Saturday, April 27, 2013

Buildings And Food ...

And on the way back, leaving Lézignan, couldn't help but notice this roadside stall advertising vegetables and stuff: I'm a sucker for that, especially when it involves freshly killed strawberries and young green asparagus shoots at 4€/kg.

So we stopped (having first of all filled up on wine and other essentials, like more wine, at the big place just up the road) and bought some, so that we could drive back happy. Even if there was a buffeting wind which, at some points on the way home, threatened to push little Suzy off the road.

Anyway, that green bundle lead me, the night afterwards (for at 23:00, when we arrived back home, I was not that interested in cooking anything at all, what I was really looking for was my bed), to butter and stack some sheets of filo and bake them until crisp, to make a bed for that very same asparagus, boiled very rapidly with sugar and salt, drained and laid out on the pastry, topped with squares of crispy bacon, and drizzled with bastard béarnaise. First sign of spring, I guess.

Completely unrelated, a little note from the Office of Health & Safety. Some people - us, for instance - keep their kitty litter box in the largely disused bathroom on the first floor, the reason being that the cat can't be arsed going all the way downstairs if she feels an urge in the middle of the night and after a serious discussion, which entailed only minor flesh wounds which will soon heal, we decided that that suited everyone. Or at least, that we'd not make too much of a fuss.

But the important thing to keep in mind is that, when cleaning out the kitty litter, you should resist the urge to fling the dehydrated turds into the invitingly-close toilet bowl. Speaking as one who has tried the experiment, let me assure you that the little buggers resist drowning and tend to float, doubtless laughing the while. Lounging around in their little inflatable rubber - umm, thingies - must talk to Jeremy about that.

Whatever, after a hot, sunny week it naturally went titsup on Friday - I mean, we went overnight from 27° to 7°, that is what I call brutal - and so it was, once again, to market in the rain.

Which lead me to reflect, for some reason, on yet another of those little things that differentiate our great language from the degenerate tongue that is French. Like, when I left the house and trotted down to the gare, umbrella at the ready and heavy coat on, knowing full well that I'd probably regret that when the time came to climb back up the hill to the house, it was spitting.

We all know what that means, the odd drop from time to time and infuriating because it's just enough to get you wet but not sufficient to bother sticking up the encumbering brolly, but tell that to a French-person - que la pluie crache - and toute de suite he will commiserate with you on the bad weather, for in French that means it's pissing down.

Which I suppose may have something to do with the expectorant capacities of the average frog-thing, for they are indeed formidable. I swear that I have seen six year-olds idly take down a passing newt with a well-aimed wad of spit and chewing-gum. A talent that doubtless comes in handy in summer, when the flies can otherwise be a nuisance.

Be that as it may, what I was trying to lead up to was that, after a quick trip round the stalls I left, unencumbered by anything apart from some asparagus, pois gourmands, blood oranges, two year-old Comté and a few other such trifles (which still, in total, do rather weigh on one's conscience, or at least one's arms) and headed, visions of sugar-plums or whatever dancing in my head, for I had had an idea for dinner, off to the estimable Mr B's establishment (Purveyors Of Cheap Meat For The Discerning Carnivore).

So we exchanged pleasantries, as will happen, and as if the shopping basket wasn't already heavy enough I stuffed a couple of chicken breasts, a largeish chunk of baron d'agneau, and an oxtail, cut into two-inch lengths, in there. (I admit that the oxtail was an after-thought, but it seemed so lonely there, with all its friends long gone, that it would have been a crime to have left it to its own devices. Also, I have plans for it, involving flouring, browning rapidly in duck fat, then simmering slowly in beer. But that will be for another time. Once I've dealt with that troublesome Mr. Bond.)

Actually, the lamb was an afterthought too. But I simply cannot resist a tasty morceau like that, just crying out to have the fell removed and then plastered with a mix of breadcrumbs, butter, garlic and parmesan before being roasted quickly and served in thin slices off the bone, with bits of that golden crust and asparagus and roast potatoes ...

But what I really have in mind for tonight involves those chicken breasts and some of those leeks I got this morning, which will mean flouring and frying the chicken breasts in the smaller of the two sauteuses I happen to have (happily, the one with a lid) before fishing them out and replacing them with the sliced leeks and a few strips of lard.

Once that's started to soften and smell delicious I rather think that I shall slice the chicken thickly and arrange it on top of the leeks, sprinkle the whole damn lot with parsley, cover and leave to simmer and steam gently for half an hour or so, before I slosh some cream in there and let it thicken for a few minutes.

With some carottes à l'étuvée, baked potatoes, fresh bread rolls just out of the oven  and - why not - some asparagus, should be a tuerie. As they say.

Another thing - as I was idly ambling about, avoiding the odd raindrop and adding yet more weight to the shopping basket with the addition of a couple of boxes of cigars, I had the misfortune to come across a Porsche Panamera, smugly parked on a double yellow line, which rather looked as though it were trying to slink away.

Now it's not often that I agree with that overblown windbag Jeremy Clarkson and this time is no exception, for he merely remarked, way-back-when, that this is a pointless, wishy-washy great whale of a car that has no compelling reason to exist.

For once, he doesn't go far enough, for he failed to point out that it is also one of the ugliest offenses against good taste that you could ever hope to find on the street.

Yes, the British Leyland P76 was a slab-sided monster that car-lovers still talk about in whispers, and let us never forget the Austin Princess: Zil seemed to have "tasteless, so long as it's in black with heaps of chromed chome" as their mission statement, godnose Mercedes have produced some hideous piles of crap, and the Range Rover Vogue looks as though a very very fat lady has sat on a standard Range Rover (which is ugly enough anyway, without that) and squashed it into a thick pancake - but let's face it, the Panamera is kind of in a class of its own. Because you can actually buy a car that's almost as ugly for a lot less money, if that happens to float yer boat.

You can tell it's a Porsche because there's a helpful label on the back, just as well because otherwise you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a mound of porridge. Also, the inside seems to be made entirely out of walnut veneer, polished aluminium, and the outside bits of a couple of cows, which is not good. (Especially not for the cows, who probably quite liked having their skins still attached.) Luckily for him, the driver was not immediately apparent, otherwise I'd probably have eaten his liver on the spot, just to teach him a lesson.

Whatever, dinner is not going to cook itself and I don't even have the dubious pleasure of having Jeremy offer to help as he has a birthday party to occupy him so I won't be seeing him until sometime tomorrow, and if I want to have an orange tart for dessert I rather guess that now would be a good time to go off and start on the pastry. Not to mention frying that chicken.

Mind how you go, now.

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