Test Kitchen: Summer Food in Provence

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WELL-KNOWN South African author Marita van der Vyver and her family have spent the last decade living a seemingly idyllic life in a village in Provence, and it is this splendid setting that inspired her newest project – a cookbook titled  Summer Food in Provence.

Sumptuous photographs of summery dishes and superb scenery of the French countryside are complemented by Van der Vyver’s evocative writing, and of course her favourite family recipes, one of which is being tested on The Global Table blog today. Summer Food in Provence was  a collaboration between Van der Vyver and her French husband, Alain Claisse, a trained teacher who grew up in northern France and learnt to cook from his maman at an early age.

The recipes are not all Provencal, but instead the region and indeed French cuisine as a whole provided the inspiration for Van der Vyver’s foray into the world of food; one she admits only began when she fell in love with Alain.

You’ll find everything from authentic French and Provencal dishes to Mediterranean food and even a few South African favourites, given Van der Vyver’s enduring ties to her homeland. Ingredients are kept simple and most of the dishes are dead easy to prepare. Truth be told, some will no doubt already be in most capable home cooks’ recipe folders, but who can resist even old favourites like chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, or ratatouille, when presented in such a beautiful format.

Don’t miss The Global Table blog today when we share Van der Vyver’s super-simple recipe for that classic French dessert – chocolate mousse.

Summer Food in Provence is published by Tafelberg, an imprint of NB Publishers, and retails for around R250. – Louise Liebenberg

Marita van der Vyver's chocolate mousse. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Marita van der Vyver's chocolate mousse. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

Chocolate Mousse from ‘Summer Food in Provence’

Marita writes that chocolate mousse has an inexplicable reputation as being a “difficult dessert to make at home, when in fact it’s one of the simplest”. All you need, she says, is “good chocolate and the whites of a few eggs”.

“I have tested stacks of recipes, some with sugar, others with egg yolks, others with cream and a few drops of alcohol or spices or herbs… and the simplest of all, with only chocolate and egg whites, remains my favourite.”

Marita decorates hers with finely chopped lemon verbena which is then mixed with sugar and sprinkled on top. Of course you can decorate it however you want – with berries, grated orange rind or mint, as we have done today.

Serves 4

Ingredients

200g dark chocolate (“at least 50% cocoa, preferably more”);  4 egg whites; a pinch of salt; Optional: 1 sprig lemon verbena and 1 tsp sugar

Method

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water.

Whip the egg whites in a glass bowl with a pinch of salt until stiff. Stir half the egg whites quickly into the chocolate with a whisk, then fold in the other half carefully with a flat spoon.

Pour into four serving glasses and, if using, sprinkle the lemon verbena and sugar mixture on top. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour – “and thank heaven once again for the wonder of chocolate”.

The Global Table verdict on this recipe

This recipe was very easy and I was thrilled to learn you could make chocolate mousse so successfully using just two ingredients (if you don’t count the salt and garnishings).

However the mousse turned out very sweet and rather dense – although the latter could mean I was a little heavy-handed with the folding in! If like me you like a rich, decadent mousse then this one’s perfect for you, but the use of good quality dark chocolate would of course be essential. Salvelio, on the other hand, felt the mousse was too rich, sweet and dense for his taste; he prefers a lighter, more aerated mousse with additional complexities of flavour besides “just chocolate and sugar”, such as the hint of alcohol which Marita has omitted. – Louise

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