Pot-roasted lemony chicken

Yesterday I bought a poulet fermier (farm-reared chicken) from the excellent butcher’s shop in Roujan.  It was a large bird – 2.4 kilos – and it had lived.  Its flesh was firm, the leg meat dark and tasty, nothing like the chickens available in supermarkets.  I chopped some pickled lemons and garlic and marinaded the chicken for a few hours with these and some olive oil.

I added a glass of white wine and a little salt, brought it to the boil, put a lid on it and simmered for about an hour and a quarter.  While the chicken was simmering I made a relish with two more chopped pickled lemons, a tablespoon of chopped pitted green olives, a little chopped parsley and two chopped garlic cloves.

Lo Jardinièr prepared some rice to which he added sliced onion sautéed in olive oil, a handful of raisins, and a dozen green apricots previously cooked in syrup, stones removed and chopped.  He used half a cupful of the syrup from the apricots with the cooking water for the rice.

When the chicken was almost cooked I removed it from the liquid (wine now turned into a delicious sauce) and put it in a roasting dish in a hot oven for half an hour until the skin was browned.

The chicken, apricot rice and lemon relish all went very well together, and with a glass of Faugères red wine from the domaine d’Estève at Roquessels.

Lo Jardinièr has now posted the piece about jachère that I trailed the other day on his blog – here

Rice with vine leaves, and a pickled lemon relish

Yesterday I noticed that the wind had blown one of the branches off our table grape vine.  It needed pruning anyway, but I didn’t want to waste the fresh leaves.  The obvious use for them would be dolmas – stuffed vine leaves – but I didn’t really have time to make them, so I used them to make a layered rice dish.

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I cooked some sliced onion in olive oil until it was soft – this takes at least ten minutes and preferably longer, and a sprinkle of salt helps bring out the sweetness in the onion.  For the last few minutes I added a couple of chopped cloves of garlic and a teaspoonful of ground piment d’Espelette (paprika).  I removed them from the pan, added a little more olive oil then began to layer the vine leaves and rice. A layer of leaves, half a cup of uncooked rice, half the onions, half a teaspoon of salt, half a chopped, peeled tomato, some chopped oregano and a tablespoonful of raisins. Then a layer of leaves followed by another layer of the other ingredients, and all finally covered by a layer of leaves.  I added three cups of water and cooked the rice slowly for about half an hour until all the water had been absorbed.

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The vine flavour had permeated the layers of rice wonderfully and my new dish went well with a pot-roasted chicken and some pickled lemon relish.

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For the relish, I used three Moroccan pickled lemons, a couple of chopped garlic cloves and a bunch of chopped mint leaves, simply mixed together.

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On a grey, thundery evening the light was disappearing by the time the chicken was cooked and I couldn’t take a good photo of it, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was delicious too!

Store cupboard essentials

On yet another rainy day, Lo Jardinièr and I talked as we were eating a lovely lunch of pizza left over from yesterday when he made it, accompanied by a salad of grated carrot (not from the garden) and slices of green and yellow pepper (from the garden).  As we often do, we remarked on how easy it is to make delicious food so long as we have certain basic essentials in the store cupboard and fridge.

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There are ingredients we would never be without, some of which are so essential I haven’t included them in the photo: rice, pasta, the tomato purée we make at least 50 jars of every summer and which last us through the winter and spring until we have fresh tomatoes in the garden again……salt and pepper too, of course.  But apart from these, here are a few others: capers (although when I can find them I prefer the salted ones to these in brine); anchovy fillets; olive oil (of course); raisins or currants; chorizo; garlic (again, of course!); piments d’Espelette or other paprika peppers, fresh or dried); lemon; black olives; bay leaves (and other fresh herbs as available in the garden, thyme, rosemary, basil…..).  Even if we have no other meat or vegetables we can always make something tasty to eat with these.

And as I write this I remember other essentials we almost always have in the cupboard: red and white wine, tinned chickpeas and haricot beans, tahina, walnuts, spices – coriander and cumin especially – and so much else.  But these in the picture are the basics.

For the photo I put all these in a dish which for me is another essential as it’s been in my family almost as long as I can remember.  It was made in Sicily and my mother bought it in Benghazi soon after we moved there in the 1950s. She passed it on to me after she had used it many times especially, as I remember, for rice salads when we had big family parties.

>Sunday lunch in the garden / le diner de dimanche au jardin

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For the past few weeks it’s been too hot to do much work in the garden, just watering (a lot), tying up the tomato plants and harvesting the produce. In a couple of weeks’ time we’ll have to start sowing the autumn and winter vegetables – lettuce, turnips, carrots – but it’s too hot now.

Depuis quelques semaines il fait trop chaud pour faire beaucoup de travail au jardin – on ne fait que l’arrosage (beaucoup) et la récolte de légumes. Dans deux ou trois semaines on commencera à semer les légumes d’automne et d’hiver – les salades, les carrots, les navets – mais en ce moment il fait trop chaud.

The garden is still a good place to entertain friends for a meal, though, as we did yesterday. / Le jardin est toujours un bon endroit pour inviter des amis pour manger, comme on a fait hier.

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plenty of shade and a paddling pool borrowed from a neighbour / beaucoup d’ombre et une piscine qu’un voisin nous a preté.

We started the meal with prawns and aioli (I posted the recipe for this when I made it last summer – here). The only difference is that now I make it with an electric whisk – much easier!

