New Orleans in Languedoc

I’ve been quite busy the past few days helping with organising a dinner and jazz concert put on by the Cercle Occitan in our village.  With very little knowledge of New Orleans among members of the group we created our version of a suitable dinner for almost 100 people.  Lo Jardinièr and I made the first course: accras (salt cod fritters) with sauce made from mayonnaise, paprika, capers, chopped olives and parsley, served with red bean, green pepper and sweet corn salad.  Marie-Jo and a huge number of helpers made colombo, chicken in spicy tomato sauce with rice.  I’m sure some of my readers here will know a lot more about this cuisine than I do and may find the menu inauthentic, but everyone enjoyed the food and the music, by Ray the only one of us who has been to New Orleans, was even better.

The food Lo Jardinièr and I prepared was simple but the quantities meant that we seemed to be chopping and frying most of the day.

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Ready to serve!

After a few days away…..

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Some of the tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, and a courgette, that we found in the garden this morning, and a few more peppers:

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These are mostly Kandil dolma peppers that I’ve now stuffed with rice, onion, garlic, mint, cinnamon and paprika and cooked in diluted tomato purée until the rice was cooked.  We’ll eat them cold with a squeeze of lemon over the next few days.

The tomatoes, courgette and a couple of the aubergines became the main delights in our supper tonight, with some Manchego cheese and some jamón de Serrano we bought at the border yesterday.

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The results

Some of the tomatoes from yesterday’s kitchen table –

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Those 23 Long Andes tomatoes were roasted and reduced and mouli-ed into these four small jars of purée that tasted wonderful.  In the background are jars of ananas and Languedocian tomato purées.

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And an aubergine and red and yellow cherry tomato tart, just as it came out of the oven.

We’ve got family arriving this afternoon so I won’t have much time over the next week or so, but I’ll try to post some photos of the food, something we’re all interesting in – cooking it and eating it – in our family!

The kitchen table this morning

After yesterday evening’s harvesting in the garden:

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The tomatoes in the foreground are the Andes Long variety – they are fleshy with very few seeds.   I’m going to roast these, halved and salted, in the oven and then put them through a mouli legumes to make tomato purée, reducing it by simmering in a pan before bottling it.  I don’t make it as concentrated as the purée that comes in tins or jars, but the roasting does give it a nice rich flavour.  The other fruits of the garden are: red Spanish peppers, a couple of piments d’Espelette, a couple of the yellow chorizo peppers, mixed yellow and red cherry tomatoes, several assorted other varieties of tomato and, out of shot in the blue crate, some aubergines.  Lo Jardinièr is going to make an aubergine tart with some of them, slicing them and frying them in olive oil, arranging them in a pastry case, covering them with a layer of halved cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper and chopped garlic, and baking it in a hot oven.

Aubergine and pepper salad

When we had a good vine wood fire burning on the barbecue to cook our supper in the garden the evening before last I took the chance to grill some aubergine slices and some whole peppers for later.  You can grill them indoors, but the vine wood gives them an extra smoky flavour.  Next morning I skinned the peppers (easy to do once the skins were slightly burnt by the fire), cut them and the aubergine slices into narrow strips, added some chopped garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and left them to marinate in the fridge for the day.

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In the evening I arranged them on plates with some slices of tomato, pieces of feta cheese (or goats’ cheese would work well too), green olives, a few basil leaves and a little more olive oil and garlic.  With some crusty bread from the nearby  boulangerie and a glass of rosé from the Domaine des Pascales in the village, these salads made a tasty supper at the end of a very hot day.

One, two, three, and why are our chorizo peppers yellow?

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From left to right: ananas (pineapple) tomato, 450 grams; St Pierre tomato, 147 grams; cherry tomato, 10 grams.  All tasty in their different sizes and ways.  The ananas make lovely sweet salads, the cherry tomatoes are nice to nibble with (or without) apéritifs and the St Pierre are good for sauces.

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This is what our red chorizo peppers look like as they ripen…..

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and this is what the peppers on the plant next to them look like.  And we thought they were the same variety.  There must have been some crossing last summer to create a new variety in the seeds we saved!

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It doesn’t matter because these four tasted wonderful when we grilled them on the barbecue yesterday evening.

