Tag Archives: recipes

Roti de Porc au Lait (Roast Milk Pork) …tonight!

25 Sep

LOVED this dish tonight!  I know I’ve put this recipe up earlier this year, but had to share it again… with the “NEW”photos!

The nights are cooler, Benji is now in harvest swing and it’s time to cook up some warm, slow-cooked meals…  Bon app.

delicious 'Porc au Lait'

delicious ‘Porc au Lait’

I was on the phone to Mum and Dad last week and mentioned that I’d just cooked up some Milk Pork – ‘Porc au Lait’ – for the next day’s dinner.  It’s funny, these conversations about food are always totally out of whack with our time zones.  It was 11pm my time and 8.30am the following morning, their time.  Normally it’s me cleaning up the breakfast dishes as Dad explains with excitement what he’s got on the stove for dinner.

I’ve never served them Porc au Lait but I know they’d love it.  It ticks all our family’s favourite food boxes:  MEAT, lots of sauce, herbs, garlic and the required ‘three veg’ – and it is easy to prepare.  It’s one of those old-fashioned French dishes that is simply delicious comfort food.  My husband and mother-in-law showed me how to cook this years ago and I can’t count how many times I’ve prepared it since.  We had the poker men for dinner + a few UK visitors and it went down a treat with the new ‘Boulevard Napoleon‘ wines – white and red.

the empties:  the Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris white and a few reds...

the empties: the Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris white and a few reds…

had to show you these beautifully coloured carrots - they actually gave the milk sauce an almost mauve tint by the end

had to show you these beautifully coloured carrots – they actually gave the milk sauce an almost mauve tint by the end

After the meat has been cooking for awhile in the milk, drop the vegies and parsley in

After the meat has been cooking for awhile in the milk, drop the vegies and parsley in

amples of milk sauce...

amples of milk sauce…

...to serve with this tender juicy meat.  The butcher told me the pork roll was 'parsleyed' ('persille') - I thought he meant stuffed with parsley, but he laughed and corrected me - no, it is the lines of fat running through the piece , 'marbled' as we might say.  Even the Vigneron hadn't heard of this!

…to serve with this incredibly juicy meat. The butcher told me the pork roll was ‘parsleyed’ (‘persille’) – I thought he meant stuffed with parsley, but he laughed and corrected me – it actually refers the lines of fat running through the piece , ‘marbled’ as we might say. Even the Vigneron hadn’t heard of this term, so I was proud to bestow some francais on him.

Roti de Porc au Lait

serves 6-8

ingredients:

1.5kg roll of roasting pork – preferably of shoulder (fillet is drier and less fat, don’t want that)

1 litre full cream milk

2 large onions, sliced

6 carrots, cut into in large chunks

8 potatoes, as above

8 small turnips, as above

4-5 cloves of garlic

2 sprigs fresh thyme

bunch fresh sage (about 10-12 leaves)

2 sprigs rosemary

oil, butter

salt, pepper

method:

Fry up the onions in heavy cast iron pot with a big chunk of butter (30-40g) and a little olive oil, until golden.

Add the roll of pork and brown on each side over medium -high heat.

When the meat is almost all browned, add the garlic and salt, pepper to taste.  I find garlic burns very easily, so I add it near the end of the browning.

Pour over the milk (meat should be 3/4 covered, if not add more ) and add the herbs.

Cover with lid and let simmer for an hour.

Add the carrots and turnips and keep simmering for another hour.

Add potatoes and keep simmering until they are tender.

Serve with lashings of dijon mustard on the side and a big white or red wine!

N.B.  If this is prepared the night before eating, I don’t add any of the vegetables until the next day.

And.  I cook this for a few hours, the longer the better.  I like it when the meat falls apart.  A lot of recipes cook it for less though, and you keep the form of the pork roll and then slice it.  As the French would say, ‘as you want’…

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Mamy Jeanne’s Jardiniere de Legumes

18 Apr
Spring vegetables waiting for the chop

Spring vegetables waiting for the chop

I’ve just cooked and devoured the first ‘Jardiere’ of the season.  I normally follow Mamy Jeanne’s recipe (listed below in this post), but hang on a minute!  I’ve just found in the collection, a version by the lovely Francoise Bernard!…

'Les Recettes Faciles' (easy Recipes) by Francoise Bernard, Librairie Hachette, 1965

