Sunday, July 30, 2023

Tropical Ginger, Coconut and Lemon Slice

Allow me to present a nostalgic and vintage style slice for you on a Sunday. At this time of year in our Southern Hemisphere Winter, which I am loving, ginger is my favourite spice, and I use it whenever I can in savoury and sweet cooking. Ginger has an irresistable combination  of hot, clean and cool flavours. Although to be honest, Middle Eastern Baharat comes a close second to Ginger for me, and I use it in my iced Ginger Cake or my Ginger Syrup Cake (same recipe). I try to always substitute Baharat for the mixed spice. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Dining in and around Montpellier in southern France - some of my favourite places

France is a culinary hotbed for delicious food and I was fortunate to sample some of it in and around Montpellier with my son, Matthew, somewhat of a local now, and to dine in some restaurants that tourists aren't familiar with.  

La Tomate is a very typical French restaurant, serving real French food. Matthew had been invited there previously by some French friends and was very keen to take me there as well. We finally managed to eat there on the last evening of my stay which was a lovely French experience to finish with. Fish soup is a specialty on the menu here, but we didn't really feel like soup in Summer. Steak tartare, the very raw meat patty is available too of course, and it takes courage to order that but is delicious if made in the traditional way. I'm also pretty sure that frog legs and snails were on the menu as you would expect, however if you have your heart set on eating snails or frog legs, it would be a good idea to check the menu to ensure they are being offered. I've eaten them before when we visited Paris, so didn't feel the need to try them this time. We were really happy with the delicious food we ordered, and the almost homely but elegant way in which it was presented.

I ordered Confit de Canard, delicious duck on a bed of vegetable pasta, with grilled eggplant and greens in the pot.

Poached Sole above and below, in a Beurre Blanc sauce (I think) with vegetables, and radishes for a  garnish around the plate. It was also served with eggplant and some rice and vegetables in the pot. Matthew said the fish was delicious and quite a light meal, which was a good thing as we had already been out to lunch that day! Well it was my last day in France. This meal was delicious in its simplicity. 

There weren't any children's meals on the menu, as could be expected, so we ordered Hugo a French  burger. It was huge, and he ate what he could, so naturally Matthew finished the rest of it. It also came with delicious potato wedges and some eggplant. It could have served two people.

A few photos before dessert.

Dessert definitely had the wow factor for me. This classic Crème Brulée is the best I have ever eaten.

Matthew ordered an ice cream parfait which he enjoyed.

My amazing grandson was smitten with his profiteroles and ice cream. He very kindly offered us a taste, and they were really special.

Matthew at the entrance to La Tomate looking quite pensive at the end of a wonderful night.

When we were leaving, the surrounding streets were full of restaurants and lots of diners.

There was this street on the way back to our car without any restaurants or vehicles in it.


Braise is located in suburban Montpellier at:
Quartier des Beaux Arts
42 Avenue Saint-Lazare, 34000 Montpellier
t. 04 99 62 64 25

Braise isn't in the tourist district of Montpellier, it's near a cemetery, a florist and a school, and most of its clientele are business and corporate people, and so the standard is very high. However, with access to a hire car, the restaurant is very accessible. Matthew and I only intended a visit to the boulangerie next door, but when we arrived, he suggested we should have lunch at Braise instead. The Boulanger Pâtissier Glacier next door is called Palais Saint Lazarre. A few photos of that a bit later though. It was my last day in Montpellier, and we were already booked to dine out that evening at La Tomate, but despite that he said to me that as it was my last day, we should make the most of it, so we did. Magnifique.

I had the best experience at Braise, it wasn't just about eating a meal, enjoying it with good company and leaving. We arrived before the real lunchtime rush, we were seated inside close to the kitchen, and could see the two young chefs cooking. I couldn't help myself and went to the kitchen counter and chatted to the head chef after the entrée and the main meal because they were exquisite meals, and I wanted to personally thank them, and also hopefully gain a few tips about the preparation. They were very generous with their time and their information. 

The entrance to Braise. There is seating inside and outside.

A substantial wine cellar to choose from. We just ordered by the glass as it was lunchtime!

