Sunday in the garden

I did a little bit of work and Lo Jardinièr did quite a lot, planting out leek and lettuce plants ready for the autumn and winter. It seems strange to think of winter already, when the days are still hot, and last year because of that we forgot to plant leeks until it was too late. We’ve managed to remember this year, though.  After Lo Jardinièr lit the barbecue to cook our lunch, my little bit of work was to grill these red peppers until the skins were black and burned, so they can be skinned and used in salads. I’ll freeze some so that we can enjoy summer flavours in winter.

The main purpose of the barbecue was to cook lamb chops, from the same farm in the Aveyron where the whole lamb for our party grew up, but these huge whole garlic cloves were delicious cooked over the charcoal fire too.

And, keeping the fruit course fairly local, we picked some of our own Muscat d’Hambourg grapes – most of this year’s crop on our small young vine, but they’re a good sign.

 

As common as…. peppers and butterflies

 

Most of our lavender flowers have died now, but I was glad there were one or two left this morning to attract this butterfly, even though it’s hardly a rare variety – either a Common White or a Southern Common White, it seems.

And even more common in our garden today were these red peppers – a real treat to come home to after a few days away.

 

Some of these are paprka peppers for drying, and the bigger ones are a mix of Red Marconi and Kandil Dolma. I decided to preserve the Red Marconis by pickling them – I held each one with tongs over the gas ring until the skin was blackened (it’s best to do this over a barbecue as I did the other day, but it was just too hot today to light the barbecue). Then there was the rather fiddly job of peeling them – made easier, but not easy by charring them like this.

 

When they were (roughly) peeled I brought to the boil a cup of water, a cup of cider vinegar and a cup of sugar in a pan then added the peppers for only 5 minutes or so, because they had already been partly cooked in the flames.  I put them straight into a sterilised jar and sealed it. They’ll be nice in the winter eaten in salads or as tapas.

 

I made salads for our lunch with goats’ cheese, sliced fresh raw peppers, chopped garlic, green olives, parsley and local olive oil – lovely flavours and crunchy peppers.

 

Canicule

Much of south-western, central and eastern France is suffering from a canicule – heatwave  – this weekend, with temperatures of 40° C which must be unbearable in those humid regions.  Here in the Languedoc we have normal summer temperatures of 30 to 35 degrees – it’s hot, but then it’s dry which makes the heat more tolerable, and we’re used to it and know how to cope with it.  This is the Mediterranean summer. We go out to the garden early in the morning, close the windows and shutters during the day and open them at night for some refreshing cooler air, and drink plenty of water….and some chilled wine too, of course!

Lizard days and warm nights

 

Everything is very dry now in daytime temperatures of more than 30° C – good weather for lizards. In the garden we leave the tomatoes and peppers to ripen, harvesting and watering in the evening but doing little other work in the heat.

 

We seemed to lose most of our olive crop earlier this year, not long after the tiny fruits had formed (and others have reported the same odd phenomenon), but I’m pleased to see we have a few olives on each of our trees, and I’ve changed the header on this blog to celebrate. What a relief – I had thought I might have to rename this blog since the artichokes didn’t do very well this year either!

In the vineyards the grapes are beginning to ripen and the leaves are still the only touch of bright green in the landscape, but even with their deep roots the vines look a bit hot and drooping in the heat of the day. The grasses and other wildflowers at the edges of the vineyards are just dry seed heads now.

In a week or so the white grapes will start to be harvested, at night to keep them cool, and we’ll begin to hear the sound of tractors and machinery in the early hours of the morning all around the village while the red grapes will be left for a few more weeks to sweeten in the sun.  August feels very different from July, there’s a sense of the natural cycle coming to its fruition everywhere.

 

Last year’s red peppers

We had so many red peppers of different varieties last summer and this is the first winter we’ve had a good supply of jars of preserved peppers, some chopped and put raw with herbs into jars and covered with vinegar, most of them cooked for 10 minutes or so depending on their size in a half and half mix of wine vinegar and water with sugar added.  Usually we eat them as tapas, serving them whole with a little olive oil poured over them, or use them in paella as I did the other day, but I had one jar of large red peppers that I’d preserved whole for stuffing and I used some of these to make supper yesterday evening.

I made the stuffing with breadcrumbs, green olives and a couple of cloves of garlic, making a kind of thick tapenade to fill the peppers, put them in an earthenware dish with olive oil and some grated parmesan cheese on top and cooked them in the oven for about half an hour.  By the time we ate them the lighting wasn’t very good (and I hate using flash especially for food photos), but this picture should give an idea, and they did taste very good.

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and some local Luque olives by candlelight, just because I liked the look of them…..

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A Turkish lunch

Ever since I was a teenager when my family lived in Turkey I’ve loved Turkish food and often cook the dishes I remember from those years, as my mother did too for the rest of her life.  She was a vegetarian so it was a cuisine that suited her perfectly. Today for lunch we ate some variations on old favourites.  Most of the preparation was done yesterday so it made for a very easy Sunday morning.

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Clockwise from the left: Kandil dolma peppers stuffed with rice and minced meat; black olives; purée of red pepper and pistachio; stuffed baked aubergines; hummus with tahina.

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I’ve put the recipe for the aubergines on my Food from the Mediterranean blog. 

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The stuffed kandil dolma peppers were a variation on what has become a theme of the summer – these are red unlike the green ones I used earlier in the summer.  I used to think that the green ones tasted better and last year we allowed just a few to ripen so that we could save seeds, but since I realised that cooking them in tomato sauce rather than baking them really brings out the flavour of the peppers I think the red ones are equally good, and pretty too!  I’ll confess that I used beef for these rather than my preferred lamb because it’s difficult to get lamb here, especially minced lamb, but easy to buy steacks hachés – burgers made with 100% beef.  I bought two, used one for the stuffing and put the other in the freezer for next time.  I rarely buy beef as I prefer to eat more locally produced meat and there are no cows anywhere near here because we don’t have the grass they need.

The red pepper and pistachio purée was a variation, brought about by necessity, of a Turkish dish that combines red pepper and walnuts.  The village shop didn’t have walnuts yesterday so I bought pistachios instead with excellent results.  I put 75 grams of shelled pistachios in the blender and turned them into a slightly lumpy powder, added a piece of day-old bread and two long sweet Spanish peppers from the garden, blended them all to a purée and added some olive oil, some salt and a squeeze of lemon.  It’s good for dipping crusty bread into.

The hummus was made by combining a tin of (drained) chickpeas in the blender with garlic to taste (we like quite a lot), salt, lemon juice, olive oil, tahina (sesame seed) paste and a little water to make the consistency right for dipping bread into it, then serving it garnished with olive oil and paprika.

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