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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Herbal Alliances

In my first book on herbs, RECIPES FROM A FRENCH HERB GARDEN, I list the twenty herbs from basil to verbena that often play a role – sometimes as stars that top the bill plus others as minor or supporting actors – in the kitchens of France. All culinary herbs have an individual character: in…

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Apéro Hour

Bowls of olives, plates of thinly sliced saucisson sec, and lots of opened bottles greeted us when the local white wines of 2018 were recently launched at the old cave co-operative in Saint Montan. The farmers who grew the grapes were keen to talk as they offered glasses of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a superb…

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Growing Trees for Free

While he was helping to dig out the well-rotted mixture in one of my compost bins, my grandson spotted dozens of acorns on the ground. My evergreen oak trees, Quercus ilex, that grow wild here in my hillside garden had shed their fruit weeks earlier. Matthew soon filled his pockets to take acorns home to…

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Goose Egg Cake

Lucas arrived to prune our olive trees and gave me a springtime present: six brown-shelled eggs from his hens. In his other hand, he held a large white egg, the first of the year from his only goose.  ‘Ideal for a cake,’ he said and disappeared into the garden. I weighed the large white egg…

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Marking the Edge

Paved paths and neatly-mown lawns provide ready-made and attractive edges to beds and borders in a herb garden. But in the Saint Montan Jardin du Curé we use gravel on the paths – it’s local, inexpensive, and part of the landscape. So the junction between cultivated ground and consolidated earth wanders somewhat each year depending…

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Buying Herbs in Pots

By 8 a.m, there’s already a queue at the plant stall in my local street market. Boxes of seedling lettuces and pencil-slim leeks, hand-high plants of aubergines and sweet peppers are disappearing fast while pots of young tomatoes, cucumbers and artichokes are carried away by keen gardeners to be planted out in potagers and vegetable…

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Writing a Recipe

Soon after my first book was published, the editor of my local Devon newspaper invited me to write a weekly food column. “But with no recipes,” was his only condition. So I sent in half a dozen pieces and he rang to say “Carry on, we enjoy reading them.” But what about the one that…

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