One of the best music festivals around is the Verbier festival. Every year the town, perfectly located halfway up a magnificent bowl of an alpine valley (the Vallais) hosts a really eclectic mix of musicians – most simply outstanding – performing in chalets, churches and concert halls. Often first violins are given their longed-for opportunity of a prestigious solo. The restaurants in the town are full of discussion, about symphonies, timing, voices, harmonies…Sometimes diners are lucky enough to an impromptu demonstration of a musical point being made.

This year I would have given my eye teeth to be there. Today is the farewell concert of my favourite music consortium, the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club – these Cuban musicians have been touring around the world in various permutations and combinations since 1997.

So the mark the occasion in a culinary sense something Cuban might have been in order and my plan was to give the recipe for Moros y Cristianos – rice and black beans – but in the end although the monochrome dish looks elegant, it’s really double the carbohydrates as well as being twice the effort. So I decided to invent a monochrome recipe instead using cauliflower and Japanese noodles for white and mushrooms for black…. But then I was lucky enough to find a head of romanesco. Here anyway is a great tasting and looking pasta dish created in appreciation of the very many enjoyable hours cooking and pottering in the kitchen I’ve spent listening to the music of Ruben Gonzales, Omara Portuondo, and all the others. Chan Chan, in the YouTube clip below, is their signature tune.

For two

  • One small head of cauliflower, or if you can get it, romanesco
  • 2 nests of instant white Japanese noodles
  • 4 slices of streaky bacon
  • 2 generous tbsp double cream
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom
  • 2 cloves black (if possible) garlic
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 generous tsp Dijon-strength mustard
  • Olive oil or butter to fry

 

  1. Get a smallish saucepan (it’s for the cauliflower) of salted water on to boil, cover with a lid
  2. Peel the mushroom and take off the stalk, chop up the stalk, cut the mushroom into quarters
  3. Peel and chop the shallot
  4. If you’re using ordinary garlic, peel and crush with a little smoked salt (not too much because of the bacon). Chop the black garlic clove finely
  5. Chop off the stalk, ribs and leaves leaving the head in one piece, with the stalk slightly hollowed out
  6. Put into the saucepan, get the water simmering, and cover. Cook for about a quarter of an hour until the head is just tender – don’t overcook
  7. Boil a kettle
  8. Meanwhile fry the bacon, the chopped mushroom stalk, the mushroom quarters and the onion adding olive oil or butter as you need.
  9. Put the noodles in a large bowl (you’re going to add the frying pan contents to it) and cover with boiled water for three minutes
  10. Take out the mushroom quarters and set aside, keeping them warm. Add the garlic to the frying pan, and then the cream and mustard – allow that to bubble up gently. Stir well.
  11. Drain the noodles and put them back in the bowl together with the contents of the frying pan. Mix well.
  12. Put the whole onto an attractive serving plate, 
  13. Drain the cauliflower or romanesco head and place in the middle
  14. Surround it with the mushroom quarters
  15. Serve with a flourish

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