‘Les Recettes Faciles’ (easy Recipes) by Francoise Bernard, Librairie Hachette, 1965

Francoise Bernard's version

Francoise Bernard’s version

Here’s Mamy Jeanne’s version from an older post…

Bon appetit.

pea

It’s the season of peas.  How delicious and sweet they are – served in the pods as a nibble during the aperitif, or boiled or steamed.  I grew up with my fair share of them – Mum always hid them in the mashed potato –  and I loved them like that even if ‘green’ was a no-go zone at the time.  But I must say that the peas we ate were more of the frozen in a bag variety (feeding a family takes a lot of shelling I now realise).  Now it’s a delight to find so many fresh peas around at the markets and Lilas and I’ve had a great time sitting amongst the rows of vineyards (Benjamin uses them as a ‘green fertiliser’) picking and eating them.

Lilas shelling peas for Mum

Lilas shelling peas with her mum

A couple of years ago, my parents-in-law brought Mamy Jeanne with them to stay at our place (Mamy Jeanne is Benjamin’s maternal grandmother and ever since my arrival in France has been a huge support – even when my French was non-existant and communication was conveyed by gestures).  Not one to sit around and enjoy  being waited on , Mamy wanted to help contribute to the numerous family reunions we were having that week and prepare a few of her favourite Spring dishes from over the years.  And we’re talking a few Springtimes here – Mamy is 90 and also been known to wield a ping-pong bat in games against the great-grandchildren.

Mamy Jacqueline et Mamy Jeanne

I just love this photo of the two Mamys: Here is Mamy Jeanne on the right and Mamy Jacqueline on the left. Tres stylish femmes!

Jardiniere de Legumes

Jardiniere de Legumes

So I took Mamy to the local market and she was very keen to buy up on the peas.  She wanted to show me how to make a Jardiniere de Legumes (as one of my husband’s favourite dishes, it was almost a family duty to add this to the repertoire) and I was very eager to hover over the stove as she did it.

When the peas are abundant in Spring and you have the arrival of the other ‘legumes nouveaux’ (new vegetables), this dish is served on many French tables.  It’s extremely easy, colourful and healthy. We had some Australian friends to stay recently and with a couple of vegetarians amongst them, it was a perfect meal.

Mamy Jeanne’s Jardiniere de Legumes

(please note that quantities are approximate – I vary them, depending on how it looks in the pot)

 

ingredients:

10 or so lettuce leaves (any type of green salad leaf)

10 carrots

10 potatoes

6 turnips

4 onions – or about 8-10 new baby onions

367 432 peas (that’s what it seems like – but make it about 800g, unshelled)

bay leaves

fresh thyme

butter, olive oil

salt, pepper

salted pork (this is optional – depending on how you feel and if there any any vegos)

 

method:

First I like to fry the onion in a good chunk of butter and olive oil until almost golden as I enjoy the sweetness (and easier for hubby to digest).

(I read a recipe where a women likes to caramelize a bit of sugar in her pot first, but I really don’t think you need to when the new vegetables are so sweet and fresh)

Once onion is done, add the salad leaves and stir well until leaves are floppy.  If using pork, add now too.

            Then add the carrots, potatoes, turnips, all cut into random, small chunks (some like to perfectly dice each vegetable but I think this looks too neat!), and herbs.

            Add water to the pot, until vegetables are just covered, close lid and simmer after boiling for about one hour – or until vegetables are to your liking (the French have a reputation for very well-cooked vegetables, something unheard of in the Asian-focused cuisine so popular in Australia!)

Remember to add the shelled peas about half-an hour into the cooking time.  I don’t like to add them from the beginning as they can get mushy.

 

Serve on its own or as an accompaniment to veal, pork or chicken, with a big pot of French mustard on the side.

served up

served up

Roti de Porc au Lait (Roast Milk Pork)

1 Feb
delicious 'Porc au Lait'

delicious ‘Porc au Lait’

I was on the phone to Mum and Dad last week and mentioned that I’d just cooked up some Milk Pork – ‘Porc au Lait’ – for the next day’s dinner.  It’s funny, these conversations about food are always totally out of whack with our time zones.  It was 11pm my time and 8.30am the following morning, their time.  Normally it’s me cleaning up the breakfast dishes as Dad explains with excitement what he’s got on the stove for dinner.

