Thursday, 11 July 2013

Grandma's kitchen, ratatouille, lasagne and béchamel sauce

Grandma's kitchen was small, tidy and attractive. The walls were painted in a very light colour and above the sink was a big window with charming lace curtains in the bottom half. Streams of light would coming flooding into the kitchen in the afternoon. I think this made the little kitchen seem much bigger than it actually was. 

The 'u' shaped kitchen would have been newish when Grandma first purchased the house. The bench tops were a lime green, the cupboard doors were a warm honey panelled wood which when pushed, would click open. Inside, the shelves were lined with newspaper. 
Above the bench tops on the left side of the kitchen were cupboards and on top of these were rows and rows of glass jars sitting, waiting for Grandma to have one of her marmalade making days. 

Of the two appliances Grandma had, (a mix master and a toaster), the toaster was the most unusual to me due to its age and operating style. It had 'doors' either side which would have to be opened to put bread in and opening again to turn the toast. A hands-on affair with constant monitoring. A novelty for me at the time.

Ratatouille is the cooking smell that most reminds me of Grandma. The smells were just delicious. Warm, hearty, rich and thick. I often thought I could just eat the smells and be completely satisfied.

Warm, hearty, rich and thick.

Grandma would make the ratatouille then turn it into a lasagne with béchamel sauce, topped with beaten egg whites. I distinctly remember the cheese she used for her béchamel sauce, 'mainland colby'. Without too much thought, this is the cheese I have bought many times specifically for béchamel sauce. It brings back such wonderful memories and the comforting thought that Grandma also enjoyed this cheese. 

I officially learnt how to make ratatouille at college. I've been making it for years now without referring to the recipe, but this week I decided to return to my college cook book. The cuts were much smaller and without skin which made for a much faster cooking time. A much finer and balanced version and that welcome smell of Grandma's cooking was wafting around the kitchen again. 


Ratatouille is very versatile, here are a few options
- sausages, sauteed spinach and garlic with mashed potatoes
- provincial style with pasta with chicken schnitzel
- steak and roast potatoes or any grilled meat really

'Practical Cookery' 8th ed. by Ceserani, Kinton and Foskett 

500g baby marrow (zucchini)
500g aubergines (eggplant)
500g tomatoes, (I used 2x tinned of organic crushed tomatoes)
150ml oil
125g onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
250g red/green peppers (capsicum)
salt, pepper
2-3tsp chopped parsley,(my preference is flat leaf)

1. Trim off both ends of the marrow and aubergines. 
2. Remove the skin using a peeler.
3. Cut into 3mm slices (I did cubes)
4. Concasse the tomatoes (peel, remove seeds, roughly chop)
5. Place the oil in a thick-bottomed pan and add the onions.
6. Cover with a lid and allow to cook gently 5-7 minutes without colouring. 
7. Add the garlic, the marrow and aubergine slices and the peppers.
8. Season lightly with salt and mill pepper.
9. Allow to cook gently for 4-5 minutes, toss occasionally and keep covered.
10. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes or until tender. 
11. Mix in the parsley, correct the seasoning and serve.

Finely diced onions, zucchini and eggplant

All seeds and white are removed from inside the capsicum

Beaten egg whites top lasagne 

Béchamel sauce, with cheese
'Practical Cookery' 8th ed. by Ceserani, Kinton and Foskett

100g butter, margarine or oil (I've only ever used butter or margarine if butter unavailable)
100g flour
1L milk
1 studded onion

1. Melt the butter in a thick-bottomoed pan.(saucepan) 
2. Add the flour and mix in.
3. Cook for a few minutes over a gentle heat without colouring. 
4. Remove from the heat to cool the roux.
5. Gradually add the warmed milk and stir till smooth. (using a whisk)

* Below are additional steps as per the recipe which I skip. Maybe one day I'll try the complete recipe! 
6. Add the onion studded with a clove. 
7. Allow to simmer for 30minutes.
8. Remove the onion, pass the sauce through a conical strainer.
9. Cover with a film of butter to prevent a skin forming.

For the cheese béchamel sauce
Add 50g grated cheese, 1 egg yolk. Mix well in boiling sauce, remove from heat, Strain if necessary but do not allow to reboil.


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