A tale of three cities

As well as the joys of celebrating a very special day and spending time with family and friends in Wales and England, we ate very well indeed while we were away. While we were in York we had lunch at the fantastic Le Lenghe Italian restaurant where the beams were lined with panettone:

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In Cardiff we shopped for ingredients for Sunday lunch at the Riverside farmers’ market, almost underneath the imposing Millennium rugby stadium.

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There are so many different flavours here, including a stall selling elderflower cordial to warm us on a cold morning, Taste of Persia baklava, and a meat stall where we bought a delicious farmyard chicken – ‘like the chicken of thirty years ago’, said the stallholder (and it reminded us of the best chicken still available in the Languedoc today as well). There were cheeses – the wonderful Teifi Cheese, made near where we used to live in the Teifi Valley and still going strong, luckily, and Cothi Valley goats’ cheeses that were as good as those from Mas Rolland even!

2 Teifi cheeses

4 Cothi valley goats' cheeses

And there was a very varied range of vegetarian and vegan burgers and pies, including very pretty round balls of beetroot which tempted even me, and I don’t like beetroot much.

3 vegetarian burgers

And, while still in Cardiff, I must mention the tasting menu we all enjoyed so much at Bully’s restaurant to celebrate our daughter’s wedding. I can’t really do justice to the experience here in a few words, but apart from the joyous occasion it was a gastronomic experience unlike any other I’ve had, with each course accompanied by a different carefully chosen wine and an unpretentious explanation from the owner, Russell Bullimore. Most of the dishes would be too complicated for us even to think of making at home (this is the sign of a special meal for me) but something we will try is their way with goats’ cheese which came as part of the cheese course. A fairly fresh goats’ cheese had been dressed with black pepper, olive oil and honey and then a sprig of rosemary which was then burnt with a blow torch just before serving. It gave the cheese a wonderful smokey flavour.

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We spent the last night of our trip with our son in Fulham and once again were amazed by the variety of foods and flavours available just at the end of his road. One delight was this wall of spices:

5 wall of spices

Even though our bags were already full, we managed to fit in some packets of spices that are hard to find in the Languedoc. And for our last supper on that side of the Channel we found Palestinian felafel, merguez sausages, little aubergines and green peppers, ful medames, Turkish grape syrup to mix with tahini, and more, and flat breads to dip into it all. It’s nice to be home again, but we certainly haven’t missed good food while we’ve been away!

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!

Valencia market

While we were in Valencia we stayed in an apartment just 50 metres from the mercat central, the main market hall for the city. It was a fantastic place to wander around and to buy food.

Some of the stalls where I couldn’t resist buying included this wonderful one selling olives and pickled vegetables.

Notice the almagro aubergines just right of centre above? There’ll be more about these at the end of this post.  There were huge sacks of paprika from Murcia:

beautiful tomatoes (we saved some seeds from this variety so we hope to grow them next year)

There were snails – I didn’t buy any of these.

and herbs

and a few cured hams:

A lot of pumpkins, raw and already roasted – more about these in a later post.

We bought a lot of ready made charcuterie, olives and pickled vegetables to take back to our apartment for supper (on the nights when we weren’t going out to some of the many tapas bars nearby), but I only actually cooked one dish while we were there and that was with almagro aubergines. I’d seen them at the pickled vegetable stall but then a few minutes later saw a stall holder arranging fresh ones from a sack to display on her stall. I just had to buy some – they looked so beautiful.

I invented a dish based on what I’d seen on the stall and a quick internet search, leaving the aubergines with their stalks as they are here, cutting a slit in the ‘fat’ end and putting half a clove of garlic and a piece of red pepper into it. I then laid them all on a bed of sliced tomato in an oven-proof dish, added salt and pepper and poured a lot of olive oil over them. I put them in a slow oven for about an hour and a half while we went out for drinks in a nearby bar. I had Agua de Valencia, a mix of fresh orange juice, Cava and vodka – tasty and quite potent!

When we came back the aubergines were cooked and they were ready to eat.  The ones we didn’t eat straight away tasted even better cold the next day.

Le Marché fermier au Mas Rolland

This is one of our favourite events of the early summer.  The tiny hamlet of Mas Rolland, where we go to buy goats’ cheese, fills its narrow streets with producers’ stalls selling chicken and pork, cooked and ready to eat for lunch straight away at the tables provided, or packed to take home and cook there, shell fish, bread, charcuterie, olive oils and tapenade, cakes, cherries, jams, honey, and of course goats cheese.

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Long tables are laid out for hundreds of people to eat lunch in the sun or shade.  We’d ordered the paella made by the people at Neffiès who grow saffron and spent several hours with four friends and several bottles of very good local wine enjoying our lunch,  starting with a plate of charcuterie.

