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Clafoutis of spinach beet (Clafoutis de bettes)
Preparation time: 30 min
Cooking time: 45 min

300 g spinach beet • 2 eggs • 40 g flour • 100 ml milk • 100 ml double cream • 60 g butter • 2 shallots, about 30 g each, finely chopped • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped • 50 ml dry white wine • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg • salt and freshly ground pepper

This very pleasant summer main course also makes a delicious and successful starter. Served with tomato coulis and a green salad, it will satisfy even a non-vegetarian. It is, however, essential to have a non-stick loose-bottomed tart or flan dish, approximately 18 cm diameter and 2 cm deep for this recipe.

The clafoutis batter: Separate one of the eggs and place the white in a bowl. Put the yolk in a larger bowl, add the other egg, flour and milk and whisk until amalgamated, but do not overwork. Add the cream, season with a little salt and pepper, cover with cling film and keep at room temperature.
The spinach beet: Trim off the ends of the stalks. If the stems are stringy, pare off the fibrous parts with a sharp knife. Halve the entire branches lengthways and wash thoroughly in cold water. Drop the spinach beet into lightly salted water and cook for 5 minutes. Refresh and drain well. With a sharp knife, cut away the leaves from the stems, then use a chef's knife to shred the leaves very finely. Melt 40 g butter in a saucepan and sweat the shallots until they begin to colour. Add the garlic and shredded spinach beet leaves, cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring with a spatula, then pour in the white wine and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with a little salt and plenty of pepper, remove from the heat, and keep in a cool place. Cut the central stems of the spinach beet into 5 cm in lengths, shred them lengthways into fine julienne and place in the fridge.

Cooking the clafoutis: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Use the remaining butter to grease the loose-bottomed mould generously. Mix one-third of the clafoutis batter in the cooked spinach beet leaves and pour into the bottom of the mould. Scatter the shredded stems evenly over the surface. Lightly beat the egg white until just risen, mix into the remaining clafoutis mixture and pour into the mould. Sprinkle the top with a little nutmeg and cook in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Leave the clafoutis in the tin for 2 minutes, then turn in out on to a heated plate and serve very hot.

Presentation: Serve the clafoutis hot by itself, or eat it cold, although if it is served cold, the flavour will be less delicate and the texture more robust.

La purée de pommes de terre
pour 6 personnes
1 kg de pommes de terre (Ratte ou BF15) • 250 g de beurre • 20 à 30 cl de lait entier • gros sel de mer

Lavez des pommes de terre en peau. Mettez-les, entières, dans une casserole et couvrez-les d'eau froide de façon que le niveau de l'eau dépasse de 2 cm celui des légumes. Salez à raison de 10 g par litre d'eau.
Faites cuire à couvert à tout petits bouillons, pendant 20 à 30 minutes, jusqu'à ce que les pommes de terre soient facilement traversées par la lame d'un couteau.
Égouttez rapidement les pommes de terre dès qu'elles sont cuites. Pelez-les encore tièdes. Passez-les au moulin à légumes, grille la plus fine, au-dessus d'une grande casserole.
Faites légèrement dessécher la purée sur le feu en la remuant vigoureusement avec une spatule en bois, pendant 4 à 5 minutes. Puis incorporez petit à petit le beurre, très froid, bien dur et coupé en morceaux. Il est très important de remuer énergiquement la purée pour bien l'incorporer et la rendre lisse et onctueuse.
Faites bouillir le lait et terminez la purée en l'incorporant, très chaud, en petit filet, et en mélangeant toujours vigoureusement jusqu'à ce qu'il soit entièrement absorbé.
Vous pouvez, pour rendre la purée encore plus fine et légère, la passer à travers un tamis à toile très fine.
Servez la purée en garniture de viandes et de certains poissons.

