After two days of heavy rain – with flooding in rivers further south, where one driver drowned, and dangerously high waves along all the Languedoc-Roussillon coast – the dark clouds began to retreat to the mountains and the sun shone on the plane trees.
For the first time since November we had 12 hours of proper, steady, heavy rain which will have done the garden, the vineyards and the water table a lot of good. It looked gloomy, but it was worth it and the sun is out again now.
Tonight’s Cercle Occitan lecture will be given by a historian, Jacques Bonnet, on the story of the zero and how it came into European culture and learning through a collaboration between Arab doctors, Jews and Christians in tenth-century Andalucia, described by Bonnet as ‘terre de tolérance active’, an almost mythical place and time where diversity and difference were valued rather than derided, something which I wish were more widespread today. By chance, it seems an appropriate subject for this week when some intolerant views have been expressed following the tragedy in Toulouse.
As always, the evening will end with a meal – appropriately enough it will be couscous tonight. We’ve all been asked to contribute desserts and I’ve made an Arab-influenced Valencian pumpkin cake from a recipe in Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean Cookery (BBC books, 1987, unfortunately now out of print, but one of my stand-by favourites).
I thought there wasn’t enough egg in this recipe to hold it together, but I followed it anyway and unfortunately was proved right (or proved clumsy) when my trial version fell to pieces as I tried to remove it from the oven tin. It still tasted delicious, though, and I have left the other one in the tin, hoping that when it’s cut tonight no one will notice that it’s a bit crumbly!
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.
The figs I hung up to dry in the kitchen last month are dry now and only a few have fallen down during the weeks they’ve been there. I tried one today and it was sweet and not too dry, as I’d feared they might be. I haven’t stored them before, so I’m hoping they will be all right in this tin for a couple of months.
It’s raining at last! It makes the day dismal and grey, but the rain is very welcome for the garden where we’ve been unable to make our usual autumn sowings of broad beans and peas because the earth was just too dry to work. In the rain, the dates on this palm tree seemed to shine in the gloom.
The dates don’t mature into edible fruits here, as they do in North Africa, but they look bright and colourful on a rainy day. I noticed an invader too – this small plant was growing between the old leaf stems on the trunk of the palm.
At last, after a dry winter, we’re getting plenty of rain and the stream from the spring at the top of the hill above the garden is rushing with water and the garden full of water droplets.
Believe it or not, this photo was taken in the middle of the day … and so were these:
The rain will be good for the garden, but for today it means we can’t do any gardening.
It’s time to eat comforting autumn food like this rabbit and chorizo casserole, with some of the last courgettes of the season, and a glass of red wine.
This may have been the last butterfly of the summer, in the garden last weekend when we were sowing broad beans and peas.