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Portuguese baked fish and crispy potatoes


One French Word: morue, a recipe for Morue à la portugaise (salt cod and potatoes as they cook it in Portugal)

Morue à la portugaise

Morue à la portugaise

Cod, fresh or especially salted and/or dried, has long been a staple of the peoples living along the Atlantic coast of Europe (and probably of America and Canada too). Now cod is becoming rare, but in the last couple of centuries, men in rather small boats would leave on extended trips to colder waters around Iceland and Newfoundland, braving dangerous seas and foul weather, to earn a living catching this precious fish. Nowadays trawlers are small factories, with freezers. Then the fish was gutted, spread open, salted and dried, and the result was a sort of elongated triangular board.

It is still sold like that, the cook must soak it for days to ready it for cooking. But it is also sold rehydrated in vacuum packs, which only need soaking for a matter of hours to rid it of excess salt. The taste is quite different from fresh cod and the Portuguese especially are past masters at preparing it.

One of the most famous and delicious dishes using salt cod is the French Caribbean recipe for accras de morue, crispy mouthfuls of fiery fish and chili, which I shall certainly publish here one of these days. And brandade de morue, a sort of garlicky mixture of mashed potato and salt cod.

The French language bit:

morue (feminine noun), une morue, la morue, les morues = salt cod

Fresh cod, that has not been salted, is cabillaud (le cabillaud, du cabillaud), a fillet of cod is un filet de cabillaud, a slice of cod is une darne de cabillaud, a nice fat chunk from the back of the fish is du dos de cabillaud.  

De l’huile de foie de morue = cod liver oil   

Un pinceau queue de morue = a broad flat brush used by painters (literally cod’s tail paintbrush)  

My recipe today is for morue à la portugaise, a dish of baked cod layered with a little tomato and a lot of potato, the top layer of which crisps up beautifully in the oven. It should be eaten as soon as it is cooked, it does not re-heat well especially because the potato loses its crackle.

Main ingredients

Main ingredients

Ingredients for 4-6 people:

  • 400gr salt cod
  • 600gr potatoes
  • 1 hard boiled egg per person
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed with a cleaver and roughly chopped
  • A little tomato sauce (optional) (homemade, or in a jar, spaghetti sauce with olives is what I used)
  • A dozen stoned black olives (unless they are already in your tomato sauce)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Mixed chopped herbs to garnish

You should need NO salt

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Preparation:

  • Soak the pieces of cod for about 10 hours changing the water regularly (unless you have found already de-salted cod). Carry out this stage carefully; nothing worse than going to all this trouble only to find your dish is too salty to eat.
  • Tear the cod into large bite-sized pieces or strips.
  • Pre-heat the oven at 180°C.
  • Wash the potatoes (no need to peel them) and cut into very fine slices (1mm or 2 thick).
  • Fry the onion in a little olive oil until transparent, add the pieces of cod, stir and turn off the heat.
  • Coat the bottom of a casserole dish with a little olive oil.
  • Place a good layer of potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Pour all the cod and onion mixture on top, and add the crushed chopped garlic and a spoonful of olive oil.
  • Grind some black pepper over this mixture, and sprinkle the olives and tomato sauce sparingly over the top.
  • Place another layer of potato on top of this, and end with an artistic layer, carefully overlapping the slices.
  • Dribble about 3tbs olive oil over the whole top layer. (The Portuguese put much more than this!)
  • Pop the dish into the oven for about 45 minutes. The top layer of potato should be browned and very crispy.
  • While the cod is cooking, hardboil an egg per person, shell and slice.
  • Serve piping hot with crusty bread, green salad, and slices of hard boiled egg (optional but this is the way it is done in Portugal), sprinkled with fresh herbs.

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This is not an expensive dish, the only difficulty being to remember to start soaking the salt cod well enough ahead of time.

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Bon appétit!

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One French word: acidulé, a (French) recipe: petite salade acidulée


Acidulé, adjective (acidulé (m.), acidulée (f.), acidulés (m.pl.), acidulées (f.pl.) = a sharp, sour, tart taste (pronounced assi-du-lé, as it is written, no particular stress).

A word used mostly of fruit, sometimes of sweets (candy), cf. English acid drops (in French, bonbons acidulés).

A very short entry today, a super simple recipe, more of an idea really. My English grandmother, who only learnt to cook in the 1950s because up to then she had always had a staff, had a standard list of very few, very easy recipes, which were usually quite successful. This one of hers is a simple salad to go with rich food such as duck, goose, pork, even English sausages. It takes the edge off the richness of the rather fatty meat. It is a salade acidulée aux oranges et à l’ail.

