The Food Lovers' Cookbook Collection
Lulu's Provencal Table by Richard Olney
Richard Olney has set out to capture something about a legendary cook and inspirational figure from Provence, namely Lulu Peyraud. However, to many, Olney is a legend in his own right having been one of the key figures responsible for the legendary Time-Life cooking series (which still remain as useful and relevant as they were the day they were published) as well as other cooking classics such as his wonderful Simple French Food.
Lulu Peyraud, from the legendary Domaine Tempier, has an empathy with, and understanding of, Provencal ingredients that is inspirational.
We first learned about Domaine Tempier wines in the nineteen eighties on a visit to Chez Panisse in Berkeley. We were enormously impressed by the classy Mourvèdre-based reds from Provence and we were determined to learn more. Later, we were lucky enough to visit the vineyard, taste the wines and savour the spectacular coastal scenery nearby.
So it seemed right that Richard Olney's book has a forward by Alice Waters from Chez Panisse who has formed a close friendship with Lulu Peyraud.
The over 150 recipes read like a roll call of the best of Provence - tapenade, anchoiade, brandade, pissaladiere, bagna cauda, sardines grillees, bouillabaisse, aigo boulido, bourride, daurade au fenouil, daube a la Provencale,gigot a la ficelle, ratatouille and merveilles.
Olney has carefully captured the recipes and the techniques. In many cases the recipes are very simple and contain very few ingredients. The tapenade, for example, simply uses olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, salt, cayenne and olive oil along with her much-loved winter savoury leaves.
The brandade recipe is also interesting because we have always discarded the skin before pounding the flesh of the soaked salt cod, however Lulu incorporates the skin as she believes that the gelatinous content is useful for binding and softening the puree. Olney also gives very precise instructions about processing the fish after it has been gently poached using a method similar to that used by Chinese chefs for cooking chicken. After this, olive oil is heated to smoking point and quickly incorporated into the puree. More oil is heated to a lower temperature and incorporated. Milk is heated then incorporated quickly. Very precise and the results are very delicious and worth taking the trouble to do properly.
And then there is the classic daube recipe that is one of the most delicious meat dishes you will ever try. The beef and bacon is marinated in red wine and olive oil accompanied by carrots, dried orange peel and herbs. It is then cooked at a very, very low temperature for six hours and is served with macaroni.
We have described a few of the recipes, but we could have picked any of the others as well because they each represent an essay on the best technique possible for preparing these Provencal classics.
This is an essential book for any serious food lover's library.