Thursday, 19 July 2012

STAGE 17: BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON - PEYRAGUDES

Garbure
Another punishing day "in the hills" on a stage just as difficult as the previous day's outing in the Pyrenees. The stage ends in Peragudes in the Haute-Pyrenees. The mountain cuisine of this region has both Gascon and Basque flavours. Specialities include garbure soup - a thick, slow-cooked broth made from ham with cabbage and other vegetables, usually with the addition of cheese and stale bread. Its name originates from the word garb, used to describe sheaves of grain depicted on a heraldic coat of arms. Thus garbure, which is eaten with a fork rather than a soup-spoon, comes from the word for pitchfork, a reference to the tool used to pick up sheaves of grain. Garbure was the daily sustenance of Gascon peasantry. It differed from one home to the next and varied with the rhythms of the seasons, the resources of the cook, and with household income. The basic principle behind this dish is the lengthy simmering of an assortment of vegetables and meats, generally meats preserve.

Other regional dishes include Cassoulet, that thick slow-cooked and comforting stew of duck, pork belly, Toulouse sausages and white beans, confit de canard (salt-cured duck poached in its own fat), and foie gras.

For stage 17, I'm cooking Ragout de Mouton aux Olives Vertes (Mutton stew with green olives). The meat of the sheep which graze on the high pastures of the mountains is flavoured with the aromatic herbs on which they feed. Since mutton is not readily available in my local supermarket, I'm making this with shoulder of lamb, which lends itself perfectly to slow cooking and has a sweet flavour.


Serves 6

250g green olives, pitted
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 kg boned shoulder of lamb or mutton, cut into 5cm/2" cubes
2 tsp flour
1kg tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
salt & pepper

Blanch the olives in boiling water if they are very salty. Heat the oil and butter in a large casserole/Le Creuset pot and add the lamb pieces. Brown them all over.

Sprinkle with the flour, stir well and cook over a low flame until lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and olives, and add a pinch of pepper. Cover and simmer on a low heat for about an hour, or until the meat is tender. Check for seasoning. Serve with mashed potato, boiled new potatoes, rice or couscous.

A rider tackles a mountain pass in a much earlier Tour de France


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