Month: September 2012

A taste of living-Provence

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“The sun rises twice in Provence-once in the morning and once after the siesta!” -said once Yvan Audouard and I had to go along with him because on my two weeks holiday in Provence I experienced that life in there has become an art form, cultivated with great seriousness.

Held every day or weekly on village squares, shady avenues or ports, the local markets are friendly places where chatting is a must while you fill your basket. A paradise of sunblessed fruits of the soil, lovingly nurtured by the local producers, Provence offers up its heady fragrances and tastes to visitors. And nearly every village has its own specialities and know-how. Beside of this Provence also has a particular talent for interior decoration, drawing its inspiration from a long tradition with a worldwide reputation. Whether your preference goes to fabrics, furniture or earthenware, you will always find an exciting new place to shop.

I smelled it

Head off in the early morning to one of our local market that was my every day duty in two weeks. The choice was vast, the atmosphere was unbeatable and the scents and colours were simply stunning. The taste of the ripe red tomatoes, (bouches-du rhone is france’s leading producer) the shiny aubergines, varied courgettes, sweet and sunny peppers, fresh cucumbers, crunchy fennels, small violet artichokes and plump marrows were totally different from the vegetables come from the not Mediterranean’s countries. And the fruit stalls were simply an enchantment overflowing with sweet scented- garriguette-strawberries, juicy apricots, peaches, nectarines, melons, then figs. The almond was an other treasure thanks to the Alpilles. And since there was already September there were many varied of apples, pears, and grapes on the market.

Of course I didn’t miss the fish market in Provence as well, which was held every morning on the quaysides in Marseille, Cassis, Carry-Le Rouet, La Ciotat, Fos-sur Mer, Martigues, Port-Saint-Louis-du Rhone and Saus-Set-les-Pins etc, offering a delightful show of the famous sardines, scorpion fish, anchovies, red mullet, sea bass, sea breams, urchins, astonishing violets, tiny tellin clams, and Spanish lobsters and octopuses.

Beside all wonderfull things after all I ate the best in Camargue, where the star products was the rice. Round or long, red or white, but it was accompanied the typical local lamb and bull dishes to perfection (the bull of Camargue raised in total freedom in the marshes, without any dietary supplements, offers a far less fatty meat than the commercially farmed bovines). And most of the time instead of having a dessert I ordered a goat’s-milk cheese plate, as Provence is a land of pronounced flavours and perfumes, it produces character-filled cheeses, including many fresh goat cheeses –tomme– which is made with ewe’s or goat’s milk and scented with herbs or brandy or -brousse– a fresh cheese made with goat’s whey, best taste with salt and a drizzle of olive oil, powdered with sugar or mixed with honey.

I savoured it

Garlic, herbs including basil, and the Herbes de Provence, were the essential basics combined with the queen of Provencal gastronomy-olive oil. In Cassis (a small picturesque city near Toulon) at lunch time I was hesitating between of a soupe au pistou (scented with garlic, basil, olive oil an artichoke stewed with lardons, or a ratatouille rich in aubergines, courgettes, sweet peppers, tomatoes, onions, olive oil and garlic) or the nourishing-aigo boulido-a garlic and sage soup. On the other hand my beef lover husband enjoyed very much the daube, (which is a stew, scented with thyme and rosemary).

Fish and shell fish were also available, served grilled with herbs, in soups or in bouillabaisse. By the way bouillabaisse, or rather –Boui-abaisso-I tried it first time in France. In connection with the soup let me tell you what I had learned from our waiter: according to the strict rules of Marseille, a bouillabaisse can only be served to at least 7 or 8 guests. And this is why: as it is made with many types of so called rock fish, it has to be made in large quantities to incorporate as many varieties as possible. The ideal ingredients are spiny lobster, scorpion fish, conger eel, hake, sea bass and crabs. The firm-fleshed fish is cooked on a bed of onions, tomatoes and herbs sprinkled with olive oil. Water is then poured over the top and brought to the boil, after which the softer fish are added. The bouillabaisse should be cooked over high heat so that the oil and juices form a smooth gravy.