I’ve never served them Porc au Lait but I know they’d love it.  It ticks all our family’s favourite food boxes:  MEAT, lots of sauce, herbs, garlic and the required ‘three veg’ – and it is easy to prepare.  It’s one of those old-fashioned French dishes that is simply delicious comfort food.  My husband and mother-in-law showed me how to cook this years ago and I can’t count how many times I’ve prepared it since.  We had the poker men for dinner + a few UK visitors and it went down a treat with the new ‘Boulevard Napoleon‘ wines – white and red.

the empties:  the Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris white and a few reds...

the empties: the Boulevard Napoleon Grenache Gris white and a few reds…

had to show you these beautifully coloured carrots - they actually gave the milk sauce an almost mauve tint by the end

had to show you these beautifully coloured carrots – they actually gave the milk sauce an almost mauve tint by the end

After the meat has been cooking for awhile in the milk, drop the vegies and parsley in

After the meat has been cooking for awhile in the milk, drop the vegies and parsley in

amples of milk sauce...

amples of milk sauce…

...to serve with this tender juicy meat.  The butcher told me the pork roll was 'parsleyed' ('persille') - I thought he meant stuffed with parsley, but he laughed and corrected me - no, it is the lines of fat running through the piece , 'marbled' as we might say.  Even the Vigneron hadn't heard of this!

…to serve with this incredibly juicy meat. The butcher told me the pork roll was ‘parsleyed’ (‘persille’) – I thought he meant stuffed with parsley, but he laughed and corrected me – it actually refers the lines of fat running through the piece , ‘marbled’ as we might say. Even the Vigneron hadn’t heard of this term, so I was proud to bestow some francais on him.

 

 

Roti de Porc au Lait

serves 6-8

ingredients:

1.5kg roll of roasting pork – preferably of shoulder (fillet is drier and less fat, don’t want that)

1 litre full cream milk

2 large onions, sliced

6 carrots, cut into in large chunks

8 potatoes, as above

8 small turnips, as above

4-5 cloves of garlic

2 sprigs fresh thyme

bunch fresh sage (about 10-12 leaves)

2 sprigs rosemary

oil, butter

salt, pepper

method:

Fry up the onions in heavy cast iron pot with a big chunk of butter (30-40g) and a little olive oil, until golden.

Add the roll of pork and brown on each side over medium -high heat.

When the meat is almost all browned, add the garlic and salt, pepper to taste.  I find garlic burns very easily, so I add it near the end of the browning.

Pour over the milk (meat should be 3/4 covered, if not add more ) and add the herbs.

Cover with lid and let simmer for an hour.

Add the carrots and turnips and keep simmering for another hour.

Add potatoes and keep simmering until they are tender.

Serve with lashings of dijon mustard on the side and a big white or red wine!

N.B.  If this is prepared the night before eating, I don’t add any of the vegetables until the next day.

And.  I cook this for a few hours, the longer the better.  I like it when the meat falls apart.  A lot of recipes cook it for less though, and you keep the form of the pork roll and then slice it.  As the French would say, ‘as you want’…

Simple Country Lentils*

28 Sep

(* this dish is a version of the one listed in the fabulous “French Farmhouse Cookbook” by Susan Herrmann Loomis)

a simple lentil dish

a very simple lentil dish – minus the sausages

Nothing like keeping the monsieur happy – and at this time more than any other. Harvest time means good, honest, country cooking and this very simple (the best kind!) lentil dish is a winner in our house.  It’s easy and so versatile – it’s great on its own or delicious paired with country sausages, pork chops, lamb chops, whatever you feel like.  They say that dried pulses were a staple in many homes during the harsh Winter months, a time when people also consumed more preserved, salted meats (no wonder I feel like large slabs of juicy ‘petit sale’ with my lentils).

porc demi-sel

pork for your fork
(‘petit sale’ or ‘porc demi-sel’)

And it’s another one of those dishes that tastes better and better each day it gets older!

I first tried this dish here in France at Benji’s parents’ house.  A large cast-iron pot was plonked in the middle of the table and we helped ourselves to this comfort-food’ – the country sausages (mmn, like a bit of country saucisse, but not these!!) swimming in a dark brown-green mass of  steaming lentils, with dollops of Dijon mustard, soaking it all up with crusty bread and wine.

