Posts Tagged ‘Lautrec’

from Minnesotta, North Carolina (via Rome), Rhode Island, California, Virginia, North Yorkshire, Tipperary (Ireland), New Zealand, Brixton (S London)–for the two cooking workshops.

Not quite back-to-back! We’ll be trying that out in September and October. This time we took a few days to fly to Florence to celebrate Brother Jack’s 60th birthday (he’s performing in a show there at Teatro del Sale).

Here’s a short photo diary of the good times we had.


late May Bravehearts with host Dominique on the right.


Mid- June Braveheatrs–looking enthused


Eager aprons waiting to be claimed


Minnesotans–togged up and ready to break eggs


Tossing the salad the Italian way–36 times!


What do we think? A touch more vinegar?


Friday morning coffee break and “food” chat


Friday morning starter–the unexpected curried apple soup


Friday supper (work-free delight)–Chez Valérie


Simone–the essential ingredient, without whom…


“Showtime” Sunday lunch–with Cecile and Polly–first time around


“Showtime” Sunday lunch–second go-around (where’s the hat?!)

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I wasn’t thinking of trout when I went to the market early Friday morning in Lautrec–I’ve got out of the habit of cooking it.

Rather, dorade (sea bream) perhaps or mackerel. When I approached the stall, which is usually packed with a good selection of fish,


it was covered in a white sea of ice but virtually no fish–except a small shoal of lonely-looking trout and an organic salmon–an unusual sight.

I’d noticed as I turned into the village that the road to Graulhet (fifteen minutes northwest of Lautrec) was blocked by two police vehicles and three determined looking gendarmes. I quickly decided my usual trick of not going fully round the roundabout but taking a sharp left into the village–strictly illegal but handy–was not a good idea!

Puzzled and dismayed by the absence of seafood I asked the unusually subdued fishmonger what was happening.

Qu’est ce que se passe, Monsieur?

Il y avait un accident avec le camion, il est en retard. [The fish wagon’s been delayed by an accident.]

Road blocked–gendarmes present–diversion signs–no fishmystery solved–trout for lunch!

La Depeche du Midi (regional daily newspaper) carried the story the next day, with a graphic photo of the scene.


Mangled car in the ditch.

The young man in the car survived and is recovering in hospital. According to the report it took the rescue team two hours to free him. The lorry driver escaped with minor injuries.

It’s a safe bet that trout and salmon, obviously sourced elsewhere, remained the only fish on sale in Lautrec that morning!

This is what I did with the trout.


2 trout–gutted and cleaned


a handful of fresh thyme sprigs

olive oil

salt and pepper

Wash the trout and pat dry.

With a sharp knife, carefully make two shallow diagonal slits in the fish’s flesh each side.

Brush the fish top to tail with olive oil–(this helps to prevent them sticking to the griddle pad).

Rub salt and pepper into the slits.

Stuff the thyme into the cavities and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a griddle pad to hot–or use a sauté pan large enough to hold the fish.

Oil the surface.

Lay the fish on the pad and cook each side for about five minutes–testing for doneness by lifting the cavity and checking near the backbone. The cooking time depends on the size of the fish. (If pink/red, needs a little more time.)


Serve with green beans or a simple green salad.

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Few spring vegetables on the stalls yet.

Asparagus and spring onions, yes–but where are the broad beans?

The rain continues to pour and it’s still cold–making it near impossible for local vegetable growers.

(Our neighbour, Serge’s younger brother told me in Lautrec market this morning that there was a year in the Fifties–he’s too young to remember which–when it rained until September!)


I buy a couple of fat courgettes (Spanish, no doubt) and think to grill them in thick slices on the griddle and top them with scallions/spring onions done the same way.

Could make a pretty picture…


… and go well with the salmon fillets I just bought.

2 plump courgettes–carefully sliced lengthwise, not too finely, lightly salted and left to drain for an hour

1 or 2 plump scallions/spring onions–sliced similarly

2 long chilis–sliced lengthwise

olive oil

salt and pepper

  • Heat the griddle to hot.
  • Mix the the courgettes slices with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Mix the onions and chili with a little less olive oil.
  • Place the courgettes slices on the griddle and leave for five minutes to char and soften.
  • Turn over and repeat the process.
  • When you judge they are done sufficiently remove to a serving plate and grind over some pepper.


