Let's be clear, our goal is to produce a clear, clean liquid which will enrich and enhance anything that it is added to, without imposing a flavour of its own. It should not be good enough to consume by itself.
I use nothing more than the cook's "holy trinity" of roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery, also known as a mirepoix which provide pleasing sweet middle tones. You can substitute half the quantity of onion with leek. The only aromatic we will use is parsley and I use just the stalks for flavour.
The proportions: one part vegetables to 10 parts water.
You cannot produce a clear and clean stock without skimming the impurities that will rise to the surface. If you don't remove this scum it will simply boil and emulsify adding it's "flavour" to your stock, this makes it nigh on impossible to achieve a clear liquid, no matter how much you filter it.
Salt. Cooks to not add salt to stock. We wait to flavour the end dish, not this one.
It has been a year since I posted this recipe. A number of you asked me how long the tomatoes will last. I can now reveal that they retain an excellent flavour for 3-6 months, but mine began to degrade after that. Full disclosure: I didn't exactly follow my own storage advice and instead had them in full view, they look so pretty, so this winter they are going into a cool dark cupboard. Promise :)
The climate in Misse is perfect for growing tomatoes, but for sun-dried tomatoes, you need an intense heat and a very long season, such as that found in Sicily or Southern Spain. Oven drying is an excellent substitute.
We have three smaller varieties of tomato growing in the kitchen garden.
San Marzano - the celebrated Italian sauce tomato, we have grown a small variety
Red Pear - a beauty on the vine, very sweet and a little bigger than a cherry tomato
Sun Belle - golden colour, intense sweetness and cherry-sized when ripe
We are treating each variety according to its moisture content. This also allows you to compare what adding different ingredients brings to the flavour. Here is a pasta recipe that makes good use of them.
At the end of our summer squash season we ended up, as you often do, with a couple of giant zucchini\courgettes. They are best eaten when smaller, but were perfect for these loaves.
To readers outside the U.S. think cake rather than bread, this is not savoury. The nearest things I can compare it to are a carrot cake and the Jamaican Ginger cakes that were popular when I was growing up in the UK.
For a great plate of roasted vegetables, you need a good balance of textures and flavours. Use too many root vegetables and it can be too sweet, though turnips will help offset that. Fresh herbs will give fragrance to the dish.
Use a combination of four or more of the following six categories: (1) potato and\or sweet potato, (2) squash and\or courgette\zucchini, (3) aubergine\eggplant, (4) root vegetables, (5) broccoli and\or cauliflower and (6) onions (red for colour) and a head of garlic.
I love a good vinaigrette or salad dressing, one that barely coats the salad leaves and that has enough acidity to cleanse the palate. But I cannot abide salads where the leaves have been drowned in a sappy mayonnaise soup, something that is all too common in the UK and USA.
A salad needs good leaves. If it is a single variety make it count, e.g. a frisée, butter or oak leaf. Otherwise use a mixture of leaves and add leafy herbs in small quantities.
The classic formula is one part acid to three parts oil, but there is considerable variation depending on the acids and oils you use. So my tip is taste, taste and taste again.
As I write this I realise that I use a lot of different dressings, so I am giving you my two favourites, plus a celebratory dressing that is perfect with an avocado and watercress salad and an oil-free dressing that I reconstructed from the restaurant 't Hofke in Antwerp.
I have or thought I had a 'Zucca piena di Napoli' squash growing, a rare Italian variety with a beautiful blue-ish green hue. While I was away last week it turned a pale tan colour because it is actually butternut squash. No complaints butternut has an excellent flavour and is particularly good in risotto and soup.
I let the squash, the whopper pictured below which weighed 2.2kg (almost 5lbs), mature a day or two more on the vine and then let it sit for a couple of days once cut to allow it to dry a little. This concentrates the flavour.
Any firm autumn\winter squash will work. I am looking forward to experimenting with some of the varieties that we have planted in the kitchen garden; let's hope they don't all turn out to be butternut.
There is an abundance of wild blackberries around us. Last week we picked at least 10k\22lb of them. Some went into a Southern cobbler (recipe to come), but the rest were destined for jam\jelly.
My issue with blackberries: the seeds; I can't bear them. So seeds out, but I needed to know if they improve the flavour, so we ran an experiment.
We blended the blackberries raw, then de-seeded them using a kitchenaid with the fruit/vegetable strainer attachement. We then made two batches of jam\jelly, one with a muslin\cheesecloth bag of seeds and skin, the other without. To my great surprise our group thought that the jam made without seeds had the fuller earthier flavour.
I should also mention that the jams\jellies that we have been making are what I refer to as 'adult' jams and jellies. The 1-to-1 proportion of sugar to fruit makes sense for commercial producers, but using less increases the concentration of fruit and the flavour.
We have a large crop of aubergines\eggplants in the garden. Both the traditional purple and the creamy white variety. It is this latter variety which gave us the name 'eggplant' as the berries, technically they are berries, resemble eggs.
This was an experiment from last week, that turned out very well. A friend brought me a large bowl of Quetsch plums. It's a variety commonly grown in Alsace and is most often used to make tarts, plum brandy and Slivovitz. We already had 'Liqueur de fruits' scheduled for our course this week, so wanted to try something else.
We have been preparing oven-dried tomatoes so it struck me that this might also work with plums. I discovered that Martha Stewart had given this a whirl some years ago, but I wanted purer flavours.
The resultant dried plums can be used for sweet or savoury dishes. I have posted a recipe combining some of them with aubergines\eggplants.
We have been growing artichokes in the garden, but I mistakenly planted a globe variety. I have decided to let these bloom (see photo below) and will then replace them with 'violet de provence' artichokes for next year.
Catherine de Medici is credited with introducing Artichokes to the French Court in the first half of the 16th Century. By the end of the century artichokes were cultivated throughout France, Spain and Italy. Britian never succumbed to the artichoke's charms and to this day, they are a rarer sight.
This recipe uses the 'violet' variety of artichoke. This variety is normally about 5cm\2 inches in diameter and more elongated than the globe varieties.
I have given a lot of visual tips on handling artichokes to help those less familiar with them.