A provençal Easter lunch

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting the lovely Gemma Wade here in Cotignac. Gemma is a fantastic cook, who transforms fresh, simple ingredients into delicious dishes in no time!

Gemma’s recipes and tips are inspired by the reality of cooking in a home kitchen with children underfoot and the rest of life being juggled around it. Find out more about her meal plans and recipes, supper clubs and cooking classes at yousaytomatocooking.com and follow her on Instagram @gemcwade.

We would also like to thank Cristal d’Arques for sending us beautiful glasses to dress our Easter table. Cristal d’Arques creates gorgeous glassware inspired by the Art déco trend and French lifestyle. We used their stunning Iroko collection, which brought some extra chic to our table!

An Easter lunch inspired by the markets of Provence,
by Gemma Wade

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Lemon and cheese stuffed courgette flowers

Cod with tapenade crust and rosé braised fennel

Roast radish and asparagus with lemon and cheese crumbs

New potatoes and crusty bread with salsa verde butter

Orange, fennel, olive and caper salad

Roast strawberry galette with strawberry, honey and orange ripple cream

A weather worn basket stuffed with olives, cheese, sun-warmed tomatoes, a bottle of cold wine and a baguette is the stuff of holiday dreams. Every year hoards of us rush over to France to grab our two weeks of the French dream – shopping for food in the fragrant bustle of a French town on market day. Sipping ice-cold wine at a time of day we’d usually be on the school run and eating haphazard picnics, improvising when we’ve forgotten a knife then realising that a torn tomato squished into a fresh chunk of bread with a smear of local goats’ cheese eaten in the sunshine is a meal that memories are made of.

Mirabeau - Provence - veggie basket

Earlier this month I spent two days working in the type of place I’d usually rush to on holiday. I was invited to Cotignac in Provence, the home of Mirabeau wines, to create an Easter feast, using ingredients from the town’s Tuesday market to go alongside the wines that Mirabeau produce there. I’m such a planner usually but the chance to think on my feet, making the most of what was good at the market that day was a joy.

I was invited by Jeany and Stephen, the family who started Mirabeau, who left their home in London in 2010, moving their three small children to Provence to start making wine as well as making a home for themselves. Their boutique and tasting room in Cotignac opens out into a market that dreams are made of. The air smells of honey, olives and lavender. I had no idea what I’d make but the visit to the fruit and veg stall alone gave me ideas for about six dishes which I tapped away into my phone so I wouldn’t forget. The olive stall added another layer to the ideas and by the time we’d visited the bakery and fish monger the menu planning was complete.

Mirabeau - Provence - veggie spread

After we returned home, our baskets bursting, I spent the next two days cooking in the family’s kitchen. On the final day, Jeany worked her magic on the flowers and table and we served everything alongside glasses of chilled wines from the Mirabeau range.

Mirabeau - Provence - tablescape

I wish I could take you all to visit the corner of heaven that is Mirabeau but for now, here are the recipes from the Easter feast so that you can make them at home. Invite your friends over, buy a few bottles of Mirabeau and a bunch of lavender and you’ll be able to transport yourself to Provence for one meal at least.

Many of the dishes from this lunch can be prepped ahead so you can enjoy a relaxing, rosé-fueled long lunch with family and friends. Serving the food like this, without the formality of courses means everyone can pick and mix what suits them. If you prefer roast chicken or lamb at Easter, you can switch them with the cod I’ve used below.

Mirabeau - Provence - tablescape
Mirabeau - Provence - Gemma and Jeany

Lemon and cheese stuffed courgette flowers

One of the first things I snapped up at the market was a packet of baby courgettes with the bright yellow, fragile flowers still attached. These are a once a year treat for me. I first fell for them when we lived in California and I bought them at the farmers market there. Then I started growing courgettes, mainly so that I’d have access to the flowers! If you see these at a farmers market, snap them up, or befriend someone who grows them.

I rarely deep fry anything but these are worth it. Rather than properly deep frying, I just cook them in about 2 inches of oil in a large wide pan. The key is to make sure the oil is hot, otherwise the batter will soak it up. You can use a thermometer but I’m old school and just use a cube of bread to check the temperature, when the bread turns golden, the oil is hot enough. Rather than throw the oil away, let it cool, straining it through a muslin or coffee filter and use it for cooking with.

