Friday, 24 July 2015

Let's Talk About Mediterranean Vegetables, Baby

I know, catchy, right! 

So, whilst we were staying with Maminou, we encountered a bit of a problem.

You see, I was trying to be helpful, so I did what I normally do and more-or-less meal-planned for the week. We went shopping and bought all the necessities.

Now Maminou couldn't cope with this system. In her mind, you adapt the food to the day, not the other way round.

Too hot for paella, means no paella (which also means I can't share the super-secret family recipe for paella, because no photos).

As I mentioned before, Maminou didn't always have a fridge growing up, and (in Algeria in particular, but that was true everywhere) that meant you couldn't store that much, or for that long. So going shopping everyday, for just a few items, was just what you did.

Then again, French markets are pretty awesome.

Eventually, I just yielded to the Maminou system. And the upsides are many: there is very little waste because you buy only what you immediately need (and you can buy the actual number you want at the market, not one extra courgette you won't know what to do with because it was in the pre-packaged deal), all the food is really fresh, and you can adapt to the leftovers you have already in your fridge. Plus, you won't go far away for a daily shopping, which means you can support local businesses.

Win, win, win, win.

And the prices at the supermarket may be lower, but if you only buy what you need, and don't throw away as much, it evens out.

Now, obviously, I couldn't apply Maminou's system at home completely. For starters, we don't have a market that compares to the French ones, and I don't want to go food shopping every day. I just don't.

But adapting the system slightly has already helped a lot. I've changed from one big weekly shop to two. Which means I can adapt to unexpected leftovers (we weren't that hungry) or lack thereof (Simon went for a random 20 mile run/ we had some unexpected visitors), without resorting to freezing a lot of things (because my freezer is where un-eaten stuff goes to die, it is just delaying their inevitable trip to the bin).

I know that I may not find this quite so attractive when I have a newborn and  a toddler under foot, and that for mothers of many, doing one shopping trip a week is challenging enough already, thankyouverymuchIsabelle. I get it. But it is interesting.

Also, I like meal-planning and I am good at it, because I actually love to cook, and it's how I do hospitality (seriously, come over to our house, Simon will play some music for you and I'll feed you). So dedicating time to this aspect of housekeeping is not a problem for me. But I am aware it is not everybody's strong suit (just look at my garden or ask me how often dusting happens in my house - yeah, all the time <cough, cough> I dust all the time). So let's call it food for thought if not useful to everyone.


Once this little problem was ironed out, it still left us with lots of vegetables to find a use for (well, Maminou's ingrained tendency to want to feed crowds, even when there were only 3 1/2 of us, also didn't help).

So, here are some things to do, if you have a million (give or take a couple) Mediterranean vegetables hanging about in your house:


We just made lots of salads. Add some rice and call it a meal, leave out the rice and call it a starter. You can even keep the leftovers and add them to tomorrow's salad to make it even more amazing. It's a brilliant system.

I want to talk more about staples in another posts, and how useful they are in Maminou's system, but for now, take it as a given, we eat a lot of salad.

But we are not talking about any old salad:

Nom nom nom.

You start with tomatoes, eggs, and olives - ok, you don't HAVE to put the olives in, these are just my staples - (rice and sweetcorn as well, according to what you need to use up and how big a part of the meal the salad needs to be). But you can also add:


I don't about you, but raw onions don't always agree with me, and cooked onions are not brilliant for salads.

But Maminou has a genius way of dealing with this: she cuts up the onions, put some salt over them and leaves them for a couple of hours. Rinse/wipe. Done. And it is pretty delicious.


Super simple again, but Maminou takes the time to put them in little bundles before tossing them in boiling salted water so they are easier to get out, and I think they cook more evenly (I am personally sold mostly because they make me feel all housewifey set up like that, but I'm sure more knowledgeable people can explain why it is a good idea. Knowledgeable people, care to intervene?)

These asparagus(ses??) just scream "I know what I'm about", right!?


For them, you can add them to your salad raw, or cook them the Salade Juive way.

Grill in the oven until they look like this. Leave to cool down.

De-seed and peel really easily, thanks to the burnt-ness. (You want a bowl of water to regularly rinse your fingers, though.

Cut the de-seeded, peeled peppers in stripes, like so. (Although, this is technically a finished Salade Juive, but you can just add them to whatever salad).

Now, if you want the actual Salade Juive, you need to cook a few tomatoes the same way, peel them and add them to the peppers with finely minced garlic and olive oil. It's pretty awesome and somehow remarkably refreshing (seriously, we were in the middle of a heat wave, and these oven-cooked vegetables were just perfect.)

Look clever whilst making it, like so.

To make all this salad-ing appetizing, (apart from the Salade Juive, which is already flavoursome enough as it is), you need to add a nice bit of French dressing . French dressing is super easy to make (but mix them in that order or it will not come together):

1 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp vinegar (you can go all fancy vinegar, or all not fancy, it's still nice)
8 tbsp oil (or oils, once again, does not matter, but I prefer for there to be at least some olive oil in the mix)


We had a few more solutions, but I'll share those in another post.

Isn't Maminou a genius?

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