>Wednesday is market day in Gabian, as it has been since 1171. At the charcuterie van, which comes from Lacaune in the mountains north-west of here, we bought Spanish morcilla for lunch. These spicey blood sausages are tastier than the local boudin noir, I think, although both are good. They tasted as though they were flavoured with cinnamon, and we found pine nuts in them. I dressed chunks of still-warm boiled potatoes with a dressing made from olive oil, salt, pepper and wine vinegar in which I‘ve steeped bay, rosemary and thyme from the garden since last July. I added some chopped garlic, parsley and sweet fresh onion, sautéed slices of the morcilla and arranged them around the potatoes. With a glass of red wine from Le Moulin de Lène, just the other side of the hill from here, it made a delicious quickly prepared meal.
The fish stall arrives each Wednesday from Valras-plage, the stallholder selling the fish caught the night before on the family boat. She only sells fish which they have caught, and when it‘s too rough to fish she just doesn‘t come, so it‘s all as fresh as possible. Today the muge – grey mullet – were still alive. I bought a large one, weighing over 1.5 kg to make a fish stew based on a recipe which Nigel Slater gave in his column in the Observer a few weeks ago. You can see his recipe here
I made some changes, as I usually do since I rarely follow a recipe exactly.
Fish stew – marmite de poisson – for 4 people
1 red pepper
3 large cloves of garlic
6 anchovy fillets
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
3 twists of lemon peel
a large glass of white wine
1 large grey mullet (the stallholder descaled it and cut it into portions for me)
1 jar of preserved tomato passata with green peppers (bottled last July)
1/2 litre fish stock, made with the head and other bits of the fish
2 dozen mussels
I sautéed the sliced onion and red pepper in olive oil until soft and just beginning to brown, then removed them from the pan. As Nigel Slater suggests I sliced the garlic and fried them gently in olive oil with the anchovy fillets and the herbs. When the anchovies disintegrated I added a large glass of white wine, the fish stock and the jar of tomato and green pepper and let it all simmer for about 20 minutes. Then I added the pieces of fish until they were cooked – about 10 minutes. I then leave it until Thursday, when the van from Bouzigues arrives with mussels and oysters. On Thursday evening I cooked about 1/2 kilo of large mussels in a mixture of half white wine and half water with a bay leaf, for about five minutes until they were all open. I shelled these mussels and added them to the stew. When our friends arrived for dinner I heated the stew and when it was simmering added the other half-kilo of mussels in their shells and cooked it all until these mussels were all open. I served it with Camargue rice.
Nigel Slater suggests garnishing it with toasted slices of bread spread with a mix of coriander leaves and chopped fresh red chillies. I didn’t have any chillies so I used a clove of garlic and some smoked paprika and some olive oil with the coriander leaves.
I think it all worked well – the colours looked good and the fish stayed firm – something to remember if you’re using other kinds of fish, as it has to be something that won’t disintegrate while cooking.