Sunday, March 25, 2012

In Which My Weekend is Unexpectedly Busy ...

Well, looking over those stats I see we have:

    obscene vegetables5 hits
    chili con carne revisited1 hit
    april wine the nature of the beast2 hits
    flogging daughter1 hit
    dead threadworm bunches photo1 hit

We is obviously heading towards attracting a rather better class of visitor that we've had in the past, not too difficult I hear you say and SHUT UP! in the cheap seats, the threadworm hits are way down which is good because quite frankly threadworm-obsessed people are of little interest to most advertisers (although I suppose there must be a niche) and exactly how do you think we make our money anyway?. Mind you, all these things are relative.

So anyway, even though it's a beautiful sunny day I'm glumly expecting an unseasonable cold snap or, who knows, maybe even a late snowfall of at least ten centimetres: yes it's that time of year again, and the apricot tree is in blossom. It is a given that we will not in fact get any apricots off the damn thing, the only real question is exactly what cataclysm or natural disaster will prevent its metaphorical vegetable loins from being fruitful.

Whatever it is, it'll have to be spectacularly disastrous to top last year's attack of leprosy, or the brewer's droop and self-immolation by napalm of the year before. (How the hell does a tree, even suicidal, manage to order in a Vietnam-era attack helicopter? I should never have left the Wifi access unsecured. And I should also have changed my credit card, perhaps.)

Expect further extracts from the Beckham Diaries in the near future, she's currently off in Lille, of all places, and I confidently expect the outcome to be sufficiently disastrous as to be funny. Why Lille? Bryan, who can sometimes be terse to the point of obscurity, you'd think he had to pay per letter for his SMS, explained that she was still looking for a man with the Big C, which led to a bit of confusion.

Quite frankly all I could think of was Cancer or Cash, and Beckham's never seemed to be the gloater type: finally he enlightened me, the 'C' is for commitment. Why the hell he couldn't just have come right out and said that straight away I'll never know.

Another thing I'm still vague about is why she would expect to find such a paragon in Lille, of all godforsaken holes. The place is not exactly known as a world-class exporter of such things: truth to tell, in France it's known mainly for being the fief of Martine Aubry, one of the last surviving old-style Socialists and architect of that French economic miracle, the 35-hour week.

Now steak Diane is a bit of a disappointment for me, in that alcohol does not figure in the list of ingredients. Neither, sad to say, does flambéing, but that's maybe just as well for otherwise it might have earned me another scolding from Sophie, for non-existent fire damage to the cobwebs in the stove hood.

In its simplest, and probably its best, form it's just thin slices of steak cut across the grain (yeah, I use hampe because I like it and, as well, I can get it) and then quickly stir-fried over vast heat (this is, once again, where the triple couronne on my stove comes into its own) until crispy brown all over and still red in the middle before being dumped into a bowl.

At which point you need to stick some sliced mushrooms in the wok or whatever and let them wilt before adding cream, sour cream, and a generous slosh of Worcester sauce. Oh, and a teaspoon of decent whole-grain mustard, while you're at it. Let all that thicken (it will, if you've done it right), then add the meat just to heat it up again and sprinkle the lot with chopped parsley. Salad is always good with this (salad is good with most things, in my experience), as would be asparagus. Which, oddly enough, is just coming into season.

(An alternative would be filet de boeuf Woronoff, which is more or less the same thing apart from being completely different. Should you happen to have a couple of slices of fillet steak you just brown them on both sides and then poach them for about five minutes in a mixture of cream, sour cream, and peeled thinly-sliced cucumber: when ready to eat just add a shot of Worcester and sprinkle, as usual, with parsley. See? And they call that haute cuisine. Mind you, Margo won't eat the stuff on account of the cucumber.)

Restaurant des Halles
Still, as Sophie said, if you can't even eat cake you can at least drink wine, and an advantage of steak Diane is that it does take, quite literally, about five minutes once it's prepared, which in fact leaves you quite a lot of time - if you're so inclined - to appreciate the sunlight and the blue sky and, why not, some wine.

Still a bit early in the year for rosé, but as luck would have it Bruno, from Sorhea (that's a client, not a place-name so don't bother trying to go there) had given me a bottle of Gascon white as a token of appreciation for the fact that the last software release I delivered did not in fact fall over in the first ten minutes, which let him get through his demonstration without too many awkward questions.

Which is always a Good Thing.

Terry Gillam does Rousseau
Whatever, I found myself then with this bottle of Uby on my hands: cépage gros et petit Manseng, if that means anything to you; as far as I'm concerned it was Muscat. Une tuerie, pour du vrai: I don't think I've ever tasted anything so fruity, or so dry.

Not a wine I would ever drink with anything: it would rather overpower whatever you served it with, but as an aperitif, a bloody wonder. Sad to say, I rather doubt you'll be able to come across a bottle (or two). Come to that, I can see I shall have to be extra-nice to Bruno until he gives me the name of the vigneron where he got the stuff.

And not only are there Lombard pears at the market, which are completely inedible and fit for nowt apart from being poached in red wine and sugar and spices (OK, what's on the stove right now?), there are also the first strawberries of the year. Which, to my sensitive ears, are just crying out out to be hulled, sliced and marinated with a bit of Grand Marnier or something.

Fairly obviously, a fish-mongers
Later on in the season, when we start to get bored with them, there will be strawberry shortcake and other such desserts, and should there still be some around when the cherries start to make an appearance I will know what to do, but just for now simple is best.

So anyway, I'd rather planned on getting this wrapped up and posted but as usual one thing led to another and I started some little individual gratins aux chèvre cooking and dragged the asparagus spears out and packed a few essentials like a decent knife in a bag and set out to cook dinner for Stacey.

Sad to say I didn't get very far - about half-way down the hill in fact - before, for reasons best known only to itself, the front right tire decided to wrap itself at 90° to the hub, which left me  sliding down and off the road with three wheels instead of the more usual four and a great gush of sparks as the bare hub scraped along the tarmac.

Le Bar à Thym, Chambéry
I have actually been in that sort of situation before but it's not really the sort of thing that gets any more enjoyable with practice. On the bright side, the paddock off to the right was fairly level and the car didn't roll as she ploughed through a couple of hundred meters of it before coming to a graunching stop.

Also, the insurance company is pretty efficient, and Margo had just got me home to await the arrival of the depanneur and his mighty tow-truck when I got a call from him to say that he was at the scene of the crime and would I mind turning up?

So I left the cooking and headed back down: happily the formalities didn't take long because when I got back it was to discover that in the mad rush I'd left a frying pan to heat on the stove and it had, in fact, heated.

I really would have done better not getting out of bed, or perhaps calling at a day around mid-afternoon. Still, it's such a beautiful day I can't feel too upset. Maybe I'll just go down to the garden and appreciate the daffodils for a bit.

(While I think of it - 2012 has been declared l'année Rousseau, and as his adopted town Chambéry has been decking itself out. I can't think which bright spark at the mairie had the idea of getting Terry Gillam to do all these bloody floating banners.)

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