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Christmas in Provence and the 13 Desserts

“Les treize desserts” is an old Christmas tradition in Provence. Thirteen desserts are enjoyed after Christmas Eve dinner, traditionally representing Jesus and his twelve Apostles. Each guest must eat all thirteen desserts to guarantee good luck for the year to come. There must be a minimum of 13 desserts, but we have decided to add an extra for you! Check out our 14 desserts here and for the Maison Mirabeau photos.

Holiday Traditions in Provence

The holiday period in Provence is loaded with symbolism. The traditional festivities begin on December 4th with the feast of  Saint Barbara (Sainte Barbe). On this day, families “plant” little packets of wheat on cotton or paper towels to germinate for the Christmas table.

Families gather on Christmas Eve for le Gros Souper (the big dinner) in Provence. The typical December 24th meal is meatless, with seven fish and vegetable dishes. Although, on the lighter side, these dishes are not insignificant. These seven plates might include omelettes, salted cod and potatoes – brandade de morue, ratatouille, and a local garlic soup. The number of dishes represents Mary’s seven sorrows.

Brandade de Morue
This recipe for a salt cod (morue) gratin is easy to make. Serve this seafood dish with a green salad and some crusty bread. The key to the recipe is allowing for the overnight soaking period for the cod, to remove preservative salt.
Check out this recipe
Salt-Cod Brandade Recipe Provence
Provencal Ratatouille Recipe
The traditional ratatouille recipe calls for vegetables to be browned in olive oil in a frying pan, each one separately and do not peel them at all. All the vegetables are cooked with their skin to preserve a maximum of taste. Then, they will be mixed and will confit together in an earthenware casserole.
Check out this recipe
Provencal Ratatouille Recipe Traditional Terracotta Casserole Pottery
Cod with Tapenade Crust and Rosé Braised Fennel
There are a few steps to this recipe. However, as long as you prepare the fennel and black olive tapenade in advance the cod takes no time to cook.
Olive Tapenade Crusted Cod

Following midnight mass, it is time for the 13 desserts. The amount represents the number of participants at the Last Supper; Jesus and his 12 apostles. Although the exact make-up of les treize desserts is not prescriptive, there are a few rules. The assortment of sweets generally falls into four categories. These are dried fruit and nuts, fresh seasonal fruit, fruit preserved in sugar syrup and sweetened bread. Typically the 13 desserts are enjoyed after mass. However, the selection remains in reach for the next three days until December 27th.

The Sweet 13

The Four Beggars: Four monastic religious orders are represented by dried fruit (figs, raisins, apricots) and nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts).

Almonds = Carmelites
Dried Figs = Franciscans
Raisins = Dominicans
Walnuts or Hazelnuts = Augustines

Good and Evil: There are always two kinds of nougat representing good (white) and evil (black).

Calissons d'Aix
A truly enjoyable treat to make and connect with bakers long ago. Patience will be your reward if you can let them sit overnight to set. And while this is a traditional recipe, it is by no means easy to master. So even if it doesn’t look perfect, it will taste just as delicious. Served alongside afternoon tea or at the end of a delicious evening meal, these sweet delicate Calissons will be a welcome addition to your baking repertoire.
Check out this recipe
Calisson d'Aix Recipe
Quince Paste - Pâte de Fruit de Coings from Provence
Quince resembles large, tough pears. The cooking time for this recipe will vary depending on the fruit. Serve quince paste (pâte de fruit de coings) with a selection of hard cheeses for an appetizer or an alternative to a sweet dessert.
Check out this recipe
Quince Paste Recipe By Chef Tasha Pâte aux Coings
Candied Clementines (Clementines Confits) with Moroccan spices
This dessert can be made all year! When I am in France, I buy clementines from Corsica. I can find clementines (sometimes known as Cuties in the U.S.) throughout the year in Los Angeles. It’s a simple dessert that can be served by itself or cut in julienne strips and served on top of ice cream, yogurt or a pound cake (The French version of a pound cake is Quatre Quart)! Please note that the clementines will be a burnt orange colour once they are candied because of the Moroccan spices.
Check out this recipe
Candied Clementines Clementines Confit Moroccan Spices

Fresh fruit: the citrus is in season at this time of the year with juicy clementines from Corsica.
Pompe à l’huile: a sweet bread made with olive oil and orange blossom. It is customary that pieces are broken by hand, never with a knife.
Navettes: these dry biscuits are the culinary representation of the modest boat believed to have transported St Lazarus and the two “Marys,” Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Martha to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer some 2000 years ago. Traditional navettes from Marseille are 7+ cm (2.5+ inches) long, tapered at both ends, and flavoured with l’eau de fleur d’ oranger (orange flower water).
Dates: symbolise the arrival of Christ from the Middle East.
Chocolate: this shouldn’t need an explanation.

Enjoy the festivities!

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Maison Mirabeau Wine

Maison Mirabeau Wine

Stephen had been in the corporate world for 15 years and in August 2008 turned down a promotion that would have meant more money but also more stress, longer hours and less time with his young family. For many years the Cronks had been dreaming and talking about moving to France to make their own wine, but the moment never seemed quite right to make the big leap.

Soon after, a good redundancy offer seemed the perfect opportunity to turn the dream into reality and after selling their beloved house, they left the leafy suburbs of south-west London in August 2009. Their worldly possessions were packed up on the back of a truck and with barely a word of French between them, the family headed south to a small village called Cotignac, in the heart of Provence.

The Cronks spent a year getting their bearings, learning to live the provençal way, as Stephen was criss-crossing the country researching and finding the best vineyards to work with. The next step was setting up a small wine business with the principle objective of making a Provence rosé that would be regarded as one of the very best from the region, while building a brand that people would grow to love. In order to achieve this aim, they put together a highly experienced winemaking team and threw their heart and soul into the brand and innovative communications with their customers. Mirabeau is now being sold in more than 30 markets, has won medals and earned acclaim from some of the world’s toughest wine critics, but what really makes Stephen happiest is that their wines are an integral part of people having a great time together.

Read more about the Mirabeau Wine story here.

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