Tag Archive for: b&b in the south of france

A dish fit for ABBA

Duck a l’orange was an iconic dish at the time that Abba were pumping out the hits and we were all (well perhaps not all!) into disco and glamrock. Although a popular UK dish from the 70’s/80’s it is not really a classic dish. In terms of fruit accompaniments for duck the more classic way is with black cherry. However having experienced my first restaurant meals during the 70’s I do have a bit of an affection for duck with orange. The classic norm would be to cook the duck and then produce an orange sauce which in many restaurants was a thick and sickly concoction essentially put together by boiling up a bit of orange juice with some thin shred marmalade. From our B&B in the South of France I have two takes on this dish to share.

1 At this time of year vegetables are limited so put some leeks, potato and carrots in an oven proof dish and cover them in orange juice and the herbs and seasoning that appeal to you. At the same time slice a large orange and cover the veg with the slices of orange. Put the dish in the oven heated to approx 190c. Cook them for about 30-40 minutes until they start to go tender. The next bit depends on how you like your duck, well done or nicely pink in the middle. Place a duck breast, magret de canard, on top of the oranges, and cook for however long to suit your taste. Remove the duck to rest and thicken the sauce again to taste. Serve the duck garnished with the cooked orange slices and some fresh ones on a bed of the vegetables. The veg will have absorbed the orange flavours to produce a really citrus taste to accompany the rich duck.

2 Another one pot dish. Roast whatever vegetables you like in the oven, sweet potatoes, parsnip and squash work well. Again according to how you like your duck add it to the dish when the veg are starting to soften but this time also put in a couple of whole unpeeled Clementines or Satsumas.


Like the previous dish the essence of the orange combines with the juices from the duck to give a fantastic complement of flavours. When you serve cut the orange in half and lay either side of the duck. The taste of the cooked orange really complements the duck, delicious!

Like all of the dishes at Chez  Maison Bleue the principles are keep it simple, if possible use only one pot, allow the cooking process to fuse the flavours. Those flavours are vibrant and readily available here in the Languedoc but can also be found throughout the world. Don’t just follow the suggestions but innovate with your own favourite veg and flavours.

Opening offers for the B&B

Our lovely 18th century B&B in the south of France is almost ready to go. 2 very French bedrooms, 1 double and 1 family room look out over the ancient village square, Sonnac sur l’Hers. Open the shutters each morning and feel like time really has stood still for the past 50 years. Combine with a day out in Carcassonne for a fabulous long weekend. See our Special Offers for great deals in April, including Easter! 20 degrees in the square today and plenty cheap flights into Carcassonne (Ryanair). Why wait?

Re-use / recycle at the B&B

We needed a more robust barrier for the roof terrace at the B&B, especially as we wish to offer family friendly accommodation (!) and I think I have found just the thing, an ancient manger from the garage that in living memory was the barn where animals took refuge in winter. There is a debate about preserving the integrity of the building and we have done this throughout 6 years of restorations at our B&B in the south of France. However, in this case, this lovely feature was completely redundant. The wood is in good condition, despite the ubiquitous woodworm, and is so tactile – you can see where the cattle have worn the wood smooth when feeding. So do you like my authentic balustrade or should I have let something that is probably over 100 years old well alone?

Worn smooth over the centuries

A load of tripe

Narbonne Market

The butchers in the market in Narbonne displayed together cows feet and tripe, a clear invitation towards “tripes a la mode de Caen”. Somewhat surprising considering we are in the South of France and that is a classic Normandy dish. It is cooked for about 12 hours, usually in large quantities and is a combination of tripe, ox feet, carrots, onions, leeks seasoned with herbs and quite a lot of pepper, in cider and Calvados. Traditionally in Normandy it would be cooked in a special dish, a tripiere, which is rather like a tea pot that has been squashed, with the small opening ensuring as little evaporation as possible. The tripiere would be taken to the boulangerie to be cooked in the oven after the bread. One of the most famous recipes for this is in Escoffier’s Guide to Modern Cooking, but the quantities are a bit daunting almost 2 kilos of onions 1.5 kilos of carrots 2.4 litres of cider and 0.75 litres of Calvados. Certainly after eating this you would need a trou Normand, a glass of Calvados, as a digestive. Bear in mind also that in a traditional Norman feast this would have been course 2 of 6! Thank goodness I don’t cater on such a scale at our B&B in the South of France. The fresh caught fish and interesting varieties of vegetables were what really caught my eye. At this time of year I sometimes find it difficult to be enthusiastic. The winter veg are becoming tired and limited but the spring has yet to arrive. Thinking up different variants on the excellent cabbage and leeks for supper at the B&B is fun but after a while it begins to pall. Roll on the spring and the tender young produce and then the profusion of the true tastes of the Languedoc, aubergines, courgettes, peppers and of course lots of different varieties of tomatoes. Bring on the summer at Chez Maison Bleue!

Cyclist friendly B&B

Cycle Languedoc and the Midi Pyrenees from our cyclist friendly bed and breakfast in the south of France. Quiet roads and tracks lead from the door, although this is Tour de France country so go as high as you like up twisty cols. Safe storage, workshop, washing and drying rooms, maps and 2 mountain bikes to lend – further bike hire locally. We collaborate with Cycling Languedoc, a useful resource with some detailed, long distance routes. Springtime avoids the baking heat and crowds of the summer…so what are you waiting for?

Cycle Languedoc from our holiday home through vineyards and ancient towns and villages

Restoration of our B&B in the south of France

The bedrooms of the B&B are receiving our full attention this week. A cause for celebration this morning when the electrician turned up, Yippee! We have been waiting on him since September, another artisan exceptionnel who worked with us on our holiday cottage, next door to our bed and breakfast. Upstairs is being completely rewired so the 2 gorgeous bedrooms overlooking the square in Sonnac sur l’Hers will be ready for the spring. Just the ancient parquet to re-oil. We are hoping to have another ensuite room ready but that depends on the Maçon who has been AWOL for sometime now, since he removed all the tiles from the roof in fact, just before the heavy snow…


Right up close to nature

Bird watching in the Aude is a popular activity. A family of black redstarts has nested in the porch of our B&B in the south of France since we came here. These birds are quite rare in the UK but are a common sight in Languedoc. Broods are large for such small birds, last year we had five very demanding chicks. The parents worked so hard, frantic in their forays for food and quick to let us know if they wanted to come into the porch and would rather we weren’t there. Occasionally they would be very bold and fly over our heads, careful not to drop the giant moth protruding from their beak. Usually we had to find alternative seats on the terrace or the square so they could raise their brood in peace – likewise we could enjoy our breakfast. The chicks got so huge we thought they were going to topple from the ledge. Eventually, one morning before we set off for Mirepoix market, one or two, after much coaxing from mum and dad, finally found enough courage to fly from the nest to the nearest beam. Oh, they were so sweet, such scardy cats, hopping about on the beams for most of the morning before venturing onto the terrace, already practicing the lovely bobbing habit of the adult birds.

Motorbiking route in the Pyrenees

This route passes close to our biker friendly b&b in the south of France Pyrenees round route