Wednesday, 28 December 2011


On Christmas night, when all tucked up in bed, we had our first freeze. Christmas day was spent huddled around the fireplace lined in layers of Patagonia fleece while we tried to get the wood stove working for the first time in a year. In the morning the interior of the house was edging towards a, just-about-livable 13°C downstairs and 9°C upstairs, in our bedroom and by 5pm and turkey time we had reached an almighty 15°. Bed doesn't really matter anyhow because we've got an electric blanket, two hot water bottles, a thick cashmere blanket, two bonnets and each other. 
When we first arrived in Mailhos, we installed a rudimentary heating system that we never used and as the years went by, we figured out we could easily rely on the fallen trees and wood stove to warm us in the winter and deinstalled the electric system. Wood stoves work very well, when you are prepared, and we have usually been braced for cold spells. I think that the fact that winter was so late this year, put us off our guard making us a little too cocksure and we were literally caught with our pants down or just off and its taking a long time to get the blood moving in our extremities again...
Mailhos is an old 18th century lady who we have respected and loved and nourished over the years. She is not fashioned for modernity nor luxury even though she is very comfortable and cozy in her own special way. She doesn't like too much change and is happy free from newfangled gimmicks such as central heating or double glazing. In order to please her gods, we have adapted to her needs and in return our lives our easier and our health is ruddier...
Despite the cold outside and inside, I have a dozen amethyst coloured cauliflowers thriving in the garden but ready to harvest soon as I'm not sure they will appreciate such a drop in external temperatures for long. For maybe a week now, I have also had nightly visits from some fine-hoofed neighbours who have razed my swiss chard and beetroot tops to the ground while leaving all else standing and I'm nervous they will now go searching for new tastes and gobble up the cabbage/cauli heads, young peas or broad beans

So I have to work quickly....
Like calabrese and broccoli, cauliflower is a brassica which stores its nutrients in the flesh just below the flowering buds or florets. The cauliflower is the guru of this technique and is overflowing with vitamins C and B6 and minerals yet despite all its lovely goodness, I was never a lover of such "brain" food. It was served to me as a child, soggy and pulpy with a smell of rotting cabbage and the memories have remained.
But I have grown cauliflower and today I love cauliflower. 
And the amethyst cauliflower is the one I love the best. With a quick 2 minute steam, they are delicious, as florets in a salad, with cress and rocket and a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
They are far too fine and elegant for an indian curry, spicy chutney or cheesy gratin and demand only the simplest of adornments and cooking. A white, market-bought cauliflower will be roasted and toasted, served with a mustard vinaigrette or spiced up.

I never grow them over the summer months as they don't appreciate our hot sun, require too much watering and usually end up bolting on me,. In Autumn, I sow my amethyst "purple cape" for winter, in late summer its the time for romanesco which are just coming into flower and in spring  a few white varieties. Its my all year round vegetable and although not my most treasured, has gained my respect, growing my own and forgetting  the watery and transparent memories of yore.

Amethyst Cauliflower Couscous

4 people

I purple cape Cauliflower (or a small white if necessary)
80ml Olive Oil
Juice of one Lemon
2tbsp fresh chopped Chives
1tbsp fresh chopped Mint
Sea Salt and Pepper

Cut the cauliflower into florets and grate finely.
Boil some water with salt and add the cauliflower. Blanch for 1 minute the remove from the heat, drain and rinse in cold water. Dry in a clean tea towel.
Put the cauliflower grain in a salad bowl and add the olive oil, lemon juice, chives and mint. Season well.
Serve with chicken or fish.


  1. Dear Madame Carol,

    I have been reading your entries with great pleasure from far away across the sea this past year and wanted to thank you for the glimpse into your magical world and wish you a Splendid New Year! Your house and garden are so gorgeous and I've learned many things, it's been such a treat.

    Lily Lewin

  2. Thank you for your sweet words!
    Happiest new year to you too...
    Take care

  3. Dear Carol,

    I am the founder of The Foodie Bugle online magazine at

    Would it be possible to send you an e-mail please?

    Thank-you very much.

    All good wishes for a happy New Year to you and your family,
    Silvana de Soissons

  4. yes you can write to me on
    Happy New Year to you to
    A trés vite