Salade acidulée

This is one of those recipes where I don’t need to give you ingredients (but they are oranges, a lime, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper). I hardly need to give you instructions in fact. Just take an orange per person, a nice juicy one (blood oranges are good for the colour they add); don’t skin it with your fingers in the usual manner, but take a sharp knife to it and trim off the skin and the pith at the same time. If your oranges are large, cut in half and then slice fairly thickly, about 0.7cm per slice and arrange in individual dishes. Pour any juice back over the orange. Squeeze some lime juice, drizzle olive oil, add salt and pepper and a little grated garlic.

Some of you may recognize English sausages – one of the things I miss about England!

Each person will toss his or her invidual salad as and when. Try it, it’s really good, refreshing and light with the meats mentioned above, as well as any other vegetables you may choose.

And here with duck breast and chips

Bon appétit!

One French word: coriandre, a French recipe, saumon au four, pesto de coriandre


Coriandre, masculine noun (le coriandre, du coriandre – one never says un coriandre or des coriandres) = coriander (UK Eng.), cilantro (US Eng.), (pronounced korrie-aan-dr, both rs in the back of your throat, slight stress on the first syllable).

A lot of French people (including me at one time, I have to say) put coriandre in the feminine, which it is not. I once lost a bet on this.

Coriandrum sativum (picture from Wikipedia)

Coriandrum sativum is widely cultivated for its culinary and medicinal properties but it also grows wild all around the Mediterranean. The leaves, the root and the dried seeds are all used. It is good for the digestion.

My recipe for today is for saumon au four, pesto de coriandre = baked salmon with coriander (cilantro) sauce.

Saumon au four, pesto de coriandre

For 2 people you will need:

  • 1 tbs slices spring onion greens
  • 1 very small clove of garlic (don’t put too much or it completely masks the other flavours)
  • 4 tbs roughly chopped coriander (cilantro) (stems and leaves)
  • salt, pepper
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • a large handful of pine nuts

Some of the ingredients

Le saumon

La papillotte

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  2. Peel and boil the potatoes. This will take 20 minutes from boiling point.
  3. Place a portion of salmon on each sheet of paper, salt very slightly, grind a little black pepper, and close the parcel. Add no butter or oil.
  4. Cook  for 12 minutes in the hot oven.
  5. In the meantime, put the coriander, garlic, pine nuts, spring onion and olive oil, with a ¼tsp salt and 4 turns of the pepper mill, into a mini mixer and grind, pushing down the ingredients which stick to the sides, but leaving some texture. Not too pulpy in other words.
  6. Drain the potatoes, open the salmon packets, and run a knife between the fish and the skin (often the skin sticks to the paper a little and it is easy enough to leave the skin behind). With a fish slice or a spatula, transfer the salmon without its skin to individual serving plates.
  7. Cut the potatoes into chunks, spoon a little pesto over them and the fish, and garnish with sprouted seeds.

I cook a lot in little packets (papillottes), it is quick, clean and easy.

Pesto de coriandre

This pesto is also good on cold beef, pasta or rice, and as a basis for vinaigrette for salads (just thin it with a little vinegar). It will keep in a jar in the fridge for a couple of days.

Saumon et pesto

Bon appétit.

I have to go away for a week or so, and I shall not be connected to internet. So try as I might to pre-publish posts, I have not been able to accomplish a week’s worth. My challenge is broken, too bad, I’m not too worried about that really. I’ll get going again in March when I’m back.

One French word: poivron, a French recipe: salade de poivron rôti


Poivron, masculine noun (le poivron, un poivron, des poivrons) = bell pepper (pronounced pouah-vron with minimum attention to the final n, no s heard in the plural, equal stress on the two syllables).

Not to be confused with un poivrot = a drunkard (pronounced pouah-vroh)

Bell peppers grow easily in the climate of the lower two thirds of France, and even further north in good summers. They are much used in ratatouille (the now famous French summer dish) and in poulet basquaise, for instance. They give colour to fish and chicken dishes,  and crunch to salads when used raw.

My recipe for today is salade de poivron rôti, a roasted bell pepper salad with garlic and olive oil.

For each person you will need:

  • A medium sized red bell pepper (green just will not do)
  • A small clove of garlic
  • A small fresh red chili
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • A little salt and pepper
  • A few sprigs of fresh parsley

 

Preparation:

1. Heat the oven to 180°C.

2. Wash the pepper and place whole in a dish in the oven. When the skin of the pepper starts to burn and blister, after 20 minutes or so,  take it out and wrap it in newspaper or a cloth tea-towel (the steam makes the skin come off more easily).

