Sud de France as a brand, pull together, primarily wine, but also the produce of the South of France region of Languedoc-Roussillon, bringing together a range of wonderful quality ingredients in one place, making life a little simpler for the consumer. I was asked if I wanted to create a recipe using those mediterranean flavours for a competition. Why not?
A quick google of the traditional dishes of the region confirms my feelings that they have things pretty well sewn up. The cuisine is simple, flavours fresh and vibrant, and to be honest I didn’t feel it needed meddling with. The most well known dishes of the region are the absolute classics cassoulet and ratatoullis. Produce of the area includes many inspiring ingredients however; aubergines, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, cherries, figs, peaches, olives, goats cheeses, lamb, honey, black truffles and lashings of olive oil.
I decided the best way to approach this was to try and transport those rich mediterranean flavours into my cold English kitchen and use them to brighten up something I might make on an average week day. Without feeling the need to re-invent the wheel, I chose to base my recipe around something I make in various renditions fairly regularly; pizzettes or flatbreads. Whatever you choose to call them, I love a bit of bread, it’s easily transportable, easy to eat at the computer (as I so often do) and it’s a great base for bringing together a symphony of flavours, though I’ll admit maybe not the first thing at springs to mind when you think French cuisine.
I couldn’t choose between doing something sweet, based around that classic pairing of figs and goats cheese or the more hearty and earthy combination of aubergine, sweet onions, wild mushrooms, with a sweet cheese from the pyrenees. So I made one of each. They’re only small so would make great nibbling along with wines from the region.
Makes 4-6 bases:
350g ’00′ flour
175ml warm water
drizzle truffle oil
fast action yeat sachet
Stir yeast into the warm water with a pinch of sugar. When it starts to foam, pour into the centre of a bowl filled with your flour and salt, drizzle in some truffle oil. Stir until it starts to come together, then tip on to a clean work surface and knead until elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl until it has doubled in size (around an hour).
Preheat you oven to it’s highest setting and place a flat baking sheet on the top shelf. Roll out your dough into thin rough circles, then add your toppings. Slide directly onto the hot baking tray and bake for 5-10 minutes depending on how good your oven is (mine’s rubbish & takes the full 10). Remove when the base is crisp and golden and the cheese is bubbling.
For my first, I added a simple spoonful of chopped tomatoes to the truffle oil enriched base. Piled on soft, sweet, fried onions, thinly slices fried aubergines, a handful of wild mushrooms, then cubes (around 30g) of sweet and nutty Ossau Iraty, some little basil leaves add frangrance and a pop of colour. The flavours here are satisfyingly rich and mediterranean without any heaviness.
My second is a far sweeter affair; sweet and musky. I add fig slices to the same base, crumble over cooked chestnuts, soft goats cheese, then drizzle over a simple combination of honey and olive oil. As it cooks the figs release their juicy sweetness and mingle with the honey and oil.