Pissaladière = Pizza without Tomatoes

Feeling lazy but in need of a quick starter or main course?

The answer is to make a pissaladière, a speciality from Nice. It is similar to a pizza, but does not have tomatoes on it. Traditionally, pizza dough is used but on this occasion, I am using frozen puff pastry. This is ideal if you are having a finger buffet or if you want a main course. There is little preparation and it is definitely summery, although you can eat it in all seasons.

The name pissaladière comes from the latin piscis (fish) and later the niçois patois, pissalat. Anchovies preserved in brine or in olive oil are used as well as caramelised onions and this gives it its strong mediterranean flavour. Add a few black olives and your dish is ready.

 

Serves 2:

2 puff pastry squares or rectangles

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

1 tin anchovy fillets in olive oil

a few black olives

pinch of sugar

 

  1. Gently fry the onion in the anchovy oil and add the pinch of sugar. Cook until soft and caramelised. Liquidize, if you wish. Reserve.
  2. Score the pastry 1cm inside the edge and prick with a fork. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C and cook for 15 minutes until golden.
  3. Take out from the oven and garnish with a layer of onions, a lattice of anchovies and olives in between.
  4. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes and serve with a salad and a very cool rosé from Provence.

 

Bon Appétit!

Calamars à l’Armoricaine = Squid in Armoricaine Sauce

A family favourite and probably my signature dish, Squid in Armoricaine sauce are a little fiddly to prepare but worth the effort.

You can use either fresh squid or frozen, the taste is not altered. Moreover, this is a dish that freezes well and it comes in handy if you have a lazy day.

People are sometimes put off the idea of eating squid because they have only eaten rubbery rings, not sufficiently cooked. In this recipe, the squid are well cooked and tender and the sauce and flambé ensure that the taste is definitely present. The other misconception is that they could be as big as the deep sea monsters  featured in films. Not so, be reassured.

It is best to buy smallish squid but larger ones will mean less work for you at the preparation stage. If you like to cook en famille, young children will enjoy removing the transparent back bone (this, they can do by pulling it out, so do not need to use knives, which should be reserved for the adults cooks) and looking at the beautiful tentacles which resemble flowers. It is a good way to introduce children (but not infants) to tastier and varied dishes so they can educate their palate for adulthood.

My fishmonger sources them fresh from the coast or frozen from California, providing, as he says, that El Niño has not created a problem!

Serves 4:

1 kilo squid

1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1 handful flat leaves parsley, finely chopped

2 small tins tomato purée

50g butter

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

100ml dry white wine

2 or 3 tablespoons Cognac

salt and pepper to season

  1. Warm up the oil in a big cast iron cocotte, if you have one, or in any cooking pot. Gently fry the onion and the garlic. Add the tomato purée with a volume of water identical to the volume of the tin. Stir and let it simmer gently. Add half the white wine.
  2. Rinse the squid in a colander. On a chopping board, slice them open, one by one. Chop off the head just below the eyes and under the tentacles. Remove a little white hard ball that is at the base of the head. Reserve the tentacles. Open up the body and remove the transparent backbone. Discard it (or keep it for birds). If there are eggs, remove them and discard. Slice the flesh into thin strips, approximately 1 cm wide. Keep the slices and the tentacles in a colander and rinse. There is sometimes a black ink which I do not keep, but some people do to make a sepia sauce.
  3. Pre-heat a metal frying pan which is not a non-stick one. Put half the squid and dry fry it until it turns light pink. Collect the cooking juices and pour them in the simmering tomato sauce. Continue cooking the squid and add 25g of butter, stir well.
  4. Pour 1 tablespoon Cognac on top and flambé. When the flames have died down, put the squid in the cooking pot and déglacé the frying pan with some of the remaining white wine. Add the juices to the sauce.
  5. Repeat the operation for the remainder of the squid.
  6. Simmer gently for 20 minutes and add the chopped parsley 2 minutes before serving.
  7. Finally, serve either on a bed of black spaghetti or on a bed of rice, with a good Chablis or any other dry white wine of your choice.

Bon Appétit!

Tip: Save the transparent back bone and let it dry. Small birds will enjoy eating it. They are the original cuttlefish bones.

The black spaghetti have been tinted with the squid ink and they give a pleasant visual contrast to the red sauce.

Café Gourmand = Gourmet Coffee

The best way to describe a café gourmand is probably to define it as a small cup of coffee with  accompaniments. The term gourmet coffee does not do it justice.

You can vary the accompaniments according to your mood or the season.  On this occasion, I chose home-made verrines de poires, macarons, calissons and a home-made coffee ice-cream (see post of 6 April 2016).

Calissons are a speciality from Provence that we use as part of the 13 Desserts of Christmas and that are essentially made from marzipan, royal icing and candied melon on a very thin base of wafer. They are eaten all year round, though, and Aix-en-Provence has traditionally been associated with the best calissons-making confiseurs, partly because the almonds are grown locally and partly because ” Good King René” (le Bon Roi René) and his wife enjoyed eating them.

A café gourmand is a dessert in its own right.

Bon Appétit!

 

Verrine de Poires sur Coulis de Mangue = Pears on Mango Coulis

To make up a café gourmand, little verrines (small glasses) of fruit balance the sweeter elements, such as macarons and calissons. The coffee itself is a coffee icecream to allow a seasonal change. There is no addition of sugar to the fruit so it is guilt-free if you are dieting, although bear in mind that there is a little syrup in the elderflower cordial.

Serves 4:

2 ripe mangoes

4 ripe pears

Elderflower cordial, home-made

A few fresh mint leaves to decorate

1. Peel and quarter the pears, place in a saucepan containing the elderflower cordial (see recipe of 5 July 2014), and stew gently for 5 minutes. Let the fruit cool off and dice into small cubes. Reserve.

2. Peel and cut the mangoes and whizz.

3. Fill the verrines with the mango coulis, refrigerate and add the pears just before serving. Decorate with mint leaves.

Bon Appétit!

Roulade de Poulet à la Tapenade = Chicken Roll with Tapenade

Looking for a slightly different way to cook chicken? Then try it with tapenade. ( see tapenade post of 30 March 2016)

It won’t take long to prepare or cook and will bring the flavours of the Mediterranean to you.

Moreover, as it is cooked in steam, it is limiting the fat content to a minimum. Good news for the waistline!

If you wish to serve it with sauce, use a light Béchamel as I did on this occasion.

Serves 2:

2 chicken fillets

Black olive tapenade

Light Béchamel sauce ( white sauce)


1. Put the fillets on a plate and spread the tapenade over each fillet.

2. Roll tightly and tie each fillet with cotton to form a roll.

3.  Cook in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes.

4. Check that the meat is well cooked, remove the cotton, cut thick slices and serve immediately.  A salad or steamed new potatoes go well with this dish. And a glass of Chablis !

Bon Appétit!