Panier of Plenty

Off to a flying start

It is snowing at altitude as the mimosa trees bloom – brilliant yellow. The Tramontane is gusting; glacial rafales trying to shake loose the laundry. One of the things newcomers learn quickly here is ‘to be generous with pegs’.

More used to being outdoors, ‘sheltering’ means finding a project, so I have started organising recipe files: clippings from Australian Gourmet Traveller and Elle magazines, as well as passed-along savoury and sweet favourites from friends, and French classics or regional specialities.

I have found that many Australian recipes are superfluous in this part of France – ingredients are simply not available. I am reassessing the essentials and creating a produce-driven folder: goat’s cheese, pork, duck and rabbit have naturally taken on a higher priority, as have wild mushrooms and chestnuts. Yet the most important dishes here are the ones that can be prepared at short notice and feed many – often invited to share with large groups, I need a repertoire of inexpensive buffet food. It is not common to be invited to ‘dinner parties’ here, rather, the communal ‘apéro’, that demands finger food to share with drinks; a light snack that turns into dinner. Local traditions and Mediterranean ingredients set the scene – simple, in season (often in abundance!) – fresh produce is the hero and treated with due reverence. Quiches, savoury cakes, tarts and charcuterie always feature among the selection.

Currently in abundance, at market: leeks, celery, céleri-rave, artichokes, black radishes, fennel, pumpkin and butternut, potatoes onions and échalotes, beetroot, clementines, pears, apples, lemons and oranges.

On special: duck confit and Charolais beef.

Farm produce: one of the advantages to working at a farm is access to other producers. We can order prime cuts of beef, veal and pork, and sacks of organic potatoes.

No longer on the shopping list: lamb (after living in the Antipodes, I find it impossible to accept to tiny expensive cuts here, although occasionally New Zealand lamb is in supermarket freezers); Asian food (there is a supplier in the suburbs of Perpignan, 40 minutes drive away but essential greens aren’t available); pita bread, Turkish bread, muffins or anything like Vogels; UHT treaded milk and creme products are more common and popular than fresh dairy choices; filo pastry is rare; deli products that were fashionable, like za’atar and dakkah etc…

Apellations: rather than ‘brands’ a French recipe would rarely state a ‘marque’ of product unless it is a regional speciality, like Banyuls, a sweet local wine.

Essential supplies: Emmental, olive oil, duck fat, butter, eggs, garlic and parsley, sel de Guérande, crème fraîche, home-made jam selection, couscous…

Seasonal festivals also dictate customs: we have entered the period of ‘la Chandeleur’ (Candlemas, Imbolc) and are making crêpes…

The growing lace-like stack

The growing lace-like stack

With banana and chocolate

With banana and chocolate

Making ganache

Making ganache

Orange blossom essence, Maple syrup

Orange blossom essence, Maple syrup

Now it is possible to read through my selection of recipes, I have been inspired to cook with what is already in the fridge: beetroot and potato galettes were a good match with duck confit and a fennel and orange salad…

Confit de canard, betterave galettes

Confit de canard, betterave galettes

An idea of what is on the menu in winter…

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This entry was published on February 1, 2015 at 11:43 am. It’s filed under Antipodean, Catalan, Country Life, Country Living, Cuisine, Europe, Ex Advertising Creative, Expat, Fête, Food, France, French Culture, La Vie Quotidienne, Languedoc Roussillon, Leisure, Life, Lifestyle, Living in France, Mediterranean, New Zealander in France, Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Orientales, Recipes, Rural Life, Seasons, South of France, Thoughts, Working in France and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Off to a flying start

  1. mesarapugs on said:

    Love the opening image! And yum yum for the crepes and all the trimmings! A very interesting account of la nouriture 🙂

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