Félix Vallotton was a Swiss-born French graphic artist and painter known for his paintings of nudes, landscapes and interiors and in particular for his innovative black-and-white woodcuts. His paintings are characterised by flat surfaces, strong lines, bold colours, and simplified details, reflecting the style of his woodcuts. Vallotton was influenced by the works of Dürer, Holbein, Ingres and by Ukiyo-e Japanese prints. He was associated with the French post-impressionist group The Nabis (from Hebrew term for “prophets”), which included Pierre Bonnard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Maurice Denis, and Édouard Vuillard. The Nabis were a Symbolist, cult-like group of young artists, who wanted to serve as “high priest” with the power to reveal the invisible, and devoted themselves to exploring personal and spiritual sources of art. They believed that the work of art was only meaningful when it expressed the personality of the artist.
“I dream of painting that is free from any literal following of nature. I would like to recreate landscapes only with the aid of the feeling which they evoked in me, a few basic big lines and one or two details selected without any precise connection with time or lighting.”
– Félix Vallotton
“Landscape with Trees or Last Sun Rays” really caught my eye and took me back to the childish imagination where broccoli were just mini oak trees. The trees in Vallotton’s painting are tall and slender and make a perfect match with broccoli’s young cousin – broccolini. With their long stalks and deep-green florets, broccolini are truly mini trees on plate.
I really love this painting’s subdued colours and mystic atmosphere of the sunset. The trees seem to be something more, some design object or an enigmatic being.
Broccolini is a natural hybrid between broccoli and gai lan(Chinese broccoli). It has a sweet flavour with notes of broccoli and asparagus. Broccolini was developed in the early nineties so it is a pretty new vegetable. It can be sautéed, steamed, roasted, and grilled. I love to add it to my stir-fries because it’s very tasty, easy and quick to prepare and it looks great.
You can use regular kale for this dish but it needs to be fried longer and can be very chewy. Baby kale is really soft and delicate and needs only a few seconds in the wok.
Vadouvan is a French blend of spices derived from an Indian Masala from the Pondicherry region of southern India where French colonial influence is still significant today. The ingredients may vary depending on the blend you buy, but the essential base – shallots, onion, garlic, cumin, mustard seeds and fenugreek, should always be there. Other ingredients can be: curry leaves, turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg, fennel seeds, coriander, chilli flakes, cloves. You can of course make your own blend, but the list of the ingredients is quite long and not available in an average household. If you never tried Vadouvan before you’ll be amazed by the great depth, unique flavour and magical aroma it adds to your dishes.
Freekeh is a young green durum wheat that has been roasted in the field, then rubbed and sun-dried for uniform colour, flavour and texture, and at the end cracked. It’s an ancient grain popular in the Middle East and Mediterranean. The rubbing process gives it its name, Farik – “rubbed” in Arabic.
According to legend, Freekeh was discovered by accident when an ancient Middle Eastern village was attacked by soldiers which set the wheat fields ablaze. In attempt to save what was left of their crops, the villagers realised that by rubbing away the burnt shells they revealed the delicious roasted grains.
Freekeh has a smoky and nutty flavour and chewy texture. It’s a great alternative for bulgur, rice or barley. Freekeh contains higher levels of fibre and protein than standard wheat, and is a source of vitamins B, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
- 200g broccolini
- 100g baby kale
- 1 cup Freekeh
- 2 chilli peppers
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp Vadouvan
- 1 lime
- 3 Tbsp sunflower oil
- Salt to taste
Boil 1 litre of water in a medium pot and add 1 cup of Freekeh. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes till the grains are soft.
Meanwhile cut the garlic and chilli into thin slices. Trim the dry stalk ends of broccolini with a knife. Heat up sunflower oil in a wok and stir-fry garlic, chilli and Vadouvan for a few seconds over high heat. Add the broccolini and fry for about 5 minutes until crisp tender adding the baby kale only at the end.
Drain the Freekeh and cover to keep warm.
When the vegetables are ready add a bit of salt and lime juice to taste.
Serve with hot Freekeh.