Wine reviews

The weather has been perfect for winery visits, reacquainting ourselves with old friends and meeting new ones. Walking the vines and talking about wines in the crisp air and early winter sun. While we’ve been cloistered away our winemakers have been working hard. The range and quality of the wines we’re discovering is spellbinding.

Mirepoix mini-break

Discovering we had a rare gap in the calendar we took advice and took a drive on the D117  through the vines of our stunning Agly Valley before climbing up into the rich autumn colours of nearby Cathar country. Mirepoix with its historic covered market and ancient cathedral is a photographer’s delight. As luck would have it we arrived in time for the Annual Autumnal market. Books, begonias, vintage wear, ceramics. Ancient bits and bobs and apple trees. The range of items was astounding. The surrounding countryside is history laden, Montsegur with its grim history and hilltop Fanjeaux are just two of many sites worth a visit.

Getting there

Take the D117 or take the A61 via Carcassonne if time is of the essence.


There are plenty of choices, we stayed at Les Minotiers situated within 3 minutes walk to the main square


The choice of restaurants in Mirepoix are superb, L’Autre Jardin was excellent while a side trip to Castelnaudary’s Michelin rated Le Tirou for its cassoulet was well worth the effort.


30/30 the last laps

The late September weather was benign, the water clear and the final kilometres arrived ahead of time. The routine was to arrive around 10, book a table for lunch then dive in. Navigating was simple, I followed the bright steel cable which rested on the seabed linking the yellow buoys.

In the third week, the lifeguard and paddleboard hire concession decamped, the sea life seemed to enjoy the lack of hire boats and crowds. Large cuttlefish and octopus began appearing while all manner of colourful fish hovered around the breakwater rocks.

Arriving on the very last day of the month for a few additional kilometres, I saw a blunt nosed barge with small crane heading towards the buoys to retire them for the winter. Realising it was my last opportunity, I dived in and put on a burst of speed that quite startled me. Starting at the top corner I flashed past the midway buoy then, rounding the bottom corner buoy, I turned and headed straight in to the breach and lunch. Hauling myself out of the water, I saw the barge pull the last buoy. The swimming season was over.

Lunch was delightful and long, the air was crisp and clear. In the distance, the Cap Bear lighthouse could easily be seen so I raised a small silent glass to say thank you.

Roast monkfish with black olives and mash

This is based on a very early Jamie Oliver recipe, back when he was still at the family pub.

Ask your fishmonger to skin and prepare your monkfish, smaller tails work better. One should feed two people.

Make a paste with sea salt, lemon zest, fresh rosemary and rub it over the fish. Put the fish in a stainless steel or ceramic dish for 30 minutes or so in the fridge.

Make a black olive salsa by combining a handful of roughly chopped de-stoned black olives, a small finely chopped red chilli, fresh herbs, parsley, lemon juice, a garlic clove, olive and cider vinegar. No need for any salt.

Boil and mash some floury type potatoes with plenty of olive oil and full cream milk. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. .

Preheat the oven to 230°C. Pat the fish dry, lightly dust with flour then fry in olive oil in a heavy oven proof pan for a minute or so before putting the pan in the hot oven for around 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, remove the fish then deglaze the pan with a little white wine and a squeeze of lemon juice to make a thin sauce.

To serve, pour a little of the pan sauce on each plate then gently place a portion of the fish and mash side by side on top of the sauce. On top of the fish place a modest amount of the black olive salsa, don’t drown it. Garnish with a few finely chopped parsley leaves.

Monkfish recipe by Jamie Oliver
Monkfish with black olive sauce and lemon mash, Jamie Oliver

Any questions?

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