Saturday, May 28, 2011

Will Slum For Food ...

Purely out of a spirit of inquiry and a dedicated desire to please - and, let it be admitted, a poorly concealed urge to boast about the weather we're having - I have been selflessly testing some of the small bar/resto joints around Chambéry.

At, may I add, great personal expense and inconvenience, not that I expect to be rewarded for my efforts, oh no, I'm not that sort at all..

It's a personal, ongoing project which may or may not be of interest to you, but to date my list, in descending order of preference, goes as follows:

L'Arbre à Bières, rue Roche
  • friendly, quick, and a lot cheaper than it ought to be, given the quality of the food (a liking for flammenkuche would be good, but not necessary. And the plat du jour always looks interesting, and is invariably copious.). Have books, and chess sets, should that be to your taste. And the salade landaise is definitely more than just edible. On the downside, far too easy to sit outside in the sun nursing a pichet of rosé. Suspect students frequent it in the evenings. Have not investigated the state of the toilets.
Le Modesto, rue St Réal
  • a good place, in a busy, narrow street, to sit and drink and watch people pass: the food's simple but good, and once again the service is quick. And as befits what is principally a wine bar, there's a good selection of plonk, but I'd recommend going with the nicely chilled house blanc de Gascogne in this weather. Oddly enough, more people seem to head north along the street than head south: this cannot be sustainable in the long term.
Out of Chambéry - at Montmelian, in fact, there's La Fine Fourchette, Grande Rue
  • It's about two metres wide so do not go there expecting to be able to swing a cat: not if you expect the cat to emerge relatively unscathed anyway. Friendly and efficient, looks what people sort of expect a Frog family restaurant to be, and the food is indeed good (with one exception, a pork curry which was, if not a complete catastrophe, certainly not up to the usual standards). The terrine maison as an entrée is excellent. A la carte there's something involving foie gras which I shall have to try one of these days: stick to the formule and you'll escape at 14€ per personne, plus a bit more for a pichet of wine.
Cardinal's, Place Metropole
  • the ambiance and the décor are great: definitely Irish pub style, with overstuffed, cracked leather banquettes and elderly polished wood tables. Luckily the waiters are more youthful. And they are definitely the only ones in Chambéry to do fish and chips. Noisy in the evenings, and will show rugby on the big screen at the drop of a hat. Big plus is the free WiFi access: I have the access code, if ever you need it to settle an argument or something. The names of all their cocktails involve sex, somehow. It still just pisses me off that you can't sit out on the terrace in front of the cathedral and get a drink after 11am on a Saturday anymore.
Relais des Ducs, avenue du Comte Vert
  • Bit more up-market than the above, and slower, but the food's not half bad, if tending a bit towards the traditional. Still, a good place for a meal and a beer at midday. The pigeons waddling around are fat, but I've not yet seen them on the menu. Doubtless just as well, they're probably toxic.
Le Refuge, Place de l'Hôtel de Ville
  • Do not expect food, just nibbles with your drinks - personally I go off and snag a bowl or two from the bar. Do it with sufficient aplomb and no-one will even think to question your right to do so. If you can hold out long enough, you might manage to catch the eye of one of the waiters: if you do ever manage the trick, I would personally suggest you nail it to the table so it doesn't get away. The service is glacial, the owner Pierre is execrable (and his taste in neckwear is, if possible, even fouler), but it's an excellent place to hang out on a Saturday morning after a hard trip round the market. And for some reason the waitresses are all rather hot.
If anyone out there is willing to pay me to continue my research (I assure you that I am waiting on a grant at the moment, but just need a little something to tide me over until it comes through) donations can be made via the usual channels. And if not, I swear to god I will personally kill this sack full of adorable fluffy little kittens, and their blood will be on your hands. Think about that, people.

Whatever, it's not even June yet and they've just brought in the first load of hay from the paddock behind us. Had I slipped the guy some money, perhaps he could have occupied himself of our little patch as well ... mind you, he might have made a bit of a mess getting the combine harvester in there. Maybe this weekend ... but then I'm off to Paris on Sunday for a couple of days, which won't help matters.

After much reflection (which for some strange reason seems to always take place out on the terrace, usually with a glass and a cigar to hand, don't know why that should be) I have  come to the conclusion that what I really need to do is stop mucking about with chicken breast and use a magret de canard.