Pommes frites
[…] To cooks, saturated fats are important because, generally speaking, the more highly saturated the frying oil, the crisper the crust of the cooked food. This explains the popularity of lard and other animal fats as frying mediums (the Belgians, who are reputed to make the best French fries in the world, swear by horse fat). […] In fact, scientists who study frying have identified five particular stages of oil life. Break-in oil is brand-new — it won't cook well until it has broken down a little. Fresh oil cooks a little better. Optimum oil is, well, just what it says. […] Scientists have found that neither cooking time nor oiliness is affected as long as the frying temperature remains between 350 and 375 degrees (175°C and 190°C). […] To get an idea of how complicated all of this frying can be, consider the simple French fry. Start with the potato. Not only must it be a russet, or baking, potato, it is better if it is an old one. Really good fry cooks even test their potatoes' specific gravity (this involves floating potatoes in brine) — the ones that sink have the highest specific gravity and will make the best French fries. […] Furthermore, a good French fry is fried twice. The first pass, at about 350 degrees (175°C), cooks the potato through and makes it light and fluffy. The second frying, right before serving, is done at a higher temperature — 375 to 385 degrees (190°C to 195°C) — and gives the fry its final browning.

Equipment: The basic piece of equipment you need is a couscousiere. The lower part, the pot that holds the bubbling stew, is called the tanjra or the gdra; the upper part with the perforated bottom that holds the grains is called the kskas. Berber couscousieres are made of unglazed earthenware, and the bourgeois Fassis use copper couscousieres lined with tin. But the aluminum ones […] are good, even though they sometimes come with a top, which is unnecessary, since couscous is steamed without a cover.
The only other thing you need is a substitution for the Moroccan gsaa, a large shallow basin of earthenware or wood in which the couscous is worked and where it dries. I have found that a large roasting pan, with sides at least 1½ inches (4 cm) high, is ideal. I've used baking sheets, but sometimes when I've circulated grains too much they've ended up on the floor.

Handling couscous grains: These are the master instructions for handling couscous, to be followed when indicated in the recipes. Though they look complicated, the principle behind them is very simple: all the wetting, drying, raking, aerating, and steaming of semolina grains is done with the purpose of swelling them with as much water as possible without allowing them to become lumpy or soggy. But you must be careful: the smaller and fresher the couscous grain, the less water is needed.
1. First washing and drying of the couscous: Wash the couscous in a large shallow pan by pouring water over the grain in a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part grain (that is, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of couscous, use 6 cups of water, and so on). Stir quickly with the hand and then drain off excess water through a sieve. Return the couscous grains to the pan, smooth them out, and leave them to swell for between 10 and 20 minutes. After roughly 10 minutes, begin, with cupped, wet hands, to work the grains by lifting up handfuls of grain, rubbing them gently and letting them fall back into the pan. This process should break up any lumps that may have formed. Then rake the couscous with your fingers to circulate it and help the grains to swell.
Note: Freshly rolled couscous is simply dampened and immediately steamed as directed in step 2.
2. First steaming of the couscous: Dampen a strip of cheesecloth, dust it with flour, and twist into a strip the length of the circumference of the rim of the bottom part of the couscousiere. Use this to seal the perforated top or colander on top of the pot. Check all sides for effective sealing: the top and bottom should fit snugly, so that steam rises only through the holes. The perforated top should not touch the broth below. Slowly dribble one quarter of the swollen couscous grains into the steamer, allowing them to form a soft mound. Steam 5 minutes and gently add the remaining couscous. When all the grains are in the steamer, lower heat to moderate and steam 20 minutes. Do not cover the couscous while it steams.
3. Second drying of the couscous: Remove the top part of the couscousiere (or the colander). Dump the couscous into the large, shallow pan and spread out with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle ½ to 1 cup cold water and 1 teaspoon salt over the grains. Separate and break up lumps by lifting and stirring the grains gently. Oil your hands lightly and rework the grains – this helps to keep each grain separate. (Some people oil the grain before steaming, but this results in a tougher texture.) Smooth the couscous out and allow it to dry for at least 10 minutes. If the couscous feels too dry, then add another cup of water by handful sprinkles, and rake the couscous well before each addition. If you are preparing couscous in advance, at this point let it dry and cover it with a damp cloth. It can wait many hours. (Very important note: If the stew in the bottom of the couscousiere is fully cooked and well seasoned and the sauce reduced to the proper amount prior to the final steaming of couscous grains, you should transfer the stew and sauce to a separate saucepan, keeping it warm, and perform the final steaming over boiling water.)
4. If you want to serve right away, allow the couscous to dry for 10 minutes, then pile it back into the couscousiere top, being sure to reseal the two containers with cheesecloth, for its final steaming of 20 minutes. If you have prepared steps 1−3 in advance, 30 minutes before serving break up lumps of couscous by working the grains lightly between your wet fingers. Steam the couscous in the couscousiere top for 20 minutes, as previously directed.
Note: Each time you place the top of colander over the pot, use cheesecloth to reseal the top two containers.

