Hans and I have always made a point of having a weekly date night. Just the two of us, a quiet dinner, candles, old French records and a nice bottle of wine. Although it's usually a simple affair without much real cooking, it's something we really look forward to. We love our steaks, but last week, for example, we enjoyed a wonderful omelette aux cèpes with grilled tomatoes, outdoors under the stars and next to the warmth of our fireplace. The food may have been simple, but everything else that surrounded it was the stuff good memories are made of.
There are other times though when I really get into the kitchen to cook us something a little different. Perhaps something that requires a little more preparation and feels just a tad more special. Like yesterday, when we feasted on a comforting, soul-warming meal of tender roast poussins on top of a creamy purée of celeriac and potato.
I was fortunate enough to find two fat, little French poussins at the wonderful market held in Hilversum, not far from where I live.
It's the same market where I found the stall selling wild mushrooms, so if you happen to be in the area, make sure you check it out on either Wednesday or Saturday. I stuffed the poussins with fresh herbs from the garden and a few bruised garlic cloves...
I then rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with a spice mix I always have in the cupboard- a recipe from the wonderful book Joie de Vivre by Robert Arbor and Katherine Whiteside. The mash was made from one potato and a little more than half a large celeriac. It was a very tasty, earthier variation to simple mashed potatoes and very suitable for the dark, flavorful pan juices. This was exactly the kind of dish the chilly, windy evening called for. Perfect for the two of us but definitely suitable for the next time I invite people over for dinner.
Before I give you the recipe, here are the ingredients for the spice mix mentioned above. Store in a jar and rub it into your meat before cooking. It's especially good on pork and chicken.
4 tsps salt (I use fleur de sel) plus 2 tsps of each of the following: ground pepper, smoked or sweet paprika, herbes de Provence and tarragon.
Roast Poussins with Creamy Purée of Celeriac and Potato
2 fat, little poussins
4 bruised garlic cloves
small bunch of thyme, rosemary and 4 sage leaves
3 tsps spice mix
mild olive oil
150 ml dry white wine
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
a little more than half of a celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tsp grainy mustard
good knob of butter
Stuff the little birds with the bruised garlic and herbs, rub them with oil and sprinkle each one with 1 1/2 tsp of the spice mix. Place them on a roasting tin and leave them in the fridge for at least three hours.
Preheat the oven to 190C. Roast the poussins for about one hour. Add in the wine about 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, making sure you scrape up all the bits at the bottom of the roasting tin.
To make the mash, put your chopped potato and celeriac in a pan with salted water and boil for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, add the mustard, cream and butter and mash.
Serve the poussins with the mash and drizzle with the dark, winey pan juices. A sprinkle of parsley would be nice too.