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.


  1. But how much sorrel??? Enquiring minds wanna know!

  2. Ah yes, silly old me. 60gm is good, could use more if you like.