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Roti de Porc au Lait (Roast Milk Pork)

1 Feb
delicious 'Porc au Lait'

delicious ‘Porc au Lait’

I was on the phone to Mum and Dad last week and mentioned that I’d just cooked up some Milk Pork – ‘Porc au Lait’ – for the next day’s dinner.  It’s funny, these conversations about food are always totally out of whack with our time zones.  It was 11pm my time and 8.30am the following morning, their time.  Normally it’s me cleaning up the breakfast dishes as Dad explains with excitement what he’s got on the stove for dinner.

I’ve never served them Porc au Lait but I know they’d love it.  It ticks all our family’s favourite food boxes:  MEAT, lots of sauce, herbs, garlic and the required ‘three veg’ – and it is easy to prepare.  It’s one of those old-fashioned French dishes that is simply delicious comfort food.  My husband and mother-in-law showed me how to cook this years ago and I can’t count how many times I’ve prepared it since.  We had the poker men for dinner + a few UK visitors and it went down a treat with the new ‘Boulevard Napoleon‘ wines – white and red.

the empties:  the Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris white and a few reds...

the empties: the Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris white and a few reds…

had to show you these beautifully coloured carrots - they actually gave the milk sauce an almost mauve tint by the end

had to show you these beautifully coloured carrots – they actually gave the milk sauce an almost mauve tint by the end

After the meat has been cooking for awhile in the milk, drop the vegies and parsley in

After the meat has been cooking for awhile in the milk, drop the vegies and parsley in

amples of milk sauce...

amples of milk sauce… serve with this tender juicy meat.  The butcher told me the pork roll was 'parsleyed' ('persille') - I thought he meant stuffed with parsley, but he laughed and corrected me - no, it is the lines of fat running through the piece , 'marbled' as we might say.  Even the Vigneron hadn't heard of this!

…to serve with this incredibly juicy meat. The butcher told me the pork roll was ‘parsleyed’ (‘persille’) – I thought he meant stuffed with parsley, but he laughed and corrected me – it actually refers the lines of fat running through the piece , ‘marbled’ as we might say. Even the Vigneron hadn’t heard of this term, so I was proud to bestow some francais on him.



Roti de Porc au Lait

serves 6-8


1.5kg roll of roasting pork – preferably of shoulder (fillet is drier and less fat, don’t want that)

1 litre full cream milk

2 large onions, sliced

6 carrots, cut into in large chunks

8 potatoes, as above

8 small turnips, as above

4-5 cloves of garlic

2 sprigs fresh thyme

bunch fresh sage (about 10-12 leaves)

2 sprigs rosemary

oil, butter

salt, pepper


Fry up the onions in heavy cast iron pot with a big chunk of butter (30-40g) and a little olive oil, until golden.

Add the roll of pork and brown on each side over medium -high heat.

When the meat is almost all browned, add the garlic and salt, pepper to taste.  I find garlic burns very easily, so I add it near the end of the browning.

Pour over the milk (meat should be 3/4 covered, if not add more ) and add the herbs.

Cover with lid and let simmer for an hour.

Add the carrots and turnips and keep simmering for another hour.

Add potatoes and keep simmering until they are tender.

Serve with lashings of dijon mustard on the side and a big white or red wine!

N.B.  If this is prepared the night before eating, I don’t add any of the vegetables until the next day.

And.  I cook this for a few hours, the longer the better.  I like it when the meat falls apart.  A lot of recipes cook it for less though, and you keep the form of the pork roll and then slice it.  As the French would say, ‘as you want’…


8 Nov
Autumn in La Liviniere

Autumn colour in La Liviniere

It’s here!?!!

I must admit I often feel flat at this time of year, well for the first few weeks anyway – no more bare legs and t-shirts, no more swimming outdoors, cold dashes out of the shower…  But finally I somehow get into the swing of it and embrace the warm fires inside, the hearty meals and walks in the brisk air.  And after so many years of braving the cold INDOORS when I rented in Australia, I am loving and embracing the central heating everywhere.

