Have a healthy start to the day with these breakfast waffles inspired by Brazilian cheese puffs!
Rain in some Kirsch in these dark chocolate and cherry macarons!
What? You’ve never been to St Rémy de Provence? Valérie plopped frozen raspberries instead of ice-cubes in her refreshing homemade citronnade. She always has brilliant ideas. Would we just stay by the pool and chat during our long-awaited Bastille holiday weekend visit, or should we venture out in this heatwave and have a bit of culture next morning?
I felt embarrassed. How could I have visited the parents-in-law in their Saignon village since 1992 and not even discover one of Provence’s most picturesque villages just south of Avignon? But, in our defence, when we visit family in the south we don’t do the touristy things. We do what the family does: either sit around the house and chat, watch the Tour de France in the cool indoors, take “kid-naps” or have rustic picnics around the Mont Ventoux.
So before we knew it, Antoine and I were whisked off to the town where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life in 1889, painting his blockbusters like Irises and Starry Night while at the psychiatric centre at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole.
There are no cars in the centre of the town, which makes walking around an extra relaxing pleasure. Street names are in Provençal, with the town’s coat of arms.
A must stop is at the fountain of Michel Nostradamus, celebrating the famous astrologer, apothecary and seer born here in 1503. His world predictions are best known in his publication, Les Propheties, which has rarely been out of print since the first edition came out in 1555.
I wonder if he predicted that his home town would be filled with some kind of curiosity shop around many a corner?
Or ice cream shops too?
Or restaurants serving typical provençal dishes with a base of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and served with the local chilled rosé during the summer?
Valérie predicted that I’d be making for Michel Marshall’s pâtisserie in the heart of town, in Place Joseph Hilaire.
Michel Marshall’s exquisite artistic pastries were disappearing fast. No wonder – this talented pastry chef has worked previously with Pierre Hermé at Ladurée and with Philippe Conticini at Le Pétrossian before eventually opening his own boutique, just like the others. Had Van Gogh been around, I wonder if he would have painted them? In any case, I’d say that Michel Marshall is the Van Gogh of Pastry here – and predict more boutiques opening.
Overheard in the shop was a guide taking around American visitors – just what I do with the chocolate, pastry and macaron walks with Context in Paris, St Germain-des-Prés. Valérie encouraged me on, otherwise I was in danger of pretending I was in the group and tasting like the others – especially as I had my eye on a savoury pastry. My hand must have been shakily excited too as the photo was terrible so I’m afraid you’ll just have to imagine that the artistic topping was a giant basil leaf.
Then I found myself lingering around another pastry shop. This time with over-sized lemon meringue tarts, giant macarons, and violet Réligieuses: one bite-sized choux puff placed on top of a bigger one and filled with fragranced pastry cream. Recipes for all of them are in Teatime in Paris: A Walk Through Easy French Pâtisserie Recipes.
Stumbling on another boutique, named so prettily, “The Pastry Chef’s Daughters”, it was more of a curiosity shop. Although, don’t show that you’re too curious; the shiny-muscled pastry chef was looking rather suspiciously from the window above as he was tucking into his lunch.
Sounds are also pretty different in Provence. Above the trickling of the fountains, it’s sometimes deafening to hear the cigales or ciganes
singing rhythmically screeching in the trees. I took a video of it and will share it with you next time. Over them, we listened to a busker playing in the shade of the plane trees.
Window boxes are remarkably sweet in the town hall square. This is when I lost the others while getting carried away taking photos. Does that often happen to you too?
They had already headed towards the chocolate shop. Let’s catch up with them on Tuesday, so join me then on the rest of our walk in St Rémy de Provence, to discover chocolate!
Clafoutis is a French speciality from the Limousin region. It’s also one of my French Mother-in-law’s specialities and so one of my husband’s favourite classic desserts. When we visit Antoine’s parents in Provence in the summer, Madeleine proudly rustles up her baked dark cherry custard dessert especially for son grand fils, her eldest son, with cherries freshly plucked from the orchard at the bottom of the garden.
But after twenty years, I finally plucked up the courage to make this ridiculously easy pudding at home. Why did I wait so long to make it? Perhaps, I dare say, because it was a bit heavy – especially as I prefer lighter desserts. Could Belle Maman really discover I’d slightly changed her recipe?
So many clafoutis recipes call for pitted cherries. Like it’s traditionally made in the Limousin, Madeleine normally throws in the whole cherries as they are and most of us politely dispose of the stones at the table. I say most of us, as Antoine – in his more natural Corsican style – rocks on the back of his chair, plotting his target as he catapults and projects them less than delicately into the garden – “Heh, je plante!”, he shrugs at us all. It’s his Corsican sense of humour of saying he’s planting cherry trees. Oh, pl-ease!
I may mock but whole, unpitted cherries do keep in their flavour, and it’s far quicker than standing over the kitchen table with dark cherry-stained hands looking like Jack or Jill the Ripper. So just throw them in as they are naturally then get the family to do the gardening at the table. Otherwise pit them if you prefer, especially if you have a cherry stone extractor as part of your kitchen gadgetry.
