A French Affair

A French Affair

Love is in the air

I set off during the first days of Spring in Melbourne to have an affair. Not what you may think as this French Affair is a love story of herbs sauces, opera singers and Michelin star chefs.

Forget the lavender fields of Provence they were harvested in late summer before I arrived so the herbs I am tasting in my food are mint and thyme. So many culinary herbs like tarragon, thyme, sage and oregano grow from cracks and crevices in concrete paths and walls everywhere I go. The French urban landscape is a natural kitchen garden 

I am smitten with thyme. From its subtle smell to its earthy minty slightly lemony flavour. The French are practical people who cook with seasonal produce. Food is fresh wholesome and tasty. French cuisine is simple traditional cooking that has been raised to art form by French chefs.

I love the consideration of every ingredient in a recipe and the use of restraint to create perfection on a plate. I can only tell you how wonderful thyme paired with slow cooked beef, chicken and fish plat de jour. Brilliant with goat’s cheese and seasoning for onions potatoes peas and carrots. It is also used to bring out the floral qualities of fruits like tomatoes cherries figs honeydew grapes pears and peaches in desserts. It’s also wonderful with lemon in cocktails.


A fruity affair

Sunshine is in abundance in the south of France which explains the plethora of orchards and vineyards. Apples and pears, plums and peaches are the key ingredients in many delicious desserts including the queen of desserts” tart tartan” which I consider a perfect example of layering flavours and texture. First the buttery pastry covered with a thin custard layer topped with generous slices of apple bedded in custard. Absolutely delicious. 

French chef Auguste Escoffier considered the father of modern French cuisine created over 5000 recipes including Escoffier’s traditional ‘sauce tomate’ and Peach Melba (French: pêche Melba) This famous French dessert of peaches and raspberry sauce over vanilla ice cream was created to honour Australian soprano singer Nellie Melba who “in her day” was one of the most famous singers touring Europe. To distinguish herself from other classical musicians Nellie took the pseudonym “Melba” from her hometown of Melbourne. Botanikos honours both the chef and the singer with our subtly herbaceous version of a Peach Melba in a glass.


Moving on

Over the last two weeks I have discovered a whole new world of wine, food, history, and the art of using culinary herbs in France. Reading French menus has been a challenge but also fun deciphering words and realising that studying French in high school wasn’t a total waste of time. Years of ballet classes and hours of watching MasterChef on TV were also very helpful. I am reminded that we speak many French words, with many hidden in plain sight in our expansive English vocabulary.

Right now, everything feels in perfect harmony, but this affair is ending as I make my way into Spain with bottles of French wine and liquor packed into my bulging suitcase. Spain is a country I know well from previous visits, and I welcome the simplicity of slow walking with my backpack and honest farm food washed down with delicious red wine and tasty Sangrias.


Au revoir Dearest France and Hola Sunny Spain


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