Saturday, 6 March 2010

A late St David’s day and a return to the Mediterranean

Last night we invited our Occitan friends in the village to a meal to celebrate (a few days late) St David’s day, as we usually do around 1st March.


We served toast with laver bread and bacon with apéritifs (laver bread is seaweed boiled for hours into a sort of purée, a south Wales delicacy which you either love or you hate – fortunately our friends here love it).  For the first course we had leeks (from our garden) with salmon baked in the oven with white sauce and grated cheese.  The main course was a lamb stew (which I couldn’t resist putting some very Mediterranean thyme into) with stiwnts (mashed carrots and parsnips).   Parsnips have only recently appeared in the shops here and it was the first time our friends had tasted them.  We grew a few tiny ones last year, but it wasn’t a success as it’s too dry for them.  For dessert we had apple tart and cream.  And then a wonderful Italian cake which one of our friends had brought as a contribution to the meal.  So it was a variation on a Welsh meal and we left Wales altogether with the coffee (Italian) and digestifs from Catalunya (Ratafia, a wonderful liqueur made with herbs from the garrigue) and Navarra (Pacharan, sloe liqueur, also wonderful).  Everyone enjoyed it all very much.

Today, though, I had a strong craving for our more usual Mediterranean style of food, so for lunch we had mussels with aioli (garlic mayonnaise –my recipe is here).  The mussels in the Bassin de Thau aren’t at their best at this time of the year – after the winter (when we usually have very little rain and this year have had even less than usual) they need the spring rains to dilute the salinity of the lagoon so they can fatten up a bit.  So we bought some of the larger size (sold for cooking moules farcies).  While I made the aioli Lo Jardinièr cooked the mussels in a little white wine then removed the mussels from their shells, dipped them in beaten egg white and then in breadcrumbs and fried them in olive oil.  They were really good with a squeeze of lemon and the aioli.

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We’ve had some more cold nights, although not freezing, but the days are sunny and warm.  Walking around the village this afternoon we spotted this beautiful mimosa still in flower.



Stefaneener said...

Oh, those mussels! They look wonderful.

Heiko said...

Here in Italy they tell us you are only to eat mussels in months without an 'r' in it. So mussel season starts here on the 1st of May, which of course is marked with a sagra on the coast along the Gulf of La Spezia.

chaiselongue said...

Heiko: yes, that makes sense as they're not quite so good in winter, although I'd heard that in Britain they say you shouldn't eat them when there IS and 'r' in the month! Here everyone eats mussels and oysters all year round - in huge quantities. They're grown sustainably in the Bassin de Thau.

mo said...

I'm DEFINITELY going to try cooking mussels that way.....they sound and look delicious!!

Jan said...

I'm not really a mussels fan, although I like the tinned ones! We do get parsnips on the markets, but never any brussels sprouts. Shame!

Jan said...

Thanks for telling me about adding the olive oil with the water... yes it was me visiting your recipe blog. I love that bread and have copied the recipe out.

impoftheyard said...

These all look and sound delicious!