Hello Marseille!


Honey roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 2 | Infinite belly

If Auvergne is green and brown all over, Marseille is blue by nature and black by spray paint. Reserved, Auvergne is surrounded by volcanoes and mostly unknown. Marseille is the loudest person in the room, the life of the party. The former smells like mushrooms in the fall and cows in the spring, the latter of sea and brick-oven pizza, but also trash flying in the mighty gusts of the mistral wind. In Verne, our neighbors were gentle, quiet souls who knew about self-reliance, building with their hands. When the city speaks, it’s a babble of Mediterranean tongues, a spectrum of tones in cheeky Marseillais accent; garlic and sea-salt give character to the breath and coarse hair to the passerby. The pizza man down the street is a genius, a descendant of Italians who dreams of moving his business to Brazil, dropping statistical and critical knowledge on the past 30 years of French political economy while putting mozzarella and cayenne pepper on the white dough. In the massif central the woods have soft, mythical names such as Montregard and Saint-Bonnet le Froid, while warm southern tones in Castellane and La Joliette over here make me think of the traffic, the noise, or the platters of fresh seafood served in a terrace while a guitar player sings Santana, cruise ships gliding behind.

Honey roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 16 | Infinite bellyLeaf illustration | Infinite bellyHoney roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 17 | Infinite belly

Leaving our cottage back in Haute-Loire, Mr. and Mrs. Rabeyrin were sad to see us go. As we loaded things in the truck they pulled up in their van and I came by the window. Mr. Rabeyrin had a brown paper bag with some goodies from Verne: a glass jar of rare autumn honey (only found once every six years) and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Villages that he called un petit canon, which I interpreted as a “little boost”. But canon is actually a unit of measurement for wine that dates back to the 16th century. Other friends also came by and gave us some laurel leaves and a pumpkin that is for now decorating our living room.

Honey roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 8 | Infinite belly

On one of my first aimless walks around town, I stumbled upon Marseille’s music conservatory. Strangely, even though music has been such an important part of my life, I don’t think I have ever spent quality time in a conservatory! I guess those European temples of tradition sound a little bit daunting and austere from afar.

Spring flowers in Marseille | Infinite bellySkillet illustration | Infinite bellyHoney roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 7 | Infinite belly

But on that Saturday it happened to be open house and the place was filled with families and teachers playing music and talking about classes, styles, and ensembles. I felt like one of the giddy little kids sitting next to me on the floor watching the adults play and trying to pick which instrument I would like to learn. Cello? Percussion? Electro-acoustic composition?

Marseille church | Infinite bellyHoney roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 6 | Infinite belly copy

A maze of aged rose and white halls reminded me of something between the Sorbonne and Hogwarts with its unexpected turns, ornate wooden doors, ballet dancers, hidden passageways, sideburn-donning fathers holding their daughters’ hands, empty practice rooms, silence, steps, windows revealing a courtyard full of rowdy children, a couple of teenagers flirting by the entrance, the boy taking his shoes off for no apparent reason and pretending to swim belly-down on his chair, parents lining up nearby to see a lecture on drama.

Wooden spoon illustration | Infinite bellyHoney roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 4 | Infinite belly copySalt cured egg yolks 2 | Infinite belly

My head spun and I found myself in a large room, a library full of old leather-bound books, clean but slightly rundown, spots on the ceiling revealing the missing chandeliers of another time. A husky asian boy was singing an aria from a French opera, I don’t know the composer but it was a comic scene with a chorus of boys and girls that rehearsed a call and response, alternating jeering and cheering the soloist. I lost track of time and hours went by like this, going from door to door…

Honey roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 10 | Infinite belly copyHâchoir illustration | Infinite bellyHoney roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 9 | Infinite belly copy

When I finally left to get fresh air outside, the sound of a James Brown groove from the block above summoned me to a park where a pétanque tournament was going on. A wide view of the city revealed the Notre-Dame de la Garde church standing at the highest point on a distant hill pointing to the sky; the mother saint that welcomed the sailors of yore still looks over a city that is easy to call home.

Ribbon illustration | Infinite bellyHoney roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts | Infinite belly

Saké and honey roasted asparagus puff tarts
with goat cheese & basil + cured egg yolk   |   Serves 6 

Salt cured egg yolks | Infinite belly

The cured egg yolks:

These take a few days to make (4 to 6 days in total). If you haven’t planned making this recipe ahead of time, you could replace the grated egg yolks by a dry cheese such as parmesan for the puff tarts. This is a great way to consume unused yolks if you made meringues with the egg whites for example. Once dried, they keep for 1 month in the fridge in an airtight container. 

