Pheasant and Rabbit Casserole

pheasant and rabbit casserole

While cooking my Arroz de Faisán y Conejo, I realised that I’d have two carcasses and meat leftover. So as not to waste anything, I put it all in a cast iron casserole with an onion, 2 carrots, a stick of celery, 6 pieces of garlic, a few black peppercorns, a large pinch of sea salt and a bouquet garni with 2 litres of water. I brought the water up to boiling, skimmed off any scum and put the casserole in the oven at 150º C for an hour. As I was busy cooking, I turned the oven off after 60 minutes and left the casserole to cool down. A few hours later I strained the stock, picked off and saved the meat and threw away the bones and vegetables.

Pheasant and Rabbit Casserole recipe (serves 2):

250g mixed pheasant and rabbit meat (chopped
250g leftover roast chicken (chopped)
a small piece of jamón serrano (chopped)
3 medium Mozart potatoes (peeled and quartered)
1 large onion (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
1 stick celery (chopped)
3 medium mushrooms (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1.5 litres pheasant and rabbit stock
a squirt of tomato purée
olive oil for frying
a splash of red wine vinegar
1 chicken stock cube
ground sea salt, black peppercorns, rosemary, sage and thyme
2 bay leaves
a sprinkle of hot Pimentón de la Vera
rabbit’s blood

In a large cast iron casserole, Fry the onion in olive oil until it becomes translucent. Add the carrots and celery, followed by the garlic, mushrooms and meat. After a few minutes squirt in the purée, crumble in the stock cube, sprinkle on 2 teaspoons of herbs and a splash of red wine vinegar. Pour on the stock and stir. Meanwhile, peel and quarter the potatoes – they can go in the pot too, along with the bay leaves. Bring the stock to boiling, cover with the lid on and put the casserole into a preheated oven at 150º C for a couple of hours. This will be perfect after 2 hours, but but won’t come to any harm if cooked for an hour or so more. Obviously the potatoes will dissolve eventually.

rabbit blood

After two hours check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. A sprinkle of hot Pimentón de la Vera on top gives the casserole a kick and a slight smokey flavour. I had some rabbit blood, so as per coq au vin, I stirred it into the casserole to the thicken the sauce.

Serve with a robust red wine, such as Marquesa de la Cruz, a Garnacha, Syrah, Mazuelo from Aragon.

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Arroz de Faisán y Conejo (Pheasant and Rabbit Rice)

arroz de faisán y conejo

Many people think that Paella (pie-eh-ya) is the Spanish national dish (along with slightly lesser known, Arroz a Banda and Arroz Negro), however, they would be mistaken, because these rice dishes all hail from the province of Valencia.

The Moors began cultivating rice in Spain, perhaps as far back as the 8th and 9th Centuries and the marshes and lagoon of L’Albufera, (in the south of Valencia) proved to be a perfect place for paddy fields (though rice is cultivated all over Spain). Originally rice dishes would have been cooked in cauldrons or terracotta cazuelas – soupy stews of fish or meat, such as a Caldero Murciano or oven baked meat and rice with beaten eggs on top like Arroz con Costra. Paella became popular from about 1840 onwards and takes its name from the pan it’s cooked in – a wide but shallow cast iron frying pan with handles on either side, ideal for cooking outdoors over a wood fire which provides a smokey flavour. Having become extremely popular with Spaniards and tourists alike, versions of paella can be found all over Spain and as far afield as British supermarkets. Much to the consternation of Valencian chefs and traditionalists, the fairly specific regional ingredients have become adapted, often mixing fish and meat – the worst transgression being the addition of chorizo, which is not found in any of the above mentioned rice dish recipes. Some of the “best” British celebrity chefs have played a big part in adulterating Spanish regional food. Read the 6 pages of comments on this paella recipe to see how heated the debate can get.

To defend against the bastardisation of their regional food heritage, an organisation of Valencian celebrities from the world of culture, gastronomy and society has been set up, called Wikipaella. Their aim is, “To encourage knowledge and acknowledgement of authentic paellas.”