My entrée was raw fish, not sure which variety, possibly sole, served in a delicious French Béchamel sauce, and garnished with small purees of glossy green deliciousness. I asked the chef how they made the green garnish, and he very kindly told me that he uses grape leaves and olive oil, blended to the right consistency and strained. I'm sure there is more to it than that though. It was delicious. To be honest I didn't know I was ordering raw fish, but it was amazing. My order was changed to this one when the chef realised my original order was loaded with nuts which I can't eat. I missed that this was raw fish when the dish was being explained to me by the waiter, but I'm so pleased I had it.

We both ordered the Filet de Boeuf (Beef) for the main, which was tender and delicious, but an additional highlight for me were the whole braised leeks and carrots, cooked to perfection. Just near where we parked across the road from Braise, we saw a very successful market garden in a large paddock. The chef told me all of their seasonal vegetables came from there. From paddock to plate is alive and well at Braise.

The layered Apricot dessert was just outstanding. I saw the apricots served with the tart marinating in a jar on the counter in the kitchen. The chef used thyme and some kind of alcohol in the marinade, and the apricot was exquisite. I really enjoy an apricot dessert.  

There are lots of other delicatessen items for sale as well in the restaurant.

Palais Saint Lazare Boulangerie and Pâtisserie, a few photos. 

Located at 42 avenue Saint Lazarre 34000 Montpellier, phone 04 67 72  00 12, next door to Braise. They also have a good website.
We still purchased a baguette here after lunch to take home.



Enjoying the taste of an authentic Mediterranean seafood lunch with Matthew and Hugo in Sète.

If you would like to read more about Sète, a charming fishing village on the Mediterranean, within driving distance of Montpellier, and all that if offers, you can find what I wrote about it in a previous post here.

St Martin-de-Londres

We had a wonderful day when we drove with the children to St Martin-de-Londres, which is very close to the famous wine and hiking region of Pic Saint Loup. We ate lunch at a small restaurant in the village called Sous le Platane.

A glass of this wine was delicious with our lunch.

A delicious Salad Niçoise, it was very fresh and salty.

Fish and chips for the children, it was really good as well.

Steak, fries and salad, it was very well cooked.

Dessert was such a pleasant surprise. Matthew knew what it was, so we ordered Café Gourmand.

Café Gourmand Dessert, a sample of 4 desserts with coffee.

Café Gourmand

Café Gourmand as a dessert is the French Mini-dessert trend. It is a ménage à trois (threesome) or quatre (four), of mini-desserts and is a wonderful way to sample a selection of the chefs best offerings with a coffee as well. It is a wonderfully light way of approaching a dessert to share. Mini chocolate puddings with chocolate sauce and cream, macarons, miniature tarts, or a mini millefeuille or French pastry are all popular to serve on the plate of a Café Gourmand.  According to an article in Bon Appétit, on December12, 2012, this trend was sweeping America. I wonder if it did. Such a lovely way to eat dessert at the end of a three course meal or plat du jour.

Saint-de-Martin-de-Londres is steeped in history from the 12th century, and deserves a post of it's own.

The village square

Pic Saint Loup in the distance.

A beautiful little flower shop just over the road.

Le Coté Jardin


41 Rue de l'Aiguelongue

34000 Montpellier

Tel:  04 67 41 20 46

This photo courtesy of the restaurants website

And to finish, we ate lunch one day with Hugo, at a small restaurant just down the hill from where Matthew lives in Aiguelongue, that I always walked past to catch the blue tram. I just had to show you this stunning breaded fish dish, surrounded by a delicious sauce and more of those little green garnish drops. These must be the trademark of the French chef at the moment. Because we ordered an entrée, we didn't order dessert even though it was available for the Plat du Jour, or the daily special. I don't have a photo of the entrée unfortunately, but it reminded me of a Middle Eastern pastry, and was delicious and quite filling. The trees in the middle of the restaurant were a real talking point. 

Once again a burger and French fries was available for the children. An American style burger with a French béchamel sauce, interesting..

Bon appétit and thankyou for visiting.