Tag Archives: Southern France

Camargue Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale

Camargue France Flaminigos Bull White Horses Salt

Photos: Flamingos by Enric Perich, Black Bull by Michael Osmenda, Horses in the Wild by efilpera, Salins du Midi by Giovanni Tabbò

A protected region since 1927, the Camargue, in Southern France, is known for pink flamingos, black bulls, wild white horses, along with fleur de sel and many varieties of rice, including white, black, red, round, long and short.

In celebration of the start of the rice harvest, marked by a Rice Feria in Arles this weekend, I put together a Camargue inspired harvest main course for you. On the menu is Red Rice with a Fennel and Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale.

I tracked Camargue wild red rice down locally in Switzerland at Globus.  You can also order it online through a number of sellers. Or, substitute black wild rice, just adjust the rice to stock ratio and cooking time according to the rice producer’s directions.

Dorade Royale is a flavourful, meaty-white fish found primarily found in the Mediterranean Sea. Perfect for cooking whole (watch for bones when eating). If you want to know more about this, and other varieties of fish, perhaps check out this great blog that I came across, Better Know a Fish. It’s written by Ben Young Landis, who notes he “is a science communicator by day, amateur cook by night, and fish geek 24/7.”

Camargue Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale

Camargue Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale

Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit

Adapted from a this recipe on the Riz de Camargue website. Camargue red rice should be cooked just until done, the rice grains will be slightly chewy and not fully split open. The rice has a pleasant nutty flavour.

100 g  ( 1 cup) Camargue red rice
150 g ( 1 1/4 cup) fennel (about 1 small bulb), cut in small dice
1 shallot, finely diced
65 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
50 cl (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf and basil)
150 g ( 1 1/2 cups)
tomato (about 2 medium-sized), cut in small dice
25 g (a bit less than 1/4 cup) pine nuts, lightly toasted
10 black Nyons olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
10 ml (2 teaspoons) fennel seed
leur de sel and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Few sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

In a heavy-bottomed medium sauce pan, sauté the diced shallot in 15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil until translucent; add red rice and sauté for 1 minute, then add the bouquet garni, pour in the hot vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 50 minutes; don’t stir the rice, do check it occasionally near the end of the cooking time.  There should be no liquid left after cooking. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.

About 25 minutes before the rice has finished cooking, heat the remaining 50 ml (3 tablespoons) of olive oil in a frying pan, add the diced fennel and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, chopped black olives, pine nuts and fennel seeds, heat until just warmed through.

To serve, place rice is a serving dish or on individual plates, top with fennel and tomato mixture, season with fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with minced fresh parsley.

Serves 2   Preparation time:  15 minutes   Total time:  1 hour 10 minutes

Dorade Royale (aka Daurade, Sea Bream and Sea Bass, plus a lot more)

I’m a fan of keeping it simple when it comes to fresh fish, allowing its flavour to take the stage.

2 each 250 gm (1/2 lb) whole fresh sea bream, scaled and gutted
Fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper, to taste
15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil
Slices of fresh lemon, to garnish and season

Sprigs of fresh rosemary

Heat up your grill or barbecue to medium-high (I check the temperature by holding my hand, palm down about 2 inches above the grate, if I can hold it there for 3 seconds before it gets too hot, then the grill is ready). Season the inside and outside of the fish with the fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle on the olive oil. Grill the fish for about 3 – 4 minutes per side until the flesh is opaque.

Serve the cooked fish whole with slices of lemon and a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Note: I used a lightly-oiled stainless perforated grill sheet when cooking the fish. If you place your fish directly on the grate, lightly brush some oil on the grate first.

Serves 2   Preparation time:  15 minutes Total time:  25 minutes

Holding on to Summer with Les Toiles du Soleil

I’ve had this magazine page in my “inspiration” file for years. The sunset, ocean, colours and stripes are quite appealing to me. Even on the cloudiest of winter days, I can feel the sun when I look at the picture (very happy it’s still summer though).

Tear SheetSo, when I passed by Carnet de Voyage, a shop in Arles, I almost jumped for joy. Their window displays were full of totes, beach chairs, kitchen towels and rolls of fabric similar to the striped fabrics on my tear sheet.

Colourful Stripes

The fabric that I had for so long admired, but never found anywhere until that day, is made by a company called Les Toiles du Soleil. In English, the company name translates to Canvases of the Sun. Quite fitting I think.


The colourways make me think of summer and southern France.

Organic Fruits and Vegetables, Avignon Photo: val'sphotos

Organic Fruits and Vegetables, Avignon Photo: val’sphotos


Nice’s Lamp Photo: Natalia Romay

The heavy 100% cotton canvas is available in a number of widths, making it suitable for many decor applications.


Fabrics Swatches Photos: Knoxville Museum of Art


La Fenêtre Provençale (Roussillon) Photo: Vincent Brassinne


Photo: Pinterest


Photo: via Pinterest

Ideal for using in a child’s room.

Or, for lampshades.


Purple Fields, St-Julien Photo: marcovdz


Cassis Winter Photo: marcovdz

And when your memories of summer have faded in January, then perhaps a trip to the Carribean will be in order. At Hotel d’Toiny, a Chateux and Relais hotel located in Saint Barthélemy, you can enjoy the sun and a suite decorated with Les Toiles du Soleil fabrics.

