Reminiscing: Palmiers from the food markets of Nice (France)

30 March 2010
by Phuoc

Clockwise from top left: View of La Promenade des Anglais; Statue of La ville de Nice depicting Nice being saved by the French; Along the Promenade; The many markets of Cours Saleya; Some shade at the Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau)

After the hustle and bustle of our two week tour of Italy it was good to be able to travel on our own and not wake up at 6:30 EVERYDAY.

The night before we caught a train from Roma Termini (Ant and I disliked this train station immensely) and arrived in Nice 10 hours later. This was the first time we travelled on the trains in Europe so we were a bit hesitant to leave our luggage with random strangers since we slept in seats instead of booking a sleeper compartment. We decided to take turns in watching our luggage but that didn’t last long because we both feel asleep straight away! We reasoned that there was no possible way for someone to steal our heavy luggage (which was placed on the railings above our heads) without us knowing. When we woke up, we had no idea of where we were or whether we had missed our stop or not. I asked a lady in Italian if she knew where in the world we are and long story short she was going to Marseille but didn’t have a clue about the train times. There were 3 stopovers for us and at each stop it would be a mad dash for the three of us to get to the correct platform. I remember running up and down stairs dragging my luggage everywhere and Ant and I helped out the lady with hers because she seemed to be struggling a bit. Once we finally caught the train for our respective destinations we chatted for a bit in Italian to get to know one another. Christina offered us some of the sour cherry tarts that her mum made and they were so good! I was very pleased with myself that my Italian managed to score us some delectable treats.

Ant didn’t get that much sleep on that train ride as he was paranoid that we’d miss our stop and I kept waking up every now and then, so the lack of sleep caught up with us and so the first day in Nice was pretty much wasted as we crashed and slept for a few hours! We only woke up around 3pm and decided to have a late lunch! After lunch we walked around the Promenade des Anglaise watching the mesmerising blue mediterranean waters crash into the smooth pebble “sand”. It was this evening that I had my first macaron (not knowing what they were at the time and how I’d obsess over them later in my life); I can’t remember what flavours I got but I wished I had my macaron obsession when I was in France and not AFTER I came back home (Ant would not approve of this though).

Clockwise from top left: Delicious strawberries being sold at the markets; Flowers from the market; The pebble stone beach; Macarons; Ruins of the Castle on Castle Hill; Alleyways of Old Nice; "Box head", entrance to the gardens of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts

The next day I had organised a little walking tour for us to do of the Old Town which took about 3 hours. It took us around to see various statues, famous landmarks, piazzas, markets, churches and palaces. After our tour we spent the rest of the day walking around various places; for lunch we bought some baguettes and enjoyed the sun at Place Garibaldi (the place dedicated to Giuseppe Garibaldi who is considered as Italy’s national hero). We spent some time in an elaborate garden which was the entrance to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts; here we saw many random statues, the weirdest one would have to be of a gigantic bust with a box over its head; so we nicknamed it Box Head… In the evening we went back into the Old Town as we stumbled upon a store selling 97 different flavours of gelato and sorbet! It was so hard choosing which flavour to have, I think I ended up with milk and caramel and Ant got Kinder… Later that night we went out for dinner at a restaurant that was featured in the tourist map which offered a 3 course meal for €19 and it was surprisingly good and substantial. I asked the waiter in English “How do you say bellisimo in French?” Talk about mixing up the languages hey?

For our final day here in Nice, I had planned to go to the food and produce markets (Cours Saleya) to buy some food so that we could have a picnic on the top of Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill) which provides panoramic views of Nice. The markets stretched on for about 100m; each stall selling different things ranging from flowers, fresh and cured meats, seafood, fruits & vegetables, flavoured salts and spices, bread & pastries and home-made things. We bought some olive bread, salami, roasted pork, some giant strawberries and palmiers. There is a lift that takes you to the top of the hill for a fee but we decided to take the stairs instead, stopping at each platform to enjoy the magnificent views of the Baie des Anges (Bay of the Angels). There’s quite a lot to do on this hill besides taking in the spectacular views of the coast and the Port of Nice. A large playground is a available for the kids; there’s also the artificial waterfall and castle ruins to be seen. At 12 o’clock, a loud gunshot is fired which almost blew our eardrums out; apparently it’s a legacy from 1861 when Sir Thomas Coventry-More used it as a reminder for his wife that it was lunch time. Imagine that happening now; someone would probably file a report for domestic violence or suspect a murder if they just heard a gunshot. The rest of the evening was spent having a siesta in one of the grassy areas of the hill and then on the rocks along the water soaking up what remains of the European sunshine. Could it get better than that?

