Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring in Provence

Having been away for just ten days Provence totally changed its outfit to welcome us back: the poppies are out, and I even detected the very first Iris blooming on the side of my road. Even the vineyards sprout their first little green leaves. Spring when it finally arrives after a long winter is probably the most beautiful season of them all in Provence!
 The poppies are out!
 The very first Iris
Our front Garden

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cookbook Challenge # 4 - La Cuisine de Provence

This is a cookbook I picked up on the spur of the moment at a Provence food fair in Arles. Intrigued by the title "The Cuisine of B&B's in Provence" I was curious to see what people who most of the time are not trained chefs prepare for their guests. To cut a long story short: I wish we had more restaurants around here that would cook like these hosts do! Delicious Provençal dishes like Soupe au Pistou, Zucchini Flowers filled with Basil, Lamb Carpaccio, Fougasse,  Tellines à la Carmaguaise, Brandade de Morue, a traditional Daube or a truffled Brie make the most of our regional produce and specialities. Looking for an apéritif offering I decided on the recipe for "Cake aux tomates confits, aux capres et au basilic" - what you and I would call a savory loaf or a bread in France is inexplicably called a cake. This is a recipe from the table of  Mas Silazac near Draguignan in the Var, which is run be Anne et Bruno Cazalis.
A Cake, not a Bread
You need 200 g of semi dried tomatoes (tomates confites), 200 g flour, 3 eggs, 15 g baking powder, 10 cl milk, 100 g grated Gruyère cheese, 50 g capers, 2 handful of chopped basil, 10 cl olive oil , salt and pepper.
Mix all ingredients except for the tomatoes, capers and basil into a smooth dough. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill into a buttered and floured loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes at 180C/350F
A recipe that couldn't be simpler or more delicious. I cut the slices into four parts - moist and savoury finger food that was devoured by my guests. To be repeated.
Semi dried Tomatoes, Capers and Basil are the Key Ingredients

Friday, April 5, 2013

Healthy and delicious Bean and Vegetable Soup

I probably read more cookbooks and food magazines than is good for me but then I almost always find some recipe worth trying out. Two recipes made it onto our table from the April issue of Delicious magazine: "Rose Harissa Pork with Quinoa and Dates" (not bad but if I made it again I would replace the quinoa with couscous) and "Borlotti bean, Tomato and Sage Soup" - both recipes developped by Georgina Fuggle. I was intrigued by the combination of borlotti beans and sage of which I have a big plant in my kitchen garden that survives even the hardest winter and of which I don't make too much use. Which is about to change, because this  recipe is definitely a winner. I changed the ingredients somewhat since I am in the process of cleaning out my freezer and we liked the result so much I will keep my version.
 Borlotti Beans
I started by soaking about a cup of borlotti beans overnight. If you want to start cooking straight away use a tin of the beans, but take care to drain and rinse them. If using the soaked beans, boil them in enough water until tender, drain, rinse and and reserve.
Finely chop 3 carots, 1 mild onion, 2 garlic cloves and 2 celery sticks and gently fry them in a good splash of olive oil, taking care not to brown the vegetables. Add a can of chopped tomatoes, 6 fresh sage leaves, 1 cup of hot vegetable stock and 2 roasted and skinned red peppers (which I had left over in the freezer). Gently boil until the vegetables are tender, remove half and liquidize in a mixer or with a stick blender, then return to the pot. Stir in the borlotti beans and sprinkle with plenty of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley.

Healthy and pretty - Bean and Vegetable Soup