Vegetables in Aspic

Aspic de légumes frais avec son coulis de poivrons doux

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    four

    people

Appears in

Cuisine of the Sun

By Roger Vergé

Published 1979

  • About

Inexpensive

Ingredients

  • 200 g (7 oz) carrots
  • 200 g (7 oz) white turnips
  • 100 g ( oz) French beans or shelled petits pois
  • 2 artichokes weighing 200 g (7 oz) each preferably the small purple kind
  • 200 g (7 oz) courgettes
  • 200 g (7 oz) asparagus
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • 1 fresh white onion weighing 150 g ( oz)
  • 1 tomato weighing 100 g ( oz)
  • 1 medium-sized clove of garlic
  • 4 sprigs of basil
  • 1 bouquet garni made up of a piece of celery, a sprig of thyme, half a bayleaf and 4 sprigs of parsley, tied with a thread
  • 750 ml ( pints) aspic (made with aspic powder mixed to the strength recommended on the packet or, in France, bought ready-made from a charcuterie)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Method

Preparing the vegetables

Wash the artichokes, having first cut off the stems.

Top and tail the French beans and remove any strings, or shell the peas.

Peel the carrots, turnips, onion and garlic.

Scrape the asparagus.

Remove alternate strips of peel from the courgettes with a potato-peeler to give a striped effect.

Stick two skewers into the red pepper and grill it or hold it in a gas or wood-fire flame until the skin is completely blackened. (If you only have an electric stove place it directly on the hot-plate.) Cool the charred pepper under the cold tap and remove the skin, which should come away easily when you rub it lightly with your fingers. Cut it in half, rinse out the interior to remove all the seeds and remove the stalk. Cut the two halves into broad strips.

Slice the onion and colour gently in the olive oil. Cut the tomato in eight pieces and add to the onions together with the strips of red pepper, the garlic and the bouquet garni. Season with salt and cover with 3–4 tablespoons of water. Cover the pan and bring to the boil. After 20–25 minutes remove the bouquet garni and liquidise the contents of the pan in a food-processor or pass them through the fine blade of a mouli-légumes. Season with salt and pepper and pass through a fine sieve. Chill in the refrigerator.

Bring 2–3 litres (3½–5¼ pints) of salted water to the boil and plunge in the two artichokes. Cook them for about 45 minutes, without a lid. They are perfectly cooked when you can easily detach a leaf. Put them to drain, head down.

While the artichokes are cooking slice the carrots, courgettes and turnips into 1 cm (½ inch) slices. Do not mix up the different vegetables. Put them in three separate small saucepans, with enough cold water to just cover the slices, and a very large pinch of salt and another of sugar. Cover the pans, and cook until all the water has evaporated. This method ensures that the vegetables retain all their juices. When they are cooked spread each vegetable separately on a cloth placed on a baking-sheet.

Bring 2 litres ( pints) salted water to the boil and plunge in the French beans or peas. Cook until they are just tender, drain and refresh in cold water.

Arrange them on the cloth with the other vegetables (5).

Remove the leaves and chokes of the artichokes (4), slice the hearts finely and add to the other vegetables.

Bring 1 litre ( pints) salted water to the boil and plunge in the asparagus. Cook them until they are still just on the firm side and then refresh under cold water. Add to the other vegetables.

You now have all the vegetables cooked and laid out on the tray in separate piles.

Making the aspic

Heat the aspic until it is just melted. Pour in two tablespoons into each of the four chilled bowls and run it round the insides of the bowls until they have a fine lining of glistening jelly.

Pour 3 tablespoons of aspic into a deep dish or soup plate and dip the asparagus spears in it until they are thoroughly soaked. Divide them into four equal bundles and place one in the middle of each bowl.

Follow the same process with the slices of artichoke hearts and courgettes, adding more aspic to the plate as necessary, and arrange them on either side of the asparagus in the bowls. Keep any surplus courgettes on one side.

Take thirty or so slices of carrot and the same of turnip and dip them in the aspic, then stick them in a ring around the sides of the bowl, about 1 cm (¼ inch) above the artichokes and courgettes putting a round of carrot then a round of turnip and so on. The jelly will make them stick together quite easily. Put the rest of the carrots, turnips and courgettes on top of the asparagus in the middle of each bowl. Finish by strewing the French beans or petits pois over the top.

Remove the stems from the basil and chop the leaves coarsely. Mix them with the remaining aspic, which should now be cold and still just liquid (definitely not set). Season with two or three twists of the peppermill and pour over the vegetables in the four bowls. Put the bowls in the refrigerator to chill.

Just before you are ready to serve the vegetable aspic, line a serving dish or four individual plates with a thin layer of the red pepper purée (3). Put the remaining purée in a sauceboat.

Dip each bowl for a bare minute into warm water to loosen the jelly (which should now be set) and then turn out on to the dish or plates. The vegetables make a beautiful mosaic of colours, glowing in their jelly.

Recommended wines

  • dry white wines – Coteaux de Provence, white Beaujolais, Saint-Véran