I’m trying not to feel too blue today but I’m having a job after our chilled Easter holiday in France. I can’t believe how quickly my brain seems to get swamped by all the things I feel that I “ought”to be doing now we’re back home: the garden’s a shambles, I haven’t done my accounts for months, I have a huge pile of stuff ready to be flogged on eBay and dozens of classes to plan. If only I could just settle down for 1/2 an hour in my hammock (I’ve used it once in 2 years) with a good book and a glass of rosé and clear my brain ….but hell, the protestant work ethic kicks in and I’d be appalled with myself.
So, I’ll lose myself in a spot of reminiscing and try not to be the post-holiday bore with the blow by blow account of market trips and restaurant meals, in fact the pictures tell the story so much better. This wasn’t a Provençal boutiquey hotel vacation, we’d opted for a less fashionable (and rather cheaper) week’s hire of a slice of an old olive mill in The Languedoc. I have to say that many of the local villages have a bit more of the Carrefour tracksuit about them than Gallic chic, but with that comes a reassuring lack of nick-nack shops selling lavender bags, pottery and ludicrously expensive tapenade. Although I did, I’m almost ashamed to admit, have a bit of a lavender moment myself as you can see from my holiday purchases.
We managed a bit of beach time, some moules & frites and Imi found an ice cream shop with over 50 “parfums” …she went for the Cola (quite revolting, but then she could have gone for the terrifyingly turquoise Red Bull option). I’d definitely go to the port of Sète again, where we had fabulous Italian influenced seafood and quite the best scallop linguine that I’ve ever eaten, I’ll have a play around and give you a recipe very soon. But, rather predictably for me, the highlights of the holiday weren’t sight seeing or restaurant trips but mornings in the local markets collecting bits and pieces to eat for lunch in our shady little garden- nothing exotic just sauscisson- sec, cheese, pâté, olives, poulet rôti and very good bread. We gorged on local asparagus, radishes and strawberries and slung back PLENTY of wine – The Languedoc region apparently produces more wine than the whole of Australia. And, I know that the French have often been a bit sniffy about rosé but there’s more and more of it produced and there’s nothing that screams holiday-in-the-sun quite so loudly for me.
I’d conveniently forgotten my bathing things for our river swimming excursion, although I did rig myself up a dodgy suit out of a sarong (pictures will not be published) but Imi swam and Peter did the lifeguard bit in the icy waters at Roquebron. The town is a magical place with a beautiful old bridge across the river, a sort of stony river-beach and a microclimate that allows oranges, lemons and plenty of Mediterranean plants to thrive despite the distance from the coast.
Once we finally sat down at Le Petit Nice Restaurant over looking the river it was suprisingly hot and all I felt like eating was a salad . It’s years since I’ve had a Roquefort and walnut salad and it just reminded me that it really is a fabulous mix, the sheep’s cheese (which incidentally comes from the Languedoc too and could even be the elixir of life if you believe what you read ) is really sharp and salty so you don’t want much. You probably don’t need a recipe – but just in case? (and it does give me an excuse to have some for lunch)
Roquefort and Walnut Salad ( for 2)
3-4 large handfuls of salad leaves – preferably including a bit of radicchio for some colour and a touch of bitterness.
150 g of walnut halves
150 g Roquefort cheese
For the dressing: 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 – 1 tsp honey, salt and black pepper
No rocket science required here- just shake up the dressing in a jar and balance it well, keeping in mind that the cheese is sharp and salty.
Toss the salad leaves around in a bowl with the dressing, then divide between the plates and sprinkle over the cheese and walnuts.
Suggestions– Now I did love the fact that the salad was SO very simple, and we Brits do often tend to overcomplicate things, but the salad would be very good indeed with
– Some smoked lardons and sourdough croutons (fried up in the bacon fat) -sprinkled over whilst warm.
– Ripe pear and a few chopped chives.
– Roasted beetroot, roasted red onions and a few cooked Puy lentils
And here we are enjoying our salad OUTSIDE in the English sunshine- birdies cheeping, bluebells out and Crab apple blossom on it’s way. You’ll be pleased to see that Peter is sporting some French holiday footwear (with socks of course!)
And, just in case you’re heading to The Languedoc anytime soon here were a few of my highlights-
Pézenas has a fabulous Saturday market, loads of giftee shopees but still a stunning town.
Sète was a real surprise for me, a bustling port with loads of canals and bridges and really., really great seafood.
St Chinian has one of those dappled-shady market squares ( Thursday and Sunday market), beautiful little back streets and very chilled atmosphere. A.O.C also home to some great red wines.
Roquebron – I’ve mentioned above and is really worth a visit (don’t forget your swimming things)