  • Distribute the onion and chili mix over the griddle.


  • Grill for about five minutes to soften and char these too.
  • Remove them to the serving plate, season and serve.


  • This lunchtime they made a nice contrast with the salmon fillet cooked slow (see recipe in Delicious Dishes for Diabetics!).

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Our workshop pioneers left here last night after a final celebratory supper of aubergines slices with walnut & garlic spread*, followed by penne and farfalle with rosemary and balsamic vinegar*.

Meredith’s surprise dessert (surprising in that it surprised her how good it was)–a crumble of peach, pear and apple.

“Bravehearts”  I called them in the dedication I wrote in each copy of Delicious Dishes for Diabetics they took away with them.

And Bravehearts they were–everyone.

Chopping and slicing for four days on the trot with a willingness, enthusiasm and good humour that amazed me.

At the work face…

Clare and Jean–sisters from Ireland.

Meg and Emilie--friends from Philadelphia.

Chris–an Englishman from Lyons.

Hedvika from Tallahassee, Florida.

Mary from Maryland.

This was our international team at the work-top!

I asked them which they preferred to be: hands-off observers or hands-on workers?

The response was immediate, loud and overwhelmingly CLEAR: WORKERS!

Our friend Simone was essential back-up, keeping the work-top free of clutter, recycling the cooking tools as soon as their function finished, soon making them ready to use again.

We were blessed by early autumn sunshine and a location of heart-stopping beauty.

Dominique–hostess and creator of the La Terrasse, the B&B/small hotel in the centre of Lautrec–made our lives easier with the warmth of her welcome and her care.

This lunchtime we found ourselves talking about a possible early May repeat!

Well–good heavens we only finished last night–maybe it’s a bit premature!

The enduring memory of this my first cooking workshop will be the joyful enthusiasm of the pioneers–

seven BRAVEHEARTS who took a risk and turned up….

Here’s to them!

(*recipes to be found in Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.)


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Lamb chops, borlotti beans and broccoli.

We eat relatively little red meat.

Meredith bought these lamb chops on Tuesday from Monsieur Fraisse, the butcher in Lautrec. “They looked particularly nice….

The beans are from Italy, bought in jars. They grow in beautiful red spotted pods–the beans turn brown when cooked.

The broccoli I bought from the organic market in Castres, yesterday afternoon.

For 2

4 lean lamb chops

3/4 sprigs of rosemary–needles removed

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons olive oil–a little more if you need it



1 tin/jar of beans–drained but the liquid retained (of course these can be white or borlotti)

sprig of sage

a clove of garlic–chopped

1/2 an organic vegetable stock cube

the other 1/2 an organic vegetable stock cube dissolved in 250 ml/1/2 pint of hot water–(use this instead of or in addition to the liquid from the beans)


1/2 lb/ 250 gms  broccoli–washed, stems shortened and cut into eatable florets

salt and pepper

olive oil

  • An hour or two before you eat  “pestle” the rosemary needles up  (i.e. smash up!) with the garlic and a pinch of salt in a mortar and add the oil–this is the marinade for the chops.
  • Pour this fragrant mix over the chops in a bowl and turn everything to coat the chops with the marinade.
  • leave initially in the fridge–covered; then take them out an hour before cooking them.
  • Heat a grill to medium.
  • Season the chops and put them on the grill.
  • Timing depends on your taste and their thickness–3 to 4 minutes a side and they’ll retain some pinkness.
  • While they cook gently sauté the garlic and sage in the olive oil in a small pan until the garlic begins to colour.
  • Add the half stock cube (give it a stir to dissolve in the oil).
  • Add the beans.
  • Stir the mix and add a little of the bean liquid or the stock.
  • Cover and cook on for 5 minutes or so.
  •  In another pan, steam the broccoli covered until tender but not overcooked.
  • Serve with olive oil and salt on the table.

Interested customers watching M. Fraisse working on lamb chops

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This guy weighed in at 750gms/1lb 10oz!

I’m making a simple fresh tomato sauce with garlic and basil

First we go to La Fête du Pain, [the Bread Festival] in Lautrec. I find a convenient parking place–not easy.

