Family recipe · sourdough

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Last weekend I experimented with spelt flour which I had never used before in baking. I drew upon my basic sourdough recipe which I use most of the weekends when baking black bread for my family. I also use it for baking so-called white bread as well. So you can almost call it a family recipe now.

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

I cannot say that the whole-grain spelt flour added in rather small amounts in relation to the bulk of all purpose flour brought in some specific flavour. Also, there was my sourdough culture which is rye.

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

So in the end,  the baguettes had quite a dense crumb with a general whole-grainy look and flavour. But that flavour they had for sure!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

1 year ago – Spring in St Petersburg. The Beginning
2 years ago – Stirato or Italian Baguettes
3 years ago – 2,800 km of Russia Seen from Above
4 years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake
5 years ago – Pane al Cioccolato… Senza Cioccolato

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes adapted from basic sourdough bread recipe originally adapted from Darnitsky bread recipe

Ingredients:

For the starter:

  • 1 Tb rye sourdough starter from the fridge
  • 100 g water
  • 100 g rye flour

For the bread:

  • 200-220 g of water
  • 150 g spelt flour
  • 200 g all purpose flour, more if needed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pumpkin seeds

Procedure:

Take a tablespoon of sourdough starter from the fridge and mix it with 100 g of water and 100 of rye flour, then leave it overnight.

In the morning when your starter has puffed up, add 200-220 g of water, 150 g spelt flour and 200 g all purpose flour, salt and pumpkin seeds. You should get quite thick though sticky dough so keep adding all purpose flour as needed. You should be able to fold the dough. Leave it covered for more than one hour, making at least one fold in between (if it’s too sticky, use either more flour or water your hands). Now you can either flour a glass bowl or a proofing basket, shape the bread into a round loaf, flour it and place it in the bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Alternatively, you can make baguettes by dividing the dough in two and then folding and rolling each part to create 2 baguettes, place them on paper / baking mat, then cover and leave the shaped dough to rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 225 ‘C with a pan / tray on the bottom to create steam and a reversed tray in the middle (as a sort of baking stone). Reverse the loaf onto a baking mat / paper, make several slashes and slide it onto the hot tray / slash the baguettes diagonally and slide them onto the reversed tray together with the paper. Pour some water into the pan on the bottom to create steam. I usually do not change the temperature but if I see that the loaf is browning too much, I might decrease the temperature or move it to a lower rack. The baking takes from 30-35 minutes for the baguettes to 45-50 for a loaf.

Remarks: I tried hard to shape these baguettes, working the dough quite a lot by folding and rolling and re-rolling, and they puffed up nicely in the oven, also growing quite chewy crust.

Result: Flavourful and chewy. You might not tell at once that they are made with spelt flour but these baguettes are perfect for breakfast. Pumpkin seeds are good too!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Here pictured with the precious Piave cheese from Italy’s Veneto region:

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

It was a pretty Sunday morning and I took a lot of photos of the baguettes. I also spotted this thingy here which is a projector for silent cinema reels we have of me and my sister. My Mother is being busy converting the films into megabytes of me and my sister doing the pretty mundane things – without a sound 🙂 Yes, sometimes I do feel I was born way earlier than what my passport claims!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Adding this post to my Sourdough Bread collection.

G.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

Horiatiko fillo

My sister came back from her Greek trip some weeks ago and brought us gostintsy (souvenirs) from the sunny country. We now have our stock of oregano refilled and I have new Greek books which will help get me through the winter. And there was this herby olive oil from Corfu as well:

Horiatiko fillo

That was a good excuse to make one of my favourite things when it comes to savoury and comfort food – pies. A successful marriage between Russian fresh cheese filling and elastic Greek pastry made with olive oil was it, and as I had no Greek alcohol required for it too, I used some (pseudo) Russian vodka. The pastry recipe comes from Dina Nikolaou, Greek chef who travels around Greece and then presents the region from the gastronomic side of life on TV. The great thing about this pastry is that it doesn’t need lots of time to rise – it actually only rests half an hour in the fridge and then the yeast makes its magic right in the oven, rising the pastry just enough to be soft and not enough to get all soggy! Teleio!

