Monday, December 19, 2011

Countdown to Christmas in Provence

The festive season is in full swing here in Provence - this weekend we have been celebrating so much that I almost feel I should skip the real holidays and go on a New Year's diet straight away. It all started Friday with a trip to Avignon - not to see the rather lacklustre Christmas Market but the huge Crèche (nativity scene) at the Hôtel de Ville (Lord Mayor's house). More than 600 santons (the traditional Provençal nativity figurines) are set into a valley depicting life in Provence as it used to be. (If you click on the photos to enlarge them you can see all the pretty details).

The big Crèche at the Lord Mayors house in Avignon

The on we went to the Palais du Roure just around the corner, where this delightful lady (below) was guarding another, much smaller but also very pretty crèche and explaining the "Treize desserts de Noël" and why the frist week of December we seed lentils or wheat to have the green sprouts on the table in time for Christmas (this is supposed to guarantee money all year round).

Night fell and on we went to the Hotel La Mirande just below the Pope's Palace to the grand opening of the hotel's Christmas market.

For me the main attraction there was this monsieur, the "Roi des Pois Chiches" (King of the Chickpeas), who, gifted with a fabulous personality and an unparalled gift of the gab sold chickpeas, chickpea flour and pots of poichichade, a delicious chickpea dip.

In the beautiful old kitchen of La Mirande I was more than delighted to meet Nathalie, whose blog Avignon in Photos I have been following for quite a while and who I admire for her creativity, her unique eye and sense of style. Can't wait to see this still life in her blog!

Cooking demonstration in the kitchen of La Mirande

After slaving in my kitchen all day long (more on that later) Saturday night found us at the
Cave la Vigneronne in the beautiful village of Villedieu where the new wines of 2011 where presented in the cellar of the Cave.  
Delighted with their find - guests at La Vigneronne

When in France you eat when you drink. On the menu: Oysters from Bretagne and walnuts and cheeses from Provence


For dessert: fruit tarts

and cream filled choux 

We all left rather happy - thank you Alain for driving us!

Sunday we had our official Christmas picture taken and made our friends take a more or rather less orderly queue towards the kitchen stove where a big pot of Goulash was simmering.

I always serve this Ghoulash at what we call our "Countdown to Christmas" - a happy and informal get together of friends around the Christmas tree with Ghoulash, a cheese board, some desserts and lots of red wine.... 
Desserts this year: Mince pies made by my friend Nadira, also known as Queen of Confitures

Pecan Tart and

Tiramisu made by moi  
Dancing around the Christmas tree!

Cuisine de Provence wishes you all very
 Happy Holidays
and a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful
NEW YEAR 2012!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Some more Foie Gras

A quick snap I took when browsing my favorite supermarket the other day - just to give you an impression of the huge choice of foie gras products on offer now before the holidays. Did you know that foie gras was declared part of the French National Heritage in 2005? A quick answer to the then first banishments of foie gras from the menus of certain New York restaurants and to a new law that will make it illegal to produce, sell or serve foie gras in California from July 2012.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sinful and delicious - Foie Gras

It is that time of year again - that time of year when our letterbox is overflowing with publicity leaflets from all the local supermarkets that deal with only one thing: Food! But not food as in everyday specials, oh no - the festive season is looming and festive in France equals with champagne and fine wines, oysters, lobster, foie gras, capons and what to fill them with. So in order to get myself organized and not leave everything to a last minute frenzy I have started to prepare my Foie Gras.
This year I cheated a bit and bought a Foie Gras that was already cleaned, so I only had to

take the lobes apart, season them with pepper, fleur de sel and a pinch of quatre épices (a spice mixture of nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cinnamon) and a swig of real good Cognac.

The seasoned lobes then get pressed into the terrine and go in a bain-marie into a very low oven (150°C/302°F) for 35 minutes.

After slow cooking for 40 minutes it comes out looking like this (below):

Off you pour the grease and keep it, because this is the best fat to fry the worlds best tasting fried potatoes in

When cold, the goose fat will solidify.

Now the Foie Gras (and don't call it a terrine or pâté, because this is pure Foie Gras with nothing mixed into it) has to be weighed down and and left in the fridge to develop for at least two days.

Then you can either give in to your greed and serve it with any good bread and - if you like it the French way - with a sweet wine. Or - if you are reasonable, wrap it well and freeze to get it out in time for the holidays. Saying that I guess I better get another one on the way - I think in a couple of days I will just want to make sure and check that this one has turned out as it should....