Almost spring in the garden

1 rose buds

The roses are about to flower and the climbing Rosa banksiae (below), which doesn’t usually flower until April, has buds about to open.

2 climbing rose

Lo Jardinièr trimmed the bamboo canes, cut from the end of the garden, so that we’ll have them ready for the tomatoes later on in the year.

4 canes

Convenience food?

And then we came home to make lunch with the nearest thing to convenience food our village shop offers – paupiettes de veau.  I know that beef farming is not sustainable for the planet and is a luxury available to those of us who live in the better-off countries which can choose to exploit the resources of their own agricultural lands as well as those of others.  For this reason, although I like steak and beef stews I don’t eat them very often.  Veal calves can be another point of dispute for those who involve themselves in food issues. But the way I see it is that if people eat cheese made from cows’ milk then calves are an unavoidable side-product of its production.  So I have no qualms on grounds of sustainability about eating veal.  Food, Photography and France was struggling with similar conflicting sides to his food preferences the other day.  However, when I saw some paupiettes de veau in the village shop yesterday, stuffed with minced veal and rolled and tied up ready to cook, I didn’t struggle much as I realised they would make an easy and delicious Sunday lunch.

5 paupiettes 1

I sliced two echalottes and sautéed them in olive oil until they were soft then added a couple of sliced carrots.  In a separate pan I seared the paupiettes and then put them on the bed of onion and carrot slices with some chopped garlic, thyme that I’d just picked in the garden and the last of our small crop of olives.  I poured a large glass of white wine over them all, brought it to the boil and simmered for 45 minutes.

6 paupiettes 2

Lo Jardiniér sautéed some potatoes and within an hour of returning from the garden we had a very good Sunday lunch on the table.  Very convenient food!

7 paupiettes 3

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

A day off


The water at Marseillan-plage was the nicest it’s been all summer – perfect temperature for swimming (I like it Mediterranean-warm), a few small waves and not many other bathers.  Soon the beaches will be even less crowded.  September is our favourite time of year for swimming in the sea as the tourists have all gone but the water is still warm.


Then a coffee at one of the enjoyably tacky cafés near the beach – I thought this one had nice cups.

Back at home, Lo Jardinièr made chicken in white wine and cream sauce with red peppers and sautéed potatoes.  He said it was very simple to make although he spent more time standing over a hot griddle than I would have wanted.



Mussels on a hot day


La canicule (heat wave) has been forecast for this weekend for most of southern France.  It’s not as hot here as it is further west, but it’s still warm enough for us to be glad we can stay indoors most of the day, with just a short outing to the village place, all of 50 metres away, to buy mussels this morning.  We ate them for lunch with some leftover (but none the worse for that) red pepper and caper sauce I made yesterday and some of Lo Jardinièr’s sautéed potatoes which seemed especially crisp and delicious today.

I made the sauce by thinly slicing all the red peppers we had in the kitchen after I pickled the kolaskas, cooking them slowly in olive oil until they had softened – this took about half an hour – and adding some salt, a couple of chopped and skinned tomatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic chopped and a tablespoonful of capers then simmering for another 10 minutes.  It went well with rice and pork chops last night and it was even better with the mussels, added to them after they’d been cooked in a glass of white wine.

Lo Jardinièr par-boiled the potatoes, sliced them and sautéed them in olive oil – simple and delicious!


This evening we’ll go to the garden to water the plants – there’s  no point doing it before as the water would just evaporate in the heat.

A weekend harvest



For the first time this year, this morning we picked many more tomatoes and aubergines than we can eat in one meal.  The grafted aubergines (plants grafted onto tomato roots, which we buy in a garden centre because of their amazingly high productivity) are beginning to produce aubergines in large numbers while the ordinary plants each still have ‘one to pick, one to pick in a couple of days’ time and a few more developing’.  I love aubergines, so I don’t mind!


The Languedocian tomatoes, especially, have many fruits which will be ripe in a few days’ time and we’ll soon have to start bottling them for the winter.  At the moment we’re keeping up with them, just, in gazpacho and salads, as well as my favourite breakfast – chopped tomato, salt and olive oil on fresh bread.