Nous avons commencé par des crevettes accompagnées d’un aioli – voir la recette ici.

Grilled quail / les cailles grillées

For the main course we cooked something I’ve wanted to try for a long time: quails wrapped in vine leaves and cooked on the barbecue.

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I put a garlic clove and a sprig of time inside each one, rolled them in olive oil, salt and pepper, wrapped them in vine leaves and tied the parcels with thread. Lo Jardinièr cooked them for about 20 minutes over a wood and charcoal fire. The vine leaves blackened, as you can see, but inside the quail were tender and delicious.

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With the quail we had baked vegetables – aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and tomatoes – garnished with basil and a squeeze of lemon juice and served cold, and Marseillette rice with coriander, cumin, onion, raisins and pine nuts.

We had a Roquefort and St Nectaire cheese and then a mirabelle (small plum) tart made with our neighbours’ fruit and recipe. The recipe will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.

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At the end of the afternoon, after a long lunch, we visited our friends’ garden where there is a beautiful old mill building which has been converted into a garden shed. And back in our garden to clear up, I noticed this butterfly on the dahlia. Another perfect Sunday!

>Local food again / La nourriture locale encore

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Lo Jardinièr and I spend a lot of time talking about and eating local food. We try to eat food which is produced as locally as possible, and much of it comes from our own garden. We do try not to get obsessional about it, though, and Lo Jardinièr often points out that some trade between communities and between countries is essential. It’s unrealistic to expect people in the twenty-first century to have the way of life which was common in rural areas during the nineteenth century. We’ve both read an interesting book by Gillian Tindall, Céléstine, about life in the Berry region of central France 150 years ago. Tindall discovered from letters written at the time that people in the village of Chassignolles very rarely went to the nearest town, La Châtre which was only 7 km away. The only things they needed to buy there were needles for sewing. Everything else was produced in the village. This kind of self-sufficiency is almost impossible to imagine now.

Nous essayons de manger la nourriture locale et beaucoup de légumes qu’on mange vient de notre jardin. Mais, le commerce est necessaire. En outre, vivre comme les gens du dix-neuvième siècle c’est peu réaliste. Nous venons de lire un histoire d’un village dans le Berry il y a 150 ans, Céléstine, de Gillian Tindall, qui raconte la vie du village de Chassignolles donc les habitants ont visité la ville de La Châtre très peu, seulement pour acheter les aiguilles. Tous leurs autres besoins étaient produit dans le village.

Kate at Hills and Plains Seedsavers has recently been writing about local food, too. With the eyes of someone new to French markets she has remarked on things which we sometimes take for granted, like the fact that almost everything you buy here is marked with its département of origin. In the markets here in the Languedoc very locally grown fruit and vegetables are marked ‘pays’, meaning the countryside around, or even the name of the village or small town near which they were grown, like the grapes from Clermont l’Hérault.

Kate a écrit sur le blog Hills and Plains Seedsavers au sujet de la nourriture locale. Une australienne en France, elle a remarqué des choses que nous ne remarquons plus, comme les départements d’origine de tous les produits qui sont indiqués sur les marchés.

Our aim is to eat mostly food which is produced within 100 km of Gabian, but to allow ourselves some foodstuffs, most importantly coffee, which come from further away. Sometimes during the winter I can’t resist buying an aubergine which has come from the south of Spain and we eat citrus fruits from Valencia and dried fruit from north Africa, which I tell myself is almost local, just the other side of the Mediterranean. We’ve always eaten a lot of rice, occasionally Basmati rice from India, but since we’ve been living in Gabian mostly from Spain and Italy and the Camargue (about 100 km away), which I thought was the nearest rice production area. So I’m very excited to have found an even more local rice producer in Marseillette which is only 80 km away.

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Je suis ravie de trouver un producteur de riz qui est très proche – 80 km de Gabian à Marseillette dans l’Aude.

La Rizière de l’Etang de Marseillette

Laurent Malis grows long grain, red grain, round grain and whole grain rice in what was once a salt water lagoon which was drained at the beginning of the nineteenth century. His website has all the details (in French) of the area, the range of rice he grows and recipes. And, best of all, the rice is delicious!

Laurent Malis cultive le riz à Marseillette, sur un étang qui a été asseché en 1808. Le site Internet a des renseignements sur la gamme de riz, le terroir et des recettes. Et le riz est délicieux!

Lamb and aubergine casserole with rice / Casserole d’agneau et d’aubergine au riz

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I made a casserole with some pieces of breast of lamb, onions, garlic, white wine, paprika and tomato passata. When it was nearly ready I added some reconstituted dried aubergine slices which we grew last summer, and served it with the Marseillette rice.

The recipe for this casserole will be on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. La recette sera sur le blog Mediterranean cuisine.

Tapenade

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This was a very local dish. We made tapenade with some of the olives given to us in November by friends who live about 4 km away. We cured the olives and they are now ready to eat. You can add anchovies to tapenade, but this is a simpler recipe. We removed the stones from the olives, leaving about 300 gm of olive flesh. I chopped 3 cloves of garlic and some parsley in the food processor, added the olives and processed them, then added the juice of half a lemon, a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil and some salt. Et voilà! Serve the tapenade with lemon wedges and crusty bread or toast. These olives give it a lovely reddish colour.