With the fat sliced through to the flesh and then seared until just nicely pink inside, then sliced and reformed with slices of a strong chèvre and caramelised figs, drizzled with honey and mustard and grilled it should be bliss. I'll let you know. Or alternatively, you could try it, and let me know. Whichever.

But tonight, as I'm waiting for the thunderheads to roll down from the Bauges I rather think I'll just bake a few potatoes and mix up some mustardy vinaigrette to go in them - or sour cream and chives, don't know - and get a salad ready, then fry up some hampe. Nothing like a nice bloody bit of steak to end the day.

Then tomorrow I've some some sardine fillets, which should go down a treat on the barbecue. Seems a bit of a waste to spend an hour getting it fired up and glowing (yes, sometimes I can see the point to a gas barbecue, what the hell, I'm just a reactionary luddite) for all of five minutes grilling: suppose I could do some vegetables as well. Thinly sliced potatoes, spread out on tinfoil and wrapped up after being liberally anointed with salt and thyme and olive oil, anyone? Sorry, I forgot - you're not really into barbecues at the moment, are you?

Later ... well, the thunderstorm did roll in, which rather put the kibosh on the barbecue idea. Turned the sardines into pissaladière instead - perhaps not one of my more inspired ideas. It was edible, but they're plucky little bastards. Whatever, right now the sky is clearing and another beautiful day is promised for tomorrow - here's hoping.

A bright sunny day, shopping basket bulging with apricots and nectarines and tomatoes that finally taste like something and a big bunch of fragrant mint, a chardonnay with friends at Le Modesto - sounds pretty much like heaven to me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Random Houses ...

So I thought I'd start this off with a song, or perhaps more of a constipated shriek if you want me to be honest, seeing as it's summer over here now (it's official! The primeur from the Drôme is at the market! Tomatoes!) so let's hear it for "Oooooh as I was a-walking round St Pierre-oh, with a hey nonny nonny and a balloon onna stick and a stupid hat with frikkin' bells on ..."

But if you lift your eyes from the dog turds in the gutters (or, considerably less unsavoury, ladies' chest appendages) roofs and things can actually look quite nice. And at least architecture doesn't shuffle to the back to try and get out of the photo, probably due to its notorious lack of motility. Nor does it blink at the wrong moment, or have some really wierd grimace that is its "smile for photos" and makes it look like a complete twat, or some sort of alien reptile.

Which is why, today, you get buildings.

Margo took Malyon off to Decathlon the other day to get all that interesting stuff like a decent backpack, hiking boots, wet-weather gear, warm-weather gear, water bottles, frog repellent ... everything necessary for the Well-Equipped Student in The Great Outdoors.

So the boot of the car was kinda full when I dropped her off to Geneva airport on Tuesday. At least she remembered to put the pocket-knife into the backpack as checked baggage, so it didn't get confiscated.

(Which is what happened to me last time we came back to Noo Zild - completely forgot that in my laptop bag was my little leatherman-style multi-function wotsit that i always like to carry about for disassembling computers should that become necessary. it got found and dumped when we boarded. What a pain.)

Wednesday I thought I might as well profit from Margo's disappearance to Paris and the lovely weather to do rather more than prop up the bar at le Modesto' (don't blame me for the apostrophe, they put the damn thing there, but I promise I won't spell it that way again) and actually eat there for once. Not too bad at all: gratin des ravioles with slices of foie gras (must do that here, actually) and a decentish simple salad (although why everyone seems to feel obliged to drizzle the poor things with reduced balsamic vinegar is beyond me).

But could someone please explain to me why in hell the "café gourmand" has become THE thing to offer - and to order - for dessert? I mean yes, it can be quite nice and the ones at le Modesto or l'Atelier are decently presented, but as a general rule it's still just a couple of chocolates onna plate with a coffee when it all comes down to it. With honourable exceptions.

Mind you it makes life easier for the restaurateurs because it requires sod-all imagination, so I suppose there's precious little point jumping off the band-wagon while it's rolling.

And although I am not one to diss a tarte au citron meringuée and other such delights, a bit of originality would be nice. Hell, we have strawberries AND cherries right now: so what's wrong with a salad of those, marinated with a bit of grand marnier? Can't do much simpler. Or better.

Come to that, peaches halved and stuffed with a mix of crushed amaretti, butter, sugar and cinnamon then baked with orange juice until it goes syrupy are pretty bloody good too. And peaches are now in season. What are these people waiting for?

