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Languedoc Notebook - February
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Jean-Michel runs La Garrigue restaurant at 31 Jeffrey Street

"Gastronomically speaking, January and February do not have much to offer in terms of produce ...or do they?

 In Scotland we are of course we celebrate Burns; the haggis, mash and turnip and there is a connection with the food offered in my beloved Languedoc. We  e have le Gâteau des Rois, a brioche crown shaped cake, truffled with glazed fruits, which represents the offering of the kings to baby Jesus. In Languedoc we call it Fougasse, hidden inside is a small figurine and whoever finds it,  is crowned king/queen for a day; good fun for the children! 

 I remember those winter Sunday lunches as a young boy, fighting with my brothers to try to find the prized figurine, but there was also one product that I loved maybe even more. It was served as garnish with roast pork or confit duck .... the turnip! 

But this was not any turnip, this was the" Navet Du Pardailhan" one of Languedoc's best kept secrets due to a small production. My grandmother used to serve it caramelised, cooked in butter and honey, and has always cooking a few more just for me as she knew I would steal a few before lunch. 

This king of turnip is cultivated by only fourteen small producers, (I believe Monsieur le Cure has small field for them), and is now an AOC prized by France's top chefs. The terroir you see is what makes this Navet so special. Grown only on the plateau at 500m in the village of Pardailhan, the soil there is rich and red which gives the navet a very sweet, nutty flavour; its skin is rough, black, and hides an ivory coloured flesh, juicy and delicate.  

I have cooked it many times over the years, as velouté with a grated black truffle from Graissessac, as a savoury tarte tatin, or with a ragout of croustillous, (spare pork ribs), and I am waiting every day now for my food parcel to arrive!

Not enough to serve in the restaurant unfortunately but enough to have a wee taste of home one of these Sundays...maybe one day I will convince someone to send a consignment to Scotland ... may be one day....



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