Saturday, March 17, 2012

Puy lentils and Montbeliard sausage cassoulet recipe

In the days before Napoleon III and Eugenie's with their trend-setting fancy lifestyle became the role model for the newly affluent French bourgeoisie, daily food for the majority of the French was like this: all-in-one casseroles. Chopping and cooking whatever is available on the day into something between a soup and a main course is the ultimate way to feed a big family at the end of a hard day. In France this type of dish is actually known as cassoulet or (caçolet in Occitan) and can still be found on lunch menus in bistrots and auberges, always an inexpensive entry.

For me, it is a winter comfort food that reminds me of my Mother's cooking so as the astronomical spring starts on the 20th of March, this Puy lentils and Montbeliard sausage cassoulet may be the last one I cooked this winter.

Cooking a cassoulet takes a couple of hours but you don't need to be present all the time, it's really about chopping and letting it all just simmer away as you delve into your Facebook comments.

  1. Soak Puy lentils in plenty of cold water. Peel and slice a head of garlic and a few shallots.
  2. Slowly fry the garlic and the shallots in olive oil until golden brown.
  3. Add chopped Montbeliard (or Toulouse, or Morteau) sausages, potatoes and any root vegetables or tubers you can get hold of: carrots, parsnips, root celery, salsify, turnips, topinambour. Mix well, cover with a lid and allow to cook until half-ready, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the lentils and enough water to cover it all. Add bay leaf, all-spice berries and pepper.
  5. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer until the lentils are ready.
  6. Salt to taste. I also use fish sauce and a smidgen of liquid smoke for the extra oomph. Serve with crunchy baguette and a glass of red.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to saute mushrooms

Ever wondered how sautéed mushrooms never come out looking as good as they taste or smell? Here is how to beat the cheeky buggers and make them as aesthetically pleasing on the plate as in the moss under an oak tree.
  1. Wash mushrooms in cold water, drain and set aside in a colander. Don't believe those who will tell you mushrooms are too tender to wash. Yappety-yap. There is nothing to spoil your plate of lovely sautéed mushrooms as grains of sand on your teeth.

  2. Heat a frying pan on low medium fire. Dip the mushrooms into the pan. Use no oil or butter at this stage. Gently stir from time to time to prevent the mushrooms from burning and remove the juice in a separate bowl.

  3. When the mushrooms stop oozing the juice and have reduced roughly twice in size, remove them in a separate bowl.

  4. Melt some butter in the pan and fry until the froth turns nice golden brown colour. Add some finely sliced garlic and when it turns golden, add a generous amount of finely chopped shallots. Fry until golden brown.

  5. Add salt or even better fish sauce and, perhaps, a couple of bay leaves. Tip the mushrooms and the juice into the pan and allow too simmer on a low fire for a few minutes. Season with pepper and serve as a main with grilled bread, as a side dish or on top of pasta.