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Inspiration in the crypt

09 November 2012


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 restaurant.

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.)

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