A perfect starter for credit crunch entertaining
In London the trend was started by Rowley Leigh and picked up on by Paul Merrony of the Giaconda Dining Room*. The return of hors d’oeuvres, that tasty little selection of small dishes that preceded tapas but which had fallen from favour along with many other elements of French bistro cuisine.
If you download the current menu at Le Café Anglais you’ll see sort of dishes - leeks vinaigrette, rabbit rillettes, pickled herring with potato salad, oeuf en gelée - together with Leigh’s now iconic, but slightly less thrifty parmesan custards with anchovy toast.
It’s the perfect way to take advantage of inexpensive seasonal produce or to use up kitchen leftovers in a stylish way. We went round to a cookery writer friend’s house the other night who produced a starter of just-cooked bright green baby leeks in a light vinaigrette scattered with chopped hard-boiled egg and a gently wobbling beetroot jelly served with sour cream and chives**. (Both went excellently with a bottle of 2005 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon. I also thought a Mosel kabinett Riesling would have worked.)
Egg mayonnaise is another frugal treat that is often overlooked except in old fashioned Parisien bistros where it is still popular fare. A recent article in Le Figaro (see here if you read French) compared the offerings from over 20 restaurants (the winner was Le Voltaire) There is even an association called l'Asom - L'Association de Sauvegarde de l’Oeuf Mayonnaise (the association for the protection of egg mayonnaise)! Certainly with home-made mayonnaise it can be a real treat.
*now temporarily closed since Merrony broke his arm, falling off a bicycle which shows what a shoestring operation this fashionable restaurant is
** Andrea Leeman. Both recipes are in her book A Taste of Devon
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