The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Food & Drink

As the new year starts and many people are, I'm sure, thinking of detox, diets, cutting down and indulging less, we in France have the terrible misfortune to have to continue eating!  This is because of yet another culinary tradition, la galette des Rois, or Kings' Cake, which is eaten at Epiphany - the 6th of January.  It's tough living in the land of UNESCO world intangible heritage French cuisine, but we've got to respect the gastronomy!

              galette-des-rois

This time it's all about a simple flaky buttery pastry pie filled with delicious almond paste "frangipane".  Inside a small figurine made of porcelain is hidden and whoever gets this in their piece becomes King (or Queen) for the day and gets to wear a paper crown.  The figurine is called a fève, meaning broad bean, as originally it was just this, a bean, hidden in the cake and not a trinket.  Nowadays the fève can be anything from a character in the latest Disney film to a religious figure or random item such as a milk bottle.  Many people collect them including my little son.  Here's a picture of his loot so far.  At 8 with 8 on his shelf it's not a bad collection but I'm not sure he can be considered a fabophile yet (the name given to collectors of fèves!)

               fèves-galette-des-rois

When serving up the cake, to ensure that there is no favouritism shown (a-hem!) and the parts are distributed randomly and objectively, the youngest person hides under the table.  The cake is then cut into the number of pieces of the people present and the kid under the table shouts out the name of the person to be served.  I say kid because this doesn't seem to happen at work "galette" gatherings and I can't imagine it in retirement homes either, though I have no personal experience of that, so who knows?

               galette08

The galette is eaten throughout the month of January, often being the excuse for a get-together amongst family, friends and even colleagues.  Offices sometimes offer galette with a New Year drink as their version of the "Christmas" party.  (See my post on this here).  Down here in the south of France galette isn't the only cake produced for the Epiphany, we also have the "Couronne" which is made of brioche, decorated with candied fruit and shaped as a crown.  It is sold in local boulangeries but in this household we all prefer galette and its traditions so the couronne has yet to make an appearance.  I'll leave you with a picture of my King-for-the-day and his fève.  Do you think he gave it to his younger brother or not?  Answers on a postcard please (or in the comments below!)

                              galette-king

 

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Craquelin - a cracking good cake!

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I love it when I come across a new local food speciality; one that I didn't know existed but has been around for the best part of a century delighting all who taste it.  This particular discovery is called the Craquelin.  It consists of an exquisitely light buttery brioche topped with crunchy caramelised whole almonds, infused with the taste of honey.  I stumbled across it while showing a cousin from Australia around its home town Vence.  We stopped for coffee and cake little realising as we ordered that we'd found a gastronomic treasure.

     craquelin-de-vence

In 1927 a baker named Joseph Palanque opened a patisserie in Vence, in the Alpes-Maritimes near Nice. From holidays spent in Brittany he could remember a special cake made with honey and it was in recreating his version of this that he invented the Craquelin Vençois.  The recipe has been passed down the generations and it is now Joseph's grandson, Gérard, who runs the very same patisserie and continues to produce this mythical cake.  Vence has become renowned for the Craquelin and many other bakers make their own version of it but if you want to try the original, and most say the best, then head to Patisserie Palanque just off the main square.  I'll certainly be back soon.

Do you have any local food specialities where you are?  Do let me know.

 

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Nice wine! 11 facts about the AOC Bellet

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Today I'm sharing a post written by Chrissie McClatchie from The Riviera Grapevine all about Nice's local wines in 11 quirky facts.  Chrissie takes us on a tour of the Bellet appellation which is practically in our back yard, on the outskirts of Nice.

Did you know?  Eleven facts about the AOC Bellet.

by Chrissie from The Riviera Grapevine, a Sydneysider in Nice with an insatiable thirst for wines from the Riviera, blogging all things wine related on the Côte d'Azur and beyond.

              Chateau de bellet

I love a bit of trivia! Particularly that which is wine related. With this in mind it's been a great couple of days digging around various sources with the aim of producing a list of sometimes educational and other times quirky facts about Nice wine. You never know when such information will come in handy in these parts!