Kids welcome you with an entrance sticker and a little sack of Lautrec flour (the village has one of the oldest working windmills in the South West!)…

and wish you “Bonne Journée ” with eager faces.


A percussion group climb up to the village in front of us.

Baritone and crisp side drums keep a good rhythm, making it sound like Sienna on Palio day.

We reach the square and “BANG”–du monde–too many people–too much noise!

I’m not grumpy–just not geared up for the crowd.

I leave Meredith there with her camera and drive home (losing the parking place).

Starting the sauce

I start the sauce* and feel better.

Meredith rings and says there’s a stall grilling lamb and sausages.

I rally and make my way back to Lautrec (retrieving the parking place).

After waiting in line for an age, we sit down with two plates of meat in the upper village square.

I buy two small glasses of red–1 euro each–and break the pledge a day early. We feel no guilt.

It’s definitely a “Jour de Fête“–happy crowds “milling” [jour du pain!] and “teeming” .

Plenty for the kids to do too–like learning to make pizza….

Eager students...

and “Guessing the Grain”…

"Older children"--guessing which grain is which!

and I’ve cheered up too!

Felicitations, LAUTREC!!

Simple fresh Tomato sauce

1 1/2lb/700gms–ripe tomatoes

4 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 fat cloves of garlic–sliced finely

a few basil leaves–chopped


Heat the oil in a pan.

Sauté the garlic gently in the oil until it starts to colour.

Chop the tomatoes–scooping out and leaving aside much of the seedy liquid.

Add them to the pan.

Cook them over a medium heat, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes.

When you can divide the red sea with a spoon and little pock marks appear in the sauce is done.

Season and serve as you like.

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Last week it was La Fête d’Ail (the Garlic festival) in Lautrec; Tomorrow–La Fête du Pain (the Bread festival).

The French fill their summers with fêtes.

In 1954 Dad took me to the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead to see Jacques Tati’s Jour de Fete (viewable here free).

In pre-Monsieur Hulot mode, Tati plays the good-hearted but accident-prone village postman.

Two bits stayed with me: the flag pole sequence (which starts about 12 mins in) and the bicycle race–when he gets tangled up in a mini Tour de France and ends up in a river (about 1hr 10min in).

Now maybe not quite so hilarious but at the time I nearly choked, I laughed so much–(and bonded with Dad)!

Still seeing the funny side–years later!

Last week (it’s always held on the first Friday in August) ten thousand people teemed–albeit slowly–through the narrow streets of Lautrec, buying local produce and aiming for the central square where la soupe à l’ail (garlic soup) is dispensed free at noon–with a glass of warm rosé.

This is after the much anticipated announcement of the winners of the best tress

Tress Parade!

and the most imaginative object made of garlic.

“Snail” on its journey to…

…the Viaduct of Millau

The pink garlic–l’ail rose de Lautrec–is specially good and long lasting.

It has protected status and a lovely pinkish hue on the outside skin.

Not long after buying our house here, we took some to California where Meredith’s brother–in-law planted some cloves and ended up winning first prize in the Marin County Fair!

We told the story to the farmer in the next hamlet, thinking he might be amused.

After a long pause and looking like thunder, he growled—“c’est interdit!” (that’s forbidden!).

He needn’t have worried–the different soil composition in California–turned the garlic white!

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Tour Swag

Our friend Romaine left the UK under strict instructions “at least bring us back treasure “.

Tour fanatics [amateurs de cyclisme] in the family were jealous when they heard she’d delayed her return by a day to witness the Tour whizz through Lautrec for the second year running.

We joined the crowd in the village with minutes to spare before the “Caravan” started to arrive.

Excited cheers greeted a lone police car leisurely passing through–briefly in the spotlight.

We found our place with a good view up the approach road and held our breaths.

A couple more anticlimaxes and then the commercial carnival began.

"The Yellow Jersey" leads the way!


...Mickey mice hot on his heels.

All sorts of goodies flew through the air and were snaffled up by the waiting crowd–polka dot caps and keyrings, sweets and sausages.

Twenty minutes of wonderful madness and kids’ bags were filling up with goodies like stockings at Christmas.

“We should be over the other side where they’re stopping and handing out”

Romaine needn’t have worried…a knight in shining armour came to the rescue–more of that in a moment.

