Over the summer I read ‘An Omelette and a Glass of Wine’ and decided that I wanted to be Elizabeth David. She had a brilliant wit. She loved picnics and travelling. She liked to eat unpretentious food made from good ingredients. She also (and this is possibly the main reason) enjoyed drinking wine at lunchtime (and woe betide if you served her with, just because she was a woman, a half bottle).
I admit a slight obsession (although I am currently reading her biography and it seems there is a darker side – which I’d probably rather not hear).
I now have a long list of her recipes that I want to try.
After our holiday (where we ate lots of delicious but indulgent food) I needed a few weeks of simple eating centering around vegetables. So the first recipe which I picked out is a basic rice dish with a cold tomato sauce. It sounds stupidly simple but it is surprisingly rich in flavour. It does rely on your tomatoes being very fresh. They are very much in season now and are really good even in the supermarkets but I wouldn’t advise making this with the artificially ripened ones you get at other times of the year.
Tomato Sauce and Dry Rice
For the simple tomato sauce, slice ripe tomatoes into a bowl and mix with olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a bit of onion. Prepare the mixture two hours in advance and immediately before serving to stir in a pinch of sugar.
For the rice, put a small dollop of butter or oil into a small saucepan over a low heat. Add half a chopped onion and when the onion is golden discard (or save for another use). Then add half a pint of basmati rice and stir until the rice has started to turn golden. Then tip in a pint of boiling stock or water. Bring to the boil, put a lid on and then turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes. Try not to be tempted to open the lid. Fluff up with a fork.
Serve the rice with some flakes of butter and some grated cheese with the tomato sauce separately on the side.
Gratin of courgettes and rice
It’s the season for courgettes but for the first time ever my plants have been annihilated by slugs and snails. However, I am going to keep this recipe for other years when I have them coming out of my ears.
The idea does sound a bit odd – my family were terrified. But trust me the taste is lovely. The courgette flavour is very subtle so even my children (who do not like courgettes) enjoyed it. It was unexpectedly good cold the next day cut into wedges.
Gratin of courgettes and rice
Here I quote Elizabeth directly:
‘It was followed by a gratin of courgettes and rice. This dish, new to me, was made with courgettes cooked in butter and sieved, the resulting puree then mixed with béchamel and rice, all turned into a shallow dish and browned in the oven. A mixture with delicate and unexpected flavours.’
There were no quantities given. I used two large courgettes, cooked down with butter until soft and then pureed in the blender. I then made a very thick béchamel (50g of butter, 50g of flour and just enough milk so that the mixture would only just run from the spoon). The mixture of courgette to béchamel was 50/50 (I had leftover béchamel but saved this to make macaroni cheese another day). I then added the same amount of cooked rice (cooked with water not stock in my usual way – see above), poured the whole lot into a baking dish, dotted with butter and browned in the oven.
Who knows whether this is the correct way but inspired by the following words I’ll leave you to experiment.
‘I think that the ideal cookery writer is one who makes his readers want to cook as well as telling them how it is done; he should also leave something not too much perhaps, but a little, unsaid; people must make their own discoveries, use their own intelligence, otherwise they will be deprived of part of the fun.’ – Elizabeth David
A random aside – holiday photos
I have to admit it. As much as I love them, my children (now six and eight) are no longer cute.
One is toothless, bespectacled and likes to play the fool. The other is toothy, a complete scruff bag and has a slightly crazy look in her eye. They no longer enjoy posing for photos but just see it as a good way to wind me up.
So my holiday photos these days are less about the kids and more about the food (although the children are usually in there somewhere).
If you read this blog then I’m assuming that you like food, so I thought I’d share some of my food focused holiday photos with you.
Giant breaded meatballs with a liquid sauce centre, served with salad or ‘stoemp’ (mashed potato with carrot) at Balls & Glory. A great idea and totally delicious.
Classic Ghent cuisine – shrimp croquettes with Westmalle Dubbel (a strong, dark, beer)
This is a bad photo but it’s all about the ‘Kouign Amman’ here (that little pastry on the left) which was the most amazing thing I have eaten in a long time. Buttery, sugary – pure heaven with a strong coffee. I think they once made them on Bake-Off.
The children try snails for the first time in Alsatian restaurant Bosso in Luxembourg. We also had ‘Alsatian pizza’ or ‘Flammeküeche’ and the best potato rosti ever.
Elizabeth’s eighth birthday treat – a ridiculously expensive rose flavoured macaron filled with rose petal cream.
Another sweet treat at ‘Stoffels’ in Liege. This is ‘La Soliel’ – layers of raspberry coulis, creme anglais and then Italian meringue on top. AMAZING.
You can’t go to Belgium and not have frites with Andalouse sauce.
A very good beer.