Panier of Plenty

January 2015

Welcome to the visual diary for January…

Strawberry jam

Strawberry jam

I’m out of step with the seasons as I catch up on tasks (now I am finally starting to feel settled in my new home). Frozen strawberries, cherries and blackberries (from the garden of Mas Reste) have become ‘confiture’ and are ready to be spread on lovely warm baguettes from my favourite boulangerie, a minutes walk away…

Blackberry jam

Blackberry jam

On January 3rd, Les Rois Mages or Three Wise Kings visited central Céret – bonbons were thrown from paniers as they passed and Galette des Rois (with cider for adults) offered to excited children and amused onlookers…

Camel control

Camel control

Rue St Ferreol, Céret

Rue St Ferreol, Céret

Les Rois Mages

Les Rois Mages

As the full moon shone in clear skies, temperatures plummeted and brought unprecedented ice (locals confirm it is rare here). Cars parked in the large lot that services the central ville froze overnight and the layer of crystals was thick to scrape. I am so used to the convenience of parking at home that I am still adjusting to town life: now I need to think to carry a bottle of water and remember, each morning and night, where the car is parked…

Full moon, waning

Full moon, waning

It isn’t easy to make a quick supper look good when evening has fallen and it is already half eaten before inspiration arrives… but I was reminded of how my understanding of French cooking has evolved. Far from ‘gastronomy’ or popular regional dishes we might associate with France, this is a staple on the local menu (I can’t speak for other regions), often as a light evening meal. Potatoes are cubed and sautéed in olive oil or duck fat until golden, and then beaten eggs are added (two for each person and one for the pan, when eating alone, four). The mix is stirred quickly to cook the egg and evenly disperse the potatoes, then the whole omelette is eased onto a plate then flipped so the other side cooks (as it can be up to two centimetres thick). It is eaten as a main, after paté or an entrée, accompanied by cornichons and mustard, and followed by a green salad and desert (there is always more than a couple of courses!).

A humble potato omelette

A humble potato omelette

My neighbour asked me ‘what I cook’ so I have started recording typical fare…

Crumbed chèvre

Crumbed chèvre

This week goat’s cheese was on special – I coated a round in beaten egg and then chapelure (fine breadcrumbs) before frying it until golden in enough olive oil to seal the sides. It is served simply, with slices of crusty baguette and a bed of dressed salad greens.

Magret de Canard

Magret de canard

After learning how to cook magret in Provence, I always use the same method, heating a non-stick pan so the scored fat of the breast is seizes and releases fat, turning down the heat and adding cubes of potato to sauté in the fat… this not only prevents spitting, they cook at the same time and as the fat renders they fry… the breast is left with a rich golden crust… I drain off excess fat to serve and toss the potatoes in parsley (or sometimes add crushed garlic just before the end of cooking.

Preparing a gratin

Preparing a gratin

This variation of ‘gratin Dauphinoise’ (with nutmeg) accompanied slices of filet mignon for our charcuterie weekend.

Post: Artisanal charcuterie

Ready to share

Ready to share

Salade de chèvre chaud

Salade de chèvre chaud

I always have baguette and walnuts (and we have wonderful salad greens all-year-round) and this makes a quick lunch, the toasts are delicious drizzled with honey (or it can be added to the vinaigrette).

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