6 July 2009

A trip to Europe - Week 1 - the South of France

Window at Tourtour

We spent a few days in Provence at the beginning of June. The weather was wonderful and we enjoyed lazy hours relaxing in our friends' beautiful garden, wining and dining al fresco, as well as more energetic days exploring the beautiful countryside and browsing in colourful markets. I'm not sure what epitomises Provence for me most! It could be the spectacular, verdant landscape or the dazzling French Riviera or maybe it's the sweet smelling lavender or the crimson poppies - or is it the delicious rose wine, olives or herbs? Then again, it could be the fabrics ... it's all wonderful and I am smitten by this part of the world!

Let's start with a visit to St Tropez market.

First though, you'll need to buy a shady hat - it's very hot today!

And a shopping basket for all your goodies!

This stall sells delightful sea-themed paintings on wood and little carvings of birds - are you tempted?

Mmmm - the heavenly scent of dried lavender.

For Irene - A watercolour from my sketch book of fresh lavender from your garden! Click to enlarge if you like.
A lavender sachet to scent your linen.

Need a gift for a friend? How about some soap or honey perhaps? You can't go wrong with a container of that delicious melange of local herbs Herbes de Provence .

Luscious ripe tomatoes for lunch.

Pick up a selection of dried herbs and spices. The choice is amazing!

Don't forget some delicious black olives. Buy some to accompany the aperitifs this evening, or make your own Tapenade to spread on toast. It can also be used in other recipes for a burst of extra flavour - try the recipe further down the page!

In that case, you'll need some garlic then!

Sweet tooth? Try some Navettes - flavoured pastries in the shape of little boats.

Or delicious cherries - these were the last from our dessert one evening!

Deck the table with wonderful Provencal fabrics.

Marketing over, but you can't put your feet up just yet! Unpack the olives and garlic and whizz up a yummy Tapenade...

My recipe omits anchovies ( yuk!) but you can include a couple of rinsed fillets if you prefer!

125 g pitted black olives
2 garlic cloves, peeled
25 g capers, drained and rinsed
15 mls chopped fresh parsley
5 mls chopped fresh thyme
pinch of mustard powder
30 mls extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in blender and whizz till chopped finely. Place in airtight jar and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Use this for spreading on the base of this simply scrumptious potato and onion tart and serve with salad.


225g pack of shortcrust pastry (You can make your own, of course, but I'm feeling lazy and anyway it's difficult to make good pastry in my hot kitchen in Malaysia!)
3 small potatoes (225 g), leave the skins on if possible
2 onions, sliced finely
60 mls extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
good sprinkle of Herbes de Provence
3 tbs home made Tapenade
30 mls capers, rinsed and drained
125 g Gruyere (or Cheddar) cheese, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat baking sheet in oven (220 c). Roll out pastry to 30 cm round on lightly floured surface. Lift pastry onto another baking sheet and form a rim with the edge. Prick the base with a fork and line with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Place on heated baking sheet in oven and bake at 220 c for 10 mins. Remove paper and beans and return to oven for about 5 mins till pastry is crisp.
Meanwhile cook potatoes in boiling water 15 mins or so, then drain and refresh in cold water. Pat dry and cut into thin slices.
Heat oil and cook onions, garlic and herbs for 10 mins until softened and golden.
Spread Tapenade on base, top with potatoes, onions and capers. Scatter cheese, season and bake for 20-25 mins until cheese is golden brown. Serve with salad.


Ok, so we've pottered in the markets and cooked a meal. Next time we'll take Kas the Omani desert dog, out for a walk. Kas is living out her retirement in the south of France with her people and enjoys barking at passing overhead aeroplanes!! With her leading the way, we'll pass olive groves underscored with vibrant poppies, take in a beautiful lake and mountain gorge, as well as getting an arty fix in picturesque villages! Hope you'll join us!


  1. Hello Caroline! Wish I had a life like yours. You're always travelling and you've seen places that I only see in postcards. And your photos are excellent. By just looking at them, I feel like I've been to France too! Take care!:)

  2. Ohmygoodness, what a wonderful post! Thank you for taking us along. :-)

  3. What incredible photos! I love the colors in the market.

  4. Thank you for this wonderful adventure, i really enjoyed myself!!! Your pix and drawings are so beautiful. Kas is a very charming companion :)

  5. oh!!!! Caroline!! how lucky!!
    you must be so happy visiting South France! - I am completly a fan of this part of the world :-)
    and your pictures and watercolours are just as beautiful as La Provence!

  6. Oh.My.Goodness.Gracious.Me! The most evocative and beautiful photographs I've ever had the pleasure of luxuriating in. Just heavenly. So much so that I have to book a weekend break right now this minute!

    And those recipes - sheer deliciousity. Now I know what to make for supper tonight. Thanks, Caroline, for taking us on this colourful and delightful journey.

  7. What a fabulous time you had Caroline, and this is just the start. I love everything you photographed especially the market with the carved and painted birds and those gorgeous Provencal fabrics. We have a French market which visits locally and they sell some amazing herbs and other foodstuffs. I am reading this whilst it is tipping down with heavy rain and just dreaming of the French countryside...sigh.

  8. Forgot to say I love the watercolour sketches, especially the lavender bag.

  9. I also wish that I have the luxurious of time and money to travel like you.
    Thanks, these photos can turn into postcards!

  10. Ahhhhhh...What I delightful visit with you today...FAbulous photos...loads of sentiment and joy in them! LOVE the drawing of the sachet bag...soooo very French and so very girly! :)

  11. dear caroline,
    as usual reading your blog made us very happy! what a beautifull pictures! and your painting of the lavendel is beautifull! we are going to try the receipe next week!
    please tell us more

  12. dear caroline,
    as usual your blog gave us a big smile! the painting and pictures are beautiful! and the receipe we are going to try them next week please show us more


Thank you for passing by. I love to read your comments!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin