Definitely the beginning of autumn

The rosemary is flowering again after a dormant dry summer:

The olives are ripening and I’ll be harvesting these soon:

And gradually the vine leaves are beginning to turn their different shades of autumn. This is the Alicante Bouschet variety that has red-fleshed as well as red-skinned grapes and is used to give a deep colour to red wines.

I swam in warm sea at Marseillan-plage a few days ago but I don’t think I will again as the nights are getting cooler and the sea will get chillier from now on.

Sunlight at last

After some very gloomy days and a lot of rain it was cheering to see the sun this morning.  Everything in the garden looked bright and green in the light.  I picked herbs – rocket, parsley, oregano, sorrel – to have with bread and ham bought in the village while Lo Jardinièr planted out some of the last cucumber and courgette plants.

herbs and oil


We even had to sit in the shade to eat!  There’s still a very strong wind, the tarral in Occitan because it blows over the land, and we found that some more apricots had fallen on the ground.  There are still a lot left on the tree, luckily.  And we can use the fallen, unripe ones.  We cook them with sugar in a little water and we use them instead of dried fruit in pilafs and other rice dishes.

windfall apricots

The light seemed such a treat, shining on the apple tree and through the rosemary, casting the shadow of one vine leaf on another:


vine leaves 1

The wind brought bad news for a friend with a garden just down the hill from ours, though.  His plum tree was blown right over.  It was otherwise undamaged, so Lo Jardinièr and some other friends are going to see if they can help him right it tomorrow morning.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

>Red vine leaves


Although the sun wasn’t shining today and the sky was grey, the leaves in this vineyard near Chateau de Cassan on our way to Roujan were a wonderful deep, purplish-red colour which looked beautiful against the olive trees. I think these vines are Grenache (Garnacha in Spanish, Garnatxa in Catalan).

DSC00053 In the photos above, between the rows of vines, you can see the white flowers of the false rocket which is sown in the vineyards and then ploughed in as a green manure. It self-seeds everywhere, including in our garden, and you can eat it. It tastes just like rocket but with a slightly coarser leaf.

>Autumn in the vineyards and in the garden



The vine leaves are just beginning to turn to autumn colours.  Whereas in summer all varieties of vine have the same colour green leaves, in autumn we begin to see the patches of different varieties, some which turn yellow, some brown, some red.  It’s the most beautiful time of year here.

And in the garden …

DSC09806 DSC09813

The olives are ripening and we’ll be picking them in a few days’ time.  The ones on the left above are Lucques, which seem to ripen later than other varieties.  The ones on the right are a different variety, but I’m not sure which one.  It’s a tree we bought in the first excitement of having the garden and we just wanted an olive tree, not worrying too much about what kind it was.



I’ve harvested some of the dried lavender flowers which I’ll use to make lavender bags to put in the linen cupboard.



DSC09826 DSC09825

The lettuces we planted last week seem to have settled in well and there are still a few small aubergines growing.


DSC09800 DSC09801

We’ve planted out some of the tiny spinach seedlings which weren’t growing very fast on the balcony, and we’re protecting them for a few days with some plastic covers our neighbour gave us.




The nights are getting colder – down to 8 degrees C – but it was still very warm in the sun for our lunch in the garden.



DSC09823 DSC09828

Lo Jardinièr cleared the cucumber and melon plants, so we have a space next to the artichokes which is ready to cover with goat manure in the winter.  We’ll probably plant tomatoes here next year.  And, once again, this time this may really be the last butterfly of the season.  Although, with temperatures in the 20s, the bees were still busy on the rosemary flowers today.

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


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.


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.

DSC08074 DSC08098

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.


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.


DSC08100 DSC08110

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!

>Beans and more beans and rain / Les haricots et encore d’haricots et la pluie


It’s lucky that we finished planting out our tomatoes, peppers and aubergines at the beginning of this week.  Since then we have had unusually cold wet weather and haven’t been able to do much work in the garden.  We have been able to pick broad beans and peas, though.  More than we can possibly eat.  We’ve given them away, frozen them and eaten them every day.

Heureusement nous avons planté les tomates, les poivrons et les aubergines au commencement de cette semaine.  Depuis lundi il a fait froid et il a plu.  Nous n’avons pas pu jardiner.  Mais nous avons ramassé les fèves et les pois.  Plus qu’on peut manger.  Nous les avons donnés à nos amis, nous les avons congelés, et nous les avons mangés tous les jours.

broad bean crop_1_1

The broad beans have done really well this year.  Yesterday we picked nearly 4 kilos.  We’ve cooked them with artichokes (a favourite recipe of mine), we’ve cooked them and eaten them with olive oil and garlic, we’ve frozen some and we’re making a salad of beans, potatoes (from the garden), sweet onions and parsley to take on a picnic in a vineyard with our Occitan group tomorrow.

Hier on a ramassé presque 4 kilos de fèves.  Ils ont poussé très bien cette année.  Nous les avons cuits avec les artichauts, nous les avons mangés à l’ail et à l’huile d’olive, et on fera une salade des fèves, des pommes de terre (du jardin), de l’oignon doux et du persil pour une picque-nicque dans les vignes avec le Cercle occitan demain.



