>Greece again / La Grèce encore


Once again I’ve invited Greece into my kitchen … MaryAthenes’ challenge on the blog en-direct-d’athenes … with this simple, delicious recipe. 

Encore une fois j’ai invité la Grèce dans ma cuisine … c’est le jeu de MaryAthenes sur le blog en-direct-dathenes … avec cette recette simple et délicieuse.

Exohiko ou agneau en papillotte façon campagne / Country-style lamb parcels

papillotte 2_1

Ingrédients :
Pour 6 personnes :
1,5 / 2 kilos d’agneau dans le gigot sans os, en petits morceaux / lamb cut into small pieces
3 oignons coupés en 2 ou 4 / onions quartered
3 oignons verts (oignons nouveaux) en rondelles / spring onions sliced in rounds
3 carottes en rondelles / carrots sliced in rounds
3 pommes de terre en morceaux / potatoes cut in pieces
350 g de gruyère (κεφαλογραβιέρα) en cubes (j’ai mis de la feta) / gruyère cheese (or feta)
le jus d’un citron / juice of a lemon
200 ml de vin rouge liquoreux (mavrodafni : vin utilisé pour la communion à l’église orthodoxe) / fortified red wine [I used Banyuls, the sweet strong red wine from Roussillon / j’ai utilisé le Banyuls, le vin doux du Roussillon]

200 ml d’huile d’olive / olive oil

1 càs de romarin écrasé / soup spoon of crushed rosemary

1/2 càc de cumin ou thym ou origan / teaspoon of cumin or thyme or oregano

sel, poivre / salt, pepper

Préparation :

Mélanger tous les ingrédients dans un grand récipient et laisser reposer au frigo une demi-heure. / Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave for half an hour in the refrigerator.
Découper 12 morceaux de papier sulfurisé. / Cut 12 pieces of greaseproof paper.
Déposer sur le papier doublé 1/6 de la préparation. / Put one-sixth of the mixture on each double sheet of paper.
Fermer à la ficelle. / tie up with string.
Mettre les 6 papillotes dans un plat et faire cuire au four préchauffé à 200o pour une heure et demie. / put the 6 parcels on a baking tray in the oven at 200 degrees C for one and a half hours.

Ouvrir les petits paquets et servir tout de suite ! / Open the parcels and serve them straight away!

papillotte 1_1

I love these all-in-one dishes – all the flavour is preserved inside the parcels and they are so easy to serve to a large number of people.  In Greece, according to MaryAthenes, this dish is served at family gatherings at weekends.


It’s the kind of dish that makes meat go a long way as you can vary the proportions, adding more vegetables and less meat if you wish.  We bought a shoulder of lamb which made four of these papillottes, and four servings of tagine.  I then put the shoulder bone into a soup-pan of water, and added onions, leeks and potatoes to make the Welsh dish cawl.  Recipes for the tagine and the cawl will be on the recipe blog mediterranean-cuisine.blogspot.com.

>Feeding the land / Nourrir la terre


Our garden needs a lot of organic material to improve the soil and to help it retain water during the dry summer. This morning we went a few kilometres into the hills to the Mas Rolland goat farm to collect manure. It’s a beautiful drive, around hairpin bend after bend climbing between slopes covered with garrigue and holm oak trees (the Mediterranean evergreen oak) and rocky limestone outcrops.

road to montesquieu_1_1

Notre jardin a besoin de beaucoup de matière organique pour améliorer la terre et pour aider la retention de l’eau pendant la secheresse de l’été. Ce matin nous sommes allées quelques kilometres à la ferme de chèvres de Mas Rolland pour chercher de fumier. C’est une belle route – des virages en épingle à cheveux montent entre les collines couvertes de garrigue et de chênes verts et les affleurements de calcaire.

We took a trailer full of manure back to the garden and spread it on some of the beds we’ve cleared. / On a apporté une ramorque pleine de fumier au jardin et l’a mis sur la terre qu’on a nettoyé.

trailer of manure_1_1 muck spreading_1_1

muck spread_1_1

The garden after our morning’s work / le jardin après notre travail

Good peasant food / un bon repas paysan

This was hungry work so we went home to eat a hearty peasant lunch of haricot beans cooked with salted belly pork which I’d prepared yesterday. / On est rentré chez nous pour manger un bon repas paysan – des haricots cuits avec de la poitrine salée que j’ai préparé hier.

haricot beans_1_1

The recipe will be on the Mediterranean food blog.

La recette sera sur le blog de la cuisine mediterranéenne.

>A winter miscellany / une collection diverse hivernale


Winter soup / La soupe d’hiver

All through the winter we have soup made from vegetables from the garden for lunch nearly every day.  It was cold this morning so we weren’t tempted to go out to the garden but I found some courgettes in the freezer from a summer glut.  I simmered them, with a chopped onion, a couple of bay leaves, a couple of cloves of garlic and a teaspoonful of salt, in water to cover for half an hour.  Then I added some white haricot beans and liquidised them all into a delicious soup.  I fried some lardons (bacon pieces) until they were crisp then added some cubes of bread and a chopped clove of garlic to make croutons, then served the soup with these and some bread from the boulangerie around the corner, made with unbleached flour from the Aveyron.  A good hot lunch for a cold day!

winter courgette soup_1_1 

Winter courgette soup

Tout au long de l’hiver à midi presque chaque jour, on mange de la soupe de légumes du jardin.  Il a fait froid ce matin, donc on n’a pas voulu sortir au jardin, mais j’ai trouvé des courgettes dans le congélateur.  Je les ai cuites au feu doux, avec un ognion coupé, deux feuilles de laurier sauce, deux gousses d’ail et un peu du sel, pour une demie heure.  Puis j’ai ajouter des haricots blancs et je les ai mélangés.  J’ai sauté des lardons et j’ai fait des croutons.  Après ajoutant une gousse d’ail coupée j’ ai garni la soupe avec les lardons et les croutons.  Un bon déjeuner chaud pour une journée froide!


