I like to imagine that the word ‘gastronomy’ had its origins in the old name for this region – Gascony.
More usually associated with the meaty flavours of foie gras, duck and pork, Gers is also where you’ll find the tastiest of vegetables, juicy, sweet fruit and herbs with an intensity of flavour brought on by long hours of sunshine and a soil that nourishes everything it grows. All that’s needed is a creative hand to bring them together – and voila, you can have a vegetarian feast!*
Earlier this week we hosted my French dictation group for Apéritifs and nibbles here at Le Petit Cochon. And with both vegans and vegetarians in the party it was a great chance to put together a menu making use of seasonal and local meat free produce. The most popular dish was a salad I adapted from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi. In case you’d like to try it here’s my version:
Celeriac and lentils with walnuts and wild mint (Serves 4)
- 60g walnut halves. They are in season right now and sweet and crunchy!
- 200g green lentils
- 700ml water
- 2 bay leaves – fresh, rather than dried, if you can. I take mine from our tree in the garden
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 small celeriac, 650g or there about. Peeled and cut into 1cm ‘chips’
- 4tbsp French olive oil
- 3tbsp walnut oil
- 3tbsp red wine vinegar
- Zest of half a lemon and 2 tsp of lemon juice
- 4tbsp chopped wild mint. It grows in abundance here, so we always pick some when out walking and keep a bunch in a glass of water in the kitchen.
- Salt and black pepper
Preheat your oven to just 140 degrees C. Roast the walnuts for 15 minutes. Then let them cool down and chop them into chunks.
Put the lentils, water, bay leaves and thyme in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. You don’t want them too soft. Drain and put them in a bowl.
Next, mix the hot lentils with the olive oil, 2 tbsp of the walnut oil, lemon zest and juice, the red wine vinegar, some freshly ground black pepper and salt. Cook the celeriac until just tender Add the celeriac to the lentils and mix together well.
Stir in half the mint and half the nuts. Put everything into a service bowl and then drizzle the remaining walnut oil on top and decorate with the rest of the mint and nuts. Can be eaten warm or cold served with freshly baked sourdough bread. Bon appétit!
*When you come to stay, we’ll be happy to recommend vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants nearby and to make table reservations for you. It’s all part of the service at Le Petit Cochon.