Three Little Classics

I know I’ve talked about Elizabeth David here before, and what an inspiration she has always been for me, her food and writing evoking a satisfyingly delicious life, filled with fresh ingredients and flavours that were a part of her every day living. Her descriptions of what she was cooking and journeys to local markets and quiet provincial villages has always made me want to dive into the pages and be apart of her journey of discovery with food and wine.

Every time I smell freshly roasted coriander seed, I think of her recipe for Champignons à la Grecque. A truly delicious dish of mushrooms stewed in olive oil, with the addition of crushed coriander seeds, tomato, a bay leaf and thyme. And when I see pencil leeks at the market, I buy a bunch to make and revisit her wonderful dish of leeks with red wine. Just a glass of wine, a few spoonfuls of good broth, and there you have a dish which is not only beautiful, with the dark purple of the wine sauce, but tastes amazing too.

There is also another classic I love of hers, sweet red peppers baked, and loosely stuffed with diced tomato, anchovies, garlic and marjoram. I like to dollop marinated goats cheese on top when they come out of the oven (Meredith Dairy’s my favourite), and splash them with sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. All these I serve at room temperature, with great bread and a pat of butter, such a fabulous lunch, or a prelude to a simple main course perhaps; a rustic, grilled leg of lamb?  I’ve made slight alterations to these recipes for no other reason than I like to use what I have in my pantry, but essentially, they are the same as she wrote them many years ago.

Champignons à la Grecque

  • 250g very small button mushrooms, cleaned
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 1 skinned, seeded, and chopped tomato
  • 1/2tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 1/2tsp crushed coriander seed
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • Sea salt flakes
  • 1-2tbsps chopped parsley

Put olive oil, tomato, peppercorns, coriander seed, bay leaf and thyme into a small saucepan with a pinch of salt, bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook gently for about 5 minutes. Take out the mushrooms, put them into a small shallow serving dish; and continue to cook the sauce for a few more minutes until it is thick and somewhat reduced. Pour over the mushrooms, scatter with parsley and serve at room temperature.

Leeks with Red Wine

  • 8 small leeks
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • A wine glass of red wine
  • 50ml very good broth
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Clean the leeks thoroughly, and put them side by side in a frying-pan in which you have heated the olive oil. Cook gently for 3 minutes, turning them over now and then. Pour over the red wine, and watch out for the sputtering, let it bubble away for a minute, and then add the broth and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning them over halfway. When they can be pierced with a skewer easily, take out and place on a serving dish, reduce the sauce a little, and pour over the leeks. Serve hot or cold, either way is delicious.

Roasted Red Peppers with Marinated Goat Cheese

There is no exact recipe for this dish, I usually use what I have on hand. This is the combination of flavours that I like best:

Allow one long, sweet red pepper per person, cut in half lengthways and take out the seeds. Lay on a baking tray lined with baking paper and fill each half loosely with one tablespoon seeded, diced tomato, one anchovy fillet, a teaspoon of capers, a little chopped garlic, some fresh marjoram leaves, and black pepper. Drizzle over good extra virgin olive oil, and put into a preheated 160C oven for about 20-30 minutes. The peppers should be soft, and slightly charred around the edges. Take out of oven, splash moderately with decent sherry vinegar, dollop with Meredith Dairy marinated goat cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and strew with a handful of fresh mint leaves. I know you’ll love it.