Went to the beautiful "La Mirande" hotel in Avignon the other day to follow a cooking demonstration held by chef Bruno D'Angelis. Came back with some fun recipes - "Cream of Broccoli with Oysters", a simple but very tasty "Tartine of Crispy Vegetables" and a "Chocolat Soup" that I cannot wait to try out. But best of all: I got to meet my culinary hero Christian Etienne who popped in to watch his young colleague. Etienne is a very well know chef with a beautiful restaurant right next to the Pope's Palace in Avignon and very popular because he has a show every morning on Radio Bleu Vaucluse where listeners phone in to ask him all kinds of culinary questions. If you happen to be in the region tune in on 100.4 at 10.00 am Monday to Friday to listen to Christian Etienne.
What a fantastic Sunday in Provence - we had for some time heard tales of "La Transhumance" when shepherds bring their livestock to higher pastures in the summer or to lower valleys in winter. So when we saw a little sign at a roundabout last week that this weekend the sheep would be traversing the village of Jonquières we made sure to be there on time! And what a village fête it turned out to be! Marching bands, Provençal dancers wearing their historic costumes, food stalls selling everything from freshly picked cherries, sausages, honey, tapenades or homemade pies and tarts, craftsmen making brooms or roasting coffee like their grandparents used to. Not even the Mistral, the dreaded wind from the north spoiled the fun although the stallholders had to hold onto their stalls to protect them against the fierce gusts.
"La Transhumance" - there were easily more than a thousand sheep and my OH
was very pleased that they all wore his initials!
An especially proud specimen
Little Provençal beauties
Proudly wearing local costumes
Sun Protection à la Provençale
La Transhumance as Santons for the Christmas Crèche
Two eggplants - they were supposed to go into a ratatouille, this wonderful Provençal concoction of red peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplants (or aubergines as we call them in Provence) but somehow ended up all alone in the fridge and needed to be saved - fast.
Nicely soft and squishy - roasted eggplants
So I tried out a new recipe for "Caviar d'Aubergines", one of these quintessential Provençal recipes where rather humble ingredients are used to create something truly good. Every Provençal household has at least one recipe for "Caviar d'aubergines" so this one is not the one and only authentic recipe, but one of many, albeit a rather delicious one.
I roasted the eggplats for about 40 minutes in a hot oven, let them cool down, cut them in halves and scraped out the soft flesh. One pressed garlic clove and a few turns of freshly milled pepper later I mixed it all with a handheld mixer, adding just a few drops of olive oil. In there went 10 finely chopped sundried tomatoes (take those that come in an olive oil marinade), and about two tbsp finely chopped capers - stirred in, not mixed. Finally I quickly melted 3 small anchovy fillets in a hot pan and stirred them into the mix - that way you don't need to add salt.
And voilà - Caviar d'Aubergines! To be served on crusty baguette slices with predinner drinks.
Not really pretty but so good: Caviar d'Aubergines
My favorite season in Provence has begun: the poppies are popping up (yes I know, couldn't resist...) all over the fields and as I was driving by I just had to take out my camera for a quick snap. Continued driving and suddenly realized I had a big smile on my face - because these little red dots make everything look so beautiful, because the sun was shining, because it is almost summer in Provence!