You haven’t tasted real tomatoes until you taste those ripened by the Mediterranean sun. It’s the same story with all the fruit and vegetables here in Languedoc-Roussillon, they have a taste you won't find in those greenhouse ripened cousins which actually bear very little taste resemblance to those bursting with sunshine flavour. Mediterranean food is loved the world over and often written about but I have not come across any Languedoc specific articles so I was delighted when I found Caroline Conran’s book Sud de France, the food & cooking of Languedoc (available to buy from our website). It is filled with fabulous recipes using the delicious produce of the region. I have used it many times and everything has turned out superbly well and tasted delicious. Chapter 8 is dedicated to vegetables, pulses and wild foods and this perfectly reflects the culture here, for foraging is something the Languedoc folk love to do. In this chapter is a recipe for La Truffade which is a rustic cheese and potato cake. No truffles are contained in this dish, it gets its name from the old Occitan word for potatoes, truffas. But truffles are very much part of the cuisine of the region and we celebrate them during the season of January and February with several festivals.
A steaming bowl of Cassoulet is brought to our table by Bridget who made it in her bijou restaurant that was once the school in this tiny Languedoc village. We are sitting in the old school room that still has the blackboard but instead of the lesson it displays todays menu. But we take no heed of that for as usual I have ordered Bridget’s delicious Cassoulet for my clients who have signed up for the Saint-Chinian & Minerve vineyard tour. The comforting white bean stew cooked in a garlicky sauce comes in a terracotta Cassoulet and hidden inside is the preserved duck, duck confit as it’s called here. Dotted around are succulent sausages and sprinkled on top are the breadcrumbs baked to a delicious crunch. Its rich and hearty peasant food and its like has fed the people of the Languedoc for centuries and today my customers are tucking in with gusto.