There are not many cities that can rightfully claim to have their own ‘cuisine’. The French city of Nice is one of them. Just think about Salade Niçoise, Bagna Caude, Tourte aux Blettes and Socca. Strongly influenced by Italian cuisine it is flavourful, rich and varied.
Hélène Barale was owner and chef of the restaurant Chez Hélène in the Rue Beaumont, number 39 in Nice. Here she prepared delicious, regional and traditional food. Ravioli à la Niçoise, gnocchi’s, panisses, pissaladière, ragout de mouton, loup grillé, pattissoun, everything freshly cooked in her kitchen for 150 guests per day.
Panisses are made with chickpea flour, water, salt and olive oil. You make a hot dough, allow it to cool and set, then cut it into chips and deep fry. Serve with black pepper. Delicious.
Obviously you also want to know what Pattissoun is! If you search for it, you will find references to a nicely shaped squash, but Hélène Barale’s recipe is for a cake. She makes it with flour, yeast, sugar, raisins, orange zest, rum and eau de fleurs d’oranger (orange flower water). Sounds absolutely lovely.
Another very tasty recipe is for an omelette with artichokes. It’s a combination of onions, garlic, artichoke and eggs. Straightforward recipe, yummy result.
She retired at the age of 88 in 2004. For a few years the restaurant was a museum, but it is now closed. Thankfully her son Paule Laudon wrote down 106 recipes of his mother’s cuisine. His style is very clear so it’s not too difficult to prepare the dishes. The book looks like a cahier and it is edited with much love and care. It comes with an interesting introduction by Paule Laudon, the text of Nissa La Bella, which is the unofficial anthem of the city (O la miéu bella Nissa/Regina de li flou/Li tiéu viehi taulissa/Iéu canterai toujou/etcetera, meaning something like O my beautiful Nice/Queen of all flowers/Your old rooftops/I will always sing of you/etcetera) and pictures of the restaurant. The book does not contain pictures of the dishes.
La cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale (in French only) was first published in 2006 and is now in its 11th edition. You can buy it via the usual channels and the French publisher for € 15,90.