An Irish Chef in France
Euro-Toques chef Martin Dwyer, much missed in Ireland since he and his wife Sile sold their eponymous restaurant in Waterford and moved to France. They now live in the Languedoc, where they take guests - and feed them very well.
This month Martin shares a very special recipe with us: Tranche St Remy
Last year I had a special dinner on my terrace for twelve people and I decided I wanted to produce a killer starter. I had a memory of an extremely delicious hors d’oeuvre which we used to produce in The Wife of Bath in Kent where I worked in the seventies under chef Michael Waterfield.
I had a very strong feeling that it came from an original recipe by Elizabeth David, Michael Waterfield was as big a fan of hers as I was/am. (We actually fed her there once, on her way to a channel ferry, but that’s another story). I scoured her French Cookbook indices, French Provincial Cooking, French Country Cooking and Mediterranean Food but without a sign at all of Le Tranche St. Remy. I decided we would try and construct it from memory.
It was a large rectangular tart with three different fillings along its length, the base I remembered was puff pastry, one of the fillings was prawns in a tomato sauce, and one tuna (canned in ´70s England ) with green olives and the third, as served in The Wife of Bath, was Mushrooms, quickly fried in butter and mixed with Chicken liver paté. I thought that I could easily skip this last one which sounded too rich for the other fillings so I agreed to try it out just with the other two.
Convinced that I had found the recipe somewhere in Elizabeth David I took her to bed with me before I settled on the final version. (The internet had proved singularly useless, nothing at all came up under Tranche St Remy). But all was not lost. In French Provincial Cooking, under Hot Hors- d’Œuvres, and called Tartlettes À La Provençale, at last I found it.
Coming indeed from “the dusty sleepy town of St. Remy” wrote Mrs. David in 1960 (St. Remy is now a trendy lively tourist trap). “It consists of little open pastry cases with three different varieties of fillings: an onion and black olive mixture as described above (a recipe for Pissaladière ), one of mushrooms and tomatoes and a third with prawns and green olives.”
So we clearly had another scenario on our hands. All in all I think I preferred Michael Waterfield’s version of the dish but I now had a third filling from Mrs. David, the onion, and olive one, in through which I would certainly introduce some anchovies.
Having just a few weeks ago made myself a Salade Niçoise with fresh tuna instead of tinned, and very much enjoyed the result, I was determined to include this in the Tranche and decided to add a bit of zing to this mixture by adding green olives and capers.
For the base I decided to use my new found skill in making Rough Puff Pastry, a recipe I had pinched from Michel Roux on the internet but simplified by doing the rubbing in the food processor.
The end result was, I thought better than any commercial pastry I might buy.
La Tranche St Remy
This will give you enough for 12 as a generous starter, I don’t think I would go through all the palaver for less.
You will need a baking tray which will take a piece of pastry 25cm by 35cm (an old Swiss roll tin will do fine)
300g strong flour
300g cold butter diced into little cubes
good pinch salt
120ml ice cold water.
500g prawns cooked and peeled
2 med onions
500g ripe tomatoes
salt and pepper.
500g fresh tuna
14 green olives (stoned)
1 tablespoon capers
175g mayonnaise (make your own if possible)
400g peeled sliced onions
12 anchovy fillets
12 stoned black olives.
First make the pastry:
Put the flour and the butter in the processor and process.
Check every few seconds, the pieces of butter should still be about the size of small peas.
Now add the water and whizz briefly to amalgamate.
Tip this mixture out on a floured board and pull together to bind. Do not knead or work.
Tip this into a plastic bag and chill for a half hour in the fridge..
Take out and roll into a piece roughly 25cm by 12 cm. Fold this into three and give it a quarter turn, roll again into a 25 by 12 rectangle and then fold in three again and chill in a bag in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Repeat this process after 30 minutes and then leave for another 30 minutes before using.
For the Tranche:
Roll this out to a piece 25 cm by 35 cm and bake blind (cover and weight down) at 175ºC, 350ºF , Gas 4 for about 20 to 30 minutes until brown and crisp.
Leave this cool on a rack.
Cook the Onion in a little olive oil in a covered pan until soft.
Add the tomatoes, sliced, and continue cooking until these melt.
Liquidise these (or push through a sieve) and season with salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar and the chopped basil.
Put this into a pot with the prawns, bring to a simmer, take off the heat and cool in the fridge.
Take the tuna off the bone and skin. Cut into little dice. Heat some oil in a hot pan and sear the piece quickly on all sides. Cool in the fridge.
Mix these with the halved olives (I used some stoned Spanish ones which are stuffed with anchovies) the capers and the mayonnaise.
Cook the sliced onions in some oil in a lidded pan on a gentle heat until very soft.
Now take off the lid and increase the heat until they go brown, do not let them burn.
Season these with salt and pepper and chill.
To assemble (about an hour before service):
Cut the cooked pastry piece into two long strips.
Down the middle of each strip put a line of the onion.
Cross the anchovies down this line and put black olives in the spaces.
Spoon the prawn mixture on one side and the tuna mixture on the other.
Serve in slices like a custard slice. A lotta work but very much worthwhile.
Martin Dwyer started cooking professionally over 40 years ago in the legendary “Snaffles Restaurant” in Dublin. After a time in a Relais Chateau in Anjou and in “The Wife of Bath” in Kent he opened his own much acclaimed restaurant, “Dwyers”, in Waterford in 1989. In 2004 he sold this and moved south to France where he and his wife Síle bought and restored an old presbytery in a village in the Languedoc. They now run Le Presbytère as a French style Chambre d’Hôte. Martin however is far too passionate about food to give up cooking so they now enjoy serving dinner to their customers on the terrace of Le Presbytère on warm summer evenings. Martin runs occasional cookery courses in Le Presbytère and Síle’s brother Colm does week long Nature Strolls discovering the Flora and Fauna of the Languedoc.
Le Presbytère can be seen at: www.lepresbytere.net;