Provençal types: Bill Granger cooks simple food from the south-east of France
Bill Granger goes back to his first cooking love with recipes that offer the maximum taste from the minimum preparation
We're all so caught up with the latest food fads these days that we tend to forget the oldies but goodies. Provençal cooking was my first love – Roger Vergé's Cuisine of the Sun being my first cookery "bible" and pissaladière my first signature dish – but it seems to have been a bit forgotten along the way.
You could say Provençal cooking was the original produce-driven cuisine. It is healthy, light, strong on fish and vegetables, and pile-on-the-plate simple. Most dishes need minimal preparation or fiddling about with, so I like to take a bit more effort over the pudding; here, a mouthwatering, melting apricot tart. Although, if I was truly French, I'd probably have saved myself the effort and bought it from the patisserie!
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com
Crostini and toppings
Although it is easiest to make this with baguette, I also love using coarser breads such as a good sourdough. Whatever you do, make lots and load wooden boards with them or they'll seem more Abigail's Party than French farmhouse. Make the crostini first, then simply add the toppings. Any topping left over can be chilled for later, or stirred through pasta for a quick supper.
For the crostini
1-2 baguette, cut into slices
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 sprigs rosemary
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Lay the baguette on a baking tray, drizzle with the oil and scatter over the garlic and herbs. Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp.
For crushed broad-bean topping
Place 200g/7oz podded broad beans in a mortar with 1 peeled garlic clove and 4 tbsp of olive oil. Roughly mash with a pestle then tip into a bowl. Add a handful of chopped tarragon, 25g/1oz grated pecorino and some salt and pepper and mix before piling on to the crostini.
For black and green olive tapenade topping
Roughly tear 125g/4oz of black and green olives, mix with 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 tbsp of thyme leaves, 4 chopped anchovy fillets and a splash of sherry vinegar. Add some pepper and 4 tbsp of olive oil and pile on to the crostini.
For goat's curd with chilli and herbs topping
Chop a handful of basil and flat-leaf parsley leaves and mix with 4 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes. Spread the crostini with 150g/5oz of goat's curd, add some herbs and serve.
Char-grilled tuna and vegetable salad
A bit of a 1980s throwback, this – a lot easier than a Niçoise but just as delicious. The tuna steaks taste even better if you happen to have a barbecue on the go.
Olive oil, for brushing
3 courgettes, cut into 2cm diagonal slices
2 fennel, cut into wedges, throngs reserved
4 x 120g/4oz tuna steaks
300g/10oz mixed tomatoes, halved
400g/13oz can flageolet beans, drained
For the dressing
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
50ml/2fl oz olive oil
Heat a griddle pan or barbecue to hot, pat the surface of the courgettes and fennel dry with some paper towel, then brush sparingly with a little oil. Put on the griddle and cook for about 1 minute on each side, flip over and cook for a further minute. Remove from the griddle and allow to cool.
Brush the tuna steaks with a little more olive oil and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove and rest for a few minutes.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together with the reserved fennel throngs, lay the courgettes and fennel over a big platter with the tomatoes and beans, pour over half the dressing and toss gently. Break up or slice the tuna, pile on top and pour over the remaining dressing.
This is delicious served with some rose harissa on the side.
Apricot, almond and orange blossom tart
The ingredients for this sound almost like something you could add to your bath, but I assure you that wouldn't be a good idea. Delicately perfumed with a hint of Middle Eastern promise, it's as good as pudding gets. And the beauty of the dough is that no rolling is needed.
For the pastry
185g/6½oz butter, melted and cooled
130g/4¼oz caster sugar
260g/8¼oz plain flour
2 tbsp ground almonds
For the filling
170ml/6fl oz double cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp caster sugar
Few drops orange-blossom water
2 tbsp plain flour
500g/1lb apricots, pitted and halved
For the topping
50g/2oz Marcona almonds, sliced
15g/½oz icing sugar
Pouring cream or ice-cream
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Grease a 20cm x 15cm baking tray. To make the pastry, stir the butter and sugar in a bowl then add the flour and stir to combine. Transfer the dough to the tin and press over the base and up the sides. Put the tin on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes or until golden and slightly puffy. Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the almonds.
Meanwhile, make the filling: whisk the cream, eggs and sugar together. Add the orange-blossom water (if you can find it – the recipe will still work without) and flour and stir to combine. Lay the apricots in the tin, pour over the cream mixture then return to the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Leave the oven on.
Mix the almonds and icing sugar together, spread on a lined baking sheet and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, until golden and candied. Remove, cool, then break up and scatter over before serving with ice-cream or pouring cream.
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