Imagine a family where all the different generations have, at some point, lived in the same place, on the same farm, have cooked in the same kitchen and pruned the same trees. Caroline Rimbert Craig, author of Provence: The Cookbook, is such a person and her cookbook is filled with recipes that “rhyme with the seasons” and reflect her pride and love of her ancestral home.
“I’m from an agricultural family, which until my great-grandfather’s generation, was a subsistence farm,” says Craig, who lives in London and co-writes the Lunchbox column for the Guardian newspaper. “Everything that was eaten came off the land or was bartered from neighbours and today it would be unthinkable to buy or cook anything out of season. Ever. It’s just not worth the compromise on taste and it is not part of our culture.”
In Provence, she explains, recipes and meals are inextricably linked to the weather outside, the jobs that need doing in the fields, the fresh produce from the garden, combined with herbs that have been carefully dried. She hopes this book will appeal to people who want to cook a type of modern Mediterranean fare firmly rooted in the past.
“Both younger generations who love to travel and follow their stomachs around the world … and an older generation who like to serve complexly flavoured but simply executed food,” she says.
As she writes in her book, this recipe below, “is probably a record, a cookbook recipe containing only one ingredient. Yet this is what is beautiful about apples: cooked in their own juices and then puréed, they form a simple yet fragrant compote.”
Ingredients (Makes approximately 8½ cups or 2 litres)
- 6 lbs 10 oz (3 kgs) eating apples (15 to 18 apples, depending on their size) peeled, cored, quartered, then halved
- 3–5 sterilized pint-size (16 oz/500 mL) preserving jars
- 1 extra-large lidded pot (for canning)
Place the prepared apples in a large pot. Cover the pot and place over low heat. Allow the apples to gently steam in their own juices for about 45 minutes, keeping a close eye on them and stirring every so often, until they are tender. If you are concerned about the apples catching, add a few tablespoons of water. After 45 minutes, use a potato masher to crush them in the pan. Gently cook the mashed apples (there should be barely a wisp of a bubble) for a further 5 to 10 minutes, then follow up with a handheld immersion blender or food processor for a silky-smooth finish.
While the apples are cooking, ready the jars. When the compote is ready, you might wish to pour half into a serving bowl to enjoy over the coming days (set it aside to cool, then cover and place the bowl in the fridge until use). Using a funnel, pour the remaining compote into the jars while it is still hot, leaving ¾ inch (2 cm) of headspace at the top of each jar. Cover with the lids.
Place a canning rack or clean dish towel in the bottom of your extra-large pot and add as many jars as will fit. Fill with enough hot water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch (2.5 cm). Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the water is boiling vigorously, set a timer for one hour.
After an hour, turn off the heat and leave the pot to cool slightly. Remove the jars and allow them to cool very slowly. Once cool, check the seals. If any of the jars haven’t sealed, refrigerate and use immediately. Stick a label on the sealed jars indicating the year and the contents (an oft-overlooked but important step), and store in a cool dark place. Use within a year. Refrigerate after opening.
Recipes excerpted from Provence: The Cookbook by Caroline Rimbert Craig, published by Interlink Books. Recipe copyright © Caroline Rimbert Craig, 2019. Photographs © Susan Bell. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.