Tuesday, 27 January 2009


I spent this weekend doing all of my favourite things; my time was divided between cooking, eating and writing about food.
The recurring theme with regards to the food prepared could only be described as an overwhelming need for comfort food. When it's this cold, wet and grey AND there's an assignment due in on Sunday night, it’s not that surprising...
My way of tackling the Saturday night dinner as well as easing the miniscule moments of homesickness came in the form of a royal Shakshuka; the vegetarian, nutritious equivalent of Huevos Rancheros, served with a dollop of the ever soothing Ricotta (and the always welcome companionship of eggplant wedges roasted in olive oil, swimming in a yogurt lemon garlic sauce sprinkled with joyous pomegranate seeds). This WAS comfort, however, Sunday night was the piece de resistance. The ultimate in comfort. The true depiction of the essence of comfort. The realization there is a fine line between pure good and pure evil (in the good sense of the word).
The Tartiflette* consists of 4 ingredients, as, in my opinion, the best comfort food recipes are.

a few recommendations before we go any further:
- Prior to the preparation of this recipe make sure you have a powerful digestif at hand. Grappa is great.

- As this is a powerful dose of comfort, and I wouldn’t have it more than once a year, the ultimate comfort should be used when is most necessary, during the last week of January, when it's really cold, grey, wet and dreary.

- You want a green salad on the side. I prepared a light Rocket salad with strips of Speck, torn Mozzarella and thin slices of pear.

- If you need this to be an even stronger dose of comfort, add a fried egg on top.

* Tartiflette – A dish that originated in the French Alps, home of the Reblochon cheese, and was invented and launched during the 80s by the Reblochon trade union as a way to promote its consumption.

** unfortunately, the Tartiflette was all but gone before there was a chance to capture the magic.
so I leave you with a soothing image. It goes with the sound of elevator music.

Pascales' Tartiflette recipe
Serves 6
2 kg waxy potatoes diced into 1cm cubes
600g Smoked Pancetta (bacon) diced into 1cm cubes
2 large onions, sliced thinly
2 Reblochon cheese
salt & pepper
6 eggs (Optional, for a totally hedonistic experience)
a large oven proof dish (30x40cm)

Preheat the oven to 250c degrees
In a large frying pan over a medium- high heat sauté the smoked pancetta cubes until brown and crisp, around 10 minutes. Transfer the pancetta cubes to the large oven proof dish.
Sauté the onion slices pan with the remaining fat until soft and slightly golden.
Transfer the onion cubes to the baking dish.
Toss the potato cubes with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and crisp on the edges.
(By this point an irresistible smell will have filled the kitchen)
Mix together the potato cubes, onion and pancetta, and add seasoning if needed (remembering the pancetta is already salted).
Slice open the Reblochon cheese width wise, so that you end up with 4 thinner cylinders.
Place the circles on top of the mixture, with the rind facing up.

Bake for 15 minutes until bubbling and golden.
Leave to cool (if you can resist) for 5 minutes.
Serve with the green salad.
Optional: and a fried egg on top of each serving

A green salad on the side
Serves 6

100g washed rocket leaves
2 balls Mozzarella di Bufala
10 paper thin Speck slices
1 ripe pear
a handful of hazelnuts

For the dressing
2 Tbs Olive oil
2 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
salt & Pepper
any dried herbs- sage, Thyme, Oregano

Lightly roast the hazelnuts in a pan over medium heat. Once cooled chop the nuts and set aside.
For the dressing: mix all the ingredients in a small jar and set aside.

Wash and dry the Rocket leave. Tear the mozzarella balls the Speck strips into bite size pieces and add to the salad bowl.
These steps can be done in advance, and stored covered in the fridge.

Just as you are about to start eating peel the pear, core and cut to thin slices. Add the pear pieces and the seasoning to the salad, toss well and sprinkle the chopped nuts.

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