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We were entertained by music from the jazz band Mosaïque

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and after lunch an explanation of how the goats’ cheeses are made:

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It was a very enjoyable way to spend Sunday!

Village plant fair

With all the excitement of Lo Jardinièr’s new blog, I almost forgot to post some of the photos I took on Sunday at the plant and produce fair in the village. We always think it’s a bit late in the gardening year to have this sale as we and most of the gardeners we know have already planted out most of our tomato and other plants, but it’s still fun. The widest street in the old part of the village, rue de l’Eglise was filled with stalls and people.  It was a great place to wonder and meet friends, and also of course to buy plants, wine, cheese, strawberries….and much else.

plant fair




bedding plants

olive oil

olive oil from the Moulin de Casso

wine tasting

tasting and buying wines from Les 3 Puechs at Fouzilhon



colourful glass

and some very colourful glassware!

Between seasons

Yesterday in bright sunshine Lo Jardinièr lit the barbecue in the place at lunchtime to cook chicken and red peppers on skewers.

chicken skewers

Today we had rain, great for the garden but not so good for our spirits.  The market was grey and wet, with the sun awnings being used to shelter customers from the rain rather than the heat.

grey market

And the lunch menu was equally delicious but almost wintry: pumpkin soup with chopped garlic and croutons, and two fromages fermiers, one sheeps’ milk cheese from Lacaune and a cows’ milk one from the Aveyron.

pumpkin soup

fromages fermiers

And flags….

When I saw Chica Andaluza’s new flag counter I couldn’t resist trying to add one to my blog and inadvertently added it as a post at first.  It’s now in its proper place at the foot of my blog, showing the different countries of origin of its readers.  Thanks for the idea, Chica!

Fish and chips?


At a very cold market this morning, from a very cold fish man, I bought this large mackerel – it weighed about half a kilo.  The parsley was free with the fruit and vegetables, un cadeau, a gift, and I’ve recently learnt a southern US French word for this practice, a word which isn’t used in France – lagniappe.  The lemon wasn’t free!

While I was working, Lo Jardinièr filleted the mackerel, coated the fillets with flour and fried them in olive oil.  At the same time he cooked some potatoes, par-boiled then sautéed them, so we had wonderful Mediterranean fish and chips for lunch.

fish and chips

Market day

Wednesday has been market day in our village since 1180 and for all this time it has been a meeting and trading place for people from the sea, the coastal plains and the mountains.  Although it’s a small market now, the tradition continues with the regular stalls including fish from the Mediterranean and shell fish from Bouzigues, vegetables, some local and some from Provence and Spain, and charcuterie from Lacaune in the mountains to the north-west of here.  Stalls selling clothes and household goods also visit from time to time, but the three food stalls are a constant. 




I used to have a rule that I wouldn’t buy vegetables we grow in the garden when they are not available in the garden, but I frequently break this rule with aubergines.  Although we have frozen and bottled ratatouille and other aubergine dishes, I like them too much simply sliced and fried in olive oil to wait until June when we hope to have our home-grown ones again.  Our local goat farm at Mas Rolland has stopped selling cheese for the winter and will start again in February.  Their cheeses are the best I’ve ever tasted, but luckily the village shop sells other, more commercially produced but still fairly local, goats’ cheeses, so I was able to make this salad with my contraband aubergine:

aubergine salad

Fried slices of aubergine and red pepper, slices of goats’ cheese, chopped paprika, parsley and garlic, with toasted paillasse bread.  Oh, and a glass of Domaine d’Estève wine we bought there this morning – the bag in box of AOC Faugères red that we always have in the kitchen.  We also bought some of their best wine, Plo des Figues, but that’s for les fêtes when our family will be here.


>Marché fermier


It was a sunny, hot day yesterday for the farmers’ market at Mas Rolland and the streets of the tiny old hamlet were filled with stalls, music, visitors and tables where people could eat. One of the nice things about this event is that it takes place before the holiday high season starts – it’s for people from the villages and towns around to enjoy before all the events which are put on for tourists in the summer.

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We ate kid meat (from the Mas Rolland goat farm) stuffed with herbs from the garrigue, followed by a selection of goats’ cheeses, of course, and some friends had brought some of their own peaches, the first of this year’s crop, for our group to eat for dessert. The tables in the narrow street (above, right) were full by lunch time.

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We bought cherries, goats’ cheeses and flour from a mill near Clérmont l’Hérault, and many other stallholders were offering their own produce for sale.

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The confrerie of local winemakers walked through the village dressed in their wine-purple robes accompanied by jazz musicians.

Our first few cherries


As well as the delicious cherries we bought at the market, we also tasted our own wild cherries for the first time, picked yesterday morning – of the six cherries on our tiny tree, four were ripe, slightly tart but with a good flavour.