Fresh cooking normally relies on good ingredients, bought from the market or harvested from the garden, or delivered in a weekly organic bin. It is, however, entirely possible to produce a vibrant and fresh meal entirely from the pantry, cellar and freezer if you have good quality supplies around. Elizabeth David writes with zeal about avoiding highly processed tins, and packets of soups and stews, in favour of laying in a pantry of stock items with an emphasis on good tinned tomatoes, anchovies, beans and lentils, garlic, high quality dried pasta, a selection of rice, an ample spice drawer, and a few good bottles of wine.
In the depths of winter we rely more often on our pantry and freezer than any other time of the year. This is the time of the year to take advantage of the preserved tomatoes and sauerkraut, and an opportunity to use frozen vegetables which, when deployed properly, can be excellent. Of course frozen vegetables can be horrible if they are dumped out of the bag into boiling water. We like to roast frozen broccoli with matchsticks of ginger and olive oil. Frozen peas are endlessly useful. Frozen spinach can be excellent, and the omelette below is one of the best uses I have found for it.
Spinach and Breadcrumb Omelette with a Tomato Sauce
This is adapted from Tartine Bread and it is quite a loose adaptation. The original version uses wild nettle in place of spinach. In high summer, I would use whatever fresh greens are around (and I am intrigued about using the nettles rather than just whipper snipping them down around the edges of our summer house at the farm), but in February frozen spinach works very well. Frozen spinach is deeply green and has a mineral depth and full flavour that suits this dish well. It is also a way to get a whole block of frozen spinach into two portions, which makes this, in addition to the tomato sauce and eggs, a very nutritious meal. The spinach should be fully defrosted and ruthlessly squeezed out. One reason frozen spinach has such a bad reputation is because it gets waterlogged and soggy. If it is properly squeezed it retains a good texture in this dish.
Make the tomato sauce first and do the omelettes just before you are ready to sit down.
For the tomato sauce:
- 1 jar or tin of tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 1/2-1 tbsp sugar
- a clove of garlic
- a bay leaf
- red wine vinegar
- olive oil
- Finely chop the onion and sautée gently in a good amount of olive oil. Crush and finely chop the garlic and add it
- Pour over the jar or tin of tomatoes, add the bay leaf and season. Add the sugar adjusting the amount to the tartness of the tomatoes
- Let simmer 20-30 minutes
- Finish with a dash of red wine vinegar
For two omelette’s:
- 1 packet of frozen spinach (or 1 cup of sautéed greens of your choice – spinach, kale, arugula, swiss chard, etc.)
- 4 good quality farm eggs (my niece’s by preference)
- 1/2 cup roughly torn bread
- Grey salt and fresh ground pepper
- Drain and squeeze a packet of frozen spinach or sautée green of choice
- Into two separate dishes crack the eggs-2 into each dish. Season with salt and pepper
- Sprinkle in the spinach dividing half into each dish
- Divide the roughly torn bread into each dish
- Fold the ingredients together. It will seem lumpy and not entirely like any other omelette you have ever made.
- Heat an omelette pan with olive oil. Spread the first omelette in the heated pan as thinly as possible. Let the underside cook and leave until the top is just set. Flip one third of the omelette to the centre of the pan, then the other side, and tip onto a deep dish or shallow bowl that has a pool of hot tomato sauce on the bottom. Proceed with the next omelette and eat immediately. Sprinkle with a grating of parmesan cheese.
A cheap nutritious supper that makes for very good eating. I should mention that a glass of red wine helps things along enormously.