Friday, February 21, 2014

Jamie Oliver - A Valentine's with Benefits...

I have to admit that I find Valentine's Day one of the most superfluous "holidays" ever. Love on command, all those totally overpriced roses, chocolates and bottles of bubbly - not for me, thank you very much. And what is more depessing than a whole restaurant of tables of two drinking their pink champagne, eating a pink starter, pink main course and pink dessert? Been there, done that, exactly once and we still laugh about it. But somehow my darling husband saw all those guys queuing at the florist's and probably felt kind of funny being seen without anything (Valentine's is huge here in Provence!) . And so what did I get? A beautiful rose and this:

The French version of Jamie Oliver's magazine. Monsieur just knows that I love cooking mags and used to buy far too many of them and recently put myself on a strict magazine detox.
Guess who was first to look through it and decorate it with more than half a dozen page markers? Let me just say that so far these are the only recipes I had time to look at and today we had Jamie's very simple but delicious "Tarte de Printemps" for lunch. The ingredients are easlily found this time of the year, leeks and spinach are about all the fresh produce you find besides various cabbages and squashes in our markets now. So I guess my husband got himself a Valentine's with benefits...

Jamie Oliver's Tarte de Printemps (Spring Tart)
270 g filo pasty
200 g baby spinach leaves
6 slices bacon
6 eggs
200 ml milk
3 medium sized leeks
pepper and salt
Preheat the oven to 180 C, oil a 20 x 30 cm tart tin.
Distribute the filo leaves one by one slightly overlapping the tin and oiling between layering the next filo leaf. Put the spinach in a colander and pour boiling water over the spinach so it wilts. Leave to cool. Finely chop the well rinsed leeks (white parts only). Grill the bacon until crisp, degrease on some papertowels. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much of the water as you can, then roughly chop the spinach and mix with the chopped up leeks. Crumble the crisp bacon and mix with the spinach and leeks.
Distribute this mixture on the filo pastry. In a bowl mix the eggs and the milk with freshly ground pepper and salt and pour over the tart. Bake for 30 minutes.
PS: The only thing I would probably add next time is a handful of grated cheese into the egg mixture.
Jamie's Tarte de Printemps

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pork Cheeks make a warming Winter Stew

Do you know what these are? Pretty pink little porc cheeks that I discovered at my favorite butcher's stall at Vaison's Tuesday Provençal market. I had seen beef cheeks before and knew that you had to braise them, best at low temperature and for hours but since they are so big had never bought them.
The problem with porc cheeks - they don't come all pink and pretty like in the first picture, they come like in the picture above, covered in protective tissue that you have to remove. Hint: sharpen your knives before you tackle that step or flirt with your butcher. Provençal market butchers are no nonsense, flirtproof and used to dealing with non squeamish women (the other ones don't even think about cooking something so outlandish) so you just have to do it yourself. And then chop some onions, garlic, carottes, add a bayleaf and a bottle of red wine - here we use Côtes du Rhône of course.

Cover in clingfilm and let marinate overnight. The next day let braise at 150C/300F for about 3 hours in the oven, covered of course. Take out the by then falling apart pork cheeks and reduce the sauce. I served this flavorful stew with some stir fried savoy cabbage and believe me - it does chase the winter away!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Rain in Provence - Time for Comfort Food

It is raining, oh I wish you could see how much it has been raining here in Provence these last days! It truly is rubber boot weather, the lawn and the flower beds have all but drowned, the kitchen garden is one big muddy mess and I am on a roll. I am on a roll in my kitchen, the nicest, warmest place on earth to me right now cooking comfort food, trying out new recipes (just wait until I post about my porc cheek stew) and even happily doing the ironing in front of the kitchen TV....kind of pathetic, I know but better than getting soaked outside.
The above recipe for a wonderfully comforting, slightly crunchy and totally satisfying portato and lentil salad I found on "Smitten Kitchen" one of my favorite blogs. Très, très bon, merci Deb!