Apricot Clafoutis

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Ingredients (serves 6 ppl)

– 15 g butter for greasing
– 125 g flour
– 175 g apricots
– 50 g caster sugar
– 3 eggs
– 1 tsp Grand Marnier
– 300 ml milk
– Icing Sugar for dusting

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Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

2. Butter a shallow dish and put the apricots (deseeded and halved) inside

3. Whisk the eggs together with the sugar until white and smooth. Add flour, milk and Grand Marnier to the mixture. Pour everything on top of the apricots.

4. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until the batter is firm and golden.

This can be made with other soft fruits such as peaches, plums, cherries etc.

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La Boutique de Francine

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The village of Isle sur la Sorgue is known for its many antique stores selling everything from old beautiful silver cutlery to books. There is, however, one particular store situated just by the central station, called La Boutique de Francine…

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What’s so special about this store amongst the many others in this village? From the look of it on the outside you probably wouldn’t even bother to have a look inside. And to be honest, not even when you peak inside do you feel like discovering what the store has to offer. But if you just let your eyes rest from all the clutter a bit, you will start to see what it is that I’m trying to narrate to you.

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Feast your eyes on all the beautiful french fabric that this store buys from all over France. What? Fabric? That’s it? you might think, but this isn’t just any french fabric, this store holds metres and metres of textile history.

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Old, embroidered, extraordinary table cloths, napkins and linens some from the 1800’s and some even older. You’re buying a piece of history and quite an expensive part as well, but it’s an investment that will go down as family heritage one day…

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Gordes

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Of all the villages here in the Luberon valley, I probably have most emotional connection to Gordes. When I first started visiting this part of the country, about six years ago, I used to always take my afternoon coffee at the restaurant by the fountain in the heart of the village and just watch people walking by.

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The same place that has played a central role in several movies throughout the years and made lots of women feel like a young Catherine Deneuve, sitting there at the same restaurant as me, sipping on that coffee and smoking a cigarette…so very French.

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Gordes is probably the one village that attracts most tourists during the Summer and there’s no wondering why. It’s a stunning old village perched on the southern edge of the high Plateau de Vaucluse, I call it the “hanging village”.

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Be aware of the tourist traps here, everything is more expensive than in other villages around the valley where you can buy exactly the same things but for much less. But don’t let this discourage you from going there, it’s a must see if you’re in this region.

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IMG_7101There is a reason why the former French president Francois Mitterand bought a house there for his mistress, why tourists flock to see this jewel, why it’s known to be the most posh village in the valley…it’s a real gem amongst all other gems around this area.

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Yesterday’s photo shoot got me thinking why on earth I stopped with my afternoon coffees here and reminded me to bring that tradition back to life again. After all, traditions are meant to be kept, n’est pas?

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Soupe du Pêcheur

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This recipe is adapted from Jean Sorin’s Fisherman’s Stew from the cookbook The French Kitchen. This soup truly is comfort food at its best. Perfect for when having friends over. A little bit messy dipping the bread in the bowl, but that’s kind of part of it.

Ingredients (serves 6 ppl)

– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 3 onions, chopped
– 3 cloves of garlic
– 2 red chillies, halved, deseeded and chopped
– 2 * 400 g of chopped fresh tomatoes (or tinned)
– 1 tbsp tomato purée
– 300 ml white wine
– 400 g new potatoes
– 500 g mixed, cleaned shellfish: mussels, prawns and scallops (and/or clams)
– 1 kg fish fillets (any combination of fish will do – I always have a piece of salmon filet in mine as it gives the soup such nice flavour)
– Parsley
– Sea salt
– Ground black pepper

Instructions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions, garlic and chilli. Season with salt and pepper and leave it over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes, purée and white wine. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce some liquid.

3. Put the potatoes in and let it all simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Add the shellfish and then carefully place the fish fillets on top. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for another 10 minutes

5. Before serving add lots of chopped parsley on top.

6. Serve in large soup bowls with some fresh sour dough bread to go with it

All of our ingredients were bought at the farmers market. You can do this with frozen ingredients as well, however, I recommend using fresh ones as much as you possibly can. Serve it together with a nice cold glass of white wine.

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Farmers Market – Apt

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Every Saturday all the local farmers collect their fresh produce and bring them to the farmers market in the village of Apt for both tourists and locals to feast their eyes on. During high season (i.e. Summer) when there are many tourists around the market kind of looses its charm as you don’t have the time to actually enjoy the different stands and their products.

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A farmers market for me is when you can walk around without elbowing your way through a crowd and both smelling and tasting what it is that you’re buying without hasting.

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The real charm about these markets, even though they are considered big for this region, all the farmers recognise you. The friendly banters and casual small-talks are personal here and not just something you do or say because you feel like you have to, it all makes perfect sense and fits the occasion without it being bothering.

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But the market on Saturdays for local people isn’t just a going to the market type of thing, it’s a meeting place for them and their friends. Once your baskets have been filled with delicousness it’s time for a coffee and croissant at the local café where some of your friends are already enjoying theirs. You take a seat and more and more friends join the table while others bid their farewell.

“Same place, same time next Saturday?” is the usual thing to say when kissing everyone’s cheek goodbye…

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La Coquillade

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It may look like just another vineyard to you, and in one way it is, but that’s actually not the part of this property that this post will focus on. In the midst of the wine and olive production that this vineyard has to offer, lays something even more spectacular to be discovered, namely a 5-star hotel called La Coquillade. With its 28 rooms, three restaurants one of which has earned a Michelin star and a SPA, this Swiss owned establishment makes a hospitality girl like me proud to be in this line of business.

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Beautiful and peaceful surroundings that will keep you in a zen-like state of mind throughout your stay. Whether you’re at the SPA indulging yourself with one of their treatments, having a soothing drink at the bar or reading a book by the refreshing pool you can rest assured that you’re well taken care of at this sanctuary.

