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The 20 best Mediterranean recipes: part 4

The 20 best Mediterranean recipes: part 4

(From previous issue) When the quails are golden, warm up the couscous left over from the stuffing and serve on the side with the hot sauce (spoon a little of the sauce over the quail just before serving). Sprinkle the remaining whole lightly roasted almonds on the couscous for an attractive finish. From Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark (Ebury Press, £20) Yotam Ottolenghi's Corsican pie with courgette flowers You can use a wide range of wild, cultivated or supermarket greens in this recipe. Consider nettles, beetroot tops, turnip tops, spinach or watercress in place of the chard. Choose the ones you like most. The courgette flowers look wonderful but you can leave them out or substitute them with some long shaved strips of courgette, if you prefer. Brocciu, produced on the island of Corsica and considered a national food, is a fresh young white cheese made with goat's or ewe's milk. I couldn't omit it from the ingredients, but the easier-to-find Italian ricotta can be used just as well instead. Serves 4 as a main course red onion ½ small (85g), thinly sliced celery stalks with leaves 3 (220g), thinly sliced swiss chard leaves 8 large (175g), white stalks discarded, roughly chopped garlic 2 cloves, thinly sliced mint leaves 2 tbsp, torn parsley 2 tbsp, chopped sage 2 tsp, chopped olive oil 2 tbsp, plus extra for brushing feta 75g, crumbled pecorino 50g, finely grated pine nuts 15g, lightly toasted lemon grated zest of 1 all-butter puff pastry 350g plain flour for dusting brocciu cheese 100g, or ricotta courgette flowers 4-6, cut in half lengthways if large, or 6 long, shaved strips of raw courgette (optional) egg 1, lightly beaten salt and black pepper Place a large saute pan on medium-high heat and saute the onion, celery, chard, garlic, mint, parsley and sage in the olive oil. Cook, stirring continuously, for 15 minutes or until the greens have wilted and the celery has softened completely. Remove from the heat and stir through the feta, pecorino, pine nuts, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a hearty grind of black pepper. Leave aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface until 3mm thick, then cut it into a circle, approximately 30cm in diameter. Place on an oven tray lined with baking parchment. Spread the filling out on the pastry leaving a 3cm border all the way around. Dot the filling with large chunks of brocciu or ricotta and top with courgette flowers or courgette strips, if using. Bring the pastry up around the sides of the filling and pinch the edges together firmly to form a secure, decorative lip over the edge of the tart. Alternatively, press with the end of a fork. Brush the pastry with egg and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake the tart for 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden and cooked on the base. Remove from the oven and brush with a little olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature. From Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury Press, £27) Richard Olney's Provençal fish stew Bouillabaisse is, to tell the truth, more of a philosophy than a culinary preparation. More gastronomic literature - and quarrels - have centered around it than any other dish (with cassoulet running a close second). If most of the recipes for it were to be followed, however, the result could only be the most banal of fish soups (I am thinking of those in French - some that I have seen in American and English cookbooks would make the hair of the most indifferent Marseillais stand on end). It is not a delicate dish; to be good, it must be highly seasoned, and it is terrifyingly soporific, but it embodies and engenders the warmth, the excitement and the imagination which, perhaps, of all the Mediterranean peoples, the Provençaux exude in the highest degree. At best, it belongs to the realm of divine things. There is a perpetual quarrel as to whether soupe de poissons (literally, soup of fish) or bouillabaisse (which is a soupe aux poissons, or soup with fish) is the finest dish. This is essentially debated among professional eaters and writers on food who are not experts on the technical side of things, for any professional chef knows (though rarely tells) that a really good soupe aux poissons is moistened, not with water, but with a fish stock, which is nothing more nor less than a soupe de poissons. Another detail little discussed by its practitioners is the addition of a bit of pastis, an anise-flavoured apéritif alcohol similar to absinthe. It serves admirably to reinforce the perfume of the fennel in the dish. A number of circumstantial factors are, no doubt, essential for this fish soup to be translated into a memorable experience. It should be the main dish - and plentiful; it should be shared with friends in a relaxed and informal atmosphere; it marries well with the sea air (in any case, the proximity of the ocean tends to ensure the freshness of the fish); the wine should be kept generously flowing throughout the meal. I, personally, have many sublime memories of entire days devoted to shopping (early in the morning to the fish market to find the freshest of fish of the greatest possible variety), everyone preparing fish and vegetables (accompanied by a few more pastis than wisdom would ordinarily dictate), followed by euphoric hours spent at table. The following is a list of fish used traditionally in bouillabaisse, with English translation where possible (although some may be unobtainable in English-speaking countries), and possible substitutes: Rascasse: the one fish considered absolutely indispensable. No translation. Substitute red snapper. Vive: weever. It is a sand-burrowing shore fish. Substitute whiting. Girelle: I find no translation for this gloriously coloured fish, and a substitution is difficult. Although it is a close relative of the zander, also known as the pike-perch. St Pierre: John Dory. A ferocious-looking fish of very delicate flesh. Substitute grey sole or lemon sole. Congre: conger eel. [This now listed as endangered. Use gurnard instead.] Baudroie or lotte: angler-fish. Substitute sea bass, fresh haddock or fresh cod. Rouget: red mullet. The Mediterranean rock mullet (rouget des roches) is far finer than any other. Favouilles: small crabs. Substitute soft-shelled crabs. Mussels