There weren’t any more courgettes ready to eat yet in the garden today so I picked some of the flowers instead, making sure that there were some male ones left to fertilise any female ones that may open over the next day or so. Sometimes we simply cut the flowers in half lengthwise, coat them in batter made from half chick pea flour and half ordinary baking flower, mixed with a little water. Today I decided to stuff them and serve them with a salad made from our first green pepper of the season and a cucumber, also from the garden.
I mixed some chopped mint, salt and pepper into a large tablespoonful of fresh breadcrumbs, added some olive oil to make the stuffing stick together and put it into the flowers. It doesn’t matter if they don’t look very tidy as the batter will cover any gaps.
Then Lo Jardinièr made the batter, coated them and fried them in olive oil while I arranged the salads.
They made a tasty first course at lunchtime, with a little local Picholine olive oil poured over the cucumber and pepper.
We had so many red peppers of different varieties last summer and this is the first winter we’ve had a good supply of jars of preserved peppers, some chopped and put raw with herbs into jars and covered with vinegar, most of them cooked for 10 minutes or so depending on their size in a half and half mix of wine vinegar and water with sugar added. Usually we eat them as tapas, serving them whole with a little olive oil poured over them, or use them in paella as I did the other day, but I had one jar of large red peppers that I’d preserved whole for stuffing and I used some of these to make supper yesterday evening.
I made the stuffing with breadcrumbs, green olives and a couple of cloves of garlic, making a kind of thick tapenade to fill the peppers, put them in an earthenware dish with olive oil and some grated parmesan cheese on top and cooked them in the oven for about half an hour. By the time we ate them the lighting wasn’t very good (and I hate using flash especially for food photos), but this picture should give an idea, and they did taste very good.
and some local Luque olives by candlelight, just because I liked the look of them…..
This morning we hoped to have coffee in the café at Faugères whose terrace has a view of the Pyrenees. In spite of the sunshine and temperature of 15C the wind was a bit chilly for sitting outside and the Pyrenees were not visible because of cloud. I couldn’t blur the difference in sky colour from east to west so the panorama didn’t stitch together very well and I’m posting three of the shots I took from the same spot. The clouds in the distance mark the mountains – it is often possible to see the clouds on the Pyrenees rather than the mountains themselves. From the sea in the east,
south towards Mont Canigou and the rest of the Pyreneean range,
and west towards the nearer hills with their stone walls and goatherds’ shelters.
It was a nice surprise to find that the caveau was open on Sundays, so we bought wine – some white Domaine de Coudougno and some red Les Fonts de Caussiniojouls – and found this old piece of wine-making machinery on the terrace outside. I think it was used for separating the grapes from the stalks and leaves.
And then it was time to go home and light the barbecue out in the place to cook lamb chops, onions and peppers.
It was warm enough to leave the door open next to the table where we eat:
and the lamb chops, from one of the two excellent butchers in Roujan, were tender and delicious, served with the grilled vegetables, rice and yogurt mixed with chopped garlic and paprika.
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:
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.
At last we have a cloudless sky today, for the first time for over a month, and with a dry north wind and bright light we have the weather we expect during late autumn and winter in the Midi. I feel as though I’m home again after a long stay somewhere very dark.
The market looked very lively in the sunlight and with people coming out after days indoors (because no one here likes going out in the rain). I was too busy buying meat, fish and garlic and chatting to friends to remember to take photos there but some of the ingredients I bought went into my lunch:
Lo Jardinièr wanted a mackerel and I wanted prawns, so we each bought our own choice. I made a small collection of tapas – my lazy, less hot version of gambas al pil pil, made with a chopped chorizo pepper which is spicy rather than hot and lots of garlic (Chica Andaluza has a more authentic version), some of the last green peppers of assorted varieties, that we’ve harvested at the very end of the season so they’re very small, fried in olive oil, and some slices of chorizo made not in Spain but in Lacaune where our market charcutier comes from. And, of course, some crusty paillasse bread to mop up all the olive oily juices. I did share the peppers and chorizo with Lo Jardinièr and he said his fried mackerel was excellent too. It was a great way to celebrate the sunshine!
We need it desperately for the garden, but I still don’t like it when it happens. Normally we get several heavy thunderstorms in September that fill the rivers and reservoirs again after the dry summer, but this year there was hardly any rain until last week, the end of October.
The olives that I started curing in salt just over two weeks ago now no longer taste bitter so I’ve added water to the jar so that they will be rehydrated slightly (you can see in the photo that they’re quite wrinkled now) and preserved in brine until we’re ready to eat them. A few days before we intend to eat them I’ll drain them and put them in a jar with olive oil and herbs.
While I was working this morning, Lo Jardinièr made a very tasty lunch of pasta with chicken, red, green and yellow peppers (some of our last ones) sautéed in olive oil and garnished with chopped garlic, basil and grated parmesan.
We uprooted the remains of the tomato plants before we went away and they’re waiting now to be burnt. There are still a few aubergines and peppers on the plants, but otherwise this is the last of summer for this year:
We’ll make fritters with some of these aubergines and courgettes this evening to eat with mussels.
These mixed peppers, the last of several varieties, will be good in sauces or pickled to store for the winter.
These are the last tiny Kandil dolma peppers – I think I’ll stuff them with a mixture of breadcrumbs, feta cheese and sweet onion.
We’re still picking a few piments d’Espelette for drying and grinding to make paprika, but it’s nearly the end of the season for them.
Goats' cheeses from Mas Roland
And in a few weeks’ time cheese production will stop for the winter at La Ferme du Mas Roland. These cheeses I bought today are a mix of fresh (1 day old), demi-sec (3 days old) and cendré (rolled in ash). I made salads for the first course of our supper tonight with some of our last tomatoes, chopped red and yellow peppers and the fresh goats’ cheese.
Fresh goats' cheese salad
Our main course was a foretaste of winter: pumpkin risotto garnished with crisp-fried lardons and sage leaves.
Coming home hungry at midday, Lo Jardinièr and I managed to make lunch in only about 10 minutes: a courgette fresh from the garden, sliced and fried in olive oil; some slices of langanisse, a long spicy dried sausage; cherry tomatoes, also from the garden; huevos revueltos, a Spanish version of scrambled egg, this time with onions and peppers sliced and sautéed in olive oil before adding the beaten eggs and some chopped chorizo added to the mix as well.
A quick lunch
I’ve been quite busy the past few days helping with organising a dinner and jazz concert put on by the Cercle Occitan in our village. With very little knowledge of New Orleans among members of the group we created our version of a suitable dinner for almost 100 people. Lo Jardinièr and I made the first course: accras (salt cod fritters) with sauce made from mayonnaise, paprika, capers, chopped olives and parsley, served with red bean, green pepper and sweet corn salad. Marie-Jo and a huge number of helpers made colombo, chicken in spicy tomato sauce with rice. I’m sure some of my readers here will know a lot more about this cuisine than I do and may find the menu inauthentic, but everyone enjoyed the food and the music, by Ray the only one of us who has been to New Orleans, was even better.
The food Lo Jardinièr and I prepared was simple but the quantities meant that we seemed to be chopping and frying most of the day.
Ready to serve!