Over the past three or four days in our département and its surrounding area of Languedoc-Roussillon between 100 and 400 mm of rain has fallen, depending on location. Although we’re used to long dry periods followed by downpours, the storms are normally quite short and this is as much rain as we usually have in six months. The worst is over now and the storm has now moved eastwards into Provence and the Côte d’Azur and south-westwards to the Pyrenees, but it is still raining.
For our first autumnal Sunday lunch of the season I roasted the remaining quarter of the pumpkin we made soup with the other day….
peeled it and cut it into chunks, put it in an oven-proof dish with olive oil, salt and pepper, a couple of sprigs of rosemary and some bay leaves, and some unpeeled cloves of garlic.
I put it in the oven at 180 C for about an hour, until the pieces of pumpkin were nicely browned at the edges.
There’s something very warming about the sight of an earthenware dish filled with roast pumpkin! It went very well with some pot-roasted duck legs – recipe on the Food from the Mediterranean blog.
The wine we drank with it was a red Mont Lequio from Domaine des Pascales in the village. There they also sell cheeses from the Aveyron, brought back from the farm where they are made when they deliver wine to that area. We followed our main course with this St Nectaire fermier, perfectly aged with a full flavour and a still-creamy tasting centre.
Somehow, the weather didn’t seem so bad after lunch!
With our département, l’Hérault, on red alert for heavy rain, thunder and lightning and floods, it seemed a good night to stay in and make soup. We followed a recipe for pumpkin and mussel soup that I posted on my other blog a couple of years ago, and it was perfect for a stormy night with a paillasse loaf of crusty bread. And this kind of mussel dish goes well with the red wine from nearby Faugères, although you can drink white with it if you prefer.
All the grapes have been picked from the vines and the leaves will soon begin to turn their autumn shades of brown, red and yellow, the vendange is over for this year. The winemakers have to wait now to see how good this year’s wine will be.
And in the garden the pumpkin-growing season is nearly over. Each time we come home from the garden we bring a few more pumpkins to store in the cool dark shade of our garage. These two varieties are new to us this year, grown from seeds sent to me by friends on Blipfoto. The one on the left is a Long Island Cheese pumpin, the one on the right is a Chilean variety.
Daytime temperatures are in the 30s, and the aubergine plants are flowering again:
and there are small aubergines growing:
But we’ve picked the first of the pumpkins to store for the winter, five that we thought would be butternut squashes but which seem to be a hybrid:
and we’re making the first batch of membrillo with windfall quinces (more on this when it’s finished bubbling away on the hob):
We had a good view of the Pyrenees from the hill between here and Magalas this morning. They are about 150 kilometres away and not always visible if the air isn’t really clear. When they appear, it’s always a shock to see how huge they are. There doesn’t seem to be much snow on the mountains at the moment.
Walking around the village this morning I saw this small bird on a climbing rose and have since identified it as a Goldcrest. The crest is clearly visible in the pictures, top and bottom right, below.
And spicy pumpkin soup
This is the biggest of the pumpkins we grew last season. It was too big to go on the scales but we think it must have weighed about 15 kilos. Lo Jardinièr made a wonderful spicy soup with part of it, for lunch today. The recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.
This was suggested by some friends who had given us a very vague idea of the recipe. It was the first time for years that I’d made a soufflé and we discovered that we’d left our soufflé dish behind when we moved from Wales. Never mind, we can always improvise, using the most straight-sided dish we had, one of those dishes that charcutiers use to display paté and sell for a couple of euros when they’re empty.
||I cooked and mashed a piece of pumpkin and two potatoes, added 4 egg yolks, 5 beaten egg whites and 100 gm of grated Cantal cheese (a bit like Cheddar) and put the mixture in a greased oven-proof dish. I sprinkled some more grated cheese and some grated nutmeg over the top and put it in a hot oven for 30 minutes. I think it might have been better to roast the pumpkin, rather than boiling it, before mashing, so I’ll try that next time.
It tasted very good, but I think it would have even more flavour if the pumpkin was roasted first. When I’ve perfected the recipe I’ll post it on the Mediterranean cuisine blog with exact quantities.
And a mise en bouche
When you order a set menu in a restaurant in France you often find extra small courses have been added and you’re offered a mise en bouche (literally, ‘put in mouth’) to start your meal. Lo Jardinièr made this one the other day, using slices of bread brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven, slices of boudin noir (blood sausage) and one of the last of our tomatoes, garnished with basil leaves.
