My memory of Nîmes seems to be stored in my limbs, heavy and sated with the sun, as I sit in the Jardins de Luxembourg gazing at a butterfly that flits over the floating stage of one of the loveliest theatres in Europe. Every afternoon Nîmois with time to spare come to these gardens built on the site of the Roman baths. Groups of middle-aged ladies sit in the shade; they crochet or embroider and discuss the goings-on of other middle-aged ladies not yet ready for these activities. Children play slowly and men, young and old, sit motionless in the overpowering heat. My torpor is increased by the unforgettably delicious lunch of brandade de morue. It was served in the cool, mirrored almost empty dining-room at Le Cheval Blanc overlooking the arena; somewhere in the background a Duke Ellington tape played quietly. I ate slowly and resolved to return some day, for the jazz festival and the morue.
A few days later I recreated this famous dish in the kitchen at Le Presbytère. It was, perhaps, even more delicious, creamy and fat with an amazing blend of the flavours of fish and olive oil, a dish of the south. Mme
Soak the morue in cold water overnight; change the water several times if the fish is very salty. Drain and cover with cold water in a pan. Slowly bring almost to the boil. Add
Gently bring the oil and milk up to blood heat in small separate pans, and keep both warm, on heat-spreading mats if necessary.
Beat the fish with the lemon juice over very low heat using
How much oil and milk you add is a matter of judgement – at a certain point, somehow, one knows that adding more of either will not improve the taste or consistency. The brandade should be creamy in texture and have a gentle balance of flavour between the fish and the olive oil. If you care to, add
Butter the corners of the toasted bread and dip each corner in the parsley. Turn the brandade on to a warm serving dish and surround with the green-cornered triangles.
Don’t reckon to be energetic afterwards – this dish is very rich.
Should you have any brandade de morue left over divide it between some small oven dishes, place one or two poached eggs on top, warm through in the oven and spoon
© 1987 Geraldene Holt. All rights reserved.