Up in flames

It felt like spring in the garden today – hot in the sun, especially when we were working, and warm enough too just to sit and enjoy what feels like a new season. It was time to burn some of the weeds and trimmings that won’t compost, before the rain that is forecast – at last – for the next few days.



While Lo Jardinièr made sure that the fire didn’t spread, because everything is very dry at the moment and he had the hose pipe ready to put out any stray flames, I sowed a row of mangetout peas next to the two double rows of broad beans, sown in the autumn and doing well now, almost ready to flower.

Before we went out to the garden I put 450 grams of sautée de porc (a cut of pork that best for stewing or braising) in an earthenware dish with the vegetables we happened to have – a sliced onion, bulb of fennel and parsnip, some pieces of chorizo, some peeled cloves of garlic and some bay leaves. I poured a glass of white wine over them, covered the dish with aluminium foil and left it in the oven (not too hot – 180°C in our not very efficient oven) with some large potatoes baking on the shelf next to it. When we got home a couple of hours later lunch was ready!


Return home

After a wonderful week staying with our daughter in Cardiff, and a lot of fantastic food cooked by her and her partner (I’ll post some photos of the dishes soon), we sped southwards by TGV train at 300 kilometres per hour on our way home. 


Now we have to start cooking for ourselves again and the first dish I made was a fairly simple one: braised carbonade of pork.  This is a tender cut of slices made across the grain of the meat.  The same method could be used for pork chops or tenderloin, but this carbonade, bought in our local shop, was tender and very tasty. 

In an oven-proof dish I sautéed a couple of sliced onions and carrots in olive oil until they were soft but not browned.  I added some green olives, chopped garlic and a sprig of rosemary, then laid the pieces of meat on them.  I poured over a glass of white wine mixed with a tablespoon of tomato purée and some salt, covered the dish and put it in the oven at 180 C for 45 minutes.  We ate it with rice, but it would be just as good with potatoes or bread.



Life’s too short…..?


Is life really too short, as Shirley Conran claimed, to stuff a mushroom?  These large champignons de Paris, as they are called in France, took me just a few moments. I removed the stalks to save for using in a tomato sauce later, filled the centres with a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and crumbled some Bleu d’Auvergne cheese on top.  Then I put them in the oven for half an hour while Lo Jardinièr was out in the place sharing the barbecue with our neighbour to cook the pork for lunch.  A few minutes under the grill to brown the cheese, and the mushrooms were ready too.  It seemed a good way to spend time that, as Samuel Becket’s Estragon said, would have passed anyway.

Last day of November

Winter work, but not winter temperatures, today.  The sun was warm and the air felt like spring in the garden this morning – it was 19 C at  mid day when we finished planting our little hazelnut sapling.


Here it is, some years before it gives us a crop, I think!

The snails have been helping themselves to our chard leaves


making pretty shadows on the other leaves

and chewing right through one of our prickly pear leaves

prickly pear

but they’ve left enough chard for us and we don’t mind sharing


Then home to make a warming winter stew:

In winter we often buy a cut of pork called plat de côte from the charcutier in the market.  It’s a long piece of pork ribs which he will cut into individual pieces if you like, but we usually ask him to leave it as a piece for slow roasting with onions, garlic and fennel seeds.  As our oven is not working very well I didn’t want to risk depending on it for the two to three hours this usually takes, but when I saw the pork I immediately thought of Chica Andaluza’s lentil stew and, inspired by her, decided to create my own version.


I put the piece of pork – four ribs but still in one piece – into a cast-iron pan with 200 grams of green lentils, a chopped onion, some chopped potatoes, four roughly chopped cloves of garlic, 2 dried chorizo peppers cut into pieces, 2 bay leaves and some sprigs of thyme that I’d picked in the garden this morning.  I covered it all with water, brought it to the boil and simmered it for an hour and a half.

The green lentils are similar to the variety known as Puy lentils when they are grown in the Le Puy region of central France but they grow near here too and we have bought very local ones from Bédarieux which is less than 20 kilometres away.  I think this stew would work as well with dried beans, haricots or similar, but I wanted to make it today rather than soaking the beans first and these lentils do cook very quickly.


When the lentils and the meat were cooked it was easy to cut the piece of pork into four servings ready to reheat this evening with added salt.  I didn’t put any salt in earlier because pulses don’t cook properly in salty water.

Thanks for the inspiration, Chica! And I’m going to try your recipe soon too.