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Languedoc Notebook - April
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A taste of home

For me, the most challenging thing for a chef is to work with a humble product and to use it to produce (I don't like to use the word 'create') a memorable dish or may be just a taste that will linger with you for years. Actually the word chef may not be the right one in this context, cook is more suitable.

We all have experienced great dishes by outstanding chefs served in fine restaurants but how many do you actually remember?

A few days ago a fellow restaurateur came to see me with a surplus of tinned chick-peas asking if I could take them off his hands. We do not use them just now and only use the dried one when we do. But this reminded me of a dish my mum used to cook at home. The best way to describe it is a chick-peas cassoulet-style of hot pot. She  used “croustillous" , spare pork ribs to you and me, from the local butcher , and after colouring them in a stew pot with some onions , garlic , bay leaves, thyme  and a glass of white wine, she  added a couples of handful of chick-peas....but not any chick peas!

Let me explain; as you leave Bedarieux on the Montpellier road, high on the hills you will see the village of Carlencas where a handful of Jardinières grow this golden nugget. High on the plateau sunburned in the summer and battered by the winds and rain in the winter. I understand there are only four of them left now, still producing these prized 'pepittes'.

 Up to 4 tonnes in a good year much less most of the time, you may find them in the markets of Bedarieux or Lamalou if you are lucky, and in a couple of restaurants locally but mainly at the village fêtes. Once you taste them you will seek them again and again...buttery, nutty, creamy and a perfect companion to my mum's  'croustillous' as I remember....I am planning to go home soon, and I will try to get a few for a special dinner at La Garrigue; watch this space ...(JM Gauffre)

 À bientôt!

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