Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tortilla in the oven 2 - Angela Hartnett's method

Makers of authentic tortillas or frittatas flip them, half-cooked, on to a plate, and return them to the pan the other way up. Others use the easier method of setting the tops of the tortillas under the grill.

Neither method is entirely satisfactory, in my experience. Flipping the tortillas – if one is dextrous enough to accomplish the task - leaves behind a fair amount of runny egg on the plate. Grilling the tortillas can cause the egg to toughen.

Angela Hartnett’s Guardian recipes are appealingly simple. Her tortilla goes into the oven once the vegetables are cooked and the egg poured over.

I’ve written about this method once before. This time, I used a more appropriate, 28-inch cast iron pan, which has acquired a non-stick surface through use (I wash it only with warm water, not detergent). I included 6 new potatoes, washed but not peeled, 1 medium onion, and 1 yellow pepper.

You need new potatoes, because once the diced pieces start to soften they will not break up when stirred. I gave them 15 minutes, above a gentle heat, rather than the 10 Hartnett specifies; only then were they edging towards tenderness. I threw in the onion, which I had sliced, and the pepper, which I had diced – pepper can take longer to soften. After a further 10 minutes, and regular stirrings, I allowed the pan to cool slightly, not wanting the egg that hit the pan to set immediately and therefore overcook in the oven. I poured over the egg, and put the pan in the oven for 10 minutes at gas 4/180C (Hartnett does not specify the temperature).

You may want to turn round the pan after 5 minutes. Otherwise, you are likely to find that some portions of egg remain obstinately unset after the rest has cooked.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Ratatouille, simplified

Having discovered that it is possible to cook aubergines, part frying and part grilling them, in a heavy, covered pan, I am even less inclined to cook ratatouille in the traditional manner, which involves frying each ingredient separately before merging them all for a brief simmer with a modest portion of tomatoes.

Serves 4.

Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium aubergines, cubed
3 red peppers, deseeded and cut into fork-sized pieces
2 large tomatoes, dunked in boiling water for 20 seconds, peeled, chopped
3 courgettes, sliced

Over a gentle heat, warm about 3tbsp of the oil in a heavy pan with a lid. As you chop the onions, garlic, aubergines, and peppers, throw them into the pan, stirring. Add about half a tsp of salt. Cover the pan, stir the vegetables regularly as they cook, and add more oil if they threaten to stick – but the onions and the peppers should give off liquid.

As the vegetables soften, you can uncover the pan, and turn up the heat if necessary to encourage the liquid to evaporate.

The length of time this process will take is variable. It may be no more than 20 to 25 minutes; it may be 40. You do not want the vegetables to merge into a mush, but to retain their identities.

Now add the courgettes, which should soften in about five minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, simmer the chopped tomatoes until thick.

Add the tomatoes to the other vegetables, and simmer for about five minutes. Check the seasoning.

This is best served at room temperature, in my view. But hot or warm are fine, too.