Saturday lunch Provençal-style

There’s an overwhelming rightness to the way the French approach all things culinary. Particularly their lunches. Having just spent the most idyllic of weeks in the countryside of Provence, I have once again renewed my conviction that they’re just, well, better than us. And rather than moping around wishing I was back there as I eat my sad-looking sandwich, I’ve decided that I’m going to bring a little bit of Provence back to Clapham. I’m going to start doing Saturday lunches.

And I’m not talking the British version of a lunch – all starched tablecloth, vegetable side dishes and two puddings. I mean long, lazy, relaxed lunches, eaten in the shade of the garden, and probably extended through until tea time.

What I love about these meals is their simplicity. There will probably only be one or two things that have actually been cooked – the rest will just be thoughtful purchases from what looked good at the market. A huge bunch of peppery radishes, served with sea salt and proper butter to smear onto them is a good place to start. A couple of delicious cured hams, or a saucisson, plonked on the table with a knife for people to help themselves to. Some ripe vine tomatoes, dressed with a fruity extra virgin oil, and a bowl of bitter frisee salad, tossed through with some crispy lardons if you’re feeling energetic, and dressed with lemon juice, black pepper and oil. And of course, a cheese. For me it’s an Epoisses so ripe it runs away from the table, paired with freshly baked crusty baguette. Divine.

For the centrepiece of a lunch table, you can’t go wrong with a big tart, and this onion and goat’s cheese tart recipe is one of my absolute favourites. As long as you give the onions time to properly soften and caramelise, you will end up with the most gorgeously deep flavour, perfectly offset by crumbly pastry (please, please use all-butter, think of what the French would say), and ripe, tangy goat’s cheese.

Or, if you’re feeling seasonal, this asparagus and olive tart is so simple, and won’t leave you feeling over-indulged.

And for pudding, I can’t think of many things I like better than cake. Not a Victoria sponge or a dense chocolate cake, those are better suited to the tea table. Outdoor lunches require something nutty, something with fruit, something along the lines of this beauty. It’s heavenly served with thick, honeyed natural yogurt, or a big dollop of crème fraiche.

Who says we can’t be as fabulous as the French?!

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10 Comments

Filed under Baking, Musings, Recipes, Savoury, Sweet, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Saturday lunch Provençal-style

  1. Caramelised onions !!! Caramalised onions !!! Caramelised onions !!!
    They are my ALL TIME fav food EVER! Forget salad and radishes, you can even forget the Ben and Jerry’s (and that is saying something) Onions and goats cheese together totally rocks any lunch. Full stop!

  2. u4mel

    This is so evocative of holidays in France relaxed not like us Brits

  3. Maureen

    How very sophisticated that sounds – you’re right that Saturday lunch is all too often overlooked – mine tends to be a quick bite to put me on over the afternoon’s activities. I so love a good Sunday roast lunch over the winter so this is the ideal summer alternative. Delicious!

  4. Izzy

    A great idea! I’m a big fan of French style long lunches too and heading off to south of France next month. My staple is a fresh tomato salad with olive oil, lemon juice and finely diced shallots, so simple and so delicious!

  5. Nell

    Thanks True Foodie, the next time we are blessed with good weather I will be trying the asparagus tart and inviting all my friends round for an afternoon of pretending we are in France rather than suburban London. Great post by the way!

  6. Lyndsay

    Yum, yum and yum! This is making me hungry even though I had lunch about an hour ago!

  7. Kate

    Roll on next week – I’m off to a villa in Corsica where I fully intend to extend luncheon hours in true French style! Bread, cheese and salad is basically my perfect lunch ever…

  8. Roger's Mum

    I can just taste the flavours as I write from my solitary office. It’s off to book a holiday in France for me this year!

  9. Dani

    My mouth is watering already – roll on Saturday. Such a great idea!

  10. That sounds amazing. My wife and I are American and have to force ourselves to slow down when we eat lunch in Europe. It’s nice!

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