Easter holidays are special, the thought of spring, the wildflowers, and the hope of better weather and longer days keep the spirits uplifted. This year we spent a large part of our holiday in Provence, in a region famous for attracting the likes of Van Gogh and Cezanne. Having never been to South of France at this time of the year, I found the wildflowers magical. They were like carpets everywhere. I am no artist, but even I felt inspired (fortunately not to paint!)
Cooking on holidays is an integral part of being in a new place. Especially where the food culture is part of the social fabric. The local markets are a joy to visit and everyone has a recipe to share. There were artichokes and the season’s first melons and tomatoes, quince paste, and fresh olive oil from last year’s harvest. The cheese stalls were abundant with all types of goat’s cheeses.
People always talk of the French Paradox (the fact that the French are so slim despite eating copious amounts of cheese and drinking lots of wine) and the fact is that you rarely come across overweight people. I did notice though that people don’t snack, portions are moderate, and for the most part, seem to be eating real food with a huge seasonal variety. I would love to know how the gut bacteria of an average cheese-eating, wine quaffing French person compares with ordinary mortals elsewhere.
Another aspect of the little French villages which doesn’t cease to amaze is the preponderance of local shops. Boulangeries, Boucheries, Patisseries and greengrocers abound in every village. These shops didn’t have names per se, they were called exactly that, and their owners probably have a great quality of life given that they are open for just a few hours in the day.
My cooking contribution to this holiday was attempting a Tarte Tatin, in an alien kitchen (mission largely successful!) and throwing together lots of salads with fresh tomatoes, local olive & cheeses.
Happily, I have acquired some lovely French pottery, olive oil, et al to keep us going with the French theme for a while.
Recipes this week
Back in cold London, we felt the need for our own version of comfort food – anything Asian. So we had a spicy warming Malay fish curry. And then we had the mother of all heatwaves when we had a few days in April which were apparently the hottest in 70 years. Cool and crunchy lettuce wraps and a no-cook beef carpaccio nailed it. And of course, I have to share the successful Tarte Tatin recipe with you. So here goes-
There are few greater joys in life than travelling, exploring new food frontiers, and sharing a great meal with friends and family. Love your family, travel with them and occasionally cook a local meal for them too!