Horiatiko fillo

1 year ago – Orange and David Gilmour

2 years ago – An Autumn Day in Lappeenranta, Finland

3 years ago – Bread-therapy for a Tired Traveller

4 years ago – Autumn Colours and Karelia

5 years ago – Creamy Peach Tart and Kitchen Reborn

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry (pastry recipe adapted from Village Pastry with Olive Oil, Horiatiko fillo me elaiolado / Χωριάτικο φύλλο, με ελαιόλαδο from dinanikolaou.gr) will make a Greek-size pie with a soft filling and just enough pastry (I know I’ve said this about so many pies but you just can’t keep yourself from saying this when you taste it!).

Ingredients:

for the pastry (enough for 2 big pies):

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 30 ml or about 3 Tbs olive oil (I had to add some water too)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 30 ml milk (mine was 2.5% fat)
  • 8-10 g fresh yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup (100 ml) lukewarm water (I used 1.5 tsp active dry yeast instead)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs tsipouro or ouzo (well, I had to go for vodka!)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the filling (enough for half of the pastry recipe):

  • 500 g 5% fat cottage cheese / quark (tvorog) – might as well be feta or brynza or a mixture
  • leftover mashed potatoes (optional but good)
  • some grated hard cheese
  • 2 small eggs
  • fresh herbs like spring onion, coriander and parsley, chopped
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano and seasoning like khmeli-suneli

Procedure:

First, make the pastry: Place fluffed flour in a big bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in olive oil, beaten egg, milk, yeast with the water it was dissolved in, tsipouro / ouzo / vodka and add salt and pepper. Knead lightly with your hands until you get soft and flexible dough. (Here I had to add a bit more water cause my 500 g of flour seemed like a lot for the indicated amount of liquid). Divide the dough into 2 equal parts, wrap in plastic foil and place in the fridge for 30 minutes (I left them there for more than an hour).

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Mix all the filling ingredients (a good idea would be to add all except eggs and try it for salt) and put aside.

Now you can proceed with assembling the pie: Take one piece of the pastry and roll it out finely on a floured surface (I used only one piece of the dough both for the bottom and the top layers). It should be larger than the baking dish you’ll be using so that the borders are covered too. Place it onto your greased / laid with parchment paper baking dish. Roll out the second piece (or the leftovers from trimming the overhanging edges, which I did) to the very size of your baking dish – this will be the top layer.

Place the filling evenly on top of the bottom pastry layer and cover it with the top layer, pinching the edges. Don’t forget to cut slits in the top layer to help escape the steam (and occasional cheese liquid).

Bake in the preheated to 200 ‘C oven for about 30 minutes. The pie should start getting brown on the top (the top layer got browned faster than I expected so keep an eye on it).

Horiatiko fillo

Remarks: You will get more pastry than you would need for a very big pie (I baked my pie in the biggest cast iron pan we have, greased). I’m keeping my second half wrapped in the freezer for future comfort-food pies.

Horiatiko fillo

Result: The pastry is just perfectly elastic and keeps shape nicely – it also rolls out easily after its rest in the fridge. The filling was a bit too bland to be called Greek, so I would suggest adding either more salt or a different kind of cheese like the salty feta or brynza (super-salty brine cheese) or at least making it 50/50 with the cottage cheese.

Horiatiko fillo

When you take the pie out of the oven, the pastry is all smooth at first but then these nice cracks appear on the surface patricularly when you cut your huge slices. And the top of this pie is also crunchy, oraia!

Horiatiko fillo

To make your life even more comfortable and cozy in this cold season (we’ve somehow skipped the autumn here and headed straight into oh-no winter, you just read some Moomin stories!

This post goes to country-specific recipes and Lunch / Dinner suggestions where you will find more Greek / Greek-inspired pies.

G.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry for Midsummer

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Home again and tired… I’m a bit late with the traditional Midsummer Post this year because I’ve just finished a crazy trip to lake Baikal along the Trans-Siberian railroad and then to Vladivostok and back on a plane. Still need some time to recuperate… And obviously yet another week or so of holidays to write posts about the trip. The day I arrived I was already baking (without any particular recipe, lazy style). In two days I felt ready for some more effort which means following a recipe. And here it is, my semi-improvised midsummer Greek spinach and cheese pie:

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry will make a thin crunchy pie with soft cheese and herbs. For the recipe of the Homemade Phyllo Pastry, visit food.com. Here is the improvised filling and what I changed in the pastry recipe:

The only change to the pastry ingredients was to add some freshly ground pepper. As for the procedure, I did not use the dowel to poll it out as thin as possible but rather just… well, rolled it out with a rolling pin and then stretched it as much as I could before it would tear apart (which it inevitably did). For this pie I used only half of the pastry recipe – three sheets on the bottom and three sheets on top, brushing them with olive oil. Still thinking what to do with the remaining half (this type of pastry is traditionally used in both sweet and savoury pies, but  already added pepper to it…).