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 250g fine salt
  • 200g sugar

Salt cured egg yolks 3 | Infinite belly

  1. In a bowl, combine the salt + sugar and mix well. Lay half of this blend in a small baking pan (large enough to lay 6 egg yolks app. 4cm apart from each other).
  2. With a whole egg or a spoon, make 6 indents in the powders and place the whole egg yolks in each of them.
  3. Gently cover the yolks with the other half of the salt + sugar blend. Cover with cling-film and store in the fridge for 4 days. The powders will absorb all the water from the yolks that will turn solid.
  4. After 4 days, carefully brush off the powders and retrieve each egg yolk. Lay them on a baking pan or rack and let them dry out in a less than 70°C hot oven for app. 2-3 hours. Otherwise, you can leave them in the oven, turned off, for another 2 days to obtain the same result.
  5. Check that the egg yolks have thoroughly hardened and rinse them under cold water to rub off the remaining salt & sugar. Grate over pies, pasta, cheeses, savory crêpes, etc.

Cutlery illustration | Infinite bellyPuff pastry in the making | Infinite belly

The puff pastry:

This is the classic French puff pastry recipe. It is time-consuming — mainly because of the necessary resting time between the different steps — but so delicious! You could also buy it ready-made, frozen or fresh, from a supermarket or your local bakery.

  • 220g all-purpose flour
  • 5g salt
  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 110g water
  • 135g special layering butter or regular butter, as “dry” as possible
  • 2g white vinegar (optional — it helps the pastry last longer)
  1. In a bowl, work the flour, salt and 35g butter until crumbly. Add the water and vinegar and knead until homogenous. If you have a stand-mixer, mix all the ingredients together until homogenous using the hook. Make sure you don’t over-knead the dough as to not give it too much “body” which would make it too elastic. Wrap in cling-film and refrigerate.
  2. Place the layering butter on half of a polypropylene sheet or parchment paper and fold the other half of the sheet over it. Using a rolling pin, start flattening the butter down and fold the paper around it like an envelope so that the butter doesn’t escape. Roll out evenly into a 15×15 cm square (app. 5 mm thick). Leave it wrapped in the paper and refrigerate for at least 30 min. It is important the butter is quite hard and cold when you use it next to get the best result!
  3. On a clean work surface, roll out the dough into a 15×30 cm rectangle. Dust your work surface with a little flour to make sure it doesn’t stick. Unwrap the butter and place it in the middle of the rectangle. Fold as shown in the drawing below and rotate by a quarter of a turn. Pâte feuilletée step 1
  4. On the sides of your square, make an incision with a knife as shown below. This will allow the butter to spread out more evenly. Keeping the same width, roll out the rectangle until it’s app. 45-50 cm long. Make sure you don’t flatten the dough too much or else the butter will be incorporated and you won’t get the final “thousand leaves” effect. You can trim both edges with a knife. Pâte feuilletée step 2
  5. Fold in three as shown below (folding the #1 side first and then the #2 side over the others). This is a “simple fold”, tour simple in French. Roll out again and perform a second fold in the same way. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Pâte feuilletée step 3Pâte feuilletée step 4
  6. Redo step 5 twice (fold twice and refrigerate an hour; then fold twice again).

    Note: as a slightly faster alternative, instead of preparing the layering butter separately, you could knead it directly in your dough. Use the same quantities of flour, salt and water and cut 200g unsalted butter into small cubes (app. 1 cm), frozen for 10 minutes. Roughly knead all the ingredients together, by hand or using the hook in a stand-mixer (the butter shouldn’t be quite incorporated to the flour), shape into a rectangle and leave it to rest for 5 minutes. Fold the dough by itself as explained above 6 times and roll out into a 40x35cm rectangle. This is called a 
    feuilletage rapide.

Caldron illustration | Infinite bellyLion sculpture in a Marseille park | Infinite belly

The roasted asparagus tarts:

  • 1.3kg green asparagus
  • 1 tbsp liquid honey
  • 2 tbsp saké
  • 2 tsp raw cane sugar
  • 200g fresh goat cheese
  • A few fresh basil leaves
  • fleur de sel & black pepper

Honey roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 3b | Infinite belly

  1. Rinse the asparagus under cold water, pat-dry with a clean cloth and chop off the bottom of the stem.
  2. In a small pan or in the micro-wave, melt and mix the honey, saké, raw cane sugar and a pinch of salt. Make sure the liquids don’t evaporate nor reduce too much. Pour over the asparagus to coat them in this glaze.
  3. Roll out the puff pastry to app. 3-4mm thick into a rectangle and lay it out on a lined baking sheet. Be careful! Once rolled out or trimmed, this type of dough cannot be kneaded and rolled out again like regular pastry because of the folding process. Cut into 6 even squares. Poke holes on the whole surface of the dough with a fork and decorate the sides with a fork or a spoon if you don’t want the pastry to raise too much while baking. Don’t throw away the trimmings! They’re delicious baked by themselves too… You can twist them to give them a nice shape and sprinkle them with poppy seeds and/or parmesan cheese. They will bake more quickly than the feuilleté so take them out of the oven after app 10-15 min or until nicely golden. Pâte feuilletée step 5
  4. Lay even amounts of goat cheese on each square, leaving an app. 1cm border. Add the asparagus, trimming them if necessary, as well as a few basil leaves, sparing a few for serving. Season with salt & pepper. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for app. 20-25 min or until the pastry is golden and the asparagus slightly caramelized. Grate some cured egg yolk over the puff tarts and add some fresh basil before serving.

Ornament illustration | Infinite bellyHoney roasted asparagus & goat cheese puff tarts 11 | Infinite belly copyLogotype medalion


30 thoughts on “Hello Marseille!

      1. Seattle is a great city, there’s great food, great foraged ingredients, beautiful mountains to hike and ocean to sail :) Let me know if you plan to come, and I will write up a list of recommendations. Oh, it does rain a lot in the winter though :(

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Merci beaucoup Laura ! Je suis sûre que tu peux le faire :D. Oui on est très contents à Marseille. On aimerait beaucoup pouvoir venir vous voir ! J’espère que tout va bien pour les derniers mois avant la naissance. Plein de bisous à vous 4.


  1. Another wonderful post – thank you. I have been meaning to make cured egg yolks for ages but just haven’t got round to it – this post has inspired me and I will do it this weekend!

    I’m not talking about what happened to my lovingly planted asparagus beds – let’s just say that allowing weeds to grow all over them year after year is not a good idea. This year though I may just start to plan a new one – in a more suitable area i.e. not between raspberries and jerusalem artichokes – what was I thinking?? Life certainly is a learning curve.

    Hope you are settling in well to Marseille – it looks beautiful – as they say in Turkish gule gule otur (dwell laughingly)


  2. Hello! This is my first time reading your blog, or any WordPress blog post. I loved your account of the school, and though the cured eggs are very time intensive, someday I would like to give them a try! I am living in Japan, and many Japanese businesses use “Japanese French,” such as Châteraisé (シャトレーゼ).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Celestey! Thank you so much for visiting — so glad you like it! Yes the cured egg yolks are time-consuming but on the other hand they’re easy and long-lasting :D. How wonderful you live in Japan. What a beautiful and creative place. I remember seeing quite a few stores named in “Japanese French” when I visited Tokyo! All the best from France x


      1. Hi André and Adélaïde! Thank you for taking a look at my About page! What brought you to Tokyo? Now, I am doing my best to make blogging a familiar part of daily life. I’m looking forward to your next post in my newsfeed!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Our pleasure Celestey! I (Adélaïde) spent a wonderful 10-day vacation in Tokyo about 10 years ago already but we’d love to go back to Japan and also discover more rural areas as well as Kyoto of course :). My aunt married a wonderful Japanese man, Hiroaki (who sadly passed away a few years ago) and Japanese culture always held a dear place in my heart. He used to make yakisoba and tempura for me — a few of my favorite things! Good luck in your blogging endeavours; I’m sure you’ll do wonderfully :D.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Adélaïde! This week, the cherry blossoms festivals are in full swing. Sadly, it is cloudy.
        I guess the area I just finished–Matsusaka (松阪)–is rural (inaka). I wonder if you mean rural as in not a big city, or rural as in only 2500 people live there…
        If you ever go to Kyoto, the ¥500 bus pass is a great deal. I went to Gion and Kinkakuji. Most people say they like Ginkakuji, but Kinkakuji’s gold foil walls are magnificent!
        Have you had satsumaimo tempura, made with purple-skinned sweet potatoes? It is my favorite tempura.
        I’m truly sorry to hear that. Hiroaki sounds like he was a great guy. I hope your aunt has found peace.
        Thank you for the well wishes. Your blog is an inspiration.


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