are often added and one often finds langouste (rock lobsters) added for elegance's sake, but neither the lobster nor the soup gains in this marriage. The following recipe is entitled noncommittally soupe aux poissons, out of respect for those purist defenders of the true bouillabaisse, which is prepared with fish to be found only on the rocky Mediterranean shores, moistened only with water, and accompanied by la rouille, a highly flavoured pommade made by pounding together cayenne pepper and raw garlic, and adding olive oil (some mount it, like a mayonnaise, with egg yolks). Generally speaking, the qualities essential to the success of the dish given here are a variety of absolutely fresh fish (at least 5 or 6 different kinds, some of the firm gelatinous flesh, others of tender white flesh - avoid, above all, any strongly flavoured oily fish such as sardines or mackerel), a very good quality fruity olive oil, and a rapid boil (the word bouillabaisse means "boil at top speed"). This rapid boiling, by forming a light emulsion of the oil in the cooking liquid, thickens the soup. If some of the suggested fish are unavailable, substitute others and don't worry about it. Serves 6-8 mixed whole fish 1.8kg of medium size (150-275g), such as small red snappers, grey sole, lemon sole, mullet, whiting, wall-eyed pike, etc sea bass, fresh cod, halibut, etc 450g, cut into thick slices conger eel [use gurnard] 450g, cut into slices approximately 4cm thick soft-shelled crabs 450g olive oil 350g branches of wild fennel (or lacking these, fennel seed), bay leaf, thyme, savory, oregano powdered saffron approximately ½ tsp whole saffron a good pinch pastis, Pernod 51 or Ricard 1 small glass leeks 450g onions 3 medium garlic 4-5 cloves water approximately 3.5 litres fish carcasses 450g (ask your fish merchant for carcasses from fish that have been filleted - these replace, albeit imperfectly, the little "soup fish" used on the Mediterranean coast) dried orange peel salt (preferably coarse sea salt-or, if near the ocean, sea water diluted to the right saltiness) tomatoes 700g firm, well-ripened freshly ground pepper French bread about 20 slices, dried out, either in the sun or in a very slow oven, but not toasted garlic 6-7 cloves, with which to rub the bread Cut off the fins, remove the gills and scale and clean the fish that are whole, if this has not been done for you. The heads may be removed or not - the presentation is more attractive if the heads remain, but the fish stock is thus impoverished. Trim the slices of larger fish to make them more presentable and put aside the trimmings with the heads and carcasses. Sponge all the fish and seafood, dry with paper towels, spread them out on a large platter and sprinkle them thoroughly with some of the olive oil, then with the herbs, about ? teaspoon of powdered saffron, and finally with half the pastis. Gently rub the fish in your hands, inside and out, until they are all equally yellowed by the saffron, then leave to marinate, turning them around from time to time, while preparing the fish stock and vegetables. For the fish stock, cut off the tough, dark-green parts of the leeks and discard them. Slit the remaining parts halfway down to facilitate washing them and, when they are well washed, cut each in 2, in order to separate the greenish parts from the white of the leek. Put the white parts aside and coarsely chop the green parts. Peel the onions, put 2 aside and coarsely chop the third. Crush the 4-5 cloves of garlic. Heat the water and add the heads, carcasses and trimmings of the fish, chopped leek greens, chopped onion, crushed garlic, a branch of fennel (or seeds), dried orange peel, thyme, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, over a medium flame, for approximately ½ hour. After 15-20 minutes, crush all of the solid material with a wooden pestle. Pour the contents of the pot into a fine sieve and press the debris well with pestle or wooden spoon in order to extract all the flavour possible. Dip the tomatoes in boiling water for a moment to loosen their skins, peel them, cut them in 2 horizontally and squeeze them to rid them of seeds and excess liquid. Chop the white parts of the leeks and the remaining onions finely. Pour the remaining oil (there should be approximately 160ml) into a very large saucepan (the fishermen in the south of France use a large galvanised tin basin, the same form as a dishpan - if you have no suitable saucepan, an enameled dishpan will serve). Put the chopped leeks and onions to cook gently in the oil, stirring them regularly with a wooden spoon, and, 10 minutes later, add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of powdered saffron, a pinch of whole saffron (the powdered, assuming it to be pure good-quality saffron, lends more flavour, and the whole saffron lends a decorative aspect) and a piece of dried orange peel. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, salt lightly (bearing in mind that the fish stock has already been salted to taste) and add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Place the pan over the highest possible flame and add the fish stock and the remaining pastis. From this moment count 15 minutes' cooking time. The liquid should be kept at a rapid boil and the pan uncovered. The fish should be added at 3 different intervals; those of firm and somewhat gelatinous flesh should be added first along with any crustaceans; 5 or 6 minutes later, the larger specimens of the more tender-fleshed varieties; and 5 minutes after that, the smallest of the soft-fleshed fish. This timing is inevitably somewhat arbitrary, everything depending on the variety, the size, and the kind of fish used. Sometimes only 2 intervals rather than 3 are needed, and it may be that 10 or 12 minutes' cooking time is sufficient. During the time that the fish is cooking, rub the dried-out bread slices with 6-7 cloves of garlic. Count 1 medium-sized clove for 3 slices of bread. Lift out the fish carefully with a large wire skimming spoon and arrange on a heated serving platter. Moisten them with 2 or 3 ladlefuls of broth and pour the remainder into a soup tureen. Send the fish and the soup to the table at the same time, accompanied by the garlic-flavoured crusts, and serve, first, a ladleful of soup poured over a garlic crust, and after, the fish, moistened with an additional ladleful of soup for each guest.

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