Since I was a little boy, I have loved rhubarb in the simplest of its cooking forms: compote. There was nothing fancy about it, stewed with a bit of sugar and served for breakfast, in a big old clay bowl that would make the food safety authority scream a loud and demented “J’accuse”. Sometimes, “His Highness” like my father called me, as I was a fussy little fecker, got served some rhubarb jam instead, in a jar, from the shop! Maybe she didn’t read the label? Maybe the beautiful rhizomes weren’t in season? With a disappointed pout and an exaggerated lift of the left eyebrow, I would push the jam jar away from me, in protest, with the tips of my fingers, before being clipped behind the ears by my father’s.
Aaaahhh the joys of summer and the simplicity of its cooking… If there is a veg that was always present on the August table was the green bean, or, like we called it “haricot vert”. My mother and grandmother used to simply boil them for a while ( I like to leave them with a crunch so 5 min in boiling water will do). It often accompanied a pork loin roast, with tomatoes and roasted garlic. To be honest, I just enjoy them like so, with or without meat… With a crumble of cheese at the end. Nice…
Did you know that the first garden Strawberries were first cultivated in Brittany? Yes, I can say that with a proud face, squinty eyes and hair in the wind while staring at the horizon from the bow of my ship; a mixture of Clint Eastwood and Jacques Cartier, Breton explorer, Canada discoverer and Strawberry amateur who brought back some Fragaria virginiana in the hull of his ship… The rest is history.
Breton Far was a big part of our table culture; my mother would make one at least once every fortnight. To describe it, would be a slow cook custard cake, with rum soaked prunes here and there… Yum. Anyway, here are a few pointers for a smaller version… It is quite rich, but a brilliant lift in the winter. First, soak a few prunes with dark tea and rum…
Last Saturday, I visited my local butchers, like a modern yet nonchalant hunter and gatherer, I was getting my weekly food shopping of course, but also having an opportunity – an excuse – for a bit of craíc and banter, a chance to catch up with the local news (some might call it “gossip”, but I will not lower myself to that level… Anyway, keep that for yourself, I’ll tell you later…).
I got taken by their latest creation, a Pork and Apple burger. I didn’t want to just put it in a bun; after all, a lot of effort went into designing this dish. The previous night I had made some lovely mash potatoes, with some grated Coolea cheese from Cork, a two year old Irish Gouda if you prefer, sweet and parmesan like somewhat. That was half the battle…
For the sauce, I decided to do a creamy apple juice sauce. I had a small bottle of Karmine apple juice from Tipperary, “The Apple Farm”. It is sweet with a hint of tart, perfect for a family dish like this; its execution is actually quite easy, just a bit of preparation will go a long way. It is also a great wink to both Brittany and Ireland: they love their apples, in whichever form they come into. Pictures and recipes below.
Get yourself ready…
And the final result, ready to eat!
For the mash
- 2 nice potatoes per person
- 150 g of Coolea cheese (or aged gouda)
- black pepper
- grated nutmeg
For the mash
Peel, wash and cut the potatoes, put them in a pot of salted water and boil gently until cooked. Put through a sieve, back in the pot to remove excess water. Add the butter (the more the creamier, taste is your judgement) and the milk, gradually while you mash. If it’s a bit too thick, add a bit more. Smooth? Mill some black pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg. While it is still hot, grate the Coolea Cheese and stir inside the mash. You can serve it from the pot or bake in the oven later for a extra crispiness!
For The Sauce
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- 1 leaf of sage
- 1 splash of balsamic vinegar
- 1 splash of soya sauce
- 1 organic chicken/ veg stock (20 cl glass is enough)
- 15cl of Apple Juice (Artisan, farmhouse, the commercial stuff is too sweet)
- 25 cl of fresh cream
In a pan with olive or rapeseed oil, sweat the onions and garlic with a bit of salt. Throw in the sage leaf (optional). Put in the equivalent of 2 tbsp of balsamic and soya sauce, let it reduce, the apple juice, let it reduce, the stock, let it reduce. Pass the whole thing through a sieve (remember to place a bowl underneath… I’ve been there!) and the sauce back in the pan; discard the onions etc… Back on the hob with a bit of fresh cream, keep stirring and reduce again until smooth and a little bit thicker.
For the Pork Burgers…
Well, in a hot oiled pan, few minutes on each side, I just get the colour done on the pan and I finish them for 10 minutes in a hot oven. Serve with a bit of blanched broccoli, green/ French beans and enjoy with a glass of farmhouse cider but a Burgundy Chardonnay would work quite well too!
This lovely recipe is initially my Mother’s famous apple cake recipe; I have twisted it a bit a couple of times but the main frame remains the same. You just have to replace (or reduce) the amount of apples and replace or add some of your favourite berries. Here it goes:
- 150g of organic white flour
- 50g of organic buckwheat flour (or just 200g of white)
- 200g of salted butter (I prefer)
- 200g of sugar
- 3 large eggs (or 4 medium/small)
- 1 tsp of baking powder/ soda
- 4-5 apples
- Mix the two flours in a bowl with the baking powder
- Beat the eggs with the sugar
- In a pan, gently melt the butter and cool a bit
- Pour the eggs and sugar mix over the flour and keep whisking gently
- Then do the same with the butter… Easy now.
- Put in your peeled and chopped apples (Or berries, or quince paste…)
- Bake in a floured and buttered tin at 200c for 30 to 40 minutes
- Check with a skewer before cooling that it is cooked through. If not, leave it a bit longer!
Mixed berries and apple cake
Apple and Quince Cake served with Bellingham Blue