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Cooking with Pomiane
By Edouard de Pomiane
Serif BooksCopyright © 2009 Serif
All rights reserved.
Sometimes I feel that I am very old. When I consider all the changes which have occurred over the long years since I was a child, I feel like a stranger even in the Paris where I was born.
The din of the traffic has put the street songs to flight. One is no longer woken by the cry of the groundsel sellers. The raucous song of the oyster man no longer reminds one that it is Sunday, which must be celebrated round the family table with a feast of oysters.
The shops have changed too. Only the windows of the butter, egg and cheese shops have kept their character, and on the pavement just beside the door one can still admire the giant pumpkin with gaping sides squatting on its wooden stool and seeming to say to passers-by, 'Why not make some pumpkin soup? And you will need some milk for it too. Come inside and buy some.'
Certainly in my young days there was no wooden stool. The pumpkin was balanced on top of two other uncut pumpkins which were the rendezvous of all the dogs in the neighbourhood who stopped there ... for a moment or two. The stool is a triumph of modern hygiene.
If you are making pumpkin soup, buy a slice weighing about 500 g/1 lb. You will also need
900 ml/1½ pints milk 60 g/2 oz rice
Peel the pumpkin and cut the flesh into small pieces. Put them into a saucepan with a tumblerful of water. Boil for about 15 minutes, then mash the pumpkin to a purée. Add the milk and bring it to the boil. Now pour in the rice and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes.
At this moment the rice should be just cooked. Adjust the seasoning to your taste adding, if you like it, a pinch of caster sugar. I prefer a sprinkling of freshly milled black pepper.
This is my version of a Russian kholodets which I have adapted to suit my own taste and pocket.
750 g/1 ½ lb very ripe tomatoes a medium-sized cucumber 15 g/½ oz very fine semolina 1 tablespoon double cream a bunch of chervil and tarragon
Cut the tomatoes in pieces and put them into a saucepan. Add 900 ml/ 1½ pints of water and boil for 15 minutes. Rub the tomatoes through a coarse sieve.
Add another 600 ml/1 pint of water, stirring well. Bring to the boil and season lightly with salt and pepper. While the soup is boiling, pour in the semolina, stirring all the time. Let it boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes. The soup thickens. Add the cream, stir and lift it off the heat. Cool the soup for half an hour and, while it is cooling, peel the cucumber, cut it in two lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice the cucumber thinly and chop the herbs. Stir them into the soup and set it to chill.
This soup is delicious in hot weather.
Barley Soup with Goose Giblets
goose giblets 375 g/¾ lb carrots 250 g/½ lb turnips 3 leeks 175 g/6 oz pearl barley
Put the neck, gizzard, liver, feet and wing tips of a goose into a large saucepan with 2 ½ litres/5 pints of cold salted water. Add the carrots and turnips, peeled and sliced, and the leeks split, carefully washed and tied into a bundle.
Bring the soup to the boil and skim it carefully, then pour in the barley. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Let it simmer for at least 8 hours, adding a little boiling water when necessary.
The smell of the soup as it cooks is subtle and pervasive.
Just before serving, lift out the leeks and the bones and any skin of the goose. Adjust the seasoning. The soup is velvety and smooth but with the unexpected interest of the grains of barley which are still just firm. A soup like this is a meal in itself.
For this soup use any fish with a firm flesh – conger eel, for example.
750 g/1½ lb fish 250 g/½ lb Dublin Bay prawns 2 onions 3 cloves garlic 250 g/½ lb potatoes parsley, thyme and fennel 150 ml/¼ pint olive oil slices of fried bread
Cut the fish into six pieces and each of the Dublin Bay prawns into two. Chop the garlic finely and the onions into small pieces. Peel and slice the potatoes.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the garlic and onion a beautiful golden brown.
Add 1½ litres/2½ pints of water and, when it is boiling, the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and boil for 20 minutes.
Pour the broth through a sieve and work the potato and onion through with a wooden spoon so that they form a purée which you stir into the broth. Add the fish and the prawns and, when they have boiled for 20 minutes, the herbs chopped finely. Boil for 5 minutes more. Meanwhile, fry the slices of bread in olive oil.
Pour the soup into a tureen and carry it to table. Help each person generously, seeing that they have their share of fish. Top each helping with crisp slices of fried bread.
Ideally, this soup should be eaten at the midday meal, as it is a little heavy for the evening.
1.8 litres/3 pints meat stock 10 chipolata sausages 250 g/½ lb beetroot 3 teaspoons vinegar
If you have some meat stock or 2 Swiss stock cubes you can make this excellent soup.
Bring the liquid to the boil. Drop in the sausages and cook them for about 10 minutes. When they are done, lift them out and add the beetroot, chopped finely. Boil for 3 minutes and add the vinegar.
The soup turns a brilliant ruby red. Strain it into a tureen over the chipolatas. Give each of your guests a ladleful of soup and a couple of sausages.
Neapolitan Fish Soup with Rice
Thirty years ago I arrived at Naples for the first time, by sea, and was enchanted by the view of the bay and by the women in their brilliant clothes thronging the narrow alleys.
