A Gastronomic Pilgrimage

My old and late lamented mate, Floyd, once said that a Cassoulet could be made very complicated or very simple, but to get the best out of it keep it simple…..and go to Carcassonne!

Well after years of talking about it, I’m here in the medieval city of Carcassonne.

It’s a place that Mrs Dookes loves and somewhere that I’ve planned to visit for years, but now that I’ve made it, I’ve got to say that I’m not greatly impressed. Underwhelmed is the word that come to mind.

OK, hands up, the reason I’m not a big fan is that the place is crawling with tourists. Yes I know, I’m here as, gulp, “a tourist,” but I’m a tourist that has ridden the high Cols and looked for solitude not to gawp at countless shops selling the same “Made in Taiwan souvenir of Carcassonne” crap!

That’s better, I got that off my chest…!

I’m here on serious business, Cassoulet business!

For those that don’t know what a Cassoulet is, I suggest you go Google, or better still go try a real authentic one, but you won’t get one like I just had!

I did what Floyd said and came to Carcassonne and more particularly to Le Maison du Cassoulet restaurant.

Now MdeC is like all the very best French restaurants, on the outside it looks plain, on the inside it looks dull….but the food does all the talking!

The place is without doubt “The” centre of the Cassoulet world.

I walked through the door as they opened at 19:00hrs and was promptly shown to the table of my choice. After enjoying a beer brewed in the city of Carcassonne, my order of Cassoulet Gourmand appeared along with a local full-bodied Corbières Rouge.

Fantastic doesn’t come close as a description; Floyd was right!

And now dear Blogonaughts, I must retire to reflect on the velvety glory that a perfect Cassoulet brings to a hungry Hogrider. It is mine to wallow in the knowledge of a job well done, a pilgrimage fulfilled….for you, like my mate Floyd said, “To get the best out of it keep it simple…and go to Carcassonne!”

Here’s to you Floyd, I miss you, but thank you for all the food and the good times!

Catch you soon.


Plus un Dimanche Française; More on a French Sunday

“Bonjour Madame, Monsieur!” The raspy voice can only be Guillaume our bearded neighbour.
“Ça va?” I look around from my book of French recipes, that I have been engrossed in whilst enjoying the glorious sunshine on our balcony with Mrs Dookes. “Oui, ça va bien merci,” Yes, I’m good thanks.

Guillaume drops his load of fishing gear on the ground in the courtyard below me with an aplomb earned from a successful trip. He is itching for me to ask…
“As-tu attrapé quelque poisson?” “Did you catch any fish?”

It’s a bit of a staged question really, as he would have slipped quietly by had he not caught anything!

“Mais oui, un bon brochet!” He has caught a pike, a fish largely ignored by British chefs, but prized throughout the Northern half of France and this one is heading straight for G’s kitchen! But first the ritual of cleaning his gear and then gutting the fish.

As he busy’s himself and the sweet aroma of his French cigarette wafts through the air I savour the further richness of this lovely country and yes sometimes it is often all about the food. Not just about the eating, though that is pretty important, but more about the provenance, where it comes from and how it has been grown.

Seasonality is very important in French food and as we head into Autumn the richness of the game season is all around us, not least Guillaume’s pike. In the market yesterday were stalls creaking under the weight of fresh wild mushrooms; girolles, ceps, chanterelles to mention just a few. The butchers have pheasant, partridge and quail on offer, not forgetting wild boar, sanglier in French, It would be very rude not to at least try some of the seasons wonderful offerings.

Thinking again of my mate Floyd, he once said that to truly know a country, one must eat a country! I can’t say that I’ve tried everything that France has to offer yet, but I’m well on my way!

After a morning perambulation around Sainte Suzanne, just to work up an appetite, today’s lunch was a light prawn and crab salad, accompanied by a rather fine white burgundy.

As you can see the little city is truly delightful.

Guillaume has now finished his cleaning, the pike traps are drying in the late afternoon sun and the brochet itself is safely in the refrigerator. “Maintenent, un petit bu?” Guillaume asks. Now a little drink? Well, it would be rude to decline, for if one has to eat a country one might as well try to drink it as well, though please not all in one go!
“Oui, mon ami, un petit kir serait bon!”

Then I have to cook again, we bought a lovely piece of veal yesterday….!

“Non, je ne regrette rien.”