And in recent news, we'll have the honour of finally having Jerry cook for us this weekend.. There's been no damascene conversion to the delights of our tiny grubby kitchen, just that he has an exam coming up and he needs to prepare.

So the menu is, apparently, fricassée de poulet, tomates farcis à la provençale and tarte aux fraises.

He even made up a shopping list, after rooting through the contents of the cupboards: once I'd pointed out that I was not going to buy crème patissière in a sachet and he could bloody well make it from scratch (god nose we've enough recipes around here) and offered a few other helpful criticisms of that nature it boiled down to chicken legs and strawberries (he forgot the tomatos, lucky I didn't I suppose).

Ah, the delights of ordering delivery via Chronopost. I ordered a camera for Margo to replace her old Ixus, which breathed its digital last some time ago, and so as to be sure of having it for when she heads off to Switzerland on Sunday asked for chronopost, which is guaranteed 24 hours.

Placed the order on Monday, expedited Tuesday, Wednesday check up on the tracking n° and it is "undergoing delivery". So far so good, then I arrive home that night, no parcel ... and the bloody thing is back at Chambery because the address was "insufficient or inaccurate". WTF? The bloody Chronopost delivery van couldn't find our street - not that St Pierre is particularly enormous or complicated to get around in. Probably has difficulty finding his arse with both hands, too.

So I wind up wasting half an hour going in to the Chronopost warehouse at Chambery to pick it up in person, rather than having the damn thing delivered to the post office here and risking it only being available on Monday. there it was that I discovered that it was not delivered because apparently there is no n° 317 in our street, which comes as a bit of a surprise given that we've been living there for the past twelve years or so.

Still, Margo now has her shiny new camera (a little Olympus as it happens, with more megapixels than you can shake a stick at, but i am not jealous 'cos at least mine has decent optics, size isn't everything you know) which will doubtless make her very happy, when she gets her paws on it.

Personally I've never got the hang of shooting with a screen rather than a viewfinder, and the little thing feels completely lost in my paws anyway.

It has been recently drawn to my attention (only this very morning, in fact, over a glass of white wine vitamins with Bryan) that today has apparently been pencilled in for a rapture, which I suppose to be some sort of impromptu musical event. I admit that I'm not into rap at all, but I would still have liked to have been given a bit more notice. I mean, Jerry might have liked to have gone along, given that he likes rasta. (These are the same thing, aren't they?)

Although to be quite honest, sometimes I think that the interest in rasta is mainly because of the emphasis on the medicinal uses of grass, something in which I've never really seen the point. If I'm going to kill off a few billion brain cells I'll do it the good old-fashioned way thank you very much, with alcohol. Or formaldehyde. Depending on whose brain it is.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is, that if all these people are just going to float up into the air uttering weak rapturous moans (think of some of the soundtrack of Deep Throat, if that helps, forget the dialogue, it was crap) or otherwise disappear in an apocalyptic fashion, would it be wrong of me to go into their houses and take some of the things I've coveted?

(This covetousness is probably why I'm planning on being around on Sunday, probably to steal from the collection plate. I'm given to understand that along with a number of other personality traits I happen to have, including but not limited to lust, sloth and a fondness for alcohol, its possession apparently disqualifies one from sticking a needle in the eye of a camel, or something. Well tough, I didn't really want to do that anyway, and even if camels are gross beasts it still sounds cruel to me.)

Anyway, right now the thunderheads are massing over the Bauges as I type and it's going all quiet, so perhaps we'll finally get one of the orages they've been promising all week. I for one would quite enjoy that. Although it might put paid to the rapture party (just to say goodbye, don't you know?) that I was toying with.

Oh, and just on the offchance you've not yet come across it, the CDC's advice on being ready for a zombie attack may well come in useful. Especially if you're not a floater, and get left behind when (insert deity of choice) pulls the chain.

(Update: heavens just opened, waiting for arrival of Ark. No signs of ascensions though - maybe it doesn't work for Catholics.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bloat Sunday ...

Well, that's a bit of a b'stard: bloody Blogger has gone and lost my draft. Given how interesting it all was, should be easy to redo it you'd think - like hell. Really don't know what's happened to my memory, seems to be going down the tubes like that thingy you get. To do with aluminium ions. Or something, sounds like Alzheimers. Whatever.

