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A taste of the sweet life

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!

 

Canning Garden Fresh Tomatoes in the South of France

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Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes galore! And they are not yet finished, so we need to get started...preserving the harvest for the winter and beyond, here in the Minervois.

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Several methods can be used, depending on what results you want: whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato puree, tomato and green chiles, or even a nice spicy salsa!

harvest-plum-tomFor a whole tomato preserve, heat a large pot of water. In the meantime, slice a cross in the bottom of your plum tomates, as this variety holds up best canned whole.  Drop them into the hot water long enough to see the skin begin to lossen.  Plunge into a cold bath to stop the cooking, then remove the skins and place into a heavy bottom pot.  Heat to boiling, then fill sterilized jars to 1 inch from top, seal and process traditionally.

Canning tomato sauce requires a few other garden gifts. Onions, garlic, basil, parsley and even hot peppers offer great flavored winter comfort.  Cut all ingredients you want in large, heavy pot not worrying too much about removing skins or cut size.  Cook down all your vegetables and run through a food mill, then put the sauce back into a clean pan, season to taste and bring to a boil.  Process for canning in sterilized jars.

HAPPY CANNING - and happy winter comfort tomatoes!

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Harvest in the Minervois, starting with Vegetables & Fruit

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It's time in the Minervois, in the South of France, for the harvest once again.  The grapes, white and red, have been ripening and are being picked for the table (as well as the bottle)...

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But let's not forget about all the other wonderful vegetables and fruit in the region of the Languedoc-Rousillon that are coming into maturity, the bounty ready to be eaten at any meal or snack-time and the rest preserved for later this year...if it lasts that long!

harvest-figs

 

The variety of figs is amazing and several are in their second production for a succulent mouthful of sweet goodness; have them for breakfast and sweet snacks right off the tree - but also perfect for jam on those cool winter mornings to be spread on  warm, grainy breads and baguettes with your aromatic coffee warming you up.

 

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And the peaches, simply called "peches de vignes" - vine peaches...have all been falling off the trees they are so ripe.  The jam is a big hit at breakfast already, won't be any left for the winter!

 

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There are a few fresh grean beans left on the vines, with more drying out in the warm sunshine to be used in winter stews and cassoulets; tomatoes are turning red before our eyes and courgettes, albeit late this year, are ready for some great grilled evenings on the bbq.

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Late squash is starting to get bigger with the pattypan looking pretty & white; winter melons and pumpkins will be ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving, no need to worry!

Cuisine in the Minervois

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chicken-corn-soupA taste of La Dolce Vita - Something to sip on!

The menus vary and the tastes abound when you reserve your meal in Azille - local Minervois ingredients with a twist.

You can expect dishes like roasted tomatoes and olives, set over potatoes and topped with a Sea Bream filet.  Or how about a Mexican fiesta with a chicken & corn soup for a starter topped with crisp tortilla strips.

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 You could dine on home-made Soup du Poisson, complete with freshly made Rouille. Followed up with Frozen raspberry yogurt, a tart dessert perfect for finishing the meal!

A rich Duck Parmentier and a fresh green salad with lettuce & tomatoes picked from the garden could be the main dish if the fusion meal goes more towards the French side of things.

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A bit of Magreb spices might bring you a Tagine of chicken & preserved lemons served after the salad of 2 types of couscous and vegetables.


Or a simple yet tasty Asian country cuisine of ginger, peppers, pork strips & napa cabbage to warm your soul, inhaling the parfume of jasmine rice.

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There is more than enough wine to accompany your meal, choosing from a local list of chateaux and caveaux to suite your taste, the flavorful food and good company!

The Minervois and La Dolce Vita will satisfy all your needs and your tastebuds, take a look at what there is to do and see, while dreaming about dinner.

 

Southern French Cuisine's Cassoulet

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French Cuisine's Phenomenal Cassoulet

After having lived here in the south of France for many years, and after having tasted, on many occasion, one of the most well-known French cuisine's from the area, I have been educated on the famous Cassoulet.

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There seems to be some sort of parallel link between the origins of Cassoulet and the mystery of the holy trinity.  Let's say that if Cassoulet was the God of Southern French cuisine in the Occitane, then the Father would be from Castelnaudary, Son from Carcassonne, and the Holy Ghost from Toulouse.

Another story says that there are 4, not three, different cassoulets like the four Musketeers, yet another historical reference to this peasant dish: Castelnaudary’s cassoulet boasts the addition of goose and/or duck confit.  Toulouse’s version includes lamb, a thick, fatty local sausage and fresh tomatoes.  Carcassonne’s bean stew goes heavy on the preserved pork cuts and the Corbieres' version is cooked with the pig tail & ears, and in hunting season even a partridge may be added.

Cassoulet-beans
No matter which version you enjoy, it will include the tradtional white lingot bean, bouquet garni, carrots & onions and several cuts of meat plus the fat from the meat, giving you a warming winter stew that is cooked stove top and finished in the oven topped with bread crumbs & drizzled with olive oil.

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Traditionally, cassoulet is prepared in a large, deep, clay casserole dish baptized the “cassole,” hence the name cassoulet used in French cuisine, which gives it yet another element of flavor.

 

If you want to attack this typical southern french cuisine at home, you will need to be aware of a few things.  Give yourself at least 2 days as there is overnight soaking of 12 hours, a minimum prep-time of 1 hour and over 3 hours of cook-time. For you own version you can use your favorite combination of cured pork cuts, confit poultries and a few fresh cuts of lamb, fresh fat sausage and don't forget the pork belly.  And remember, the fresh tomatoes are typical only to a Toulousian stew, but gives yet another dimension to French Cuisine's Cassoulet.

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Bon Apetit!

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