and topped them up with olive oil – the two recipes produced four colourful jars for the preserves shelf. In a month’s time we’ll be able to start adding them to tagines. / Ce matin j’ai mis les tranches de citron dans les bocaux et j’ai ajouté de l’huile d’olive – et voilà, quatre bocaux aux couleurs vives. Dans un mois on pourra les ajouter aux tajines.

Sowing courgettes / Semer les courgettes

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Lo Jardinièr came up with another great recycling idea for the courgette seeds. The seeds are in compost in card centres from toilet rolls, held upright by plastic pots and then the pots are put inside 5 litre water bottles which have been cut in half to make a mini cloche for each pot, which can be put outside on the balcony when the seeds germinate.

Un autre truc de recyclage de Lo Jardinièr pour les semences de courgette. Les semence sont dans le terreau dans des centres des rouleaux de papièr hygiénique, et puis dans des pots que nous avons mis dans des bouteilles d’eau 5 litre, coupé en moitiés pour faire une petite serre individuelle.

And morcilla for lunch … / Et la morcilla pour déjeuner

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It was a nice surprise to find Spanish morcilla with pine nuts in the village shop this morning, so I made a warm salad of potatoes, sweet onions, spring onions, pickled garlic and sun dried tomatoes, with slices of fried morcilla, for a very good lunch with a glass of rosé from Domaine des Pascales in Gabian.

Une bonne surprise à l’épicier du village ce matin – la morcilla espagnole aux pignons. Donc j’ai fait une salade tiède de pommes de terre, oignons doux, oignons verts, ail confit aux tomates séchées, avec des tranches de morcilla poelées – un très bon déjeuner, avec un verre de rosé du Domaine des Pascales à Gabian.

Garden panorama / panorama du jardin

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