Winter is coming
There are cold nights forecast for the coming week, with temperatures perhaps reaching freezing point, so we’ve covered our emerging broad bean and mangetout pea plants with bamboo leaves to try to protect them. I’ve harvested most of the mint to dry for making tea with during the winter and picked (probably) the last small green peppers which I’ll pickle as I did with some of the ones I picked a couple of weeks ago. We found some quite big peppers too, hidden among the leaves, so we’ll grill those to eat over the weekend.
Colder nights are forecast for later this week, so today we brought the remaining pumpkins back to the house so that they are not affected by any low temperatures we may have. The ones that have ripened should keep for months, the green ones maybe not for so long, so we’ll eat them first. Although a friend has suggested that they may continue to ripen indoors.
Five pumpkins and two butternut squashes. We’ve already picked a butternut squash and two pumpkins, one which weighed 5 kilos and one, which we’re eating now, which weighed 10 kilos. The two bigger ones in this photo are even bigger. So far we used them to make soup, roasted chunks of them in the oven and puréed the roasted chunks to make a gratin with blue cheese – the simple recipe for this is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. Today one of our friends passed by the garden and told us that you can make soufflé with pumpkin too, so we’re going to try that – if it works I’ll put the recipe on the blog.
On the way back from Magalas we saw a remarkable sight – a huge flock of very small birds settled on the (not very busy) road. We watched them for about five minutes while I took a lot of photos. Each time a car came close they flew up into the sky and circled around the vineyards for just a few seconds before settling on the road again. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of them. There didn’t seem to be anything for them to feed on, so it’s a mystery why they were on the road. It seems a bit late in the year for birds to be gathering to migrate, but it’s possible they are migrating birds from further north either arriving here for the winter or just passing through. My researches on the internet and in bird books suggest they may have been Wood Larks. I’d welcome any other suggestions. They were much too small to be starlings.
And more autumn colour in the vineyards and in the garden
In the garden the rosemary and the roses have begun to flower again after the rain.
An awful reminder…
Land being flattened next to our garden as work begins on the new houses.
The landscape seems to have been completely changed, trees destroyed and new vistas created.
This is the first year we’ve grown pumpkins and this is the first one we’ve picked, one of the smaller ones, it weighs 5 kilos. I’m using part of it to make mussel and pumpkin soup – see the recipe I posted last year on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.
Usually our tomato plants continue producing until November and in past years we’ve eaten tomatoes picked green and then ripened in the house as late as December. This year will be different and production has already slowed down almost to nothing. The Ananas plants seem to be having a late renaissance, though, and we’ve also picked some of the Long Andean variety which is more suitable for making purée, but we’ve used them in salads too.
Left: Long Andean tomatoes sliced with garlic, chopped green pepper and anchovies and basil leaves.
Right: Ananas tomatoes with basil, garlic and sliced mozzarella cheese.
And here’s a link from the Observer website to some amazing-sounding food festivals in Italy, France, Norway, Croatia, Crete, Sardinia and Mallorca. If I lived nearer I’d be especially tempted by the Fête des Legumes Oubliés (Festival of Forgotten Vegetables), but it’s in Normandy – a very long way from here – and the olive festival in Mallorca, and…. well, all of them really!
The pumpkin festival near Lucca in Italy reminded me to ask our neighbour whether we should be protecting ours from damp by keeping them off the ground, but he said there’s no need as they have such thick skins. They should be left while the stems are still green and then can be brought inside. Our plants seem to be rejuvenating themselves and we have several new small pumpkins growing to join the five large ones already there. I don’t know whether there will be time for the small ones to grow before the weather gets colder. The big ones are not as big as I’ve seen them in western France, where there’s a lot more rain, but they’re not doing badly.
Today we seemed to be turning over a new leaf into autumn:
Because we were so busy over the summer we didn’t get round to sowing leeks, cabbages and cauliflowers, so we’ve bought plants and we’ll be planting them out during the next few days. Today I sowed turnips and Lo Jardinièr planted out Rougette and Oak leaf lettuces.
We have five good pumpkins like the two above, which should keep for the winter. We’d given up hope of getting anything from the Butternut squash plants that our neighbour had given us because they seemed to be producing only male flowers. We’d even given up watering them when we noticed this surprise one growing on a plant which had climbed up the pea netting.
And some more figs….
The figs are ripening well on our friend’s trees and we picked some more this morning, but not enough to make jam yet. I baked some with butter and local garrigue honey this morning (just 20 minutes at 180 degrees C), and we’ll eat them tonight with crème fraiche.
I was delighted at the long comments my last post attracted and it was interesting to read what others thought. I should emphasise, though, that I make no claims about health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, or any other diet, except to report that it is said that a Mediterranean diet can lead to a longer life. I know it doesn’t always, though, from early deaths in my own family. Mediterranean food is the kind of food I enjoy eating most – that’s why I eat it. And, of course, it’s available locally for me.