I’ve put the latest batch of olives in brine in large 2-litre jars for the big ones and a smaller jar for the little ones.  They should be ready to eat in a couple of months’ time.

olives in 2-l jars_1_1

J’ai mis les olives à la saumure dans des bocaux grands de 2 litres, et les petites olives dans un bocal plus petit.  Elles doivent être prétes à manger dans deux mois.

Chilli peppers / Les piments rouges

We moved one of our chilli pepper plants to the house so that it wouldn’t be killed by the cold and the chillies are still ripening in the sun on the balcony.

red chilli 2_1_1

Nous avons mis une des plantes de piment rouge sur le balcon pour la proteger du froid.  Les piments continuent de mûrir.

And some good news from further south … / des bonnes nouvelles de l’Espagne …

Renewable energy / L’énergie renouvelable

According to today’s Guardian newspaper, a new power plant is being constructed near Sevilla in Andalucia, southern Spain. It will use mirrors to reflect the sun towards a water tower which will generate enough electricity for 11,000 homes. Each of the 1,000 mirrors is half the size of a tennis court and all have to be angled carefully to catch the sun’s rays. This method of energy production, known as concentrated solar power, clearly depends on sunshine and availability of large areas of land, so it will not work in cloudier, more crowded areas of the world – but there’s a hope here for the future and maybe countries in Africa, as well as southern Europe, will be able to benefit from this innovation.

And in Catalunya, it seems, even the dead can help … in the town of Santa Coloma de Gramenet near Barcelona the town council has erected 450 solar panels in the cemetery – enough to provide power for 60 homes.

>Some recipes

>Wednesday is market day in Gabian, as it has been since 1171. At the charcuterie van, which comes from Lacaune in the mountains north-west of here, we bought Spanish morcilla for lunch. These spicey blood sausages are tastier than the local boudin noir, I think, although both are good. They tasted as though they were flavoured with cinnamon, and we found pine nuts in them. I dressed chunks of still-warm boiled potatoes with a dressing made from olive oil, salt, pepper and wine vinegar in which Ive steeped bay, rosemary and thyme from the garden since last July. I added some chopped garlic, parsley and sweet fresh onion, sautéed slices of the morcilla and arranged them around the potatoes. With a glass of red wine from Le Moulin de Lène, just the other side of the hill from here, it made a delicious quickly prepared meal.

The fish stall arrives each Wednesday from Valras-plage, the stallholder selling the fish caught the night before on the family boat. She only sells fish which they have caught, and when its too rough to fish she just doesnt come, so its all as fresh as possible. Today the muge – grey mullet – were still alive. I bought a large one, weighing over 1.5 kg to make a fish stew based on a recipe which Nigel Slater gave in his column in the Observer a few weeks ago. You can see his recipe here

I made some changes, as I usually do since I rarely follow a recipe exactly.

Fish stew – marmite de poisson – for 4 people

1 onion

1 red pepper

3 large cloves of garlic

6 anchovy fillets

3 bay leaves

3 sprigs of thyme

3 twists of lemon peel

olive oil

a large glass of white wine

1 large grey mullet (the stallholder descaled it and cut it into portions for me)

1 jar of preserved tomato passata with green peppers (bottled last July)

1/2 litre fish stock, made with the head and other bits of the fish

2 dozen mussels

I sautéed the sliced onion and red pepper in olive oil until soft and just beginning to brown, then removed them from the pan. As Nigel Slater suggests I sliced the garlic and fried them gently in olive oil with the anchovy fillets and the herbs. When the anchovies disintegrated I added a large glass of white wine, the fish stock and the jar of tomato and green pepper and let it all simmer for about 20 minutes. Then I added the pieces of fish until they were cooked – about 10 minutes. I then leave it until Thursday, when the van from Bouzigues arrives with mussels and oysters. On Thursday evening I cooked about 1/2 kilo of large mussels in a mixture of half white wine and half water with a bay leaf, for about five minutes until they were all open. I shelled these mussels and added them to the stew. When our friends arrived for dinner I heated the stew and when it was simmering added the other half-kilo of mussels in their shells and cooked it all until these mussels were all open. I served it with Camargue rice.

Nigel Slater suggests garnishing it with toasted slices of bread spread with a mix of coriander leaves and chopped fresh red chillies. I didn’t have any chillies so I used a clove of garlic and some smoked paprika and some olive oil with the coriander leaves.

I think it all worked well – the colours looked good and the fish stayed firm – something to remember if you’re using other kinds of fish, as it has to be something that won’t disintegrate while cooking.