Omelette with Artichoke

We love artichokes! It’s such fun to serve a steamed artichoke with a nice dipping sauce made of mayonnaise, whole grain mustard and some lemon juice. Thoroughly relaxing food. And when we have time on our hands, we prepare them à la barigoule.
Recently we wrote about la Cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale. In this very informative book about the traditional food of Nice, you will find a recipe for an omelette with artichokes. We liked the idea, did our shopping and followed the instructions. Unfortunately, sorry Madame Barale!, we were not too happy with the result. The recipe suggests frying the omelette on medium heat on both sides. We think that’s a bit too much: in our case the flavours of the fried egg overwhelmed the subtle taste of the onion, artichoke and garlic. We tweaked the recipe (see below) but that shouldn’t stop you from buying the book and preparing the original.

The taste of the omelette is sweet thanks to cynarine, an intriguing chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. Cynarine will enhance even the slightest trace of sweetness, in this case the sweetness of the onions and the cooked garlic. The taste of the artichoke is also nutty and bitter in a gentle way, which works really well with the eggs.

Wine Pairing

The cynarine will also enhance any sweetness in your wine, so you need a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance a Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.

What You Need

  • 1 Large Artichoke
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 2 Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the artichoke, steam for 45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Use a spoon to remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Use a fork to make a chunky mash of the heart. Set aside.
Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Add the artichoke, mix and leave for 10 minutes on low heat. Mash the cooked garlic and add to the mixture. Add some black pepper. Beat two eggs, a bit longer than usual. Add the eggs to the mixture and allow to set, very slowly, making sure the omelette is baveuse (moist, warm and soft).

La Cuisine Niçoise

There are not many cities that can rightfully claim to have their own ‘cuisine’. The French city of Nice is one of them. Just think about Salade Niçoise, Bagna Caude, Tourte aux Blettes and Socca. Strongly influenced by Italian cuisine it is flavourful, rich and varied.

Hélène Barale was owner and chef of the restaurant Chez Hélène in the Rue Beaumont, number 39 in Nice. Here she prepared delicious, regional and traditional food. Ravioli à la Niçoise, gnocchi’s, panisses, pissaladière, ragout de mouton, loup grillé, pattissoun, everything freshly cooked in her kitchen for 150 guests per day.

Three examples

Panisses are made with chickpea flour, water, salt and olive oil. You make a hot dough, allow it to cool and set, then cut it into chips and deep fry. Serve with black pepper. Delicious.
Obviously you also want to know what Pattissoun is! If you search for it, you will find references to a nicely shaped squash, but Hélène Barale’s recipe is for a cake. She makes it with flour, yeast, sugar, raisins, orange zest, rum and eau de fleurs d’oranger (orange flower water). Sounds absolutely lovely.
Another very tasty recipe is for an omelette with artichokes. It’s a combination of onions, garlic, artichoke and eggs. Straightforward recipe, yummy result.

Retirement

She retired at the age of 88 in 2004. For a few years the restaurant was a museum, but it is now closed. Thankfully her son Paule Laudon wrote down 106 recipes of his mother’s cuisine. His style is very clear so it’s not too difficult to prepare the dishes. The book looks like a cahier and it is edited with much love and care. It comes with an interesting introduction by Paule Laudon, the text of Nissa La Bella, which is the unofficial anthem of the city (O la miéu bella Nissa/Regina de li flou/Li tiéu viehi taulissa/Iéu canterai toujou/etcetera, meaning something like O my beautiful Nice/Queen of all flowers/Your old rooftops/I will always sing of you/etcetera) and pictures of the restaurant. The book does not contain pictures of the dishes.

La cuisine Niçoise d’Hélène Barale (in French only) was first published in 2006 and is now in its 11th edition. You can buy it via the usual channels and the French publisher for € 15,90.

Tamagoyaki (Japanese Omelette)

Rolled Omelette

Tamagoyaki is best described as a Japanese rolled omelette and it is often served for breakfast or included in a bento box. It’s made by rolling multiple thin layers of egg; let’s say the concept of a Swiss roll but with much thinner layers. Making Tamagoyaki requires years of practice and a special rectangular pan (a makiyakinabe) using chopsticks only. But we, as western cooks with little patience, we use a round small, non-stick pan and two spatulas. The result is very tasty and it will make you think of a real Tamagoyaki.

The ingredients are a bit of a puzzle. Eggs, soy sauce and mirin for sure. Other ingredients include sugar (for a sweet version), sake and dashi (for a savoury version called Dashimaki Tamago).

The technique of rolling thin layers of egg is a great way of making an omelette. Feel free to replace the Japanese ingredients with some chicken stock and finely grated Parmesan cheese. You will love it!

Wine Pairing

Tamagoyaki comes with some umami thanks to the dashi and a touch of sweetness. Enjoy with a sparkling wine, for instance a Crémant de Bourgogne. Our choice was a glass of Blanc de Blanc Brut made by Vitteaut Alberti. Its aromas are fresh and flowery; the flavours suggest honey and pear. You could also serve a dry Riesling or Sylvaner.
Serving sake is also a good idea; our choice would be a Ginjo-Shu because of its delicate and light flavour.

What You Need

  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons of (Light) Dashi
  • 1 Teaspoon of Mirin
  • 1 Teaspoon of Light Soy Sauce
  • Oil

What You Do

Heat a small non-stick pan (10 -15 centimetre) until warm but not hot. Whisk the eggs, add dashi and mirin. Use kitchen paper soaked with oil to coat the pan. Use a (small) sauce spoon to add a bit of the mixture. Make sure you can repeat this as often as possible, so it has to be a really thin layer of egg. When nearly set, roll it up and move to the side. Coat the pan with oil. Add some of the mixture, make sure it connects to the roll, wait until nearly set and roll it up. Repeat until the mixture is used up. The tamagoyaki should be yellow with perhaps a touch of golden brown.
When done, feel free to shape the tamagoyaki by rolling it in a bamboo sushi mat. Slice and serve, perhaps with some grated daikon on the side.