Perhaps not authentic, but yesterday I wanted to make something that would cook while I was working, so I slow-cooked chicken pieces in an earthenware dish in the oven with a tagine spice mix of cinnamon, turmeric, paprika and cumin. It took about 5 minutes to prepare and a couple of hours later it was ready to eat.
I put the chicken pieces with olive oil in an earthenware dish, added three quartered echalottes, three large chopped cloves of garlic, two sliced carrots, half a lemon cut in quarters, some sprigs of rosemary, a little salt and a large spoonful of the tagine spices. I poured over the juice of the other half of the lemon and a cup of water, covered the dish with aluminium foil (a proper tagine pot would be ideal, but I haven’t got one) and put it in the oven at 150 C for a couple of hours. Half way through the cooking I added some pruneaux. We ate the tagine with basmati rice, although bulgur, couscous or flatbread would be more traditional.
Perfect for a winter evening!
It looks as though the weather is going to turn cold again, with freezing nights, grey cloud and snow forecast for the mountains. Snow here in the village is very rare – we had some a couple of years ago and it was the first time for fifty years – but we feel it in the wind when it falls on the mountains to the north. The signs of spring continue to appear, though, and today I noticed this almond tree starting to flower, a lot more buds about to open, and from high up in the tree came the sound of many bees already out and attracted by the blossom.
I was hoping to find something quick to cook in the village shop, but instead was tempted by rabbit legs. My first thought was lapin à la sauce moutarde, rabbit with mustard sauce, one of the most common rabbit dishes in French restaurants. But a quick search in Jeanne Strang’s wonderful book about the cuisine of south-western France, Goose Fat and Garlic, led me to try something new. I based my recipe on hers, adding some juniper berries to the marinade and using shallots (large French echalottes) rather than onions. I marinaded the rabbit legs in red wine, sliced shallots and carrots, pepper, bay leaves chopped garlic and juniper berries for about 5 hours, although Jeanne Strang suggests overnight. At the same time I soaked the pruneaux (dried prunes that are a speciality of the area around Agen in the Lot, south-west France) in some more red wine.
The marinade smelt deliciously winey and oniony after a few hours when I drained the rabbit pieces and browned them and some more shallots in duck fat in a cast-iron casserole and stirred in a tablespoonful of flour. I added the marinade, brought it all to the boil and simmered for an hour. Then I added the pruneaux with their wine and simmered for a further 20 minutes.
I served the rabbit with millas, a southern French version of polenta, the recipe for which is also given in Jeanne Strang’s book. I used some quick-cook polenta grains I had in the cupboard, with three times their volume of water, some more duck fat and chopped garlic. When it was cooked (only 7 minutes with these grains although the more traditional method takes 20 minutes of continuous stirring), I spread it out on a baking tray in a layer about 1 centimetre thick and put it under the grill to crisp a bit, then cut pieces of it to accompany the rabbit and sauce.
As well as the fantastic hospitality we received at Ian and Kate’s for the Kitchen Garden International weekend, the highlights for me were the markets and the small local producers of flour and pruneaux (dried plums).
Aussi bien que l’hospitalité exceptionelle que nous avons trouvé chez Ian et Kate le weekend de Kitchen Garden International, les visites au marchés et aux producteurs du blé et des pruneaux furent pour moi les temps forts.
Villereal market / le marché de Villereal
Issegeac market / le marché d’Issegeac
Baskets and fruit and vegetables … and lots more / Des paniers et des fruits et des légumes …. et beaucoup d’autres choses.
La Ferme des Pruneaux et des Ruches
We visited the farm of Monsieur Domingie near Villereal where he showed us how he dries the special d’Ente plums to preserve them as pruneaux. We were able to taste and buy them and they are really delicious.
On a visité la ferme de Monsieur Domingie près de Villereal. Il nous a montré comment il seche les prunes d’Ente pour les conserver comme pruneaux. On les a pu goûter et acheter et ils sont vraiment delicieux.
| Sheep graze under the plum trees / Les brébis broutent sous les pruniers.
|| The plums are washed / on lave les prunes ….
| sorted / les trie ….
|| dried / les seche …..
|| M. Domingie (right) explains the benefits of pruneaux / M. Domingie (droite) explique les bienfaits des pruneaux.
Le Moulin de la Fage-Haute
This watermill grinds flour using traditional methods – the bread made from it tasted wonderful. / Ce moulin à eau moud le blé par les méthodes traditionnelles – le pain est excellent.
Like Monsieur Domingie at La Ferme des Pruneaux, Monsieur Brouillet is passionate about his produce, saying that it is not financially viable but it is worth doing because the flour is so good.
Comme Monsieur Domingie de La Ferme des Pruneaux, Monsieur Brouillet est passionné pour son produit. Il dit que ce n’est pas économique mais il faut le faire parce que le blé est si bon.