comfort market food

2 Oct

I re-read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal over the holidays. (I also re-read at least 16 detective novels, of which I had forgotten the endings, and started to see the world in Dalziel and Pascoe tropes.) When I returned to Paris, the leaves outside my window had crinkled and crisped around the edges, like a good lasagna, and the light had a misty quality that breathes spring or autumn, filtered through a haze of pollution.

To celebrate being back in the city, I planned to go to an exhibition with some friends. There was a 45 minute queue, of course, not because it was opening or closing day, but because Paris. Instead of waiting, we sat in green chairs in the Luxembourg gardens, absorbing the last of the sun. I introduced my friends to another cultural activity in the quartier: Pierre Hermé’s shop, which has the reverent atmosphere of a museum. And I discovered that if you ask nicely at the Café de la Mairie on the place St Sulpice – something I never dared in the last ten years – they will let you eat Hermé’s pastries with your coffee, and the people at the next table will stare with envy at the individual boxes, and the cakes within that shine like polished marble.

The next day, I took a basket to the market, and filled it with vegetables, and even if the men at the stand only pretended to recognise me, it felt like I belonged. They threw in a bunch of coriander for free, and more smiles than the usual Parisian quota. At home, with the help of another friend, I Tamar-Adlered all the produce, which means: fill up the sink, put a pot of water on to boil, and heat the oven. Wash everything, stick the halved fennel and the butternut and some shallots in the oven to bake, and start trimming the beans and leeks for their turn in the boiling water. Blend the herbs into a too-hot garlicky paste with chili and oil and lemon. Cook a couple of eggs in the now-green hot water for exactly seven minutes, and toss the cooked beans and leeks in oil and salt and mustard. Leave the fennel in the turned-off oven so that even its hard centre relaxes into caramel.

In half an hour or so, there were vegetables ready for half a dozen future meals: the butternut and herb sauce would become a puree, with crunchy toasted seeds, and then turn into a lasagna; the fennel and leeks would go on top of goat’s cheese tartines. An Everlasting Meal is all about circular cooking, being inventive with leftovers, and leaving scraps like writing prompts to begin again the next day.

For lunch, we had an assiette du marché: an array of greens and oranges around a soft egg sprinkled with salt, and a brief feeling of everything where it should be.

7 Responses to “comfort market food”

  1. Lynne October 2, 2018 at 9:22 am #

    A beautiful reflection Frances. Off to get the book and can see you at the stove, beavering away.
    Thank you for bringing your light to the evening

    • Frances Leech October 5, 2018 at 2:45 pm #

      So if you know how to cook already, the book won’t be a surprise. It is a bit like comfort reading!

  2. Diego Zancani October 2, 2018 at 9:39 am #

    Wonderful celebration of early autumn. Thank you, Frances. Just now I was re-reading Montaigne…how appropriate the celebration of autumn and food in Paris (celebration of Aznavour?). In old OX I was able to buy fresh borlotti, and I myself produced 120 g. of them in a few pots in the garden, they are so good with some EVO oil from Puglia (thanks to a friend who grows organic olives there), cooked in an old earthenware pot with a stick of celery, half an onion and a tablespoon of olive oil. I recommend pottery for slow cooking of beans, especially after melting half a thinly sliced onion in some butter, and, even better with the addition of a spoon of best lardo, mixed with a little chopped parsley and garlic, some tomato puree is optional. For some reasons the intensity of flavour imparted by the earthy pots is worth the effort.

    • Frances Leech October 5, 2018 at 2:47 pm #

      That sounds delicious! I will try the earthenware trick.

  3. the OP October 3, 2018 at 3:04 pm #

    Reblogged this on Wag 'n Bietjie.

  4. sarah muston October 4, 2018 at 5:09 am #

    It all sounds wonderful , the opposite is happening here with the herb garden bursting at the seams and the summer vegetables getting a move along … nothing like the fresh vegetables from the garden or market …happy cooking and eating ..

  5. Jennifer December 19, 2018 at 1:13 pm #

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