This almond-topped clafoutis has been tried, tested and approved by Antoine, Julie and Lucie. Just don’t tell his Mum.
FRENCH CLAFOUTIS (Cherry Baked Custard) RECIPE
The almond topping idea is pinched from my friend, Véronique (merci!). You could replace the almond extract with a tablespoon of Kirsch or Amaretto liqueur for a more adult version.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes
500g fresh black cherries, washed, not pitted
For the mould (china or earthenware dish):
70g plain flour
good pinch of salt (fleur de sel)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 medium eggs, organic
1 egg yolk
270g full-cream milk
25g butter, melted
few drops of almond extract (optional)
25g silvered almonds (optional, for garnish)
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (gas 4). Butter an ovenproof china or pyrex dish (22cm diameter and 5cm deep) large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer. Sprinkle in the sugar, shaking it all around so that it coats the surface of the dish and place the cherries in it.
2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and yolk and, using a balloon whisk, mix well until the mixture is smooth. Continue whisking adding the milk, almond extract and melted butter. Pour over the cherries.
3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned. Toast the flaked almonds in a non-stick frying pan for a few minutes on medium heat until they’re golden and sprinkle on the Clafoutis with a dusting of icing/confectioner’s sugar.
Serve warm directly from the dish.
Don’t forget to join me on Instagram (or Facebook), where I’m having fun posting shots from day to day around Paris – from the market, to chocolate and pastry walks, to views of Paris, to mad family life.
Feeling daring? Why not try out these savoury asparagus clafoutis recipes as a summery supper dish?
As I stood there thinking about asking for some bread – or dare I say, brioche – at the massive gates to the Château de Versailles, I realised that we could eat macarons and pastries instead, just next door.
Would you believe we live not far from Versailles and yet I’ve never visited La Cour des Senteurs? The courtyard has, however, not long been renovated and celebrates the history of perfume around the 18th Century. Thanks to my friend, Francis, I have now discovered a quiet sanctuary of fragrances just 100m meters away from one of the biggest tourists attractions in the world.
The Cour (or courtyard) houses Guerlain, the perfumery that recently created an exclusive Eau de Parfum edition, called Cour de Senteurs to celebrate the opening here in Versailles. In the most pretty bottles, the perfume is exquisite, and includes Queen Marie-Antoinette’s favourite fragrance, jasmine. As they describe beautifully,
“…sharing the magic and splendour of the lavish balls held at the Château de Versailles, it’s a sensual fragrance with a majestic trail in which jasmine leads the dance.”
I’m new to beautifully scented candles and now that I’ve discovered the wonderful fragrances (including jasmine, mimosa, rose, fig, and red berries) around the Diptyque boutique, they’re on my wish list. Suddenly my Ikea tea lights are disappointing… Or you could slip your hands into something comfortable at La Maison Fabre, known worldwide for its luxury gloves since opening in Millau since 1924.
Fragrance houses also use spices, edible flowers and herbs – not just for their visual pleasure but a rich pleasure, marrying fragrance and taste. At the far end of the courtyard, tea and pâtisseries beckon as Lenôtre has a majestic tea salon, where you can eat outside (seats 30) or enjoy the classy interior (seats 20 for the tea salon, 40 for their restaurant for lunch). Their gourmet creations are inspired by the French gardens and the King’s Vegetable garden.
Pastry chef, Guy Krenzer, Meilleur Ouvrier de France 1988 and 1996, added Jasmine flower to the filling of this Saveur Royal gold tinted macaron inspired by jasmine-loving Marie-Antoinette. Alas, they’re so popular they were out of stock of these delicacies when I was there.
Instead three delicate macaron flavours were worth ordering with tea: pina colada, strawberry-ginger (I loved the after-taste of the spicy ginger!), and by far my favourite – chocolate-yuzu.
I have always ogled that lovely macaron porcelain tea-set but note that little cube of chocolate, the “L7G”. It has been in Lenôtre boutiques since September 2009 and as the name implies, it weighs 7 grams and partners dark chocolate with a coffee ganache. Thanks for that titbit, Francis.
I couldn’t resist trying the Schuss, which is a signature dessert created by Gaston Lenôtre in 1968 for the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, where Jean-Claude Killy made France proud with 3 gold ski medals. This is a revisited verrine version of his classic with red fruits, filled with joconde sponge biscuit and a light fromage frais mousse and served with a beautifully tart red fruit coulis.
I’m no skier, and flying downhill at high speed scares the living daylights out of me but I certainly couldn’t help enjoying its light freshness at full speed – Schhuuuusssss!
For something more classic to welcome spring and the French strawberry season, who can resist a tarte aux fraises? These are one of my favourite treats for goûter – and I have an easy recipe for it in Teatime in Paris!