Recently, arriving by train, I had to struggle through clanging commercial streets before I could enjoy the blue of the sea and the distant grisaille of Vesuvius with its plume of smoke.
Thirty years ago I used to feast on spaghetti in dim little restaurants; now I am afraid to go into these places with their dubious cleanliness. I fear I am getting older and a little spoilt. My ideas have grown more luxurious, but in the places where I now eat the spaghetti no longer tastes as good.
In restaurants near the sea and by the Castel del Uovo I have, however, eaten some excellent dishes. Here, when you arrive, a feast is spread before you – shellfish in nests of crushed ice, fish soup, enormous mussels of a size quite unknown in the north, fried octopus, fish of all sorts alive from the sea, and goodness knows what else.
As darkness falls, in that evocative atmosphere of hot oil and saffron, you enjoy the dish you have chosen, while singers, to the twanging of guitars, pour out 'Funiculí Funiculá' and 'Santa Lucia' and all those tunes which have not changed for the last thirty years.
In such a restaurant I enjoyed two special soups, one made with fish and rice and the other with mussels. Now I shall tell you how to make them.
For the fish and rice soup take:
500 g/1 lb fish 60 g/2 oz rice 250 g/½ lb tomatoes 3 cloves garlic 2 tablespoons olive oil
For this soup you can use any fish with firm flesh. Fillet the fish and cut it in pieces the size of a hazel nut. Crush the garlic beneath the blade of a large knife. (This is more easily done if the garlic is first chopped roughly and mixed with a little salt.) Halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and cut them in pieces.
Put the fish, rice, garlic, tomatoes and the backbone of the fish into a saucepan and pour in 1 litre/2 good pints of water. Bring it to the boil and add the oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes. Try the rice. It is still a little hard. Cook for 3 minutes more and taste again. The rice is just right; the soup too.
Remove the fish bones and pour the soup into a tureen. Scoop each helping from the bottom so that everyone has their own share of fish and rice as well as broth.
With this soup I serve a glass of rough red wine.
750 g/1½ lb mussels 6 tablespoons olive oil 120 g/4 oz stale bread a dash of powdered saffron 6 finely chopped shallots
For this soup you must buy mussels from a fishmonger whom you trust. Wash them carefully in successive waters, discarding any which are not tightly closed. Scrape all the weed and any excrescences from the shells.
Heat three-quarters of the olive oil, which should be of good quality, in a frying pan, and fry the bread, which you have cut into cubes about the size of poker dice. Set them to one side when they are golden brown.
Pour the water into a heavy casserole with the shallots, powdered saffron and some pepper, and boil for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the oil.
Drop the mussels into this boiling liquid. Cover them and boil for 10 minutes. Taste the broth and salt it to your liking.
Arrange the mussels in a bowl with the croûtons and pour the broth over them.
Whole mussels are served with each portion of soup, so it is a good idea to put a deep dish in the middle of the table to take the shells as they are emptied.
Iced Tomato and Cucumber Soup
French cookery is not very much concerned with cold soups, and the best recipes for these come from Eastern Europe rather than from the Mediterranean. There are wonderful cold soups from Russia and Poland with meat, fish and shellfish swimming in cream, but these are rather too heavy for our taste. Here is a simpler version of a cold soup:
1 cucumber 500 g/1 lb tomatoes 30 g/1 oz butter a trace of Cayenne pepper 75 g/2½ oz double cream 1 tablespoon tomato purée
Cut the cucumber into fine slices, salt it lightly and leave it under a saucer with a weight on top for an hour or two.
Cook the tomatoes with a walnut of butter over a very low heat for 20 minutes in a covered saucepan. Pour 1 litre/2 pints of boiling water over them and add a little more salt to please your taste. Boil for 5 minutes.
Pour the soup through a coarse sieve or Mouli and add a trace of Cayenne pepper – about as much as a grain of rice. Stir in the cream and tomato purée. Let the soup boil for 1 minute more, then cool and add the sliced cucumber with its juice. Chill thoroughly. Your guests will remember this soup.
Soupe aux Tripes
This is a sort of pot-au-feu in which the beef is replaced by tripe.
500 g/1 lb tripe 3 cloves garlic 175 g/6 oz carrots 3 leeks 250 g/½ lb tomatoes 4 tablespoons olive oil a bouquet of parsley, chervil and basil
Scrape the carrots and leave them whole. Wash and trim the leeks and tie them into a bundle.
Mince the garlic and cut the tripe into very thin strips. Chop the herbs finely and slice the tomatoes in two.
Pour the olive oil into a heavy saucepan and fry the garlic golden brown. Add 2 litres/4 pints of water and bring it to the boil.
Add the carrots, leeks and tomatoes and plenty of salt and pepper and bring them to boiling point once more. Add the tripe and, when it is boiling, cover the pan and simmer for 3 hours. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning to suit your palate. Remove the vegetables.
