It’s town-twinning time again. Our Breton friends were here in Laroque for a few days, and a Good Time Was Had By All. It’s hard to describe the simple pleasure of this weekend. Re-discovering the region through Breton eyes and getting to know our northern friends a bit better: getting to know our Laroquais friends and acquaintances better too: music – lots of it – thanks to the talented and eclectic musicians who always form part of the group – a singer and bodhran player, a flautist and a keyboard player: and shared eating, lots of it.
If you still think France is the land of sophisticated and fine dining, you’ve yet to discover the Ariège. People lived close to the land, they were out with their stock, working the fields, or keeping the textile industry alive and successful. Busy women put a pot of food on the fire in the morning and expected it to look after itself till hungry workers came in demanding nourishment. And they were likely to get azinat. Azinat with rouzolle. That’s what about 80 of us sat down to on Saturday night,
I suggested it was a dish that was more than a bit troublesome to prepare. Joscelyne, in her 70’s and a life-long Ariègeoise was having none of it.
‘No, it’s easy! Take a large cabbage and blanch it for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your onions or leeks, carrots and any root vegetables you fancy, and sauté them gently. Add some slices of belly pork, some sausages, a couple of bay leaves and the cabbage. Throw in a couple of litres of water and simmer gently for at least a couple of hours.
Now throw in some large chunks of potato, some dried sausage, and the duck leg confit (these are portions of duck which have been preserved by salting the meat and cooking it slowly in its own fats) which you’ve browned gently in a frying pan to remove the excess fat, and continue to cook gently for another half hour or so.
Meanwhile, make the rouzolle. Mix together chunky sausage meat, some chopped fatty bacon, eggs, milk, a couple of slices of bread, chives, parsley, garlic. Form into a flat cake and fry on both sides.’
According to Joscelyne, the hungry family would have as their lunch the bouillon from the dish, poured over slices of bread generously sprinkled with grated cheese. Cheap, filling and nourishing.
Dinner, at the end of the day, would be all the meats and vegetables.
That evening, we sat down to the soup, followed by the meats. Followed by cheese. Followed by croustade, the Ariègeois answer to apple pie. Followed by membrillo – quince paste – and coffee. Followed by an energetic evening of Breton dancing. We needed to burn off those calories.