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A taste of the sweet life

Minerve - South of France

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Minerve never ceases to amaze me - each and every time I visit, there are new discoveries and a new appreciation for the beauty I find here in the South of France.

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Discovery of a new path leading from the center of town to the riverbed below - the Southern Posterne.

 

 

 

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The Cesse and Brian rivers flow above ground only in winter - giving you a feel for the canyons they cut in years past.  You must visit at least twice in order to capture this vision.


minerve-natural-bridgeminerve-below-closeThe Cesse flowing strong from under the mountain.

Turn around and look up!

 

Back up in the village, upon the plateau, more little treasures pop up - modern sculptures...

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and old stone stairsminerve-street-stairs...in the old stone streets..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan your holiday to the South of France now.

There is to much to miss if you don't!

 

Azille, near Carcassonne

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Azille, home of La Dolce Vita - the perfect place to begin your daily adventures and discoveries in the our wonderful Minervois region in the South of France - and at the end of your busy day, come "home" and share a glass of wine and relax with us !Azille horizon

Azille is equadistant between Carcassonne & Narbonne, on the edge of the Mediterrenaen sea; both must-see's when you visit the region, or are just passing through. In between relaxing and wine-tasting in Azille, you will also be enticed into a stroll around this ancient, fortified Earldom.

Our 14th century church, a gift to the Archdiosese of Narbonne, is filled with the famous pink marble from Caune-Minervois, and was enhanced with not one, but 2 monasteries nearby.14th century      azille church

During your walk through the narrow streets, you will discover many carvings and statues on private homes high up on the walls, several other parishes, and the original spring & wash station still bubbling fresh water from underneath your feet.  Entering through one old gate and exiting through another in the original village center, you will appreciate the old wall with remains of a tower or two along the way.  A stroll along the main promenade you will even see the remains of the ancient monastery & hospital that housed many a weary traveler it its day.azille arch 296 250 95

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Azille is truly a historical landmark, virtually forgotten in the midst of modern times, and a bit lost as well, or a hidden gem today !

 

Chinese New Year - South of France

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In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, and all the available Asian ingredients found locally in the South of France, I had to share this simple & delicious meal !

One of my favorite dishes to make with Napa cabbage, or "Chou Chinois" as it is called here, is a quick stir-fry with a few basic ingredients.  It is a Chinese country-style dish, and can be varied according to your taste.

Pork roast or basic chops (or replace with chicken)

Ginger

Peanut oil

Fresh or pickled hot peppers (or minced garlic)

Napa cabbage (or curly leave cabbage or bok choy)

Sea salt, to taste

Slice the pork in very thin pieces, grate ginger and mince as many hot peppers as you dare.  Slice the cabbage, and if you choose to add onions, slice those too !

chou-topHeat up a wok with peanut oil (or use sunflower if you prefer). I try to stick with oils from the country of origin to keep the flavours as authentic as possible, but preference is personal.  Add the grated ginger and peppers (or garlic) to the hot pan and stir-fry until flavors release - add the pork and cook until browned.  Sprinkle cabbage on top of cooked pork and sprinkle on a handful of sea salt, cover.  I used ground pork in the below photo, it is what I had on hand, again preference - chicken, turkey or even tender beef can replace the pork as well.

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The dish is done when the cabbage is to your taste, less time for a crunch or longer for a wilted texture.  Serve with jasmine rice, or, as shown here, thin rice noodles.  Sprinkle minced green onions over top or as shown below, or even minced red onions - again taste is what you prefer!

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Bon Apetit !

Cycling in the Minervois, South of France

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Time to get your cycling trip planned...and what a better place to start than in the Minervois, a wine region located in the South-of-France.  The different terrains, Cathar ruins and even Medieval, Roman & Neolithic history are all accessible from this one, unique spot.

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Want to climb a small 15km hill to Minerve to then experience how one group of Cathars lived in the early 1200's when they sought refuge here so many years ago?  See where and how they lived from within the village and even from below, in & out of the caves within the dry riverbed below.

On the way to Minerve from Azille, you can take a short cycling break and see the Dolmens, a Neolithic burial ground just outside of Siran - easy to access amoungst  the vineyards.dolmen-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or how about a cycle ride along the UNESCOcanal-du-midi-aquaduct-3 famous Canal du Midi?  Experience the tranquility of the 17th century tree-lined,  engineering marvel through small villages, lock houses with artisans products and sculptures, and a pleasant picnic along the way.  A day out if you want, or take it slow and stop along the way to have a wine-tasting...

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So many chateaux, wine caves and vineyards surround us here in Azille, so why not imbibe while having a cycle in the area and discover the diversity of our grapes, vines and their producers?  You could visit a different wine-maker each day without ever having your feet touch the ground!

 

 

 

And at the end of each day, you would cycle back to Azille only to be amazed at our fortified village, every time...So book your itinerary now!

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For more ideas on cycling in the Minervois pick up a copy of "South of France - a bicycle your France guidebook" - by Walter Judson Moore who visited us and enjoyed a week of day trips from Azille, from easy to difficult!

Potstickers, South-of-France style

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Making potstickers, or Asian dumplings that are fried & then steamed, can be made just about anywhere - even in the South-of-France with a plethora of Mediterranean ingredients.

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Start with a locally prepared pork sausage, I used the Toulouse blend removed from the casings; add finely chopped sweet onions, minced garlic, finely chopped leafy cabbage, chopped shrimp, chopped fresh coriander, freshly grated ginger, salt & pepper and a pinch of sugar...blend this mixture with your hands and add a few exotic ingredients, now easily found in France at a local grocery store:  Sesame oil & Soy sauce.

 

Wrappers are easy to make; mix 2 cups of all-pourpose flour with just boiled water, knead until smooth dough is obtained - let rest covered in plastic wrap for about a half hour...begin forming the dumplings by taking a small round of dough and working it between your fingers to form into a flat round...follow the photos below to create your own, fresh stuffed, flavorful potstickers:

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 And with practice you'll soon be forming beautiful little packages of goodness...ready to cook!

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Heat up a large frying pan with a slight bit of peanut oil in the bottom...

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...and fry until golden on one side, turn carefully and add a cup of water, turn heat to low, cover and cook for several minutes, then remove the lid and finish steaming off the liquid...

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Serve with a dipping sauce of Soy sauce, vinegar & hot oil - Bon Apetit!

p.s. as many asian ingredients are avaiable feel free to use rice vinegar, chinese cabbage, green onions or chives and any other of your favorite flavours!