These light, crispy treats are perfect with a glass of fizz to cut through the batter and cheese flavour, and are best when eaten straight away. What is key, is to sprinkle them really well with good salt (Maldon ideally) and a squeeze of lemon before eating them. I serve each person with lemon wedges and their own little bowl of salt when I make them because I’m bossy like that. If you panic at the thought of cooking with an audience, just remember that everyone will be so delighted at having you make these for them that they won’t notice any mess or mistakes.

The recipe is all very forgiving, I never weigh any of the ingredients when I make it now as I know how the mixture should look. Feel free to play around with the stuffing – adding different soft herbs or a different type of cheese.

Ingredients (serves 6 as a pre-dinner snack)

  • Rapeseed oil for frying, around 200ml
  • 12 courgette flowers either the flowers on their own or with a baby courgette attached
  • 60g (2 oz) Comte, Gruyere or Parmesan
  • 140g (5oz) soft cheese such as ricotta, goats cheese or a full fat cream cheese
  • 30g (1 oz) basil, chives or wild garlic leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • Half a teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Batter

  • 140g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • around 250ml (just over 1 cup) very cold water
  • half a teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Half a teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon

To serve

  • Maldon salt flakes
  • 2 lemons

To make

  1. Make the stuffing by combining the finely grated hard cheese with the soft cheese. Add the finely chopped herbs, pepper and the zest of a lemon. I usually mash mine together with a fork. This will be easier if your cheese is room temperature.
  2. Make the batter by whisking together your flour, salt, pepper, lemon zest and the juice of the lemon. Then slowly add the cold water, you may not need all of it, whisking until you have the texture of thick cream. The odd lump is fine and, weirdly, will help you get a nice crunchy batter.
  3. Start warming the oil over a medium high heat. Use a wide, high sided pan. A high sided frying pan is good, a less wide saucepan will mean you can only cook a few in each batch as otherwise they’ll stick together.
  4. While your oil warms, start to stuff your flowers. You can be cheffy and tidy and use a piping bag but I’m never organised enough to use that. I just gently peel one of the flower petals, check for any tiny insects and if I find them, gently remove them. Then I use a teaspoon to squish around a tablespoon of the cheese mixture inside each flower. Then I squish the petals back together so that the cheese is enclosed. A little bit of seepage is fine. The cheese should help the petals stick together if they tear. The first one will feel tricky but you’ll quickly get into a routine. You can stuff the flowers and leave them in the fridge at this stage for a few hours.
  5. Once you have stuffed all your flowers you can test that your oil is hot. I do this by dropping a cube of bread (or a dollop of leftover batter) in, if it sizzles and starts to turn brown pretty quickly you are ready to fry. If not, leave the bread in and watch until it goes brown.
  6. Start cooking. Set up a production line with a plate of paper towel next to to your pan of oil, a pair of tongs, a slotted spoon, your bowl of batter and your stuffed flowers. Then, one by one, dip each flower in the batter until well coated and quickly, carefully place into the oil. I reckon on cooking 4-5 at a time in my pan. Too many and they’ll bring the temperature of the oil down and be soggy, or they’ll stick together.
  7. Cook them on one side without moving them until they turn golden and crisp (around 3 minutes), then use your tongs and spoon to gently turn them over and cook them for another couple of minutes on the other side.
  8. Set them onto the paper towel to remove excess oil while you cook the next batch.
  9. Serve. Make sure your friends are ready with their wine poured and their pile of lemon wedges so that they can eat them while they are fresh and hot – with a squeeze of lemon and salt.

Cod with tapenade crust and rosé braised fennel

Mirabeau - Provence - tablescape

The lines around the eyes of the man selling olives at the market had clearly been earned by the days he spent smiling at his customers in the sun as he chatted enthusingly about the olives and tapenades on his stall. His passion for making such delicious tapenade made the job of cooking dinner so much easier as so much of the flavour work had been done.

Tapenade is a paste made with anchovies, olives and capers which you can pick up in a jar. However, because it is easy to make and brings so much flavour to this dish, you can make your own using the recipe below.

Buy cod in a single thick piece if you can and it will stay more tender. If you prefer to use chicken, stuff the tapenade under the skin and scatter the breadcrumbs under the chicken to soak up the juices before roasting. Or spread the tapenade and crumbs over the surface of a leg of lamb before roasting.

Prep ahead – You can make the toasted crumbs and tapenade a couple of days ahead. The fennel can be braised the day before.