Autumn in the Minervois

orange plane trees

I must admit I took this shot a while back, but I still love it

Autumn plane trees

Plane trees along the Canal du Midi

Yes, Autumn has arrived but thankfully with all its magical colour.  It’s making me think ORANGE!

kids marvelling at the famous 'Baked Bean'  parked on a village street...the lady owner steps in, la proprietaire de la voiture,  ...Rrrowrrrr

kids marvelling at the famous ‘Baked Bean’ parked on a village street
…the lady owner steps in, la proprietaire de la voiture, …Rrrowrrrr!

I’m loving this colour right now and thought I’d put together a few of my favourite ‘orange’ pictures…  And f you’ve wandered around this blog already, you might have picked up on the fact that I do have a little thing for collages.  I’m pathetic, once I like something, I can’t stop! (my lovely girlfriends had diagnosed me at the age of 14 with O.C.D).

So hulahup, Barbatruc, here’s another one for you.

Orange collage

Or-ange Co-llage

Gratin d’Endives au Jambon

29 Oct

Witlof, Chicory, Endive… also known as the ‘Pearl of the North’ in France

‘Witlof’, ‘Chicory’, ‘Chicon’, ‘Endive’, ‘Belgian Endive’… I’m never quite sure what to call this vegetable.  Each country seems to have a different name for it.  In Australia for example, we call it ‘witlof’?  Here in France it is called ‘endive’ and would you believe it has been grown commercially since only the 1930’s.

Whatever the name for it, since moving to France I have developed a huge liking for this interesting vegetable from the Chicory family.  Thanks to Benji and his mum, I was introduced to a beautiful new ingredient and a few recipes that are now  family favourites. Even our six-year-old loves eating them.

Endives are so verstile – they make a great salad when served raw with vinaigrette drizzled over it or, the particular family favourite, when braised with white wine and lardons and parsley, over a gentle heat for a few hours (the longer the better, you want them to caramelise!).  You can serve this dish on its own or it makes a great side dish to lamb chops, veal or pork.

During the first few weeks of us living back in Australia in 2004, I decided to prepare the family favourite for our  friends who we were lodging with.  I was so excited to share this newly-loved vegetable of mine.  After quite a search, I finally found them in a fruit and veg shop in North Fitzroy.  I filled the bag, enough for four people and when I went to pay I nearly fell over.  They were so expensive!  I concealed my shock and quietly paid the money, vowing never again to buy this vegie in this suburb again.  I at last appreciated why Claude (my Frenchie – amazing cook – friend who was living in Western Australia with his NZ wife), when he had yearnings for a good old endive dish, would only use three or four of them in a gratin.  Braising them en masse was a complete luxury.  Anyway – big sigh of relief – the dish worked out pretty well that evening, but not to be repeated for quite some time!

Here in France however, they are cheap and we eat them regularly, especially around October.  A few years ago, I had to prepare a lunch at the last minute for some friends of friends travelling through the area.  I added pan-fried chicken thigh fillets and julienned carrots to a pot of left-over braised endives and the result was really delicious.   One of our lunch guests, the owner of a well-known bakery in Melbourne (yeah, not much pressure), was keen to get the recipe.   High five!  I was tres contente.  I’ve been adding the chicken and the carrots for many a meal since.

But much to my husband’s relief (I’m someone that could eat the same dish 4 times in the one week if I like it), I’ve branched out and tried a new recipe  – the traditional ‘Gratin d’Endives au Jambon’ (Endives and Ham Gratin).  Once again, as is usual for all the recipes I prepare, this is pretty simple and easy to make.  It is a particularly good dish for the Autumn-Winter months and with today’s maximum temperature reaching six degrees celsius, I think I should get to it and make some.

Here’s the recipe for you…  (I should tell Claude I’ve finally made it)

Gratin d’Endives au Jambon (serves 6)

Gratin d'Endives

Gratin d’Endives


(note:  my quantities are always on the generous side – I prefer to have left-overs than not enough!)