Filling:

  • c. 350 g of soft white cheese like Adygea cheese (try Feta if you can get it but be careful with salt)
  • 400 g of spinach (I used frozen)
  • 1 egg
  • some fresh herbs of your choice, chopped
  • salt, pepper, seasoning of your choice
  • dried oregano
  • sesame seeds
  • bran, wheat germ, semolina or just flour

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Procedure:

First, I heated up frozen spinach without adding any water, so that the liquid evaporates. Then I left it to cool down a bit and meanwhile prepared the pastry. While the pastry was resting, I added cheese, egg, spices and herbs to the spinach. My idea was to get a less liquid filling not to lose the crunchiness of the pastry.

I laid three sheets of pastry onto the bottom, brushing them with olive oil. Then I sprinkled some wheat germ on top to absorb the liquid of the filling (you can use whatever absorbing ‘agent’ you prefer). Then I spread the filling over the bottom sheets and covered the pie with three more sheets, slightly pinching the edges. I brushed some olive oil on top too and sprinkled it with sesame seeds. I also pre-cut the pie which created this ‘pattern’:

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Then I baked the pie at 200 ‘C for about 30 minutes until the top pastry layer achieved its golden colour.

Remarks: Thanks to all the precaution I took to reduce the amount of liquid in the filling, the bottom pastry layers was not soggy and the top was quite crunchy. Also, the pre-cutting worked out just fine. If you add all the 12 sheets into one pie, I would suggest making larger folds for the top pastry layers, so that you get a less dense dough part.

Result: A thin pie with a nice balance of pastry and filling. Perfect with a (Greek) salad on the side.

My midsummer series so far:

Adding this post to the Lunch / Dinner collection, where you will find other cheese and greens pies. For many more Greek and Greek-inspired recipes like Tyropita or Spanakopita, check out the By Country collection.

Will come back with my Grand Russian Tour posts, I hope soon.

G.

bread · Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Greek: Grandma’s Cheese Pies and Homemade Village Bread

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

I’ve got two Greek recipes to share with you: cheese pies and bread. Both recipes call for whole-wheat flour which in Greece is not that very common unless you really turn to home or rather village cooking. And that’s exactly what I like in cooking – let’s walk on the rustic side of it!

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

1 year ago – Italian Sourdough Bread with Potatoes and Herbs

2 years ago – Sunflower Seed Rye Sourdough or We Need Sun Here

3 years ago – Thessaloniki

4 years ago – Mangoes and Rye to Welcome Spring

(Greek) Grandma’s Cheese Pies or Tiropitakia tis giagias (Τυροπιτάκια της γιαγιάς) translated and adapted from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com will make lots of pies with rubbery cheese filling – a Greek version of hand pies. Beware (:) the entire recipe will make about 40 big pies! I halved the recipe and yet got about 2 trays of pies 🙂 See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Greek yogurt case – was not sure about the volume so added about a cup for 500 g flour, using a mixture of milk and kefir
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil + added salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 700 g Feta, crumbled with a fork – I used a 250 g pack of 5% fat tvorog (cottage cheese) + 290g Adygea cheese (for all three fillings) + fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Second filling was some cooked millet and third – Adygea cheese + green onions, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Procedure:

Mix flour with yogurt (I would suggest adjusting the amount of liquid accordingly), soda, eggs and oil. Knead well and divide into pieces (I also let the dough rest about 20 minutes which made it softer). Roll each piece into a round disk and place a spoonful of the filling on one side. Cover the filling with the other side of the disk and pinch the edges. You should get crescent-shaped pies (I also tried other shapes, see remarks). Place the pies on a greased baking tray (I used a silicon mat) and bake at 200 ‘C for 20 minutes (before baking I sprinkled the pies with some water).

