The past few weeks have been incredible where food is concerned. With friends who were staying in St Chinian I cooked and ate in, barbecued in my garden and on their terrace, picnicked, went to fetes and to restaurants…. With all that food you’d think that I would have put on quite some weight, but luckily for me that was not the case. I put it down to my reduced intake of bread and other wheat based foods, but perhaps I just managed to balance calories and exercise?
Most of the meat we cooked on the BBQ was lamb, but there were some delicious pork sausages too, from Boucherie Peyras, one of the local butchers in St Chinian.
These wonderful lamb chops were accompanied by vegetable millefeuilles, stacks of grilled aubergine, courgette and tomato slices, interspersed with goats’ cheese and basil, and drizzled with some olive oil just before serving.
On another occasion we grilled a leg of lamb – M. Peyras had expertly boned and trimmed it, and I marinated it following a recipe from the Moro Cookbook (Spanish marinade), which uses garlic, thyme, smoked paprika and red wine vinegar. The result was absolutely divine!
Our friends also introduced me to Yaki Onigiri: cooked Japanese rice is formed into triangles or balls and grilled until crispy. They can be finished in a variety of ways: spread with sweet miso paste and dipped in sesame seeds, or glazed with soy sauce, and I am sure there are other ways too! They were very delicious and somehow they disappeared so fast each time we made them, that I have no pictures!
But here are some tomatoes instead – the first of the season and very sweet and tasty. As always I’m growing many different varieties and this year I have just over 20 different kinds of tomatoes in my garden. I haven’t quite decided which I like best – yet. I’m sure Tomato Pie will figure on the menu again very soon.
For dessert I had made a raspberry and chocolate tart, and my friend Janet had prepared flan. The flan had the most beautiful silky texture and there was only one little piece left over at the end of the meal. The raspberry and chocolate tart was not bad either, but might be better suited for when the weather is a little cooler (spring or autumn). I froze a lot of raspberries this year, so I’ll be able to make it again, and the texture and calories will be lovely as the days get shorter :-)!
All of the restaurants we went to as a group were great! We went to the Salin in Gruissan again, for another visit, and this time had dinner at Cambuse du Saunier afterwards. The food was very fresh and tasty. Service started off very good but deteriorated somewhat as the restaurant got very busy. When night fell we were attacked by swarms of mosquitoes, despite the repellent we had all put on. So it’s a great place to eat at, but go for lunch!
Our starters were prawns and oysters, a pate of john dory, fresh crab, and mussels. For main course there were different kinds of fish and chicken, both baked in salt crust, and a seafood cassoulet. Desserts were pretty good too, but by then I’d put the camera away.
A total change from the rustic simplicity at Gruissan was Restaurant Le Parc in Carcassonne. Franck Putelat, the chef, has been awarded two stars in the Michelin Guide, and the food and surroundings are just what you would expect.
The meal started with an Amuse Bouche of Gazpacho, accompanied by a platter of various nibbles: thin cheese straws (one lot dipped in squid ink, the other in parmesan butter), radishes (buttered again) with summer truffle, a macaroon filled with foie gras, and a biscuit topped with half a cherry tomato and a chorizo crisp. Fantastic flavours and gorgeous presentation!
A second Mise en Bouche was served in a double walled glass – very simple and yet refined – a salad of fresh peas and seafood, topped with crispy garlic and onion slivers.
The “real” starter came up next. A most gorgeous looking confection made from potatoes for the crispy rings and the cannelloni wrap. The cannelloni were filled with fresh sheep’s cheese, and the plate generously decorated with shavings of summer truffle – oh what a feast!!
The next course was a soufflee of haddock, served with aioli and a selection of perfectly cooked vegetables, along with some crab claw meat and a langoustine sauce.
Just when you think it can’t get much better along comes the next course: breast of duckling, cooked at low temperature and accompanied by a stuffed courgette flower, and a condiment made with kumquat – Heaven!
The cheese course was beautifully presented: Cabretou de Bethmale cheese, served with the thinnest slices of melba toast imaginable, and a melon chutney made with Banyuls vinegar.
Dessert was quite simply spectacular, even on looks alone! But the taste was pretty spectacular too: cherries cooked in red currant juice, accompanied by elderflower sorbet; the biscuit tube was filled with a yoghurt emulsion and the whole topped by a cherry meringue disc. And all the flavours complemented each other beautifully.
Of course there was coffee at the end, and some more small sweets, and we were probably the last table to leave the restaurant. The terrace is great to sit out on, and the dining room is very stylish and air-conditioned, for when it’s too hot outside. The whole meal was accompanied by beautiful wines, all local to the area, and expertly chosen by the wine waiter.
The children had their own menu, less elaborate and with fewer courses, but none the less expertly prepared and beautifully presented. And of course we went for a walk around the castle at Carcassonne afterwards to get rid of some of the calories :-)!
The last meal I’ll tempt you with in this post was at La Cave Saint Martin in Roquebrun. This is a wine bar/restaurant with a terrace overlooking the river, and it specialises in tapas. Since there was a crowd of us we ordered a number of different dishes and just passed them round to share. All of the food was delicious and the service very friendly and relaxed, but efficient all the same. The peach and tomato salad with basil was outstanding, and a fantastic idea for a summer salad; the pesto ravioli were bursting with basil flavour. And then the peach crumble… If you’re in the area and enjoy desserts then that is an absolute must!
If you’ve gotten this far without the slightest hunger pang then you deserve a medal! And if you want to visit any of the restaurants, please be sure to reserve your table to avoid disappointment. You can always tell them you saw it on the midihideaways blog 🙂