With the changing weather and the welcome warmth that seems to be gradually pushing itself back into our cold wintery days, the available produce feels suddenly brighter and inspiring. The mood is lifted by the lighter evenings, bringing memories of balmy summer nights and anticipation of many more to come. Jumping out of bed with the sun shining is fabulous after a long cold February, asking oneself, 'could I wear shorts today?' 'Definitely maybe' would be the answer, although temperatures have been hitting early twenties, fantastic!
So we decided an early spring lunch was how to spend our sunny Friday. The market in Niort is really fantastic. It's open most days which is a luxury, and has such an interesting range of produce. A bussling hive of activity as people saunter through the aisles ready for inspiration. Always a three course lunch at midday here, and make sure at 12 on the dot it's ready...
This took a lot of getting used to when we arrived. By the time we got up and ready and drove to the shops, everything would shut for a two hour lunch break...literally everything except of course the restaurants.
From fairly early you will be able to find a few locals at the bar drinking a cold glass of muscadet. In Niort there is a busy bar set in the middle of the indoor market, at first it looks inviting, but if you even think about sitting down, the looks of horror from the regulars is enough to rapidly convince you otherwise! As we continue through the market, the colorful array of vegetables is simply beautiful. We bought a range of fresh produce for our delicious spring lunch and hurried back to the house to get stuck in.
After lighting the fires and enjoying the morning sunshine, the vegetables strewn over the limestone island gently seducing us and silently screaming 'throw us in the fire', so we did. The raw reality of cooking over wood taking us back to our cave man instincts, is great fun. You get to enjoy the whole process, knowing you have achieved it with your own bare hands. The impact of the theatre makes the meal more exciting, and the flavor makes the food more delicious!
Succulent lamb chops left to marinate with cumin and olive oil whilst tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, a whole head of garlic and shallots, cook over the hot coals until softened and slightly charred, then roughly chopped. Mix all these little beauties with the mashed garlic, a little seasoning and fresh herbs from the garden, et voilà - scrummy ratatouille! We quickly rustled up some flatbreads which were also cooked directly on the hot coals - fantastic!
The lamb chops then cooked on the plancha and brushed with the marinade via a rosemary sprig - the perfect centerpiece! Bon appétit et bienvenue printemps!
Thanks Roger Stowell for filming the video, check out the link below...