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Remarks: My pies took exactly 20 minutes to bake – no matter what shape I used. First I thought about making small pies just like pelmeni (or Russian ravioli) but soon got tired of all the rolling, cutting and pinching, so made medium-small pies with the rest of the dough. And I should really warn you that we’re dealing here with a truly Greek recipe that will feed all your relatives! 🙂 So I would suggest making only half of the dough recipe or you might end up with no filling! Even with half of the dough I still had to invent more filling options thus adding fresh herbs (rosemary was good!) and using both cottage cheese and soft white cheese.

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Result: I tried the smaller pies right out of the oven – they were hot (apparently) and rather rubbery with all the soft cheese inside. If you’re using real Feta (lucky you!) I bet your pies will be quite salty and won’t need any special spicy twist to them (the dough might seem a bit bland even with the added salt). You can serve these as a starter – or if you make them big as the author suggests, they can become your lunch or dinner! 

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

***

Homemade Village Bread

I’m still looking forward to finding that very recipe which will result in the super soft and super whole-wheat rustic bread I ate almost each day at the free (!) student canteen in Thessaloniki. Gosh, even my parents remember it! 🙂 I guess the thing was in the flour which was rough but yet gave that wonderful flavour to the bread. And it was soft too – with a crunchy crust. Oh, that bread was perfect… So here’s what I call the Greek size:

Homemade Village Bread

Homemade Village Bread or Khoriatiko psomi spitiko viologiko (Χωριάτικο ψωμί σπιτικό βιολογικό) translated and adapted from www.sintagespareas.gr will make a huge flagrant bread with super soft crumb and yet all those healthy bran bits inside. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg ‘village’ flour (whole wheat) – made a mixture of whole wheat + all purpose + wheat and rye bran + some oats for the topping
  • 2 packages of instant dried yeast – used less
  • 500 ml lukewarm water – had to use more
  • 1 shot of olive oil (Greek, please!)
  • 2 tsp salt

Procedure:

In a big plastic bowl (not necessarily🙂 mix all the flour with the yeast. Add salt and gradually pour in the lukewarm water, mixing well with your hands (yep, that’s how you do it!). Knead vigorously so that it becomes soft. Cover the bowl with a towel and a blanket (I just used plastic). Leave the dough to double in size in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

Then add the oil and knead well again. Place the dough in a greased and floured baking pan (preferably a large thick non-stick pan or tray). Slash the surface (I also brushed it with olive oil + sprinkled oats). Preheat the oven to 180 ‘C for 10 minutes, place the bread on the middle rack and bake it for about an hour (I had to move it to the lower rack at the end and baked just 55 min.).

When the bread is ready, take it out of the oven and out of the pan and leave it on a rack so that it gets rid of all the moisture inside.

Homemade Village Bread

Remarks: With all its Greek dimensions the bread did bake through! However, if you’re not planning to gobble this entire loaf at once (which you will surely do if you try just a bit!) and would prefer to freeze a part of it, I would suggest baking two loaves out of this recipe. I eventually cut the bread in – still – huge pieces and froze them. Beware of the burning top – I had to move the pan to the lower rack as the oats started burning and the voluminous top was menacing to reach the upper heater.

Homemade Village Bread

Result: The crumb is really very soft – and crumbly while the crust is… you get it, crusty! :). It’s hard to slice this bread properly – but I’m sure you will manage without perfect slices! This bread won’t keep well because a). you will eat it fast no matter how huge it is and b). the crumb has lots of moisture in it.

Homemade Village Bread

Hope I’ve given you a desire to bake some nice rustic Greek food. Ideal at the end of the winter (let’s hope we’re getting there soon!).

This post goes to Lunch / Dinner, Leavened Bread and Greek recipe collections.

In neverending search for wonderful food, always yours,

G.

pies · vegetarian

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs, Azerbaijani Pies with a Russian Twist

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

Let’s have some savoury dish for a change. This time it’s going to be a recipe for Qutab from the Azerbaijani cuisine but with a certain Russian twist. I recently tried a similar fried filled bread from Turkey called gozleme traditionally made with white brine cheese. Both recipes are easy to make and do not require lengthy dough preparation. You can make them with meat or other fillings but I just love the cheese + herbs combination. For both recipes I used suluguni cheese mixed with some tvorog (cottage cheese) for the lack of proper brynza, and whatever is available from the fresh herbs.

