The cold spell is forecast to end this week but it’s not going without a fight. Last night it had snowed, not very much but enough for us to abandon any plans of going to the market today. There probably won’t be one anyway. However, the temperature had risen to a sweltering minus 1.5°C this morning and the house feels much warmer for it.
The weather has severely curtailed my programme of activities. I wanted to get to the Toulouse Violet Fair: no way. I wanted to get to the truffle market at Limogne, which ends in late February/early March: with the hard ground and arctic temperatures there won’t be any truffles. The upside is that I have got a lot of work done, short stories written and books read.
I thought you’d like to see the picture above of someone who knows how to keep warm: Felix in the log basket next to the woodburner.
Before moving on to the songs and stews, I ought to mention that my blog is two years old today. This is my 199th post (didn’t quite make the 200). The blog has had around 49,750 hits altogether (didn’t quite make the 50,000, but I might if you keep coming back today). I’ve really enjoyed it, learned a great deal, made a lot of virtual friends – some of whom I hope to meet one day – and intend to continue as long as I can find things to write about. Thanks for the nice comments and awards or just for reading my scribblings.
There’s nothing like singing for generating a warm, rosy glow. The choir that sang in the Christmas carol service at Parisot was so successful that the organisers decided to make it permanent. The first rehearsal took place last Thursday evening. About 28 of us, of various nationalities, braved the biting cold to turn up and sing under the baton – actually, he doesn’t use one – of maestro Peter Nowfel. You can see the back of his head immortalised in my post about the carol service. He lives in Aveyron and had further to travel than anyone.
Now, I’m not the world’s best singer. In fact, I haven’t sung in a choir for 35 years. However, I thought I’d have a go and am quite prepared to drop out if I become too embarrassing. I put myself with the sopranos, which is a good thing since there are only five of us against nine altos. But I’m not sure if I can still hit the high notes. Time will tell. Or Peter will.
We started with a piece by Saint-Saëns and then moved on to one that Peter composed himself. Very nice it is too – not that I’m trying to curry favour, of course. We already have two concerts planned plus another carol service. Plenty to keep us busy.
Southwest France specialises in some rib-sticking dishes. Just what you need to keep the winter at bay. One of them is cassoulet, a stew of haricot beans, Toulouse sausage and duck or goose confit. I am indebted to BBC olive [sic, without a capital] Magazine for the following recipe, to which I have added a few refinements of my own.
The denizens of Castelnaudary, Toulouse and Carcassonne, all of whom claim to have invented the dish, would not approve of this version. In fact, there’s a wonderful YouTube video where an Englishman tries to sell ‘cassoulet anglais’ to the Castelnaudariens and barely escapes with his life. However, the following recipe is quick, easy and delicious.
Toulouse Sausage Casserole
If you can’t find Toulouse sausage, any spicy sausage will do. Also, the recipe includes butter beans, which you can find tinned. I prefer to use haricots lingots, slightly longer and flatter, already prepared in goose fat. Terrible for the cholesterol but it does make a difference to the taste.
1 leek, sliced
1 fat clove garlic, sliced thinly
6 slices streaky bacon, chopped
6 spicy sausages or a coil of Toulouse sausage
1 large glass white or red wine
200ml chicken stock (but leave this out if you use the haricots lingots in goose fat, otherwise there will be too much liquid)
2 x 400g tins of butter beans (or haricots lingots, see above), drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Fry leeks and garlic in butter/oil in a casserole until softened.
- Cut sausages into one inch chunks and brown in a frying pan. Do the same with the bacon. Add to the leeks and garlic.
- Add the wine, stock, butter beans – or haricots lingots – and cayenne pepper.
- Cover and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes until piping hot. Season to taste and add chopped parsley, if liked.
Serve with plenty of green veg. You don’t need potatoes. This has become one of our winter staples.
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