They have 10 golden rules for making an authentic Valencian Paella:

1. Don’t mix seafood and meat. And only use seafood if by the sea.
2. True Valencian paella is made with rabbit, chicken and green beans in the summer, duck and artichoke in the winter.
3. No garlic. No peas. No potatoes. No stock. NO CHORIZO.
4. Only use Spanish rice, preferably Valencian bomba or senia.
5. Cook over wood, for that authentic smoky flavour.
6. On no accounts, stir. The rice should stick to the pan.
7. Oh, and that pan should be an authentic paella. Not a frying pan. And definitely not a wok.
8. Eat it straight from the pan, preferably using a wooden spoon. At lunchtime only.
9. If it’s served in a portion for one, it isn’t the real thing, it’s been frozen and reheated. Or it’s from Vesta.
10. For ultra-authenticity, it should only be cooked by a man. A Spanish man. In Valencia.

cooking paella on gas

Having read the rules, how would I dare to make a paella in London? Since I don’t have a paella pan, or an open fire and I’m not in Valencia or remotely Spanish, the next best thing, would be to make a rice dish inspired by the common ingredients of the genuine article. The paellera (pan) isn’t really suited to a home cooker anyway, having been originally designed for an open fire of pine or orange branches. In modern professional kitchens or at outdoor events, outsized gas burners are used to spread the heat out across the entire pan for even cooking. So instead, I used my Spanish terracotta cazuela – a cooking dish in common use throughout the Roman Empire (2000 years ago) and still very much a useful Spanish kitchen cooking pot today.

Arroz de Faisán y Conejo (Pheasant and Rabbit Rice) recipe (serves 3 – 4):

a very generous pouring of Spanish extra virgin olive oil
500g pheasant (legs and breast)
500g wild rabbit (legs, saddle and liver)
200g green beans (chopped into 2cm pieces)
1 large Spanish tomato (or 3 English sized ones)
6 pieces of garlic (chopped)
a heaped spoonful of dulce Pimentón de la Vera
200g lima beans (butter beans) or pinto beans
1.5 – 2 litres water
1/2g saffron
1 sachet food colouring
a branch of rosemary
400g Valencian rice (bomba or senia)
sea salt to taste

naked lunch

I bought a rabbit at the farmers’ market and had a pheasant in the freezer. Since, in spite of the paella rules, there is some flexibility in ingredients and differences in recipes on the Wikpaella website – duck is sometimes used as well as, or in place of chicken and I could imagine a Valencian farmer using another shot game bird instead. Apparently water vole was used in early recipes. Similarly, outside the rules, most sample recipes include garlic!

meat browning

To start, season with salt and brown the meat in plenty of Spanish extra virgin olive oil, holding back the rabbit liver. I recommend buying wild rabbit, farmed rabbit is treated worse than battery chicken – there are few regulations for farming rabbits.

rabbit liver

When the meat is nearly ready, fry the liver for a couple of minutes and remove to a plate – there’s no need to overcook it.

judias verdes

If I had a 45cm paellera, I’d push the meat to the edges and continue with the vegetables in the middle. Since the cazuela is deeper, but less wide, I removed the meat to a plate so as to fry the green beans (judías verdes) for 5 minutes or so.

grated tomato

Here’s a good Spanish trick – instead of blanching and peeling tomatoes, it’s easier to cut them in half and grate the cut side into what you are cooking.

tomato skins

It’s very quick – all the goodness goes into the recipe and you are left with an empty flat skins.

ajo

Follow the tomato with finely chopped garlic

pimentón

and when it has softened, sprinkle on a heaped teaspoonful of dulce Pimentón de la Vera. Give this a stir and return the meat to the cazuela.

water

Pour on 1 litre of water – I used boiling water to speed things up. When the liquid is bubbling, mix in the butter beans – mine were presoaked and cooked in a pressure cooker beforehand. If using a pallera, the water would go up to the top of the rivets in the handles.

reduction

Turn up the heat and reduce the stock to almost nothing.

azafrán

Pour on more boiling water (to the nails [rivets], as they say) and taste – add more salt if required. Pour a little boiling water on the saffron before stirring it in to the stock. Your kitchen should be infused with a fabulous crocus aroma.

el aeroplano

I noticed that some of the paella recipes used food colouring and I just happened to have the real thing (bought in Valencia) in my cupboard, thanks to Sue.

powders

Note the beautiful packaging,

food colouring

reminiscent of Beecham’s Powders! This is tartrazine (A.K.A. E102) and corn flour. Curcumin might be a more organic alternative.

arroz

With the saffron and colouring added, pour the Valencian rice into the cazuela. Stir this in, so that it’s evenly mixed, but do not stir again!