Purée mousse de céleri
Marché pour 4 personnes
Ingrédients principaux : 350 g de céleri rave en boule • 1 litre de lait • sel et poivre • 100 g de riz • 2 cuillères à soupe de crème fraîche double.
Ustensiles de préparation : 1 couteau d'office • 1 casserole à fond épais et son couvercle • 1 spatule en bois • 1 égouttoir à pieds • 1 saladier • 1 mixer • 1 bain marie.

1. Peler le céleri-rave au couteau d'office, le couper en huit morceaux. Mettre ceux-ci dans la casserole et verser dessus le litre de lait froid. Assaisonner de sel et poivre.
2. Mettre sur le feu et, à la première ébullition, verser le riz en pluie. Remuer pendant une minute l'ensemble à la spatule en bois, afin que le riz n'attache pas au fond de la casserole. Laisser cuire à feu doux, à demi couvert, et à petits bouillons, pendant 20 minutes.
3. Au terme de la cuisson, égoutter le céleri et le riz sur l'égouttoir à pieds placé au dessus du saladier pour récupérer le lait de cuisson. Les broyer ensemble 3 minutes au mixer, en incorporant les deux cuillerées à soupe de crème fraîche. Ajouter 10 cl du lait de cuisson réservé, pour détendre la purée et l'amener ainsi à consistance crémeuse. Rebroyer l'ensemble 1 minute; vérifier l'assaisonnement. Tenir au chaud au bain-marie avant l'emploi.

Astuces et idées maison
L'adjonction du riz plutôt que de pommes de terre permet de conserver à cette purée de céleri son goût propre, tout en la rendant crémeuse.
Une variante originale que je viens d'essayer consiste à remplacer le riz par 250 g de quartiers de pommes fruits épluchées que l'on ajoute dans le lait 10 minutes avant la fin de la cuisson du céleri. C'est subtil et délicieux.

Purée mousse de betteraves au vinaigre
Marché pour 4 personnes
Ingrédients principaux : 350 g de betteraves rouges crues • 150 g d'oignons • 1 cuillère à café d'huile d'olive • 1 gousse d'ail pelée et écrasée • 5 cl de vinaigre de vin rouge de Bordeaux ou de Malvoisie • 50 g de tomate fraîche concassée crue • sel et poivre • 1 cuillère à soupe de crème fraîche double • 10 cl de bouillon de volaille obtenus à partir de 1/5 de tablette de bouillon de volaille instantané dilué dans 10 cl d'eau.
Ustensiles de préparation : 1 couteau d'office bien tranchant • 1 casserole à fond épais et son couvercle • 1 spatule en bois • 1 mixer • 1 bain-marie.

1. Peler betteraves et oignons au couteau d'office et les couper en fines rondelles de 2 mm d'épaisseur.
2. Mettre à chauffer l'huile d'olive dans la casserole à fond épais, y faire revenir sans laisser colorer, à découvert, les oignons et l'ail écrasé, les laisser rejeter leur eau de végétation pendant 5 minutes, en ayant soin de les remuer régulièrement à la spatule en bois pour éviter qu'ils n'attachent.
3. Verser dessus les 5 cl de vinaigre pour déglacer, puis incorporer la tomate concassée et les rondelles de betteraves. Assaisonner de sel et poivre du moulin. Laisser cuire à couvert, sur feu doux, pendant 1 heure.
4. La cuisson achevée, broyer le tout 2 minutes au mixer, après avoir ajouté la cuillerée à soupe de crème fraîche et les 10 cl de bouillon de volaille, pour amener cette purée à consistance de mousse légère. Tenir au chaud au bain marie avant l'emploi.

