Nothing better to accompany meat, especially lamb, in Provence than ratatouille, a flavorful vegetable stew traditionally cooked slowly overnight on a hot stove and eaten the next day. It can be served as a light lunch, and as a leftover it can also be added to pasta.
Ingredients for 6:
2 Sweet peppers (one green, one red)
2 White or yellow onions (large)
2 Courgettes (zucchini)
1 Large can of tomatoes or 4 very ripe tomatoes
(optional additional ingredient: one or two celery sticks)
Herbes de Provence
Cut all vegetables into small cubes.
Cover the bottom of a large heavy pot with olive oil. When the oil is hot, simmer all the vegetables simultaneously for about 20 minutes on medium to low heat until the eggplant is soft. Add the Herbes de Provence and gently stir the vegetables, making sure that they remain moist. If necessary, add a bit of warm water.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve lukewarm.
Magret de Canard
Duck breast is an extremely flavorful meat that is very simple to cook. It requires no sauces or condiments, only a bit of patience. One magret serves about four people.
Put a heavy skillet on a low fire and place the magret fatty side down in the middle of the pan. After 5 or 6 minutes the bottom of the pan will be filled with liquid grease.
Holding the magret down with a wooden spoon or other utensil, carefully tip the pan and pour the liquid grease into an empty can or wide-mouthed glass jar.
Continue to cook the magret slowly and to pour off the liquid grease into the jar every so often. You will notice after a while that the magret contracts and becomes rounder and darker in color but the top continues to be cold to the touch.
After about 40 minutes, you will notice that the amount of liquid grease begins to decrease. Check the bottom of the magret to see how much grease is still left. If the remaining grease is only a couple of millimeters thick and well browned, turn over the magret and cook the top part for 5 minutes.
Serve immediately, cutting the magret in slices about 1 centimeter thick. It is often accompanied by ratatouille.
[The duck grease that you collected in the jar will solidify once cooled. It will keep well in the refrigerator and is excellent for making risotto.]
Tarte aux Figues
Figs are plentiful in Provence, with two summer harvests (usually late June and late August), and because fig trees do not require much care or pruning they are very common in provençal gardens. In fact, friends who have fig trees will often give you home-made confiture de figues because ripe figs will not keep well and need to be eaten within a day or two or be preserved as jam or chutney. Of course, figs are also available at our daily farmers’ markets and I like to buy the very ripe blue figs to make a fig pie. It is a naturally sweet fruit that requires no added sugar and is extremely easy to make.
Fresh very ripe figs (blue or green), soft to the touch and fragrant
Puff pastry – either a round or a square sheet to fit a pie mold with a 1-inch standing edge
Buy enough figs to cover your pastry sheet with tightly packed halved figs, the cut side facing up.
Preheat your oven to 430 F and bake your pie for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
Serve it lukewarm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
If ripe figs are not picked they will fall off the tree and either be eaten by birds or rot away. But you can collect these figs on a shallow tray, cover them with thin gauze to keep the flies off, and leave them to dry in the sun. They’ll shrink and wrinkle a bit in the process and become an intensely flavored delicious snack that keeps all summer.