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Culture: A taste of Provence from Pascal Canevet

Tapenade (3753201)
Tapenade (3753201)

Last year when Karine and I escaped to Provence in the south of France we fell back in love with the region – its endless rows of ancient olive trees, spectacular lavender fields, iconic vineyards and delightful coastline. It really is enchanting and its hard to describe the aroma of the area – it’s an explosion for the senses.

Those sun-drenched days remind me of our recent English heatwave. Day after day of glorious sunshine left us craving for something with a punch of flavour. The saltiness of tapenade makes it the perfect companion to languid days and this dish is something that your tastebuds will crave.

Traditionally made from the small black olives, widespread across France, there are tasty new recipes on the block, including green tapenade (from green olives) and delicious versions made with dried tomatoes and herbs.

We became addicted to the varieties and textures of French tapenade; with market stalls selling batches of colourful bowls, it became our go-to evening starter.

It’s probably hard to imagine us enjoying the simplicity of an earthy dip with crusty French bread and sand between our toes; but I can assure you when we take a break from Maison Bleue we naturally seek the simple things in life – good food, good friends, good wine and most important of all relaxation!

Perfect with a chilled glass or two as a dip, light supper or as an addition to your picnic, tapenade is a punchy French gourmet dip with a salty flavour. This recipe is simple to make and can be prepared in advance; making it perfect for carefree entertaining.

The secret for a good tapenade is the ingredients. Black olives from Provence are quite strong and very different to the bottled or canned varieties found in the UK. If you’re lucky enough to have a good deli or market, I recommend the French niçoise black olives if you can get them. Look for whole olives with their pips as they retain the flavour, and although it takes a bit of patience pitting them they return the favour with a punchy mouthful.

This is a rustic dish and should be served as such – don’t over-process the tapenade, it needs to have a hearty texture with the garlic and olive flavours taking prominence. Serve with French bread and a good glass of chilled vino.


Serves: 6

200g of black pitted olives

1 crushed garlic clove

1 teaspoon of capucine capers

5 anchovy fillets in olive oil

3 tablespoons of premium extra virgin olive oil

2 fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Black peppercorns

Drain the anchovy fillets and chop them coarsely. Mix the crushed garlic and the chopped anchovies in a mortar.

Rince and dry the capers and chop them finely.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until chopped for 1 to 2 min. Add the olive oil in slow drizzle and process until it becomes a thick, spreadable chunky paste. Season with freshly ground black peppercorn. Chill until required. Tapenade keeps well in a glass jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

To serve:

Bring to room temperature before serving.

Provençale tapenade is the perfect accompaniment to fresh baguette, but it can also be used as a dressing or brushed on meat or fish. For those who have a gluten intolerance, spread the tapenade on dehydrated Mediterranean vegetables.

Wine pairing

From our wine list I recommend Cotes de Provence Rosé Cuvée Elégance, Thomas et Cecile Carteron. With floral aromas of bergamot and sweet jasmine as well as red berry fruits, this rosé has notes of mango and a savoury edge of peach stone and citrus. Served well chilled, this summery rosé will bring out the flavours of tapenade and add a splash of delicate colour.

You can read more about Chef Pascal, Maison Bleue events and recipes at maisonbleue blog.co.uk

Pascal Canevet is chef-patron of award-winning Maison Bleue, an intimate fine-dining restaurant serving a modern French menu.

Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds.

maisonbleue.co.uk/01284 760623.

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