Ingredients (serves 6)

Braised fennel

  • 30g (1 oz) salted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 large bulbs fennel
  • 1 glass (200ml) Mirabeau rosé wine
  • Half a stock cube – chicken or vegetable, I use Kallo brand
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roast cod with tapenade

  • 900g (2lb) skinless boneless cod fillet, ideally in 1 piece
  • 2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs, made by blitzing a slice of bread in the food processor
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • a stem of rosemary
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons black olive tapenade – I like the Belazu black olive version in the UK or the Trader Joe’s version in the US. Or make your own – see the recipe below.

To make

To make the braised fennel:

  1. Heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan) 400°F (350°F convection).
  2. Put the butter into a small frying pan over a medium heat while you peel and slice the garlic. Add the garlic slices to the pan along with the fennel seeds and cook gently while you prep the fennel.
  3. Cut the very ends off the fennel stalks, keeping any feathery fronds to use as a herb at the end of cooking. Chop the fennel bulb in half from root to stalk then cut the root ends off. Then cut each half into slices around 5mm (¼ inch) thick from root to tip. Lay the fennel in deep sided ceramic or glass baking dish, around A4 size.
  4. When the garlic is gently golden and soft, add the wine to the pan and allow to bubble for a minute before adding the stock cube and 100ml (half a cup) boiling water. Use a spatula to squish the cube into the liquid until combined then take off the heat and pour it over the fennel slices. Tightly cover the dish of fennel with foil then bake for 45 minutes until the fennel is tender.
  5. When the fennel is ready, either season with lemon zest and juice and a final splash of wine and serve immediately, or use as a base for the cod. Once cooked, the fennel can sit in the fridge for 4 days and can be reheated in the oven.

To make the cod:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan) 400°F (350°F convection).
  2. Put the breadcrumbs into a small frying pan with a teaspoon of oil and a whole stem of rosemary, cook on a medium heat for around 6 minutes, shaking occasionally until they turn a dark golden brown and rustle when you shake the pan. These can be done the day before and sit out of the fridge.
  3. Season both sides of the cod with salt and pepper then mix the tapenade and two thirds of the breadcrumbs together and spread over the top of the fish. It is easier but slightly messier to do this with your fingers.
  4. Place the cod on top of the cooked fennel or cook it on its own on a slightly oiled metal baking tray. Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your piece of fish. A single piece will take longer. Check after 10 minutes and once you see the large flakes starting to separate, take a look at the center, it should no longer be cold and should gently flake when you push it, if it doesn’t flake, put it back in the oven for 2 minutes before checking again. Remember the fish will continue to cook for a few minutes so it is worth playing a waiting game and keep checking every 2 minutes at this stage.
  5. When the fish is ready, take it from the oven and zest a lemon all over the tapenade before sprinkling the remaining toasted breadcrumbs over the tapenade for a final contrasting crunch.
  6. Serve the fish and fennel with wedges of lemon. A blog of good homemade or shop bought mayonnaise would be pretty lovely alongside too.

Tapenade

Make the salty, pungent tapenade for the recipe above and use any leftovers as a topping for crostini, stirred through pasta or boiled potatoes or spread on a sandwich. I love it dotted on tomatoes too. The saltiness makes it the perfect thing to dip into alongside a glass of rosé before dinner.

Ingredients (makes around a ramekin full)

  • 200g (7 oz) stone-in black olives, ideally Kalamata olives
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 anchovies
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

To make:

  1. Use the side of a knife to squish the olives then rip them to remove the stones. Discard the stones.
  2. Put all the olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine mush. Alternatively, crush in a mortar and pestle or chop finely with a knife.
  3. Add the olive oil and the juice and zest of half a lemon and mix or blend again. Taste and add more lemon juice and zest as needed. A jar will last for a week in the fridge.

Roast radish and asparagus with lemon and cheese crumbs

Mirabeau - Provence - radishes and asapragus

The market in Cotignac, home of Mirabeau, was bursting with spears of white asparagus. Each bunch with ombre colours ranging from lilac to Mirabeau pink. It is rare to find white asparagus in the UK or US but our locally grown green asparagus is equally delicious and at its best and more affordably plentiful at this time of year.

Roasting asparagus is a safer bet than steaming or boiling if you’re feeding a crowd. A couple of minutes too long in a pan of water and your bundle of asparagus can become soggy whereas in the oven it takes a little longer and is therefore more forgiving if timings shift.