Mongolian stewed garlic 紅燒蒜頭 / 红烧蒜头 hóng shāo suàn tou
This is a condiment for garlic lovers and sensualists only! - a glossy, gem-like heap of individual garlic cloves, turned creamy and mahogany brown by a rich stewing sauce. It was inspired by tales of a dish eaten by a friend in the home of a princely Mongolian living in Taiwan.
To make it, you will need very fresh, hard garlic of the more delicate rose-hued variety, and a light, unsalted stock that can be made easily at home from chicken bones. Otherwise use water, and, if the garlic is old or green at the core, don't do the dish at all. Tinned stock and bad garlic give medicinal results.
This is a no-hands, no-work bit of cooking. The garlic stews on its own for hours and will keep for a week or more.
Technique notes:
Cooking unpeeled garlic over long slow heat works a miracle of transformation. The normally hot-tasting garlic becomes sweet and creamy smooth. The heat must be very gentle for the magic to occur. Medium or high heat will turn the garlic bitter.
Yields 1 cup richly seasoned garlic, enough to serve 8-16 as a condiment to highlight other foods.
4 - 5 very large, rock-hard heads of garlic, with huge cloves and a rose-hued skin, or enough smaller heads to yield 45-50 fat, firm cloves (do not use "elephant" garlic) • 2 ½ tablespoons black soy sauce • 3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry • ½ cup light, unsalted chicken stock or water • 2 - 3 tablespoons finely crushed golden rock sugar

Preparing the garlic:
With your fingers, carefully pull apart the heads of garlic, separating the individual cloves from the rooty base. Remove most of the papery, white outer peel, leaving intact and unbroken the thicker, rose-hued skin which encases each clove. Do not use any cloves that are soft, bruised, or half-peeled.

Stewing the cloves:
Combine the soy, wine, and stock in a Chinese sand pot or a small, heavy pot that will hold the garlic snugly. Bring the liquids to a steaming, near-simmer over low heat, then add the cloves, and stir to combine. Stew the mixture 5 - 10 minutes, scatter in the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Cover the pot, check after several minutes, and adjust the heat to maintain a steamy, near-simmer with few or no bubbles. Cover and stew the garlic 3 ½ hours. Lift the lid occasionally to check that the liquids are not boiling, and at the same time swirl the pot to coat the cloves with sauce.
When done, remove the lid partway and let the cloves sit for 2 or more hours before eating, swirling the pot occasionally to distribute the sauce.
Serve the cloves tepid or at room temperature, in the sand pot or in a small bowl to show off their rich color, or in individual dip dishes alongside each plate. Just before serving, spoon on a bit of sauce.
To eat the garlic, crush a clove lightly against the roof of your mouth. Let the creamy pulp dissolve on your tongue, then discard the peel.
Cool, the garlic may be refrigerated for a week or more in an airtight glass jar. Rotate the jar occasionally to distribute the sauce. Leftover sauce is excellent on cold noodles, or as a garlic-tinged accompaniment for meats or dumplings.

Menu suggestions:
To my taste, the garlic is best on its own with one or two other dishes in a simple, rustic supper. Try it with another sand-pot dish like Mountain Stew and a gutsy vegetable like Dry-Fried Szechwan String Beans. Do not, however, pass up the chance to eat the garlic with a hunk of French bread and some tasty cheese, and a glass of good wine to wash it down.