romero

Put the rosemary branch into the middle of the broth and leave it there for 3 minutes only. If cooking snails in a paella, you don’t use rosemary, because snails eat it and therefore contain an essence of rosemary already.

simmering the rice

Simmer the dish vigorously for about 10 minutes before turning the heat right down for a final 10 minutes.

cooked

The stock should all be absorbed and rice will have a brilliant yellow colour.

resting

Place a newspaper on top of the cazuela (making sure the gas is switched off) for 5 minutes, to allow any remaining liquid to be soaked up and the dish to settle.

crusty

A good paella is judged by the dark crust (socarrat) that forms at the bottom of the pan. I’m careful not to let the rice get too dry in terracotta or the cazuela will crack, but you can see evidence of the crust forming in the above picture.

A paella is a lunchtime dish, it should be served warm (not hot!) and eaten direct from the pallera with a wooden spoon. I enjoyed my Arroz de Faisán y Conejo with an organic Valencian tempranillo, Casa Lluch. Historically, paella and rice dishes were not served with allioli, but in recent years it has become common practice. I made my own, since I like a bit of allioli on the side.

As an experiment, when I heated up leftovers today, I added a little chopped fried chorizo to see how it affected the taste. While the rice was still quite enjoyable, the chorizo dominated all the flavours and in particular, completely smothered the flowery sweet and bitter saffron. Conclusion – chorizo does not belong in a paella!

Posted in Food, Game, Meat, Recipes, Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Bacalao a la Llauna

la boqueria

On my last visit to Barcelona, I went to the Boqueria to buy some bacalao from the Brandada Lady. They are almost exclusively ladies in the fish part of the market – perhaps in the old days the husbands caught the fish and the wives sold them. These ladies can be quite a fearsome bunch, taking no nonsense from tourists, but at the same time flirting outrageously to get you to buy their fish and not that of the stall next door.

cod fish

Cod cured in salt and will literally keep for years, perhaps even decades without spoiling. The technique of curing by air drying cod dates back to the Vikings and it is said that the procedure was given to the Basques, along with directions to the Grand Banks off North America, where the sea was literally full of cod (one could practically dip a hand in the ocean and pull out a fish). Unlike Norsemen, the Basques had salt and they perfected the art of salting, so perhaps there was some trade off. According to Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (by Mark Kurlansky), the Basque fishermen were sailing across the Atlantic for 500 years before Columbus discovered America. It is said that the Basques kept their fishing grounds a secret and others who tried to follow them foundered on the way. Regardless, salt cod became an essential cheap staple (along with cured meat and sausage), in the centuries before refrigeration – all long journeys and voyages depended on food that would keep for the duration.

shrink wrapped

Normally, one buys salt cod dry or rehydrated from a bacalao stall in the market. If you want cod for supper, the Bacalao Ladies will have some ready soaked – they have fantastic old marble sinks a bit like those used to wash photographic prints. If one is buying salt cod to cook at a later date or for a journey, traditionally it’s wrapped in wax paper, but these days, if you ask nicely in Spanish, you can have it shrink wrapped. Strictly speaking, shrink wrapping isn’t necessary, flies and germs won’t go near salted fish, but the bacalao is smelly and in a constant state of repelling any remaining moisture. I did consider sending myself bacalao by post, unwrapped, to see how well it lasted (knowing full well that it would probably be fine), but the Spanish Correos (Post Office) objected. In fact they even refused to accept shrunk wrapped bacalao with an address label on it, stating that it must be wrapped in brown paper – “Why I asked,” but all I got in response was a lecture about rules and regulations. After that rebuttal, I put the salt cod in my suitcase – no problem with customs!

en el frigo

On arriving home, I wasn’t entirely sure about keeping bacalao in plastic – normally it’s supposed to be hung up in the larder. I consulted La Chica Andaluza who said, quite rightly, that salt cod will sweat and go bad in plastic. Her recommendation was to rehydrate it and freeze it until needed.  The main reason for not having it hanging from a hook in the kitchen is the very strong fish smell. So, to rehydrate bacalao, it needs to be soaked in cold water for between 48 and 72 hours. I put mine in a glass bowl and changed the water every 12 hours or so. The preferred method of testing codfish to see if enough salt has been removed in washing, is to break off a little peace and taste it. Fear not, all germs have been banish from salted cod.

