RECIPES - ratatouille

La Ratatouille - quintessentially Provençal

Ratatouille is as Provençal as lavender and its blue sky above. It simply combines all the delicious vegetables which are ripe in the summer, allowing for the full flavor to develop by letting it simmer for almost two hours. Best served in the pot, along with some fresh country bread: in Provence bread is eaten along the main course and to soak up the sauce on the plate.
serves 4 - 6

Use a heavy cast-iron pot like Le Creusset, with fitting lid to trap the vapor during cooking

500g potatoes
5 medium-sized carrots
1 red or yellow large onion
2 large courgettes
200g string beans
3 medium-sized or 5 small tomatoes, ripe and juicy
4 cloves of garlic
5 sprigs of thyme or 1 full teaspoon dried
fresh bread or baguette  or lightly toasted in a pan

Fry onions and garlic first, then add all vegetables chopped in bite-sized pieces and layer them according to the list of ingredients above, with the hardest vegetable on the bottom. Add some water if necessary or possibly some white wine. Allow to cook covered on gas mark 2 for 1 hour, then reduce to gas mark 1 for another 45 minutes. Stir only occasionally and very gently.

Serve with fresh bread
and enjoy
 * Bon appétit *


vegetarian hiking in the French Alps

hiking as a vegetarian in the French Alps
Tour de Vieux Chaillol
Parc des Ecrins

On Sunday, July 19 2009, we set off to hike around the beautiful mountain range called Parc des Ecrins. The Tour de Vieux Chaillol is a 5-day round trip which allows for stay-overs at different gites d'etape and refuges. (As for all vegetarians the true challenge in France lies in not getting an omelette at every meal.)

The first place we stayed at, one night before we started our journey, Auberge Les Primeveres in 05260 Saint-Jean-Saint-Nicoals, made for all their guests this delicious local variation of lasagna: oreilles d'âne. This is a true vegetarian dish, and on the side they served local cured ham, for those needing meat. But I never felt ostrasized or singled out as the non-meat eater!

Our first night of the Tour, in Le Casset, we stayed at the Gite d'Etape where we ate delicious sorrel soup (oseille in French), made from fresh leaves from the area! What an epicurean delight! The salad came after the main course (omelette for me...) which was simply lettuce from the garden! Lettuce aids digestion so it is actually recommended to eat it after the meal.

At the Refuge de Vallonpierre care is taken in reducing one's carbon footprint, eating what is in season and grows around us and taking everything we packed out back into the valley.

The following night we managed to score a proper bed in a double bedroom at the Auberge des Ecrins a funky modern hotel/restaurant in a small village. Superb local food: fromage chevre from the neighboring village, home-made tourtons (little ravioli), a side dish of carrots soufflé, with freshly grated carrots - ahh!

At our last night, at Gite Les Paris, I actually received a specially made vegetarian dish, all to myself: a leeks gratin! Very delicious and very rewarding after 5 days of steady and strong hiking in this beautiful part of the Alps!

Sunny greetings from the Provence,

Claudia & Jim