Anyway, I know I've spoken before about dying hard drives: a right bugger. To date that's three LaCies that have carked it, now a Western Digital has joined the flock. It's the bloody micro USB connecter that's gone, I'm sure of it: if you hold it in just the right position with an ant turning tricks on the USB cable it will work; when the ant gets too shagged out Windows informs me that "this device could work faster if plugged into a USB2.0 hub", and offers to format it for me.

Format it? When there's two years of purloined TV series on the thing? Does Windows take me for an idiot (please do not answer that)? So what do you do? You copy it, slowly, with a supply of fresh lascivious ants close to hand, that's what.

And when that's done, I swear I am going to get myself one of those universal disk to USB adapters, and I will remove the guts from the frikkin' WD drive and plug it in, and I will do it all again, just to be sure. Because you never know when you might want to go back and watch episode 3 of the second season of Californication.

(Later ... having put a screwdriver to its god-given porpoise ie levering the case open - a screwdriver is better than a hammer for that sort of delicate operation, in my experience, although a power drill has its proponents -  I discover that inside the little plastic box there is in fact a WD hard drive with a scary yellow notice on it saying "Do NOT cover any drive holes". Just what does that mean, I wonder?)

Hubris has finally caught up with me: after all these weeks of fine weather the sky finally exploded the other night. After a couple of afternoons with great grey clouds floating about in a vaguely menacing manner before buggering off to annoy someone else they finally got their act together.

I was down in what I now have to call the paddock ('cos it surely isn't lawn) and the clouds were massing and all of a sudden there was this lovely silvery curtain of rain, coming across and down the great V in between the Col du Frêne and the Arclusaz, as the wind got up and it started to rain acacia blossoms all around. Times like that, if you don't want a sudden cold shower, you run for the house.

And right now, the clouds have come down to about 500m and it's grey and dismal. Which meant that Sophie's barbecue was a bit of a washout: I'd just got my feet inside when the heavens burst. Still, on the bright side I did get to try out a recipe I'd been thinking about for a while.

The idea came to me (as these things often do) as I was propping up a table outside Le Modesto, sipping a glass of white for lunch the other day, and I noticed a couple of people eating their salad with grilled goat's cheese on toast. At which point one just has to ask oneself something along the lines of "how can I get chicken breasts in there?"

Do not, by the way, ask for sein de poulet, at the butchers or in a restaurant: you will get looked at sideways. Even if that is the literal translation. Pigs, and other quadrupeds, can have a poitrine, but your poor chicken is stuck with having a blanc or, if you're being posh, perhaps a suprême. Reflecting on the matter, I suspect it's probably the same for lizards, and others of that ilk. A nipple thing, I think.

But I digress. The thought that came to me then was that it might be a really good idea to pan-fry a couple of chicken breasts (or if it's a young, guaranteed female chook, chicken fillettes - as I remember they proudly announced outside a Taupo restaurant many years ago) until nicely golden, then slice them on the diagonal, put them back together with a slice of goat's cheese between each slice of meat, then drizzle honey and mustard over the lot and grill them to death.

General consensus: it was, in fact, a really good idea. Une tuerie, in Sophie's words, with a little salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. Although should I ever get around to making it again, I shall have to find a slightly more assertive cheese. And just possibly, a little bit of confiture de figues - or perhaps, in season, slices of fresh figs in there with the cheese. Perhaps I should go and lie down for a bit.

On the other hand, don't ever bother asking adolescents for food criticism. They seem  perfectly happy to scarf up anything that doesn't move and happens to be within a 1m radius from their mouths, and it doesn't appear to matter what it is. Kind of sad, really.

I found Lucas out in the kitchen with a slab of bread, happily hoovering up any stray traces of caramelised honey and mustard. Why he didn't just lick the dish I've no idea: seems it's not polite.

Malyon has, unfortunately, made me aware of a cookbook I think I shall definitely not get: "Cooking with Semen", or Things To Do With Sperm. There are some things even I do not want to know about, although there is a certain ghastly fascination to the idea. I can feel my mind nibbling at the edges, kind of like a dog that's found something really gross.

She also tried to explain osmosis to me, and why sea fish are dehydrated. I must admit that I failed to see the point, in fact I rather made light of the whole matter, which seemed to annoy her a bit. That's what you get for trying to educate your parents.