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

The Russian twist is ensured by the addition of rye flour to the dough. I doubt that in Azerbaijan they eat rye qutabs (rye flour is characteristic of the Northern parts of Russia rather than Azerbaijan!) but at the same time this adds some extra flavour (and a bit of wholesomeness) to the somewhat heavy dish. You might want to make a 100% white flour dough or mix in some whole wheat flour. Whatever your choice, heat your sturdy cast iron pan and let’s make the qutabs!

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

1 year ago – Vyatka, City of Snow that Dreams of Summer

2 years ago – Two Spinach Pies and Spinach…Rice

3 years ago – French Bread

4 years ago – Two Rrrrrye Breads (Raisin and Riga)

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs translated and adapted from perfectfood.ru will make a chewy and vegetarian version of the Azerbaijani pies. Check out the original website for the video recipe (understandable even without any knowledge of Russian). See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients for 9-10 qutabs:

For the dough:

  • 150 g rye flour (can substitute with whole wheat or all-purpose flour)
  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbs sunflower oil
  • water – as much as the dough will take

For the filling:

  • 100-150 g cheese, hard and /or soft (Adygea, brynza, paneer…) – I used fat-free cottage cheese and Suluguni
  • 300 g of herbs of any type, can use spinach, sorrel, nettle, etc. – I used dill, parsley, spring onions and coriander
  • salt, according to your cheese (I also added pepper)

For the sauce (optional):

  • matsoni or natural yogurt or smetana (sour cream)
  • garlic, couple of cloves

Procedure:

In a bowl mix the flours, add salt and oil. With your hands rub oil into the flour mixture, so that it’s distributed evenly. Gradually add water and mix until you have a very soft sticky dough. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 10 min.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. Finely chop the herbs. If you’re using nettle, first scald it with boiling water and then chop it (the nettle will thus lose its stinginess). Finely grate the cheese and mix in with the herbs. Add salt.

Flour the work surface and your hands. Pinch off a piece of dough that will fit in the palm of your hand. Roll it out into a flat round. Place some filling on one side of the dough leaving the edges free. Then fold the other side over the filling and seal the edges with a fork.

Place a dry skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat (no greasing required!). If your pan is big enough you will be able to cook 2 qutabs at a time. Cook 1 minute, then turn the qutabs over and cook 1 minute more (my qutabs needed more time – I also baked only 2 and then placed the dough and the filling in the fridge for a later use).

Serve immediately with the matsoni and garlic sauce, dipping the qutabs into the sauce. The sauce can be made in advance so that it gets the most out of garlic flavour: press several cloves of garlic into matsoni, mix and place in the fridge. For the lack of matsoni you can use natural yogurt or smetana (sour cream).

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

oh that melting cheese!

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

Remarks: I would rather call the rye dough pretty bland (although it contained salt) but the filling was pretty salty (didn’t pay attention to the saltiness of the cheese). Also, next time I would roll the dough really thin cause it was quite chewy. You can also experiment with the sizes and the amount of filling – some of my qutabs were a bit too big 🙂 These are best eaten hot – so I suggest cutting the dough recipe by half. I ran out of cheese with that much of the dough and had to use mashed potatoes with the leftover cheese filling for the last qutabs.

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

Result: Easy pies with melting cheese? Count me in! Perfect with some greens on the side and a lot of kefir (for the lack of traditional matsoni). Also no problem with keeping these pies in the fridge and reheating them later.

This post goes to Lunch / Dinner and the country-specific recipe collections (first Azerbaijani recipe!).

G.

no recipe · travel

Comps, between Provence and Camargue

Comps, France

My second stop during my September séjour in Provence, France, was in a small village called Comps, in the Department of Gard. After a somewhat cool reception I experienced in Piolenc, the chambres d’hotes in Comps felt just like a real home for me. I stayed at a house of Muriel and Michel, a French-Belgian couple, musicians, artists and simply great people!

Comps, France

They offer not just bed & breakfast (both at their top!) but also give you this feeling of having an insight into the French house – moreover you actually experience this life! Their house is called l’Oustaou de Fanny et Marius, (oustaou = home in Provencal) after the famous characters of Marcel Pagnol.