I came across a couple of novel rehydration methods for cured codfish in the Cod book:

“Deep inland in France, La France profonde, as the French like to say, on the far side of the mountain range called the Massif Central, is the Aveyron. It is a rugged region of high green sheep pastures, deep gorges, and jagged rock outcrop-pings, the most famous of which, in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, provides the natural caves for aging the world’s most famous cheese. An isolated area where shepherds still speak a local dialect, the region would get supplies all the way from distant Bordeaux on river barges. Barges would move up the Garonne to the Lot to Rodez and other towns in the Aveyron. The stockfish, bought in Bordeaux and dragged in the river behind the barge for the two-day voyage, would be soft and ready for cooking when it arrived.

In the twentieth century, the Lot became increasingly polluted and unnavigable, but a new invention was well suited to the preparation of stockfish: the flush toilet. In 1947, the president of the Conseil, the governing body of France, asked his valet to flush the toilet once an hour for the next week in preparation for a special dinner he was preparing on Sunday. The dish was stockfish. The toilet was fed by a water tank mounted high up on the wall, the chasse d‘eau. A stockfish left in the chasse d’eau for two days was soft and ready for cooking. The system was also ideal for salted fish, since the water was easy to change. All of this may be deemed unaesthetic, but, unfortunately, it is now more hygienic than using the Garonne and its tributaries.”

I think I’d prefer it flushed to dragged up river by a barge.

My Basque friend Amaia does sometimes have bacalao hanging in her kitchen and she likes to break off little pieces to gnaw on. My salt cod did sit in the freezer for a couple of months, but finally I got round to making my favourite Catalan bacalao recipe this week.

bacallà a la llauna

Bacallà a la Llauna recipe (per person):

250 – 500g piece of salt cod (rehydrated)
6 large pieces of garlic (3 sliced and 3 chopped)
1 heaped teaspoon dulce (sweet) pimentón de la Vera
plain flour for dusting
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1 large glass of dry vermouth or white wine
lots of Spanish extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper (to taste)

Bacallà (bacalao) a la Llauna is specific to Cataluña and means salt cod on the tin, as in cooked on a tin tray or tin receptacle. This simple recipe is something that would have been cooked at home and out in the fields, probably in a large tin vessel or pot. I love this dish – when I arrive in Barcelona I always want to visit Romesco (on my first night), where the delicious smell of cod and garlic hits you as you walk trough the door. Can Vilaró, also does a very good bacalao a la llauna with beans. I’ve looked at a least a dozen or so traditional recipes, most of which are the same as mine. A few people add grated tomato or chopped red pepper with the garlic. It’s common to serve this with boiled potatoes or mongetes – a small white haricot bean, cooked in the tray along with the cod.

dusted

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan – it’s an ingredient and not just a cooking medium. Dust the salt cod lightly with plain flour and fry it skin side down, when the oil is nearly smoking.

frying

Lightly brown the codfish all over, remove to a tin tray and set aside. Any oven proof cooking dish will do – glass, terracotta, metal, etc. Heat the oven to about 180ºC while you cook the garlic.

ajos

Fry the sliced garlic in the hot olive oil until it starts to go golden brown.

pimentòn

When the garlic is cooked, sprinkle on a heaped teaspoonful of sweet Pimentón de la Vera and stir.

vino

Pour in the wine – I used half dry white wine and half dry vermouth. Add a heaped spoonful of parsley as the wine bubbles. Do let the alcohol burn off for a couple of minutes, but don’t let the liquid reduce too much. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).

para el horno

Pour the wine and pimentón sauce over the bacalao and scatter the chopped, uncooked garlic on top. Place in a preheated oven at 180ºC for about 15 minutes. If adding white beans they would go in now.

bacalao a la llauna

I ate my salt cod with a boiled potatoes and green beans, a little chopped parsley garnish on the bacalao finished it off. I ejoyed a glass of Muscadet-Sèvre et Main with mine.

You can buy bacalao in Britain from a reputable fishmonger or Spanish and Portuguese shops. You won’t have any trouble finding it in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Fresh cod could be substituted, the main difference being that having been salted, bacalao is preseasoned and has firmer flesh.

N.B. The introduction of cod in batter (for fish and chips) to Britain, by Jews fleeing persecution from the Inquisition, would have been salt cod in a tempura batter, tempura having been created in Iberia, was originally taken to Japan by Jesuit missionaries.

The popular Caribbean akee and salt fish, started off as cheap salt cod from the Grand Banks, but since this fishing ground has been depleted and cod prices have gone through the roof, the aquatic ingredient has been replace with cheaper salted white fish.

