A Taste of France – II

This simple chicken dish sounds exotic, but it isn’t really.  What adds an extra dimension to it is the Herbes de Provence.  I’ve written about them before, and use them quite often.  Those blogs, alas, are lost somewhere in cyberspace.  It turns out to be a mixed blessing.  I’m refining quite a few of my recipes and the idea of a book is beginning to develop some momentum.  Just yesterday, I was chatting with a school friend in Melbourne, Australia.  She’s been one of my staunches supporters and helped instigate this blog about six years ago.  Some of the recipes I use are inspired by chats we’ve had. On Sunday Suppers, when I said we were coming up to the third anniversary, she said

Wow! I really enjoy seeing your posts and your menus come to life.

I do love it that I have friends, some not seen for a gazillion years, who virtually join us at our table.  All through what I share here, Instagram and via Facebook.  It’s coming up three years since we started hosting Sunday Suppers in The Sandbag House.  Because we’ve not been able to host Sunday Suppers since march, I’m writing up recipes on a Sunday afternoon instead of cooking up a storm.  It’s strange.  It also seems apt to be sharing a recipe that was the main course for that first Sunday Supper, and one that takes one travelling.  Without leaving McGregor.  We also have to come to terms with this new virtual reality.  I imagine that international travel will, for the forseeable future, be severely curtailed.

Travelling through one’s food

Perhaps then, it’s apt that today’s recipe is influenced by provincial French cuisine.  Hearty, warming and comforting.  This chicken casserole is a great dish for cooler autumn, winter and early spring.  You could also cook it in the slow cooker, but I prefer doing it in the oven.  I think it would also be fabulous done over a wood fire in a cast iron pot.  Because it’s effectively a stew, it’s a long cook, so it gives busy parents time to get children tidied up and sorted while it cooks itself.

The distinct flavour comes not from the tomatoes and olives, but rather from the distinctive and unusual combination of herbes that make up the traditional Herbes de Provençe.

The blend I use is made and marketed from McGregor.  They often feature – in their packaging as part of the table decor for Sunday Suppers.

Provençale Style Chicken

This dish is not just easy, but it’s also a great way to dress up chicken.  The addition of olives and the wine add a little touch of decadence.  Especially when we all need a lift.

Oh, and of course, don’t give all the wine to that chicken!


8 chicken thighs (or joints of choice)
Vegetable/olive oil
4 large tomatoes, blanched and skinned (or 1 x tin chopped tomatoes)
1 onion, chopped*
50 g black olives (pitted)
150 – 200 ml dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 – 2 tsp McGregor Herbes de Provence*
Salt & pepper to taste

What to do

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and the Herbes de Provence.  Brown in hot oil and set aside. Sauté the onion in the remaining oil. Add more if necessary.  When slightly glossy, add the garlic and sauté for a little longer.  Add the remaining ingredients (olives, wine and additional McGregor Herbes de Provence if liked) and deglaze the pan if it’s not oven proof.

Bake, covered, in a moderate oven for 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove the cover and bake for a further ½ hour and until the chicken skin is browned and the liquid has reduced and thickened.

  • Use shallots – they add a different dimension to the presentation
  • If you like a stronger herb flavour, add more at step 4.
  • Serve with rice, mash or hasselback potatoes and seasonal vegetables
  • This freezes well in individual portions.

Download a printable version of the recipe here.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma


Post Script

  • If this seems familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you do this, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • I’m participating in blogpal @tracyork’s April challenge of sharing a post every day during April – on the Hive blockchain. I succeeded last year – on Steemit from which the new blockchain “hived off”…
  • It seems a good way to constructively use the time during a compulsory lock down, right? For more about this initiative, please check out Traci’s post.
  • If you’d also like to both join the challenge and post from the WordPress platform to the Hive blockchain, sign up here
  • I’m still blogging on Steem and more recently share my burbling on Uptrennd.


