Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Where's Bloody Hemingway When You Need Him ...

It's in Pamplona, if memory serves, where they run the bulls through the streets and the bloated old hack duly described the action in screeds of turgid prose. In Moux they seem to run sheep, which does have the advantage of pretty much ensuring that no-one gets gored to death during the spectacle. Also, after they've passed the more enterprising of the neighbourhood brats can always collect the detritus and hock it off as prime olives to unwary tourists.

A fact of interest which inexplicably failed to make it into "The Sun Also Rises". Or, "The Boat Also Sinks", whatever, who cares? Not one of my all-time favourite authors, I must admit.

About a year back now we found ourselves at Montpellier where there was a big patchwork salon - need you ask - and to my pleasure they had a small section devoted to food and therein a stand with all sorts of herbs and spices, to which I naturally gravitated. I don't recall doing it but I apparently filled out my name and address on an envelope after I'd bought a tube of powdered vanilla and various curries, for a couple of weeks ago it arrived in the mail, containing an invitation to this year's event.

I will do a lot of things to avoid working, so off we headed. And I picked up some green curry, some Madras and Bombay, some white pepper from Cameroon, five-spice powder ('cos I chucked the jar I'd had, on the grounds that it was way too old), more smoked paprika, sumac, curcuma and tandoori, and a few other bits and pieces. And I filled out another envelope, so I guess that in a year's time we'll be going back ...

If your GPS is not, like ours, totally dysfunctional and psychopathic to boot, it's an easy job to get from there to IKEA which is, let's face it, just across the autoroute: it took us a bit longer. But we made it there, and exited eventually with only a few things - a lamp and a rug for my office, some baking tins - for they carry ring and pie moulds with removeable bases - and of course some pepparkaka which is not peppery poo but gingerbread biscuits. In case you were wondering.

Also some small jars for spices 'cos I've had it up to here with a plastic tub full of small tie-closed bags that I never seem to bother looking in or I'd have seen that I already have a ginormous stash of juniper berries (and some rather inferior curry, which might be heading for the rubbish bin or if I really fancy a joke I suppose I could leave it on the edge of the dining-room table with Indra alone in there and see what happens).

Truth to tell I still have the plastic tub because there are things in there like poppy seeds and sesame seeds and the packet of badiane that I really don't have anywhere else to put, but at least it's out of the way and I know where they are. And damn!, I forgot to get another pepper grinder for that white pepper.

In the same shopping centre there is "Du Bruit Dans La Cuisine", which sells stuff - such as my big KitchenAid stand mixer - and I could hardly leave there without the pasta-making attachment, now could I? So I guess that we'll be eating a bit of fresh home-made pasta for a while, until the novelty wears off and we are totally sated with tagliatelle and lasagna.

Oh, I also - finally - got one of those handy little lighters for gas stoves, something that has become necessary these days if you do not have the good luck to own an oven with an electric ignition system. I used to use matches, but these days they've carried the "safe" in "safety matches" to ridiculous extremes. Matches are now inherently safe by design: the only way you can get one to light is by soaking it in petrol and setting fire to it with a cigarette lighter. Which kind of obviates the point.

Now might be the time to tell you about the Rossini-burger, which is both delicious and relatively simple. (Also, only slightly adapted and improved from the admittedly inferior version they serve at Le Bureau, in Chambéry.) You start off by making paillassons - so-called because they look like a straw mat - which, when cooked, you will stick in the oven to keep warm and crispy. (Because you have the oven on to cook dessert anyway, and also microwaving them would be a crime.)

Personally I grate the potatoes onto a (cleanish) tea-towel, which makes it much easier to squeeze all the water you can out of them, and I like to add salt, chives and a few spoons of corn flour (which is flour made out of corn, much finer than polenta, and not corn-starch, please). Some people like to stir in an egg at this point, arguing that this makes the things stay together better when you fry them: others remark disdainfully that if they don't stay together anyway you're not doing it right probably because the fat's not hot enough, and in any case if you want a soggy potato omelette just say so.

Whatever, stick mounds of the mix into a frying pan with hot duck fat and spread out with a fork into rounds about 1cm thick and 8cm in diameter: fry until crispy and cooked through before putting into the oven.

At this point get a green salad ready and make some sauce Aurore, which is nowt more than a BĂ©arnaise with a college education and a bit of tomato concentrate whisked in, so that's all ready for the next step ... which is to fry some onion rings and as many 1cm-thick slices of fillet of beef as you happen to have people to eat them. In duck fat, again, and on high, if you please.

When the steak's cooked to your liking - which should not involve turning it into shoe leather - assemble everything: a slice of fillet atop each paillasson, each topped with a slice of foie gras, and a good glop of the sauce on top of that. Serve them up with the fried onions, which should be soft and golden if you got it right, heaped around, and enjoy.

More on search terms: if you look for "titsup + holidays" on Microsoft Bing! you will find this site in the results. Sadly, sandwiched between "holiday porn" and "amateur big-titted wife on holiday". I find this rather sad.


  1. "Titsup Holidays" is a package tour just waiting to happen. Make it so!

    "A small assortment of astonishingly loud brass instruments raced each other lustily to the respective ends of their distinct musical choices as the gates flew open to release a torrent of tawny fur comprised of angry yapping bullets that nipped at Desdemona’s ankles, causing her to reflect once again (as blood filled her sneakers and she fought her way through the panicking crowd) that the annual Running of the Pomeranians in Liechtenstein was a stupid idea."

  2. a package tour just waiting to happen Two separate concepts in fact: one headed by Frank Spencer and the other lead by Benny Hill and the Carry On team.

  3. "Titsup Holiday" was of course a B-side from 10CC.

  4. I know "Dreadlock Holiday" ...