After teatime, take a stroll around the Cour des Senteurs garden. Plants are glass-cased like in an outdoor museum, complete with fragrance facts and perfumery notes. The walkway takes you to the Jeu de Paume Game Room (the predecessor of tennis, played by the court from 1686, now a French Revolution museum, open afternoons) and the Potager du Roi, or King’s Vegetable Garden.
What a civilised teatime – although I still want to try these jasmine macarons, famous at La Cour des Senteurs and retrace Marie-Antoinette’s jasmine dance at the ball. In the meantime, let’s just continue with the macaron dance while watching their dainty feet form in front of the oven.
La Cour des Senteurs
Rue de la Chancellerie
Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-7pm
Public Transport from Paris: RER C (commuter train) station Versailles Rive Gauche – 5 minutes walk.
This article was featured as Blog Finds in French Entrée Magazine.
Summer this year was all pretty much last-minute. On return from our New York visit, the French parents-in-law were disappointed that us ‘Parisiens‘ hadn’t yet thought of visiting them in Provence in August. So, with that said, we threw a few bags in the car, leaving plenty of space for eventual goodies from the local Provençal market (my list was longer than a happy sunflower), and headed down the Autoroute de Soleil to Avignon.
As our plans were so last-minute it meant we could aim to follow the sunshine, hoping that the good people at the méteo weather centre hadn’t gone on holiday too. You see, curiously, the normally radiant August sun in France was playing hard to get and the so-called Autoroute de ‘Soleil‘ was sulking under thick rain-clouds. As we drove south, our goal was to leave the steely skies in the back mirror and so ended up taking a sunny detour via Haute-Savoie and the fresh air in the mountains of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.
One of the highlights of Haute-Savoie has to be the medieval village of Yvoire. It’s right on Lake Léman, which separates France from Switzerland. “Make sure you reserve a table at Les Jardins du Léman and order the local catch”, advised Hervé, a wonderful gastronomic connaisseur and bon vivant friend. So, not to disappoint him, we parked the car on the outskirts of the town and headed straight to our table.
Our table was on the top terrace where this secret ambience was hiding excited chattering, chilled rosé being poured and long platters of homemade frites. Such a view was already enticing but the top terrace overlooks the lake and dominant Château d’Yvoire. (Incidentally, you can’t visit it unless you know the owners: I need to work at networking, as my Mum has already placed her order for a Granny flat.) Back to the lake. No wonder fish is what to order here.
What a menu! Julie, who isn’t as fond as white fish as ourselves, changed her mind that afternoon. With perch fillets sautéd in a creamy basil sauce and served with the thinnest, crispiest, homemade frites, what was not to love? I took Hervé’s advice and was in seventh heaven with the Féra du Léman, the local freshwater fish with the most exquisitely-cooked vegetables and the best risotto I’ve tasted in a while.
Dare I say I couldn’t even manage dessert? I mean, who could resist choux cream puffs, une Réligieuse in her iced crowning glory hiding a light vanilla pastry cream or the freshest of raspberry tarts? The portions were so ample that I had to pass – but it just means that we’ll need to return to taste them! Instead, we needed a walk to merit something at 4 o’clock goûter teatime.
The views and fresh air from the lake would surely work up a sweeter appetite.
Classy passenger boats on the jetty go to and fro the Swiss town of Nyon, on the other side of the lake. I was content just gazing at the sailing boats. In any case, there were too many clouds on the Swiss side…
The castle certainly dominates the landscape. Imagine having your home on a restaurant’s business card?
Nicolas here, also dominated this street with his giant gingerbread rounds, or Pain d’Epices.
It didn’t need much to spice up my afternoon when I saw this macaron sign on the Grande Rue – with even more exclamation marks than Mad About Macarons!
The girls and I tasted their chocolate and passion fruit macarons. Delicious. Apparently they produced the biggest macaron pyramid last year. On return home, I looked up their website but it doesn’t exist. And I’ve looked everywhere on Facebook for them in vain. Never mind. If you can’t get to Yvoire, you’ll just have to make your own macarons like the French. Just saying.
Back to street meanderings, the girls couldn’t help looking into Crêperies and ice cream boutiques.
This boutique confirmed the latest trend: mixing alcoholic drinks with Red Bull. Now there’s an idea for your macarons, my friends – mind-blowing!
Incidentally, have you tried my Pistachio, green tea and wasabi ice cream recipe yet? It goes deliciously well with the same flavour of macaron (recipe is in the book).
As we sat under the shade of a giant fig tree, we watched others do like us: exchange ice creams. Do you do that too? We also reminisced that over the space of just a few hours, we’d had the most lazy yet gourmet and sunny afternoon.
Speaking of lazy gourmet, have you tried this ridiculously easy recipe of roasted figs with honey and lavender? As we’re smack bang in the middle of the short fig season in France, go for it!
Note: We were not guests anywhere here and all opinions are my own, as usual. I’m just sharing our family holiday highlights.