Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sex and food - well, food mostly ...

Well, here I am slowly sipping a glass of calva in the armchair and wondering where the hell the week's gone. Nowhere good, that's for sure. That's the problem with weeks these days: just not enough time in them. Someone, somewhere, is doing a poor job and skimping on the seconds.

Don't try telling me you can't get the wood these days, it's just a lack of professionalism. Or a complete disregard for customer requirements. Or all three.

On the other hand, perhaps someone's nicking the stuff from the back of the trucks when they're pulled over on the autoroute stops. I mean, it's easy enough, and it's not as though anyone's actually going to bother checking up on exactly how many seconds there are in the day (84600, if you were wondering) when it gets delivered. Missing one or two, who's going to notice?

Given the weather, I for one could not care less. Even if I am getting short-changed by two seconds a day. It's been bright, blue, sunny and above all warm for the past week, and I would very much like that to continue.

So I'm not going to say anything that could change that. I will not complain that the stream is dry (no rain, don't you know?), nor shall I mention (gods forfend) that it can be a bit foggy in the mornings (although not here); I shall cultivate stoicism, live with these minor problems, and enjoy spectacular sunsets and afdternoon temperatures around 16°. So what's it like for you?

As I look over the photos I post here, it comes to mind that perhaps I appear to spend a lot of time in bars. Or one bar in particular, anyway. This is probably true, and I'll make no excuses for it.

In fact, I appear to haunt the place. Whatever, I was a bit upset on Saturday when Bryan (you can see him furtively rushing towards the entrance of Cardinals, if you look carefully) and I met up for the after-market drink, where we congratulate one another on our purchases ("my parsnips are bigger than yours") and commiserate on hangovers (I don't have them, 'cos I don't drink. He does, and does. If you see my point.) and found no nibbles set out for our use.

I admit it was only 10:30, the hot blonde waitress hadn't even turned up (another hangover?) and we were the only two in the joint, apart from the bartenders who were desultorily discussing their sex lives and hangovers, but still: there are standards to be maintained, and if a man can't walk into his bar on a Saturday morning and enjoy a bowl of pretzels with a glass of white you really have to ask yourself where the world is going.

Congratulations to you for "The Amazing Johnsons". The first episode really was that; amazingly fun. Have to love the idea of a self-exiled band of Norse gods trying to live quietly in Auckland. Definitely one to keep watching. And had you seen that the second season of "Justified" has started? Go watch that too, I doubt you'll regret it. While you're at it, go pick up "Being Human" as well; not the US remake though, for pity's sake.

It has come to the wandering remnants of what I'm pleased to call my mind, for want of a better word, that here we are in late winter - or early spring, if you're optimistic - and we've had neither cassoulet nor choucroute. Did manage a tartiflette, mind you.

But it's rather sad, 'cos I love a choucroute (have to organise a soirée some time soon, as an excuse) and quite frankly you should not put me in the same room as a good cassoulet unless I've had my tranquilisers, for otherwise I'm quite capable of sleeping with it.  Energetically. And quite possibly on the table, which would be rather impolite.

Whatever, for a decent cassoulet you need to start out with around 500gm of dried white beans (for some reason they're called "lingots" in Frog), which you need to soak overnight. It's not as though it'll stop you farting, but the beans will at least be edible. More or less.

After their evening's soaking you need to drain and rinse the little sods, and stick them in a large saucepan with 1.5l of beef stock, and let it simmer for an hour. (I have a confession to make. This recipe involves no alcohol, which is kind of unsupportable - for me at least - so I use half and half stock and white wine. I feel better for it. But don't feel obliged to follow my example.)

While that's happening it would be a good idea to get the meat ready. Dragging out  from the freezer some of those wild duck that your farmer friends will insist on shooting and giving to you, and removing their legs, which are the only edible bits on the beast anyway, would be really good. A couple of lamb shanks would also come in handy, as would a good 200gm chunk of pork belly or bacon. And don't forget a garlic sausage, sliced thickly, or failing that a couple of decent pork sausages.

All these shall ye brown in a frying pan, along with a chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, some thyme and rosemary, and heap it all with the beans and stock and stuff ye shalt in an enormous casserole. (Hence the name "cassoulet", incidentally. It's a dish which is cooked in a "cassole". Not, for once, joking.)

Then you need to add the contents of a 400gm tin of peeled cherry tomatoes and maybe a bit of tomato purée, a bit more wine if it looks too thick for your taste, cover the dish, and into the oven with it. For about three hours. At which point you could sprinkle fresh breadcrumbs over the top and put it back, uncovered, to let it cook for the last half-hour, or not - your choice.
This is not particularly refined food - basically baked beans without toast - but it is rather bloody good. Especially in winter, when you really want carbs'n'fat.

In other news, Jerry now knows his stage: he'll be spending his hiolidays at the Chateau de Rochegude (please try not to laugh, that really is its name) down in the arse-end of the Drôme. If you look at the picture galleries ( you could be forgiven for feeling that he's not quite in that league yet.

Do you have any idea just how difficult it can be, trying to keep your tie out of clafouti batter? Thought not. I only ask because I put one on this morning especially to frighten the old hags at the market (works a treat, by the way, especially when combined with my '60s sunglasses), still got the thing dangling around my neck and I can tell you it's a right bitch when you're trying to incorporate the meringue into the batter.

Unless of course you like ties with food on the sharp end (I can see as how that could come in handy during interminable meetings). And don't get me onto the subject of cufflinks.

But this may not be a problem you have: most relatively sane people of my acquaintance actually remove their ties (that's those of them that wear the things) before heading into the kitchen. I tend to remove jewellery - watch, cufflinks, tiepins, stuff like that - rather than clothing. Not sure why. Just shy, I suppose.

And as an aside, what do you think of "Commando Food" as an idea? Having a gite somewhere in the South could be fun, and Margo could doubtless organise quilting stays and workshops with enough people that I wouldn't spend all my time with the rosé in the kitchen, but I also quite like the idea of being a free-lance personal chef.

Get a phone call, organise the menu (client takes care of the wine, obviously), insult them a bit à la Basil Fawlty and then, just as the in-laws arrive so do I, abseiling through the kitchen windows in camouflage gear (cue a few explosions amongst the garden gnomes) to deliver a filet de boeuf Rossini with a side order of ragout d'asperges. (Could I abseil down from a helicopter? That would be so cool. But I do have vertigo. Maybe not a good idea. Don't want vomit on the veal.)

Is that doable, or should I go have another cold shower?

1 comment:

  1. Your absolutely amazing daughterFebruary 14, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    Nice post, except for the bit about the cassoulet. Euurgh beans. Yuck yuck yuck. Eww. Anyway what I actually came to post was congrats to jelly bean for the stage, looks damn fancy. Though hopefully he's not silly enough to wear a tie while cooking.