Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day six Provence... Autumn

Today began as usual with breakfast on the terrace but to our shock there was a cool breeze blowing from the south east into Caromb. It showed us that despite the last week being idyllic, Autumn is on its way. Although it's been hot (30 degrees or so) the leaves on all the deciduous trees are turning rusty brown and more litter the streets every day.

That's not to say that it was cold today, it was still 25 degrees in the shade but there was a definite wind chill factor. Today's plan was to take it easy, not to take the car anywhere, but to explore the village and spend some time in the kitchen.

We had stocked up on bread the day before because the bakery close to La Louche is closed on Mondays. We were dismayed to discover, on one of our touristy walks that the other bakery in the village is open every day so we took the opportunity to purchase some chocolate eclairs and a vanilla mille feuille to have with lunch. Both creamy and sweet! We also constructed a tomato olive oil and bread salad for the 'healthy' part of the lunch.

Pastries at lunch time

As the afternoon wore on we took off to the north of the village to walk through the cemetery,and after doing so wandered into the vineyards and olive groves beyond the buildings and the graveyard wall.

Olive groves.

The skinny road was very flat and quite windy as it snaked pointlessly through the farmland. The red wine vines cropped heavily with fruit and the olive trees' branches craning with the weight of the fattening olives. Curiously the thin sticks of dried grass and weeds were coated in tiny snail white snail shells. The snails themselves were long baked in the hot sun but the robust shells were clinging on. We speculated as to the reason the tiny snails had done this to themselves as we walked.

Tiny white snail shells clinging to a stick.

The lane through the vines.

After a couple of kilometers we noticed on an old creek bank a large rabbit warren that was obviously still in use, a timid rabbit scuttled into safety. On closer inspection we couldn't help but notice several spent shotgun cartridges in the dust nearby, evidence of the farmer's favourite supper.

We decided to have our own rabbit meal that evening and picked one up on the way back (skin and cleaned from the butcher) When the rabbit was removed from its paper wrapping, we found that the head and lungs needed removing before placing it in the large Le Creuset pot with a large handful of sage from the garden and some tiny potatoes.

Rabbit preparations.

While the rabbit was in the oven we headed to the daily produce market at Velleron. The market in its own designated and fenced-in area is fantastic! Ceps, tomatoes, courgettes, onions, pumpkins and figs everywhere. We arrived as it opened at 6:00 as a rotund gentleman was unpacking a couple of trays of large pine mushrooms at 10 Euros per kilo onto his table. Twenty minutes later he was folding the legs down on the table ready to go home, all his mushrooms sold! Velleron is by far the best market we have seen from the food perspective. It's food and only food so you don't have to pick through stall after stall of other things to get to what you want.

Velleron Market.

As we arrived Iain had declared that he was "over tomatoes" and "didn't need to get any more" however as we got back to the car he had to dash back through the gate to get a couple of kilos of the larger ones.

Some of the Velleron produce including gleaming white eggplant.

The rabbit was tender and juicy, paired with the potatoes and some green beans and some tiny courgettes from the market. We finished the meal with a bowl of warm peach, strawberry and fig compote infused with a bayleaf, star anise and cloves, using the local fruity rose in the beginning of the cooking process. Iain also produced some basil creme anglaise made with fresh creamy milk and eggs, and he dropped in some bruised basil leaves in at the end for a spicy savouriness that worked well with the ripe fruit. We also opened a bottle of the Luberon Apellation Red from Menerbes the day before. Heavy, but silky smooth it was a nice addition.

Finished rabbit stew.

Fruit compote with basil creme anglaise.

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