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  • Writer's pictureMme Vanessa Williamson

Mirabelles and Figs; the July kitchen

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Across our friends and neighbours French gardens there are fruit trees of cherry, fig, apple, mirabelle plumbs, peaches, apricots, and walnuts. In the l'Hotel de Hercé garden we have a Crabapple tree; Pomme Savage, which is rather unique, two cherry trees, and a Mirabelle plum that emerged unexpectedly last summer, laden in fruit after pruning another tree let in sunshine. In la Mayenne in late July, the wheat harvest is coming in, with the countryside turning yellow and fields are dotted with huge hay rolls, reminiscent of an Impressionist landscape. In orchards and gardens across France fruit is ripe and heavy on trees, we welcome the phone calls from our neighbours with abundant fruit to share for all who will take it. Our Mirabelle so prolific last year, this summer a smaller harvest, yet fat perfect fruit will be bottled for our winter stores. Our neighbors countryside orchard has abundant Mirabelles. On Saturday evening Matt came home, with a huge bucket of golden over ripe windfall mirabelles, yesterday snap preserved into jars of golden sunshine confiture for our larder. There is more to come!

Our exploring Canadian neighbours found wild blackberry's, we were delighted to join them for a picking expedition. Following in social distancing tandem cars, we drove to a near by town, turning sharply down a near invisible lane, lined high with bocage hedges. We arrived at a permanently closed art galley, still full of works, and overlooking open fields of an extensive outdoor sculpture gallery. A rolling rural landscape of work by Mayenne sculptor Louis Derbre 1925-2011. Massive bronze and concrete sculptures still stand, softened in a landscape of long grasses and wildflower meadow. The some of the wide promenades are lined with banks of Blackberries, which we picked, the fattest berries were frustratingly out of reach. Eaten over the next few days with French vanilla ice cream and baked into a open topped tarte Tarte aux mures. They did not last long and the berry season is fleeting.

Now its time to turn your minds to a sublime entrée of fresh figs stuffed with gorgonzola, wrapped in air cured ham, or of dark dense fig paste on a piquant cheese platter. This was just part of a summer seasonal dinner enjoyed at a friends home this past week. This led to much conversation of recipes cooking and all things figs. I learnt of the source of the figs, another neighbours heavy laden tree, with the possibility of fruit to spare! This is the depth of joyful local dinner conversation and a little gossip. Then Sunday night the owner of the Fig tree phoned, "Come with a bucket now, the tree has fallen over", recent rain had softened the soil, and being just too heavy with fat ripening figs toppled over. This summers weather appeared to have been too perfect for fruit and we now have a kitchen full of figs.

Yesterday I had figs on just about every surface of the kitchen, they are so beautiful. With love I arranged them onto numerous china platters, and took some of my best ever photos. I enjoyed just looking, then of course eating. I researched recipes for all things with figs, while the Mirabelles bubbled in the sugar for confiture. In my previous life in Sydney figs were a luxury, I used to buy just one perfect purple fig at $1 a pop, to saviour as they came into season. To have a kitchen full was beyond imaginable. I baked a cake made with cups of fresh fig and walnuts. After much thought, adapting a recipe, to a soft dark cake with hints of the flavours of sticky dates. Slices served warm with a caramel sauce would be stunning desert. Fig chutney is next, not a French thing but perfect with French cheeses especially aged Comté from the Bourgoune-Frache-Comte region. The recipes will all be added to my cookbook, which I hope will out for the Autumn. This week of harvest bounty and seasonal cooking fills us with joie d'vie, and we are grateful to be quiet in the B&B so we can enjoy the summer pleasures.

Thank you for reading


29th July 2020

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Unknown member
Jul 29, 2020

How simply wonderful. What a fantastic story of the beautiful countryside, lovely neighbours and of course Les Mirabelles. Shame about the fig tree but what a way to celebrate it's final bounty. We have such fond memories of our wonderful trip visiting the grand l'Hotel de Hercé and it's amazing friendly hosts.

I came across this French rap song during studies on Les Mirabelles by MC Solaar with some great footage and lyrics I hadn't seen from WW1 in France which you might like. Best wishes Matthew

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