Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Whorled And Warty

The other day my friend dropped off a bag of celeriac freshly dug from her vegetable garden, what a treat! Normally the only way to get our hands on the gnarly root vegetable is to drive across the stretch, and sometimes further. The knobbly orb seems to be more popular in the UK than here, I remember going to a party with my parents in the 70's and having celeriac remoulade for the first time, and fresh olives and paper thin ham wrapped around figs, and not a cheese and pineapple on a stick in sight! The partygoers seemed so exotic to me, the men were in brightly colored shirts, the women adorned with Indian jewelry and heavily embellished frocks, or were they smocks?

I grew up in a village which had a good helping of artists and those artists knew how to throw a party, usually the children had to be content with a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and a coca cola, during the shindigs. There was a shift in eating patterns in the 70's, in my village at least, at parties the vol au vent was being replaced by a big chunk of cheese and some crusty bread, it was all so wonderfully Elizabeth David, with copper pots hanging over the stove, and orange oven wear from France, and kilims hanging on the walls.....this is the stuff childhood memories are made of! 

This is what we did with our celeriac - pan fried some chopped onion with chopped garlic and bay leaf for about a minute, added cubed celeriac and some salt, poured in some chicken stock and cooked until liquid was absorbed, about 20 minutes, we had mashed potatoes from the night before, so we poured our celeriac on top of the warmed mashed spuds and then a sprinkling of walnut oil and sherry vinegar, this was a delicious surprise.......thank you Stephanie Alexander (again) and thank you my friend on the lake for giving me the whorled and warty delight, and for inspiring me to grow more!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Supper After Carols

Some potatoes, half a savoy cabbage, a chunk of brie, garlic cloves and a jug of milk.....I wanted to create a dish that I could leave in the oven while we trundled off to our local carol service, and these were the ingredients I had available to me on a cold sunday night and luckily I had a craving for rustic mountain food.

I didn't have the Reblochon (ha, trying getting that at the IGA) which is an essential ingredient for tartiflette, but as I started doing my recipe search I realized that Reblochon has only been around since the 1980's and the dish was created to promote Reblochon! Well in any case it's a delicious cheese and when I was in Saint Gervais a couple of years ago I contributed mightily to that cheese company and to my cholesterol level, hmmmm but there was the raclette, and the ham too......but really how can you go wrong with any combination of potato and cheese? That Christmas holiday spent in the Savoie region was one of the most memorable gastronomic experiences. I really would eat those dishes every night if it just wasn't so dangerous.

This was my gratin: I layered sliced potatoes and ribbons of savoy cabbage, the brie slices were in the middle of the layers, salt and pepper of course on each layer, I still have a lot of herbs in the veggie garden, so generous amounts of thyme, sage and parsley were sprinkled on each layer (very confused about parsley, have never had such a massive crop, and it's still going strong) I then covered my creation with milk and covered the dish with foil and put it in the oven on a low temp.

Our friend sang a solo, she made us cry, the NZ'er was wiping his tears away with the sleeve of his manly motorbike jacket. The lass has a voice that is so powerful, but she doesn't belt, and it's not sweet, but it is achingly beautiful and for about five minutes the audience was in raptures, at the end of the performance I woooohooooooed! I'm not much of a churchgoer but I do like a good carol.

We returned home to comforting aromas, the rustic mountain dish turned out pretty nice, the NZ'er really liked it with the chicken sausages and the festive looking cherry tomatoes and after a few mouthfuls he asked 'are there clams in this?' I think that's a good thing.