The first lilas, the first irises, daisy chains made of ‘paquerettes’…
It’s 26 degrees, Spring is beautiful and I’ve just made my first ‘Jardiniere‘ of the season.
Look out for Mamy Jeanne’s recipe in the following post…
Hey, hey it’s time for some more sights from around our ‘hood!
Phew, I hope you got through that!
“1. a bundle or parcel. 2. that in which anything is packed, as a case, crate, etc. 5. to put into wrappings or a container.” – ‘Package, packaging’ from the Macquarie Dictionary, 2nd Edition, 1981
Do you remember when I let it slip that I have a thing for packaging? Mmn, yep, still have it and lately I feel like I’m being bombarded with even more wonderful examples of it, everywhere. At home, at the markets, at the vide-greniers (the village garage sales – something I must absolutely tell you about soon), at friends’ houses, in the guise of gifts from friends… everywhere.
Colours, texts, fonts, old, new, shabby or shiny… I can’t get enough of it – and if there’s a text or a word here or there in French, even better! It’s amazing how much you can improve your vocabulary just reading the fine print! (and probably a lot more educational than my dippings into, shock, horror – Voici).
At the moment I’m getting a buzz out of OLD packaging and the eg’s here are from either home (my mother-in-law is a great help here) – or from stands in the markets and vide-greniers. I understand why people start up businesses selling this stuff – there are crazy people out there, like me, who love it! But a lot of it can be quite expensive so I’m happy to admire it and ask permission to take a photo or two. Yes, I think I am mad!
So here’s a second instalment of boxes, tins, bottles I’ve seen here in France lately. I should add however, that not all these products are French. Some come from next door in Spain (thanks to Vincent who is aware of my condition) or further afar. But they seemed too lovely to leave out.
I hope you enjoy them!
One of the great things about living where we do, is the access to good produce. The Mediterranean climate allows for almost anything to be grown, and more and more I’m trying to buy locally from people I get to know at the local village markets.
The Olonzac market, one of the biggest in our area, is held every Tuesday morning until about 1pm. You can find almost anything: fruit, vegies, pastries, breads, meats, fish, flowers, fresh coffee, cheeses, olives, local honey, wine, ready-made asian dishes from the guy with his own personal dvd collection on loop in his van (Lilas’ favourite)… those hard to find ingredients for ‘exotic’ cuisine such as lemongrass, coriander and chilies and then there’s your zippers, hats, bras, oversized undies, slippers, kitchen utensils, Indian dresses, incense, second-hand books, army surplus clothing, jewellery… it’s endless.
This market is growing in size each year and in full Summer has traffic jams of people, carts and pushers down the bottleneck streets – you should try pushing a pusher through this mass…
There’s Pierre with his bread. You can spot him from a mile off, with his old van and black wool beret. He’s like a character from a film – and his organic bread is of the old, sourdough rustic style. He takes his time, nearly always a big smile on his face and an open pot of honey on his table to spread on his breakfast ‘pain’. And there’s always his thermos of hot coffee and tin mug ready for dipping. Pierre’s bread is the sort that you can keep for a week – not at all your light, airy baguette, but a full, wholesome loaf that is just divine toasted with butter and Vegemite.
Just up from Pierre is Laetitia, the young girl who a lot of the year has only her free-range eggs to sell. She has a tiny stand but always many people jostling around her. Throughout the year she sells apples, onions, potatoes, and in full summer has mountains of cheap tomatoes, nectarines, grapes, peaches and a queue leading back for miles. You have to be quick – her tomatoes can sell out by 9.30am.
Towards the roundabout on your left are the people selling THAT saucisson (salami)… ‘Mont Charvin’. The one that costs an arm and a leg, full of beautiful chunks of bright green pistachios. It’s a small investment buying even just one of their products, but once you’ve tasted the difference, you can’t buy supermarket salami again. In general I buy a lot less saucisson now, but boy do we enjoy the ’50 centimes slices’ when they’re around. By chance, I got to meet Jacques, the maker of this wonderful product the other day. I was thrilled to be able to tell him how much we loved his ‘salted meats’ and hear his story of how he and his brother-in-law, once butchers in Paris, settled down south and built a company from scratch offering a range of products made in the Savoie region of France, using no additives or preservatives.
But before I stop by the saucisson stand, I head quickly for Valerie’s before she runs out of vegetables…
(to be continued, part 2)
I’ve been flipping through a few of Lilas’ books lately and loving the illustrations of Alain Gree. If you’re into 60s and 70s artwork, you might like it. I’m crazy about him at the moment and can’t get enough of his books!
If you look hard enough at the local ‘vide-greniers’ (’empty the attics’ – literally the whole village holds one giant garage sale in the the village streets), you might be able to pick up an old dog-eared copy. Otherwise, they’re becoming quite collected on the net and you have to be quick to find a bargain.
I opened up to this page up yesterday, and it reminded me of last week’s trip to the market!
Can you see why?…
Here I am, sat at the computer, trusty old ugg boots on my cold feet (can’t knock the Aussie out of this girl – thanks Mum for retrieving them out of the bin in Oz) and a roaring fire in the potbelly to my left. Nearly all the vines in the area have now been pruned, the days still mostly crisp amd summer seems an eternity ago! It’s hard to imagine the abundant green leaves and plump fruits of the summer vines now that they’re bald and trimmed… BUT the days are longer and the blossom’s bright petals around the landscape signal Spring approaching. Before too long the leaves will be sprouting all over again! So now is the time to make the most of what’s left of the cold and enjoy some winter meals!
I have a trusty mother-in-law who provides me with ideas for new dishes (is she worried her only son won’t be eating well enough?!), and the first time I cooked this was last Autumn (ahh, the beautiful Minervois Autumn! – for a glimpse, see below).
This recipe is perfect for the Autumn/ Winter chill! It’s a braised cabbage dish, that you leave simmering slowly on the stove for a few hours. I bought the baby cabbages at our local Tuesday market from Valerie, an organic producer whose beautiful garden we visited a few months ago. It’s a luxury having access to such amazing produce. Her stall is one of my regular stops on Tuesday market day as her produce is so fresh and delicious – and after seeing her garden I’m in awe of how much hard work goes into filling her baskets of food each week. And no matter how frosty the market mornings get at this time of year, Valerie always has a huge smile and happy to share recipes. Merci Valerie! p.s. her home-made jams are worth trying too – especially the Muscat Jelly which is an incredibly good partner to aged ‘fromage de brebis’ (ewe’s milk cheese)
Here’s how I make the VERY SIMPLE braised cabbage:
+ Cut cabbage up into quarters (or halves if small) and steam for about 15 mins. Remove. ( this step is quite important if you suffer unwanted gaseous situations!)
+ In a heavy frypan or cast iron cooking pot, fry a couple of thinly sliced onions until golden in sunflower oil.
+ Add about 250g of chunky ‘lardons’ pieces (bacon) and fry together until browned.
+ Place cabbage pieces on top and cover with lid and cook on very low heat for about 2 hours.
Serve this on its own for a simple lunch dish, or with pan-fried crumbed veal. If you want something lighter than cabbage, use ‘endives’ instead. I think we call these ‘witlof’ in Australia? No need to parboil!
Whether you’re eating this on its own or with an accompanying meat, this tastes delightful when paired with a crisp, dry white. We often serve this with Benjamin’s Picpoul de Pinet 2009… which we actually enjoyed with friends last night!