Recently we made a meal which could be characterised as Southern(French, that is), soul food for the winter. Though it's all been interpreted through a frangourou lens, and is pretty eclectic, it really to me has that feel of south-west France.
The menu was: Fresh mushroom and herb soup for entree(the one I wrote about in an earlier post, the one on Ginette Mathiot's book); home-grown black-eye beans(or black-eye peas, or cow peas, depending on what you call them) with roasted pork belly marinated in armagnac and then cooked with prunes; home-grown lovely waxy-yellow Tasmanian Pink eye potatoes sliced and baked with stock and butter and garlic(a kind of gratin but without the cream or the cheese); cabbage double-cooked in white wine and olive oil and a little stock; and a Gateau Basque which combined both the custard filling of the well-known version of this cake plus a few preserved cherries as a gesture towards the cherry version of the cake!
It was all really delicious but all really simple to make, if requiring a little preparation and thinking-ahead time. The soup for instance I started making a couple of hours before dinner-time, as it's good if the mushrooms cook for quite a while, giving as much flavour as possible to the stock before they are mashed or processed to produce the base of the soup(see my earlier post on this.) I also had to soak the black-eye beans a few hours ahead of time(soaked them in morning for use in evening)and also marinated the pork belly in the armagnac(you can also use brandy or other kinds of spirits if you want)for the same amount of time--just the armagnac, salt and pepper is enough, and the pork belly steeps in that for a few hours in the fridge. The potatoes also had to be peeled, parboiled for five minutes and sliced thinly before they could be put in an oven dish with stock etc and baked. And the cake--which David made, and which I'll give the recipe for in another post--was made and cooked early in the afternoon.
A couple of hours before dinner, put the meat on to cook--layering the pork belly in a baking dish on top of a handful of prunes, and sprinkling some olive oil on the meat, plus salt, pepper, then rub some garlic into it, add chopped herbs--I used sage and parsley--and then add the marinade. Cover with foil and cook in a moderate oven for about an hour till nicely-cooked and soft then you can uncover it and let the pork fat crisp up a bit. Meanwhile slice the spuds, layer them in a baking dish with knob butter on each layer, salt, pepper, garlic, and then moisten the whole thing with good stock, either vegetable or chicken. The stock should not cover the spuds but only come about a quarter of a way up them. Cover with foil and bake till tender--the stock will steam through and impregnate the potatoes. Prepare the beans--fry some onions and garlic in olive oil, add the drained beans, salt, pepper, herbs--I used thyme and chives but any combination is good--then enough white wine to nearly cover the beans. Allow to simmer for about five minutes, then add enough stock to cover but no more. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until done--black eye beans take a lot less time than most other types of beans. They should be nutty but tender, not mushy at all. Then put the cooked beans in a glass baking dish(one with a lid) and lay the pork belly on top, having stirred through the cooking juices from the meat into the beans. Add the prunes as well. Keep warm in the oven, and when ready to serve, sprinkle with fresh herbs. Meanwhile make the cabbage--chop it finely, fry with some onion in a little butter, add a little white wine and a little white wine vinegar, simmer, then add stock or water to just cover. Cook for about 2 mins, then drain, and start again, a little olive oil, a little white wine, but no vinegar and only a little stock. Cook for another four-five minutes--it makes a really nice tangy sort of cabbage dish that tastes a little like mild sauerkraut.