If you come on a mindfulness meditation retreat at Les Sources Sacrées, we will feed your mind as well as your body. Les Sources Sacrées is a secluded but not isolated retreat house deep in the heart of Gascony, in the sun-drenched south of France – land of « milk and honey », or rather land of paella Gascon, duck confit, cassoulet, croustade and Madiran, Pacherenc, Saint Mont and Cotes de Gascogne wines. Going on a starvation diet while you are here would be soul-destroying.
In Gascony, people live long and healthy lives despite eating rich food and drinking copious amounts of wine – it is called the Gascon Paradox. On an equine-guided meditation retreat at Les Sources Sacrées, you will be introduced to this laid-back way of life : You will discover some of the most famous dishes and wine of this region, visit a local fresh food market and go on a tutored wine tasting.
One would think that people would quickly become obese on such a rich diet, but obesity here is very rare.
Les Sources Sacrées is located just 90 minutes north of the Spanish border. Many people here speak Spanish and people dance the tango, eat paella and attend a bullfight during their village fetes. Paella Gascon has, over the years, become the signature dish of our retreats, the dish is served at the welcoming dinner on the first night here. It is decadently delicious and so easy to adapt for vegetarians who do or do not eat fish.
Guests always ask for my best paella recipe, which I am always happy to share. Despite the long list of ingredients, it is easy to make and even freezes well.
- 2 tbsp virgin olive oil, cold pressed
- 6 chicken (or small duck) drumsticks
- 250g chorizo sausage, sliced, not too thinly
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
- 2 cups rinsed short-grain rice (soak it in water first for 10-15 minutes, then drain)
- 1 cup tomatoes, chopped in small cubes
- 1 cup red peppers, sliced
- 1 cup peas (frozen is fine)
- 750 ml chicken stock
- 250 ml of white wine (we use Pacherenc)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Half tsp of saffron
- 500g prawns/large shrimp
- 250 g calamari
- 500g mussels, scrubbed and soaked
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup of fresh, chopped parsley and sliced olives for garnish
- 1 lemon cut into lemon wedges
In a large paella pan/12 inch+ skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Coat the drumsticks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add drumsticks to pan, then cook for about 5-10 minutes until the chicken is crisp. Add chorizo sausage, to flavour the oil.
When chicken is fully cooked, push it to one side of the pan, then add the onion and sautée it for 2-3 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another minute.
Now add the rice, tomatoes and red peppers to the pan. Let the rice cook in the sauce from the tomatoes for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, paprika, cayenne pepper, tumeric and saffron. Stir everything together (including drumsticks and chorizo) and cover with a large enough lid. Cook for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
Turn down the heat. Arrange the shrimp and mussels over the rice, cover with a lid again and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the mussels open up. Add the calamari for the last 3-4 minutes.
Turn off the heat and garnish with parsley and olives.
Gascon paella is often served with lemon wedges and a spicy red pepper rouille in this part of France:
Ingredients of the rouille:
- 1/2 cup hot red peppers
- 3 tsp dry breadcrumbs
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp tomato purée
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- Half a tsp of saffron
- 4 tbsp of olive oil
- Salt to taste
Instructions to make the rouille:
Mix all ingredients together (in a blender if preferred). Add cold pressed virgin olive oil last and blend until smooth. Serve in a small bowl with a hot, crusty baguette on the side. Some people stir ½ a tsp of rouille into their paella, others eat it spread on bread.
We usually combine our paella with a deep-red, robust, rock-your-socks-off Madiran, but you can also serve it with a dry white, like a Pacherenc sec.
Allez-y les Gascons, bon appétit!
- The Food and Wine we serve at our Retreats: Retreat Menu
- Gascon Food: The Gastronomic Delights of Gascony
This post is also part of the Daily Post Photo Challenge: Dinnertime