Bags of Provençe

After the fiery end to November, and before the aspirant grand wizard‘s arrival, December started off relatively gently.  We love the long, balmy evenings and spectacular sunsets of summer.  Even if they are viewed over the ravages of the fire and the somewhat charred vegetable patch.

A chef was among the kind souls who helped to fight the fire that afternoon, and very tongue-in-cheek, suggested a new trend:  smoked vegetables.  Particularly courgettes (zucchini).  Funnily enough, we had been told by a restauranteur in Paternoster that he was going to be experimenting with exactly that in the next while.  More of the fabulous food we ate during that trip, another time, perhaps.

Returning to the courgettes:  the moment you turn your back, they transmogrify from delicate, green fingerlings into giants that can be well-nigh unmanageable.

The charred remains of one of the courgette plants and the delicate little courgette – often hidden by the gorgeous golden flowers.

My mother loved giant courgettes – she called them marrows:  she would halve pip, and cut into chunks and boil them to death.  I am my father’s daughter:  he really didn’t enjoy the watery mush that made its way to the supper table.  Not even lashings of butter helped. I rarely boil vegetables.

Local product:  Herbes de Provençe

Not long after the fire, I was given a bag of Herbes de Provençe.  Grown locally, the herb mixture is packed in handmade bags, cleverly made from a combination of (also locally) screen printed hessian and tartan, evoking their origins in McGregor.


The brainchild of Lavender Lady, a McGregorite, whose idea it is to make the traditional flavours of Provençe available in South Africa, and with the longer term vision of creating sustainable jobs in the village.

I grow herbs and use them, fresh, in virtually everything, particularly during summer when they are abundant.  The aroma that wafted out of that bag of dry leaves and flowers was amazing.  I couldn’t work out the different scents.   How does one use them?

“Just add a pinch to whatever you’re cooking,” Lavender Lady said.


So back to the not-so-baby marrows and not being one for waste, they had to be eaten.  Flavourless, marrows are, and full of water, so I figured that the best way to deal with them was roasting.  Not confident that just this would deal with the deficit in flavour, the Herbes de Provençe had their first “outing”.  The result has, happily, become the current go-to way of dealing with the overgrown courgette.

Roast Marrows with Herbes de Provençe

Halve the marrows, remove the pips and discard.  Cut the marrow into sizes that suit you.  I’ve done them  in large chunks like in the pictures above, and also in smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Herbes de Provençe roast marrows with pecorino

Sprinkle a baking tray with olive oil and place the marrows on it, skin-side down.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil and dot with butter and then sprinkle Herbes de Provençe over the marrow flesh.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes and then turn the marrows over and return to the oven for another 20 or so minutes or until they are cooked to your liking.

Remove them from the oven and turn them over and sprinkle with a sharp, hard cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino, and serve warm.

McGregor Herbes de Provençe

This particular blend of herbs is interesting.  There is a number of different combinations for Herbes de Provençe; it was only in the 1970’s that “Herbes de Provençe” became commercially available.  The introduction of lavender was specifically to suit the North American market.  They use these herbe fresh in Provençe, and the include savoury, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, origanum and sometimes mint, all of which grow wild in the Mediterranean.  (As I discovered when I lost myself walking down from Castillo de Bellver back to Palma when I was in Mallorca.  But that’s another story.)

Lavender Lady’s blend, McGregor Herbes de Provençe, doesn’t have the savoury or the mint, but it does include basil, parsley, fennel seeds and lavender blossom.

Herb Butter

It also makes a fabulous herb butter which works well on bread, potatoes and braai mielies (barbequed corn) – or anything else that goes well with a herb butter.

Chicken, grilled with a Herbes de Provençe rub or basting is easy and delicious.  Now I’m planning stews and hotpots with Herbes de Provençe when the weather gets cooler.  Of course, this herb blend would make the perfect bouquet garni for classic French dishes such as Beef Bourguignon and Provençale inspired chicken.

Those experiments will wait for the longer, cold evenings of winter which suddenly become a little more palatable.

Until next time, be well

Photo: Selma

The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Post script

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

Image: @traciyork
  • I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised appplications. From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.

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