Claudie’s classic French vinaigrette

This staple comes from Claudie, my landlady while I was a student in Avignon. While my friends were struggling in social housing, I’d managed to land a top floor flat of a second Empire house in the centre of Avignon with a family who genuinely cared for each other – and me the interloper.

This was taken just outside Avignon with my friends Nigel, Michael and Harriet. That's me with the asymmetrical hair...
This was taken just outside Avignon with my friends Nigel, Michael and Harriet. That’s me with the asymmetrical hair…

One of the conditions of me staying with Claudie and her family was to have dinner with them every Thursday. This is where I learned to speak French, laugh in French and properly wash up. Claudie also delighted in showing me around Provence and we took regular trips to the smaller, less well-known corners to shop, to eat and to laugh.

As well as looking after her family and running that beautiful house, Claudie is Vice President of L’Association Française de l’Ataxie de Friedreich. Friedreich’s ataxia is recessive inherited disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system. It affects 1 in 50,000 people and it’s the humanity of people like Claudie who help raise awareness of it.

I’ve lost touch with Claudie, but after writing this, I’m writing her a postcard to get back in touch.

Make this in a big batch and keep for a week.

Music to listen to while preparing this: ‘Souvenirs de l’Est’ by Patricia Kaas

Ingredients

  • 300ml Vegetable or rapeseed oil
  • 100ml White wine vinegar (don’t monkey around with balsamic it’s a different beast)
  • 35g Dijon mustard (not wholegrain, not English)
  • Sea salt

Method

  1. Put the oil, vinegar and mustard in a jar and shake till mixed. The results should be a matte yellow emulsion – not greasy or over sharp. If it’s not quite right, redress the balance with more vinegar/oil as necessary.
  2. Pour over your salad and toss.
  3. Sprinkle your salad with the salt.

This is great on a simple lamb’s lettuce and radish salad (chop the radish in tiny cubes) and served with steak. I also use this over mixed warm greens (runners, broad beans broccoli etc).

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