Although smoothies have been around for decades in North America, only in recent years have they grown popular in Europe, and in France in particular*.
We call them smoothies too, if you want to know, except we don’t pronounce the final “s,” even in the plural, and the “th” sound, ever a challenge for the French tongue to produce, varies in accuracy. Most people opt for a straightforward smoo-zee, unless they go for a smoo-tee or even, more rarely but much more amusingly, a smoo-fee.
(I’ll take this opportunity to note that in France, when an English word is used in a French sentence, even those who normally have fair pronunciation skills will say that word with a French accent — it sounds pompous otherwise.)
In any case, it is now frequent to see smoothies for sale, either bottled or freshly blended, at sandwich-and-salad shops in Paris, and a few have made it their specialty. They’re also available in the supermarket’s juice aisle, and a number of books have been written on the subject — always a good trend-o-meter.
Among these titles is a recipe book issued by Innocent, a British company that produces dairy-free, all-natural, no-sugar-added smoothies, and markets them with a “we’re real people” approach that has served them extremely well so far.
The French rights for this book were recently acquired by my French publisher, and because Matthew Gardan, the half-French, half-Aussie guy who handles the marketing for Innocent France, happens to be a reader of Chocolate & Zucchini, he asked if I’d contribute a recipe to the French edition.
I said I would, and this is the recipe I offered: a simple fig smoothie, thick and velvety, its rich flavors exalted by a splash of rose water.
The book came out last May, and my recipe appears on page 154, among fifty-four other recipes that range from classic (strawberry and banana; carrot, apple, and ginger) to unusual (avocado and pear; blackcurrant and litchi), illustrated by candid photography on matte paper, and introduced by the friendly banter that has become the signature voice of Innocent.
You’ll find my smoothie recipe below — and of course, if you have a killer combo of your own to share, I’m all ears!
* Lilo tells me she had excellent smoothies in Amsterdam ten years ago, including a memorable one involving raspberries, banana, and passion fruit, so it seems some European countries caught on earlier than others.
- 6 ripe black figs (about 250 grams or 9 ounces) (see note)
- 2 or 3 large oranges, to yield about 250 ml or 1 cup juice
- 2 teaspoons rose water, plus more to taste (see note)
- Remove the very tip of the fig stems and quarter the figs.
- Juice the oranges.
- Combine the quartered figs, orange juice, and rose water in a blender, and whizz until smooth.
- Taste, and add a little more rose water if desired.
- If the figs you have are not very sweet, throw in a dried fig (preferably a baglama fig from Turkey), rehydrated overnight in a bowl of very hot water. It’s okay to use frozen (but thawed) figs; in France, they’re available from Picard stores, for instance.
- Depending on the potency of your rosewater, you may want to start with a gingerly amount (reader Meredith suggested 1/2 teaspoon) and work your way up from there.
- I use an all-natural rose water made in Lebanon by a company called MyMouné. I buy it at La Grande Épicerie; their orange flower water is great, too.
- Rose syrup can be substituted. The smoothie will be a bit sweeter (and no longer sugar-free) then.