Saturday, 8 October 2011

Out of the provinces and into Provence!

Lucky me, just as school is full-on I decide to leave the provinces and disappear to Provence. From 13degrees to 26C, two hours from Birmingham. The aquamarine swimming pool twinkled in the sunlight as the last swish of the Mistral flew by, I lay there soaking-up the rays, finally getting to the last chapter of the Hare with Amber Eyes. I must move.
The heavenly market at Lorgues was surprisingly similar to Beaulieu market, Nice market and Ventimiglia market but was washed in dappled light from the plane trees and full of smiling faces unlike any of the above. We purchased 2 small smoked hams, 4 salamis for 20 EURO. A kilo of lavender honey which glistened like a pot of liquid gold and 2 heavenly goats cheeses. Back home for lunch: a salad of goats cheeses drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar and wafer thin slices of ham, fresh figs and of course a bottle of rose. We had stopped on the way home at the local château and purchased a case of the lightest and most delicious rose I have ever tasted. Gone are the days of dark pink, slightly sweet rose d'Anjou! Our wine was fresh and easy but still had enough body to enjoy. We had a triumphant lunch party the next day that started at midday and ended at midnight and I made a lavish Lemon Risotto to go with roast Sea Bass. This recipe is easy but takes a bit of time so make sure you have something else to divert you in the kitchen otherwise you may  loose the will...
Lemon Risotto ( about 4 lemons)
Take a large non-stick frying pan and melt some butter and olive oil together and then chuck in a small, finely chopped onion and cook gently until softened but not browned. Add very thinly pared lemon  rind, cut into very thin strips. I suggest 2 un-waxed lemons for 6 people. A good pinch of fresh thyme leaves and about 4 cloves of garlic, crushed. Cook for a few minutes more. Add a handful of arborio rice per person and cook together for a minute or two. Pour in some white wine, vegetable or chicken stock to cover and simmer slowly, stirring frequently. When the rice in about halfway through cooking, squeeze the juice of two to four lemons into the pan, season with sea salt,  freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Add more stock whenever you need to, until the risotto is creamy. At the last moment stir in a big knob of unsalted butter and finely grate some lemon zest (1 lemon should do) into the risotto. Serve immediately with any roast fish, fowl or pork. Lemons vary hugely so if they are small and dry then you will need heaps of them but if large and juicy just a few should do.
Rumour has it that a certain château is looking for someone to run it for a season....TEMPTING!

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