Welcome to Provence, home of delicious rosé, blooming lavender, scented herbs and lazy lunches that drag on well into the afternoon.
Where downtime equals social time and friends and family get together at the weekend to eat freshly prepared food with all the divine ingredients of the south. Seasonal ingredients always feature large in Provencal cuisine and people are proud to serve something that has just popped up at their local market or that they found growing by the side of the road. Hunting down good food is almost as important and stimulating as the cooking and eating of it.
These dishes are perfect for a less formal occasion where the hosts can ensure they have plenty of time to enjoy their guests’ company rather than working away in the kitchen.
Provencal style lunch guide
Start the party by serving some traditional dips typical for the region such as black olive and almond tapenade, Caviar d’aubergine and a Goat’s cheese & basil crème.
How to make tapenade
The tapenade is very easy to make – just blitz black de-stoned olives with olive oil and a pinch of salt, a handful of almonds or a couple of spoons of almond butter.
The same goes for the basil and goats cheese dip – a good soft goat’s cheese, half a pot of crème fraiche, a glug of olive oil and a bunch of basil leaves with plenty of salt all into the food processor and out it comes, vibrant green, ready to serve.
For the Caviar d’aubergine roast the whole aubergine for about 1 hour, until it’s very soft and then scoop out the flesh, mash it up by hand and mix it with salt, garlic and olive oil. Serve it with some roasted ciabatta, chopped into wedges and a colourful selection of sliced crunchy crudités (vegetables), as the locals would.
How to make stuffed Mediterranean vegetables
Follow this with a lovely classic dish of stuffed Mediterranean vegetables. They are easy to prepare and make in advance. Serve with a yummy slice of asparagus and goats cheese tarte on the side.
Simply choose your favourite seasonal vegetables (tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes make great options), scoop out their insides and replace with well-seasoned mince (not too lean!) and some chopped onions and garlic. Off into the oven and bake on a medium heat for 30-40 minutes.
How to make asparagus and goats’ cheese tart a la Provence
Make the asparagus and goats’ cheese tart straight after you start to bake the stuffed vegetables so that you can use the hot oven. Blind bake a sheet of butter puff pastry until golden and let it cool down. Spread the base with soft goats cheese and follow with a layer of steamed (patted dry) asparagus over the top. Wrap a few stems with a slice of Parma ham if you like. Add plenty of salt and pepper to season and your dish is ready.
Both the vegetables and the tart can be eaten hot or cold. A nice lentil salad with plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes a really good side dish.
This menu is perfectly accompanied by the dry, yet red-fruit forward flavour of Provence rosé, which you can serve happily through the course of the meal, including dessert. Our Mirabeau Classic is a great example of a Provence rosé that has enough body and length to stand up to even more robust food flavours.
Provencal fruity filo pastry parcels
For dessert pick up on the red fruit theme of the rosé and prepare some crispy filo pastry parcels with seasonal red fruit, flavoured with something a bit unusual, like lavender or verbena. Choose whichever mix of fruit you like, from mulberries to cherries and strawberries, perhaps with some lavender infused sugar syrup.
These are so simple to make. Just fill the sheets of filo pastry with pre-cooked red fruit compote, close them like an envelope and place them seams down on a baking tray in a hot oven. They will crisp up in just a few minutes and taste perfect with a big scoop of cold crème fraiche.
By Jeany Cronk, Mirabeau Wine, Provence France