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Even the Niçois are less than dogmatic about this one. There are as many petits farcis as there are cooks. Stuffing vegetables should be about intelligent usage des restes (using up leftovers) rather than about prescribed recipes.
The Niçois – and that pertains more to those in the hills, the arrière-pays, than those in Nice itself – tend to use meat. When being dogmatic, they will say not raw ground meat but ground leftover meat. When they are being very dogmatic, the meat has to be chopped leftover meat from a daube, with a bit of the juice to moisten.
However, petits farcis can be meatless. Rice can form the substance of the filling. Or bread, preferably at least a day old, will do the trick. My view is that with the best petits farcis the filling should be an extension of the vegetable and extraneous elements are unnecessary. I knew dogma would reappear sooner or later.
Half a large country loaf, a bit stale, with crusts removed and coarsely chopped in a food processor, should suffice. Serves six.
- Cut a very thin slice off the bottom of the courgettes so that they will stand upright and then cut off the tops about a centimetre below the stalk. Using a teaspoon or a melon baller, scoop out the pulp, leaving the walls at least half a centimetre thick. Chop the pulp coarsely.
- Dice the onion finely and stew it in a tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Add the courgette pulp and stew that in turn until it has released its liquid and the mixture starts to dry. Add the vinegar and the coarsely chopped mint, plus a good seasoning of sea salt, and stew this in turn until the vinegar has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs.
- Season the interior of the courgettes and fill them with the mixture. Season the flesh side of the tops and place them on top. Anoint with olive oil and bake at 180C for half an hour.
- Cut the peppers in half, through the stalk, and remove seeds and pith. Peel and slice the garlic finely; distribute inside the seasoned peppers. Place an anchovy fillet in each one and cover with a leaf of basil. Peel the tomatoes, remove seeds and chop pulp. Spoon this over the basil, season with salt and pepper and a few drops of olive oil. Cover with breadcrumbs, sprinkle with olive oil and bake in the same oven, 180C, for half an hour.
- Peel the onions, taking care to keep the bases intact. Drop into a pot of boiling salted water and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool and then scoop out the interiors leaving at least two layers and the base intact. Chop the interior pulp and mix in a bowl with the beaten yolks, breadcrumbs and cheese. Spoon the mixture into the onions and bake in the same oven for 20 minutes.
- Cut the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out most of the pulp with a teaspoon. Finely chop the garlic and the parsley and mix with the breadcrumbs and some sea salt. Without packing too hard, fill the tomatoes with this mixture, anoint with olive oil and bake in the same oven for 20 minutes.
- Serve the petits farcis just as they are at room temperature. They should never be served straight out of the oven, nor should they ever see the inside of a fridge.
Rowley’s drinking choice
A totally wine-friendly dish. A Bellet – white, red or rosé – is the authentic choice.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais
Photograph: Andy Sewell
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