Monday, 25 October 2010

Easy for some… different stories of olive harvesting


These are some of our olives, picked a couple of weeks ago, which we’ve salted and left for about ten days, with some added bay leaves and rosemary.  They were easy to harvest (with our son’s help) and no one else but us had been anywhere near the tree – it was safe.

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Now they’re ready and yesterday we ate some of them.  We’d washed the salt off them, drained them and then added a little olive oil to coat them, and they taste very good.

Sadly, though, in Palestine olive trees are the target of conflict and dispute.  While the peace process staggers and falters, ordinary people who have their livelihoods to worry about find that their olive trees are damaged maliciously.  An article in the Guardian describes one such episode, when an eighty-year-old woman found that forty olive trees which she had planted had been destroyed:

they were now, two decades later, at their peak – the most productive of all the trees, which support 37 members of the extended family.

But . . . someone had got there before them and had chopped down the trees, leaving stumps in the ground and branches scattered about the plot. The family blame hardline Jewish settlers from the nearby Eli settlement.

Olive trees seem very special to me – because of their longevity, their ability to produce fruit and oil in dry, hot climates and their beauty.  It is tragic that they can be damaged and destroyed in this way.

There are some photographs of the olive harvest in the West Bank here.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

First pumpkin

This is the first year we’ve grown pumpkins and this is the first one we’ve picked, one of the smaller ones, it weighs 5 kilos.  I’m using part of it to make mussel and pumpkin soup – see the recipe I posted last year on the Mediterranean cuisine blog.

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Sunday, 17 October 2010

Definitely autumn

Our son was staying with us this week and, while it was warm enough to have lunch in the garden a couple of times, the sea wasn’t warm enough for swimming.

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Barbecued lamb and peppers for lunch, but the sea was chilly at Portiragnes-plage.

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We’re still picking plenty of aubergines and peppers – the red ones are Kolaska, a delicious spicy variety, the green ones are Marconi and Corno di Toro which I don’t think will ripen now as it’s too late in the year. They’re very tasty when they’re green, though. The Praying Mantis seemed to be looking for somewhere to lay its eggs.

Pézenas market

On Saturday morning, before going back to London, our son wanted to buy jambon to take with him… we saw a few other stalls as well:

denim and sunflowers…
IMGP1993 baskets….
winter hats and scarves….
IMGP2005 olive oil and salt cod…
IMGP2007 fritters and sea food salads IMGP2009 eggs and charcuterie….
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and fish.

Sunday lunch

On our own again after our son went home, we consoled ourselves with a very good lunch:

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Aubergine slices with goats’ cheese, garlic and oregano, with honey and balsamic vinegar dressing for our first course, followed by pieces of shoulder of lamb slow-cooked with figs, shallots and white wine, served with rice.

Quinces again

We picked a basketful of quinces to make membrillo (quince paste), as we usually do at this time of year – the recipe is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog. The quinces this year are of much better quality, bigger with fewer bugs in them, so easier to cook.

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And a beautiful sunset this evening


Thursday, 14 October 2010

Olive harvest

Just a few photos to show the harvest from the older of our two olive trees, variety unknown, from which we picked 1.4 kilos of ripe olives yesterday (the most we’ve ever had from this tree we planted six years ago), and (right) the Lucque olives which are still ripening:

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I washed the olives, checked that none of them were damaged and dried a bowlful for salting immediately, using the same method as I used last year.  I’ve left the others to drain and store in jars as recommended in Max Lambert’s book, L’Olivier et la Préparation des Olives.  They can then be treated as I’ve shown below whenever they’re needed.


After drying them I pricked each one with a fork, then put them in a bowl with herbs – rosemary and bay leaves – and mixed them well with sea salt.

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As the liquid comes out of them I’ll drain it off over the next few days and in a week or so the olives should be ready to put in oil and eat.  Last year I left them rather too long and they dried out too much, so this year they’ll stay in the salt for only a week to 10 days.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Beginning a new year, and a wine update

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Some of the tomato plants weren’t looking very happy, so we picked the green tomatoes to ripen in the house and cleared the bed ready to sow peas and broad beans next week.  I always feel very excited when we plant out the tomatoes as it seems like the beginning of summer.  Today, then, may be the beginning of winter but it’s equally exciting because we’re already planning next spring’s crops.  That’s the great thing about gardening – there’s always the next season to look forward to.

Wine making

Looking even further ahead, the wine being made by our friends is progressing well.  The grapes we picked a few weeks ago have been fermenting in the vats in the cave.  Yesterday some of the wine was ready to be removed from the grape skins and then returned to the vat.  We were asked to go over to watch, take photographs and in Lo Jardinièr’s case to help.  I’m going to be writing much more about the whole process of making this wine in the future, but for the moment here are a few photos:

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Looking into the wine vat (left) and the press (right)

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(left) running the wine off the marc or skins, (centre) Lo Jardinièr working the press which removes the wine left in the skins, and (right) the wine running out of the press.  The wine was then returned to the vats.

and the Guardian blog…

Apparently, I had misunderstood a rule preventing links to ‘commercial’ sites and this is why my comment was deleted.  Very strange because my blog is certainly not commercial in any way and I have made relevant links to it before.  You can’t argue with the moderator, but I have suggested that the Guardian should make the wording of the rules clearer.

Monday, 4 October 2010

A few days in Catalunya

We’ve just come back from a few days in El Port de la Selva on the Cap de Creus headland in Catalunya. It’s a working fishing port in an almost completely enclosed bay – we could see why it was chosen as a safe harbour because when we were in the port we couldn’t see the open sea at all.

IMGP1049 The view from the quayside as a fishing boat came into port.
IMGP1061 The nets being unrolled and laid out on the quay.
Nets and floats on the quay.

As it was a fishing port, we did eat some very good sea food while we were there, especially the anchovies and the cuttlefish. One of the food highlights was a wonderful fideua on our first evening there, served with aioli and full of squid, clams and large prawns (left, below). The recipe for my own version of this paella made with noodles is on the Mediterranean cuisine blog – here. This one was much darker and, I would guess, cooked in liquid which included the squid ink. Another good dish was cuttlefish with meatballs, in a wonderful spicy sauce and surrounded by sautéed potatoes (right, below), which we ate one lunchtime on a terrace overlooking the port.

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Friday is market day in El Port de la Selva and the promenade along the port and beach was lined with stalls, mostly selling clothes, but also two fruit and vegetable stalls and a wonderful charcuterie and olive stall.

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And some souvenirs…


We brought back a good selection of products from the charcuterie stall, some Cava, the sparkling wine made in Catalunya, and several varieties of olives oil, one from the Moulin du Mas St Pierre in French Catalunya, which I mentioned on the blog in April (here), one Arbequina oil available cheaply in a supermarket (the same variety of olives they grow at Mas St Pierre) and one local blended oil we bought from the market stall. We’ve bottled the larger quantities in 50 cl or 75 cl bottles so that we can taste them all without letting them go stale, although that’s not usually a problem for us as we eat a lot of olive oil. So we’ve got a few ways of prolonging the flavours of our holiday over the next few months!

Other food blogs

I seem to have offended the Guardian in some why by commenting on its food blog as I have had a comment removed by the moderator. I can’t understand what I have said that it takes objection to as it was nothing at all offensive, simply a description of the farmers’ market we went to in the summer, which I’ve written about on this blog and which I thought people might be interested to hear. I’m still waiting for a reply to a request for an explanation. As I’m sure readers of this blog know, my only intention in writing about food, gardening, markets…. etc. is to contribute to the enjoyment of people who, like me, value good food.