A recipe - cultural appropriation?


This is a Tarte Tatin - they are truly everywhere it seems to me. But of course it is also very definitely not a Tarte Tatin - that classic French apple tart. It's not even sweet. The main ingredients are cauliflower, chicken, pancetta and cherry tomatoes. So should the French feel affronted? Does it give you the wrong idea of French cuisine?


As to the first question - no. Jamie Oliver has taken the fundamental idea of an upside down tart, and then built on all sorts of other people's (and his own) savoury versions, to come up with something based around cauliflower. So really it's that imitation being a sincere form of flattery idea.


As to the second question - well yes in this form it's not a classic French dish, and perhaps the combination of ingredients is not quite French, but so what really? We've still got the Tarte Tatin idea, which, it seems, everyone is loving playing around with and which everyone knows is French. They probably all know the origin myth as well.


I'm writing about this particular Tarte Tatin because I made it the other night. It's a recipe from Jamie's book 7 Ways and alas the recipe is not online. I was going to write about it anyway, because it turned out really well and was a new and somewhat different way to deal with cauliflower. A vegetable which I like but which I sometimes find a bit of a challenge when it comes to thinking of what to do with it. A bit like carrots. But then having discovered all that stuff about cultural appropriation that I wrote about yesterday I thought it was a really good example of how a 'classic' dish has changed and the implications of that.


It was very tasty - and here is the recipe. (You can skip the recipe and read on if you like.) He calls it Cauli chicken pot pie for some reason. But it's definitely a Tarte Tatin.


Cauli chicken pot pie: smoked pancetta, sweet cherry tomatoes, and puff pastry

1 head of cauliflower (800g)

1 red onion

4 skinlesss, boneless, chicken thighs

4 rashers of smoked pancetta

160g ripe cherry tomatoes

1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard

2 heaped teaspoons runny honey

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 x 320g sheet all butter puff-pastry


Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Click off and discard only the tatty outer leaves from the cauliflower, then cut it into quarters. Blanch in a pan of boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile, peel the onion and chop into sixths. Halve the chicken thighs. In a 28cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan on a medium-high heat, fry the chicken and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and lots of black pepper until lightly golden, stirring occasionally.

Add the cauliflower to the pan. Cook and turn for 5 minutes, then push it all to one side of the pan and add the pancetta to crisp up. Now add the tomatoes, mustard, honey and red vinegar, and mix well. When it's looking really golden, roll the pastry out a little to fit the pan and place it over the top, using a wooden spoon to push it right into the edges. Bake for 25 minutes at the bottom of the oven, or until golden and puffed up. Using oven gloves, pop a large plate over the pan and confidently but very carefully turn out and serve.


Here is my finished version - and yes it's good with a green salad. It's not the same though because, of course, probably like most of us, I fiddled with it a bit - mostly because I had to, but partly because I couldn't resist - that was the adding of some chopped rosemary to the mix to give an extra boost to the flavour. The others were necessary improvisations - less than a whole cauliflower - well there were only two of us. I think I used about two thirds and I chopped it smaller than he said. I didn't have faith that it would cook through - and I think I stand by that. I had no pancetta so used streaky bacon instead which did very well. I had no cherry tomatoes, so I had to use ordinary tomatoes cut into sixths. I also used chicken breasts but really I should have used thighs I think. The breasts were a tiny bit dry. I cut them into four pieces each I think.


Anyway, as I said it turned out very well, and although Jamie doesn't give any ideas for changes that could be made I'm sure you could think of some. Leeks instead of onions? Some celery? Different herbs? Different flavourings - things like soy sauce or balsamic vinegar even chilli would probably work.


My point being that once somebody started fiddling with Tarte Tatin - initially tentatively by making a pear version rather than an apple one, and gradually more and more adventurously, pretty soon you are a long, but delicious way, away from the original and over to you to experiment yet more. Hey presto Tarte Tatin has become a technique rather than a recipe. And aren't we the richer for it even if we do really enjoy the original version every now and then?


And this time I found a frying pan in which my dinner plates fitted perfectly so it was much easier to do that final flip on to the plate.


Jamie's 6 other pretty inventive ways with cauliflower included this Cauliflower cheese pasta which I also tried and which was a bit bland - more so for David than I, I think - but you could spice it up with chilli, or add some herbs. I made the mistake of adding some leftover Béarnaise sauce, which rather scrambled the sauce a bit. Stupid of me. I haven't given up on that one though. You could do the same thing with broccoli.


His other cauliflower recipes included a curry, a risotto, a traybake, a rice dish - kind of Iranian rice cake, and a remoulade base for chicken.


Almost all of them fiddled with various 'classic' dishes in various ways - most of them culturally different from Jamie's Essex background. Well done Jamie say I.

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