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Diary from Southern France

Goodies from the market

Just grabbing a few quick moments to post some reflections on the first few days of our French Cookery Holiday here in Languedoc, Southern France at Chateau Ventenac, a lovely vacation house (a castle!) owned by our friend Julia Bristow.

We arrived at Bezier airport on Sunday 6th May 2012 - love the fact that it's still a tiny airport; the walk to the arrivals and out the door took 10 minutes. The weather: warm, 20 C, and breezy.

Poppies are all along the sides of the road and in the fields. The grape vines are just shooting, bright green.

Arrived at Chateau Ventenac to a late lunch of French bread, cheese, and local olives on the terrace overlooking the Canal du Midi, the grape vines, distant hills and wind turbines.

Lunch on the terrace

Ventenac was bussling for a Sunday, its usually asleep - but this weekend there was a bio/alternative market in the square. Hippies still abound in these warmer climes! Massage, hypnotherapy, reflexology, natural creams, honeys, weird soap nuts from India to use instead of washing powder. We bought Helen a cosmic heart to mitigate radiation! And drank refreshing cold bubbly wheat beer made in Ventenac.

We walked back to the bio fair after supper, under the stars with a full moon. There was music, a folk band and dancing - just caught the last couple of songs, chaotic ceilidh.

Roasted cherry tomatoes

On Monday, we awoke to sunshine, blue skies, coffee and chocolate croissants from the little shop on the canal. Lots of bird song, and one very loud bird the Hooper - there is a pair who nest every year in Julia’s trees.

At the shops, no peaches, broad beans, or cherries - all late due to a cold April. So a few recipe changes and alas, no peaches cooked in muscat or broad bean salads. But we're good at improvising. We bought kohlrabi, chicories, lots of asparagus, both green and white, and artichokes.

Salad of griddled asparagus with fresh peas, mache and local goats curd

Back at the chateau, we unpacked (including some bread and cheese) and began prep for the evening. All happy as sun shone! And at 6pm we introduced the class with a glass of clairette de die Rhone bubbles made in the traditional method with muscat and clairette grapes.

First, drinks outside at as the sun went down, then dinner with local rose, white and red from the Ventenac cave.

Dinner stayed true to an indulgent foodie holiday in France:

  • A salad of griddled asparagus with fresh peas, mache and local goats curd
  • Pissaladiere (similar to Italian pizza but made in the South of France - the recipe is on our website)
  • Multi coloured courgette ribboned salad
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes
  • Pear tart

Pear Tart

This year's group is fantastic: two from Lausanne Switzerland, one from Atlanta USA, and one from Anger (France) so lots of french speakers! And foodie sharing of ideas from across the continents.

We'll continue posting stories, recipes and photos to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and the blog throughout the week, so keep watching out for our tasty French tidbits!

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