Petit-dejeuner, Comps

Oh those breakfasts in the morning! Muriel makes her own confiture (see above all those small shots filled with jams) – and who would wonder that I made sure to try each of these jams … every morning 🙂 I think Muriel & Michel’s wonderful friends (who drove all the way down there from Belgium and asked me various questions on Russia) were quite surprised by me eating that much in the morning – while they just nibbled at a single home-baked waffle!

Petit-dejeuner, Comps

I wish I could make all my breakfasts so long and so pleasing, both in terms of what you eat and the people you have around you in the morning. I mean, mornings are made for this, to start off your day in a lovely way! And talking about mornings…

Comps, France

Running there and seeing horses grazing where the sun rises, listening to the nature awakening, I wouldn’t change that for any megalopolis at that moment!

Comps, France

There’s the river Gardon close by with a camping site. The beautiful early autumn turned my morning jogging (which at the moment I do in pitch darkness of November St Petersburg) into a little discovery each time – a sheer thrill of running and not knowing what awaits you there!

Comps, France

My third jogging was especially special 🙂 I actually climbed up the hill instead of running (hiking downstairs was easier – almost running), to get to that Abbey of St Roman (Abbaye de Saint-Roman). It was closed of course (I sometimes or rather often wonder at the French people who have opening hours and people manning such places as a monastery on top of a hill!) but that did not prevent me from enjoying the climb.

Comps, France

Because just opposite the hill with a monastery on it (which has a weird story by the way), there is le pic de l’Aiguille, a troglodyte sight which is carefully guarded by…

IMG_0689

This wild goat 🙂 I found out later that the animal is there for years and years. At first I was hesitant and though I’d rather drop it and get back to the path (probably remembering my childhood encounter with a goat in Rossosh) but then I did it. And you know what? The goat disappeared when I got there – and then resurfaced again at the same spot as I was going back the path!

Comps, France

Standing there (153 meters above the sea level) in a pretty fine wind and with the rising sun just in front of me made me talk to myself out loud – and thank God for such a wonderful gift!

Comps, France

There’s a orientation table on top of that Aiguille (which is a needle or peak in French) and you can easily observe the Rhône river, the Mont Ventoux, Tarascon and Beaucaire (next stops on my list). Wikipedia cites the Michelin Guide, which describes it ‘a site of captivating simplicity’ – and I do agree! Going back was like descending from the sky. 

Comps, France

The location of the house (between Provence and the seaside Camargue region) I was staying is enhanced with this Roman aqueduct which stands right there for years and years. I ‘discovered’ it on the first evening, after my day in super-cute Arles. And also learned that it stands on the way to St Jacques de Compostelle – there’s a shell sign on the map.

Comps, France

People have there houses right down there at the foot (feet?) of the aqueduct, there are some old home appliances rotting away and a path leading to various points, like that Aiguille and the monastery. There’s also the well-known Pont du Gard, a huge two-tire aqueduct, which can be reached from Comps by car. What I love about France is that they have all those walking routes making their nature and land in general accessible to people.

Comps, France

And there on top of the hill I had my simple French-Russian dinner that day. I had tasty rye-wheat bread, Cantal Jeune cheese, plain yogurt (fromage blanc, my substitute for kefir in France) and apples. With the sun setting down there in the Gardon river valley and me sitting on top of the world, that’s what I call memorable!

Comps, France

Thanks to my hospitable hosts I had a bike to my disposal. I shouldn’t even mention the quality of that track which was so much better than the most Russian roads I’ve seen… The bike helped me discover three new cities in the region which I will tell you about soon.

Comps, France

Comps itself is so tiny that I have only one photo of it – with some advertisement fading away on the corner house. But the vineyards around Comps are beautiful, particularly in the evening sun:

Comps, France

And of course I tried the grapes 🙂 There was also a farm at the other end of the village – with the path finishing in a dead-end cause too close to the river dam. By the way, as a true French village there was a tobacco / newspaper shop, a bakery, a cafe and even a pizza truck (which is not that authentically French but was just fun to find there). Comps is too small to make any checklists, I will just tell you that next time you travel in Provence, make sure to stay with these amazing people! Michel and Muriel are those in the foreground:

Comps, France

 

 

It was a pleasure talking to them – and not only because I could finally feel at ease speaking French! They have made the second part of my journey so much warmer and hospitable! It is something no hotel will ever give you. Also, I bought lots of pots of tastiest confiture, home made and 100% Provence!

