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French Cooking, Kiwi Style

Peta Mathias is a New Zealand book author, TV personality, and former Paris restauranteur who brings French cooking and Kiwi style to the Uzès food scene.

When Peta arrives at her home in the south of France, she heads straight for the Wednesday and Saturday farmer’s markets. Oh, during her shopping trips, there are often six or more guests from her culinary tour or cooking classes hanging on her every word.

For years, Uzès knew Peta by her shockingly bright red hair. Never mind that she wore the smartest, most colorful, and perfectly accessorized outfits. Now the fashionista sports her reminder of Covid days — white hair. Yes, she’s as strikingly glamorous as she was as a redhead.

French Cooking, Kiwi Style

What are Peta’s favorite foods to prepare when she’s in Uzès?

For the class that I attended, the dishes Peta chose for us were made from the freshest produce and local products available at the market that day: Nyon olives, cabillaud (cod), figs, courgette flowers, and fresh cheese.

When we returned to Peta’s home nearby, with glasses of cold rosê in hand, we prepared various ingredients: chopping, slicing, mashing, and stirring. Each of us had differing levels of cooking expertise.

French Cooking, Kiwi Style

Recipes to Love

My favorite dish is the dessert — of course! Combining goat cheese and figs for an appetizer is one thing. But this is dessert! So delish — and easy!

French Cooking, Kiwi Style

Goat Cheese & Fresh Fig Cake

Serves 8

3tbsp caster sugar (granulated)

5 fresh ripe figs, cut in half crosswise

175g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

175g butter, softened

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Be prepared to fall in love with France, all over again!

175g caster sugar

200g creamy soft goat’s cheese

3 eggs

2 tbsp apricot jam

1. Preheat oven to 180oC. Butter a 24cm spring-form cake tin and line the base with buttered baking paper. Sprinkle the paper with sugar, arrange the figs, cut side down, on top.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Beat the butter, sugar, and goat’s cheese until white and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one. Add the dry ingredients and fold in. Spread the cake mixture evenly over the figs.

3. Bake for about 50 minutes or till the sides of the cake have pulled away from the tin. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Run a knife around the sides of the tin to loosen the cake, then invert it onto a serving dish.

4. Melt the apricot jam in a little pot, then push through a sieve. Brush the top of the cake with the jam. Top with fresh berries if you feel so inclined.

To Serve: Cut into wedges and dust lavishly with icing sugar.

French Cooking, Kiwi Style

The Setting

I was looking forward to a class with Peta, and I was doubly anxious to visit her home, which is nestled on a private lane in the medieval city of Uzés. According to Peta, the house originally on the site was an almost total teardown. With much patience and even more creativity, Peta transformed the bare walls into a three-storied, modernized French treasure trove — the perfect balance of old and new.

Imagine Peta’s beloved earthenware, pictured above, accessorizes a dining room and kitchen gleaming in steel and white. The upper level and more private part of the home burst colorfully alive with original artwork, and memorabilia garnered from friends and from her world travels. And the shoes! Aside from Imelda Marcos, who but Peta decorates with shoes?

French Cooking, Kiwi Style

Contact Peta on her website for a day of sheer enjoyment, laughter, and fabulous French cooking tips and ideas. She also leads culinary adventures in exotic places like India, Morocco, and Basque. Tell her the “Barefoot Blogger” sent you!

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