Enjoying Provence..

It has been exactly one year ago we spend one amazing week in Provence. The nice memories lasted whole year around and the desire to see Puyméras again would not let us go. And this is how we ended up here again. The small village named Puyméras is a perfect place for a get away if you are looking for a relaxing holidays. We rented the same place as last year, after having such a great, friendly and welcoming treatment from our landlords. 
In Provence time seems to stay still, the villages around start to wake up for the upcoming summer season and the nature is starting to reward you with her first summer fruits net melon, apricots, strawberries, cherries and nectarines. There is nearly every day another outdoor market in a different village, where local farmers are selling their goods, starting with seasonal fruits and vegetables over home made cheeses, sausages and bread. Everything natural and biological of course. On top you will find many fruit stands along the way, which I personally just love, where you can get best quality seasonal fruits and vegetables for a very small prices. We don´t speak a single word of french (besides of the standard once hello, thank you and goodbye) but still we manage to have small conversations with the farmers, who are trying to give you some tips on how to select the best net melon and what you shall consider if buying courgettes. On top most of them will also exchange some tips on the dishes you could prepare with the vegetables you are buying. I always enjoy these experiences and sometimes I wish I would speak a little bit more french and get even more secrets and tips on a Provencal cooking. The country side is always very special to me, no matter where I am, people are more friendly and open, relaxed and welcoming. These are the warm memories which we are taking with us, this small piece of peace, which sometimes seems to be lost in the hectic of a working day back home in the city.
Some of the outdoor markets are not only offering local food, but also spices, soap, clothes and ceramic ware. I couldn´t resist of buying something from the local ceramic seller and as usual I was not able to decide which of the dishes I liked most and so I ended up of buying them both. One fire red ceramic pot for braised dishes which screamed "country dishes" to me and one gratin dish in a very funny design and colour. Both dishes were used the same day, just to proof my husband that I really really needed yet another ceramic pot and a gratin form. I love ceramic ware not only for cooking or baking, but also for using them to serve the food... it always looks amazing and decorate your table with a certain flair, on top you are not in the need to make an additional serving plate dirty... handy wouldn´t you agree?
Braised beef with vegetables
  • 400 g beef cut in cubes
  • 1 big onion
  • 2 big potatoes
  • 3 big carrots
  • hand full green beans
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • vegetable broth (500-600 ml)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh herbs
Season the beef with salt and pepper, pour some olive oil into the frying pan and fry the beef cubes from all sides to have them sealed. Take the meat cubes and put them into the ceramic pot (this dish can be also done in a dutch oven dish). Cut the onion in cubes and put them into the same frying pan, add some oil if needed. Cook the onions for a couple of minutes, till translucent and add the tomato paste and some water to make a sauce, let it cook for 1 minute. Pour the onion tomato sauce over the beef into the ceramic pot. Next peel the potatoes and carrots and cut  them in equal cubes, then put them into the pot too. Wash the beans and cute them equal pieces and distribute them on top of the vegetables. Finally pour in the vegetable broth, so the potatoes are covered. Stick the bay leaves and fresh herbs, season if needed and close the pot with the lid. Put the ceramic pot into the preheated oven (250C) and cook for about 1,5 hours.
Stir the dish after halfway trough. Try if more seasoning is needed. Serve with some creme legere and fresh baguette bread. 

Strawberry vanilla short cake with creme legere
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g sugar
  • vanilla sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of creme legere (or creme fraiche)
  • 50 g butter melted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 120 g flour
  • creme legere
  • fresh strawberries
  • 2-3 fresh mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the gratin form with some butter. In a bowl whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla sugar. Add creme legere and butter and give it another whisk. Add flour and baking powder, mix till all well combined. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for about 30 min, make the wooden stick test. Take the form out of the oven and let it cool for 10 min. Meanwhile wash the strawberries and half them. Spread some creme legere over the top of the cake and sprinkle some vanilla sugar on top. Distribute the strawberries all over the cake. Chop the mint leaves and sprinkle it over the top.