This month I decided I must tell you a bit more about the cuisine which has been a huge influence on the way I cook myself.
I will have to keep some of the terms in their original French version because I am afraid that we do not have a translation in English. At least when you are in this region you will recognise them.
You know sometimes when you get deep into the countryside part of Provence you wonder if their inhabitants speak French or not. In fact they very often use slang or dialect or just the fact they talk so fast.
The region is at the time of writng this item, is experiemncing hot summer weather with temperatures reaching with ease 35-38 degrees C.
You certainly need a hat, you desperately look for a bit of shade under a plane tree, and accept with good grace a glass of "Rose de Provence".
But also you become a hunter of smells.
Get into small villages, the kind of place where you have a main square, with the little corner dairy, the butcher the baker the fish shop.
They are normally located next to each other. It is easier, and legend down south, says that people are a bit too relaxed ... THEN there is the market place. This is just like a carnival. Once in your life you need to see a 'Market' in Provence.
Getting back to the smells, they all mingle. This is why you become a hunter. The game is to get them right. But a bit of advice if I may. A friend of mine has a good way to deal with it. The first place he goes to is the baker or what we call "le boulanger patissier".
Of course his interest is in the fresh bread smell,just coming out of the oven, traditionally cooked in a wood oven, but also is first by is a "1000 feuilles" which is a cake as you understand flat pastry leaves with vanilla custard and top sugar iced.
Once you went to the baker your nose can distinguish other smells easily. There are hundreds: -fish, fruit, vegetable, lavender, wine, and the heat of the sun on the pavement or the stones of the church and houses.
But lets talk about cuisine and the traditional way my ancestors and still today many cook their meals.
The principal ingredient in the Provencale Cuisine is its authenticity. The other ingredients are simple and the way to cook them as easy as saying "g'day".
You just need a bit of TLC (Tender Loving Care), a lot of passion and you will easily be able to carry out any recipe that are sometimes as secret as discovering a spring in the "Provencal" bush also called "garrigue". This month the recipe is:
"The Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic".
- 1 free range chicken(a bit more expensive but so tasty and the flesh is firmer)
- 40 cloves of garlic
- 2 eggplants
- Olive oil
- Thyme rosemary,bay leaves,sage.
- A couple of sticks of celery
- A small bunch of parsley
- 3 tablespoons of flour.
Stuff the chicken with a little bunch of spices ,salt and pepper. In a terracotta casserole, make a bed with thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, sage, parsley,and celery.
Add the 40 cloves(do not peel the skin off) of garlic, the washed then dried and diced eggplants,as well as a small glass of olive oil. Mix gently.
Roll the chicken in this marinated base and then place it on top.
Put the lid on, and seal with a paste of flour and water.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C
Put the chicken in and let it cook for 1 hour to 11/2 according to weight.
To serve it remove the seal, wash the lid and bring the casserole to the table.
The wine to accompany this must be a red.
I would recommend a 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Babich from Hawke's Bay. This wine blends the rich,blackcurrant-like flavour of Hawke's Bay Cabernet Sauvignon with the softer Merlot.Matured in oak barriques. Enjoy always in moderation.