Sunday, September 16, 2012

Indulging One's Self ...

So it's a beautiful Sunday morning, which I admit I am only around to appreciate because Bryan, who evidently has yet another translation to do, thought it a good idea to drag me from a particularly blameless sleep by texting me at 8:30 to ask me for the english equivalent of "carte de mesure". Has the man never heard of Google? But I suppose I should be grateful really because otherwise I would not be sitting out under a clear blue sky enjoying my coffee with a couple of these, which I'd had the forethought to prepare last night.

A bit of croissant dough, some left-over crème frangipane in the fridge, raisins and brown sugar and cinnamon: presto!, more or less instant gratification.

NOT a kuchen. Over-ripe, SC?
And while I'm thinking about food, a kuchen mit streussel isn't half bad either. I came across that one back in the days when The Listener had a food column - I think the columnist was Lois Daish at the time, but I'm doubtless completely wrong - and that page got cut out and added to a growing file. Which is now more of a yellowing pile, but it's still been with me for thirty years or more, and half-way around the world.

Whatever, it too is remarkably simple: the kuchen part is just brioche dough: flour, sugar, warm milk, yeast, an egg and obscene amounts of butter. To which, being unable to leave well enough alone, I add a few drops of pure orange oil (note to self, am now right out, go buy some more soon).

This should be very glossy and rather soft when you've finished kneading it: enough so that, rather than try to roll it ('cos it won't work) you should just press it into the bottom of a deep pie dish or, if you happen to have one, a spring-form mould.

Then you need some plums: I was lucky enough (or I'd had this recipe drifting quietly around at the back of my head anyway) to pick some up at the market. I cannot tell you what variety because I do not know, fruit identification emphatically not being one of my strong points, but you want them to melt as they cook so I guess you would want to avoid Black Doris and the like. They ones I found had purply skin and soft orange-yellow flesh, if that is any help.

But I digress, as usual: slice these into halves or quarters and arrange them, cut side down, over the dough so as to cover it, then your streussel over the top and into the oven with it for half an hour or so.

Streussel, incidentally, is nothing more than the German equivalent of a crumble topping - flour, sugar and cinnamon with even more butter cut in until it resembles fine bread-crumbs. I guess that if you're feeling particularly luxurious at the time, and happen to have them to hand, you could add a generous dose of powdered almonds to the mix, or maybe just sprinkle the topping with slivered almonds before sending it off to cook.

Anyway, after that little culinary excursion, on to other matters I suppose.

So Margo loaded up Jacques' Dacia wagon with all her stuff and the boat anchor and headed off to pick up Mad Karen on her way to the salon at Ste Marie aux Mines. I kind of expected, given that the poor thing was full to the gunnels, that Karen would have had a pretty uncomfortable trip strapped to the roof, but as it turned out things weren't quite that bad.

Bad enough -  from what Margo said Karen was sitting in the passenger seat holding a suitcase larger than she, on top of which was piled a few last-minute necessities like swatches of fabric and a few assorted bottles of dye and, in a concession to reality, a toilet bag - but not absolutely dire. Must have been a tricky and rather time-consuming exercise getting out for pit-stops en route, though.

But the pair of them made it, to be greeted by wails of dismay from Reiner et al when they learned that confit de canard was nowhere to be found. Because Margo had kind of said that she'd try to bring some up with her, but sad to say this does not seem to be the season for duck legs. At least, not at a price I'm willing to pay.

All this meant that I was all on my lonesome all week, which does have the advantage of letting me cook for myself. Diots, quiche, things with an abundance of sauce, really spicy curries, breads and pastries - all that sort of stuff that Margo only tolerates. I really don't know how I manage to get off without putting on weight.

I guess Jeremy must be OK: we've not heard a word from him for ten days, since he announced he had a contract, which probably means he's too busy working. At least, I'm going to use that as a working assumption: I rather doubt I'll be proved wrong.

Anyway, like I said it's a beautiful Sunday - might have been even better if I could have woken under my own steam as it were, grumble grumble - after a wonderful Saturday. Clear blue sky, warm but not oppressively hot - I could sit here and think about taking some exercise for hours.

Always with a glass of white to hand, in case of mental exhaustion. But anyway, it's a funny old thing: you think you know a place, and there's always something new to see. I mean, I must have walked past this little traboule that turns into an alleyway in Chambéry hundreds of times, and somehow I'd never noticed this sign.

Now who was this Alain Fournier, and exactly why did he have a circle? And what was so bloody special about it? So he kept it on the first floor, and you could see it for an hour, in the evenings only (or doubtless by appointment), but seriously? This is a puzzlement, as the King remarked.

Lots of things like that around, been there for years but no-one ever pays attention, or they've just faded into the background noise maybe. Which is why I find wandering aimlessly around, camera slung over the shoulder, to be such a rewarding exercise. (Also, spending your time looking up does take your mind off the dog-shit on the pavement, of which I must say there's a lot less than there was back in the day.)

Has the added advantage of making me look like a tourist, and thus off-limits - I mean, no-one is ever going to ask me for directions, are they? Although there was this one time at the market when, having disposed of the vegetable booty in the car, I was strolling around in just such a fashion and was accosted by some woman who was convinced that I was the photographer for her daughter's wedding.

Apparently I must have been late, because she tore a strip off me for COMPLETE FAIL in the punctuality department, and on top of it there was no way I should have been smoking a cigar - doubtless because of the fire hazard. And, I suppose, just on general principles, because it's smelly. Which is fair enough.

I can remember that after a ten-minute tirade I did finally manage to extricate myself - can't actually think now exactly how, but it was more or less unscathed. Apart from those ten minutes of total incomprehension, with strips being ripped off me. Should have taught me not to wander around looking, apparently, professional. Although, in my defense, I am not one to have three or four lenses slung about my person, along with a couple of backup cameras, and the faithful old Olympus is not really a camera to inspire awe, being seriously smaller than the Nikon I lust after, and also a good deal more out of date.

Which reminds me that JCB, in the office next door, is trying hard to think how he could possibly justify buying a Leica M9. Not to himself, but to his doubtless long-suffering wife. Probably a good thing he has not yet spoken of the latest Hasselblad, that would definitely be a killer.

And now, having successfully navigated my way through lunch, I might actually go off and do some of those things I've been seriously thinking about: bestride a velo and wobble bravely off in various directions, or just head off blindly on foot one way or another, and see where it takes me.


  1. You needs a Facebook 'like' button, you does, so that I can share the goodness of posts like this with my (slightly wider) circle :-)

  2. That sounds kind of technical, it does, and thus beyond me. Also, I'm afraid it might require me giving up intimate details of my private life to Saint Zuck, and that is not going to happen.

  3. Not sure - making it possible for FB users to 'like' you might not require you to become a FB user yourself...