And if not…

Taking Refuge in Arles

Summer (and come to think of it, fall, winter, and spring) escapes are always wonderful. One summer trip that I took was to the south of France. I travelled with a long-time girlfriend. We’ve been friends for over 30 years (time goes by all too quickly) and this was the first time we had ever travelled together.

It was a leisurely vacation, taken at the start of the holiday season in Europe. Ignoring all the common sense warnings about booking hotels in advance, we made our travel plans daily. With only a few must-see places on our wish lists, we followed our whims and the recommendations of the very friendly locals and travellers from France whom we met here and there.

Our first overnight stay was in Annecy (the one and only pre-booked hotel). On the second night, we took refuge in Arles.

Arles Rue du Refuge L: Mine  R:Andrea Shaffer

Arles Rue du Refuge Photos L: Mine R:Andrea Shaffer

Below, is the view along Rue du Refuge, so very Arles-like. It’s a narrow cobblestone street, lined with row-houses having pale stucco walls and brightly painted shutters. Pots of bougainvillea greeted us with fragrant bursts of colour.Rue du Refuge faces the Amphitheatre.  Built in 90 AD by the Romans, the Amphitheatre’s design is similar to the Colosseum in Rome, a little smaller, with room for ONLY 20,000 spectators. When the Roman empire fell in the 5th century, the site became a shelter. Later, it contained houses and chapels. In the early 1800’s, they were torn down and the Amphitheatre was restored. More here.Arles France Ampitheatre We meandered through the streets, finding wonderful vistas around every corner. No events were going on at the Ampitheatre while we were in Arles. Since we weren’t dodging crowds (or bulls), our relatively slow pace allowed us time to catch up on each other’s lives.

Arles France Reattu

Arles Twisted Columns

Arles Street and Street Art

Photos: L:Katherine Hala, R: Mine

Arles Shutters Paired

While walking through the city, in search of a restaurant on our second night, we passed the Thermes de Constantine. Originally Roman public baths, now a Unesco World Heritage site, they date from the 4th century.

Roman Public Bath Ruins, ca 4th Century. Arles, France.

Roman Public Bath Ruins, ca 4th Century. Arles, France.

Arles has a vibrant arts culture. One of the annual highlights is The Rencontres d’Arles, a summer-long international photography festival. The works, including still photography and film, are exhibited in beautiful historic venues throughout the city, many of which are only accessible to the public during the festival. If you do have the opportunity to attend the photography exhibit, allow at least 2 days to take it in.

Also not to be missed, are the street art installations. While strolling the side-streets and alleyways we came across many gems. We met the adorable gentleman below by the Rhône. He was looking slightly lost, as he made his way to the doorway that led nowhere.

Arles Street Art Ruins Losing the Ice Cream

Actually, the door to nowhere led to a shaded courtyard. The shade compliments of a majestic plane tree. I liked how the tree was admiring its reflection in the window.Arles Plantain My girlfriend and I spent two days in Arles before carrying on with our travels. Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin spent nine weeks together in Arles

Van Gogh moved to Arles in early 1888. Later that year, in the studio that he named “The Yellow House,” Van Gogh took steps to set up his long hoped for artists’ colony. He envisioned a collaborative environment. In a letter to his brother Theo, dated May 1, 1888, Vincent lightly mentions Gauguin as a potential artist to join him at the studio. Six months later, after receiving many invitations from Van Gogh, Gauguin arrived at the studio. Below are images of the self-portraits which Van Gogh and Gauguin exchanged shortly before Gauguin’s arrival in Arles.  Arle Vincent Van Gogh Paul Gauguin - Self-portraitTheir studio “collaboration” ended abruptly with the infamous “ear” incident. There are two theories about what happened. The original one, suggests Van Gogh sliced off a piece of his ear in a fit. According to another, yet inconclusive theory, during a violent argument between Van Gogh and Gauguin, Gauguin sliced Van Gogh’s ear with his sword after being attached by Van Gogh. This alternative is based on 10 years of research undertaken by the German academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans. They dug through police records, letters written by the two artists and other documents, eventually writing the book “Van Goghs Ohr: Paul Gauguin und der Pakt des Schweigens” (title translates to “Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence”).

While Van Gogh and Gauguin’s weeks together in Arles were disagreeable (appropriately called a “Clash of the Titans” by writer Lyn Bolen Rushton in this article) and ended tumultuously, I am happy my friend and I did not meet the same fate. Our ears are intact and we are still friends. I hope to travel with her again in the future.


Additional Reading and Sources:

1. Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, Douglas W. Druick and Peter Kort Zegers
2. Van Gogh’s Ear, Adam Gopnik for The New Yorker
3. Van Goghs Ohr: Paul Gauguin und der Pakt des Schweigens, Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans (in German only)

Photographs: All by Sara Lynne Moffatt, with two exceptions. Right-hand photo of Rue du Refuge is by Andrea Schaffer.  Photo of the mother and child (left of the Bulls mural) is by Katherine Hala. Images of the paintings per the links.