the colours of garlic……

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The importance of garlic as an ingredient in good food was not entirely clear to me until several years after we had moved to live here, in France. Of course, I was well acquainted with it, cooked with it regularly and thought of it as essential to food as perfume to a woman. I had experienced wonderful dishes in good restaurants in London and Europe yet I had never really appreciated that perfume in my own cooking because I had never had access to the source. Being here I see garlic growing in the potageres around our house, I see wooden troughs of it drying in open sided sheds and I smell it wafting from the kitchens of my neighgbours. It’s gentler than I ever imagined and I love looking at it, having it my kitchen and , most of all, cooking with it. Although I have created a garlic flag in red, white and blue there is a growing part of me that is happily losing attachment to my roots, and I’m not speaking of my teeth. Neither am I looking for a another flag to wave, being as the garlic flag has similarities to the Tricolor, as I have never seen the waving of any single flag produce anything but division. It occurred to me that if each of us was allowed but one answered wish in our life then there would be very few of us left alive, as that wish would almost certainly be squandered on getting rid of the someone who was the first to truly piss us off. How often have we muttered “Oh , I wish he’d just drop dead” which muttered wish, in my predicated scenario, would render unto dust the fool who just wouldn’t move forward in the queue. Just annoyingly in the way.

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On the culinary front, should the majority of my fellow countrymen have had their wishing way, garlic would be as scarce as kindness. Myth has it that vampires detest and fear the effects of garlic which suggests to me that they may not be autochthonous to Translyvania after all, and that the influx of middle Europeans to our sceptered isle may just be migrant Draculas returning to their true home.

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“Foreign muck” was the popular idiom for food eaten on holiday in Europe. It was full of garlic and it was certainly best not to eat any of it if you were meeting friends later. Oddly, those same sensitive olfactory senses were oblivious to the ripeness of hot armpits under nylon shirts in the confines of the London Underground on a hot summer’s day. There is a culture gap which is not a bad gap but just a gap created by climate, location and, as it says on the tin, culture. Garlic is part of where I now live and the garlic that I now know is not the vegetable that I used to know and at last that perfume is always around my kitchen and it makes me very happy.

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Posted in 2014, Art photography, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, garlic, Kitchens, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

it’s not the thought, it’s the gift…

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Small gifts of vegetables are always welcome in our kitchen. We lack the room needed to grow them ourselves but, most of all, we lack the will power. Being surrounded by horticultural magicians, it’s clear that any effort on our part to compete would only be shaming. Whilst the markets are empty of good tomatoes, those on our neighbours’ vines are still red, ripe and delicious. Some are even still green. I noticed a very sporty broom stick parked in their garage which leads me to believe that paranormal planting is afoot. Not so much Covent Garden as Coven Garden.

We benefit from simple, thoughtful food gifts as well as the bewitched bounty of which I will speak more later. Meanwhile, our daughter had left us some courgettes and red peppers which led me to open my folder of “mean to do” recipes. As expected, the first recipe that came to light was Rachel Khoo’s Soufflée Omelette. In the complete version, the omelette is served with an eggless piperade basquaise the main ingredient of which is red peppers. As luck would have it, or maybe through the agency of local necromancy, the next recipe that revealed itself was Courgette Flans.recipe_courgette_flans2Returning for a moment to more mysterious matters. As I was chopping small wood for fire lighting this morning, I noticed my neighbour in the vicinity, no doubt enchanting frogs to leave their legs at the door and return when they’ve grown new and better ones. I thought garlic would come in handy with Walpurgis nearly upon us and asked if I could buy a “tete” from her. The word “buy” didn’t go down at all well, so I had to settle for “give”. Our grammatical differences were happily settled without recourse to my being transformed into a bat and she advised me that the garlic would appear in due course…which it did.

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Posted in 2014, Baking, Cheese, Cookery Writers, Cooking, courgette, courgette flan, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, peppers, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Rachel Khoo, Recipes, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

so much hot air…….

