Since my office has moved to the south of France many have asked me when I am going to move; some are even convinced that I have moved already. I suspect there is a self interest in that. A free trip.
And I must admit it, it would not be insanity to think that. Sea, mountains, rollings hills with grape vines and shimmering olive trees, stunning medieval villages, Spain and Italy at a stone throw, good weather all year round and excellent food and wine.
Why staying in England?!?
Languedoc-Rousillon is that L shape stretch of land between Camargue, Midi-Pyrenee and Catalona. Somehow nobody knows it by name but everyone has been in Montpellier or Carcassonne. The number of villages that are scattered throughout the coast will keep you busy for at least a week without getting bored.
And the food will surprise you. Probably closer to Italian than French, the local food uses mostly olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and herbs. And fish, of course. I decided to snub the classic moules marinere et frites, aka mussels with chips, and depth myself in *deep waters*.
Octopus is a key ingredient in the region and a particularity from the town of Sete (which also happens to be the home town of George Brassens, the "father" of the early De Andre').
No surprise the food will be more Italian than French. Even this little fishy pie has its origins in its Italian neighbour. XVIII century immigrants exported the tiella from Gaeta (on the coast between Rome and Naples, and more famous for its olives) that became tielle. Calamari and octopus are the main ingredient. And surprisingly not at all strong.
The region is also famous for some nice and sweet little green and yellow peppers which are normally simply grilled and covered with salt and a touch of lemon juice. They reminded me of the pimientos del padron we had in Galicia. I would recommend you don't miss either of them.
I wanted to try the Tielle again and made it the other day at home. If you like making pies, you'll love making this one.
For 4-5 people
100g tomatoes (not too ripen)
1 clove of garlic
1 handful of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 glass of white wine
Make the dough with the flour, 300ml water of 15g fresh yeast.
For the stuffing, cook the octopus in a court bouillon for no less than 2-3 hours. Many, including my mother, think that frozen octopus tastes better than fresh octopus because it is more tender. Maybe. So try for yourself and let me know. The octopus makes a terrible smell during cooking so make sure the lid is on and the kitchen door is shut!
You can use squids instead cutting it in thin strips including the tentacles. It might possibly be easier to find especially here in England.
Fry the julienne-cut onion in a pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil, add crashed garlic, chopped parsley and the tomatoes squashed and without their skin (simply leave them for a minute or two in boiling water until the skin cracks; then peel them carefully).
Simmer and then add the wine, and a touch of water and let it evaporate.
Cut the octopus when it is cooked in very small pieces, add them to the sauce. Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Roll the dough and make a large rectangle cutting two round pieces (about 30cm in diameter). Place the first piece in a mould of around 18cm and place the sauce in it. Cover with the other circle of dough and seal well by folding the dough slightly.
Brush with olive oil and bake in the oven at C200 for 15 minutes (or until golden).