Picture courtesy Carol Drinkwater from her website
Recently I invited Carol Drinkwater to particpate in my series “geprekken en gerechten” (conversation and recipes) Carol Drinkwater is an exceptional and multi talented woman. She starred as an actress in many TV series, on stage and films. In the Netherlands we know her as Helen Herriot from the series ”All creatures great and small” that is now again on Dutch television. She is a film maker. Carol is also a writer of many books, her memoirs on buying a house, called Appassionata, and her adventures in the Provence. She restored its olive groves and got an AOC. This resulted in another passion. Carol dived into the history and culture of the olive tree and its fruits. I am now reading her book the “Olive Tree” It can be said that she became a real expert on this topic. For all these reasons and from a culinary point of view I am very interested what she will answer to my questions. Let’s see if I can write her a recipe, that reflects her passions and talents. And sure, a Provencal touch and olive oil will be in the recipe.
Who is Carol Drinkwater? Tell me some more
I was born in London though I am Irish and my Irish culture and background is very important to me. I believe that the passion the Irish have expressed to win back their land and to rediscover their own identity is an energy I have directed in other ways. I am equally passionate about my life in France where I am married to a French documentary film producer. Together, we make films and tell stories with words and pictures. I think of myself as an actress, writer and filmmaker.
When did you start acting and which role you still remember?
My very first role was playing the small girl in Arther Miller’s The Crucible. I was eleven-years old. This was at the loacl repertory theatre. I had wanted to act from the age of about four but this experience consolidated the dream for me. My first professional role was in Stanley Kubrick’s film,Clockwork Orange. This was directly after drama school.
You wrote me that you were filming this June, when did you start these activities? And what kind of films you make?
We have been shooting a five-film documentary series inspired by my two books The Olive Routeand The Olive Tree. We have been shooting all around the Mediterranean. It was has been a very special experience.
You wrote a lot of books, childrens books, but also memoirs of buying a house and living in France, on olive trees, can you tell something more on your writing?
I have been writing since I was a small girl but only began to write professionally in the late 80s. My husband, Michel, encouraged me to get on with it. My first book was for youngsters, The Haunted School, and we made it into a film in Australia. It won the Chicago Film festival’s gold award for children’s films.
The Olive Farm is the first book in the Olive series. It is translated into Dutch and has sold very well there. It recounst the stories of our purchase of this rundown olive farm here in Provence. There are now seven books in the series icluding a fabulous photogrpahic book called The Illustrated Olive Farm. This series of books has sold well more than a million copies.
If you had to choose, only one option is possible, between being a writer or actress? What would it be?
I never make this choice because I don’t see a line down the middle between them. I am telling a story as an actress just as much as when I write a book. I like to think I am someone who takes people and situations from life and turns them nto fascinating stories.
You als write historical novels, in August, your new book Nowhere to Run will be published? Can you give a clue?
This is one in my young adult series published by Scholastic Books in the UK. It is the story of a young girl, Rebecca, who escapes from Poland in 1938 and they head for Paris. From Paris, they are forced to run to the South of France. And then they must run again, which explains the title. They are a Jewish family trying to escape the Nazis.. I love this book. I hope t will be as succesful as the others in the series.
Which plant do you like the most and which one you dislike? I am very curious about that
Well, I must say olive trees. Of course! I have travelled all over the Mediterranean in search of their stories, the stories of those who live by the olive tree and the history of the tree. It is a very very fascinating plant. There is no plant I don’t like though I am not very inspired by ivy because its roots breaks up our walls…
You traveled a lot worldwide, what are your favorite spots?
Many places. I love Australia and I am very fond of Palestine and Lebanon. The Middle East because its cultures are so old and, sadly, confused and tragic. Palestine is a very beautiful land with a heartbreaking history. I also love the island of Sicily and, of course, the South of France.
What was the biggest difference between your life in the UK and France?
I was never very at home in the UK. I prefer to be in southern Ireland but the weather in Ireland is a bit cold for me. I am a lizard and love the sun. Here, in the south of France, I have found my spot, you might say. Like a dog curled up sleeping on the terrace.
Has it been easy to adapt for you to the French customs?
No, they were waiting to welcome me here!
Can you tell me some more on the olive growing process? That must be quite a hard job
It is a very time-consuling provcess and that is why olive oil can be very expensive. We pick our fruits by hand and we use no pesticides on the land. This is an organic farm and that, too, adds to the challenges. The trees need little watering because they are very drought-resistant but they need pruning every second year and we have to watch for an insect called the olive fruit fly that lays its eggs in the growing drupe. This is usually why farmers spray with chemicals but we are always looking for organic methods to combat the fly. It’s not easy!
Last April I visited the South of France and was caught again by the blue of the Sea, the yellow of the Sun and the snow in the mountains? After all these years, are you still taken by thes colours?
Every day, I marvel at the beaty and the colours. Now, midsummer, the garden is ablaze with oleander flowers of vibrant reds, picks, shades of apricot and the bougainvilleas. Oh, it is a joy to see them.
On food, which dish you prefer the most? And ofcourse what food you dislike?
I enjoy seafood very much. I like sea bass and cod meals and I love good pastas when I am in Italy. Fresh salads from the garden with lots of tomatoes….
What wine do you like?
I most enjoy a white Burgundy in summer and good Bordeaux reds in winter
What else do you want to share?
Thank you for inviting me to play this little culinary game with you. It’s a terrific idea. I have many readers in Holland and it is always a pleasure to hear from them. If you want to know more about me my website is www.caroldrinkwater.com
and I have a fabulous and very active Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/olive.farm
. You can always talk to me there.
Picture the Olive tree on my outside table
I found in the book Cuisine du Terroir (ISBN 0-9512121-0-9) a recipe that dates from Ancient Greek times in the area where Carol lives. It is a stuffed Savoy cabbage cooked for three hours in a piece of cheese cloth. It is called Sou Fassum. This time consuming recipe is still made in Antibes and Grasse. For Carol I have a creative recipe of a rustic bread stuffed with vegetables, lamb sausages and Greek feta cheese. And needless to say delicious Extra Vierge olive oil. This dish can be served warm and cold. Or she can take it with her on a trip or as a snack when working in her olive grove. To pair this dish I would suggest a red Rhône wine, like the one from Vacqueyras
Ingredients for 4 persons:
1 big round loaf of rustic bread
8 lamb sausages
50 g of black olives cut in halves
1 tbs lemon zest
1 red bell pepper
200 g French haricot beans
1 container of wild cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
1 ts chopped rosemary
1 clove of garlic
125 g feta cheese
1 dl olive oil EV
salt and pepper
Cut the upper third part from the loaf. This will later serve as a lid. With a spoon remove the crumble from the inside. The bread becomes a kind of bowl. Keep some bread crumbs apart. Cook the French haricot beans for several minutes. Cut the bell pepper and courgette in dices. Do the same with the garlic and onion. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the onion and vegetables for 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, lemon zest and rosemary. Roast the lamb sausages until almost done and cut them in pieces. Mix everything in a large bowl, adding the bread crumbs, halved cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, torn basil leaves, the oregano leaves and halved black olives. Give it a good dash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill the bread bowl with this mix and put the lid on. Set the oven on 100 degrees Celcius and warm the bread for about 10 minutes. Serve this dish with a nice watercress salad with just a dash of EV olive oil and lemon juice.