Yesterday it rained … and rained.

Hier il a plu … et il a plu.




Today it was good to go to the garden in the sun and find that the irises were still in flower, the vines are about to flower, the palm tree has a new leaf.

Aujourd’hui c’était bien aller au jardin au soleil pour trouver que les iris fleurissent toujours, les vignes sont sour la pointe de fleurir, le palmier a une nouvelle feuille.

purple irises_1_1 vine flowers_1_1 palm leaf_1_1

Some of our apricots have fallen in the wind and rain before they are ripe, but I’ve cooked them with sugar and put them in a pilaf.  They tasted wonderful, although not as good as fresh ripe apricots.

Quelques abricots sont tombés dans le vent et la pluie avant de mûrir.  Je les ai cuits au sucre et je les ai mis dans un pilaf.  Ils ont un gout très bon, mais ils ne sont pas si bon que les abricots mûrs et frais.

We picked wild vine leaves near the garden and I’ve made dolmas (stuffed vine leaves) for the picnic tomorrow.  The recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.  / J’ai fait les dolmas (les feuilles de vignes farcies) pour le picque-nicque demain.  La recette et sur le blog Mediterranean cuisine.

dolmas heading_1

And mussels again … / et les moules encore

stuffed mussels_1_1

There was some rice left over when I’d made the dolmas so we used it to stuff mussels which we ate with tomato sauce.

Il y a resté du riz après que j’ai fait les dolmas.  Donc, j’ai fait des moules farcies qu’on a mangé à la sauce tomate.

thyme   butterflies_1_1 thyme   small butterfly_1 These butterflies – up to about 10 at a time – were attracted to the thyme flowers.

>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
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):


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.

>More vine leaves … and aubergines at last!

>Today was market day and the fish stall had some lovely sardines. Following an idea I’d had from a Turkish cooking website – here – we wrapped them in vine leaves, after cleaning and gutting them.

Lo Jardinèr grilled them on the barbecue he’s constructed this week:

There was a wonderful ‘viney’ smokey smell when they were cooking and once they were done they had the taste of vines as well as the flavour of sardines. One of the best and simplest ways of cooking them, I think. The leaves get burnt, so you don’t eat them, but when you open the parcel the skin of the fish comes off leaving the delicious fish inside.

We’ve had lots of flowers on our aubergine plants

. . . . . . .

and now we’ve got aubergines at last!

>Food from weeds


Thanks to citygardeners recent post Ive realised that the plants which grow as weeds all over our garden are purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and are edible.

Richard Mabey in Food for Free and Roger Phillips in Wild Food mention sea purslane. The variety which grows in our garden must be related to this, but it doesnt need damp conditions. In fact, it grows everywhere, whether on parts of the plot that we water or on dry paths and uncultivated areas.

I made a salad of the leaves, salt and pepper, lime juice, olive oil and some pieces of roquefort. The purslane leaves dont have a lot of flavour, but provide a nice crunchy texture with the tangy cheese.

Roquefort and purslane salad

Vine leaves

Ive always loved dolmas (stuffed vine leaves) ever since I lived in Turkey, and Ive made them with packets or jars of vine leaves. Here, where were surrounded by vines, it seems ridiculous to buy the leaves, so I decided to try making dolmas with fresh leaves. I used wild ones which grow near the garden and picked the younger, fresher-looking ones.


(quantities depend on how many leaves you have and how big they are)

vine leaves


olive oil

salt and pepper

1 onion

pine kernels

raisins or currants

juniper berries (I used these because I like the flavour, but you can season the dolmas with parsley, dill, cumin, paprika or a mix of these spices and herbs)

Put the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes. Some recipes say you should cut the stem off first, but I find that leaving the stem on makes it easier to handle them once theyre cooked and tend to stick together.

Heat a cupful of rice in olive oil in a pan then cover the rice with water and add salt, bring the water to the boil and let it simmer for a couple of minutes then turn the heat off. The rice shouldnt be completely cooked as it will cook in the vine leaves.

In another pan sauté the chopped onion in olive oil, trying not let it brown, then add a tablespoonful of pine kernels and one of raisins and about a dozen chopped juniper berries. Mix these with the rice.

Cut the stems off the leaves, and remove the central vein if it seems tough. Put a spoonful of the rice mixture in the centre of each leaf and roll them up into parcels. Arrange them tightly in a pan, put a saucer or plate over them to keep them in place, and add enough water to cover them. Add some lemon juice and some white wine, too, if you like.

Simmer them gently for about 50 minutes and leave to cool. Remove carefully from the pan, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve as a meze or one of a selection of hors doeuvres.

It’s quite difficult to make the parcels – these were the four tidiest ones I made!

You can also make them with minced lamb – just add the lamb to the rice mixture. If you have any of the rice mixture left over it can be used to stuff peppers or tomatoes.