I’m wondering if it was the first time I’d had ‘Puy’ lentils?  These are a dark green/grey coloured lentil commonly found in ‘Le Puy’, in the Auvergne area of France.  Grown in volcanic soil, they are very small and lovely to cook with as they retain their form.  Until that time, all the lentil dishes I’d tried were mostly Indian influenced, eg dhal, using red or brown lentils.  Come to think of it, I used to eat a lot more ‘Asian’-influenced dishes in Australia.  Coriander, soy sauce, chillies and limes were far more common sights in the kitchen than wild thyme, bay leaves and olive oil.  Who would have thought…

Simple Country Lentils

ingredients:

500g green Puy lentils (this will serve about 6 people)

2 onions, diced

4 carrots, chopped

250g salted pork, cut into chunks (optional)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme

bay leaf

country sausages/ frankfurters (1-2 per person) – (optional)

parsley  and mustard for serving

pepper to taste (if you are using the salted pork you will not need to add any salt)

method:

Fry your onion until golden in a generous amount of olive oil, in a heavy casserole pot

+ During this time, boil a full kettle of water for pouring over the lentils later – the hot water greatly reduces the cooking time +

Add the roughly cut chunks of salted pork and fry for a few minutes, stirring frequently

Add the carrots and the garlic, give a good stir

Now add the lentils, stir well

lentils 1

add the lentils and stir

Pour boiling water to cover well.

N.B. During the cooking, you will find that the lentils soak up a lot of water, you may need to add a second pot of boiling water over the mixture if you have no liquid left.  I know, it may look like you are drowning the lentils with water, but believe me it does dry up!

lentils 2

pour boiling water over the lentils etc and then cover

Add herbs and pepper to taste.  

N.B. You do not need to add salt if using the salted pork (I’ve made that mistake!) – but if you’re not using meat DO NOT salt at this point.  – adding salt to lentils during cooking may toughen them up.  Add it after the cooking.

Cover with lid and let simmer for one hour (if you have too much liquid, leave the lid slightly ajar) – or until lentils are tender.

Voila! – and enjoy with a light red or a dry white…

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

1 Jun
it's almost gone!

oops, missed the photo opportunity this time round – it is THAT good!

I want to share a little recipe with you.  It’s asparagus season here and every year we eat tonnes of it and the way we’ve normally prepared it, is steamed until al dente and served on a platter with boiled egg scattered over the top and then washed over with a mustard vinaigrette (essentially an oil-based sauce with vinegar – to which you can add lemon juice, salt, pepper, mustard etc,  whatever you feel like!).

asparagus olonzac market

asparagus at the Olonzac market

another asparagus grower at the Olonzac market

…more asparagus at the Olonzac market

asparagus carcassonne market

asparagus at the Carcassonne market

We’ve been eating it for years and I’ve never considered preparing it any other way, I like it so much!  That is, until I ate Philippa’s oven-baked asparagus.

Philippa and her partner John have a winery here in the Minervois – Hegarty Chamans – where they make a great range of organic and biodynamic whites (I love their Marsanne Roussanne!) and reds.  Their philosophy of how they make their wines follows into the kitchen.  Philippa is an amazing cook and meals there are a real treat.  It’s like a celebration of fresh produce (often from their ‘potager’/ vegie patch), colours and aromas.   There’s no messing around, just simple, pure flavours blended beautifully together.  And it all feels so healthy! (if I leave my wine consumption out of the equation).    This dish in particular is a beauty.  Thanks Philippa, I’ve been hooked ever since you served this entree of asparagus!

oven-baked asparagus

Oven-Baked Asparagus

Philippa’s Oven-Baked Asparagus

(Yum!  and great served as an entree…)

ingredients:

2-3 bunches green asparagus

olive oil

a good cup full of grated Swiss Gruyere (my favourite cheese EVER) or Parmesan

3-4 dried chopped dried chillies (or 1 or 2 fresh – very hard to find around these parts!)

salt and pepper

method:

chop the ends off the asparagus spears (I never really peel the ends), then rinse and pat dry in a teatowel

pour olive oil into bottom of a good heavy baking dish and swirl to spead the oil

place the spears, then top with the cheese, then the chillies, drizzle more oil and then add salt, pepper to taste

bake in moderate to hot oven (in my old gas oven I cook them on ‘7’) for 30 mins ( or for however long you want, depending on how much crunch you want to leave in the spears)

et voila!  so simple and so delicious!