Took her off to see our old friend Jacques up in the Maurienne today, and I have to admit that it damned near finished me off. After the rosé at Sophie's Saturday midday, and then the whisky as apéro followed by wine with dinner last night with friends, Jacques had the brilliant idea of preparing a little casse-croute for us.

A good thing he didn't go all out, for there were asperges blanches with mayonnaise, radishes from the garden, a little salad of lumpfish eggs with crab, stuffed mushrooms and a lapin en gelée, then cheese (the tomme crayeuse absolutely sublime), and tarte aux framboises and strawberries, then cherries - all washed down with a burgundy and when that had disappeared, a little Corsican patrimonio.

And then people wonder why the French don't get about much on a Sunday.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nice Fishy ...

I know you're probably bored hearing about the wonderful weather we"ve been having, but quite frankly I  don't care, and I'm going to mention it again. Don't know what we've done to deserve it, but I'm definitely not going to complain.

Summer definitely seems to have come early this year: does make it rather difficult to concentrate on work when all that is really on my mind is the next barbecue, or how nice it would be to be lazing in the hammock down in the garden.

Once I can find someone that'll fix the bloody lawnmower, anyway. Plus I really will have to find a neighbour from whom I can beg, bludge or borrow a large weedeater, given that the grass is now up to my waist. Which makes it a bit of an adventure going down to empty out the composting bin some times, what with the cat trying to pretend she's some sort of jungle predator.

And of course, France has gone into summer mode - getting into practice for the real event in July/August. Everything seems to have slowed down, shops are closed for inexplicable holidays, and in the weekends the back roads are clogged with cyclists blithely wiggling along the centre line as though they had some sort of right to be there.

Still waiting on the arrival of the primeur from the Drôme at the market, though, for decent tomatoes that actually taste as if they'd ripened in the sun, and the multi-coloured poivrons, and apricots.

But there are still asparagus crying out to be quickly boiled up and served with a little béarnaise, and mange-tout, and beans. And the first cherries have hit the stalls, albeit at prices that kind of make my eyes water: shall head off to Jacques' next weekend perhaps, offer to help unload some of his surplus.

Button mushrooms, of course, are available all year round, which is good because this year has not been a good one so far for the wild ones: too dry. There was a general dearth of morilles, which is a shame because otherwise I'd have put some into my mushroom strudel, along with the bacon and chives and sour cream.

(You cannot imagine how glad I am that filo pastry is now more or less generally available around these parts. Makes life so much easier: I really do not think I'd have the patience to make my own, and all in all it's so much nicer than a feuilleté.)

If  there's a downside to all this, it is quite simply that the rosé consumption goes up dramatically. Face it, after a morning spent wandering around the market and enjoying a quiet glass or two of white in the sun, on getting back home it kind of seems a shame not to have a glass or two with lunch, and then as the bottle's open anyway it would be a waste putting it back into the fridge to sit forlornly on the bottom shelf ... you get the picture, I'm sure.

Made it up to Geneva on Wednesday to pick up Malyon: EasyJet  managed to get in twenty minutes early, there were no strikes and no over-zealous security guards so for perhaps the first time I can recall we were out of the dump in five minutes flat.

And back home early, in plenty of time to fire up the barbecue and stick a thick slab of rouelle de jambon on. (Mal is definitely a carnivore, but sadly as a poor student - with a vegetarian boyfriend yet - doesn't see that much meat. So she makes up for it when she's with us.)

Cuttlefish is cute
She had a field trip off to Skye or somewhere like that a month or so ago - practical work, dredging up bottom-feeders and counting the different species. It seems to have convinced her that cuttlefish are cute. Crabs, on the other hand, are not.

Does seem to have developed quite a talent for photography, too. I think so anyway, and that's not just the doting parent speaking.

Starfish farters
Her trip to Ecuador is looming up on the horizon, so she's all fired up about that as well. It will give her a chance to be bossy, no doubt: as one of the three qualified tree-huggersclimbers she gets to tell people what to do, and gets to fire the catapult!

(OK, I was a bit puzzled by that one too. It's just for firing a rope up over a branch so that you can hoist a somewhat more solid one up to climb.)