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Saponara

saponara

I had lunch with Sean this week at Saponara, just a stone’s throw from where I live. In fact it’s so close I can see it from my living room window. I like Saponara so much, I’ve been meaning to take some pictures and write a blog post for the last two years, but the weatherman (on my lunching outside days) has conspired against me! As you can see above, the restaurant has seating for at least 20 people outside on a sunny day. It’s a quiet street and easy to believe that that one has been transported to Italy for a moment or two…

saponara interior

Saponara is a fantastic delicatessen and pizzeria in the heart of Islington, but off the beaten track, which makes it a hidden treasure. This hasn’t, however, stopped it being voted Best Pizza in London by Time Out. The business was set up by the Saponara brothers (from a small Basilicata village in the South of Italy) in 1989. Everyone working here is Italian, so I assume they are all part of the family. The deli fridges contain the most astonishing array or stuffed tomatoes, Italian cheeses and I have never seen so many types of cured meat. The interior, reminds me of a classic 1950s bar/restaurant in Italy.

pizza menu

We ordered from the pizza menu (above), but the restaurant also makes its own pasta – they are always keen to show customers a little basket of the various types to aid their choice. I find it hard to get past the first pizza on the page and I have to confess that I crave it!

piccante pizza

I had the usual today – piccante pizza, made with tomato, mozzarella, nduja, salame piccante, olives and salciccia piccante on a stone baked base.

piccante

The pizza base is light and slightly crispy. There’s no skimping on the quality and quantity of the charcuterie and the nduja oozes umami. Nduja is spicy pork spreading sausage, flavoured with chilli, that comes from Calabria. It is said to be loosely based on French andouille, introduced to the region in the 13th Century by the Angevin, French Capetian rulers from Anjou. Nduja has some similarity in texture and use to Spanish Sobrassada, but tastes quite different (more on Sobrassada in a future post).

chilli oil

In spite of my pizza being piccante, I couldn’t resist a drizzle of hot chilli oil on top.

margherita pizza

Sean ordered a margherita pizza – tomato, mozzarella and oregano, decorated with basil leaves on top. Legend has it that the margherita was invented by Raffaele Esposito (1890) in honour of the Queen of Italy (Margherita of Savoy) and the toppings represent the colours of the Italian flag. However, this is probably untrue, since pizza with the same toppings existed in Naples 100 years before that date. It is also said that the mozzarella was sliced thin and arranged on top of the tomato in a flower shape and along with the basil it resembled a daisy (Margherita in Italian). Regardless of the history, Sean ate his pizza in about 10 minutes, it was so good!

Complimenting the aromas coming from our own pizzas, there was a delicious smell of truffle wafting towards us from a table close by.

san pelligrino

We drank San Pelligrino with our lunch, but be reassured that Saponara has a fantastic wine cellar with the house red and white starting at £12.95 a bottle.

cappuccino

These pizza’s are a complete meal in themselves, there’s no need for pudding, not even when it’s a greedy person like me. The most I could manage was a tiny amaretti biscuit with my cappuccino.

I can’t help feeling extremely content for several hours after eating the piccante pizza and when ordering a takeaway in the evening, I’ve noticed that there’s a fantastic happy atmosphere throughout the packed restaurant when I go to pick it up. In my opinion, this is definitely the best pizza in London – don’t tell anyone!

Saponara is at: 23 Prebend Street, Islington, N1 8PF.

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Courgette Pizza

courgette pizza base

I was inspired to make a courgette pizza base I found at the thekitchensgarden and than I liked it so much I made it again and took pictures. Today Martin, the farmer I buy courgettes from, asked me for the recipe, so I thought I’d better post it here.

Courgette Pizza base recipe (makes two 8 inch pizzas):

2 medium sized courgettes, about 1lb in weight (should be about 2 cups grated)
2 free range eggs (beaten)
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of good cheddar
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

I couldn’t find my cup measures (perhaps I left them in America many years ago), so I used a glass pint jug – measuring half a pint to one cup (it worked well).

