As previously mentioned here we indulged our love of food whilst on holiday in Provence to new heights. Or more accurately widths, if you saw our waistlines when we returned home!
I truly believe that the pursuit of a good meal is really the pursuit of happiness. With this in mind, I hope you’ll take some inspiration for your summer eating from these serving suggestions...
As usual, our first few meals in Provence consisted of the French staples we crave for the rest of the year: crusty Pain de Campagne, ripe cheeses, juicy tomatoes, cold-pressed olive oil, tasty ham and the odd bottle of wine. At this point we were far too focused on our tummies to think about photographing anything, but you’ve all seen a tomato, right?
Inspired by Rick Stein’s barge trip through France, for our first ‘proper’ meal we made fabulous dough for pizza. Originally it was intended for that Provencal classic, Pissaladiere but we got giddy and ended up making several different versions.
Rick was also the inspiration (with our friend Tricia as his sous-chef) for our Soup au Pistou; a delicious, positively health-giving vegetable soup (think Minestrone with more veg and fewer tomatoes). This seemingly simple one-pot supper was elevated to gastronomic heaven by the addition of a generous swirl of Pistou (basically Pesto without pine nuts) and a sprinkling of Parmesan just before serving – truly fantastic.
The following day, we treated ourselves to a couple of shoulders of lamb from a seriously helpful butcher in Cavaillon. He asked what we intended to do with it (which had us grasping for the French for ‘slow roasting on a bed of onions, garlic, rosemary and potatoes’) and whether we wanted the knuckle sawn off, which had to be done in order for it to fit in the pan. We also bought the most delicious-tasting ham from him, poached very, very slowly to render it incredibly succulent. I was struck by how we don’t seem to have anything quite like that in the UK.
I don’t think we’re alone in realising that, when on holiday, it’s usually around the third day that we become ever-so-slightly bilious from our excessive consumption. The cure turned out to be a marginally more sensible meal of courgette fritters with a light salad. After one night off for good behaviour, were ready to go again with a yummy Roast Chicken.
Stuffed with lemon and rosemary, we roasted the corn-fed Label Rouge chicken simply on top of some parboiled waxy potatoes, strewn with chopped onion and red pepper for that classic Provencal taste. If you look up the word ‘comfort’ in a French dictionary, I’m sure you would find the following photo…
And we even found room afterwards for strawberry Pavlova.
One of our group had been re-reading Elizabeth David before our trip, so conversation inevitably turned to a previous trip to Venice in 2013. We were reminded of the famous Rialto fish market when we stumbled across a small crate of spankingly fresh clams at Lourmarin market. So, spaghetti alle vongole it was.
The following day, a lighter supper of tarts beckoned (if you can ever really call all-butter puff pastry light). One rectangle was draped in caramelised onions and goats cheese, the other layered with tomato, leftover pistou and a dusting of Parmesan.
On our last night, because we clearly hadn't had enough already, Neil treated us to his delicious Pain Perdu with caramelised apples. What the picture doesn't tell you is that we enjoyed it so much he went and made another three portions!
As you can see, we ate rather well chez nous. But it was in the beautiful town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, literally the island on the Sorgue river, that we had the most memorable lunch of our stay...
In the beautifully shaded gardens of a 19th Century mansion, diners can sit back, relax and entrust themselves to the fabulous Provencal hospitality of Le Jardin du Quai. Run by chef-patron Daniel Hebet and his wife Stephanie, Le Jardin (as regulars call it) serves exquisite dishes, expertly thought out and prepared with love. There was no choice, just the chef’s pick of everything that was delicious in the market that morning…
Every dish was deceptively simple yet deeply delicious, whilst the service was both relaxed and professional – something sadly lacking in many places.
A thoroughly memorable experience, and Saskia, our four year old companion was not only well catered for but also made a new friend: Scooby-Doo the resident dog.
After all that eating, it must surely be time to ponder what’s for supper tonight. In the words of Julia Child, another of our French food heroes, Bon Appetit!