She spent a bit of time talking about it all and explaining just how rustic it'll be - no toilet, no shower (bum-wipes are apparently a Good Thing), no shelter ... reminds me a bit of my trip to Cameroon, even down to the yellow-fever shots and the choice of malaria treatment (you want the one that might make you go psycho, or perhaps you'd prefer to become hyper-sensitive to sunlight?).

And in an informative but rather yucky aside, she explained that there is a river but its use is discouraged on the grounds that if you pee in it whilst swimming you run the risk of having some wierd breed of tiny fish, attracted by the taste, swimming up and taking up residence in your intimate parts. Where, apparently, they will die and fester, and on top of it the little sods have sharp spines around their heads so that you can't just pull them out.

Pretty gross, and I'm happy she didn't wait until dinner to tell us about that.

NOT a killer rabbit
The only blot on the landscape is apparently one of the other team members - "a  nice enough guy, but a right twat" as she charmingly put it. His main claim to fame, of which he never fails to remind people, is that he can drive a tank: a useful qualification, as Malyon pointed out, in the middle of the jungle. Still, she can always escape him by climbing a tree, I suppose.

Patrick Starr, nude!
Otherwise she has her shopping list - fairly standard stuff like assorted drugs and a first-aid kit and a decent backpack and canvas shoes and robust clothing and all that sort of stuff: a quick trip to Decathlon might be in order to stock up on that sort of thing.

She's also planning - vaguely - the rest of her trip: so far the only thing that's definitely decided on is Machu Picchu. Odd to think of her wandering around South America on her own, but we'll just have to get used to that.

Anyway, Stéphanre has fired up the barbecue next door which must mean it's somewhere near lunch-time, so I'd better get off my arse and do some of those things that really need doing.

Like downloading the latest episode of Doctor Who, copying over a couple of year's worth of various TV series onto a USB drive for our friend Stacey, check up on the rosé, stuff like that.

And then, I think, down to the garden to watch the grass grow.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Party Animal ... revisited

Not only has the lawnmower died (must really go down to the garden and see if I can't do something about that this afternoon, thanks so bloody much for reminding me) but when I got home on Friday evening it was to find that the dishwasher too had packed a hissy-fit and the pump no longer works. Which was a bit of a pain, as Stacey was coming round for dinner and virtually every bit of crockery and cutlery we have was in there, supposedly getting washed.

Cue a hurried reversion to the tried and true old methods of getting stuff clean, simultaneously trying to get a quiche, a curry and a clafouti ready. Probably just as well she turned up late.

Méteo France continues to excel itself in the prediction department: they really do seem to go from strength  to strength. Saturday was supposed to have started off in thick fog, continued through the afternoon with heavy rain, and finished in thunderstorms. Absolutely none of which came to pass, for it was - once more - fine and sunny, and hot to boot.

For some strange reason I woke up around 7 and could not for the life of me get back to sleep, so I was in to Chambéry earlier than usual, which left me with plenty of time to wander around the market and note, with approval, that not only are there still asparagus around (and at a price which does not necessarily involve bankruptcy proceedings) but the peaches and nectarines are coming into season. At last, something apart from everlasting bloody apples and pears.

(Not that I'm complaining, these are excellent fruit, but quite frankly I do get a bit bored with them after a while. Like in the vegetable department: when your only choice is between broccoli and brussels sprouts, life's charms dim somewhat.)

So anyway, it was with a bulging basket that I turned up at Sophie's to find everything in preparation for a barbecue after the apéro, so naturally enough I made an excuse and stayed. And one thing led to another, as it will, and the rain stubbornly refused to make an appearance, and time passed and before I knew it it was the middle of the afternoon, we were on to the nth bottle of rosé and there seemed very little point to going anywhere, seeing as it was so fine. So I didn't.

Instead, Margo turned up and we stayed and partied until some ungodly hour this morning. Would no doubt have been earlier to bed had it not been for the fact that after unloading the car I realised that my phone was nowhere to be seen, so cue a walk back down to the carpark with a torch to have a good look.

NOT a volcano. Just a cloud.
Amazing just how much of your life is on your phone these days: not just names and numbers, I've got notes and recipes and appointments and all sorts. Which it would be a right pain to try and recover, especially as, for reasons I've gone into before, I banished the stinking Samsung software from my PC and consequently don't even have a synched copy on the laptop. Must do something about that, I suppose.

