Monday, 10 August 2015

Travel: Sète market, Sètois food

Sete market, coquillages
Fishmonger at Sète market, South of France
cheesemonger at Sète market, South of France
peaches at Sète market, South of France
Roast chicken seller at Sète market, South of France
Selling boaters and striped tshirts at Sète market, South of France
Melons  at Sète market, South of France
One of my worst lapses as a mother was in Sète, a clammy but atmospheric port in the Languedoc of France. My three year old was playing next to the shore and, excuses, excuses, having been driving all day in an un-air-conditioned car, having slept badly, in a campsite which was so crowded in August that we were only allowed to stay one night, I fell asleep. I awoke to the disapproving hisses of French parents around me. Fortunately, my daughter was wearing one of those padded swimming costumes that allow you to float, so it was unlikely, but not impossible, that she would drown, but you never know. Every time I think about the errors I made, I feel a hot flush of shame. Mothering is a series of near misses.

Sète is nestled into a little crook in the Mediterranean coast line. Every summer it has water jousts, on canals. People wear boaters and blue and white stripes. Sète has a unique cuisine, heavily based on seafood and spice, influenced by Spain, Italy and Northern Africa. Some of France's most iconic poets come from there: the anarchist song writer George Brassens (whose wordplay and simple while complex, repetitious songs are not appreciated by Anglo-Saxons) and Paul Valéry, the Symbolist writer.

Sète restaurant: L'Entonnoir 

The market, Halles de Sète, is well worth a morning and lunch too, there are some excellent restaurants within. Recommended by Trish Deseine, who has a house nearby, we ate at L'entonnoir which offers fresh Mediterranean food with an Asian twist, cooked by a talented female chef (pictures below).

It looks like half of Sète goes there to drink, socialise and eat after shopping. This is a market that you dress up for, that you do your makeup for. It's a market where you will be seen. People-watching yields good material.

chef of L'entonnoir, Sète market, languedoc, france
L'entennoir, Sète market, languedoc, france
pad thai, L'entonnoir, Sète market, languedoc, france
Fried anchovies, L'entennoir, Sète market, languedoc, france

Sètois specialities

Tielles at Sète market, South of France
Tièlles are seafood pies or empanadas. La maison Tianni Marcos, a stall in the market, has queues waiting for these spicy little pasties. Italian immigrants brought these to Sète at the end of the 19th century, the Italian influence can be seen in the olive oil pastry. Inside you have a thick octopus stew cooked in tomato, fennel and spices.

Soupe de poisson à la Sètoise and Bourride à la Sètoise: further east along the coast Marseilles has a famous fish soup, with croutons and a red sauce 'rouille' and this soup or thick stew (bourride) is quite similar.

Olives Setoises a la rouille: at Sète market, South of France
Olives Setoises: I bought these green olives which were marinated in a creamy tomato and white wine sauce. Absolutely delicious. 'A la Sètoise' appears generally to mean cooked in tomato, saffron, provencale herbs, garlic and wine.
Biscuit seller, Sète market, languedoc, france
Zezette de Sète: a kind of sweet biscuit, flavoured with orange flower water

The market sells very high quality, perfectly ripe fruit and vegetables. The Languedoc comprises of both mountains, coast, countryside meaning there are great wines, cheeses (Roquefort), nougat (Montelimar), olives, meat. 

Here are some pictures I took in the market. I love the one of the guy who has travelled from his little vineyard that morning, selling home-grown wine from big plastic flagons. You bring along your plastic coke bottle and he will fill it with Vin de Pays. 

Some of the stallholders still had their 'Je suis Charlie' posters on the wall. One guy, holding the cherries below, had a large portrait of Georges Brassens behind him. 

I think it's almost impossible to make a bad or even mediocre meal when you have this kind of produce at your doorstep.
yellow tomatoes, Sète market, languedoc, france
wine seller, home made wine, Sète market, languedoc, france
apricots, Sète market, languedoc, france
fruit seller, Sète market, languedoc, france. George Brassens in background
frites/french fries Sète market, languedoc, france
tapenade, Sète market, languedoc, france
ratatouille, Sète market, languedoc, france
anchois a la provencale, Sète market, languedoc, france
citron confit, Sète market, languedoc, france
Sète market, languedoc, france
shopping for aubergines, Sète market, languedoc, france
Camargue red rice, Sète market, languedoc, france
Sète market, languedoc, france


  1. I love this part of France and the squid pies are one of my favourite French local specialities. The local dish seche a la rouille is wonderful too - so tender, far from the rubbery stuff you get here!

    1. Me too I love it. From Carcassonne to Sete and to the Spanish border. The food was so good.

  2. what beautiful photos! I lover farmer's markets and really miss the beautfiul ones of Leipzig in the market square twice a week

    1. Thanks Cate, I love markets too. So many characters, I love the social aspect as well.

  3. The flavours sound so vivid. Another place on food led travel bucket list. If it makes you feel any better I watched a two year go under the water in the swimming pool and alerted the lifeguard. The French mother had left he daughter in the pool with no armbands and went off to get a camera. Perfect parenting no such thing


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