Two Rustic Dishes

As the title says, two rustic meals: the Main Course from France, the Dessert English, both simple and outstanding.
You may recall that I bought some salt cure from the Sausage Making.org recently. Whilst my beef is still curing (three days left and counting!), the real reason I had bought the cure was for a recipe I fell madly in love with: Petit Sales Au Lentilles. I first saw this on Rick Stein’s French Odyssey (and I promise, no more Stein recipes for at least the duration of this year!). Actually, what Rick Stein achieved with his show was something that very few TV chefs have: a comprehensive and interesting culinary tour of France. It is currently the norm to do the Italian thing and the once uber-important French cuisine has been pushed by the wayside.
I think that the main reason us Brits at least have withdrawn from French food is because of its seeming complexity. I remember as a child reading Cordon Bleu cookbooks that my mother had been given as wedding presents and being amazed at the intricacy of the dishes. I was also a little bit awed and more than a little bit scared by the use of aspic and carrots cut into diamond shapes.
In fact, this kind of intimidating cuisine is rarely seen outside of expensive restaurants.
I enjoy food that is simple but tasty. I have mentioned on many occasions that I love Cabbage Stuffed in the Troo Style (a French way of cooking cabbage and sausage, using just those two ingredients and judicious seasoning), a basic dish that is not glamorous, it doesn’t scream ‘eat me!’ when you look at it yet it fulfils and simultaneously sooths the appetite in the same way that our mothers Shepherds Pie used to.
These simple rustic dishes utilise the most basic of flavours to make them key players in the final dish: carrots, baby onions, the omnipresent bouquet garni, celery, sea salt. All of these ingredients are quintessential to a great rustic dish. Add a cheap cut of meat, in the instance of Petit Sale au Lentilles, Belly Pork, and the recipe virtually cooks itself.
I had reservations about the success of the dish: would it be too watery, too bland? Was the meat going to be tough? Should I cook some potatoes as ‘filler’, just in case? In fact, everything was perfect.
Let me elaborate. The belly pork has to be salted for no more than four hours, hence the name Petit Sale, small salt or lightly salted. I awoke late so I only had two and a half hours of salty marinating allowed for my humble piece of belly pork.
Once the petit sales process is over, the pork is rinsed, simmered in plain old water for about forty five minutes, then Puy Lentils, Carrots, Baby Onions, Celery and Herbs are added. Once cooked, it is enriched with a knob of butter and some freshly chopped parsley. The lentils ensure that the broth is thick, the vegetables and herbs give the dish its flavour, along with the slightly salty pork (I didn’t salt the dish at any point during or after cooking), the meat was tender and the potatoes were too much!
Dished up, it looks beautiful, like a Van Gogh painting, all bold and chunky. I served it with some simple boiled Savoy Cabbage, and Sautee Potatoes (which were more than a slight case of culinary overkill) and everybody commented on the flavour of the pork. The brief curing procedure had not produced a salty meat but a richly flavoured meat. My husband noted that this was the type of dish he would like to be served at a restaurant but knows he would never see it on a menu because of it's unassuming demeanour.

As a side note, I cannot recommend the usage of brining or curing too highly (on special occasions). Fish will be my next experiment.
For dessert, I wanted something light and cleansing. I was thinking of the acidity of lemons. I remembered seeing a recipe for a Lemon Posset and being curious. After all, how exciting can a dessert comprising of double cream and sugar be? Ahh, well in fact it can be just as exciting as a chocolate mousse or a chestnut gateaux, for surprise of surprises, the two ingredients cooked together form a dense cream, thicker and richer than Clotted Cream, that is a perfect base for all manner of flavourings.
A Posset is a mediaeval dessert. Well, it had to be. The name alone evokes phantasmagorical images of maidens in tall pointy hats, wearing low brocade dresses strolling through orange gardens, playing mournful songs on a mandolin, flanked by five long legged Salukis.
So, perhaps my imagination is overly vivid, but the dessert is truly what fantasies are made of.