Whatever, when I still couldn't find the damned thing I more or less resigned myself to heading back to Sophie's later in the day, until Mr. Brain cut in and suggested going back to the house, borrowing Margo's phone and coming back down (again) to the car to ring myself. I was really quite relieved to hear a strident Dalek screaming "Exterminate!" from its hiding-place, wedged between my seat and the central arm-rest. God knows how it got there.

So under normal circumstances I'd probably still be in bed recovering, as a matter of fact, but as luck would have it Jeremy spent the night at a friend's place and rang at 7:50 to ask if someone could come and open the back door for him.

After all of five hour's sleep my first reflex was to say probably not (actually, my first reflex involved cursing and some rather quaint anatomical reflections, but never mind that), but what the hell, he's the only son we've got, so I stumbled blearily down the stairs to find him waiting, with the animal part of the household panting and purring eagerly at his side. I'm afraid I was not at my most welcoming.

And even though I managed to make it back to bed the charm had gone: no way I was getting back to sleep. At least I'd been reasonable with the wine so my head wasn't pounding too much: small mercies no doubt, but appreciated nonetheless.

Pink(ish) flying saucer over Alps.
And just as well really, for Jerry took it into his head to continue his day by making iles flottantes. This is not particularly complicated, but he decided that it was his turn to have fun with the stand mixer, and I would like to say at this point that the beast is just a bit noisy.

The weekend's not over yet: I still have that damned lawnmower to look at, Margo will need a hand with her enormous sewing machine, and our friend Pierre has just sent me a check-list/questionnaire chock-full of points I'll need to think seriously about if I'm going to start this food thing. Somewhere in there I'll have to squeeze in a quick twiddle with the dishwasher to see if that's within my competences, and then I'm going to attack the salmon fillet that's sitting patiently in the fridge.

... Okay, although the mower still stubbornly refuses to start, thanks to the miracle of the intartoobz thingy the dishwasher has been rescuscitated without my losing so much as a square centimetre of skin. Of course I'd started stripping it down before I started googling for the repair manual, on the grounds that I'd have to get in there and dirty at any rate: a complete waste of time, as it turned out.

The symptom - flashy lights and a sulky refusal to actually wash anything - apparently means that a little detector thingy has detected a water leak and, so that we don't all drown in our beds, stops it from working. Very thoughtful, but apparently it gets things wrong as often as not, and so if there is not, in fact, a pool of water under the machine, it seems that you can usually reset it by giving the damn thing a good shaking.

Which turned out to be the case, and was also extremely satisfying. Nothing like manhandling recalcitrant machinery to make you feel good, and it also makes you look almost competent. Man the Mechanically-Minded (Mighty Hunter apparently went out some millenia back), stuff like that.

Now, about that fish ... for some strange reason Clotilde Dusoulier, over there at Chocolate & Zucchini, had a blog about sorrel and things to do with it and one of the things she mentioned in passing was this rather famous recipe. Which I do not have, not having any of the Troisgros cookbooks, so I pieced it together from the web, coming up with this for two or three people.

You will need, not necessarily in that order, 500gm salmon fillet (skin removed please), 20cl of cream, 2cl of dry vermouth and 4cl of sancerre (but I suspect any flinty white would do), a shallot (the real ones, not a spring onion), 20gm of butter, some lemon juice and some fish stock (or you could leave that out if you don't have any - I did 'cos I don't, and no-one minded). And 60gm of fresh sorrel too.

This is one of my favourite types of recipe: it's quick. And you only need a little wine for the dish itself: more to drink whilst you're preparing it. Goody! The first thing you should do (apart from killing all the lawyers, as Shakespeare recommended) is to slice the fillet in half through the thickness and flatten it out gently to get little escalopes. Then stick it aside while you destalk, rince and chop the sorrel: chop the shallot while you're into some hot'n'heavy knife action.

Have a drink, then put the shallot in a saucepan with the wine, vermouth and fish stock if you're using that, and reduce well: when thick add the cream, boil rapidly and add the sorrel. Season to taste with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

When that's ready, fry the salmon rapidly - and I mean rapidly, 25 seconds on one side, 15 on the other. It should barely have time to kiss the pan, let alone its arse goodbye. Serve with the sauce on the side, just in case you decide you don't like sorrel that much.

Oh, and it's May Day. Fete du Travail over here, and a public holiday: a shame it falls on a Sunday this year. Perfectly good secular holiday completely wasted.