Purée de potiron
500 g net de potiron ou potimarron • 1 oignon • 100 g de gingembre jeune • 100 g de beurre • sel et poivre.
Peler le potiron et le couper en dés, émincer l'oignon, couper le gingembre en fines tranches. Assaisonner de sel et poivre.
Laisser cuire à feu doux pendant 30 minutes dans un minimum d'eau.
Égoutter, séparer le gingembre et n'en conserver que la partie non fibreuse (environ 10 g). Broyer au mixer avec le potiron et l'oignon. Ajouter le beurre et vérifier l'assaisonnement. Tenir au chaud au bain-marie avant l'emploi.

Hommos bi-tahini
200 g of chickpeas • ½ teaspoon of baking soda • 1 teaspoon of salt • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic • 120 ml of tahini • juice of one lemon • reserved liquid of cooked chickpeas
Soak the chickpeas with ½ teaspoon of baking soda overnight in a large bowl with plenty of water. Cook the chickpeas till they are soft. Drain the liquid, reserving about 1 cup. Puree the chickpeas in a blender or food processor slowly beating in the tahini and lemon juice alternately. If the mix is too thick, add some of the reserved liquid. Crush the garlic with the salt. Add to the mixture. The chickpea dip should have a cream-like consistency.

Butternut squash and tahini spread
Tara Wigley, who assists me in my recipe testing, emailed me about this one with "I could eat this by the bucket" in the subject field. And she's right – once you start eating it, it is hard to put aside. Once made, and assuming you can keep your mitts off it that long, it will keep in a jar in the fridge for a few days, in which case allow it to come back to room temperature before piling over pitta or fresh bread, just like hummus.
Date syrup is a natural sweetener that has wonderful richness and treacly depth; I drizzle it over semolina porridge. It is available from many healthfood shops, but it's not the end of the world if you can't get hold of it – this spread is perfectly fine without it. Serves six to eight.
1 very large butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (net weight 970g) • 3 tbsp olive oil • 1 tsp ground cinnamon • ½ tsp salt • 70 g tahini paste • 120 g Greek yoghurt • 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed • 1 tsp mixed black and white sesame seeds (or just white, if you don't have black) • 1½ tsp date syrup • 2 tbsp chopped coriander
Heat the oven to 180°C. Spread the squash out on a medium-sized baking tray, pour over the olive oil and sprinkle on the cinnamon and salt. Mix well, cover the tray tightly with tinfoil and roast for 70 minutes, stirring once during the cooking. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Transfer the cooled squash to the bowl of a food processor, along with the tahini, yoghurt and garlic. Roughly pulse so that everything is combined into a coarse paste – you don't want it too smooth (you can also do this by hand using a fork or masher).
To serve, spread the butternut in a wavy pattern over a flat plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds, a drizzle of syrup and finish with chopped coriander.

Batata harra
This Lebanese and Syrian dish is probably my favourite way with potatoes. It is spicy and soothing at the same time, and is wonderful served on its own or as a side dish; I particularly love it with grilled fish. You can adjust the degree of heat to suit your threshold; just remember, it's meant to be pretty spicy. Talking about heat, chilli flakes vary widely, so test how hot yours are before adding the full amount.
Serves four.
1 kg charlotte potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice • 2 tbsp olive oil • 2 tbsp sunflower oil • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed • 1 tsp pul biber (Turkish flaked chilli) or ½ tsp another flaked chilli • 2 red peppers, cut into 2 cm dice • 30 g chopped coriander • grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tbsp lemon juice • Maldon sea salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 240°C. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil, throw in the potatoes and cook for three minutes. Drain and leave in a colander until completely dry.
Mix the potatoes with the oils, two teaspoons of salt and some black pepper, and spread on a medium roasting tray lined with tin foil; the potatoes should fit in snugly in one layer. Put them in the oven to roast and, after 10 minutes, stir in the garlic, pul biber, red pepper and half of the coriander. Return to the oven and roast for a further 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are nicely coloured and completely tender. Stir once halfway through the cooking.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Serve warm or at room temperature, stirring in the remaining coriander at the last minute.

Deep-fried Brussels sprouts
Not quite sure I'd go for many of the recipes in those books (assuming I'd buy them) but this one is a winner.

Last update 2014-12-28