Oh yes and the Tour!–the reason we were all there.

We shot over the other side of the hill for a better view and waited.

Five helicopters flying in line announced –an “Apocalypse Now” moment–the imminent arrival of “the breakaway-group”.

We joined the children nearby waving our arms and shouting our delight.

The peloton followed–passing with a whoosh….!

It was all over and Romaine was still regretting being on the wrong side of the track!

In rides nephew Dominic–a veteran biker and experienced tour follower–with a bag of booty.

Every time he’d  waved at a float from his isolated spot–goodies fell from the sky.

Dom’s a generous heart and Romaine’s only worry now was excess baggage at check in!

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Our  houseguest, Romaine, says she has a penchant for meat these days.

So off to visit Monsieur Fraisse, our butcher in Lautrec, in search of fillet of lamb for a marinade I’ve found.

Meredith and I don’t eat meat that often. My knowledge of the finer points of French boucherie is limited.

“Filet?–ça n’existe pas!”


Monsieur Fraisse knows his meat. Like his father before him, he selects and buys locally.

M. Fraisse explains...

But our friend Romaine says she used to cook it in Cheshire, many moons ago–with Elizabeth David as a guide.

As far as she remembers the fillet was a boned loin of lamb.

It was sliced into neat nuggets she calls noisettes–a French word apparently not used in a French boucherie–at least not by Monsieur Fraisse.

The English, the French and the Americans all have their traditional ways of cutting up meat–and their own terminology.

It’s confusing, though from the way Monsieur Fraisse describes the cote de filet [chop] boned, it sounds much the same.


“when in Rome….”!

We walk out–still confused–but clutching a bag of lamb to marinade and looking forward to dinner!

Happy Roman

A tasty marinade for 

4 lamb chops or other small cuts!

A good handful of mint leaves

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 large garlic cloves–pulped with a pinch of salt

50g/2 oz anchovy fillets–pulped

Whizz the last four ingredients together in a mixer and coat the chops in it in a bowl.

Leave to marinade for a couple of hours.

Heat a griddle to hot and grill the chops for a couple of minutes both sides–the time will depend on your taste and the thickness of the chops.

Seasonal vegetables like green beans or grilled tomatoes would go well with the chops.

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Sunflowers are emerging from their tightly bunched heads and their colour yellow announces July.

Wimbledon winds up and the Tour de France  sets out, heading south towards the Tarn, our department.

‘Old Black Socks’ is no longer in the hunt.

Lance Armstrong retired after last year’s tour, this time it could be definitive….

You spotted him by his un-chic black socks and heavy pedalling, and “the focus’.

Doped or not doped [nothing proven]–he was good to watch.

They flashed through Lautrec last year– too fast to catch a glimpse of “Black socks”– buried in the pack [le peloton].

The atmosphere is festive and the anticipation intense–and it’s all over in a trice.

Meredith, miraculously,  caught the yellow jersey’d leader Andy Schleck in the centre of a frame.

They’re coming this way again on the July 13th.

Will the work on the road that bypasses Lautrec be finished? Touch and go!

They pass through the Tarn most years, heading for the Alps or the Pyrenees.

Part of charm of “le Tour” is its easy accessibilty for the public.

We milled around at “le départ” one year in Albi–rubbing shoulders with these world class athletes, about to head off for another 150 kilometres of torture in the pulverizing heat.

On the mountain climbs you fear for the riders’ safety, as the crowd closes in and the passage narrows alarmingly.

Keep back!

“Get out of the way,” I find myself shouting at the TV!

The French regard the Tour as the third greatest sporting event on the planet–after the Olympics and the soccer World Cup–and unlike them, it’s annual.

(Americans have no problem naming their national baseball final–the World Series!)

Certainly as a feat of endurance the Tour is probably without equal.

You’d have to admit that Armstrong, finally hanging up his socks at the age of 38 last year, had–excuse the pun–feet of endurance.


The television coverage of the Tour is a miracle of coordination. From on high–with helicopters–at ground level on motorbikes, the movement is constant–but at the pace of the riders. Many French people watch it as a way of getting to know their country.

Our friend Deming–an American–says she once took a holiday in a village she’d liked the look of as the Tour passed through!

Look forward to a bird’s eye view of Lautrec on the 13th!

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