8-10 endives (depending on size)

8 slices ham

60g butter

60g plain flour

200g Swiss Gruyere, grated (the AOC Gruyere ‘Alpage’ or ‘Reserve’ are incredible! – and even available in Australia)

1 litre full cream milk

salt, pepper

olive oil


Trim stems off endives, pull off any discoloured leaves, then cut in half (I do this to help with cooking them through and browning)

Fry the endives in a pan over a low-medium heat with a little olive oil.  As they begin to brown (or burn!), you can pour in a small amount of white wine to keep the pan moist.  Fry until golden/dark golden and moisture has evaporated

(NB: some like to steam or boil the endives to part cook them but I prefer to fry them as I find there is too much liquid in the baking dish later when serving)

+ Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (about 7 or 8 on my gas oven) +

endive 1

Fry the endives until golden

While the endives are cooking, prepare the cheese sauce (I like to grate the cheese before beginning the sauce so that your hands are free to keep stirring – and ready to be added when needed)

endives 2

While the endives are cooking, prepare the cheese sauce

Melt butter in large saucepan

Heat milk in a different saucepan (it helps reduce overall cooking time if the milk is warm)

Stir in flour with a wooden spoon and cook for a few minutes over a gentle heat, stirring continuously.

Once it becomes a golden paste, pour in heated milk gradually, stirring continuously

(NB: How much milk you add depends on how thick or thin you like your sauce – my husband likes it thin and runny but I like it thickish and runny – so you may want to use less or more than the 1 litre.  Just remember it will thicken over the heat eventually!)

add salt, pepper to taste

Once it comes to the boil, add the cheese and stir until melted.

Remove from heat.

Oil a large gratin/ baking dish

Gather your endive halves, wrapping two halves inside each slice of ham (as though it’s a whole endive)

Place them in the baking dish and pour cheese sauce over the top – add a little extra grated Gruyere if desired

endives 3

Place the wrapped endives in an oiled gratin/baking dish.
(there’s 10 and not 8 in this one)

endive 4

Pour the cheese sauce over the endives and sprinkle with grated Gruyere

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden

et Voila!

endive 6

Ready to serve

Simple Country Lentils*

28 Sep

(* this dish is a version of the one listed in the fabulous “French Farmhouse Cookbook” by Susan Herrmann Loomis)

a simple lentil dish

a very simple lentil dish – minus the sausages

Nothing like keeping the monsieur happy – and at this time more than any other. Harvest time means good, honest, country cooking and this very simple (the best kind!) lentil dish is a winner in our house.  It’s easy and so versatile – it’s great on its own or delicious paired with country sausages, pork chops, lamb chops, whatever you feel like.  They say that dried pulses were a staple in many homes during the harsh Winter months, a time when people also consumed more preserved, salted meats (no wonder I feel like large slabs of juicy ‘petit sale’ with my lentils).

porc demi-sel

pork for your fork
(‘petit sale’ or ‘porc demi-sel’)

And it’s another one of those dishes that tastes better and better each day it gets older!

I first tried this dish here in France at Benji’s parents’ house.  A large cast-iron pot was plonked in the middle of the table and we helped ourselves to this comfort-food’ – the country sausages (mmn, like a bit of country saucisse, but not these!!) swimming in a dark brown-green mass of  steaming lentils, with dollops of Dijon mustard, soaking it all up with crusty bread and wine.

