Assiette de crudités, Maman Blanc
While the mighty roast beef is being relished by my British friends, crudités are served in lots of homes in France every Sunday. Maman Blanc used to make it as the prelude to a big lunch with extended family. A colourful, delicious celebration of the garden, it can be as simple as you want – even just grated carrot or celeriac with hard-boiled eggs and a mustard dressing will do.
Prep 5 min
Cook 1 hr 40 min
4 medium eggs (preferably organic or free-range)
150g french beans
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 large cucumber
4 big, fat ripe tomatoes
2 large carrots
1 large lettuce – I like reine des glaces
For the dressing
4 banana shallots, peeled
40g dijon mustard
25ml white-wine vinegar
40ml warm water
150ml groundnut oil (or vegetable or sunflower oil)
Sea salt flakes and black pepper
Wash and trim the beetroot, put them in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour and a half (if you prefer, you can steam them instead). Leave to cool slightly, then peel and slice.
While the beetroot are cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Boil the eggs for 10 minutes, drain and cool in cold water for a minute, then peel while the eggs are still warm. Put in a bowl of cold water and halve just before serving.
Top and tail the french beans, blanch in boiling, salted water for two minutes, then drain and refresh in a bowl of iced water. Drain again and put to one side.
Peel and finely slice or coarsely grate the celeriac into long strips (use a mandoline or spiraliser, if you have either), then toss with two tablespoons of lemon juice (this will stop it turning brown).
Peel and finely slice the cucumber, and chop the tomatoes into chunky, roughly 3cm pieces. Peel the carrots, then grate and toss with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Pick and wash the lettuce. Finely chop the shallots, put them in a sieve, wash under cold running water, then drain on kitchen paper.
Now make the dressing: put all the ingredients in a bowl, whisk to combine, then taste and correct the seasoning, if necessary.
Put all the vegetables into separate bowls, and dress them as follows: mix two tablespoons of the dressing with each of the beetroot, cucumber, tomatoes and carrots; mix one tablespoon with the beans; and mix four tablespoons with the celeriac.
To assemble the dish, toss the lettuce leaves with three tablespoons of the dressing and place on a large serving plate. Arrange the dressed vegetables on top of the lettuce and all around the plate, garnish with the boiled egg halves, add a little extra dressing, if necessary, and serve.
A quick ratatouille
What comes first into your mind when you read this word? Is it the hero of the movie Ratatouille? Or is it this dish, that iconic melting pot of vegetables, basil and garlic? Just the sound of the word takes me to Nice, where it’s said to have originated. Nice once belonged to Italy, home of the tomato sauce, and still seems half-Italian today. Traditionally, ratatouille is a slow-cooked, gentle infusion of flavours, but the virtue of this version is that it’s quick, with the vegetables chopped into large pieces to add plenty of texture. Experiment with different herbs, such as marjoram or basil, or intensify the flavours with a couple of pinches of caraway, cumin or fennel seeds (for even more flavour, toast the seeds in a dry pan first, then grind them). Ratatouille is delightful served hot or at room temperature, and even better if made a day in advance and reheated for a summery lunch or supper.
Prep 5 min
Cook 15 min
1 white onion, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large courgette
1 red pepper
4 big, fat ripe tomatoes – as a true Frenchman, I like marmandes in this
8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
4 pinches sea salt flakes
6–8 turns of ground black pepper
Dice the onion, finely slice the garlic and put both to one side. Halve the courgette and aubergine lengthways, then chop into 2–3cm pieces. Cut the pepper in half lengthways, remove and discard the pith and seeds, then chop the flesh into about 2cm pieces. Chop the tomatoes into large chunks – size matters here, because these larger pieces add juice, colour, texture and flavour. Voilà! Your preparation is done.
Pour the oil into a large saucepan or casserole set over a low heat. Let the oil warm up for a moment, then add the onion, garlic, thyme and rosemary, and sweat gently, stirring occasionally, for three to four minutes – don’t let them brown.
Increase the heat to high, add the courgette, aubergine, pepper and tomato, season and stir (to make the dish even more luxuriant, add a tablespoon of tomato puree or 100g passata now, too, if you like). Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring once or twice, for six to eight minutes, so the vegetables steam in their own fantastic juices.
Finally, taste and correct the seasoning, then serve straight from the pan.
A spicy and chilled marinade, originating from Spain and the south of France, escabeche is a technique of preserving meat, fish and vegetables. It is also refreshing, flavoursome and full of contrasting textures.It requires at least 12 hours to marinate, so prepare it a day in advance. Serve this as a summer salad or as an accompaniment to seared fish, stir-fried prawns or a ceviche of scallops. For an Asian touch, add some pickled ginger and finely chopped lemongrass to the escabeche.
Prep 25 min
Marinate 12 hr
½ mooli (AKA daikon)
2 breakfast radishes
¼ fennel bulb
1 shallot, peeled
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 basil sprig
3 makrut lime leaves (optional)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 oranges, juiced
½ lemon, juiced
3 pinches sea salt flakes
3 pinches caster sugar
2 pinches cayenne pepper
1 handful coarsely chopped coriander leaves
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Peel the mooli and carrot, then slice finely widthways, ideally with a mandoline. Finely slice the radishes, fennel and courgette lengthways. Put all the sliced vegetables in a bowl.
Finely slice the shallot widthways and add it to the mix. Finely chop and crush the garlic with the flat of a knife, tear the basil and finely chop the lime leaves, if using, then add all three to the bowl.
Pour the oil and the orange and lemon juice into the bowl, add the salt, sugar and cayenne, mix well, then cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
To finish, stir in the coriander, then serve in a large bowl or in four individual portions. Just before serving, treat the escabeche to a dash or two of your finest extra-virgin olive oil.