…and a note on the wine!  Asparagus is a difficult thing to match with wine.  But if you really can’t resist, go ahead and eat them with a dry but fruity white

The people in your neighbourhood #2 – The Night of the Snail Hunter

16 May
escargot man

l’homme des escargots

You don’t get to meet too many Aussies around here (that’s ‘Australian’ when talking Orstrayan)… it took me more than 10 years to meet this one.   Yes, there are quite a few foreigners around here – English, Dutch, New Zealander,  some Americans, Irish,Canadian – but not so many from where I’m from.

I’d always been told about ‘the other Aussie’ in the next village – “Vous ne connaissez pas Joff-wah?!?” (aka Geoffrey), they would exclaim.  No, I’d respond.  I hadn’t met ‘the other one’, even after many years of exploring Felines, a mere 3 km’s from us , I’d never set eyes on Joff-wah.  I’d been told I would have remembered if I’d met him.  And I now know why.

Meeting ‘Geoff’ (I’ll stay simple) finally happened via the lovely Evonne, who had recently moved in and become the third Aussie in our parts.  How wonderful to finally have some ‘mates’ from the other side of the world!!  I can’t tell you how reassuring it was to finally hear the word ‘dance’ rhyme with ‘ants’ and to hear news of a dawn meeting at Geoff’s to watch the AFL Grand Final of Australian Rules football.  Unheard of in the Minervois until now!  After all these years.  Geoff also has a French partner (divine Florence) who also works in wine, like mine – it’s mad we’d never met.

Now I should tell you that Geoff, as well as being token Aussie in his village, is also known as a damn fine snail catcher and cook.  It’s a big tradition around here and once these little slimy creatures come out in force after a big rain, you hear much talk amongst the locals of ‘cagaraula’ (‘snails’ in local Occitan).  Evonne had told me how good Geoff’s snails were and it was thanks to him that I got to try my third-ever*  meal of ‘les escargots’…

* (the first time was back in 1997 in Cape Town where Benji and I had recently eloped – long story and one that I will explain, later! –  and out dining with some Frenchies, I thought I should dip my toes into ‘their’ cuisine once and for all)

Geoff the Snail Hunter

And what were they like?  Bloody good!!

the night of the snail hunter

the night of the snail hunter

I must say I loved every bit of this dish.  A bit of tomato here, a lovely chunk of pork meat there, some snail flesh here…  It’s amazing how well the flavours merged and complemented each other.  I just didn’t want to stare at my fork for too long and wonder about where the big slimy chunks had grown up.

what is that?

what’s this slug on my fork?!??

After beginning our evening with a yummy apero of La Tour Boisee white wine, the snails slid down deliciously with red.  Florence’s La Tour Boisee Minervois 2010 was a real treat.

snails and La Tour Boisee 2010 Minervois

Escargots a La Minervoise and La Tour Boisee 2010 Minervois red

I used to think that these creatures were torn from their outside homes, cleaned up a bit, thrown into a cook pot and then served swimming out of their shells in cream and garlic.  Not so simple!  Snail hunting and preparation is a carefully orchestrated, time-consuming passion.  I could give you my boring, textbook account of how Geoff prepares his snails, but I think the words of the Snail Hunter himself are far more interesting:
Snail Preparation
1. Once the snails are collected they are put into a bird’s cage.  Trapping the snails in a cage allows them to empty their stomachs from herbs or plants that could be poisonous to humans. So a period of starvation assures that you are not going to kill your friends after your dinner party. You can change their diet by feeding the snails with herbs, spices and salads that do not harm humans. Starving the snails makes them thinner and less earthy tasting. So this caging period is a tricky one and most Snailers have their method of doing it. Some other elements that determine the length and method of caging the snails are also the climate, type of cage and the location of the cage. It is a long process as you don’t want the snails to die of starvation, neither suicide from madness, or just simply close back up in their shell in hibernation. Consider the caging period of a snail like trapping the wine in a container. Wine is alive and its “caging period” between the vine to the table is felt at the time of digestion.  
The only time I put them in the bath tub or the kitchen sink is to clean them (I had been told the cage had sat in the family bath tub) – the “cleaning period”.  Depending on the amount of snails I have, I’ll use either the tub or the sink.
Cleaning the Snails
2.  Cleaning the snails comes before the time of death. You clean the snails after the caging period. Washing and sorting the snails is the biggest manual task of the cook. It can take up to three hours to clean them. You give them a good little scrub on their shell and try to make a last minute moose (frothing). Some sorry arsed Snailers throw little bit of vinegar on them to make them froth. I do this in very small amounts to the last of the snails that have not yet come out of their shell. Note: before the snails go into the pot for cooking you have to make sure that the snail can come out of its shell and that is not dead. Snails that die in the cage during the caging period either die from old age or unsupervised mismanagemant during the caging method. Do not include any snails that are dead or that haven’t cracked their bonnet after the cage !

