Pan bagnat is by far the best picnic food, beach or summer outing sandwich EVER. Once tried, you will not get enough of it (might as well join the pan bagnat appreciation & defense society right now). Originating from the South of France, Nice to be precise, this filled bread shares a lot of ingredients with the eponymous & equally iconic Salade Niçoise – like everything else: the amount & preciousness of the filling used to depend on your affluence. Like other recipes Pan bagnat started out as a way of using old bread: refreshing hard & stale bread with an invigorating bath (pan bagnat is literally ‘bathed bread’).
Other than steeping bread in liquid as in Pappa al pomodoro the outside of the whole loaf is sprinkled with a little water, juicy tomatoes and other garden vegetables (what is not abundantly in season at the Côte d’Azur??) moisten the inside of the bread. Being mainly a vegetable or vegetarian sandwich with small black olives, basil, green peppers, little onions (cébettes), fava beans, cucumbers etc. either anchovies or tuna are added, never both at the same time. Having tuna & egg together, pure luxury. Just a tiny drizzle of olive oil, no vinegar, no salad leaves. Continue reading →
If you think dhal is only a lentil curry, you should have one immediately, preferably this Sambhar (or Sambar), a fragrant, rich & savoury stew originating from Southern India and the Tamil cuisine which could be described as an Indian spiced pease pudding. We loved this recipe so much (even my meat-centric husband will admit in front of witnesses how much he liked this) that it will have regular appearances in the James’s kitchen. Not to mention, that I bought a massive Indian cookbook (aptly named The only book on Indian food you’ll ever need) to try out more Sambhar variations.
The ingredients are temptingly exotic: curry leaves, fresh grated coconut, fenugreek seeds, tamarind, Asafoetida (shopping for those is already fun) and though the multiple steps may seem a little daunting at first, it is relatively straightforward. For those who try to minimize washing-up, the Sambhar will loose a few points in this department but it is totally worth it. There are layers of flavours & textures: creamy & smooth with a little bite combined with fragrant spices, the subtle sourness of tamarind and a hint of sweetness. Some Sambhar recipes add a selection of vegetables to the stew, I prefer them on the side (incidently, a good way to use up leftover veg) & serve it with basmati rice or naan bread.
The North-American Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis aka the Whitefish in Whitefish salad) is not available here and frankly, not everything has to be shipped around the world when there are perfectly fine relatives (still) frolicking in European waters: Renken, Märanen, Felchen are all of the genus Coregonus. Unfortunately this argument will remain solely academic if you are not able to find any of them at a fishmonger (restaurants mostly serve them fresh and not smoked).
Anyway, there are many other delicious white fish around and a myriad of them are availiable smoked for something approximating the classic Whitefish salad. Russ & Daughter’s seriously delectable version includes kippered salmon (I am a fan since I had my first taste of their whitefish salad) but in the present case I prefer to stay with just one variety, especially when it is such an appealing one as the wonderfully cream-fleshed & yellow smoked halibut. Not just being a mere substitute, it makes a refined & subtle, smoky & buttery tasting spread on its own.
Brunch or lunch. An egg frittata makes a superb lunch or light supper – together with a crisp salad of bitter leaves and a few slices of bread. It is the Italian cousin of a Spanish omelette minus the potatoes. The classic combination of mint & peas is especially nice for spring and summer dish. Add some baby spinach for extra greenness and another flavour component and finish with the crumbled ricotta salata. Feta would make a fitting substitute if you can’t get the firm salted ricotta.
In comparison to the mighty Spanish omelette, a frittata rather veers toward a thinner pancake-type of omelette, which in this case furthermore underlines its lightness & fresh character; plus, it cooks much faster than a tortilla. Adjust the cooking times to your chosen skillet size and the intended level of doneness.
As it does not really matter at what temperature you eat this (it is great hot, warm or at room temperature), a frittata is a great brunch dish that can be prepared in advance.
Need a foolproof (really), quick & easy recipe for a delicious cake; a cake that is a veritable looker i.e. veerry prrretty? One, that does not even ask you to run out to get special ingredients that by some weird coincidence are not in your larder. The recipe requires only things that most people have at home at any given time: yoghurt, eggs, oil, sugar, flour, vanilla and lemon. Which means you could get started on this one right this instant: because you really would like some slightly lemony & vanilla scented cake ASAP. Or there are VISITORS APPROACHING the door & ringing the bell – gosh, we have no cake in the house & they look hungry (and so are we…); I am getting carried away.