Asparagus loves lemon, salt and butter. I made a cheese crisp and crumbed it over the asparagus for a salty crunch and because of the big flavours elsewhere I didn’t add much else. Any leftovers can be chopped into as salad the next day or blended into a soup.

I’ve never been a huge fan of raw radishes but roasting them has been a revelation. Their flavour is mellowed by roasting and they are a wonderful side dish, simply cooked with salt and a little oil. We had some leftover from the shoot and found them perfect to be nibbled with drinks too.

Ingredients – serves 6 as a starter or side dish

  • 2 bundles (around 800g or 28 oz) asparagus
  • 400g (14 oz) radishes – try and get the long breakfast radishes if you can
  • 2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
  • 60g (2 oz) Gruyere or Comte cheese or Parmesan
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan) 400°F (350°F convection).
  2. Wash the asparagus and radish, both can get quite sandy so I always soak them in a large bowl of water, giving them a bit of a shake to dislodge any stubborn grit.
  3. Prep the asparagus by bending each stem and allowing it to snap where it naturally breaks. Discard the tough ends or freeze them to throw into a soup. Lay the asparagus stems on a baking tray and sprinkle a tablespoon of oil over, using your hands to rub the oil into the spears before scattering them with a teaspoon of sea salt flakes or half a teaspoon of fine grain sea salt. Set aside.
  4. Prep the radish by cutting the green leaves off, leaving around an inch of green and a leaf or two. Any discarded leaves can be eaten raw as a peppery addition to a salad. Put the radishes in a small oven proof dish, scatter a teaspoon of oil and a generous pinch of salt over them, shake and pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes until they are tender and slightly shriveled.
  5. Make the cheese crisp by finely grating the cheese onto a tray, ideally lined with a silicone sheet to make cleaning up easier. Pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and melted. Pull out of the oven to cool and it will crisp up. User a fish slice to lift the cooled cheese off the tray and then break into a bowl and set aside. This can be done a day ahead if need be.
  6. When the cheese crisp is cooked and the radish is nearly ready, put the tray of asparagus into the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes. To test if it is cooked, give one of the thicker stems a squeeze. If it gives, it is ready.
  7. Finish the dish by laying the stems on a platter, lay the radishes alongside or on top. Scatter them with lemon zest, a little more salt, lemon juice and the cheese crumbs.

New potatoes with salsa verde butter

Mirabeau - Provence - new potatoes and salsa verde

This salsa verde butter came about by accident when I had leftover salsa verde from another recipe and mushed some with butter to sneak onto a chunk of crusty bread. Now I’m obsessed with it. You can make a log of it, wrap it in parchment and freeze it then just cut a chunk off when you need it for cooking. Use it to dress vegetables, stuff under the skin of a roast chicken or to spread thickly on bread. It will last for a week in the fridge.

We were lucky enough to find wild garlic on the market, if you don’t have any, you can use chives instead.

Leftover potatoes, even once dressed with the salsa verde butter are delicious roasted. In fact I’d make extra just so you can have them roasted a couple of days later.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1kg (2 ¼ lb) new or baby potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • Salsa verde butter
  • 30g (1oz) flat leaf parsley, leaves and stalks
  • 30g (1oz) chives or wild garlic
  • 1 heaped tablespoon capers
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 1-2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

To make

  1. Cut any large potatoes in half but otherwise leave them whole. Put the potatoes into a large pan of boiling water with a teaspoon of sea salt and simmer for around 20 minutes until tender.
  2. Put the butter in a bowl large enough to fit on top of the pan of potatoes and leave it there to melt slightly.
  3. Make the salsa verde by putting all the ingredients in a food processor or mortar and pestle and crush to an almost smooth paste. Taste and add more honey, vinegar or salt as needed.
  4. Add the softened butter to the salsa verde and mix before scraping onto a piece of parchment, squishing into a log, wrapping and scrunching the ends closed like a Christmas cracker.
  5. When the potatoes are tender, drain, return to the pan and add a couple of tablespoons of the salsa verde butter. Toss until it is melted, coating the potatoes then serve.

Orange, fennel, olive and caper salad

This easy salad brings zing and brightness to the table. The salt of the olives and capers balances the sweetness of the orange. This should really be made no earlier than 30 minutes before eating. If you want to get ahead, you can segment the orange earlier in the day and leave it sitting in the lemon juice.

