Back from my holiday, I am full of culinary inspiration. Food seemed to taste better in France. This may just be artistic exaggeration, the result of eating outside everyday on a roof terrace in 30 degree heat, but what still remains undeniable is the excitement of buying ingredients. Resourcing fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and bread from stalls, markets and independent shops as opposed to chain supermarkets gave cooking a breath of renewal – the smell of ripe tomatoes, rising yeast and sweet peaches made you drool with desire before cooking had even begun! Nice was especially great for this, boasting home to the famous Cours de Saleya in old town. Though primarily hailed as a flower market, it also has a great range of fresh vegetables, fruits, olives and cheeses. The guidebook was particularly insistent that I visited the market, and so I did on a Sunday morning, and was not disappointed. The buzz of the market and the enthusiasm of everybody there for what they were selling was incredible!
Not only was I able to cook new things aided by the many wonderful fruit and vegetable markets, I was able to take ideas for new recipes from eating out. For example, although I would consider myself to enjoy meals with fish, I had never strayed too far from the traditional British Fish & Chips! But away in France, I dived deep into the fruits de mer, and surfaced with a taste for sea bream, mussels and squid. Most recently I dared to try scallops, which were equally delicious. And so many seafood recipes will soon appear as I try to recreate a little bit of France in my English kitchen! But to begin my French renaissance, the dish of Piperade.
Piperade sounds like a strange combination – a rich bodied tomato sauce, with scrambled egg and crusty bread. It’s a Basque dish; a group of people who partially inhabit South West France on the Bay of Biscay. However from this small area of France, its popularity has spread across the entire nation and is served in many cafes and restaurants. It’s simplicity is its triumph, and is an easy supper for anyone to make. Don’t be put off thinking that scrambled egg belongs on toast as part of a full English and tomato sauces ought to remain in Italian cuisine – they pair well together and make a filling dish that has a rustic feel. Bon appetit!
- 6 ripe salad tomatoes, quartered
- 1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 eggs, beaten
- Torn basil
- Salt and black pepper
- Dried chili to taste
- Olive oil
- Crusty bread, to serve
- Heat a large saucepan over a low heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and fry the sliced onions and dried chili until the onions are soft and the chili fragrant. This should roughly take about 8 to 10 minutes
- Add the garlic and sauté for a while longer, remembering to ensure that it should not brown, only soften
- Add the peppers and allow to soften. Season, and then add the tomatoes. Stir to combine all the ingredients and simmer
- Meanwhile, heat a smaller pan or saucepan over a medium heat and add a small drizzle of olive oil or butter. When hot, add the beaten eggs and turn the heat to low.
- When the eggs have begun to harden in the pan, use a whisk to form scrambled curds. Using a whisk will ensure the eggs remain soft and do not dry out!
- Once the egg reaches a scrambled appearance and has a creamy texture, add to the tomato sauce and stir in gently to avoid breaking the egg further.
- Scatter torn basil over the dish, and serve immediately accompanied by crusty bread.