Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Magical Memory of Cooking in Provence

Last October, Rick booked a cooking class in Provence as a gift for our 31st wedding Anniversary through  We were to meet our cooking instructor at 9 AM under the Clock Tower in the main square.  After about 15 minutes, a young woman came rushing towards us with apologies, saying that she was training a puppy, and that we were her only students that day. We didn't mind waiting, and had fun wandering through the square, which was full of flowers, cheese, meats, clothing, and soaps!  It was much larger than any farmers market that I've seen in the States.
 Here we are, in front of the most amazing produce!
Hillary, our instructor, wanted us to have a authentic experience, so we purchased the food for our lunch from local merchants and made change, using as many French words as we could muster. Luckily, we were coached, because my french from college totally failed me!  The vendors were so kind, and seemed pleased that we were making an attempt to speak their language.  Vendor space is passed down from generation to generation, and we were surprised to learn that some of these families had been selling in this square for hundreds of years!
Hillary holds classes in her upstairs apartment which was once a convent, later a horse stable.  This space looked so french, with the quaint shutters and vines!
We toured the streets, led to Hillary's favorite wine, cheese, and pastry shops.  The ubiquitous scooters are everywhere- a perfect way to get around in these crowded streets!
Once back at her Apartment, we opened our parcels and Hillary gave us a lesson on how to use a knife correctly...who knew after all these years that we were doing it wrong!  On the menu was Feta Salad, wine, bread, cheese, pumpkin soup, and pastries. We sliced up the pumpkin, pureed it, and then using a portable blender mixed it with milk and spices

We practiced knife skills by cutting these up into smaller pieces.
Here I am steaming up the place!  These little blenders are very efficient-
 I may have to have one!  
Hillary was a wonderful teacher, and we had a great time!  Someday I hope to go back to this lovely place.

Below is the yummy soup recipe.  

Ronald's Pumpkin Soup

1 Leek
1 Onion
1 Shallot
9 Tablespoons Butter
1 Carrot
2 lbs pumpkin
6 cups chicken broth or water
3 cups milk
5 tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Top with Blue Cheese or Feta
In a large pot over medium heat, melt t Tablespoons of butter.  Chop your onion, leek, shallot and carrot, and add to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn up the stove to high heat, and add chicken broth/water, and chopped pumpkin, salt and pepper.  With the heat on high, cook for 15-20 minutes. until pumpkin is cooked through.  Reduce heat and add cream and 3 tablespoons of butter.  Blend with a hand mixer until all the ingredients are blended together.  Serve with a wedge of Blue cheese on top. Make sure to have the cheese at room temp.  You can garnish with mint or basil as well.
Serves 8- 10