I am spending more and more time at my new house in the Ariège region. The kitchen is not ready yet so I keep things rather simple.
In this rural region, there are many producers that bring their ware directly to the market and raise their livestock with care.
There is a lady with a van on the Mirepoix market on Monday morning with meat from farmers in the mountains behind Foix. The meat is sealed in plastic packages and I buy for several days, putting it in the freezer.
We had a veal cutlet. It was not lightly pink as crate-raised veal would have been – the colour may be desirable for the client but not for the animal – and the cut was a bit too thick for an escalope. I cooked it in butter for 15 minutes, with a lid on the skillet to protect the freshly painted wall behind the old cooker of my aunt, and poured the juice of one lemon over it at the end.
I removed the veal and let it cool and reduced the sauce slightly before pouring over the meat. Some freshly-ground pepper and we had a delicious meal, with pasta and tomato/fresh herb cheese sauce.
Sometimes a dish creates itself when you walk around the market. The fishing season for scallops had opened and I wanted to do a simple spaghetti dish with it. The greengrocer’s had some of the last ceps – small brown button mushrooms from the Millevaches plateau in Corrèze, between Limoges and Ussel.
I cooked the ceps and scallops separately in butter. Then I brought a pan of salted water to the boil and added the spaghetti to cook until “al dente” – with bite but not too tough nor too weak. I heated up a bit of cream, added some lemon juice and mixed that with the spaghetti, scallops and ceps. After a few turns of the pepper mill, I added some chopped flat parsley.
This is a very pleasant and nutritious soup for when you are trying to lose weight after spending some nice holidays. I found some interesting beef shank at the supermarket – my butcher’s is closed for a few weeks – and started by making a beef broth. The next day I removed the (little) fat from the stock and added vegetables, chervil and pasta. The chervil gives it a nice anise-like flavour.
Continue reading Beef and chervil soup with pasta
Part two of three recipes I made with one single lobster. Here I will be using the eggs that were under the belly of the female lobster and which I scooped up with a spoon. The little biology I know of lobster is that the eggs first start inside the female. A female lobster mates after she has shed her shell – which lobsters do almost every two months in a process called moulting – and that explains how the male lobster can penetrate another lobster. Continue reading Bucatini with lobster eggs and zucchini
I prefer to buy my ingredients straight from the producer even though in our modern supermarket world this is not very practical or economical.
Most of the time I do my shopping at the local grocery store or on the outdoor market that is held three times a week in my town.
But when I do encounter a producer, I fill up the freezer compartment.
At a farmers’ market near Rambouillet I bought poultry from La Ferme du Bas Ligoure, run by Bernard et Françoise Carret at Le Vigen, not far from Limoges in central France and some 400 km away from Paris.
Not for weekly shopping trips, but I do happen to pass by Limoges several times a year.
Like many meat producers, they sell their produce in vacuum sealed bags.
Chicken breast is a lean cut of meat. In the supermarket the breasts are often small and in fact just half of a breast as the butcher has to remove the breast bone. In slaughterhouses this is often done by machines and a leading producer is from the Netherlands, Stork, part of the Marel group which is unrelated to me. You can have a look at their product range here if you are not too sensitive. This is how most chicken meat is processed.
While clean and efficient, these processes are far removed from handicraft.
So when I took the Bas Ligoure fillets from the package, I had two long, thick, breast without a bone in the middle (but with a small tendon and a piece of skin). Part of the difference in size and weight was of course that the bird used had lived longer than the mass-produced birds that were sent into the machinery.
And the taste was also great, nothing compared to the super-discount offers.
However, because I bought it straight from the farm, the price was not much higher because there were no middlemen involved.
I happened to have a fennel bulb in the larder so I made a dish of grilled chicken breast with penne pasta (short tubes of dried pasta), fennel, tomato and garlic.
Ingredients (for two)
- Two chicken breast fillets
- One fennel bulb
- Three tomatoes
- Four cloves of garlic
- 100 grammes of penne
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper
- Slice the fennel bulb. Put in a pan with water and cook for 30 minutes to tenderise.
- Cut up the tomatoes, peel and slice the garlic.
- Fill a large pan with water, add salt and heat until boiling.
- Heat a griddle. I have a cast iron one that I put on the stove, I coated it slightly with oil. When hot, put the fillets on the griddle, try to get diagonal markings. Turn after five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile heat the oven to 150 °C. Put the griddle in the oven and continue cooking the chicken for another 10-15 minutes. (This is to cook the inside of the fillet without burning the outside)
- Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, test the bite and drain.
- Put some olive oil in a skillet, add the tomatoes and cook for a while for it to become a chunky paste, add the garlic and the drained fennel. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix the vegetables with the drained pasta. Serve with the chicken.