Everything is better served with a condiment. My sous chef, Hannah, predicts that romesco is going to be the new hummus, and I think she might be right.
My all-time favourite food writer has got to be Diana Henry. When I found her recipe for crème de cassis dressing, I just about exploded with excitement and had to adapt it for our menu at Kai restaurant right away. It reminded me of my Mum and Dad's old liquor cabinet, complete with yellow Advocaat to make Fluffy Duck cocktails.
Back then, our first CD purchase as a family was Avalon by Roxy Music. To this day, More Than This would be in my top 10 if we were all still making mix-tapes. Truth be told, I miss cooking with cool old-school stuff like Pernod and Madeira, but food is just like fashion, and soon, like culottes and pedal pushers, it will all come around again.
Sourdough is not just for sandwiches and for some reason we always have crusts left over in our house. The rouille recipe here is the perfect way to use up that stale bread, with some egg yolk and paprika. I’ve tarted this up with roasted red pepper for added depth.
In my next column I will be taking on my favourite fishy dish, so be sure to cut out and keep this rouille recipe, because it’s the perfect partner in crime for the bouillabaisse, or Provençal fish stew, I will be sharing next weekend.
ROUILLE WITH ASPARAGUS PAKORAS
For the rouille:
100g stale bread, torn into small pieces
1 lemon, juiced
1 roasted red pepper, peeled and deseeded
1 egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced
1tbsp smoked paprika
200ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the pakoras:
1 bunch of green asparagus
200g gram flour
Half a tsp ground cumin
Half a tsp ground fenugreek
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cider vinegar
300ml sparkling water
300ml vegetable oil for frying
1. To make the rouille, put the torn bread into a food processor with the lemon juice and the red pepper. Blitz until it turns to a paste.
2. Add the egg yolk, garlic and paprika.
3. Turn the processor to a low to medium speed, let the yolk incorporate into the bread mixture. Slowly, in a steady stream, add the olive oil. The oil should emulsify with the yolk and bread mixture.
4. The rouille should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If it is still too thick or has split, stream in a little cold water. This should help bring the mix back together.
5. Prepare the asparagus by cutting about half an inch from the bottom of the stem.
6. Make the pakora batter in a large mixing bowl, first adding all of the dry ingredients. Now add the vinegar and sparkling water and whisk thoroughly.
7. Put the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place on a high heat.
8. When the oil is hot take an asparagus spear and it in coat in the batter. Using tongs, working quickly, place each coated asparagus spear carefully into the fryer. The batter will puff up like tempura. Fry for two minutes until light brown. Place on a plate with some paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
9. Serve with the rouille.
ROMESCO WITH GRILLED SUMMER SQUASH
2 summer squash, also called yellow courgette, cut into thin strips lengthways
For the gremolata:
Half a bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 lemon, zested
2 cloves garlic, minced
100ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
For the romesco:
5 red peppers, halved and roasted, with the skin peeled off
1 clove garlic
25g flaked almonds, toasted
1 slice of stale sourdough, toasted and torn into pieces
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Starting with the gremolata, combine the parsley, chilli, lemon zest and garlic in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and season. Set aside.
2. For the romesco, in a food processor whizz the peppers, garlic, almonds, sourdough, paprika, vinegar and seasoning.
3. Blitz until smooth, adding a little more olive oil if you think it is too thick.
4. Using a barbecue or a griddle pan, carefully place the slices of summer squash along the grill. Grill for two to three minutes, until char marks appear. Flip and cook the other side for the same length of time.
5. Place the cooked squash into a bowl and coat with some of the gremolata. Serve with the romesco on the side.
DIANA’S CASSIS AND DIJON VINAGRETTE
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Crème de cassis
100ml olive oil
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
1. Mix the mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl until smooth. Add the cassis and seasoning.
2. Now add the oil little by little, stirring constantly so that it emulsifies slightly.
3. Peel and halve the garlic clove and add the halves to the sauce. Allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes.
4. Remove the garlic before serving with a bunch of crunchy radishes and some cold salty butter.