South of France

Where there’s wine, there’s bound to be an Australian…

It’s not very often that TC and I call in on perfect strangers and introduce ourselves, but perhaps we should do this more often. Today’s adventure starts with a recommendation from our friend Thierry back in Perth.  Thierry owns and runs the fabulous Whisper Wine Bar in Fremantle’s Essex Street,  a place close to our hearts as we spent many hours over a chilled glass of white, plotting and planning our “escape to France” before we came here.

What has that got to do with wineries here in the Languedoc? Well, Thierry told us that a young man who had worked for him a while back, was now back in France and working in a winery not far away from us and what’s more, the winemaker at this winery is also Australian. Not needing any further  excuse than to say “hi” to a friend of a friend from Australia (and the chance to meet another Aussie living and working here), we set off as soon as we could.

Which of course was the very next day, why delay?  On the bikes and off to Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian!

The ride through local wine country was lovely. Sunny and warm, we arrived having worked up a decent sweat.  Just outside the winery is the 12th century prieuré – gorgeous!

Priure de Saint-Jean de Bébian Bike against wall Courtyard

Coming through the gates into such a pretty courtyard that I could have just sat and soaked it up all day. We were met in the cellar by a lovely lady who, on being told that we must say hello to Benoit, rushed off immediately to fetch him. After passing on the greetings from our mutual friend, we had a look around the cave (that’s just the name of the cellar door in France) and then started tasting some of the wines.

Well the wines were great (we managed to squeeze four bottles into our backpacks, despite also having our water bottles taking up space!) and had a wonderful chat with the winemaker, Karen Turner, who was so lovely and friendly that, despite these two strange Aussies turning up out of the blue (and in the middle of the harvesting season!) was kind enough to show us around a little and explain some of their wines and processes.

I LOVED the barrel cellar with its thick covering of cobwebs on the windows – deliberately left there to help keep flies at bay – and we were shown the nifty rack system they use for the barrels. Each one is on individual rollers in its rack, allowing the barrels to be rotated to stir the wine and also allowing single barrels to be removed easily  – something quite impossible if barrels are all stacked against each other!

 

 

 

Unfortunatley, there was no vendage happening while we were there. Karen explained that they only harvest in the mornings so that the grapes are fresh and while they had been harvesting some of the white grapes, the reds simply weren’t ready yet so there was to be a break for a few days.  A pity for us, as we would have loved to see the grapes being brought in, but this day it was not to be.  We did get to see the original stone tanks still used by the winery for the resting and maceration of the red wine grapes.

Chatting with Karen, we discovered that she and her husband also have their own winery, Domain Turner Pageot, specialising in biodynamically produced wines in the Languedoc region. A little more snooping on my part revealed they are part of a group of wine producers called “The Outsiders”, describing themselves as:

“…a group of Languedoc-Roussillon wine producers. Working in the south of France, they are creating exciting wines which make full use of the region’s highly diverse soil types, climatic conditions and grape varieties.”

If you get the chance to try some of these wines, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed and, even better, if you get the chance to call into the winery here just outside the beautiful town of Pezenas, you definitely won’t be disappointed!

Cheers and santé!

Winery sign

ps Yes, West Australians can taste some of these wines in Whisper’s… but shhhh…. I’ll be back there soon, leave some for me!!

Come to me little salted piggy…

Petit Salé

Over the past few evenings, TC and I sat and  watched the series Rick Stein’s French Odyssey which was about, of course, Rick coming to France. What made is special to us was that he not only travelled right through our region, he also did in on a barge on the Canal du Midi. Oh to spend a week or so on one of those beauties in summer!

He actually started up in Bordeaux and travelled down the Garonne and the Canal Lateral to Toulouse before transferring to the Canal du Midi. But anyway, the Canal du Midi brought him right into the Etang de Thau and across to Sete, before moving on to Marseille.  Of course he was sampling foods and wine and providing his take on some traditional French dishes along the way.

He obviously filmed the series during summer as the weather was warm and the scenery was green and lush. Being winter, one of his dishes really jumped out at us; more than one did actually, but the first one we wanted to try was Petit Salé, a.k.a. salted pork belly with lentils.

TC gets full credit for this one – he is our main cook while I just pop into the kitchen to play occasionally and bake sweet stuff. We went into our local boucherie yesterday especially for the poitrine de porc for this and it was well worth the wait until dinner tonight.

The pork was melt-in-the-mouth tender and immensely satisfying. The small green lentils, carrots, shallots and celery cooked with it were also delicious and I could almost hear all the cells in my body screaming with joy: “health food!”  while I just felt like I was purely indulging my winter-greedy appetite. That’s a win-win situation.

Mmmm, the ultimate winter comfort food. Enjoy!  petit sale

TC’s petit salé aux lentilles

INGREDIENTS:

1kg piece pork belly  *see notes

sea salt

6 small carrots, halved

10 shallots

3 sticks celery,  cut into 3cm chunks

300g puy lentils

bouquet garni  (bay leaves,  parsley, thyme and rosemary)*see notes

15g unsalted butter

handful of parsley,  chopped

METHOD:

Salt the pork in a shallow baking dish. Rub the salt well into the pork. Turn the meat over and rub into the other side too. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for around four hours.

Rinse the salt from the pork. Place in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil removing any scum that rises to the surface.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.

Gently stir in the lentils & add the bouquet garni

Leave to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the vegetables and cook until tender.

Gently remove the pork and cut, lengthwise, into thick, generous slabs.

Add the butter and chopped parsley to the lentils and vegetables and stir through. The water should have all absorbed into the lentils by this stage.

Serve topped with the pork pieces.

NOTES:

Pork: As we were just cooking for 2, TC used about 650g pork belly instead of the whole kilo. There are enough vegetables and lentil in this recipe to serve 4 people if you use 1kg of pork.

Bouquet Garni: TC took a shortcut and used stock concentrate capsules that contain bouquet garni herbs at this point

TC had a hard time finding the Rick Stein recipe, so the above is adapted from one he found on the Jamie Oliver cooking forum here.