raw courgette base

Grate two medium courgettes and put them in a colander to drain – sprinkle on about a quarter of a teaspoon of salt and the juice of a lemon to facilitate this. Allow 10 – 20 minutes for them to expel their water. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 250ºC and beat two eggs in  large bowl. When the courgettes have drained, squeeze as much moisture out as you can with your hands. Mix the courgettes into the eggs with a fork. Sprinkle in the flour and keep stirring, add the grated cheddar and mix that in too. This is very simple and no kneading necessary. The mixture will be slightly sticky and not like a regular dough. It will make a large pizza, but I thought it would be nice to vary the toppings, so split it in half. It seemed to be about right for my cast iron frying pan (which is oven proof), so I gave the pan a liberal coating of flour (to stop it sticking) and spread out enough mixture to cover the bottom, using my knuckles and the back of a spoon. Bake the pizza base blind (with no topping) for 15 to 20 minutes on the lowest rack in the oven. When it looks slightly browned as per my top picture, it will make for a good crispy base.

tomato sauce

Tomato Sauce recipe (topping for 2 -3 pizzas):

5 medium sized tomatoes (blanched)
6 pieces of garlic (chopped)
8 torn basil leaves
a pinch of crushed chilli
a squirt of tomato purée
a splash of red wine vinegar
a splash of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

This is best prepared before making the pizza base.

Heat some olive oil in a saucepan (if using tinned anchovies on the pizza, use the anchovy olive oil for extra flavour) and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes. Peel the blanched tomatoes and crush them into the oil and garlic with a potato masher. Rip a few fresh basil leaves and stir them into the sauce with a splash of red wine vinegar, a squirt of tomato purée, a pinch of crushed chilli and salt and pepper to taste. If using anchovy oil the sauce will probably be salty enough. Allow the sauce to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes and allow to cool.

chorizo uncooked

When the pizza base is cooked, add a topping of your choice. Above, I spread my tomato sauce on the base first, followed by a few slices of chorizo, slices of mozzarella, a few basil leaves, Kalamata olives, black pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

chorizo cooked

This went back into the oven, on the bottom shelf for 10 – 15 minutes, until it looked done.

anchovy uncooked

I made a second pizza with anchovies canned in olive oil.

anchovy cooked

I was really impressed by the courgette pizza base, it’s quicker and easier to make than real pizza dough and is suitably crispy. I had no trouble sliding pizzas out of the frying pan, with the aid of a pallete knife.

This is a perfect way to use up the summer glut of tomatoes and courgettes. It’s worth noting that when tomatoes are cooked twice (as opposed to eaten raw or cooked once), they release lots of lycopene which supposedly guards against cancer and lowers cholesterol.

I buy my courgettes and tomatoes (along with almost all other vegetables on a weekly basis) from Perry Court Farm, which has a stall at Islington Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings. They can also be found at most other London Farmers’ Markets.

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Salade Niçoise

salade niçoise

The Niçoise Salad is said to have been created in the late 19th Century and probably contained tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil. These days there’s much debate over the correct ingredients – Jacques Médecin, ex mayor of Nice and traditionalist, states in his cookbook (Cuisine Nicoise), that the salad should be, “Predominantly of tomatoes, salted three times and moistened with olive oil,” along with hard boiled eggs and anchovies or tinned tuna – but not both. Raw vegetables could be incorporated, “Such as, cucumbers, purple artichokes, green peppers, fava beans, spring onions, black olives, basil and garlic, but no lettuce or vinegar.” The salad should be served in a bowl rubbed with garlic and should never contain boiled vegetables – “Never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable in your salade niçoise.” Such was Jacques Médecin’s conviction, though having served as mayor for 24 years, he fled Nice for South America in 1990 over accusations of corruption and tax evasion. He was arrested in Uruguay three years later, deported and then convicted in France.

I made a variation on the traditional Niçoise Salad, a few weeks ago and when it turned out to be delicious, kicked myself for not photographing it. As there’s currently a heatwave in most of the Northern Hemisphere I set out to remake and record my interpretation of the salade niçoise.

