January can be a bleak month. Meals are dry, Mondays are blue, the need for an ark seems more pressing, and it’s an eternity until payday. When thinking of dinner options during this dreary time of year, salads tend to feature low on the list – after macaroni cheese, roast chicken, linguine carbonara, dauphinois and cake.
When the wet and grey has us following our noses towards every hot carb-based dish wafting past like a police bloodhound at an abandoned warehouse rave, the revitalising qualities a fresh and vibrant salad can provide is a welcome interjection against a sorry month of overeating, 5:2 fasting or paleo preoccupation.
An evening hosted by Chef Franck Raymond at his recently-opened French restaurant Augustine Kitchen in Battersea shared the secrets to a handful of salad recipes with a group of snap-happy food bloggers eager to sample the results. Cast aside preconceptions of limp lettuce and dull dressings, these were salads I would consider over a hunk of flaky slow-cooked meat (maybe), with recipes involving scallop ceviche, duck, puy lentils, Thai flavours, and more.
Franck talked us through anecdotal stories from his yesteryears whilst demonstrating some leafy handiwork; children always make salad dressings in French households, a true Nicoise only has raw vegetables, and his mother used a wooden spoon to combine her dressings and therefore, so does Franck.
Life is all about balance, and what better way to highlight the light and rejuvenating qualities of a vitamin-packed salad than by contrasting it against glasses of bubbly and an oven dish heavy with gooey cheese-covered potatoes and bacon – the Alpine wonder that is a tartiflette. The sort of dish a day of hard exertion on the slopes would earn; I had been strenuously sitting at a desk.
Served piping-hot, it is savoury and hearty and utterly comforting – the type of food tongues are burnt on because it is just too much to ask to wait for it to cool.
Augustine understand the need for such plated pleasures for when the nights are dark and long – luckily for us they’re running Tartiflette Tuesday’s during the month of February which includes a hefty helping of this ski resort classic along with a green salad and the house aperitif of sparkling rosé for £14.95.
In the meantime and if Tuesday is just too far away, you’ll find the recipe below to have a go yourself.
Chef Franck Raymond’s Tartiflette
450g potatoes, cubed
160g smoked bacon, diced
200g onions, diced
300ml dry white wine
220g Reblochon cheese, rind removed and cubed
250ml crème fraîche
750ml semi-skimmed milk
2g chicken bouillon granules
Salt and pepper
Keep the chopped potatoes in water until you’re ready to cook them to prevent discolouration. Boil in fresh water until al dente, and drain. Add a pinch of salt during their last 2 minutes of cooking.
In the meantime, sauté the onions in the butter in a frying pan until softened. Add the white whine and cook further until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency.
In a separate pan, fry the bacon – there is no need to add any fat. When it’s cooked, slowly add it to the onions, combine well and allow to rest.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Heat the milk and crème fraîche in a saucepan and add the cheese – keep some of the cheese aside to use later. Continue to heat until the cheese has melted and the liquid has reduced by half. Add a pinch of salt and the bouillon.
In the same frying pan you cooked the bacon, sauté the potatoes in a little butter or oil until lightly browned. Add to this the onions and bacon and combine well. Pour this mix into a baking dish, and pour the cheese sauce over the top to cover evenly. Top with the remaining cheese you kept aside.
Cook in the oven for 10 minutes until golden brown.
Be prepared for the onset of hibernation almost certain to follow.