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A Meal in Provence

Recently Chris Skilling, our Director of Worldwide Product, was inspired by a typical Provencal meal prepared by VBT Trip Leader Vero.  Check out his post below.

france bicycle vacation “Food is my religion!” exclaimed Vero as we discussed the prevalence of processed food. Even in France.  “Never in my home,” she offered up.  We were in her garden, behind her home in Avignon. The heat of the day had passed, and a table for four was being set on the patio. My offer to help was met with instruction in setting a table “the French way” (fork with tines facing down to the left of the plate, knife on the right, spoon at the top of the plate and only with dessert).

We were in for a treat.  Vero is a veteran VBT trip leader, and a trained French chef.  She had prepared dinner for us, using fresh ingredients bought at the local market that very morning.  While her meal preparation certainly differed from my own, I learned that this is how Vero operates whenever she is cooking, even if just for herself.  Food is better than religion, I’m thinking!

The food was chosen for its color on the table.  Each ingredient is included to complement the others.  Wine is selected and attention is paid to what is in-season and fresh.  The result is a meal that appeals to the eye as well as the tongue.

The evening raced by, time passing too quickly, and it was all just so enjoyable.

These wonderful food experiences (they are, after all, so much more than a meal!) took place over and over for me during my four days in Provence.  Sitting down to fresh food, prepared thoughtfully and presented with care, had breathed new life into something that had become all too routine at home.

Meal time in Provence had reminded me of just what taking an active vacation is all about.  Why not join Vero on a VBT biking or walking trip in Provence, and be inspired too!


An aperitif of Pernod & water on ice

A chilled Semillon (white wine)

Locally grown olives

Fig spread and hard cheese

The day’s bread, grilled with olive oil

A local Merlot (red wine)

Roasted red and yellow peppers

Beef Daube (slow cooked Provencal beef stew)

Potato Gratin

Cheese tray, including a local Banon

Apricot compote


Herbal teas/coffee

Duck marinated in a delicious mahogany brown mushroom sauce

Enjoy duck marinated in a delicious mahogany brown mushroom sauce finished with a walnut and parsley chive mixture…. Bon Appétit!


Breast of Duck with Mushrooms and Walnuts
Serves 8

  • 4 breasts of duck, trimmed of all membranes
  • 500 gms (1lb) white mushrooms, thoroughly washed and cut
    into quarters or eighths depending on size
  • 4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of chives, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch of parsley, washed and finely chopped
  • 24 perfect walnut halves
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1 cup good brown stock
  • 1 tabs flour

First brown the walnuts. Heat the oven to 125C/240F. Set the walnuts on a baking tray in the middle of the oven and slow-roast for 45 minutes. They will be delicious and evenly browned throughout. Set aside.

Preheat the over to 240C/475F

With a sharp knife, deeply score the skin side of the duck breasts.

Generously salt and pepper both sides of the breasts. Set aside while your oven comes up to temperature.

Heat a heavy bottomed, high-sided skillet over a high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until it begins to smoke slightly. Add the 4 breasts, skin-side down, and cook for 4 minutes. The duck will render great amounts of fat and the skin will become a delicious mahogany brown. Turn over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove to a baking dish. Place in oven for 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes in a warm place, covering loosely with foil. This is the timing for rare meat.

Pour off all but 3 tabs duck fat from the skillet. Add the shallots, cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes until translucent, then add the garlic for a further minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes covered, stirring occasionally. Stir in the flour, add the wine and then the brown stock. Simmer for 5 minutes. Finally stir in most of the parsley and chives, reserving some for garnish.

Slice the duck breasts, pour over the sauce and finish with the walnuts and parsley and chive mixture.



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