YOU are invited, on the St Paul's Cathedral website, to visit
its crypt, where there are "monuments to conflicts and other
outstanding achievements in the cause of a better world". Nelson
and Wellington are there, undoubtedly, but ranked among such must
be a man who strives daily, without bloodshed, in the cause of a
better world - Jamie Cairns, the head chef of the Crypt
Lunch there, and you will be inspired to try harder at home,
and thousands will rise up from their tables happier people.
If vegetables are, as in most fashionable restaurants,
considered as an optional extra to your main course here, they are
most beautifully cooked, if you go to the trouble and expense of
ordering them. Enchanted though I was by my sole nestled in a pink
velvet sauce, I decided to have vegetables instead of pudding, and
was rewarded by a dish of crisp, delicious courgettes, and then
cabbage - but it wasn't anything like cabbage: it was a poem.
Cabbage as Ronsard might have captured it.
Jamie kindly shared the recipe with me. Although I cannot
remember exactly the quintet of shredded vegetables that composed
the Basic stir-fry, I know that it was red onion,
celeriac, cabbage, and kale. Perhaps the fifth partner was carrot.
These were shredded finely, and fried in that order (carrots coming
after the celeriac, and before the leaves). At this point, I have
to tell you about the Garlic confit.
This is worth making quietly on a Sunday afternoon, when you
have time to plan ahead for the week and you are listening to the
classic serial on the radio. It takes a little time.
Peel as many garlic cloves as you might eat in a week - perhaps
two or three bulbs' worth. Place them in a covered pot, and pour
olive oil over, enough to cover them, and add a sprig of thyme and
rosemary. Then place the pot in the warm oven of the Aga, or in a
very low oven (70°C/ 140°F/Gas ½), and leave them to poach gently
for a few hours, until the garlic is very tender. Do not let the
oil bubble, or get too hot.
Alternatively, you could poach them in olive oil on the stove
for 45 minutes, but you must have a ring that will keep the
temperature of the oil below 220°F (104°C).
When the garlic is tender, let it cool, and then pack it into a
jar and refrigerate it for up to a week. Or you could drain the
cloves and mash them to a paste, and retain the garlic-flavoured
oil for dressings or frying.
So, to return to the stir-fry, use some of this oil to fry the
vegetables until they are tender. Reduce a glass of white wine down
by one third, before adding half to one third of a cup of cream,
and reduce by half again. Then add a generous spoonful of your
purée of garlic confit.
You can make a confit of cherry tomatoes by the same method - or
pretty much any other vegetable, solo or mixed - to eat with bread
and cheese, pizzas, or pasta; or to add to casseroles, and fish, or
as a rich added flavouring for soups.
(Last month, I gave a recipe for a confit of lemons. This
is also worth doing with orange slices. But they don't keep; so use
them straight away.)