Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lentil Stew to beat the Winter Blues

Baby it's cold outside! Although the snow is all but gone now, it is still real cold in Provence! What better than a heart and belly warming stew to keep us going? This one goes very well with a good red from Côtes du Rhône which was exactly what we and our American friends had last night.

Ingredients for 4 servings

200 g lentils (the small green Puy lentils are best, they don't even need to be soaked)
8 thick savory sausages – think Italian salsicce
3 red peppers
2 small (425 g) cans peeled tomatoes
2 red onions
500 ml beef or vegetable stock
olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce
chili flakes (I like to use Turkish pulbiber)

Preheat the oven to 200 C° /180 C° fan
Cut the red peppers into halves, clean them, then cut into chunky pieces. Peel the red onion, cut into wedges. Pour the tomatoes and their juice into a roasting tin. Add the red pepper chunks and the onion wedges. Add the sausages, drizzle all with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and bake for about 40 minutes.
In the meantime, rinse the lentils, then boil them in plenty of water (to which you have a added a stock cube) until they are soft (takes about 20 to 30 min). When soft, drain the lentils.
Take the roasting tin out of the oven, add the drained lentils and the hot vegetable stock and a dash of two of Worcestershire sauce plus some chili flakes, stir everything well together and roast for another 40 min until the lentils have soaked up most of the liquid and the sausages are nice and brown. Check the seasoning, adding some salt and/or pepper if necessary. Serve with crusty bread to mop up the delicious sauce.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Soupe au Pistou

This heart and body warming soup is named after an ingredient that is added at the very last moment before you serve the soup: "Pistou" which is more or less the same thing as pesto, except that in pistou you leave out the pine nuts and the parmesan. So in summer, when I have an abundance of basil in my kitchen garden, I take a big bunch of basil, pick off the leaves, peel two or three cloves of garlic and, together with some salt mix it all up, adding a bit of olive oil. Purists would do this in a mortar of course, but I believe that life is too short and anyhow, what are modern kitchen gadgets for? You end up with a beautifully green and pungent paste that I fill into ice cube trays until frozen and then keep in plastic bags in the freezer for days like these when you are snowed in and need some sunshine in you soup bowl.
And although the season for Soupe au pistou really is early summer when all ingredients are availalble at our beautiful Provençal market, the cheat's version can easily be cooked in winter - just use frozen vegetables.
Boil green beans, cannelini beans, borlotti beans, some diced carrots, diced white leek, diced potatoes, a tomato or two until tender in a litre and a half of good beef or vegetable stock, add a handful of very small pasta and when tender, stir in a generous tablespoon of pistou and serve with crunchy baguette. Voilà: instant sunshine, even at minus 2°C!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow in Provence

Can you image this to be an olive tree in Provence? Three days ago it starting snowing and now we are under 25 centimeters of snow. The village is all but closed and I am very happy to have a well stocked fridge and freezer and can wait for sunnier days.
Perfect weather for a very Provençal "Soupe au Pistou" though!

Happy New Year 2010!

Doesn't this look just like the horn of plenty? We started the New Year with the traditional "treize desserts" (13 desserts) of Provence. Strictly speaking they are not really 13 desserts but nuts and almonds, fresh, dried and candied fruits, calissons and quince paste. So many different delicacies, we needed two big plates to get everything on the table!