Two dishes in one

When I was in the butcher’s buying the lamb chops we had for Sunday lunch I saw a kind of sausage I hadn’t seen there before: saucisson à cuire pistaché Lyonnais à l’ancienne.  Well, I can never resist anything new, especially if it has pistachios in it and especially if it’s a traditional recipe, à l’ancienne, so I asked Mme Perez how she would cook it.  First, she said it should be boiled in water.  Could you add vegetables to make a soup at the same time, I asked.  Oh, yes, she said, that’s what I’d do.  So that’s what I did yesterday.

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I chopped some carrots, half a fennel bulb, some garlic and a large potato and put them all in a pan with some herbs and the sausage, brought it to the boil and simmered for 35 minutes.  I took the sausage out but continued cooking the vegetables for a little longer as they weren’t quite soft enough for soup.  If you were going to eat them as a vegetable they would have been fine with the same cooking time as the sausage.  Then I left it all overnight in the fridge, although it could have been eaten straight away.

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We decided to liquidise the soup and eat it with croutons as a first course – it was a lovely tasty soup, fennel flavoured, thick and smooth.  The sausage was cold, of course, so I sliced it, peeled it and we ate it with potatoes roasted in duck fat as our second course.

Lyonnais sausage

Lyonnais sausage with potatoes

While we were eating it we remembered that we’d had a similar Lyonnais sausage cooked in brioche as a first course at Le Train Bleu, the ornately decorated restaurant in the Gare de Lyon in Paris.  This restaurant was built in 1900, in elaborate art nouveau style, with painted ceilings by three different painters, ‘Paris’ by Flameng, ‘Lyon’ by Debufe and ‘Marseille’ by Saint-Pierre, representing the main cities served by the station from which ‘le train bleu’ travelled to the Mediterranean.  It’s a rather over-the-top style for me and Lo Jardinièr, and it’s hardly a station café, with the tasting menu costing 98 euros per person, but once, a few years ago when we were coming home from Paris, we did treat ourselves to the ‘quick’ menu which I think cost about 50 euros then.  It was a memorable experience!  But we enjoyed our Lyonnais sausage today, too, in rather more relaxed surroundings.

It’s worth having a look at the restaurant’s website – here – if you haven’t been there.

In the mood for stews

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Although it’s not cold here yet, now that we’re into December I’m beginning to feel like wintry food, the colours and flavours of the colder months.  It’s nice to come home with a vague idea of a recipe for the ingredients that await, to put them together and to find myself only an hour or so later eating just what I’d wanted.  This is what happened at lunchtime today.

I had half a kilo of sausage bought from the charcutier in the market on Wednesday that I fried in olive oil in a cast-iron casserole for ten minutes while I fried pieces of pumpkin separately to brown them.  I added a chopped onion to the sausage and let it soften for five minutes or so then added the pumpkin, a handful of black and green olives, some chopped garlic, a few peeled and chopped tomatoes (the last ones from the garden this season), a tablespoonful of capers, a couple of sprigs of oregano and a bay leaf, a big glassful of white wine, salt and pepper, and left it all to stew for 45 minutes.  Served with garlic mashed potatoes, it was just what I’d hoped for….and there are leftovers too!

>Sunday lunch in the garden on the shortest day of the year / Déjeuner au jardin au solstice d’hiver

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Today is the winter solstice with the sun at its lowest. And it was the warmest day we’ve had for weeks! At midday in the sun it was about 15 degrees C. A good day for lunch in the garden. A celebration!

Aujourd’hui c’est le solstice d’hiver avec le soleil le plus bas de l’année – et le meilleur temps du mois! A midi au soleil il a fait 15 degrées. Du bon temps pour déjeuner au jardin. Une fête!

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bamboo against a cloudless sky …..
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and beneath, next year’s tomato canes growing

But first we gave the lemon tree some light and some water.

Mais d’abord on a donné de la lumière et de l’eau au citronnier.

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And then the barbeque / et puis la grillade

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merguez (North African spicy lamb sausages) with onion skewers

we bought the merguez from the excellent butcher’s shop in nearby Roujan, run by Bernadette and Franck Perez, and while we were there we ordered some pigeons for lunch on Thursday.

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green salad from the garden: lettuce, spinach, rocket and oregano

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lunch in the sun and wine from nearby Domaine de Montesquieu

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Gavach cheese from Lacaune with green tomato jam ….
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and coffee, of course

Gavach is the Occitan word for ‘mountain-dweller’, which is why it’s the name given to this cheese which is made in the mountains around Lacaune.

Gavach est le mot occitan pour quelqu’un qui habite les montagnes, donc c’est le nom pour ce fromage fait dans les montagnes autour de Lacaune.

It’s good to know that from now on the days will get longer and the sun higher. The plants already sense it – the climbing rose has tiny new buds on it and the daffodils are coming up too.

C’est bon que les jours deviendront plus longs et le soleil montera plus haut pendant les semaines qui viennent. Les plantes déjà le devinent – la rose grimpante a des nouveaux petits bourgeons et les narcisses montent aussi.

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>Eating well … as usual

>We’ve had the family staying with us for the past week and we’ve eaten very well and had lots of help with the garden. We’ve had meals in the house and in the garden with our son and daughter, all four of us cooking together as we like to do, and meals out in restaurants.

Vine leaves again

It’s a bit late in the year to pick vine leaves for dolmas, so I’ll have to wait till next year to make more of those. But we’ve been experimenting with cooking with the leaves all the same. If they’re used to wrap food on the barbecue a slight toughness doesn’t matter as the leaves aren’t eaten, but just keep the flavour in and give extra taste of their own. We wrapped sardines in them again and then tried wrapping goats’ cheese:

Goats’ cheese in vine leaves

Small round goats’ cheeses – they are called pelardons here, but other names are used in other areas
2 or 4 vine leaves per cheese
oregano
savoury
salt and pepper
olive oil

Cut the cheeses in half or in quarters (depending on size of cheese and leaf). Brush some olive oil onto the leaves.
Place a piece of cheese on each leaf. Add some chopped herbs – I used oregano and savoury – and salt and pepper.

Wrap the cheese in the leaf, then secure with a cocktail stick or skewer.
Grill on a barbecue for a few minutes – just long enough for the cheese to melt.
The tastiest part of the cheese is nearest to the leaf.

One evening in the garden we barbecued encornets (small squid) – a couple of minutes on each side, then a squeeze of lemon and serve with salsa (La Jardiniera’s recipe):

Salsa

1 red chilli pepper
2 small long green sweet peppers
1 small red onion
2 large tomatoes
1 large clove of garlic
salt and pepper
olive oil


Chop all the ingredients and mix with salt and pepper and olive oil.

Sausage and rosemary

And there was our son’s recipe for grilled sausage and rosemary:

Form a long piece of sausage into a spiral and thread rosemary branches through it crossways.
Grill over charcoal. Simple and delicious.

Tomato and bread

Now that the tomatoes are ripening even more quickly than we can eat them, we can have my favourite breakfast, which we ate in Andalucian cafés, pan y tomate. We’ve also eaten this in Catalunya where it’s called pan amb tomaquet in Catalan:

Skin some ripe tomatoes and chop the flesh finely, discarding the juicy pips. Sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a sieve for 15 minutes (or longer if you have time).
Grill pieces of crusty bread (grilling isn’t essential – you can do this with untoasted bread).
Spread the bread with the tomato, add salt and olive oil.

In Catalunya we found that this chopped tomato spread is used instead of butter in sandwiches. Since we discovered it there, we always do this for sandwiches to take on journeys as it doesn’t melt in the heat like butter does.