I’m wondering if it was the first time I’d had ‘Puy’ lentils?  These are a dark green/grey coloured lentil commonly found in ‘Le Puy’, in the Auvergne area of France.  Grown in volcanic soil, they are very small and lovely to cook with as they retain their form.  Until that time, all the lentil dishes I’d tried were mostly Indian influenced, eg dhal, using red or brown lentils.  Come to think of it, I used to eat a lot more ‘Asian’-influenced dishes in Australia.  Coriander, soy sauce, chillies and limes were far more common sights in the kitchen than wild thyme, bay leaves and olive oil.  Who would have thought…

Simple Country Lentils


500g green Puy lentils (this will serve about 6 people)

2 onions, diced

4 carrots, chopped

250g salted pork, cut into chunks (optional)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme

bay leaf

country sausages/ frankfurters (1-2 per person) – (optional)

parsley  and mustard for serving

pepper to taste (if you are using the salted pork you will not need to add any salt)


Fry your onion until golden in a generous amount of olive oil, in a heavy casserole pot

+ During this time, boil a full kettle of water for pouring over the lentils later – the hot water greatly reduces the cooking time +

Add the roughly cut chunks of salted pork and fry for a few minutes, stirring frequently

Add the carrots and the garlic, give a good stir

Now add the lentils, stir well

lentils 1

add the lentils and stir

Pour boiling water to cover well.

N.B. During the cooking, you will find that the lentils soak up a lot of water, you may need to add a second pot of boiling water over the mixture if you have no liquid left.  I know, it may look like you are drowning the lentils with water, but believe me it does dry up!

lentils 2

pour boiling water over the lentils etc and then cover

Add herbs and pepper to taste.  

N.B. You do not need to add salt if using the salted pork (I’ve made that mistake!) – but if you’re not using meat DO NOT salt at this point.  – adding salt to lentils during cooking may toughen them up.  Add it after the cooking.

Cover with lid and let simmer for one hour (if you have too much liquid, leave the lid slightly ajar) – or until lentils are tender.

Voila! – and enjoy with a light red or a dry white…

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

1 Jun
it's almost gone!

oops, missed the photo opportunity this time round – it is THAT good!

I want to share a little recipe with you.  It’s asparagus season here and every year we eat tonnes of it and the way we’ve normally prepared it, is steamed until al dente and served on a platter with boiled egg scattered over the top and then washed over with a mustard vinaigrette (essentially an oil-based sauce with vinegar – to which you can add lemon juice, salt, pepper, mustard etc,  whatever you feel like!).

asparagus olonzac market

asparagus at the Olonzac market

another asparagus grower at the Olonzac market

…more asparagus at the Olonzac market

asparagus carcassonne market

asparagus at the Carcassonne market

We’ve been eating it for years and I’ve never considered preparing it any other way, I like it so much!  That is, until I ate Philippa’s oven-baked asparagus.

Philippa and her partner John have a winery here in the Minervois – Hegarty Chamans – where they make a great range of organic and biodynamic whites (I love their Marsanne Roussanne!) and reds.  Their philosophy of how they make their wines follows into the kitchen.  Philippa is an amazing cook and meals there are a real treat.  It’s like a celebration of fresh produce (often from their ‘potager’/ vegie patch), colours and aromas.   There’s no messing around, just simple, pure flavours blended beautifully together.  And it all feels so healthy! (if I leave my wine consumption out of the equation).    This dish in particular is a beauty.  Thanks Philippa, I’ve been hooked ever since you served this entree of asparagus!

oven-baked asparagus

Oven-Baked Asparagus

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

(Yum!  and great served as an entree…)


2-3 bunches green asparagus

olive oil

a good cup full of grated Swiss Gruyere (my favourite cheese EVER) or Parmesan

3-4 dried chopped dried chillies (or 1 or 2 fresh – very hard to find around these parts!)

salt and pepper


chop the ends off the asparagus spears (I never really peel the ends), then rinse and pat dry in a teatowel

pour olive oil into bottom of a good heavy baking dish and swirl to spead the oil

place the spears, then top with the cheese, then the chillies, drizzle more oil and then add salt, pepper to taste

bake in moderate to hot oven (in my old gas oven I cook them on ‘7’) for 30 mins ( or for however long you want, depending on how much crunch you want to leave in the spears)

et voila!  so simple and so delicious!

…and a note on the wine!  Asparagus is a difficult thing to match with wine.  But if you really can’t resist, go ahead and eat them with a dry but fruity white

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