In fact, a Posset is a Middle Age concoction, whereby hot milk was curdled by adding wine. It was then drank as a curative rather than for pleasure. The Posset was so popular that Posset Tea Sets were commonplace in the homes of the upper-class, a Posset being taken before bed to aid sleep (much the same as a hot drink before bed today). As time went on, the posset became far more palatable: mulled wine, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace were added as flavourings, with eggs and sugar used as thickeners, the most famous of which, The Sack Posset, is noted by Samuel Pepys in his diaries.
PETIT SALES AU LENTILLES (taken from Rick Stein’s French Odyssey) Serves 3
Ingredients:
1kg Piece Belly Pork, preferably not rolled but if like mine it is, gently flatten it out, so it resembles a rack of ribs. Rind still on.
200g Sea Salt mixed with 1 gram of Salt Cure (other brands may require more or less per weight of meat so check the instructions carefully). Traditional French Rustic Dish aside, I was rather loath to use all my Maldon Salt and then throw it away, so I used 75g Sea Salt and made the rest up with regular granulated table salt.
6 Small Carrots, halved
15 Baby Onions, or as many as you like/have the strength of eyes to peel
3 Sticks Celery, peeled with a vegetable peeler and cut into 3cm chunks
300g Puy Lentils
Bouquet Garni comprising two bay leaves, some sprigs parsley, thyme and rosemary
15g Unsalted Butter
More Parsley, this time chopped
METHOD:
Four hours before you intend to cook the dish (so, about 6 hours before you intend to serve it), salt the pork. Place it in a non-metallic shallow baking dish. Pour over half the salt mix, rub well into the pork. Turn the meat over and massage in the remaining salt. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for four hours.
After the four hours, rinse the salt from the pork. Place in a deep saucepan (I used a sauté pan) or heatproof casserole dish (which looks nice when you carry it to the table) and cover with about 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil removing any scum that rises to the surface. This is just the protein and any remaining salt discharging itself from its porky dwelling.
Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30-45 minutes.
Now gently stir in the greenish/black, pebble-like tiny puy lentils. Add the Bouquet Garni.
Leave to simmer for 15 minutes whilst you prepare the vegetables.
Now add the vegetables and cook until tender. Depending on the size of the carrots, this could be anything between 20 minutes to another 40.
Gently remove the pork and cut, lengthwise, into thick, generous slabs.
Add the butter and parsley to the lentils and vegetables and stir through. Pour into deep, wide bowls or onto plates, top with the pork pieces. Serve with some plainly cooked cabbage.
n.b. The original recipe called for smoked sausage to be added to the dish. I was unable to get hold of any in time but please feel free to add some, cut into chunks, with the vegetables.

LEMON POSSET: Serves 3
Ingredients:
284ml Double Cream
100g Vanilla Caster Sugar (if you don’t have vanilla caster sugar, add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract when you remove from the heat)
Juice of 1 Lemon
METHOD:
Heat the cream and sugar in a large saucepan. Boil for three minutes.
Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the lemon juice and vanilla extract (if using). The cream will thicken as you add the lemon.
Strain into a jug (to remove any skin that the hot cream might have produced) and pour into ramekins. Chill for at least six hours. I chilled them overnight.
They will set to an incredibly firm but creamy texture and taste perfectly tangy. Serve with some butter biscuits or fresh raspberries. Dust with icing sugar if you’re feeling particularly high-falutin’.
Close your eyes and enjoy...

3 comments:

Kathryn said...

Mmmmmm Freya - you are really good at these rustic dinners! I have Rick's French Odyssey too but tend to overlook things that require salting, but perhaps I should revisit it. It looks really nice, just the kind of thing real people like to eat - perfect wintry cooking.

I am going out tonight - I've made Nigella's store cupboard choc orange cake, only with chestnut puree instead of marmelade, to take with me, and a friend is taking chestnut ice cream to go with it. The hostess is cooking a duck, apparently!

Kathryn x

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathryn, The Choc Orange Cake sounds so good and I love Chestnut Ice Cream! I'm in the process of attempting to make some Marron Glaces but I'm not sure how good the chestnuts are. I'll keep you posted and send you some if they turn out well! Hope you enjoy the duck! Freya x

Food Bully said...

Nice looking food. If you can get pork belly easily, I might suggest you get a large piece and make your own bacon (per Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall--which is really like pancetta). You can freeze the bacon and use it as needed--for petit sale, lardons with pesto, boston baked beans, or whatever. The quick sea-salt cure you used here is somewhat inferior to 5-day bacon made with a dry rub of kosher salt, pepper, bay, sugar, and juniper berries (and the latter cure is far cheaper than wasting money on using sea salt to cure. In contrast to HFW, however, I would suggest you 1) cure your bacon; then 2), slowly, in a 200 or less degree oven, bring the bacon up to an internal temp of 150. Chill the bacon (or semi-freeze it to slice it) and use it at will. Doing this will produce a crisper weekend rasher should you want to use it as simple sliced bacon--but it also makes great baked beans and goes with pasta (due to not being smoked. By the way, we just made a rather boring petit sale last. But the bacon saved it. I recently made 8 pounds of bacon to last a while. You can read about the bacon projects at www.house-of-yes.com.