Given that all of our team – architects, aparelledor, paleta – are or have been on holiday and with an invitation to spend time with old and dear friends on the  Côte d’Azur it was bit of a no brainer not to pass it off.   So two days after my sister left we packed up the old Astra and headed off on the 601km+/- from Cardedeu to Cagnes sur Mer, tucked between Cannes and Nice.  I’d never been further north than Perpignan so this was something of a minor ‘road trip’, French stylee.

A considerable portion of the drive (taking the quickest route) was by ‘Péage’ ( toll road) which for the most part does not follow the coast.  The towns of Bezier and Narbonne drum up images of rugby and evenings spent drinking Fitou in Granville Road, Finchelli, as it was affectionally known whilst living and working in London 20 years ago.  On to Montpellier and the western fringe of La Camargue,  white horses, black bulls and fields of (probably mosquito infested) rice  –  Sainsbury’s sell it! Lovely red grains with an almost nutty flavour.   Aix en Provence and on to Cagnes sur Mer.

Now the purpose of this piece is not to give you a blow by blow account of our stay with our hosts, but given the love of food which we share with many of our friends our taste buds were stimulated by a number of simple artisan products and a small productive garden which provided us with a few ingredients. 

Tarragon, that aniseed scented herb provided the trigger to make a sauce béarnaise to accompany barbecued steak.  Greengages (Claudias) made for a quick and simple greengage crumble enfused with homemade Mirabelle eau d’vie.  Homemade lemonchello was produced, smoking ice cold and tangy from the freezer.  Camambert and brie that would run off a stick and lipsmackingly smelly goats cheese paired with bread, yes but bread of regal quality and wine with the balls required to cut through the richness of the cheese.   Homemade apricot jam and toast for breakfast for a tasty start to your day or brioche, croissant, or almond encrusted pastries.

The car was dually packed and we returned with a few figs from the garden for our homebound picnic, six freshly picked lemons and a bag of almonds still coated in their velvet green pods.  Armed with these goodies, on our return home we have been stirred into action in the last few days.

First – the Lemonchello.  Casting our eyes over a few recipes it’s production is now ongoing. 

0.5 litres vodka

6 fresh, unwaxed lemons

350g sugar

350ml water

 • wash your lemons and carefully peel the rind from them, whilst removing as little pith as possible.

• place the rinds in a washed and sterilized parfait jar; cover with vodka and leave for a couple of weeks in a cool dark place, stirring occasionally…..that is where we are at now.

• put the sugar and water in a pan.  Dissolve the sugar and then boil for five minutes.  Mix with the vodka and lemon rinds and leave for a few more weeks before straining and storing in bottles.

• Leave the bottle in your freezer to enjoy at your leisure.

 Secondly – Homemade Lemonade.  Now, having something of the Aberdonian in me I wasn’t about to throw six handpicked, peeled lemons in the bin.  So for a summer drink for all of the family here is my Mum’s recipe for Lemonade. 

2 lemons

1 pint boiling water

4oz sugar 

• wash your lemons, cut them in half and squeeze out the juice and reserve.

• put the squeezed lemons in a jug and pour over the boiling water, add the sugar, stir and leave to cool.

• add the reserved lemon juice to the water and lemons, stir, strain and pour into a bottle and chill in the fridge.

 The above is the original recipe, but if you prefer your lemonade to be less sweet reduce the quantity of sugar and if you like it sharper still use more lemon juice.  On this occasion we used the six peeled lemons and added 1 ½ pints of water and 4oz of sugar for a very lemony concoction which went down a treat with some gin and ice…..if we had had a dash of tonic it would have been even more majestic. 

Thirdly – The Almonds.  These have been dually shelled from their green outer casing, the nut retained in its hard shell.   These are now lying on a tray, being sun dried for storage and future use. 

Fourthly –  Figs.  Well, these are currently ripening on a tree in the abandoned garden that abuts our house in Cardedeu.  These are maturing splendidly this year and some we consumed the other day as part of a ham, rocket and oven dried tomato salad.  Some have been eaten as they are and none too bad they are.  The remainder have been transformed into jam. 

1.2kg fresh figs

1.0 pectin sugar

Juice of 1 lemon 

• cut your figs in half, chop or blitz your figs –  what you choose to do will either give you a chunky through to a smooth fig jam.

•place in a pan with the lemon juice and warm through.

• add the pectin sugar and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.

• bring to the boil and cook rapidly for ‘5’ minutes. 

• take the pan off the heat, put into sterilized jars, cover with jam paper, seal with a lid and turnover the jars for 3 minutes.

• spread on hot buttered toast and enjoy the sweet succulence of fig jam.

 Foodies, there you have it for now.  But we intend to serve you the above and much more when our time comes to open our doors to you at La Rectoria.

 In the meantime, what of La Rectoria? Well, the builders are due back this week and we made ourselves busy tidying the garden last thursday.  Another scorcher of a day it was to, during which we had a visit from the Alcalde (Mayor) of Sant Feliu de Pallerols and a number of other luminaries from the  ajuntament (council).  In short, the reason for their visit was to decide if we could put the rubble and soil from the excavated foundations in the field adjacent to the house.  This would save us carting the stuff to the dump and it would also assist the council who want to improve public access to the church.  The result, a tenuous thumbs up but we won’t be able to crack open the champagne on that one until the ‘i`s are dotted and the ‘t`s are crossed.

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