Invitation to the Country
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La Belle Cuisine
Lunch to Lift the Spirits, for 6
How to Eat: The Pleasures
and Principles of Good Food
by Nigella Lawson, 2002, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Irish Tarte Tatin
“According to my paternal grandmother, spring no longer exists, though her
lament was as much sartorial as environmental: no more spring coats, you
because no more spring weather. Actually, I suspect the change is in us
than in the climate; our failure to recognize, let alone celebrate,
the advent of
spring owes rather more to the fact that we now live in
centrally heated homes.
The meager upturn in the weather cannot have quite
the impact it must once
have had. But I do think there is an idea of spring,
culinarily speaking. Of
course, seasonal produce has something to do with
it, but not everything. For
me, that idea is instantly conveyed by this
lemony, creamy tangle of linguine
that actually you could cook at any time
of the year. It is the easiest thing you
could imagine – the sauce requires
no cooking, just stirring (and limply at that)
and it produces food that is
both comforting and uplifting. There must be some-
thing about the smell of
lemons, so fresh, so hopeful, which makes this instant
good-mood food. But
it isn’t so jaunty and astringent that you need to brace
yourself to dive
I made this sauce once with a very fine pasta, some sort of egg tagliarini,
and regretted it. You need the sturdier, but still satiny, resistance
offered up by the linguine, which is why I stipulated this very pasta. Good
spaghetti or Tagliatelle would do if linguine are not to be found. As the
sauce is the sort of thing you can throw together after a quick rummage
through the shelves of the corner shop, it would be unhelpful to be too
sternly dictatorial about a pasta shape that is not universally carried.
As for the Irish Tarte Tatin, this is Roscommon Rhubarb Pie as chronicled by
Darina Allen in Irish Traditional Cooking. The rhubarb and Sugar are piled
the bottom of the pie dish, a scone mixture on top, and the whole turned
in the manner of a tarte tatin. The upended pie with its bronzy
pink crown of
rhubarb looks beautiful and it fabulously easy. For this,
you’re just mixing stuff
around in a bowl, idly and imprecisely rolling it
out, and then tucking the large
disc of scone like a blanket over the simply
chopped and sugar-sprinkled fruit.
Perhaps pastry after pasta sounds stodgy, but it won’t taste like that, I
And the scent of lemons followed by the sharp-sweet breath of red
rhubarb conveys the brisk but tender air of early, still faintly
2 pounds linguine
2 egg yolks*
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2,
plus more juice, if needed
Freshly milled black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2stick) unsalted butter
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
“I always use organic eggs from hens that are checked regularly for
I thus have no anxieties about raw eggs, but you should know
that because of
possible infection from salmonella, the old, the ill, the
vulnerable, the pregnant,
babies, and children are advised not to eat
anything with uncooked egg in it.”
See also Egg Safety Information
Fill just about
the biggest pot you have with water and bring to the boil.
When friends are
coming for lunch, get the water heated to the boiling point
arrive, otherwise you end up nervously hanging around waiting
for a watched
pot to boil while your supposedly quick lunch gets later and
the water to the boil, cover, and turn off the burner.
I tend to leave the addition of salt until the water’s come to the boil the
second time. But whichever way you do it, add quite a bit of salt. When the
bubbling’s encouragingly fierce, put in the pasta. I often put the lid on
moment or so just to let the pasta get back to the boil, but don’t
back on it, and give it a good stir with a pasta fork or whatever
even the suspicion of stickiness, once you’ve removed the lid.
Then get on with the sauce, making sure you’ve set your timer for about a
minute or so less than the time specified on the package of pasta.
In a bowl put the yolks, cream, Parmesan, zest of the whole lemon and
of half of it, the salt and a good grind of pepper, and beat with a fork.
You don’t want it fluffy, just combined. Taste. If you want it more lemony,
then of course add more juice.
When the timer goes off, taste to judge how near the pasta is to being
ready. I recommend that you hover by the stove so you don’t miss that
point. Don’t be too hasty, though. Everyone is so keen to cook their pasta
al dente that sometimes the pasta is actually not cooked enough.
absolutely no chalkiness here. And linguine (or at least I find it
not to run into soggy overcookedness quite as quickly as other
This makes sense, of course, as the strands of “little tongues”
than the flat ribbon shapes.
Anyway, as soon as the pasta looks ready, remove a cup of the cooking
liquid, drain the pasta, and then, off the heat, toss it back in the pot or
in an efficiently preheated bowl, throw in the butter, and stir and swirl
about to make sure the butter’s melted and the pasta covered by it all over.
Each strand will be only mutely gleaming, as there’s not much butter and
quite a bit of pasta. If you want to add more, then do; good butter is the
best flavoring, best texture, best mood enhancer there is.
When you’re satisfied the pasta’s covered with its soft slip of butter, then
stir in the egg mixture and turn the pasta well in it, adding some of the
cook-ing liquid if it looks a bit dry (only 2 tablespoons or so – you don’t
wet mess – and only after you think the sauce is incorporated).
over the parsley and serve now, now, now.
As for the green salad: buy a package of the ready washed and
chopped stuff or assemble your own as you wish. But keep it green; by all
means add raw sugar snap peas if you like (a good idea, indeed) and some
whole, tender basil leaves (equally so), but remember the idea is to provide
something clear and refreshing between the pasta and the pie. A soft, round,
pale green lettuce like Bibb is just right for this – nothing else, just
that, in a plain
vinaigrette, no interesting oils.
Irish Tarte Tatin
“Bright-hued, early spring rhubarb is indicated here, but I’ve used the
stuff with good results. But be stern when inspecting it before
there’s no point
in making this dessert if the fruit’s woody and
acrid. If it
looks as though it’s
rusting and wilting, then don’t bother.
Darin Allen specified a 9 x 2-inch round pie pan and remarks that she also
a heavy stainless steel sauté pan. I use my regular stainless-steel pie
about 8 inches in diameter, 2 inches in depth, and has sloping
sides. Because of
the sloping sides, the pie, when turned out, looks rather
celebratory, as if it were
holding up the rhubarb as an offering.”
2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar, plus additional, if needed
For the scone dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsweetened butter,
cut into medium dice
3/4 cup milk, plus more, if needed
1 egg, beaten, for the wash
Sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put the rhubarb into a pie
dish or a
sauté pan (see headnote) and sprinkle it with the sugar. Taste the
and add more sugar, if needed.
Into a bowl sift all the dry ingredients for the scone dough. Rub the butter
into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. (Not hard
do by hand, but I tend to use my free-standing mixer.) Whisk the egg
the milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the
liquid all at once, and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board
and roll into a 9-inch round (or the size of the dish you’re using) about 1
inch thick. Place this fat disc on top of the rhubarb and tuck in the edges
neatly. Brush with a little of the beaten egg and sprinkle generously with
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature
350 degrees F for about 30 minutes more, or until the top is crusty and
golden and the rhubarb soft and juicy.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes. Put a
plate over the top of the pan and turn it upside-down so that the pie comes
out on the plate. It is almost impossible (or I, naturally impatient
clumsy, find it so) not to burn yourself with some of the escaping hot
liquid. The trick is to find a dish that is flat at the bottom with slightly
upturned edges. I’m working on it.
Serve warm with, Darina Allen recommends, light brown sugar and cream.
think of nothing nicer. For those who cannot contemplate rhubarb
custard, a good cold dollop of the stuff would be an obvious, but rewarding,
choice. [And do check out
Rhubarb Custard Pie.]
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