38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2003
There is one line in this book that sums up the entire spirit of it: the author suggests peeling tomatoes for a recipe but then adds "but as I become more of a cook and less of a chef I do this less and less".
This is a book for cooks not chefs. It is warm hearted and user friendly and inspirational. It draws on the fine skill and love of food of a chef but translates the recipe in to something real and human for a cook. The ingredients lists are beautifully short. The pictures gorgeous. The rythym of the book follows the rythym of the seasons.
Alex Mackay has a real understanding of food and provencal food but is never academic or obsessional in approach. Each recipe is given space and a meaningful introduction.
It is in essence a book of relatively simple recipes but each with a true and unique provencal flavour. I have so far enjoyed the Onion Tian - a kind of onion pie which where the onions are braised and baked for hours until they are meltingly gorgeous. Also mushrooms with chestnuts in red wine as a first course with crusty french bread - which took all of 4 minutes to prepare but look and tasted superb. Daube Nicoise - the regional equivalent of Boef Bourginon - which was a triumph: I used very cheap cuts of stewing steak (to save money) and simmered at 95 degrees in the oven for many hours (with the orange peel and black olives for true provencal flavour) and the result was tender melting and delicious beef, in fact a dinner party for 6 for a about £5 of beef.
The book is not at all about being parsimonious - quite the opposite. But it is a delight to make wonderful food for pence because each cut of meat, or ordinary vegetable is valued and treated with creativity.
A delightful book that knows its subject, is a pleasure to use and actually encourages and inspires one to cook the recipes in it. Also a wonderful coffee table book if you're in to that sort of thing.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2003
For those who can't afford a trip to Alex Mackay's wonderful cooking school in Provence, this is the next best thing. Alex once ran the cooking school at the Manoir aux Quatres Saisons, and now has his own near San Tropez. He is a born teacher, and his infectious enthusiasm and sense of humour come through clearly in the book. A treasure trove of Provencal recipes, the book is graced by the extraordinary photography of Peter Knab. Food porn, and on top of that, the carefully devised recipes will encourage you to experiment, and allow you to recreate the savours and smells of a glorious corner of the world. This book has my highest recommendation.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2003
Anyone expecting this to be just a terrific Provencal cookbook is in for a very pleasant surprise. Alex Mackay's mastery of french cuisine has become almost a given, especially for those who have had the chance to sample his work in Britain or on the continent. What surprises most about this new book is the incredible richness and depth of the recipes and the vibrant photographic textures of Peter Knab. One need not be a master chef like Alex to indulge in the delicious imagery of this book.
More than just a cookbook, this is just as much a carefully guided and informed tour into the culinary heart and soul of Provence. Peter Knab takes the book far beyond the kitchen, to the fields and overflowing family gatherings of the sun-drenched region.
Finding this book in the dead of an otherwise dreary winter provided a delightful escape to what seems a better place and time. I can't help but think that Alex Mackay's classic recipes, once attempted, will get us closer still.
Ah, Provence, to savor its flavors again. Some British friends gave us this book at "our" gite in Provence, with a dedication: "Here's some inspiration for the next decade." And with all those twists and turns that life can dish out, as it were, this book does remain that: an inspiration, as though one more was needed, to return to Provence.
Just for the photographs alone, this book is an essential purchase. Peter Knab has done the photography, and my British friend, who is also professional photographer explained how difficult it is to realistically photograph food dishes. And every picture is flawless. Time, and time again, Knab gets the light just right. He leavens the food pictures with a well-balanced selection of Provencal scenes, including the long outdoor table, wine glasses already half full, awaiting your arrival.
Alex Mackay is a New Zealander who did his apprenticeship in Michelin-starred kitchens in Courchevel, Beaune and Tours, before teaming up with Knab, and opening Le Baou d'Infer cooking school in the heart of the Var departement, half way between Hyeres and St. Tropez, with the local market being at Cogolin. There is not an index to the recipes, so I'd estimate them to be around 100, each one a "must" before you shake off your mortal coil.
Regrettably, this book seems to have been a "high water mark" of a dream. I received the book, the first edition, in the year it was published, 2003, and the cooking school closed its doors in 2004. And I can find no explanation for its demise, with Mackay apparently running another cooking school in England.
The only criticism of the book is that some of the text must have been written after one too many pastis. Hyperventilating? In the section entitled "Au Bord de la Mer," Mackay says, in regards to the local fish market: "Each fishmonger is so, so proud and truly enthusiastic... the fishmonger is deftly scaling, gutting and lovingly packaging your choice." Hum.
Alas, the "catch," as it were, is in the title. It is cooking IN Provence, and so many of the ingredients cannot be replicated elsewhere. And who would not want to enhance one's appetite with a walk along "au bord de la mer," along the edge of the sea, in those rock pools at low tide, and that wonderful stimulating aroma, the salt you can literally taste, and then return for some wine and oysters, simply prepared, a feast to satiate, and to be shared. Despite the overblown text, 5-stars, plus, for the continued inspiration.
on 19 July 2015
I've owned this book for about a year and in that year, I've been lucky enough to go on two of Alex's cookery courses. Firstly, Alex is the most amazing teacher in the kitchen; each course I went on, I got back home and my cooking skills were turbo-charged for weeks! Cooking in Provence is more than just a fantastic guide to southern French cooking, it's one of the few cookery books I keep in the kitchen all the time and use all the time. The aioli, fougasse and tomato tarte I make all the time with total success. I've also tried a number of other recipes, usually, foolishly ( as first time) , when the in-laws are coming around, and they have all worked beautifully - especially the pissaladiere ( spelling? caramelised onion tart) and the chicken in red wine with is like coq au vin but much better with the addition of orange zest & the very French garnish. Can't recommend enough - & try and get on one of his courses!