You might not think of pastis as a cooking ingredient. But its herby, aniseed kick is a perfect complement to all sorts of dishes, both savoury and sweet.
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Some Marseille restaurants add a good slug of pastis to their bouillabaisse and another very popular local dish is prawns (or other shellfish) flambéed in pastis.
Pastis also works surprisingly well in cakes, cookies and desserts. Canistrelli, a crunchy biscuit (cookie) from Corsica, sometimes comes spiked with pastis, while pastis béarnais, from South-West France, is a brioche-like cake perfumed with the eponymous booze.
So it's no surprise that restaurants all over the world, from New York to Cape Town, are named after the iconic drink (pictured top left: Pastis restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand).
This is an introduction to the use of pastis in the kitchen, with a couple of easy recipes which you might like to try. Click here to read our full guide to pastis - the drink - itself and here to read about an unusual tour of a small, family-owned pastis factory in Marseille.
Pascal Rolland, pictured, runs his own distillery, La Liquoristerie de Provence, just outside Aix, where he produces his own pastis, absinthe and liqueurs infused with such classic provençal perfumes as lavender, thyme, melon and fig.
"These rich aromas and flavours lend themselves perfectly to cooking," says Rolland, who has now commissioned a book on the subject, La Cuisine au Pastis, Absinthe et Liqueurs de Provence.
This small but generously illustrated book is, of course, primarily a promotional tool for his own products. But it also contains some unusual and delicious recipes.
Think chicken with pastis, chilli con carne, provençal style (with grape vodka) or pears flambéed in melon and almond liqueur.
La Cuisine au Pastis, Absinthe et Liqueurs de Provence was compiled with recipes from locals and advice from some of France's leading chefs.
Among them are Edouard Loubet, a two-starred Michelin chef with two restaurants in the Luberon and René Bergès, formerly of the Relais Sainte-Victoire, in Beaurecueil near Aix.
Bergès made headlines in 2004 when he sent back his own Michelin star, stating that he no longer wished to feel under pressure to conform to the narrow norms of the guide.
"I want to express myself with my own kind of cuisine," said M. Bergès at the time. His typically original recipe for crème brûlée with preserved fennel and Aqualanca - a drink similar to pastis but without the liquorice - is reproduced below.
Bergès offers the following tips for anyone wishing to cooking with pastis, absinthe or liqueurs. "To make the most of them, you need to avoid cooking or heating them. In most cases, it's best to add them at the last minute, just before serving," Bergès says. If making a flambéed dish, add a little extra shot, just for the flavour, afterwards.
We sampled a menu featuring some of Bergès' recipes and others from the book at the Domaine Terre de Mistral, 21 km / 13 miles south-east of Aix (which produces excellent wines and olive oil of its own).
After a selection of specialist dips produced by the Liquoristerie (fig and olive, artichokes with garlic and basil and fennel with mint and absinthe) the meal began with a traditional creamy, spicy carrot and orange soup given a new spin with a shot of delice d'orange.
Cod in absinthe was another classic combination, but we especially liked the more unorthodox mashed potatoes spiked with blue pastis.
Pictured below, they turned out to be an eye-catching shade of bright emerald green and tasted unexpectedly good.
Bergès' frozen soufflé with absinthe rounded things off nicely, and the lunch as a whole demonstrated convincingly how versatile pastis and its cousins can be in the kitchen.
La Cuisine au Pastis, Absinthe et Liqueurs de Provence is currently available in French only. However, M. Rolland kindly agreed to let us translate a couple of sample recipes. Fortunately you don't need to be in possession of a Michelin star yourself to achieve them.
Cuttlefish with Dill and Pastis
1 kg / 2 lb 3 oz cuttlefish
25 cl / 1 cup fruity olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper
1 soup spoon of pastis
In a bowl prepare a sauce mixing olive oil, lemon, the chopped preserved tomatoes, garlic, dill, salt and pepper.
Warm a little olive oil in a large pan. Put in the cuttlefish and cook them, basting with a little sauce now and then. They are cooked when they start to turn brown.
Add the pastis to the rest of the sauce and pour it over the cuttlefish before serving.
Purée of Potatoes with P'tit Bleu Pastis
12 cl / half a cup P'tit Bleu or other blue-coloured pastis
9 cl / 3 oz butter
12 cl / half a cup cream
700 grams / 1 lb 8 oz potatoes
Three pinches of grated nutmeg
Salt and white pepper
Peel the potatoes, cut them into cubes and steam until they are tender. Drain well.
Melt the butter in the casserole. Add the P'tit Bleu pastis. Let it simmer for a minute.
Add the potatoes, crush them and add the cream until you have a smooth texture. Grate the nutmeg into the purée. Add salt and pepper to taste.
René Bergès' Frozen Soufflé with Absinthe and Sauce Suzette
200 cl / 8 and a half cups liquid cream
70 grams / 2 and a half oz sugar
20 grams / 4 teaspoons absinthe
For the sauce Suzette:
20 grams / three quarters of an oz sugar
25 grams / 5 teaspoons orange juice
10 grams / 2 teaspoons lemon juice
20-25 grams / three quarters of an oz butter
Beat the cream and clarify the eggs. Add 40 grams / 1.4 oz sugar to the egg whites and beat until stuff.
Blanch the egg yolk with the rest of the sugar. Add the absinthe and mix everything together.
Pour the mixture into stainless steel moulds and chill in the freezer for two hours.
For the sauce Suzette, prepare a dry caramel sauce with the sugar, deglaze with the orange and lemon juice and beat in the butter. Use the sauce to decorate the soufflé.