How do they Die?

3.  The Time Of Death.  This is very delicate. Once the snails have been cleaned they are put into a large pot of COLD water and heated very slowly. As the water warms up the snails drift off to sleep and as the water gets hotter they die.

That was so delicious, so can we have the recipe?

4.  My recipe is not a secret. However I don’t go telling just anyone. Cooking snails takes years of practice. In this region a snailer is only able to cook snails about 4 to 6 times maximum per year. I do it about 4 times a year, depending on how much rainfall we get. This year will be my 9th snailing season.  I use fresh pork sausage meat.

Hmmn, I guess that means we can’t have it.

And no Benji, you can’t take home any of Florence’s family record collection!

snail music

a little light music to dine on snails by…

No recipe, no records, but a final word from the SH:

I think there is a village rule that does not allow snailing until around the 1st of May. Snail hunting season!  This is an old rule however and there is a blind eye towards it as there are not as many snailers as there used to be (Snailers: my word for them).  The most discreet way around this rule is to never talk about it, and if you do happen to go snailing in the off-season you should never brag about how many snails you got. 

Amongst the existing Snailers there is huge competition. You should never be seen on another snailer’s turf. I did make a slippery visit this morning to check the snail turf of Lily Marty just to see if a few snails had cracked their bonnet but there were none visible. While shifting around on her turf I felt like I was stealing scones from her kitchen window. I didn’t stay long as I didn’t want to be seen.  I do have my own snail turfs around the place which are not as good as the snail turfs of some of the older local Snailers, as some are a bit more complicated to access.

 The first major rain will bring out the big snails. Apparently we have just gone through the driest winter in one hundred years so I am not familiar with what state the hibernating little buggers will be in. I guess there will not be any major difference to the hibernation state of a snail from previous years but this is still unknown as there is not a living Snailer older than one hundred years to tell me. All I can imagine is that soon the snail hibernation will be ended by a big rain and snailing will be given the green light ! I love the smell of snails in the morning !

Thanks Geoff (and Florence and Evonne!), for your ‘Les Escargots a La Minervoise’.  From one Aussie to another, they and the evening were tres, tres bon!


It’s time for Ratatouille! …have I got the spelling right??

16 Sep

…Umm, here we go again!  For those of you who saw this as a ‘mini-post’ a few hours ago, you must have been thinking ‘so where the heck is that recipe then?’.   Well, I was in a hurry to pick up our child from school and WHOOPS pressed the ‘publish’ button instead of ‘save draft’.   I’ll give it another try.

As for the spelling  …well yes, I checked in the cookbook.  It’s one of those words, like ‘rhythm’ or ‘Mediterranean’… I always have to think twice about it or look it up!

So here is my version of a ‘Rattatooey’ (that’s how I pronounce it, causing grimaces all round I’m sure) – a very traditional French dish that for me, unlike any other dish, evokes Summer in the South.  The colours of the ingredients are sublime and just thinking about cooking it conjures up images of potagers (vegetable patches), big cast-iron casserole pots simmering on country kitchen stoves, lashings of fresh basil and chilled French wines.  Many households are cooking up this dish right now and on my visits to friends’ houses I love nothing more than peeking into their pots to see what theirs look like.  Vegies cut big or small? Diced or sliced??  Oily, not so oily?  Fresh tomotoes, tinned?

I say ‘my’ version as yes, there are many.  The ingredients are almost always the same, but the cooking methods differ.  I’m a little embarrassed admitting that mine has conserved tomatoes in it instead of fresh, but it has.  A good friend of ours came to stay this Summer (more of him in later posts) and being the most wonderful cook he is (and being French, I must also add) I was eager to get his opinion on what the ‘correct’ way to prepare this is.  Strike out!  He insisted the tomatoes had to be fresh.  Ohh, I thought to myself, now I feel unworthy.  Oh well.  It’s always tasted good to us and what’s the point in arguing with this Frenchman, whose opinions on cooking and wine I admire so much.

