ApricotTart_2

France was a regular holiday destination for my family when I was growing up but it wasn't until, as a twelve year old, I was packed off by myself to our French family friends, that I really fell in love with the country and the cuisine.  You see, for anyone with an interest in food, it's hard not too.  The day to day lifestyle starts and ends with food.  From freshly baked bread in the bakery's, proud and passionate butchers, and daily food markets heaving with vibrantly colored fruit and vegetables it's impossible to avoid it.  

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Snatching a few days at the start of the month, myself and Sofie headed to the Côte d'Azur.  We stayed just outside the quiet village of Auribeau about 30 minutes north of Cannes and close to Grasse.  The village itself is set high on the hills surrounded by forest.  The small cobble stone streets are silent and sleepy.  On one of our last evenings there we had a fuss free dinner at restaurant La Table Du Village over looking the valley and enjoyed foie gras with rhubarb and gingerbread toasts, magret de canard and crepes suzette, all truly French and all completely rich and delicious.

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Whenever I travel my first stop off point is the local market, it's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the culture of the area and of course France has them almost every day so they are hard to miss.  Although Cannes may be more well known for it's red carpets, film stars, and expensive lifestyles, food lovers flock to Marché Forville Tuesday to Sunday mornings to choose from the freshest fruit, vegetables, fish and everything in between.  The best advice is to arrive there early for about 8.30am to see the best of produce on offer and then have a strong coffee and buttery croissant in one of the cafes dotted around the edges of the market.

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On Monday's the food markets of the Côte d'Azur make way for a market of an altogether different nature.  Antique hunters flood the market places of Cannes and Nice to search for forgotten heirlooms and hidden gems.  The streets are lined with old chairs, plates, chandeliers, armoirs, dolls houses and linens while buyers barter with stall holders for the best price of the day.  We spent a whole morning scouring the stalls which can be fairly pricey and came away with an old teapot to add to our collection of vintage items for food photography.

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While most of our meals were cooked at home, the highlight of the trip was a dinner at L'Amandine in the picturesque Mougins, another village close by, perched at the top of a hill.  Duck ravioli with asparagus soup, braised veal kidney and the most indulgent dessert I've ever had of two dark chocolate twix cakes with rich peanut butter and caramel.  Incredible food, equally beautiful views and a show stopping sunset left us planning our return.

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Food markets punctuated our 10 days at the Cote D'Azur and another memorable morning was at the small village of Valbonne where food stalls line the hilly streets with vendors offering samples of cheese, sausicons and nougat.  Locals and tourists arrive here in the early morning, spending time selecting the best the market has to offer before sitting down to eat an early lunch at 12pm in the market square in the centre of the village.

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All these market visits encouraged me to make use of the kitchen at the old farm house we stayed at in Auribeau.  Not wanting to let the opportunity go to waste and armed with Elizabeth David's French Provicial Cooking, which my mom thrust into my arms before I headed off, I cooked light, simple and quick dishes most evenings leaving us time for dusk forest walks.  Pan Bagnet, a traditional Niçoise pressed sandwich made for perfect lunchtime snacking, while deep fried courgette flowers stuffed with creamy goats and drizzled with lavander honey made for a dreamy dinner. Sweet baking recipes like a simple Apricot Tart made best use of the markets freshest produce.  

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France, je t'aime! I am already planning my return and filled with so many exciting ideas I can't wait to get back in to my own kitchen this summer inspired by simplicty and top quality fresh ingredients.  Here are some of the recipes I cooked through during my stay, some, hardly recipes at all but delicious nonetheless. 

- RECIPES -

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Salad De Tomate- Tomato & Basil Salad… {Recipe}

Potato And Radish Salad

Warm Potato and Radish Salad with a French Dressing… {Recipe}

Pain Bagnet_4

Pan Bagnat (Pressed Niçoise Sandwich)… {Recipe}
 
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Deep Fried Courgette Flowers Stuffed with Goats Cheese and Lavender Honey{Recipe}

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Tarte Á L'Abricot… {Recipe}