Salade Niçoise recipe (serves 4 as a starter or side dish):

1/2lb fresh asparagus cut into pieces about one and a half inches long
1lb broad beans in pods (remove the pods)
12 santa tomatoes cut into four (or other small varieties with a lot of flavour)
1/3 cucumber cut into one inch lengths, halved, deseeded and chopped into sticks
2 spring onions finely chopped
1/2 red pepper cut into bite sized pieces
12 black olives
2 hard boiled eggs quartered
a tin of anchovies
12 basil leaves (torn)
1 teaspoon capers

The Vinaigrette dressing:

6 dessertspoons homemade olive oil infused with garlic and rosemary
olive oil from the anchovy tin
1 dessertspoon red wine vinegar
1 dessertspoon sherry vinegar (or balsamic)
a teaspoon of French whole grain mustard
black pepper to taste

asparagus and broad beans

I put my hands up – this not traditional and contains cooked vegetables, however, many niçoise recipes include boiled potatoes and green beans. Chop the asparagus into one inch pieces and remove the broad beans from their pods. Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for a minute or so until they are al dente. Plunge into cold, or better still, iced water to stop the cooking process. Similarly, boil two eggs until they reach your preferred state of viscosity or solidity. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl, but hold back 8 whole anchovies and the eggs until after tossing the salad the dressing. Chop the leftover anchovies and add them to the vegetables.

black olive

I used Kalamata olives from Greece. These have a good flavour and while I could have got some decent French olives, finding some of the tiny black ones from Nice might have been difficult.

dressing

For the dressing: I used extra virgin olive oil infused with garlic and rosemary. If you don’t have something like this to hand, crush a a clove of garlic with a mortar and pestle and add it to the dressing. Whisk all the dressing ingredients listed above. I use the olive oil from the tin of anchovies in place of salt. Do test the dressing and add pepper to taste.

Toss the salad in the dressing – I recommend using clean hands. Arrange the 8 whole anchovies like the face of a clock and place the quartered eggs on top.

Serve with a good rosé from Provence and as Julia Child would say (at the end of her niçoise recipe), “Bon appétit!”

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L’Antic Forn (the old bakery)

l’antic forn

I went to meet Oli and Fran for lunch at L’Antic Forn – somewhere I’ve been before, but not for a couple of years. This restaurant is situated opposite Flor de Maig, where I had lunch a few days ago.

vermut de la casa

I arrived early and grabbed a table outside – there are only two outside, whereas, there’s seating for at least 30 people indoors. I ordered a vermut de las casa, while I waited and read the menú del dia. It’s worth noting that they do a calçotada lunch menu here for €30, when they are in season.

menú del dia

Anyway, I didn’t have to wait long – Oli is always on time.

ensalada

At L’Antic Forn, included in the menú del dia, there’s a help yourself salad bar, with quite an array of choices. I helped myself to the above.

arròs risotto

The Arròs risotto amb bolets i parmesà (mushroom risotto with Parmesan) proved to be a popular starter which didn’t disappoint.

braó de porc

Oli had the Braó de porc rosti al forn (pork knuckle roasted in the oven) for his main course – this came in a creamy sauce with thinly sliced fried potato (think potato crisps/chips). I tried the crispy potato slices, they were very good and definitely produced in house.

filet de bacallà frecs

Both Fran and I had Filet de bacallà frecs planxa amb samfaina – fresh cod fillet (as opposed to the usual salt cod), cooked on a griddle with samfaina (the Catalan equivalent of ratatouille). I can assure you it tasted as good as it looks – both plates were clean when our waiter took them away!

vi rosat

We drank the usual vi rosat, which came in a porrón, though they did provide glasses, so we weren’t taking it in turns to drizzle the wine into our mouths. It’s reasonably easy to master drinking from a porrón, but it’s best to experiment with white wine and a large napkin first!

flan de mató

Oli had a flan de mató for pudding – it’s like a regular flan, but made with mató (fresh whey cheese) instead of egg custard.

crema catalana

I had my favourite pudding, crema catalana, made with cinnamon, lemon and orange peel and the sugar is burnt on top with a hot iron (I sat at the counter, for supper, in Romesco a few nights ago and took great delight in watching them brand the crema catalanas). The above may look like it just has two blobs of caramelised sugar, but in fact the entire surface had quite a thick layer of caramel. This was an excellent crema catalana!

carajillo

I finished with a carajillo de cognac – I needed a pick up to get me out of the chair in order to go shopping at the Boqueria!

The menú del dia at L’Antic Forn includes a buffet salad, first and second courses, bread, a drink (wine, beer or soft drink), pudding or coffee for €13.50. We had a very charming and attentive Pakistani waiter, who’d previously worked in Bushey (Outer London). He’s become a great friend of Oli’s – I think they discuss the cricket.

L’Antic Forn is at: C/ Pintor Fortuny 28, 08001 Barcelona

Posted in Barcelona, Barcelona Bars and Restaurants, Drink, Eating Out, Fish, Food, Meat, Restaurants, Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments