The other night we caught an episode of the BBC Four documentary On Hannibal’s Trail in which the imaginative, talented and modern Brothers Wood cycle their way along the trail of three ancient Carthaginian brothers Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. During this documentary (which they filmed themselves with many interesting “handlebar shots”) they cycled their way along the route that Hannibal took over 2200 years ago, at the head of an invading army accompanied by elephants.
Rest assured, there were no elephants trudging along beside Danny, Ben and Sam on their bicycles! Not being an avid cyclist myself, just watching them made me tired. Their informative banter and beautiful filming made for a very pleasant half hour during which they made their way north along the east coast of Spain, getting ready to take on the mountains, cycling across the Pyrenees into southern France. Cycling all those miles certainly made the Brothers Wood hungry, and duly inspired me to make a traditional dish from the Pyrenees and the Basque country, a Pipérade.
In her book “Traditional French Cooking: The unpretentious guide to French regional cooking” (1975, St. Martin’s Press), straight-talking Jennie Reekie describes Pipérade as “a famous recipe from the Basque region of France. It is one of those dishes which does not look very appetizing but tastes delicious.” Equally uninspiring but somewhat more usefully descriptive, in Volume One of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (1961, Alfred A. Knopf) my compatriot Julia Child subtitles Pipérade as “Open-faced Omelette Garnished with Onions, Peppers, Tomatoes and Ham.”
So where does that leave us? In the kitchen, hopefully, getting ready to cook up what is really a scrumptious plate of food, especially when made with really fresh ingredients such as these:
Bob’s Springfield Farms Free-Range Eggs
My husband and I are lucky enough to live down the road from our friend Bob and his organic, free-range hens. Bob’s “girls” lay big, yellow-yolked eggs that are never more than a couple of days old when we pick them up. If you’ve never eaten a really fresh, free-range egg, stop in the next time you drive by a local farm shop, or when you see a sign on the side of the road at the end of someone’s drive who is selling their own. You’ll be amazed at the difference in taste and freshness. Many thanks to Bob and Jane for sharing their bounty with our community!
Radford’s Air-Dried Yorkshire Ham
John and I spent a week in June in the North Yorkshire Moors where we not only walked up, up, up and down, down, down in the beautiful countryside while staying in a gorgeous, pet-friendly cottage, we also discovered Radford’s Butchers and their own air-dried hams hanging from the ceiling of their shop in Sleights, near Whitby. Thin shavings of this tasty Yorkshire ham are beautiful with shavings of cheese and were our choice for our Pipérade.
Jane’s Yorkshire Pipérade (Thermomix recipe)
two cloves garlic
one red pepper, chopped into large strips (we used a Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Red Sweet Pointed Pepper)
one large onion, thinly sliced
two tomatoes, quartered
sliced green chilli, to taste
10g olive oil
3 to 5 free-range eggs according to your hunger/time of day/etc.
Salt & pepper
1 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil
100g or so of shaved, air-dried ham or use your favourite ham
1 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (optional)
- Peel the garlic: drop the cloves into the Thermomix bowl and process 5 seconds/Speed 5/Reverse blade direction. This knocks the skins off and, if you don’t over process, will leave your cloves whole. Add a bit of water to the bowl and watch the skins float to the top! Pour off the water and voilà! Peeled garlic!
- Add the quartered tomatoes to the garlic and chop 1 second/speed 5.
- Add the pepper strips, onion slices, chilli and olive oil and cook 15 minutes/100°C/Speed spoon/Reverse blade direction until the vegetables are soft but remain distinct. Leave the lid on the Thermomix to keep your Pipérade mixture hot.
- Make the omelette according to your favourite method or by gently whisking the eggs with a large fork. Season with salt & pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat and then add the butter and let it melt. Pour the whisked eggs into the hot fat. Rapidly but gently stir the eggs with the fork until they start to set, then stop stirring.
- Spoon or pour the Pipérade over the omelette and top with the shavings of ham. Optionally sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs.
- Serve immediately with rustic country bread and a good glass of wine such as a Brouilly, which will stand up to the tomato and garlic without overpowering the ham.
For illustrated directions on peeling garlic in the Thermomix TM31 and floating off the skins, see Jo Whitton’s blog from down under, Quirky Cooking.
“Heer all, see all, an’ sey nowt. Eet all, supp all, an’ pay nowt. An’ if tha ever does owt fer nowt do it fer thissen.” – Old Yorkshire saying.