Tag: chestnuts

Autumn vegetable tarte tatin

There are meals that leave a mark, forever engraved in your mind. Years ago, I had lunch at Le Dôme in Paris, a seafood restaurant in the 14th arrondissement. I had coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops), pan-fried in a lemon butter sauce. But the main attraction was the side-dish, the endives (chicory). They were so delicious, the semi-bitter taste of the vegetable melted in my mouth, catching up with the caramelized butter sweetness. That and a glass of crisp white wine was an ‘inoubliable‘ food moment in my life. Ever since that day, I associate endives with butter. Last Sunday, I was in the mood for a rich savoury tart, so I started with my cherished caramelized endives, and went from there. It was such a pleasure to make this dish, layering slices of chestnuts, topinambours and potatoes with goat’s cheese. It’s very simple to make, and you can improvise with any vegetable and cheese you wish. Nothing beats the excitement of turning the pan upside down. It always makes me feel like a magician in the kitchen. The result is a beautiful autumn bouquet, in the form of a tart.

6 endives (chicory)
2 small shallots (finely sliced)
1 clove garlic (ground)
6-8 small potatoes (cooked and sliced)
250 g/ 1/2 pound chestnuts (peeled, cooked & sliced in half)
5 topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes (peeled and sliced in ‘rondelles’)
125 g/ 2/3 cup Sainte Maure de Touraine goat’s cheese (or any of your favourite cheese – one that will melt beautifully!)
2 tbsp brown sugar
40 g butter
Salt & pepper (for seasoning)

For the shortcrust pastry:
200 g/ 1 & 1/2 cup plain flour
125 g/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and sliced in cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp cold water

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and mix using your hands until dough is crumbly. Make a well in the center, add egg and water. Mix well until dough is soft and form a ball. Roll dough on a floured surface, adding flour if necessary if dough is too sticky. With a rolling-pin, roll dough large enough to cover the cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350 F

For the filling:
Cook the potatoes (peeling the potato is optional – if you are using new potatoes I would suggest to keep the skin) in a pot of salted boiling water until tender. Set aside to cool and slice them. Rinse the endives and pat them dry. Slice them in two and peel off a few leaves. In a large frying pan, heat the brown sugar. As soon as it’s starting to melt, add 30 g butter and stir. Place the endives and fry (on a medium to high heat) for 10-12 minutes, until they start to caramelize, season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Add the rest of the butter, fry the shallots for 3-4 minutes, add the topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes, garlic and chestnuts. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes start to be tender, season with salt and pepper. Don’t worry if they are slightly undercooked as they will be baked. Add the sliced potatoes, sprinkle with cheese and mix gently.

To assemble:
Butter a round cake pan, layer the endives all over so the surface is entirely covered – make sure to ‘display’ them nicely as the tart will be inverted. Add the rest of the endives, proceed with the rest of the vegetables. Place the pastry sheet on top and tuck in at the edges. Prick the pastry with a fork all over. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out gently. Place on a serving plate. I served this tart with sausages (from Queyrac, a nearby village). It was a perfect combination.

Lucky pumpkin soup

C’est la rentrée! Today is a big day as it’s back to school for kids in France! Two months of summer bliss have passed and the time has come to start a new school year. September is a very exciting month. The weather has ripened to perfection, the colours are becoming richer and slowly maturing to a golden hue. Harvest season is starting in Médoc – the grapes are soon ready to be picked and bottled into vintage ‘crus‘. There’s something in the air that’s so powerful and potent these days, as if it was nature’s way to say: ‘I am ready‘. Life and growth is a miracle we should never take for granted. Since I have been living in the country, my sensibility to life has been elevated to new heights.

I have been very lucky to have received yet another abundance of vegetable offerings, this time from Dania, a new friend I met recently through our dogs. Dania is a wonderful horse-breeder and owns a château nearby. She dropped by to give me some of her delicious organic vegetables. Potatoes, aubergines, carrots, garlic and amazing pumpkins of all sorts. I love pumpkins and always try to have a few on our table all year long. They are the heart of my kitchen and inspire me to cook and write. My Chinese grandfather told me that pumpkins have the power to transmit your ancestor‘s luck. That must be why they are my lucky charms.

To inaugurate an auspicious fall, I turned one of my beloved pumpkins into a soup. It’s earthy, wholesome and brings you good luck. I can’t think of a better way to start the new season.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 pumpkin (potiron – smaller type) – peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
1 small onion (chopped)
150 g chestnuts (peeled)
700 ml chicken stock
30 g butter
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Crème fraîche (for serving)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
8-10 thin slices of pancetta
A bunch of parsley (finely chopped)

In a large pot, heat the butter on a medium heat and fry the onions until soft and slightly golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the coarsely sliced pumpkin and give it a good stir. Lower the heat and add the chicken stock and chestnuts. Stir. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.
Puree the soup in batches using a food processor or blender. Return to pot, cover and cook for 10 more minutes on a very low heat. Stir occasionally. If the soup is too thick, you can add milk until you get the desired consistency.
In a frying pan, fry pancetta until golden. Drain and set aside. Chop parsley and pancetta to a fine crumble. Set aside. Instead of garnishing the soup from the top, I like to start from the bottom – I enjoy fetching the treasures with my spoon. Place a spoon of crème fraîche in each bowl, sprinkle a generous amount of parsley and pancetta ‘crumble’. Pour soup into bowls and serve.