‘Ghost’ cheese & tomato jam | Posted: 13 February 2015
The flavours of Provence
The flavours of Provence
The flavours of Provence

Eric Delaetre-Boulanger is the effusive and lovable ‘public face’ of La Campagne Berne, and nothing is too much trouble for him. He fusses around only until he is sure you are completely happy…

He’s also a mine of information about the villages and countryside near the hill-top town of Forcalquier, which serves as the focal point for this beautiful corner of Haute Provence. In fact, he had confided in us, shortly after our arrival, that “le marché est IN-DIS-PENS-ABLE”! Considering ourselves told, we dutifully arrived at the Monday market in the town square, and found Provençal village life laid out before us: cheeses, meats, roast chickens, shopping baskets, fruit, clothes and even a gigantic paella… all in a wonderfully bustling atmosphere that only got busier as the morning wore on.

Eventually we ducked out of the mêlée and climbed a steep bank to explore the ruined citadel that watches over the town and the surrounding hills, then spent that afternoon on a delightful walk to the ancient hamlet of Lurs, itself nestling on a rather more diminutive hilltop of its own.

We then recognized the sign of the honey producer we had encountered that morning in the market, so had time to buy a jar of our own before winding our way back down ‘home’ to put our feet up for a while with a G&T in the garden, prepared in our apartment kitchen.

When it was time to meet for dinner, our enthusiastic host came into his own again, managing to combine the roles of hotelier, barman, waiter, raconteur and comedian with extraordinary panache. Pouring home-made walnut and dandelion aperitifs, he held court among an eager group of guests with his infectious storytelling.

Related Holidays

The Marine Apartment, near Forcalquier

There's no better introduction to the fabulous fresh produce of Provence than on a leisurely wander round a traditional village market, before returning to your rural self-catering apartment to sample the delights on offer.

More about our walking holidays in Provence >

While modestly proclaiming that he ‘speaks English like a Spanish cow’, he had no trouble keeping us all entertained through his amusing stories and anecdotes, and his gloriously imperfect translation skills only added to the charm. Chèvre was ‘ghost’ cheese, and he referred to anything he thought to be fantastic as ‘terrible’, the French nuance leaving us with a totally different meaning.

Soon afterwards, as waist-coated barman-turned-waiter, Eric proudly produced a succession of mouthwatering dishes, courtesy of his talented partner Bruno, the more quietly spoken of the two, who busies himself creating fabulous recipes in the kitchen next door. Out came perfect pastry pies, filled with a black olive tapenade and doused with warm Banon cheese, which were soon followed by a deliciously tender magret de canard, served with figs, ratatouille Provençale and asparagus, fresh from the very same market that morning.

This, in turn, was followed by a soft and smooth fromage blanc, rather like crème fraîche, accompanied by two types of deliciously fresh ‘tomato jam’ – one bright red, the other a lurid green – before the meal ended triumphantly with iced nougat, almonds and lavender-flavoured honey: beautifully sweet and utterly divine. Somewhat lost for words, we mumbled our gratitude in our own imperfect French, and shuffled off to bed.



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