Category Archives: french cuisine

A communal feast under a majestic oak tree

Le Castellas in Sivergues

While editing these images my head started to fill up with the stuff that travel dreams are made of, and as I type this, I’m feeling 100%, no holds barred, shamelessly nostalgic. The only reason I can think of can be drawn from the following quote:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway,

No, we didn’t go to Paris, but lunch at a goat farm in Sivergues will be the meal to remember for life! Sitting in the shade under an old oak tree, beautifully presented platters of food to be shared at the table, a soft breeze, chatter, refreshing sips of Chateau La Canorgue’s blanc – what a sublime experience. It was unlike anything we’ve ever had while traveling around France. It’s as if we had stumbled upon a secret.

Le Castellas after lunch

Recently reopened after 2 years of closure, Le Castellas is under new ownership and offers lunch and dinner for the summer season. Reservations are a must. The website is in french which we understood well enough, but being able to converse (english) during the meal with 2 multi-lingual guests made the afternoon even more enjoyable.

Le Castellas oak tree

The website describes the simple menu so if you can live without ordering from one, are not at all shy about sitting elbow to elbow with perfect strangers, and treasure that farm-to-table atmosphere, then this is the place to go. The service is perfect, the staff discreet, and as my photos will show (I hope!), the setting is like one of those period films shot in the Provençal countryside. Ciak!

Le Castellas boss goat
My guess is that this goat is head honcho of the herd

Le Castellas du pain et du vin
Half liter of Chateau La Canorgue’s Blanc and a gorgeous loaf of artisan bread

Le Castellas les fromages
Clockwise from left: chevre from local producers – lavender, plain, thyme, and I think pepper flakes?

Le Castellas charcuterie
Assorted charcuterie, paté, and toast nibbles

Le Castellas salads

Guests helped themselves to a variety of cold salads (caponata, chickpeas, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomato, cabbage) that were brought to the table in flip-top mason jars.

Le Castellas almond cake

Dessert was a double delight – you could choose between fresh fruit purees (to be poured into your empty water glasses), or spoon a luscious apricot-thyme compote over a slice of dense almond cake. We tried them all 🙂

Le Castellas fruit purees
Mason jars full of strawberry and melon fruit purees and apricot-thyme compote.

Merci beaucoup Le Castellas!

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Miraval: I’m glad we got our hands on this pink

MIraval Côtes de Provence

Beer has always been our drink of choice during the summer months but from here on out, rosé wine, and I mean the worthy ones (not cheap pink stuff in a can or from the grocer’s) is owning a spot in the fridge. I had only heard of Jolie-Pitt’s Miraval, like, a few months ago, and 17€ price tag notwithstanding, my concern was that it wouldn’t do justice to the fish.

Orata en papillote
Sea bream en papillote with bell peppers, onions, potatoes; perfumed with kaffir lime leaves

Well, justice it did. It paired well with the asian notes from the kaffir lime leaves. Miraval is light, refreshing, crisp, and so not like the sweet and cloying pinks I’ve had in the past. Easy to drink without being written off as simply a fine rosé, I had to ask MotH to stop because I wanted to have some with leftovers on Monday. Btw, he scoffed and poured himself another.

Miraval by Jolie-Pitt

It was funny when the sales clerk made sure to point out the Jolie-Pitt name on the label – like I already didn’t know! What I didn’t expect was how well it would go with the herbal and salty flavors of goat’s milk cheeses. Miraval is made with grenache, cinsault, syrah and rolle grapes. As a higher-priced rosé it won’t be something I’d buy often, but with Hollywood’s elite on the bottle, I concede that it deserves all the fanfare.

Bastille Day cheese board
We are out of french cheese and need to go back for more

Advent calendar in reverse: tonka bean canelés

Canelés at Beaune's market
Perfect canelés at Beaune’s Saturday market. They were pricey but so good!

Cookies, cakes, and all things sweet – have you started your holiday baking yet? If not, then what are you waiting for?! I like to try something new every year, yet in the interest of time and wanting to get more bang out of my baking, I was really happy to come across the post Christmas Cookie Calendar in Reverse. Kaisa (the author) suggests a new take on the Advent calendar. Starting from December 1st, bake small amounts of something different every day, freeze each baked good as they are done, and come Christmas Day you’ll have 24 delicious treats to please your guests! It’s a brilliant plan, but if you aren’t as gung-ho about cranking up the oven every 24 hours, she proposes the idea of baking every few days.

Canelés that were baked in silicone
Not perfect but totally okay baked in silicone. See that they’re positioned into a xmas tree?

I’m shooting for a bake-every-4-days plan and canelés will start things off. These mini french custard cakes are a feat of accomplishment when done to perfection (by that I mean with the expensive copper molds and beeswax coating), but they are just as satisfactory for the eyes and tooth when done in silicone molds. I’ve made them before with tin molds and they were a pain (some of them stuck), but this is the first time for using a cheap silicone one that I bought well over a year ago in France.

Tonka beans are an entirely french thing and I won’t go into detail since they’re most likely not easy to obtain for everyone. You can substitute with vanilla extract, orange liqueur, or whatever inspires your creativity. The individual capacity of my silicone mold is 1/3 cup. The following recipe makes 8 canelés so it did double the time to bake off the entire mixture. For an easy step-by-step demo, I suggest this youtube clip: Canelés by Cooking with Alia

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (50 grams if you have a precision scale)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tonka bean, grated (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
a pinch of salt
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
melted butter to brush the inside of the molds

1. Heat the milk together with the 2 tablespoons butter until bubbles form around the edge; stir in the grated tonka bean (or vanilla).

2. While the milk is heating, sift the flour into a bowl. Add the sugar, whole egg and egg yolk, and salt. Whisk until light, fluffy and pale in color.

3. When the milk is ready, whisk a small amount into the egg batter to avoid curdling. Gradually whisk in more milk, a little at a time, until all of the milk is incorporated. Allow mixture to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (you want the batter to be really cold) or overnight.

4. Preheat the oven to 210°C (450°F). Brush melted butter on the insides of the silicone mold and place in freezer to set up. When the molds are ready, pour in the chilled mixture (give it a good stir first), leaving some space at the top. NOTE: silicone molds will need to be set on a sturdy tray, preferably lined with baking parchment.

Silicone mold for canelés
Fill molds to just a little over 3/4 capacity

5. Bake at 210°C for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 180°C (390°F) and continue baking for another 50-55 minutes until dark golden brown on the top. Remove to cool on a baking rack for a few minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate. Thoroughly cool canelés if you plan to freeze them. I freezed mine in an airtight container. To serve later on, remove from freezer and let them sit out for 10 minutes. Place them on a baking sheet and reheat for 7 minutes or so in an oven preheated at 370°F.

The initial rise
Tops rise above molds within the first 20 minutes, then fall back.