The olives on both our trees are growing – the Lucques, above, and those on the other tree of uncertain variety, which has a much bigger crop:


During the winter we thought about moving this second tree because it’s taking up a lot of space in one of our vegetable beds, but decided not to because it cropped so well last year.  And I’m glad we left it where it is.  Now we just have to hope we can keep the olive fly away from our trees…..

This rather ragged butterfly landed next to me this morning – it’s difficult to identify it because of its poor, faded state, but it still seemed OK and it flew off after posing for a few shots.


Some friends have been harvesting their potatoes and have given us several kilos of slightly damaged but mostly perfect ones that won’t keep for storage, so we’ve been trying to use them.  I’ve made Chica Andaluza’s sort of saag aloo, which we’ll eat for supper tonight, because we have a glut of chard in the garden too, and we’ve also made a simple version of Patatas a lo Pobre, by cooking them with onions, garlic and peppers in olive oil – always delicious!


>Last days of the year


The weather has become much milder than it was a couple of weeks ago and the days are getting longer. This evening it was just about light until about 5.30 p.m. There’s a chance that the plants in the garden, which have been in a kind of suspended animation for the past few weeks, will begin to grow again. We still have work to do – clearing the last remaining pepper plants and getting the ground ready for the goat manure we hope to collect during January.


Even in the very cold weather we’ve been picking leeks and salad leaves, and this cauliflower.

The sea

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On Saturday at Le Grau d’Agde the sea was grey and cold. The statue of a woman represents the women who wait and watch for the fishermen to come back to port. She had no need to worry this time because all the boats were in the harbour. Going through Roujan we were amused to see this large olive tree on the back of a lorry ahead of us. A nice late Christmas present for someone?

Sunday sunset




From near Roujan we could see as far as the Pyrenees and Mont Canigou (above), which is 2,784 metres high, and the sunlit trees looked golden against the dark sky.

And our Christmas day lunch …

We’ve had to postpone our family mid-winter festivities because of travel problems last week, but even though we were on our own on the 25th, Lo Jardinièr and I had a good lunch!


Apéritifs in the garden, with some of the olives from our own tree.

DSC00746 DSC00745 Lo Jardinièr opening oysters (left) and beating the chocolate fondant mix (above)

DSC00750 Foie gras with salt, red and black peppercorns and a glass of Cartagène. DSC00752 Oysters gratinées
DSC00755 Leg of lamb slow roasted in wine with garlic and rosemary, with leeks from the garden. DSC00754
Potatoes dauphinoises
Chocolate fondant.
And, finally, cherries in Armagnac with our coffee.

We didn’t eat anything else until the next day!

>Summer’s here! / L’été est arrivé


Olive flowers / les fleurs d’olivier

At last, after a long cold spring, summer has arrived, with the temperature in the high 20s centigrade, and of course the need to water every day. / Enfin, après un printemps long et froid, l’été est arrivé, la temperature monte et on a besoin d’arroser chaque jour.

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rose - red_1_1 lizard on gate_1_1

The roses are out and so are the lizards / Les roses sortent et aussi les lézards.

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The borlotti beans are climbing and the cucumber plants are flowering / Les haricots grimpent et les concombres fleurissent.
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We’ve picked the last artichokes (a sad moment for me) and the new potatoes are ready to eat. / Nous avons ramassé les derniers artichauts et les pommes de terre précoce sont prêtes à manger.

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The tomato plants are doing well and the November sowing of broad beans are nearly over – we’re saving these for seed as the variety, Seville, has given us a wonderful crop.
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Our first courgette and first pepper have appeared. / La première courgette et le premier poivron ont apparu.

>Taking shape / Prendre forme


The summer garden is taking shape as we’ve done a lot of planting during the past week or so.  We’ve planted out 62 tomato plants (20 Roma, 19 St Pierre, 8 Ananas, 8 Coeur de Boeuf and 7 Yellow pear).  Yes, we know that’s probably too many, but the seedlings were too good to throw away!  We’ve planted out 4 melons, 4 cucumbers, 16 peppers, 3 chilli peppers and 5 aubergines.  Now we only need the sun and a lot of water!