Friday was the aioli day

In Provence many restaurants served the aioli at the end of the week but it was worth knowing how to make it yourself. Here comes the cooking instructions (I got from our waiter): Crush a dozen cloves of garlic in a mortar. Add two egg yolks and some lemon juice. Season with salt and make the mayonnaise by trickling in some good quality olive oil, always stirring in the same direction. And the aioli is ready and the best with cooked vegetables and unsalted cods!

If you want to stimulate your appetite look at the pictures!

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Summer finale, the apple is in topform

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Irish Apple Pie

Ingredients: 500 g of cooked potatoes, 125 g +45 g flour, 50 g + 2 tablespoons butter, salt, 1 tbs cinnamon, 2 g +50 g brown sugar, 800 g sour apples, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 75 g candied cranberry, 2 tablespoons almonds

1.Cook the potatoes without peeling about 25 minutes. Remove the rind and then pressed through in a potato-masher. When it gets cold, add 125 g of flour, 50 g butter, 1 pinch of salt, 1 tsp cinnamon and a half of the brown sugar. Roll out dough. Allow to stand for 2 hours.

2. Making the pastry base: Peel the apples, remove the cores, cut into quarters. Pour over apple 50 g lemon juice and add sugar and the flour, and 45 g dried cranberry.

3. Place half of the pastry base in the pan, sprinkle the top with almonds. Spoon the apple mixture on it and then top it with the second large dough, peck/fold the projecting parts with your fingers together, thus “close” the dough.

4. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and pour over top of cake. If there is some leftover pasta cut out small star shapes (with the bakery star shape form) and place on top of the dough, and then lubricate them also with plenty of butter. Finally, sprinkle the cake with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and bake it in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 45 minutes. When the cake is removed from the oven, cover with foil. Wait until it cools down.

Polish Szarlotka apple cake with honey cream cheese

Ingredients: half kg Granny Smith apples, 4 eggs, 200 g sugar, 1 tablespoon liquid vanilla flavoring, 125 g flour, powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Peel the apples, get rid of the apple-cores then cut them in small cubes. Arrange apple slices into the round cake form.

2. For the dough: beat egg yolks, add sugar and the vanilla flavor, mix well everything together. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add the flour. Take the apple out of the oven and disperse evenly on the dough. Place dough into the oven and bake it for 50-60 minutes. After 45 minutes cover the cake with aluminum foil. Allow cake to cool in the form, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

3. Prepare the quark cream: mix 50 g walnuts (oven roasted), 500 g cream and the cottage cheese, and add 2 tablespoons of honey to it. Thus offer the Szarlotka with the quark cream alongside.

German apple cake with marzipan and quince jelly

Ingredients: 200 g marzipan paste, 200 g sour cream, 2 apples, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 sheet of pastry (frozen), 2 tablespoons sugar, 100 g quince jelly or jam

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mix the sour cream with marzipan. Roll out thinly.

2. Peel the apples, cut the cores out and slice crosswise into thin slices. Pour over the lemon juice immediately.

3. Place the marzipan cream to the pan, “tamp” into the apple rings and sprinkle with sugar. Place in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes. Heat the quince jam and disperse on cake until it is still warm.

Plum and apple tart

Ingredients: 250 ml milk, 42g yeast, 3g +75g +100g sugar 500g of flour, salt, 1 teaspoon thyme, 500g ricotta, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 400g plums, apples and a half kg, 300g cream

For the dough: raise the yeast in the sugary milk. Mix the flour, with 75 g sugar and add a pinch of salt. Pour the leavened milk over the flour and knead it. Place dough in a greased (floured) pan and bake it for 30 minutes.

For the filling: flavor ricotta with 1 tbs of thyme, add 1 egg and 100 grams of sugar, and the lemon juice. Mix everything well.

Preheat oven, wash plum, peel apples. Quarter them. Smear ricotta cream over the dough, then add quartered plums and apples to it and bake it for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile beat the cream and serve the cake with it.