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Tag: vegetables

Red cabbage, onion and walnut tart

Do you know the feeling when you eat something so good you can’t wait to have it again? Well that was how I felt yesterday when I made the red cabbage and walnut tart. Let’s face it, cabbage is very wholesome, but it’s the kind of vegetable that you don’t always feel like cooking, but you would like to.

Last week-end, I got carried away and couldn’t resist buying a few too many vegetables. Since I have become a country girl, markets have become my new playground, and to my surprise, I get more excited with seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers than the latest Louboutins. Our kitchen table always looks like a bold still-life painting, where nature’s gifts colour our every day life. Perhaps it’s all in the way they are displayed, but I get so inspired by the colours and smells, the more petals I see, the more scents I smell, I get immersed in a fantasy world free to create anything I want.

I decided to slice the poor red cabbage that fell off the plate to see if it was still fresh. Wasting food upsets me, and I had to give it a last chance. As the cabbage opened, I was drawn to its inner beauty – splendid purple-red spirals everywhere, screaming for an alliance with flavours to match. That’s when I decided to make this tart. The walnuts were there, the red onions were fresh – the game was on.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

1 (ready-made or home-made) 230 grs puff or shortcrust pastry
3/4 head red cabbage (shredded)
2 red onions (sliced)
1 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Handful of walnuts
30 g butter (for frying)
Salt and pepper to taste
Crème fraîche to serve
Handful of chopped parsley

What I love about this delicious recipe is that it takes about 12 minutes to prepare!

Preheat oven 180°C/ 350 F (180 C).
In a large pan, melt the butter on a medium heat, fry the red onions for 4 minutes. Add the shredded red cabbage and continue frying for 5 more minutes, adding salt, thyme and pepper. Finish with the balsamic vinegar, reduce for 2 minutes. Set aside.
Line the tart dish with the ready rolled pastry. Add the cabbage mixture, place the walnuts all over the tart and bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
Serve warm with a spoon of crème fraîche and chopped parsley.

Aïoli and seafood delight

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.

Ratatouille

Whenever I cook a ratatouille, my kitchen smells like a Provençal market, filled with Mediterranean scents. Even though ratatouille is a grand classic French dish, you won’t often come across it in the restaurant menus. This is a true ‘home-cooked’ meal, to be eaten in the best traditional way, with a golden fried egg on top. I always feel invigorated when I cook this meal, not only is the scent uplifting, but the deep and rich colours of the mixed vegetables give you a sense of culinary wisdom – as if your body was a temple and you are about to make a healthy offering.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

2 medium-sized onions, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
3 courgettes/zucchini, sliced
1 large aubergine/eggplant, cut into cubes
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
40 ml red wine (optional)
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Slice all the vegetables accordingly.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onions until they are transparent. Add the peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Then add aubergine, courgettes, garlic, thyme and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 minutes. Finally, add the chopped tomatoes and the red wine (optional), stir gently, cover and cook for 25 minutes on a low heat.
Serve with a fried egg, sunny-side up.

Note: Fresh thyme makes a world of difference for this dish.