Friday, 5 March 2010

Languedoc Roussillon – Tielles from Sète

Tielle is a round pastry, a little like a Cornish Pasty, filled with a mixture of octopus and tomato. The crust is pinched together in a distinctive style and the tomato sauce seeps through giving the pastry an orange colouring. More often than not Tielles have an orange glaze (made from egg yolk and tomato purée) and you can find them in the shops and markets around the fishing town. It's thought that Tielles were introduced by Italian immigrants who settled in Sète and similar pies can be found in parts of the Italian coast.

The town of Sète was created by Louis XIV who instructed his minister Colbert to find a new sea route for the royal galleys and to create a port for shipping Languedoc's products. Sète is built on the flanks of Mont St.Clair, wedged between the Thau Lagoon, the Sea and the canals and is one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean. Its nick name is the "Venice of the Languedoc".

Octopus has been caught on this coast for centuries and a recipe for stuffed octopus is recorded in the Libre de Sent Sovi (1324), one of the oldest cookbooks in Europe. Down the road from Sète, in Bouzigues, a similar dish is made with mussels and is called Chaussons aux Moules. This area has been a centre for oyster and mussel production as far back as the Greeks - the earliest fishers here lived in troglodyte caves along the shore of the flamingo frequented lagoon Etang de Thau.

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