Brixton-based author and chef Rosie Lovell explores the South of France’s Cote D’Azur. Famed for it’s glittering beaches and glitzy lifestyle, she encounters a typically rustic cuisine far removed from the haughty reputation sometimes associated with French cuisine.
Instead of the ubiquitous (and largely unaffordable) foie gras and truffes noir, Rosie discovers that the colloquial cuisine is shaped not just by the seasons but also by a wide ranging climate, soil and geology.
This is a remarkable region blessed with sun, sea, mountains, flowing rivers and lush plateaux, all offering up the most eclectic and fantastic produce that’s always served up fresh on the plate.
Starting off in the entry port of France, Marseille, Rosie joins celebrated chef Christian Buffa and concocts a classic Bouillabaisse soup made with the freshest fish found in these rocky Northern-Mediterranean shores.
A short trip North takes Rosie up into the limestone mountains surrounding Aix-en-Provence where the ecology provides ingredients that make up some fantastic and hearty rustic fare: simple, nutritional meals garnished with the most fragrant wild herbs. Rosie samples the animated fruit and vegetable markets of Aix and cooks up a mouth-watering Lamb Provencal in neighbouring Lourmarin using the real Herbes de Provence – Sage, rosemary, bay leaves and thyme.
Heading East into the Var, near Toulouse, the climate becomes less temperate and saturated, especially in the Massif des Maures mountains, where regular rainfall and good altitude produces lush forests bearing abundant game and nuts.
Rosie comes to the chestnut town of Collobrieres and learns that locals like to hunt their own food! She takes part in a boar hunt learns how to prepare a hearty stew ‘daub’ with the creamiest dauphin potatoes imaginable.
Rosie heads back to the Riviera where she visits the citrus capital of France, Menton. Picking the most savoury lemons known to European restaurants from a local citronnerie, she rustles up a tantalising tarte au citron with pastry chef Fabian Pasquale.
She ends her culinary quest in the Italiannate city of Nice making stuffed vegetables called Petits Farcis with Italian chef called Luc Salsedo. A perfect end to a perfect culinary journey!
Comité Régional de Tourisme Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
It’s not easy to find, but that’s the point of this charming B&B whose rooms are placed in discreet corners of open woodland. Each room is a 4 diameter see through bubble of varying degrees, depending on how much privacy you require. Your private bathroom is located a 2-minute walk away as is the communal terrace where breakfast is served. There’s also a Jacuzzi and a telescope for star gazers.
Hotel Carre Vieux Port
6 Rue Beauvau
T: +33 (0)4 91 33 02 33
F: +33 (0)4 91 33 21 34
This is a good middle of the road business hotel that won’t break the bank. Situated a block from the old harbour it’s perfectly situated. The staff is friendly and the breakfast buffet is generous, though served in a slightly soulless room. Another drawback are the stairs that lead to the first floor and lift – not a winner when you’ve got a heavy suitcase.
Hotel Le Manoir
8 Rue Entrecateaux
Aix en Provence
T: +33 (0)4 42 26 27 20
Tucked away in the middle of the old town this 14th century cloister is a real find. It boasts a beautiful courtyard with free parking for guests in an excellent location. Unfortunately it’s a bit frayed around the edges, the rooms don’t seem to have been modernised since the 70s, there are no fans or air conditioning, the breakfast is nothing to write home about and the service ranges from sullen to indifferent, but the location…
Chateau du Grand Jardin
Mr. & Mme Jacques Glory
1, chemin Amiral de Villeneuve
T: +33 (0)4 92 74 96 40
M: +33 (0)7 87 00 31 65
This is a true gem sat atop a hill in the middle of Valensole, an area known for its lavender and almond trees. The 16th century chateau was extended in the 19th century and now keeps true to the style: tiles and furnishings are antique – it’s beautiful, though not always practical – don’t expect to roll your suitcase across the tiles. The French speaking owners are friendly and helpful, but will expect you to respect the surroundings of this exceptional property. It’s surprisingly affordable and therefore fills up early, make sure to book ahead.
Recent undertaking of former marketing manager Nili and vintner Olivier who decided to give up their day jobs and make a new start at the heart of the Maures mountains. They found an 18th century building that once served as the town’s post office, renovated it while maintaining the original features and turned it into a beautiful hotel. The owners’ enthusiasm shines through not only in the individual decoration of each room, but also in the welcoming way they approach their guests – they really do make you feel like you’re part of the family. They are also known for the excellent dinners that need to be pre-booked.
Quality Hotel Méditerranée
5 rue de la République
Tel : +33 (0)4 9241 8181
Fax : +33 (0)4 9241 8182
Clearly part of a chain this three star hotel meets expectation with pleasant rooms with a 70s flair and a good breakfast buffet. Friendly staff, a location at the heart of town, and a pretty roof terrace make this a good choice within its price range.
If you want to travel to the Provence in style and be in the know as to where to go, what to see and when to do it, but don’t want to spend hours doing the research then Provence Confidential is the right service for you, just give the owner Laurence Bry an idea of what sort of thing you are looking for and she’ll put together an itinerary brimming with local gems and inside knowledge.
