Tag Archives: Gastranomy

Camargue Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale

Camargue France Flaminigos Bull White Horses Salt

Photos: Flamingos by Enric Perich, Black Bull by Michael Osmenda, Horses in the Wild by efilpera, Salins du Midi by Giovanni Tabbò

A protected region since 1927, the Camargue, in Southern France, is known for pink flamingos, black bulls, wild white horses, along with fleur de sel and many varieties of rice, including white, black, red, round, long and short.

In celebration of the start of the rice harvest, marked by a Rice Feria in Arles this weekend, I put together a Camargue inspired harvest main course for you. On the menu is Red Rice with a Fennel and Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale.

I tracked Camargue wild red rice down locally in Switzerland at Globus.  You can also order it online through a number of sellers. Or, substitute black wild rice, just adjust the rice to stock ratio and cooking time according to the rice producer’s directions.

Dorade Royale is a flavourful, meaty-white fish found primarily found in the Mediterranean Sea. Perfect for cooking whole (watch for bones when eating). If you want to know more about this, and other varieties of fish, perhaps check out this great blog that I came across, Better Know a Fish. It’s written by Ben Young Landis, who notes he “is a science communicator by day, amateur cook by night, and fish geek 24/7.”

Camargue Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale

Camargue Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit and Grilled Dorade Royale

Red Rice with Fennel Tomato Confit

Adapted from a this recipe on the Riz de Camargue website. Camargue red rice should be cooked just until done, the rice grains will be slightly chewy and not fully split open. The rice has a pleasant nutty flavour.

100 g  ( 1 cup) Camargue red rice
150 g ( 1 1/4 cup) fennel (about 1 small bulb), cut in small dice
1 shallot, finely diced
65 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
50 cl (2 cups) vegetable stock
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf and basil)
150 g ( 1 1/2 cups)
tomato (about 2 medium-sized), cut in small dice
25 g (a bit less than 1/4 cup) pine nuts, lightly toasted
10 black Nyons olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
10 ml (2 teaspoons) fennel seed
leur de sel and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Few sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

In a heavy-bottomed medium sauce pan, sauté the diced shallot in 15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil until translucent; add red rice and sauté for 1 minute, then add the bouquet garni, pour in the hot vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 50 minutes; don’t stir the rice, do check it occasionally near the end of the cooking time.  There should be no liquid left after cooking. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.

About 25 minutes before the rice has finished cooking, heat the remaining 50 ml (3 tablespoons) of olive oil in a frying pan, add the diced fennel and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, chopped black olives, pine nuts and fennel seeds, heat until just warmed through.

To serve, place rice is a serving dish or on individual plates, top with fennel and tomato mixture, season with fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with minced fresh parsley.

Serves 2   Preparation time:  15 minutes   Total time:  1 hour 10 minutes

Dorade Royale (aka Daurade, Sea Bream and Sea Bass, plus a lot more)

I’m a fan of keeping it simple when it comes to fresh fish, allowing its flavour to take the stage.

2 each 250 gm (1/2 lb) whole fresh sea bream, scaled and gutted
Fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper, to taste
15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil
Slices of fresh lemon, to garnish and season

Sprigs of fresh rosemary

Heat up your grill or barbecue to medium-high (I check the temperature by holding my hand, palm down about 2 inches above the grate, if I can hold it there for 3 seconds before it gets too hot, then the grill is ready). Season the inside and outside of the fish with the fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle on the olive oil. Grill the fish for about 3 – 4 minutes per side until the flesh is opaque.

Serve the cooked fish whole with slices of lemon and a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Note: I used a lightly-oiled stainless perforated grill sheet when cooking the fish. If you place your fish directly on the grate, lightly brush some oil on the grate first.

Serves 2   Preparation time:  15 minutes Total time:  25 minutes

In the Moors’ Kitchen

The Nasrid sultans offered their guests an exotic menu. Dishes of rice, eggplant, artichokes, spinach and sweet peppers filled bellies. Aromas of cumin, caraway, nutmeg, sesame, coriander, cinnamon and mint perfumed the air. Figs, dates, oranges and almonds tickled taste-buds. Cooks whipped up sweets of sherbet and marzipan using newly introduced sugar.

While Andalusia’s semi-arid climate create harsh farming conditions, the Moors found the region ideal for producing the many delectable fruits, vegetables and spices which they introduced to Spain.

Arid Landscape, Spain | (C) 2013  Bringing Beauty Home

Arid Landscape, December. Near Granada, Spain.

Spain Landscape Vineyard Photo:  Maximo Lopez | Flickr

Spain Landscape Photo: R Bolance | FlikrThe Moors also brought alcohol distillation technology to Spain. Knowledge they used to produce medicines and perfumes was later adapted by the Spaniards to distil alcoholic beverages.

Spain Orange Tree Leszek Kozlowski | Flikr.jpg

Spain Vineyared Wine Barrels Sherry

Spain Arichoke Photo jennycatpink | Flikr

Spain Almond Tree in Bloom Photo: Dorte | Flickr

Saffron Crocus Sativus PDK | Flickr

According to this link, the Moors popularized the use of saffron in Spain. After reading this Saveur article about the saffron harvest, written by food journalist and former chef, Sally Schneider, and accompanied by wonderful photos from Owen Franken, I have a new appreciation for the spice.

From field to bottle, saffron production is incredibly labour intensive. The contents of the tiny, one-half gram bottle of saffron in my cupboard came from 80 hand-picked flowers. After harvesting the flowers, workers carefully pulled the stigma from the flowers. The stigma are then dried. During the drying process, 5 kilograms of stigmas shrink to only 1 kilogram of saffron. One hectare of land yields only 3 – 5 kilograms of saffron. To put it into perspective, one hectare yields about 8,000 kilograms of fresh parsley, which results in roughly 1,000 kilograms of dried parsley. So, the same land area results in 200x more dried parsley than saffron. Given the low yields and high-degree of hand labour required, it now seems quite reasonable to me that saffron is the world’s costliest spice.

Gourmands say that Saffron from the La Mancha area of Spain is the best in the world. Husband and wife, Juan Antonio Ortiz and Maria Ángeles Serranone, are La Mancha artisanal saffron producers. They offer both saffron, under the label Molineta de Minaya, and crocus bulbs for DIYers.

I will carefully source my next saffron purchase (not ready to go the DIY saffron route just yet), most likely seeking out an artisanal producer. The growing supply of counterfeit and additive-laced saffron, which I read about while researching this post, is disconcerting.

Stay tuned for my next post. It will be a seasonal menu influenced by the cuisine of the Moors (and yes, saffron is one of the ingredients).

Photo Credits: Bringing Beauty Home, RBolance, Maximo Lopez, Leszek KozlowskiRob Winton, Robert McKintosh, jennycatpink, Dorte, OutdoorPDK