Climb every mountain…

foodtravPhilippaLooking at the rain pouring down in torrents on our conservatory roof, we can only grit our teeth at this postcard from private chef Philippa Davis!

IF one felt so inclined (or capable) the area surrounding St Remy de Provence is perfect for getting on a bike and busting up some crazily steep hills and mountains. Numerous cyclists of all ages get up early to miss the blazing sun and test their endurance to reach the tops.

Cooking here is always a pleasure and ideas come easily due to the mass of perfect produce available. There are few places I have been that can match the abundance of tasty fruits and vegetables. The peaches are always juicy and for lack of a better description ‘ peachy’, the cherries are shiny and sweet, the figs fleshy and perfect, the Provençal rosé is famous for good reason and the olive oil is so good you sometimes need nothing else to finish a simple salad.

Having been here at various times of year I am always impressed with how seasonal the shops and markets are and noted how one day the boxes of tumbling cherries suddenly stopped appearing. Season over. The sadness was only eased by the appearance of the next ingredient coming in – the most extraordinary green figs.

foodtravPhilippa2The working day started early with the bread run to the local boulangerie. It wasn’t the closest of the bakeries but my alliances had to change when we noted that the croissants at our local now lacked that flaky butteryness our morning cafes demanded. Our new bakery of choice was clearly the town’s favourite as there was always an impressive queue of people by 7:30, 95 per cent of whom were French. There was then the food shop dash where I have started to play “spot the private chef” as there seemed to be a collection of us down there (if you ever want to play, look out for extensive shopping lists, speedy trolley manoeuvres, skills at catching the fishmonger’s eye at 50 yards and speed packing). Lunch was long and chatty then siestas and swims before the evening amusements began.

With long warm evenings (I promise I’m not trying to rub it in for those of you back in Blighty where I understand you have had an abundance of wet stuff fall from the sky) dinners were served later in the evenings.

Grilled tomato, aubergine and olive salad with anchovy and lime dressing

This has been my favourite new salad this summer; the anchovy should be very subtle and only add base notes rather than dominate the flavours. It is a perfect barbecue salad.

foodtravPhilippa3Serves 4 as a side

3 aubergines
4 large tomatoes
1 salted anchovy, rinsed, deboned and finely chopped
1 lime
2 tsp sherry vinegar
4 tbs pitted green olives
3 tbs olive oil
20g coriander finely chopped (stalks and leaves)
1- 3 dried chillies, crushed (depending on how hot you like it)

Light the barbecue, when the coals are grey with ash grill the whole aubergines on all sides until soft (this will take about 10 minutes and the outside will look a bit burnt and the inside will be soft). Place in a colander over a bowl to cool and drain. Grill the whole tomatoes till just blackened all over.

In a large bowl whisk the anchovy with the zest and juice of the lime, the sherry vinegar and olive oil. Add the coriander and olives. Season with salt, pepper and the dried chilli.

Peel the skin from the aubergines and tomatoes and roughly chop (adding any tomato juice in to the dressing). Mix into the dressing and leave to mingle for at least 20 minsServe at room temperature as part of your barbecue spread.

Copyright © 2015 Philippa Davis