Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Spring at last
What a difference a day makes! The Mistral only lasted two days after all and today felt like Spring had finally arrived. Provence doesn't suit the grey, or the cold, it needs sunshine and warmth to bring out its colours, and they were all out on parade today! There were bright flowers freshly planted on les rondpoints (roundabouts) and the cyclists were out in their yellow, red and blue lycra shirts. People had taken off their heavy winter coats and were walking around in t.shirts and I suddenly remembered why I live in Provence.
This morning being Tuesday, was market day in Tarascon and it was full and bustling again after the quiet winter months. There were even parasols up to shade the produce from the sun, a far cry from last week, when the wind would have blown them away. I went to the stall where I buy my goats cheese and eggs every week. The woman whose stall it is, no longer comes to Tarascon, even though she still produces the cheese and the eggs from her small holding. I rather liked her, she had unevenly dyed reddish brown hair and traces of lipstick around her mouth, she was permanently bent over and her hands were twisted with arthritis but her nails were always painted pink. I once asked her why she'd not been at the market for a few months after Christmas and she answered that the baby goats needed their mother's milk and the chicken weren't producing very much so it hadn't been worth her while. Her daughter now manages the stall, but she told me she won't take over from her mother when she finally stops working. Apparently the old lady still does Arles market on a Saturday, she has to be in her late seventies.
I decided to buy some chicken livers and went to the poultry trailer. The couple who run it raise all their own chickens, ducks, rabbits, turkeys and geese at Christmas. They also carry different types of game, probably given to them by the local chassueres to sell (they practically shoot everything that moves here). Around Christmas he had some phaesant priced at €17 each. I told him that in Shropshire, where we used to live, you could buy three brace for £12! "I know" he said, "You already told me that last year!"
Anyway I bought about 800 grms of plump chicken livers from him, more than I needed but I reckoned I could put the ones I didn't use in the freezer.
I then went home and made a chicken liver salad. Recipe to follow:
You need about three livers per person, a head of lettuce, preferebly freshly cut that morning, washed and arranged on individual plates, a tablespoon or so of butter, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, or balsamic and about two tablespoons of oil, ( I use oliveoil but you can use something more neutral like peanut oil).
Cut the livers in half, rinse them and discard any bits that don't look like they should be there and pat dry with a paper towell. Then heat the butter in the pan and when it is hot enough, but before it turns brown, add the livers. They will hiss and jump about, so put some sort of cover over them. Turn them over and cook them for between 3 and 8 minutes in total, depending on how well cooked you like them. Place the livers on top of the lettuce on each plate. Then deglaze the frying pan that you have cooked the livers in with the wine vinegar, scrapping any bits from the bottom of the pan, cook for about half a minute, and then take if off the heat and add the oil, mix it in with the vinegar and pour over the livers, add salt and a twist or two of the pepper mill. Serve with crusty French bread (bought that morning in the market!)
Easy peasy, and more delicious than foie gras, which is far too rich for my taste.
I also like to make Chicken liver pate, my favourite is Nigel Slater's Chicken liver and mushroom pate from The Observer, (Google it).