Aïoli and seafood delight

by mimithorisson

There must have been something in the Atlantic ocean’s air this morning when I woke up – for all I wanted to do was to get the kids ready and drag everybody to Soulac-sur–mer for the Saturday seafood market.

Deep coral colours marked my day and opened my appetite for a crustacean lunch. If a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets, then mine is filled with tourteaux crabs, bulots and bigorneaux (marine snail). I just can’t explain my love for seafood, apart from the fact that I grew up by the sea, influencing my palate’s memory. The best crab I ever had was at Trishna’s (Birla Mansion, Sai Baba Marg, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, India), for their butter pepper garlic king crab fulfilled my every wish for food perfection.

I love going to Soulac’s market because of its ‘Belle Epoque’ look and feel. Located at the tip of Médoc, Soulac is sheltered by pine-covered dunes and fronted by the Atlantic ocean. Attractive villas sprang up in th early 19th century making this village a little gem of a seaside resort. I am always told by locals that the charm of Soulac is its inacessibilty – as it’s a quite a little detour to get there, it is never over-crowded by tourists.

There was so much choice that I hesitated for a while, from freshly fished daurades, bar, oysters and lobsters to name a few. I decided to choose a dos de cabillaud (cod) for two reasons: the kids like it, and I thought of a perfect match – the aïoli. Aïoli is a classic French Provençal sauce made of garlic, olive oil and egg yolk. My mother is originally from Séte in the South of France, and whenever she was homesick she would always talk about a good aïoli. After an aïoli meal, you might feel embalmed by garlic, chasing away any hint of a future cold. This is pure sunshine food! I couldn’t resist adding a few goodies – cooked tourteaux crab, a few shrimps, bulots (winkles) and a pot of fresh mayonnaise – they are perfect starters when we come home famished from the market!

I like to serve the aïoli sauce with vegetables and fish. The classic version requires boiled eggs, but I don’t add them because I find the sauce so powerful that I want to keep the taste simple. You can add any vegetables you like – I found these beautiful cranberry beans at the market so I added a few to this recipe. This dish offers a perfect blend of flavours, and the sauce is the high note of the meal. You can use a food processor to make this sauce, or a pestle and mortar (which is what I used).

Ingredients: (serves 4)

For the aïoli sauce
2 egg yolks
4 cloves garlic (I like it strong, but you can add 2 if you prefer a milder version)
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crush the garlic with a garlic crusher and transfer to the pestle and mortar. Crush the garlic again to obtain a smooth purée. Transfer to a bowl, add egg yolks and start whisking away, slowly adding the olive oil. When the sauce starts to thicken (like a mayonnaise), add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Alternatively, you can mix everything in a food processor. Blend steadily until a thick sauce starts to form.

For the fish and vegetables:
600-800 grs cod (or any white fish of your choice)
4 carrots (cut in small quarters)
2 large handfuls of cranberry beans (optional)
300 grs French green beans (haricots verts extra-fins – tips cut off)
8 small potatoes
A small handful of parsley to sprinkle
Salt & pepper

Pre-heat your oven 200° celsius.

In an oven proof dish, place the fish – add salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Cook in pre-heated oven for 15 minutes (or until fish is cooked to your taste).

Cook carrots and potatoes in salted boiling water for approx 15 minutes, add the green beans 8 minutes towards the end as they cook faster. Drain and set aside.

Serve the aïoli with the fish with vegetables.

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