Bastille Day Provençal style
Caroline Rimbert Craig’s family have been working the land in Provence for hundreds of years and it has shaped the way she lives, feels about home and cooks for others.
Panisses and prawns Provençal
When I moved to Provence, I decided that the best way to arrive would be by bicycle. I cycled all the way down from England and for some reason the journey was book-ended by meals of cooked prawns: the first was eaten on the ferry from Portsmouth to the Finistère, accompanied by mayonnaise, sliced baguette and a bottle of Breton cider for courage. Three weeks, 21 campsites and 1,500km later, I sat on a shaded restaurant terrace in Marseille with fellow cyclist Felicity Cloake, wondering how on earth we had managed it, eating prawns once again, this time with panisses, tomato salad and a very large pitcher of Provençal rosé: I had arrived au Sud. Panisses are traditional Provençal chickpea flour ‘chips’, cut from a prepared, chilled batter and deep-fried. Prepare the batter a day or two in advance and keep it in the fridge until ready to cook. Here I serve them with delicious cooked prawns and a salad.
For the panisses
1 litre water
3 tbsp olive oil
1 heaped tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
300g chickpea flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1.5 litres sunflower oil
1 quantity aïoli mayonnaise (see recipe, right)
150g ripe tomatoes, sliced
300g lettuce, separated into leaves
1kg shell-on cooked prawns
For the salad dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the panisses batter: line a large rectangular gratin or pie dish with clingfilm. Place the water in a large, stainless steel saucepan. Add the olive oil, salt and garlic, stir and bring to the boil. Once bubbling, turn the heat off and immediately add the chickpea flour and cayenne pepper.
2. Use a stick blender to mix for 5 minutes until you have obtained a completely smooth, thick batter.
3. Place the batter back over a low heat and beat with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes: this is a tedious but necessary part of the process to release the starch and stop your panisses falling apart when deep-frying.
4. After you have beaten the batter for 10 minutes, spoon into the clingfilm-lined dish, and smooth the surface.
5. Cool on the counter before chilling in the fridge for at least 3 hours, until completely set. The batter can happily sit in the fridge for 2 days after this point.
Towards the end of the batter chilling time, prepare the aïoli mayonnaise (see right) and the salad by whisking the dressing ingredients together in a large salad bowl and topping with the tomatoes and lettuce leaves. Do not toss. Place the prawns on a serving platter and keep in the fridge until you are about to eat.
6. Pour the sunflower oil into an extra-large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (for safety, ensure the oil only comes a third to halfway up the pan) and place over a medium heat. Wait at least 10 minutes for the oil to heat before beginning to deep -fry your panisses.
7. While the oil is heating, get ready another serving plate lined with kitchen paper for the deep-fried panisses. Remove the batter from the fridge and use a knife and spatula to remove sections and cut into chunky chip shapes.
8. Once the oil is hot enough (test it by putting a small piece of batter in: it should bubble fairly fiercely), use a spatula or slotted spoon to carefully lower a few panisses at a time into the oil. Aim to fill but not overcrowd the pan. Deep-fry for 1 minute, until lightly golden all over (you may need to turn the panisses if the level of oil in your pan requires it), then lift out of the oil using a slotted spoon or spatula and place on the prepared plate. Cover with foil, then begin deep-frying the next batch. Continue until you have used up all the batter, keeping the cooked panisses warm under plenty of foil.
9. Serve with the aïoli mayonnaise, the salad, tossed, the platter of prawns and a plate for the empty prawn shells. Once completely cooled, the frying oil can be rebottled and reused, if desired.
A garlic mayonnaise: delicious with simple roast chicken, breaded fish or chips
Makes about 200ml
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 egg yolk
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
150ml neutral oil (groundnut or rapeseed)
50ml olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch of fine salt
Crush the garlic into a round-bottomed bowl and add the egg yolk and mustard. Whisk together, then drizzle in the neutral, then olive oil, about 1 teaspoon at a time. Whisk continually between each addition of oil. Do not add any more oil until the previous teaspoon has completely emulsified. Once all the oil has been added and you have created a lovely mayonnaise, add the lemon juice and season with a pinch of salt.
Provençal Goat's Cheese
If you haven’t the time to go to a cheese shop, or your local shop doesn’t have a strong selection, soft goat’s cheese logs, available in almost every supermarket, can be very easily improved and made into something that looks and tastes very special for a cheese course. All you need are a few of the herbs and aromatics from the kitchen cupboard or garden. In Provence, it is common to add a sprinkling of salt, pepper or savory (la sariette) to even the most upmarket, unpasteurised fresh goat’s cheese before serving.
2 x 150g soft rindless goat’s cheese logs
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp chopped fresh or dried thyme or oregano
½ tsp chopped fresh or dried savory or rosemary
Pinch of lavender or other edible flowers
(from the garden)
2 pinches of salt flakes
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1. Remove the goat’s cheese logs from their packets and place on a chopping board. Wait 2 minutes, then slice each log into 2cm rounds. If any rounds crumble apart, gently press back together into the desired shape.
2. Place the cheese on a serving plate and sprinkle over the toppings of your choosing, aiming for two of each and two left plain with just a light sprinkling of salt flakes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
3. Allow the cheese to come to room temperature for an hour before serving with bread and red wine.
Extracted from Provence: Recipes from the French Mediterranean by Caroline Rimbert Craig, published by Kyle Books, £22, octopusbooks.co.uk
Photography: Susan Bell