I thought that this was going to be the story of a chef’s attempts to open and run a cooking school in Provence. Well, it isn’t that, exactly. It’s a cookery school neatly contained within the binding of this very fine book.
Marie-Pierre Moine set out to create a school that would be accessible to all those of us who are “sans passport”, who don’t have the cash for a stay at a regular three-dimensional establishment, or don’t have the time to go. This is the next best thing.
Gui Gedda is the essential element to the success of this book/school. He is the chef who ran a popular Provencal restaurant in Bormes-les-Mimosa not far from where I lived in Le Lavandou. He has written books and had also run cooking courses. Just the right chap for the job of chef for this new enterprise.
You have a full week at the school with each day filled with visits to markets and learning how to choose the best produce. You’ll learn how to make the most authentic of Provencal dishes (yes, I can vouch for their authenticity). There will be time to consider the merits of Aperitifs, and you will feel that your “stay” has been worthwhile.
The first day starts with a look at basic store cupboard ingredients and some equipment. There is nothing very exotic and you won’t feel that you need a trip to Marseille to buy that very special cast iron, blue-enamelled casserole dish…although that would be very nice!
The week progresses with days filled with lessons, tastings, delicious meals with delectable desserts and the odd glass of rosé. You’ll almost feel the warmth of the last rays of the setting sun… and you haven’t even moved from 13 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam.
The recipes are just what you would find in Provencal restaurants but, more importantly, in Provencal homes. They are not dishes rich with creamy sauces. This is olive country, remember. It’s all healthy and full of flavour with ingredients that give a tang such as anchovies, goat’s cheese, radishes and ..er, what was the other thing? Oh, yes, garlic.
The selection of recipes is lovely with everything from meat to sweet. None of the dishes will be over-taxing and the instructions are clear with plenty of amazing photographs to tempt you. The nature of Provencal food revolves around freshness and simplicity. Yes, it’s classy but if French housewives can do it, so can you.
Provence Cookery School
Authors: Marie-Pierre Moine and Gui Gedda
Published by: Dorling Kindersley
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018