Red and pink

The first of our piments d’Espelette (Basque paprika peppers) have turned red and were ready to harvest, these in the garden yesterday evening:

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and a few more from plants on the balconies, to make a string of them:

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They’ll dry in the shade or indoors (too much strong sun at this time of year burns them) and they’ll keep for the winter when I’ll grind them into a powder to use as paprika or just chop them into small pieces to added to soups and stews.  They’re spicy and slightly piquant but not hot, so I use them a lot as I don’t like hot chilli peppers.

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These Turkish pink tomatoes, grown from seed sent to me by Beste, are reputed to bear fruit weighing up to a kilo.  Our biggest so far has weighed 520 grams, and the biggest of these I picked yesterday evening was 450 grams.  Two of them are now in the oven, as I write, sliced into my version of Chica Andaluza’s almost tarte tatin – my version because I didn’t have any of her delicious cream cheese, so I just added herbs, garlic and beaten egg to the tomatoes.  I hope you don’t mind, Chica!

Vegetable paella

My first post for nearly a week because our daughter has been staying with us and we’ve been too busy having fun.  She eats fish but not meat and yesterday, since we needed a quiet day after a couple of long days and late nights out, we made paella in the garden using the vegetables that are growing there now.  Paella always tastes best, I think, when it’s made outdoors on a wood or charcoal fire and this is what we try to do, weather permitting, throughout the year.  As an omnivore, I also think it tastes best with meat (chicken, pork, rabbit) in it, but in this one the aubergine really did give it a ‘meaty’ flavour and it was very good.

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We picked these vegetables, including one of our first red peppers and a couple that were supposed to be red but seem to have turned out to be orange, and a courgette that had grown rather large but was still tender and a sweet onion that isn’t in this picture.  Straight from the plants and into the pan:

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We sautéed the vegetables in olive oil, the red and orange peppers in strips and the others in chunks, put the pepper strips to one side for later, added chopped garlic, a cheating paella spice mix that includes saffron and paprika, some sprigs of rosemary, rice, the juice of a lemon, a glass of white wine, salt and water, and simmered until the rice was cooked.  Then we added some mussels that we’d cooked earlier and the strips of pepper, covered the pan and left it to rest for 10 minutes or so.  And then it was ready to eat at a table in the shade.

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We’ve picked the first few Turkish pink tomatoes, grown from seed sent to me by beste.  They tasted lovely in a simple salad with salt, garlic and olive oil.  I think you can see the difference in colour between them (the two on the right) and the red Languedocian tomatoes here – to the eye they were much more obviously pink than they look here.

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Aubergines again

I think I’ll have to rename this blog ‘Olives and aubergines’ as we have so many this year.  It’s because we’ve put too many plants into the garden, but I’m not complaining as I love aubergines and it’s nice to have plenty to give away to friends who’ve given us vegetables.  Today we picked another 10, but we’ve given most of them away.  I was glad of a chance to make one of my favourite aubergine dishes that I discovered in Murcia in southern Spain.  We went to a restaurant and ordered a selection of tapas, one of which was called morcilla de verano (summer morcilla).  I was expecting it to be a meat dish and, when all the dishes had arrived, was surprised not to see any morcilla (blood sausage), but then realised that the aubergine dish was made with pine nuts, like morcilla, and it must be made when the weather is too hot to risk hanging blood sausage to dry.  It was a surprise, but a delicious surprise.  This is my version:

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I used 4 small aubergines, a large sweet onion, 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped, a bunch of fresh mint, chopped, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of paprika, 2 tablespoons of raisins, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, salt and plenty of olive oil.  Chop the aubergines and onion roughly into small chunks and put in a large pan with a lot of olive oil – aubergines soak up oil, so you just have to see how much it needs to keep the vegetables from getting dry in the pan.

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Once the aubergine and onion pieces are cooking and softening in the oil, add the other ingredients and continue to simmer in the oil for about three-quarters of an hour.  They should almost be melting into each other.

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Allow to cool, and serve – as for so many delicious dishes – with crusty rustic bread, and with other tapas or salad dishes.

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I often use oregano instead of mint in this dish, but today I had plenty of mint but had forgotten to pick oregano – both are good.

And, just for a change from aubergines…..

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This evening I made carpaccio  de tomates – slicing a large coeur de boeuf tomato very thinly, sprinkling chopped garlic, basil leaves, salt and pepper over the slices and then adding olive oil.