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Simply lay your stay and well-being in the hands of Swiss service when it’s at its absolute best and enjoy every moment to its fullest. Should one get tired of relaxing and more in an explorer type of mood there’s always the possibility of renting one of their cars (or bikes) to go for a tour around the valley or beyond with the roof top down.

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A stress free stay is guaranteed…well at least up until check-out when you will be presented with the bill. At this point, try to come back to your zen state of mind again, breathe slowly, count to ten and remember it was all worth it…

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Château Vignelaure

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In 2007 this vineyard made the headlines due to a star filled bidding war. Brangelina (Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie), Julio Iglesias and a swede named Bengt Sundström fought over Château Vignelaure when it became available on the market. Bengt was willing to pay a bit more than the others and is therefore the current and proud owner of this beautiful vineyard together with his Danish wife.

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To be honest I wouldn’t even have known about this if it wasn’t for that story in the newspapers and seeing that I am a curious person I just had to go there to see what the fuzz was all about.

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After taking some pictures of the beautiful château we headed inside to taste the wine. Oh my, what an enormous surprise, the wine was magnificent! We thought the wine was going to be a simple perhaps mediocre wine but boy were we wrong. We chose one box of the 2007 and one box of the 2008 Château Vignelaure which we were instructed to store for about 10-15 years for an even greater taste than it has today.

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However, our curiosity wasn’t completely satisfied with just tasting the wine, we wanted to know everything about this place and its amazing wines. We kindly asked the young lady working there if it would be possible to get a tour of the wine cellar and together with another couple she took us on an extraordinary wine and history tour through the enormous wine cellar that holds more than 200 000 bottles of wine.

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You can really see and feel the passion that the current owners have for both wine and art. They have combined them both impeccably. The good news for those of you who are as curious as we are you don’t need to travel miles and miles to go there (even though it’s worth it) you can visit their online store to get your own bottle filled with heavenly drops.

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And if you ask me what the fuzz was all about…well it’s all very clear to me now!

Château la Canorgue

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Another day, another vineyard…and not just any vineyard but that same vineyard where the movie “a good year” was filmed. Russell Crowe’s character inherited an old vineyard after the passing of his uncle, where he later on in the movie discovered that one of their wines “Coin Perdu” was a real hidden gem amongst the other horrible wines they were producing.

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Chateau la Canorgue made a smart move and started selling one of their wines labeled as “Coin Perdu” after the success of the movie, even though that label was totally made up for the film. And guess what, they have been sold out almost every year! You can’t even taste a bottle before deciding to buy it or not, they claim it needs to rest for another year or so which is normal when it comes to wines. However, not being able to taste the wine you’re buying is a bit strange but if you’re sold out anyway and for 15 EUR per bottle, then why should you open bottles just for tasting…I don’t blame them.

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Feeling a bit touristy we bought a box of three bottles…I will get back to you in a year to let you know if it was worth it…my bet is that it’s more clever marketing than good taste…

However, if this beautiful Chateau and its fantastic surroundings can add just a little pinch of its beauty to the taste…then the wine might actually be a big hit!

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Banon

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For this week’s gem of the week, I thought I would pay homage to the old Provence, like it was back in the days, pre-tourist frenzy era. Nowadays, many of the surrounding Luberon villages are quite posh with many foreigners owning properties and bringing their money to this part of the country. There’s no surprise in bumping into John Malkovich in the supermarket or having dinner with friends and sitting opposite the table from Peter Mayle or Ridley Scott. Ladies strutting around with their Louis Vuitton bags on their arms at the market place is not an unfamiliar sight these days. However, before all of that, pre-poshness, there was the old Provence, the Provence that was poor and shabby chic as one would call it today and one of the villages to best represent that particular era is the village of Banon. A pittoresque little village known for its cheese production and that will give you a good work-out climbing on those old cobble stone streets leading up to the top of the village. The village certainly plays its shabby chic part quite well on the outside, but a closer look on the inside you will get the taste of the new world and by this I mean opening the massive church doors when you finally reached the very top of the village and expecting to see a beautifully preserved building but instead being hit in the face by radiant light. For a quick moment you think that the presence of God has touched your face but then you realise the Church is not the home of the mighty one that day, but rather a modern art display exhibiting some kind of light installation. A bit disappointed I might add, I found myself back on the cobble street, where the village was this shabby-chic and gave me back that ancient Provencal feel I lost momentarily.

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Nonetheless, this charming village is also the proud home of a very famous book store called Le Bleuet (Bluebell) which is the most well-stocked bookshop in the whole of France. This shop holds over 1 million books in all thinkable genres. There are spiral staircases in every corner of this store leading you even further up to the roof and it feels never ending with books all around you wherever you lay your eyes to rest. Leaving the bookshop with sore eyes, ordering a Perrier to reflect on all impressions, one can’t stop to smile a little and appreciate the shabby-chicness of this village and the fact that it brought your feet back on the ground.IMG_5423

Carin’s Dark Chocolate Mousse

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This is based on our dear friend Carin’s sublime and oh so easy Chocolate Mousse recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4 ppl)

– 150 g dark chocolate (high quality – at least 70% cacao)
– 4 tbl spoons strong coffee (Espresso)
– 2 egg yolks
– 4 dl heavy cream

Instructions:

1. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie

2. Pour the egg yolks in the coffee and mix it in with the chocolate.

3. Let the mixture cool down a little

4. Whip up the heavy cream until smooth

5. Carefully turn the cream into the chocolate mixture and put it in the fridge

This can be served either in a big bowl to place in the centre of the table or in small individual cups, one for each guest. This goes well with any fruit or berries. We chose to serve it with our newly harvested peaches.

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