Fish Soups

After the excesses of festive eating, I long for simple food – plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables plus the delicate flavours of fish with its gentle, soothing texture. Fish soups come high on my list of desirable dishes at this time of year when the cold seas surrounding the British Isles produce some of…

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New Year Resolutions

I gave up making new year resolutions decades ago. By February memories of what I’d promised to do – or not to do – had faded due to the urgent pressures of the moment and life in general. But this year will be different: I resolve to wage war on unwelcome visitors to the garden.…

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The Virtues of Ivy

I gave up growing box, Buxus, following the devastation caused by the Asian box tree caterpillar, Diaphania perspectalis, when it arrived in Saint Montan. The sight of both cultivated box, clipped into attractive shapes, and wild box bushes that were growing freely on the hillside, reduced to dry, shrivelled skeletons was sad and ugly. So…

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The Timeless Appeal of Ardèchois Crique and Swiss Rösti

Why do we shred potatoes, I ask myself. After all there are so many other excellent ways of preparing, cooking and serving this popular tuber. Yet, throughout Europe, potatoes are grated, either raw when making an Ardèchois-style crique or half-cooked for a Swiss rösti. Both these types of potato pancake are fried, so perhaps it’s…

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Garlic in the Garden

The Capital of Garlic say the road signs as you approach the town of Piolenc in Provençale Vaucluse, where 2000 tons of Allium sativum are grown each year. On the feast of St John, close to mid-summer day, the town celebrates the ‘Stinking Rose’ with music, a parade, and countless stalls selling garlic in many…

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Vine Leaves

Last year my 25 year-old grape vine decided to leave home. After forming a close relationship with a telephone wire it soon reached half-way across the road and even produced a few bunches of black grapes dangling provocatively above the traffic. In March, it was time to curb its enthusiasm and major surgery was called…

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The Origin of Recipes

Two questions are often addressed to food and cookery writers by readers: ‘Where do your recipes come from? And do you cook them all?’ For almost a decade Felicity Cloake has been answering both these enquiries in impressive style in the Guardian newspaper. She tests, cooks and tastes, then adopts the best workable ideas from…

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Purslane

Every spring, in two large flower pots in my Saint Montan garden, I grow the attractive climbing plant dipladenia, bearing red, pink, or white, trumpet-shaped flowers. Dipladenia grows quickly in the south of France and each plant soon twists its stems around the 2 metre-high tripod in its pot to make an attractive display. By…

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Summer Holiday Dishes

The 14th July, Bastille Day, until the final day of August is the official summer holiday in France. Many enterprises, large and small, close their doors or operate with a skeleton staff for this six week period. Try tracking down a builder, plumber or electrician, and you’re likely to hear a recorded message confirming this…

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Dealing with Drought

When I began to restore the overgrown Jardin du Curé, some years ago,  the fast-flowing ruisseau du Val Chaud provided music while I worked. The cold spring water tumbled noisily over stones and boulders until it reached the larger river in the middle of the village. When it rained, natural springs provided the irrigation for…

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