In fact, whilst I've uncovered more than my initial goal of eleven interesting facts about our local wine, the list has been narrowed down to reflect the number of vineyards which make up the appellation. Here's one for each of them:

                                                                     I

I'm going to start with my favourite. Did you know that since Bellet is found entirely within Nice's city limits, it is the only urban appellation in France. How lucky are we, les niçois et niçoises! And, whilst a Parisian may argue that a selection of boutique vineyards dot their cityscape (the most famous being Clos Montmartre in Montmartre), Île de France wines are only now campaigning for IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) status, a while from being recognized as an AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) like our Bellet was in 1941.  Read more

Do click through to Chrissie's website to find out ten more facts about Nice wine.  Cheers!

 

Image courtesy of Château de Bellet website

 

Tagged in: Bellet Nice vineyard Wine
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Tapenade; a Provençal classic

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Walk around any market in Provence or the Côte d’Azur and you will see stalls heaped with glistening olive pastes and tapenades, usually next to an enormous array of different olives and other pickles.

                  olives  tapenade

Tapenade is a typically southern dish made with olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil, chopped finely or blended together into a paste.  Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, "tapenas".

It’s simple to make your own tapenade, varying the amount of each ingredient to suit, but with such a vast choice of delicious ones available in markets, speciality stores and ordinary grocers around here I always have a pot or two of "ready-made" on the go in my fridge.  Within a 10 minute drive we have an award-winning producer in Le Rouret and an olive mill in Opio both of which create delicious tapenades.

                  tapenade snails

Tapenade is a staple ingredient for a southern apéro, just spread on slices of baguette, but my favourite thing to do with it is to make “snails”.  Using a roll of ready-made puff pastry, you spread the tapenade all over then roll up from both sides to the middle.  In order to slice it thinly I pop it in the freezer for 30 mins, just enough to harden a little but not actually freeze.  Now slice into slightly less than 1 cm slices, lay out on a baking tray covered in greaseproof paper and bake for 10-15 minutes at 180°c.  It couldn’t be easier and these provençal "snails" never fail to impress.

If you'd like to discover more delicious local foods take a look at Top 8 must-try foods from Provence

 

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3 of the best snacks from Nice

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Salade Niçoise, meaning salad from Nice, is served in restaurants all over the world making it undoubtedly the most famous of the local gastronomic specialities from the Côte d'Azur, but have you heard of my Top 3 snacks?  When visiting the French Riviera you've just got to try them.

Socca

  socca nice tour

A large chickpea crêpe, cooked on a copper dish about a metre wide in a wood-fired oven, consisting of chickpea flour, olive oil, salt and water.  While cooking, the flames should just lick the surface without grilling it too much; there's an art to perfecting this delicious pancake.  It should be very thin and slightly burnt on the top.  Socca is served in little scrapings, piping hot with lots of pepper and ideally a glass of cold rosé!

Pan-Bagnat

  pan-bagnat

A great big round bread roll, stuffed with tuna, tomato, onion, basil, slices of hard boiled egg, anchovy, radish, green pepper, black olives and plenty of olive oil - basically a salad niçoise in bread.  The name comes from Italian pane bagnato meaning wet bread, which indicates just how much olive oil should be used - loads!  Don't expect to look elegant when eating this delight; you'll have oil dripping everywhere. Great for eating on the beach - just jump in the sea to rinse off when you've finished.

Pissaladière

 pissaladiere

This unfortunately named dish (to English ears) often doesn't look great either, but trust me, it tastes wonderful.  The name comes from "peis salats" which means anchovy purée in Nissart, giving a clue as to one of the ingredients.  It is infact a sort of onion and anchovy tart.  It consists of a  base made of a reasonably thick, and very soft, bread-like dough topped with a generous covering of lightly caramelised onions that should melt in the mouth.  Some people add whole anchovy filets on top, others spread anchovy paste on the base before adding the onions.  Both versions are authentic and delicious. Pissaladière is dotted with black olives and can be served cold or warm but not hot.

                    socca seller

You can find Pan-Bagnat and Pissaladière in boulangeries and snack bars all over the Côte d'Azur but Socca is less widely available.  Sellers using a traditional oven are located mainly in the old town of Nice, at markets in nearby towns (Antibes every morning is a good example) and at village fêtes.

For more about food from Nice you might enjoy A gastronomic tour of Nice.

 

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