Comps, France

We still have some of the pots left – to recreate the Provence at home during the cold winter days 🙂

Once again – the link to the hospitable house: l’Oustaou de Fanny et Marius

Adding this to my Travel series. See my other Provence-related posts: Marseille, Piolenc, Orange, Arles and a recipe with Coulommiers cheese.

G.

French recipe · pies · travel · vegetarian

Tarte au Coulommiers and Impressions of Provence

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

Just came back from my short trip to Provence, the South of France – only a week it lasted but how long it actually felt! Both when I was there and when I returned and found out that I was missing at least a month – or so it felt! There’s this usually short period between your coming back from a journey and the reinstatement in your habitual life – and it’s a weird moment of not knowing where you are, actually. Suddenly everything looks unfamiliar, you feel estranged and it still seems that you’re not here for long, that the journey will continue.

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

This journey was a condensed one, after which I would not mind a short recuperation… But I totally loved it! Walking (a lot), hiking (a bit but what views, what wind, what emotions!), biking (the greatest means of transport!), running (what could be better than jogging and discovering new areas at the same time?), lots of trains, some buses and cars. And then more walking and abundant breakfasts to make up for it (or vice versa)… The abrupt sunsets and slow sunrises, absolutely driving-me-crazy Mediterranean aromas and warm wind. Backache and sleeping without hind legs (=like a log). Simple food – whole wheat bread, fresh cheese, apples and yogurt. Great to rediscover taste for those simple things!

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

And there was the concert. At first (and it lasted quite long actually) it felt I was not there, I was somewhere else – or was it a recording? David Gilmour’s amazing voice coming right into my ears from down there while I was sitting on top of the Roman amphitheater in Orange.

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

Opening to people and accepting all the ridiculous accidents on the road. Travelling alone brings you somehow closer to the place and the people. Oh, I will need several posts to express all that, for sure. Meanwhile – a recipe of a French pie with – bien sûr – French cheese! Yes, brought all those well cheese-smelling cheeses back to Russia 🙂 And not only cheese… My back still recalls the weight of the rucksack (14 kg…) which in its turn is waiting to me mended 🙂

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

A year ago – From Sunny Greece to Autumn Leaves in St Pete

Two years ago – Herb Buns Digest

Three years ago – Peach, Apple, Plums and Banana: Pies and Rolls

Four years ago – Introduction to Soviet Creativity and Practicality

Tarte au Coulommiers translated and adapted from www.marmiton.org will make a substantial pie with that cheese flavor you just cannot imitate! See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • pâte briséemade my own pastry, feel free to use your favourite recipe or follow the link
  • 3 to 4 small potatoes – I used 4 medium
  • 1 Coulommiers cheese or 1 Brie – I put almost an entire Coulommiers except for those pieces eaten before filling the pie 🙂
  • 3 egg
  • 100 ml liquid crème fraîche (30-45% fat French sour cream) – I used plain 2.5% fat milk
  • 150 g grated Gruyère – some Russian cheese, ooops!

Procedure:

Cook peeled potatoes in water (I didn’t leave them to cook completely).

Roll out the pastry and place it in the pan (I also used parchment paper). First layer – slices of Coulommiers or Brie, second layer – potatoes cut in rounds. Next comes grated cheese.

Mix the eggs with crème liquide, add salt and pepper. Pour the mixture on top (here I also added some herbes de Provence). Bake at 180 ‘C for about 30 minutes.

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

Remarks: I had no ready-made pastry, so I threw in some cold butter, salt, flour and mixed it with water, then left the dough in the fridge. It worked! The leftover pastry became a small pie with chicken and potatoes – a special treat for my Dad. As for the milk instead of sour cream – I think it was a good idea, given that the potatoes and the cheese(s) are already quite nutritious (not to say fatty:).

Result: Serve this pie with a green salad à coté – even the non-vegetarians will enjoy it! The cheese in this pie is that very cheese. The tangy cheese creates a great combination with the soft potatoes. Although I’m not a fan of those Brie-like cheeses, I liked how it ‘worked’ in this pie! It just wouldn’t be the same with any other cheese…

Will come back with lots of photos. And more food!

Adding this to Lunch / Dinner and Country-specific recipe collections.

G.