Some holidays you just never want to leave. That was the case last week when I was in the South of France. The warm sea breeze, bright sunshine, the freshest seafood and local produce including juicy ripe tomatoes, sweet and mouth-watering melons, the famous and fragrant Herbes de Provence and of course lets not forget Cotê de Provence Rosé. A delicious vacation to say the least!
After visiting the Chateau Minuty Winery (http://www.chateauminuty.com) to bring back some bottles for ourselves, I decided to share the experience and have a dinner party once back in London, so we could all celebrate the flavors of South of France.
What’s great about this dinner is that it can accommodate different dietary requirements. The salad portion of the Salad Nicoise is kept separate from the tuna, so those who are Vegetarian (but eat eggs) can help themselves, those who eat fish can add it later and I even made grilled organic, local Sirloin steak for the die-hard meat eaters in the house.
On the Menu:
Hors D’œuvres: Spring Radishes with Herbes de Provence infused Fleur de Sel (Sea Salt)
This is very easy to make and a French classic. The first time these were offered to me I thought to myself “you can’t be serious, radishes with salt on a plate? Really??”. I was used to seeing radishes as a garnish and always tossed aside. But I couldn’t insult my host, so I gave them a shot. I was pleasantly surprised at how much flavor they had. Peppery, and cold with a perfect crunch. Just a hint of sea salt, making them the perfect fat-free snack.
This variety is called the French Breakfast Radish and I find the flavor stronger and more distinct than the ones commonly sold in grocery stores (red, round and used for garnishing). Just chop the tops off and rinse in cold water, add some Fleur de Sel on the side, butter is traditional but not necessary and serve right away. Radishes will dry out if left to stand.
Les Plats (the main dish): Homemade Aioli, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad, Salad Nicoise and Grilled Herbs de Provence encrusted Ahi Tuna
Ingredients & Instructions:
To serve a dinner party of 8 people
- 1 clove smashed up garlic (I like to use a mortar & pestle)
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Smash up the garlic clove really well. You can use a whisk for this recipe and a large bowl or you can use a hand blender or food processor. The key is to be really quick with the whisk as the olive oil needs to be drizzled in very slowly to incorporate air to create thickness.
Add the garlic, egg yolk, Dijon mustard, s&p and lemon juice to the bowl and whisk together, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have a mayonnaise like texture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad:
- 6 heirloom tomatoes (Heirloom: A non-hybrid breed of tomato, usually passed down through generations, these are my favorite tomatoes bursting with juicy sweetness)
- handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 balls of Burrata cheese (this is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, it is tough on the outside and soft and creamy in the middle, a special treat!)
- good drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil
- good drizzle of balsamic vinegar
- Herbs de Provence seasoned Sea Salt & fresh cracked pepper ( I picked this up in St. Tropez but you could easily make it yourself, just add herbs de provence to your salt and keep in a jar, it will be fragrant and give your food a South of France flavor)
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
Chop the tomatoes and burrata into 2 inch pieces and place in a large dish. Chop the basil up and sprinkle on the tomatoes and burrata, add the oregano, fresh cracked pepper and herbs de Provence sea salt, olive oil and balsamic.
- 2 heads of cos or romaine lettuce
- 6 boiled organic eggs, cooled and peeled
- 10-12 baby potatoes skin on
- 1 cup of nicoise olives, pitted
- 500-600 grams of French or Fine green beans, ends cut off (handful per person)
- Dressing: 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup of champagne or white wine vinegar, 2 tbsp honey Dijon mustard, s&p
Wash the lettuce and chop into bite size pieces (the French never cut their salad with a knife and fork! I was quickly informed of this on my first trip to Paris…ahem…). Chop the potatoes in half or quarters and boil for about 15 min. Boil the eggs for about 10 min and let cool. Boil the beans until they are just al dente, about 3 min and then plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
Peel the eggs and cut in half. Assemble on a large plate, placing the olives in the middle.
Herbes de Provence Encrusted Grilled Ahi Tuna:
- 4 tuna steaks, about a pound each, make sure you go to a trusted fish monger with good quality fish
- 4 tbsp herbes de Provence
- olive oil
Rinse and dry the tuna steaks. Brush a little olive oil onto each side and then sprinkle with the herbs, about 1 tbsp per steak and s&p. Do both sides.
Have the BBQ on high and cook the tuna for about 2 minutes so it is medium rare. Tuna tends to dry out very quickly if it is fully cooked, so be careful not to over cook. This method will sear the outside and leave the inside pink. If you want it fully cooked go for about 4-5 min on each side.
Slice lengthways and plate. Drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil before serving.
Bon Apetite! 🙂