I spent two weeks in Languedoc and Provence enjoying good food and wine, and even better company. First I stayed with Michael and Lawrence in their beautiful house in a small village near Carcassonne. We talked, cooked and drank good local wine – it was so relaxing. Lawrence fed us when we were at home and Michael kept the glasses topped up. We has a good Sunday lunch at the Chateau de Cavanac and the next day Michael drove us to a small fishing town near the Spanish border, Collioure, to meet some friends from London. I bought the local speciality, a jar of anchovies preserved in salt, and we had a delectable lunch in the garden at Le Neptune with good food and a lovely sea view. I had forgotten how France still offers very interesting set menus that are excellent value. In Italy I always feel it is better to eat à la carte.
In Michael’s house I slept in the Napoleon room and amused everyone by confessing that over forty years ago, when left alone in Napoleon’s house in Elba, I hopped over the rope to perch on the ‘little corporal’s bed. I had my knees under my chin because he was obviously very little if he managed to sleep in that bed.
The following week Joe and Dallas flew in to Carcassonne and we spent a week exploring Provence. We stayed in the small medieaval town of Uzes which has not been spoiled by the mass tourism you see in places like Avignon. I loved the central Hotel Entraigues but I found the small, cobbled lanes a challenge and I was very grateful for Dallas’ strong, supporting arm. As always he drove superbly on the congested roads en route and Joe kept us happy with his moveable feasts.
This week I am in Ferentino doing a little work before I leave for my Greek gourmet adventure. I recently re-read D.H.Lawrence’s “Sea and Sardinia” and his occasional, somewhat tetchy comments made me think of the good times I have spent on the island when working on Italian food consultancies. In the mountains there are succulent meat dishes cooked with wild herbs like ‘mirto’, and by the sea the fish dishes are out of this world. Added to this are interesting wines and the heart-stopping liqueur known as fil’a ferru, which gets its name from the habit of hiding clandestine stills overboard or underground at the end of a wire, to make retrieval easier. The sea is the stuff of dreams and away from the hype of the Costa Smeralda there are beautiful, quiet coastal villages to explore. I plan to do this in June or September 2017 but I will not be able to get it on my website until the end of September so please let me know if you are interested.
I am accepting bookings for Bologna and Ravenna in late March and Morocco’s ImperialCities in April.
Recipes for August
Spaghetti with anchovies and orange sauce
(Spaghetti con acciughe in salsa di arancia)
I cooked this yesterday with my anchovies from Collioure
500 g spaghetti
200 g anchovy fillets in salt, cut into small pieces
2 oranges, peeled and cut into small cubes
50 ml orange liqueur
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
30 ml. olive oil
If you are using anchovies in salt you need to wash well and remove the central
bone.. Heat the oil and gently cook the garlic until it begins to change colour.
Now add the anchovies, pushing them down with a wooden spoon until they
‘melt’ and form a thick cream.
Add the orange to the anchovies, together with the breadcrumbs and the liqueur,
Taste to see if more salt is needed. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, drain and
stir in the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped mint and serve at once.
Pesce in cartoccio
This is an easy way to cook fish and I love all the many variations of this recipe. I usually make it with fillets of John Dory. In Italy this fish is called “San Pietro”. The fish has two marks, one on either side, like thumb prints, and legend has it that these are the marks left by St. Peter’s fingers, when he took pity on the fish he had caught, and threw it back into the sea.
6 white fish fillets
2 T fresh parsley and mint, chopped
A few fennel seeds
3 T lemon juice
6 T extra virgin olive oil
Heat the oven to 180 C. Cut 6 large rectangles of cooking parchment or kitchen foil. Brush the paper with oil and arrange the washed and dried fillet on top. Season with a little salt and pepper then scatter on the parsley, fennel seeds, and lemon juice, and dribble a little oil over the top. Fold in the edges to make a good seal. Prepare all the fillets in the same way. If using parchment brush the outside with water before putting all the packets on a baking tray into the oven. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve each person with a packet which is then slashed open with a pointed, serrated knife.