Poivron rôti

3. When it has cooled, remove the skin,  stem, core and all the seeds. You do not need to dry the pepper. Cut into strips about 1/2cm wide (1/4″) and place in a shallow dish.

4. Chop (don’t squeeze or grate) the garlic finely. Sprinkle over the pepper.

5. Chop the parsley finely and sprinkle over the pepper.

6. Cut fine slices of chili and place on top of the salad.

7. Grind black pepper and sprinkle a little salt. Pour 3 tbs olive oil.

8. Toss and leave to marinate for at least an hour.

This salad can be served at room temperature (personally I prefer it that way, the flavours are better), or chilled. If any is left over, it will keep, covered, in the fridge for a day or so.

Salade poivrons

Salade de poivron rôti

The ingredients of this salad are rich in vitamin C and D, and the garlic is good for your blood pressure, among other things. Here is an article in French which enumerates the medicinal properties of garlic (today’s reading exercise!).  Roasted pepper salad looks lovely and summery. You can eat it as a light meal with some crusty bread, maybe followed by a bit of cheese, or as a salad to accompany grilled meat or barbecued sausages. It doesn’t matter if it is swimming in olive oil, any that is left is full of the flavour of garlic and pepper: dip bread into it, it’s delicious, or drizzle some over hot pasta.

Bon appétit.

One French word; pâtes, a French recipe: pâtes aux légumes du soleil


Pâtes, feminine plural noun (les pâtes, des pâtes) = pasta (pronounced paaat,  with a long a, like in “aha”, and you don’t pronounce the final s). Remember what I said about a circumflex, little hat, denoting a lost ‘s’? It is the case here.

In the singular, la pâte is pastry. Pasta is always in the plural. Pâtes fraîches = fresh pasta, pâtes italiennes = Italian pasta. Then there are pâtes farcies, such as ravioli.  Another word is nouilles = noodles ‘pronounced nooo-y, no s). These are usually smaller, shell shaped (coquillettes), twisted (tortillons), bow tie shaped (papillons). Also Chinese noodles = nouilles chinoises.

If you called someone a nouille, or a nouillette, or a nounouille in French, it is like calling someone a noodle in English, meaning they are silly or simple-minded. It is almost a term of endearment when addressed to a child.

Another expression is une bonne pâte, meaning someone dependable, if rather slow.

Not to be confused with pâté, which is still a paste, but meat, and cooked.

Pasta is a good carbohydrate, one that sticks by you. It is not the pasta which is calorific, but what we put on it: butter, cheese, creamy sauces. My recipe today is vegetarian: des pâtes aux légumes du soleil.

 

Salade de pâtes

Pasta topping

For four people you will need:

  • 380gr of dried pasta,  or 550gr of fresh pasta, or again 700gr of stuffed pasta (ravioli, tortellini)
  • A little olive oil
  • 2 small courgettes (zucchini)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A glass of dry white wine
  • A bunch of fresh basil (du basilic frais)
  • A little butter
  • Some freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

 

Preparation:

  1. Begin by making your pasta topping: boil up a kettle, put the tomatoes into a large bowl, pour boiling water over them, stick them in several places with a sharp knife, and after a minute, remove from the boiling water to a chopping board. Skin the tomatoes (monder les tomates). This step is important, don’t leave it out! Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the core and the seeds and cut into chunks about the size of your thumbnail.
  2. Peel and chop the onions; put into a frying pan to sweat gently in some olive oil.
  3. Peel and chop the garlic and add to the onion.
  4. Wash and halve the courgettes lengthwise. Cut off the ends and discard. Cut each half lengthwise again and chunk like the tomatoes. Add to the pan with the onions and the garlic.
  5. When the courgettes have cooked for 3 minutes (you should be stirring), add the tomatoes and all their juice (but not the seeds). Stir well and season with salt and black pepper.
  6. After 2 minutes, add the glass or so of white wine (or chicken stock if you do not wish to use wine). Simmer very very gently until the courgette/zucchini is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed. Keep this mixture warm. (You can freeze this in batches for use later.)
  7. Cook your pasta in the usual way, depending on whether you are using dried or fresh (don’t forget to salt the cooking water).
  8. Serve on warmed plates, with the vegetables divided between the servings, topped with a knob of butter, grated parmesan cheese, and lots of torn or chopped fresh basil.

A word about Parmesan: it is expensive, I know, but it is useful to keep a well wrapped chunk in your fridge and grate a little each time you do a pasta dish. You can also shave it on top of salads. There is just no comparison between freshly grated good quality parmesan and the stuff sold in little packets. Try it, you’ll see the difference.

Bon appétit.

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