Ingredients (serves 6 as a side)

  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 1 blood or regular orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Around 10 stone-in Kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 10g chives
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make

  1. Zest the orange into a bowl then use a serrated knife to cut both ends off an orange then sit the orange on one of the flat ends and cut down, following the curve of the orange with the knife to remove the skin and any white membrane. Once peeled, hold the orange in your hand over the bowl of zest and use the knife to carefully cut in between the lines that separate the segment. This will mean you leave the membranes attached at the core and the segments will drop out. Drop the segments into the bowl then squeeze any juice from the core into the bowl.
  2. Cut the fennel in half from root to tip. Chopping off any tough bits at the end of the stalks then cut each half into very thin slices cutting across in parallel to the root. Discard the root and put the slices in the bowl with the orange.
  3. Zest and juice half of the lemon into the fennel and orange then add the capers and olive oil and toss together. Taste and add salt and more lemon as needed.
  4. Use the side of a knife to squish the olives then rip them to remove the stones. Discard the stones and rip each olive into roughly 4 pieces.
  5. To serve, lay the dressed orange and fennel on a platter, scoop the capers and juice over then scatter the olives on top. Finely slice the chives and scatter over the finished platter. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, salt and lemon as needed.

Roast strawberry galette with strawberry, honey and orange ripple cream

Mirabeau - Provence - strawberry galette

A galette is such a forgiving way to bake fruit and is perfect for anyone who feels a tart is too stressful. When strawberries are in season, there is little that needs to be done to them. When they are just coming into season they can be a little watery and in need of a bit of help. Roasting them before you make the galette, forces out some of the water, leaving behind a more concentrated jammy flavour. It also means you won’t be faced with a damp tart base.

The strawberries can be roasted ahead of time and the pastry can be made ahead and frozen. Any leftover strawberry juice is lovely in a cocktail or a G&T.

The galette is best served warm or at room temperature as it can crumble when it is hot. You can make it earlier in the day and just leave it, covered away from sneaky fingers, out of the fridge until you’re ready to eat. If you prefer, don’t make the cream and serve the warm tart with vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 500g strawberries
  • 180g (6 oz) plain flour (all purpose in the US)
  • 90g (3 oz) cold salted butter, cut into thin slices
  • 50g (1 ¾ oz) golden granulated sugar
  • 1 orange
  • 40 g (just over 1 oz) ground almonds (almond meal in the US)
  • A pinch of sea salt flakes
  • 2 – 3 tbsp cold water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 400g (28 oz) creme fraîche
  • 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon runny honey

To make

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan) 400°F (350°F convection).
  2. Cut the green ends off the strawberries then halve or quarter them and lay them flat in a large baking dish. They will release a lot of juice as they cook so be sure to choose a dish with sides. Put into the oven and roast for an hour, shaking once and pouring any juice off into a small bowl half way through.
  3. Make the pastry – put the flour, sugar, butter, orange zest and a large pinch of salt into a food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs. Then gradually add the cold water, pulsing as you do until the dough comes together into a ball. Flatten the dough and wrap in parchment before putting in the fridge to rest for an hour or overnight.
  4. When you’re ready to assemble the tart, roll the chilled pastry to around 5mm (¼ inch) thick. I find it easiest to roll it out straight onto a silicone liner or parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Picture a circle that stops around 3 inches from the edge of the rolled out pastry and scatter the center of the imaginary circle with the ground almonds.
  6. Shake off as much of the juice as possible and lay the roasted strawberries on the ground almonds in circles, starting at the inside and working out. Stopping 3 inches from the edge of the pastry.
  7. Gently fold the pastry edges over so that the outer edge of strawberries are covered but the inner strawberries remain exposed. If any pastry rips, just squish it together.
  8. Brush the pastry with a beaten egg yolk and scatter a teaspoon of granulated sugar over before baking at 200°C (180°C fan) 400°F (350°F convection) for 40 minutes or until the pastry is dark golden brown. Leave to sit on the tray for 30 minutes before serving.
  9. To make the ripple cream, put the crème fraiche into a bowl and mix in the zest of an orange and the honey. Then spoon a couple of teaspoons of the strawberry juice that you set aside earlier and use the end of a knife to ripple it through the cream.
  10. To serve, cut the tart into wedges, slide a fish slice or palette knife underneath to separate it from the parchment and serve with a blob of the flavoured cream.