The good thing about this recipe is that it is forgiving enough to handle less than perfect tomatoes, and should you not have any tomatoes, bell peppers would certainly work, too. If you do use tomatoes, I advise that you salt their insides and place them upside down on a couple of sheets of kitchen paper. That way they lose a little of their water, and the dish won’t become too soupy. You’ll want to serve these over fluffy, steamed white rice or perhaps with some bread on the side. I think a lively red wine would pair very well with this dish. Perhaps a Vin de Pays d’Oc from the Languedoc Roussillon.
- 8 medium-sized (preferably ripe) tomatoes
- 1 tbsp mild olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 300-350g minced pork and beef mix
- 40g fresh breadcrumbs (I make my own from slightly stale bread)
- 2 tsps Herbes de Provence
- small handful chopped parsley
- 2 tbsps ketchup
- 2 tbsps pine nuts
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- salt (preferably fleur de sel) and freshly-cracked pepper
Preheat your oven to 220°C and lightly grease a large casserole with a little bit of oil. Cut the tops of your tomatoes and hollow them out. Reserve the tops. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with salt and place them upside down on kitchen paper. Heat the olive oil and gently sauté the shallots and the garlic for about three minutes. Put the minced meat in a large bowl together with the breadcrumbs, Herbes de Provence, parsley, ketchup, pine nuts, egg, cooked shallots and garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine everything well, either using your hands or a potato masher like I do. Divide the mixture over the hollowed tomatoes, drizzle the dish with olive oil and pop in the oven for about 30 minutes. After this time, put the tomato caps back on, and allow the dish to cook for a further 20 minutes. Serve the tomatoes over steamed white rice, making sure you drizzle each portion with some of the wonderful pan juices.
In this recipe, soft, creamy goat’s cheese is marinated in an aromatic oil flavored with lemon rind, pink peppercorns and fragrant herbs. Both the cheese and the oil are delicious on salads.
Note: Sterilise your jars by boiling them.
- 125g soft goat’s cheese (chèvre frais)
- 4 tbsps chilli oil
- 1 tsp whole, pink peppercorns
- 2 small dried chillies
- small bunch of thyme
- 4 pieces of lemon rind (from an unwaxed, organic lemon)
- enough good-quality extra virgin olive oil to fill the jar (about 450ml)
Put the cheeses in the jar, add the rest of the ingredients and close tightly. Keep the jar in the fridge for one month before using the cheese and oil.
It was our first vacation in the south of France, and I remember that I had to keep pinching myself. What fascinating beauty and amazing scents! I was convinced we had suddenly taken an unexpected turn and ended up in paradise. Especially on the day we drove from Lamastre in the Ardèche to Orange in the Vaucluse, taking little breaks along the way to experience new and wonderful things from up close.
We marvelled at the rows of fruit and olive trees in Nyons, and I vividly remember stopping by the side of the road to visit a stand selling all things having to do with the famous Tanche olives. There were kilos of cherries for sale too – dark, plumper than I’d ever seen and with an aroma so irresistible it made me want to eat them all, right then and there. I purchased a large bag (which the three of us ravenously devoured in the car), a huge bottle of olive oil and a jar of those black, wrinkled little olives. Never had I tasted such sweet, fleshy cherries nor such fragrant olives.
In Montélimar we treated ourselves to chewy nougat, and at wine meccas such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas we bought fabulous, hearty wines. Along the way, we stopped at a tiny bakery to buy pastries, and at a little village café to indulge in a quick shot of strong, French coffee, un p’tit café.
Decidedly hungry (even after all the tasting), we decided to have lunch in Orange and found the perfect table at restaurant La Sangria, right in the city centre. It was extremely hot and dry that afternoon, and if I close my eyes, I can still feel the sensation of the air against my skin – thick and heavy with the faint scent of lavender and thyme. Perhaps most memorable was the extraordinary power of the mistral wind that whooshed past the tables. It felt like I was sitting right in the middle of what can best be described as a mini-hurricane. If it wasn’t for the plates and heavy bottle of water on the table, the vibrantly colored tablecloths would have been flying all over the place.
The plat du jour was a trio of légumes farcis served on a bed of lettuce. What a simple, delicious meal! The vegetables were sunny and full of flavour, and in the meat filling I could taste the regional herbs: thyme, rosemary and sage. We washed down the meal with the only logical choice – a few glasses of light pink rosé. Dessert was kept fresh and fruity – a small bowl of fromage blanc topped with a tangy coulis of red berries.
The food and wine were lovely, but the best part of all was the journey that took us to that restaurant: the colors we saw along the way, the things we tasted and the heavenly aromas of a place that would forever stay etched in my memory. In my happiest thoughts, I can still escape to that place of unparallelled beauty.