Diana Lampe's French summer recipes for Christmas

Colourful: A vegetable tian in summery Christmas colours.
Colourful: A vegetable tian in summery Christmas colours. Photo: Diana Lampe

This week the recipes are from France for you to enjoy during the summer. The green olive and artichoke tapenade is a handy recipe to make from store cupboard ingredients. You just mix everything together in the food processor. Serve the tapenade spread on toast as a tasty canape. I came across this recipe on the internet and believe the original is from American chef, Mario Batali.

Tian is the Provencal word to describe a shallow earthenware baking dish and is also the name of the dish that is cooked in it. This is usually a vegetable gratin in the Provencal-style as in today's recipe. As well as vegetables and herbs a tian may contain chickpeas, eggs, rice, cheese, breadcrumbs, fish, poultry or meat.

This is a marvellous dish and can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Stacking the vegetables and arranging them sideways in the dish looks effective and really doesn't take long. The vegetable tian can be served with bread and salad for a light meal or as a side dish with meat, chicken or fish. It is particularly good with roast lamb.

Yum: A slice of perfect cherry clafoutis.
Yum: A slice of perfect cherry clafoutis. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Clafoutis is a traditional cherry cake or pastry from the Limousin region of France. It is quite delicious and I look forward to making it every year when the first cherries appear. It is basically a simple batter with whole cherries that is baked in the oven, a kind of puffed pancake. The stones are left in the cherries for their flavour but can be pitted if serving to children. Clafoutis has become a popular dessert in recent years and there are many variations. It can also be made with other fruit and berries and is then actually flognarde or flaugnarde. There are savoury versions too made with vegetables and cheese.

Green olive and artichoke tapenade

1 packed cup (170g) pitted green Sicilian olives or other green olives
1 x 400g artichoke hearts in brine, rinsed and drained thoroughly
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp capers, drained
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of cayenne or shake of tabasco
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
French baguette or Italian bread to serve

Place all the ingredients in the food processor and process to a paste. Spread on toast to taste and then adjust as needed. A squeeze of lemon may be an improvement. Allow the ingredients to mingle and meld for an hour or so in the fridge. Serve the tapenade spread on toasted bread as an easy canape.

Bright: Green olive and artichoke tapenade.
Bright: Green olive and artichoke tapenade. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Provencal vegetable tian

It is difficult to give exact quantities of the vegetables as it will depend on which ones you choose and the size of the baking dish. Try to find vegetables with a similar circumference, so the slices end up being about the same size. Cut slender zucchini or eggplants slightly at an angle. If using the potatoes, you don't need to peel them. I suggest you parboil them first because they take a long time to cook in the tian.

Serves 4-6

1 onion, sliced (optional)
2-3 desiree or kipfler potatoes, parboiled and sliced (optional)
2-3 Japanese eggplants, sliced (optional)
2-3 zucchini, sliced
4-5 roma tomatoes, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely sliced or chopped
3-4 sprigs thyme
3-4 sprigs rosemary
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly milled pepper
4 tbsp grated parmesan or gruyere cheese (optional)


You will need a medium-sized glazed earthenware or ceramic gratin dish (any shape) to cook the vegetable tian. Brush it liberally with olive oil. If using the onion, fry in a tablespoon of the olive oil until soft but not brown. Spread in the bottom of the dish.

Prepare the vegetables and cut into 3-4mm slices and arrange in separate piles. Take a slice from each pile and place upright in the dish on the onion. Add the next lot and repeat around the outside of the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as you go and tuck herb sprigs in between here and there.

Cram the slices in and finally fill the space in the middle. Press the slices at a slight angle to settle into the dish. For a square or rectangular dish arrange the vegetables in rows.  Spoon the remaining olive oil over the vegetables.

Eye catcher: Provencal vegetable tian
Eye catcher: Provencal vegetable tian 

Set the oven at 180C fan or 200C regular. Cover the dish snugly with foil and bake for about 60 minutes. After that time remove the foil and sprinkle the cheese on top (if using). Return to the oven to finish cooking and to brown the top. Serve the tian warm or at room temperature.

Variations: Other vegetables and herbs can be used in a tian such as peppers, yellow zucchini, pumpkin, silverbeet, artichokes, oregano, basil or flat-leaf parsley.

The vegetables can be arranged casually in layers with the garlic, herbs, olive oil and seasoning between. If you are running short of time, simply mix everything together in a large bowl and press into the baking dish. It will taste the same.

French cherry clafoutis: A lovely summer dessert.
French cherry clafoutis: A lovely summer dessert. Photo: Rohan Thomson


This recipe makes a generous amount of batter which may be more than you need to cover the cherries in your dish. Leftover batter will keep in the fridge for use next day. It is excellent with a punnet of blueberries for breakfast.

Serves 6


1 cup (250ml) milk
3 free-range eggs
125g plain flour
75g (4 tbsp) caster sugar
30g butter, melted and cooled
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla or 
¼ tsp almond extract (optional)

450g to 500g cherries, washed and stemmed
butter and caster sugar for the baking dish
1 handful flaked almonds (optional)

To serve

icing sugar to sprinkle
creme fraiche, cream, yoghurt or vanilla ice-cream

Make the batter 30 minutes ahead if you can or even longer. Put the milk, eggs, flour, melted butter, vanilla or almond extract, and salt in a food processor and whiz for a few moments to combine or whisk the ingredients together by hand in a bowl. Mix again before using.

Preset the oven at 180C fan or 200C regular. Generously grease a 24-25cm pie or gratin dish or similar with butter and dust with caster sugar.

Arrange the cherries in the dish in one layer and carefully pour the batter over them to cover. If you find there is too much batter keep it to use later. If using the flaked almonds, scatter them on top.

Place the dish in the middle of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes until the clafoutis is puffed up and golden. Remove and stand for five minutes before serving. Sprinkle the top with icing sugar passed through a sieve.

Serve the warm clafoutis cut into wedges with creme fraiche, whipped cream, yoghurt or vanilla ice-cream. Provide a small dish for the cherry stones.


  • Add the grated zest of one lemon and/or one or two tablespoons of Kirsch or brandy to the batter. 
  • Replace 50g of the plain flour with the same weight of ground almonds.
  • For flognarde or flaugnarde, use other fruits or berries such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries.

Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au