I should add that my two of my  favourite references for cooking are Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ and Susan Herrmann Loomis’s ‘French Farmhouse Cookbook’ and I first accessed this recipe from their reassuring pages.   They were both wedding presents and how many times did I think to myself in those early days as a mute-non-speaking the local language-housewife with her apron – ‘where wold I be with out you??!??’   Well I must say that neither of their versions use conserve/ tinned tomatoes either!

Our friend did have a little extra advice for me too.  On his departure, he mentioned that during the vintage I should be preparing many good meals for my husband, be kind and – with a wink –  be a ‘bonne femme’.  What did he mean?  Did he really mean the housewife variety relegated to her stove or being simply good to Him?  In the kitchen, elsewhere? (now don’t go there…).  Mais merci, I’ll take that on board.

Incidentally, in  French, ‘bonne femme’ could be either ‘good woman’ or ‘good wife’ – it’s the same term for both.  For the blokes however, there’s no such confusion as husband has its own word – ‘mari’.

I’m beginning to think we’re all destined to be good housewives here! (in the countryside anyway, if not the towns).

Anyway, here’s my recipe, minus the fresh tomatoes, from one Bonne Femme to you!

‘Ratatouille’

With these quantities, you can serve this to 6-8 people and still have left-overs.

This is one of those dishes that just gets better and better on the second and third days.  Ideally, I make this the night before serving.

ratatouille

ratatouille

Ingredients:

(I change my portions each time, according to how it looks in the pot, so these quantities can be varied according to your taste)

4-5 medium onions, sliced (I love them!)

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 eggplants, sliced

8 zucchinis, sliced to 1cm thickness

3-4 capsicums (that is, peppers or poivrons, depending on your country!) – green, yellow and red, seeded and sliced

1 x 690g bottle crushed tomato pulp (you may not want to pour all of it in)

2 x 800g tin tomatoes

salt, pepper

olive oil, sunflower oil for frying

chopped parsley and torn basil

method:

Cut the eggplant into 1cm (or finer if you like) slices, place the slices in layers on a large tray, sprinkling salt over each layer.  Cover with tin foil, weigh down with a heavy book and leave for one hour.

Heat up a generous amount of oil in a large cast-iron casserole/ heavy-bottomed pot and fry the onions over medium-low heat until soft and golden.

a lotta onions

I love onions

While the onions are frying,  seed and chop capsicums, chop zucchinis, chop garlic.

'tricolore' de poivrons

a ‘tricolore’ of capsicums

As the onions become soft and golden, add the capsicum and the garlic and stir well.  Increase heat to medium-high, stirring frequently to mix the ingredients.

Lower heat, cover with lid.  Cook for further 15 minutes.

onions and capsicums

During this time, rinse the eggplant slices, drain through a colander and pat dry with tea towels.

Prepare one or two fry pans for  shallow frying eggplants with generous amount of blended olive oil/ sunflower oil in each.

Stir in the tomatoes into the pot.

tomatoes added

Stir in zucchinis to the pot, add freshly ground pepper and continue simmering with lid on.

Over a high heat (watch that the oil doesn’t burn) fry the eggplant slices until golden, re-adding oils to the pan/s regularly.  This step is one of the most time-consuming in this recipe, but I really think it makes a difference to the dish. Once slices are cooked, I lay them aside on paper towels on a large tray.

Please note: I don’t salt the pot until I’ve tasted it with the eggplant added – even if the eggplants have been well-rinsed there can be a residue of salt.

frying the eggplant

Using two fry pans can reduce the time spent over the stove!

Once all the eggplant slices have been fried, I add them to the pot, taste for salt and then re-cover and leave simmering for another 20 minutes.

almost there with the ratatouille

Serve cold, warm or hot the next day with torn basil leaves and freshly chopped parsley.

This is a great side dish for bbq’d meats – especially lamb.  It also goes very well with country sausages.

barbecued country sausage

barbecued country sausage

We also enjoy serving left-over ratatouille as a pizza base or tossed through pasta – it’s a delicious mix with spaghetti or fettuccine, sprinkled with basil and parmesan. 

It’s a great way to get Lilas to eat her vegies!

ratatouille spaghetti

ratatouille spaghetti

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