A few years ago we travelled by train from Spain to France (Montpellier).  After a few days in Montpellier (a small city) we hired a car and travelled to Caunes-Minervois, a small village in Languedoc, France.  It’s a quaint village and one of the unique features that attracts many people is all the pink marble – there’s even a quarry that’s open to the public now.   There’s also a few galleries and a museum with a focus on artworks made from marble.  You can’t miss the entrance to one gallery with the eye catching seat out the front! (photo below)

In Caunes-Minervois we stayed a week in a 500 year old stone villa near the centre of the village.  It was wonderful although the bedroom was upstairs and the stairs are very narrow and steep so with my bad back I was particularly careful on the way down!  The villa has a small kitchen so we often visited the Boulangerie each day – they had a range of baguettes and other types of fresh bread;  that combined with some cheese etc. was often enough for us after a long day of exploring the countryside.  On a couple of occasions we organised a special lunch – a few photos can be seen below from one of those lunches in the countryside…it was on the road to Carcassone (a fortified historic French town – the castle is a must see there too).

There are a few restaurants in the village…we liked the traditional restaurant in the historic terrace of Hotel d’Alibert – unfortunately our photos of the terrace didn’t turn out so well that night although we do have a photo of inside the restaurant (will post later).  The owner speaks excellent English and is more than happy to translate the menu.  It was similar at the restaurant in the countryside (near road to Carcassone).

Photo above is the view from the restaurant in the countryside (later I’ll check our journal & note the restaurant name) – it was about an hours drive from the village where we were staying for a week.  This restaurant is also accessible from the small, pretty city of Carcassone.  We want to return to Carcassone one day – probably a train trip to get there.   

One of the desserts we loved at Hotel D’Alibert as well as a restaurant in Lyon (a separate trip…see Lyon post) was a Rum Baba – “Savarin Style”.  I was inspired to make it a few times on our return home.  Photo from Net below (next time I make one I’ll put my original photo😉.  It’s now a regular when I’m asked to “bring dessert”.

Rum Babas, Savarin Style

Serves 10 to 12
For Baba cake/s
2.5 cups plain flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1/2 cup melted/slightly browned butter

16 g fresh yeast

1/2 cup milk

Method for cake/s:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt

2. Mix in the egg and melted butter

3. In a smaller bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk (warm the milk first)

4. Add the milk and yeast to the bowl with dry ingredients, egg and butter

5. Move the bowl near a heat source for about 20 min so that the dough can rise. It needs to more than double in volume.

6. Preheat the over to 170 deg C (350 F)

7. Put dough in the pan (either a Rum Baba pan or just a basic ring pan) or smaller pans – bake for 20 min or until golden brown. Check it’s cooked through using a wooden skewer.

8. Leave to dry for 24 hours – I just leave it wrapped in a t-towel overnight.

For the Rum Syrup:
3/4 cup (200 ml) rum (good quality)
1 orange

1 vanilla bean

1 lime

4 cups water

2 2/3 cups sugar 

Method for Syrup:
1. Quarter the orange; slit the vanilla bean and grate the lime.
2. Combine the rum, water, sugar, organs quarters, vanilla bean and lime zest in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer gently for 10 min.

3. Pour the hot syrup over the babas, add another dash of rum to taste?

Talking of taste…we prefer the taste of unsweetened cream but true “savarin style” has the Chantilly cream so here’s the simple recipe
For the Chantilly cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar

A little vanilla

Method for cream:
Combine everything and whisk together with an electric beater.
Above recipe from one of my favourite books…”French Bistro” by B. Auboyneau and F. Simon;  another favourite French/Vietnamese book is “Indochine – Baguettes and banh mi:  finding France in Vietnam” by Luke Nguyen (an Australian-Vietnamese chef)…one of our favourite dishes is Citrus-cured Sardine Salad (293) in Luke’s chapter “Meeting my French-Vietnamese family”.

We also enjoyed time spent in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux (see separate posts) and many other parts of France which we’ll write about in the future.  The French influence on the food culture in Vietnam and Laos is also of great interest to us – we’ve had trips to both places (if interested, see recent Laos) post  and we would like to return with a focus on food trails combined with my love of history.