There he is, rotten muddy wet and a chill as freezes you thorough and thoroughly, damp and moody, November at its finest.
Bags of rain passing in front of the window, the crows cawing in the big bare oak trees, the sun a tired cold disc behind the low hanging clouds, rolling flatly along the hills and making an effort not to fall asleep. Or even worse, fall down. It isn’t easy to stay warm these days, the kettle is set on the stove, as a cup of very hot tea is the best remedy, hibiscus flowers are my favourites of the moment.
I have lighted candles inside the house, even at daytime, and put up some music to jerk myself into action in this most sedentary of all months. Eating colours, drinking colours, this is what I do to brave the grey outside, rich and cheerful colours, this is what I am about, hibiscus tea and a fantastic purple red cabbage velouté with marrons glacés, glazed chestnuts on a crunchy cheese grid.
For the red cabbage velouté:
Take half a red cabbage and finely slice it, taking care to cut off the core and the rough white parts that taste too bitter. Glaze with a dash of sunflower seed oil at medium heat in a wide pan. When you feel the cabbage soften, grate one or two apples into the pan, depending on the size of your cabbage. Gently stir. Then grate one potato into the pan, this will help you to get a velvety fluffy texture later. Deglaze with 3dl of stout vegetable broth and gently let it simmer for an hour at low temperature. You may add a spicy note by filling juniper berries, peppercorns and bay leaves in a tea infuser and let it soak in the red cabbage.
For the cheese grid:
Whisk two eggs until creamy and shiny. Add a dash of muscat, a pinch of fleur de sel and about 100g of strong cheese. Stir well, then add four spoons of rye flour and mix. Let the dough sit at room temperature for twenty minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
For the marrons glacés:
Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, cook two to three chestnuts per person for about 35 minutes. Peel the chestnus while they’re still warm and be careful to remove all brown parts. Put them back into the pan with half a teaspoonful of white sugar per chestnut and a little water and bring to cook, reduce the temperature so that the sugar sauce is just happily bubbling. The water will slowly evaporate, the chestnuts caramelise. Be careful to add some water and reduce cooking temperature should the caramel get too sticky. Set aside as soon as finished.
Now back to the cheese grids. Put some parchment paper on a baking tray and form grids a little larger than the soup bowl you intend to use. I found it easiest to work with a piping spout (if you don’t have one readily available, you may use parchment paper rolled like a funnel). Bake for ten minutes.
When the cabbage is cooked soft and mellow, take out the tea infuser and blend. Add a sip of calvados and season to your taste. Let it sit for a couple of minutes.
Serve with the cheese grid and the marrons glacés.