In France, the Christmas festive days are spent inside with the family, but for le réveillon, or New Year’s Eve the doors are flung open and all and sundry are invited in. Everyone must have a party to go to and if they don’t they go to a restaurant or hotel to celebrate with others.
Our first experience of New Year’s Eve in Provence was spent with Papou and Fabrice, the owners of our local restaurant, Le Theatre. We hardly knew them, but when we asked if they would be open on New Year’s Eve and they said they wouldn’t, they felt so sorry for us that they invited us to their home. We had a wonderful evening eating lobsters prepared by Fabrice and drinking champagne with a few of their friends. Since then we have spent many a riotous (and I mean riotous) New Year’s Eves in their company at various parties with mutual friends.
New Year’s Eve is party time in Provence with Lobsters, oysters and champagne appearing on every menu. The music is played loud, everyone gets up to dance after the meal and the New Year is heralded in with party poppers and plastic whistles.
New Year’s Day by contrast is a sober time with people staying indoors to nurse their hang-overs and to reflect on the dawning of the New Year. Traditionally garlic soup, or Aigo boulidou, its Provençal name meaning boiled water, is served for lunch to purify and purge the body and soul after the excesses of the Christmas festivities. The traditional way to make the soup is with water, olive oil, garlic and herbs, thickened at the end with egg yokes and served with a slice of bread. I have seen recipes that include leeks and potatoes, a poached egg slipped in at the end and cheese grated onto the bread, but I decided to stick with the traditional way. Here goes!
- Ingredients for 4 People
- 1 head of garlic, approx 12 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- sprig of thyme
- 8 sage leaves
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 slices of stale or lightly toasted bread
- 1.5 litres water
- 2 tsp salt
Peel the garlic cloves and place in a saucepan with the herbs, the water and oil. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Take out the herbs and the garlic. Discard the herbs and rub the garlic through a sieve and put back into the soup.
Bring the soup back to the boil and simmer for a further 5 minutes
Lightly toast the bread and lay it in the bottom of each bowl
Whisk two egg yolks and slowly add a ladle of the soup, whisking all the time. You don’t want the egg yolk to go stringy. Gradually add more soup, until all the soup is mixed in with the yolks.
Pour the soup over the bread and serve.
Bonne Année and don’t forget to comment and tell me how you celebrate and what you eat for the New Year.
This post was originally written on New Year’s Eve 2011, but has been edited for 2013.