Friday, 19 March 2010

Feuilleté au poulet et paprika

Greta has been thrown from pillar to post this week, and she hasn't liked it. This week she spent three days with the maman de jour, then a day with Peter's brother's ex-girlfriend's elder sister, who lives in the village down the road towards town, and who is also setting up as a maman de jour.

This isn't the place for my extremely well-practiced rant about the abysmal nature of childcare in Switzerland, so I'll spare you that.

Suffice to say that Greta has not been happy this week- she's used to being looked after by my mother when I'm working. Fortunately I only work half the year and my mother can manage for the other six months!

Today, she got to stay home with her daddy (who was working from home), and his aunt came over to look after her great-niece. And I went off to work.

However, as I've mentioned before, I do believe, Peter does not cook.

No. Not at all. Oh, he'll put on the water for pasta, but having rung him up once and told him to put the rice on, I'd be home in 20 minutes, and having come home to find the rice boiled into mush, I don't tend to bother asking him anymore. He loves to eat, but, other than the summer Homo Erectus ritual of "Man light fire, Man put meat on fire, Man eat meat", by which I snarkily mean that he will actually use the barbecue (and, TBH, he does barbecue vegetables too)... He does not cook.

Peter eats. Peter loves to eat. Peter is tall and skinny and if I ate what he eats, I'd be too big to get through the door. At one point, many many moons ago, I decided that, having a peculiar letch for a man with a belly, I was going to make him put on weight. I threw my healthy cooking habits out of the window, put the olive oil at the back of the cupboard, and started pouring butter and cream into everything.

Peter ate.

I ate.

Peter put on 3 kg. I put on 5 kg. Peter went off to the US for a conference for a week, ate like a horse, came back having lost more than the 3kg. It took me... too long to get rid of those 5kg!

At which point, I gave up.

To get (finally) to my point, I was going to have to prepare lunch for him, his aunt (who is lactose-intolerant, and when I remembered that bang! went my original idea to try making a chicken pot pie), and for Greta. It being Friday morning, and me having not been able to shop on Thursday, the contents of the fridge were as low as they tend to be when one does a weekly big shop on a Saturday, and just does small top-up shops during the week.

It was going to have to be something that could be cooked with no effort whatsoever, and made from the ingredients of the fridge- and, my secret weapon, the freezer. I had a look at the list on the whiteboard on Thursday night, pulled a couple of things out to defrost, wiped them off the board, and went to bed.

I considered getting up early, but as I already get up two hours before I have to leave in the morning (not that hard- I have to leave at 9, as I have to be at work at 10, and it's a 40-mn trip door to door), I didn't bother. I wake up early anyway at the moment.

Up, therefore, and I wandered into the kitchen in my nightshirt. I got out an oven tray, lined it with the reusable liner, got out a package of puff pastry I'd defrosted overnight in the fridge, took out a pack of chicken bits ditto, grabbed an onion, two big fat orange sweet potatoes, and got the bowl of tomatoes.

I chopped three tomatoes and the onion, put them in a bowl. Chopped the sweet potatoes, added them in, added the chicken. Plenty of black pepper, a bit of herbed salt (still trying to use that up!), a drizzle of olive oil, stir it all around, and then a thick dusting of sweet paprika. If I'd had a red pepper, it would have gone in too.

I unrolled the pastry half way, poured a small puddle of olive oil onto it and brushed it over the surface. Tipped the contents of my bowl on top, carefully spread it around, then brought the other half of the pastry over. I crimped it closed with a fork, then brushed the whole thing with a beaten egg-yolk. More pepper on top, and I covered the tray with tin foil, cleared a shelf in the fridge, put it in there, and gave Peter his instructions. "Turn the oven on to 200C, no fan, leave it to heat up, take the foil off, put it in the oven for 45 minutes."

I obviously wasn't here when it came out of the oven hot, but apparently Greta's Great-Aunt liked it very much. Greta didn't have any, but apparently ate the smoked salmon out of a small stack of breakfast sandwiches that her Great-Aunt had brought with her. Peter I think had a bit. They all liked it. I had some when I got home for my dinner, and it was indeed quite nice.

It's a handy basic recipe to have around, this feuilleté. I make it in the summer with a layer of onion topped with a layer of courgettes with a layer of red peppers and a layer of sliced tomato, and sometimes a layer of cooking mozzarella over that. I make it in the winter with smoked salmon layered with crème fraîche mixed with lots of chopped dill and plenty of black pepper. Sometimes I make it as though it were a cooked version of a salade niçoise- with tuna-fish, black olives, onions, tomatoes, sometimes potatoes, sometimes that's more than enough.

The trick, of course, is not to cover quite half the bottom with your ingredients, or you won't have enough pastry on the other side to cover it over with without having to stretch it. It's a handy recipe, as long as you keep puff pastry in the freezer. It unfreezes fast, and as long as it hasn't been in there too long, it's still pretty pliable when unfrozen.

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