When we were at the markets earlier, we stumbled upon a stall selling pastries. There were samples being offered so the guy that was manning the stall gave me a small bit of a palmier that broke off and then he gave the bigger piece to Anthony! That wasn’t fair! I ended up buying a few more because they were delicious; nice flakey pastry with a wonderful caramelisation of the sugar. I wanted to make the pastry from scratch but I didn’t have 2 hours to spare (to make the “quicker” puff pastry) so I cheated and used ready-made puff pastry instead. They are so good and easy to make. However I still need to figure out a way to make them how we had them in Nice; Christmas tree shape-like.

Recipe

Makes about 20 pieces


1 sheet (150g) ready-made puff pastry

100g sugar

2 tsp cinnamon


  1. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the pastry with cinnamon sugar on both sides; gently roll the sugar into the pastry with a rolling pin.
  3. Fold 1/6 of the pastry in from two opposite ends in; flattern slightly with rolling pin and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  4. Continue folding the pastry until they meet and form one panel; roll the rolling pin over for the last time.
  5. Slice the pastry into 1cm strips (discarding untidy ends).
  6. Turn them onto one side and place them 2-3cm apart on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  7. Place the tray into the fridge and chill for 15 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
  9. Bake the palmiers in the centre of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Immediately take the palmiers off the baking paper (otherwise the paper will stick to it) and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.
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Clockwise from top left: Plastic man along The Boulevard; Men fishing; Sunset at the Promenade; Artworks being sold in the streets; Random statue in the garden of the Art Museum; One of the many spectacular views from Castle Hill; Lovely blue waters; Artificial waterfall at Castle Hill; Place Garibaldi; Random statue along the streets; View of the Port of Nice from Castle Hill

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16 Comments

  1. Anh

    Lovely post as always…

    You know you can get the palmiers in the Old quarter of Hanoi, too? :)

  2. foodwink

    My first attempt at making palmiers failed miserably. Perhaps the oven was not hot enough, or simply too much nutella was applied on the puff pastry strips :)

  3. Belle@OohLook

    Everything about the south of France is wonderful. I’m loving your travelogues, especially when there’s an evocative recipe at the end ;P

  4. Angie

    Palmiers are delish! So simple but yet so addictive. When I was making cinnamon twists I turned some of them into palmiers too. The things you can do with puff pastry!

  5. Trissa

    You speak Italian! Wonderful! The new set of pictures are beautiful. I also love how you tie in a recipe to your travels. Keep em coming!

  6. Phuoc

    Anh: Thanks! So how are they? I think that’s what I have to thank the French for. Sharing their culinary knowledge with us :)

    Foodwink: Mmmm.. now that sounds nice! You know.. What you can do is make the palmiers as normal and then dip one side of them with melted chocolate! Things always taste better dunken in chocolate.

    Belle: Thanks Belle! I wish we spent one of the days somewhere else since we didn’t do that much in Nice.

    Angie: I know what you mean; I think I ate about half of them all up! HAHA… Yeah puff pastry is good for last minute treats. I think I sliced some thin pieces of apples and sprinkled cinnamon sugar and butter on it to make mini tartlets.. YUM!

    Trissa: Si’ ho parlato italiano per circa due anni.. Thank you for your lovely comments :)

  7. Sarah Vino

    Wow oh it looks so lovely!!! Thanks for posting these pics, I can’t wait to go there… And those pastry things look tasty!!!

  8. Phuoc

    Thanks Sarah, the palmiers are heaps addictive as well! So when are you going to go there and are you going anywhere else?

  9. Adrian @ Food Rehab

    Great post- a travel piece and a perfect way to end it, a killer pastry recipe. Any leftovers?

  10. Helen (grabyourfork)

    oh my i love plamiers. puff pastry and sugar… oh those crunchy sugar crystals make it taste so good. lol

  11. Phuoc

    Adrian: Thanks! Unfortunately no leftovers.. They were all gobbled up by me by the next day (I tried to save some for the boy)..

    Helen: Well said, nothing beats puff pastry with sugar… Mmmmm

  12. Rosebelle

    The pastries look like what we have called churos in San Francisco. I love anything with sugar and cinnamon. As for your tour, I wish I can visit Italy one day. It’s such a beautiful city filled with great foods. I know what you mean about joining tours and waking up at 6:30 and then having to rush rush everything. Been there, done that!

  13. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    I love it when the sugar on the palmiers going all caramelised! I don’t think I’ve ever met a pastry I didn’t like in France :P

  14. Phuoc

    Rosebelle: We have Churros too here in Sydney. There are Spanish chocolate places popping up so we get these delicious treats too! These palmiers aren’t quite like churros though but I know what you mean with cinnamon sugar. Mmmm.. I’d love to go back to Italy again and do it all on my own.

    Lorraine: Hehe.. Oh I hear you Lorraine.

  15. Julia @ Mélanger

    I haven’t been to Nice for 15 years. Gosh, has it been that long. The photos are so lovely. Maybe I need to make myself some Palmiers and reminisce myself?

  16. Phuoc

    Yes yes! You should definately make some. They are so simple but with the puff pastry you made from scratch, it would be magnificent!

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