Le jardin d’été prend forme.  On a fait beaucoup de plantation pendant la dernière semaine.  On a planté 62 tomates (20 Roma, 19 St Pierre, 8 Ananas, 8 Coeur de Boeuf et 7 Yellow pear).  Nous savons que c’est probablement trop, mais les plantes ont été trop bons pour jeter!  On a planté 4 melons, 4 concombres, 16 poirvrons, trois piments et 5 aubergines.  On n’a besoin que de soleil et beacoup d’eau!

pepper plants_1_1
and peppers

We added manure and compost to the ground for the peppers and aubergines and made irrigation channels alongside the rows.  Three of the pepper plants and all the aubergines are grafted onto tomato roots.  This makes larger more productive plants.  We’ve grown grafted aubergines before but this is the first time we’ve tried the peppers.

On a ajouté de fumier et de compost à la terre pour les poivrons et les aubergines, et on a fait des gouttières d’irrigation près des rangs.  Trois poivrons et tous les aubergines sont des plants greffés sur les racines de tomate.  Ça fait les plants plus grands et plus productifs.  Nous avons cultiver les aubergines greffés l’année dernière, mais c’est la première fois que nous cultivons les poivrons greffés.

garden long view_1_1

A view of one side of the garden: aubergines, climbing beans, courgettes, lettuces, peppers, tomatoes.

Une vue d’un côté du jardin: aubergines, haricots grimpants, courgettes, salades, poivrons, tomates.

It’s so exciting to see all the plants in place – I love this time of year!

In the rest of the garden / dans le reste du jardin

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cistus3_1_1 The cistus are flowering, inspite of the rain today. /
Les cistes fleurissent, malgré la pluie aujourd’hui.
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The olive trees are about to flower / Les oliviers sont à la pointe de fleurir.
The vine leaves are growing – nearly time to make dolmas! / Les feuilles de vigne poussent – c’est presque le temps pour faire les dolmas!
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We’re picking lots of broad beans – the longest was 31 cm.
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And this evening we’re going to eat our first potatoes of the year. / Et ce soir on mangera les premières pommes de terre de l’an.

water_1_1 Luckily the stream from the Resclauze spring is running well, so there is plenty of water for all our plants.  /  Heureusement le ruisseau de la Resclauze coule bien, donc il y a assez de l’eau pour tous les plants.

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


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

courgettes in cloches_1_1

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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>Old walls and spring growth / Vieux murs et la croissance de printemps


Archaeologists have found the remains of medieval walls on ground near the gardens where building work is scheduled to start soon.  The walls are part of the system of water mills and streams on the hillside.  Maybe the find will delay the building work … who knows?

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Les archéologues ont trouvé des vestiges des vieux murs mediévaux près des jardins où le lotissement va être construit bientôt.  Peut-être cette découverte retardera les travaux …?

Sowing tomatoes / Semer les tomates

Even when we’re away from home Lo Jardinièr can’t stop picking up recyclable materials.  In Uzès after the market on Saturday, he found on the pavement some polystyrene cases which had been used to carry shellfish.  He couldn’t resist picking them up and bringing them home – they’ll be very useful for sowing our tomato and pepper seeds in.

seed tray 1_1_1

Toujours le recyclage.  Après le marché à Uzès, Lo Jardinièr a trouvé des cartons de polystyrène sur le trottoir.  Il les a apporté chez nous pour semer les tomates et les poivrons.

seed tray 2_1_1

We divided one of these into four sections with thin strips of  wood(recycled, of course!) and sowed Roma, Coeur de Boeuf, St Pierre and Ananas tomatoes.  The Ananas seeds were from our own tomatoes last summer.

Next we’re going to make a heated seed starter box, using instructions from Mother Earth News – more on this soon.

Allotments in the UK / Les potagers en Grande Bretagne

Good news from the National Trust in Britain in today’s Guardian newspaper online.  The National Trust, the body which looks after historic buildings and land in the UK, is campaigning for an increase in vegetable growing and will be offering some of its land for the creation of 1,000 new plots.  I know that the effects of the global financial crisis can be tragic for some, but perhaps it will lead people back to their gardens and to valuing home grown vegetables, not just for economic reasons but for simple enjoyment of gardening and for the future of the planet.

More truffles / encore de truffes

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pommes de terres gratinées au truffe

Gratin of potatoes – pommes de terres gratinées – is one of our favourite dishes and last night I made one of the most delicious ever, using some of the truffle we brought back from Uzès.  I only wish I could include the scent of truffle in this photo!  Potatoes, butter, crème fraîche and truffle … it was wonderful!  The recipe will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog..