Acompanhamentos-side dishes

With no guests in the house for a day, it was time for a day of recipe development and culinary experimentation.I love this kind of day when there is no pressure other than to have come up with some new ideas for dishes by the end of the day.One of the things I find most difficult if it is not a composite dish, is to decide what vegetables, salad or accompaniments to serve with fish or meat.The main object of my experiments on this occasion therefore was to create some new dishes that would accompany some of our main plates.I cast my memory back to a dish my mother used to serve as a supper dish.It was a courgette gratinée.Light and fresh and summery.I thought that perhaps if I made this in a different guise it could be served on the side.I decided to make it in ramekin sized portions.This kind of dish is what the Italians call Sformato. First of all the ingredients needed a minor update to make it worthy of the twenty-tens. Courgettes,no problem,but perhaps a different cheese-Ricotta or Reqeijao were the obvious choices.My mother´s method of cooking the dish was in a baking dish or quiche pan.My method was to cover the ramekins with foil and cook bain-marie style.Success came not in the way I had intended but we ended up with a delicious starter and new vegetarian item.

Courgette flan(sformato) with ricotta
Serves 2 or makes 5 x 200ml ( 6oz ) ramekins
2 medium Courgettes (about 500g/ 1lb)
1 large shallot finely chopped
125g ricotta or requeijao
2 whole eggs beaten
85g (3oz) Parmesan 
Dry roasted breadcrumbs or Panko

Preheat the oven to 325F / 170C. Butter five 6-ounce ramekins and dust them with a thin layer of parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs. Set the prepared ramekins in a large baking dish. In a skillet  (on low heat) gently cook the shallot in some butter and oil till soft.Cut the courgettes into chunks and blanch in salted water for 5 minutes.Drain and add to the onion and leave to cool.In a blender, blitz the courgette and onion add the eggs, ricotta and the remaining parmesan to obtain a cream.Season with salt and pepper.Pour the sformato mixture into the prepared ramekins and cover each with foil. Carefully pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.Bake the sformati for about 45 minute to 1 hour, until just set. Transfer the ramekins to a work surface; let stand for 5 minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the ramekins and invert the sformati onto plates. 

My second experiment was spot on and sort of like superior baked beans cooked in an Italian style,simmered rather than baked, in a tomato sauce flavoured with browned garlic, a little sugar to caramelise the sauce and sage.
The final dish was exactly what I had imagined and could easily be eaten on its own with slices of country bread or perhaps even a salad.But my original intention was to find a dish that would go beautifully with pork dishes or chops.We tested it with saltimbocca of pork and the result was more than harmonious.If you don´t have the time or will to cook the the beans from dry,you can substitute canellini or haricot beans from a jar or tin.

Feijão branco com molho tomate e salvia
( white beans in tomato and sage sauce)
serves 4
250g dried white haricot or cannelini beans soaked overnight 
or 500g(1lb 2oz) of ready cooked beans
3 garlic cloves,finely chopped
6 fresh sage leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus a little bit extra for serving
350g812oz9 very ripe,soft tomatoes,puréed in the liquidizer or processor then sieved,or 300g (11oz) passata
teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drain the soaked beans,if using,then place in a pan with enough water to cover generously.Don´t be tempted to add any salt..Bring to the boil.,then boil hard for 10 minutes.reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender-anything from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the age ofthe beans,adding more water if needed.
Fry the garlic and sage leaves gently in the oil. When the garlic is golden brown,add the beans and season generously.Add the sieved tomatoes,or passata,the tomato purée and about 1 teaspoon of caster sugar,if necessary. Simmer gently for a further 20 minutes,stirring occasionally to prevent catching.Check and adjust the seasoning before serving.


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