Truffe Noire de Haut Provence
T: +33 (0)4 92 74 8782
M: +33 (0)6 81 94 24 40
20 years Dominique and Franck Martino made their dream of a quiet country life become reality by planting 18 hectares of truffle trees. They were amongst the first to take the risk of planting a species that had never before been cultivated successfully. Today they run a thriving truffle and lavender business, and you can become a part of their enterprise by sponsoring the planting of a minimum of 10 trees and in return receiving regular shipments of fresh truffles by mail direct to your door. Alternatively the truffles can be bought directly. Just get in touch on their website or by phone.
- Bouillabaisse by Christian Buffa
- Petit Farcis Niçois by Luc Salsedo
- Ragout de Mouton by Paula Marty
- Tarte au Citron by Fabien Pasquale
Bouillabaisse by Christian Buffa
Originally a fisherman’s dish prepared from the leftovers of the daily catch the Bouillabaisse has been turned into high cuisine in recent years and has been protected by a charter since 1980. There are now only about a dozen restaurants in Marseille that prepare the bouillabaisse accordingly.
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 4 kg of Fish: the soup should contain at least 4 kinds of the following:1.5kg Rascasse (scorpion fish)1kg Saint Pierre (John Dory)6 slices of Fielas (conger eel)
6 slices of baudroie (monkfish)
3 Galinettes (gurnard)
1kg small rock fish for the stock
- 675g Tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 1 kg Potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 2 Onions, sliced
- 6 Garlic, crushed whole in peel
- 5 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Fennel bulb
- 1 tsp Saffron
- Pastis, 2 glasses
- 1 Parsley bunch
- 5-10 g Salt
1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until golden brown, add tomatoes and pastis.
2. Clean the rockfish and cut it into small pieces.
3. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mass obtains the consistency of dough.
4. Cover with boiling water.
5. Add fennel, garlic, parsley, pepper.
7. Add the remaining ingredients: first the potatoes then the fish according to size and thickness of flesh (scorpion fish, John Dory, conger eel, monkfish).
8. Keep on the boil for approximately 20 minutes, 5 minutes before serving add the remaining fish (gurnard).
9. Serve: Remove the fish, potatoes and serve separately on a platter. The soup should be served as a first course as well as with the platter of fish as a second course. Serve with Rouille.
Add saffron and pimiento to an aioli.
Petit Farcis Niçois by Luc Salsedo
A delicious dish of stuffed vegetables, typically eaten at the beginning of the meal. This dish represents the culmination of a day spent at market, surrounded by the sights and smells of fresh ingrediants.
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 500g of Beef Meat
- 500g of Veal Meat
- Olive Oil
- 2 White Onions
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- 300g of Purée of Vegetables (see below)
- 3 Eggs
- 100g of Tomato Sauce
- 3 slices of Bread soaked in Milk
- 60g of Parmesan Cheese
- 60g of Bread Crumbs
- 25g of Pesto
- Salt and Pepper
Boil and puree 1 of each: tomato, red pepper, courgette, aubergine
1. Wash all the vegetables
2. Cut the tomatoes in half, take out the centre and save separately
3. Cut the red pepper in half and cook in the oven with garlic and thyme and olive oil 15 minutes at 150 °C
4. Boil the aubergine and zucchinis, when done, cut in half, take out the centre and save
1. Cook the vegetable leftovers with minced onion, chopped garlic and thyme
2. Add the meat and cook until pink
3. Once cooled, add the vegetable purée, tomato sauce, eggs, bread in milk, parmesan cheese, pesto, parsley, basil and seasoning
Then fill the vegetables with the stuffing, sprinkle with bread crumbs and olive oil and cook in the oven, for about 40 minutes at 140 °C.
Ragout de Mouton by Paula Marty
- 1kg small rock fish for the stock
- 1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 shoulder of lamb cut into medium size pieces
- 20g of dried cepes (porcini mushrooms), soak in water
- 80g green olives
- 1 large onion, sliced
- Provencal Bouquet garni (3 leaves each of thyme, rosemary and bay leaves)
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and squashed
- Olive oil
1. In a large pot brown the meat in the olive oil
2. When it is golden brown take out the meat and keep
3. Add the onions to the oil, then the olives
4. When the onions have turned golden return the meat to the pot
5. Remove any excess water from the mushrooms and also add to the mix
6. Then add the potatoes, salt and pepper, the bouquet garni and the cloves of garlic
7. Cover with water and simmer on a medium heat for 1 – 1 ½ hours
Tarte au Citron by Fabien Pasquale
We prepared this dish in Menton, the lemon capital of France. Lemon Tart is a firm traditional staple in this sunny spot on the Riviera, but chef Fabien Pasquale decided to make a modern, much lighter version that suits the climate wonderfully. The preparation separates into that of pastry and filling.
- Filo pastry
- Melted butter
- 400gms of cream
- 3 egg yolks
- 100gms of sugar
- juice of 3 lemons
- 4 small pie dishes approximately 15cms in diameter
- Pastry brush
- Small pot
- Cream whipper complete with Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Whipped Cream Chargers
- Stretch the filo sheet
- Brush with melted butter
- Sprinkle with sugar and fold the filo in half
- Stretch the pastry over one of the pastry dishes and place the second dish on top
- Bake for eight minutes
- Boil the cream
- In a bowl mix the egg yolks and sugar
- Heat the cream and add to the mixture
- Add lemon juice
- Pour the mixture into a Whipped Cream Dispenser
- Cool in the fridge for two hours
- Finally fill the pie with cream and decorated with meringue.
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