Boil for 5 minutes more and then serve to each of your guests a couple of ladles full of tender tripe and golden broth. All but the most snobbish will enjoy this soup.CHAPTER 2
At Easter the shops are filled with boxes of smooth white eggs, while the shelves are decked with chocolate eggs which are almost black. For March and April are the months when hens lay best, and Easter is the time for giving chocolate eggs trimmed with ribbon and filled with sweets. Indeed, throughout the Christian world eggs are exchanged as the symbol of the Resurrection.
Eggs are an almost perfect food. It is easy to appreciate their alimentary value when one realises that the yolk alone contains sufficient reserves to build the chick's robust little body.
This fact has been realised for centuries, and even the powdered egg of wartime was no novelty, since in 1386 the troops of Charles VI, who were to invade England, were victualled with salt meat, biscuits, butter and powdered egg yolks preserved in barrels!
I shall not try to teach you how to produce a boiled egg, an oeuf mollet or a hard-boiled egg. I do, however, venture to warn you against boiling eggs too long. If an egg is kept for more than 12 minutes in boiling water the yolk is subject to a chemical change and produces sulphuretted hydrogen. Even if it is very fresh, the hard-boiled egg then smells bad.
Eggs sur le plat need the greatest care, since the white must be completely cooked and the yolk should be hot, while remaining fluid. Success depends on the heat of the stove and the speed of cooking.
Omelettes and scrambled eggs are gastronomic marvels. An omelette when cooked should still be a little runny inside; scrambled eggs must be creamy.
An omelette, just like scrambled eggs, can form an infinite variety of dishes, depending on what is added. But remember that scrambled eggs with mushrooms must be scrambled eggs with mushrooms and not mushrooms with scrambled eggs – that is to say, whatever one adds to the eggs must not be more than one-fifth of the total volume.
Try making omelettes or scrambled eggs with any of the following: mushrooms, prawns, truffles, asparagus tips, croûtons of fried bread, artichoke hearts, strips of fried bacon, sautéed potatoes, chicken livers, ham, cheese, kidneys, mussels, cockles, herbs, shrimps, cream sauce, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peas, French beans, tuna, salt cod ... I can't go on. I feel as if I were reading a page of Rabelais.
To Poach an Egg
A poached egg is cooked in water, after being broken out of its shell. In order for the egg to keep its shape, the white must not be too runny, and the older the egg, the more fluid its white becomes. The white of a not-so-fresh egg spreads out into the water and your poached egg is ruined.
In order for the white to coagulate rapidly and completely cover the yolk, the egg should be dropped into fast-boiling water to which a little vinegar has been added. Should the water be salted? No, since salt dissolves that part of the white which is called globulin. This, however, is not soluble in unsalted water.
Suppose that I am preparing four poached eggs. I place on the heat a saucepan containing 900 ml/1½ pints of water to which I have added a tablespoon of vinegar.
The water boils. I break an egg into a cup. Holding the cup by its handle, I tip the egg straight into the water. Immediately, it starts to whiten.
I drop a second egg into the boiling water and leave it for a moment while I pour some warm water into a soup plate.
Using a straining-spoon, I lift out the two eggs and slip them into the warm water. In this way they keep warm without continuing to cook.
Now I shall cook the other two eggs. First I skim the coagulated albumen from the surface of the water, then bring it to the boil again. I break each egg in turn into the cup and drop it into the saucepan.
This time I am not so lucky. One of the eggs has lost its shape and the yolk is showing. It can't be helped. I let them cook for a minute and then lift them out and slip them into the warm water. The white of the untidy egg can be trimmed. It is not perfect, but it will have to do.
These eggs can be served in various ways.
Oeufs Pochés sur Canapé
First of all I prepare 4 rounds of bread fried in butter and arrange them on a hot dish. I lift the 4 poached eggs from the boiling water, drain them carefully and place them on the canapés, then pour melted butter over them and sprinkle them with paprika or a little red pepper. It is very pretty – and it is very good.
Poached Eggs with Tomato
I arrange 4 poached eggs on a dish and cover them with a thick tomato purée that I have made by warming and slightly thinning a small tin of tomato purée. I have even added a little olive oil and half a clove of garlic chopped and creamed with a little salt under the blade of a broad knife.
Poached Eggs with Mushrooms
Before poaching the eggs, prepare a purée of mushrooms using:
250 g/8 oz mushrooms 60 g/2 oz butter 75 g/2½ oz double cream ½ teaspoon flour 1 small truffle (from a tin)
Clean the mushrooms but do not peel them. Wash them carefully and cut them in slices, then chop them finely on a board, holding the tip of a large kitchen knife in the fingers of your left hand and rocking the blade.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the mushrooms. The juice soon begins to run out. When three-quarters of the juice has evaporated, add salt and pepper and the truffle cut into slices. Then mix the flour and cream in a bowl and stir it into the mushroom mixture. Stir until the sauce thickens slightly.
Put the poached eggs into a dish and pour the creamy sauce over them. Serve immediately.
This is quite delicious. The whites of the eggs are firm and the yolks soft. The dish is a joy, especially with half a glass of Chablis so cold that the crystal is covered with a mist as evanescent as the morning dew.
Excerpted from Cooking with Pomiane by Edouard de Pomiane. Copyright © 2009 Serif. Excerpted by permission of Serif Books.
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