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There is always a something that I’m meaning to do. This “always” is not the “always” of heated argument, which “always” is used to define the occurrence of fractious and irritating  behaviour in another when the red mist prevents accurate recall. The “always” to which I refer is the “always” of as far back as I can remember, which distance is  variable, depending on perceptual wind and tide. A useful cerebral fog often arises to obscure the tedious or unpalatable, miraculously clearing to reveal the agreeable and pleasurable. Thus ” I’ve been meaning to pay the electricity bill” is shrouded in an impenetrable pea souper whilst “I’ve been meaning to polish off that bottle of Côte Rôtie” is bathed in sunshine with gentle blue seas lapping at its shores. As I slip farther and farther into the quicksands of irresponsibility and contentment the things that I’m meaning to do generally taste very good.

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I have a large, lever arch file that is filled with things that I mean to do….they are all recipes.I also mean to put them together in book form but there is still a slight mist obscuring the details of that intention.Each time I open the file and start to flip through the massed recipes, like a close magic card trick, a particularly simple recipe for an omelette soufflé, by Rachel Khoo, is the first one to catch my imagination.

Omelette Soufflé by Rachel Khoo
4 eggs, separated
a pinch of salt
1 tbspoon of butter

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the egg whites and salt into a bowl and beat until stiff. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks for a minute. Fold half the egg whites into the yolks until evenly incorporated and then fold in the rest. Heat the butter in a frying pan ( that can go in the oven) over a medium heat until it sizzles and then pour in the eggs.Spread them quickly over the bottom of the pan with a palette knife and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes before placing them in the oven for a further four minutes, until puffed up and golden.

I should mention that my version was made with only one egg….to fit in my small pan for a midday collation. It worked wonderfully.. and I omitted any smoothing with a palette knife which looked better to my eyes.

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This perfect little omelette no longer remains among the things undone. One down, infinity to go….

Posted in baking, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, omelette, omelette souffle, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Rachel Khoo, Recipes, souffle, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 58 Comments

Those damn waves flopping in all day…..

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There is a moment in “One Eyed Jacks”, a film directed by Marlon Brando, in which the title lines of this post are used to suggest the boredom imposed by peaceful seclusion on a perfect Californian beach. As the words are mouthed by a black hat, we, the cinema audience, had no trouble in seeing the irony as Marlon seemed jolly happy, albeit recovering from a severe horse whipping and whilst nursing a smashed gun hand. That’s Marlon for you.

When, with age, the names of the days of the week lose the significance that was once accorded them, by the demands of family life and work schedules, the ineluctable passage of time is less noticeable and certainly less important. Spending the time to watch a tiny speck being overtaken by the slow, soft waves breaking onto the shore was unnoticeable time spent unimportantly……that moment will never happen again but a better one is happening now.

Posted in 2014, Art photography, Digital photography, France, French countryside, Landscapes, Landscapes, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

buzzing….

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I remember reading, in a book whose name I have now forgotten, of how the human voice resembles the senseless buzzing of an insect to the ear of a cat. Whether this opinion was gleaned from a cat or from the writer’s imagination is irrelevant as human voices often sound that way to me. The radio buzzes throughout the day, its meaning rarely penetrating the incessant interference of machines and taps and the clatter of the kitchen. Words that interest and appeal seem to be able to shimmy through this net of confusion and so it was that I heard the words ” unstructured leisure time” which sounded very like my present life. The thrust of the diatribe, from which I plucked these words, was that the leisure time of children today is filled with piano lessons, tennis lessons, riding lessons, invitations to parties, cinemas, sleepovers, team games, and theme games: there is no unstructured time where they just have nothing to do but imagine without commitment…without winning or shining. I had that in my childhood and I don’t think I ever got out of it…maybe it’s why I feel it so acutely now and why it is so important to me.

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Posted in 2014, Art photography, Digital photography, France, French countryside, harmony, Landscapes, lifestyle, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Going down to the sea again…

fishing pier..

fishing pier..

Today I’m heading off to the Anse d’Aiguillon to teach a landscape photography course. These two images show the  subtle beauty that makes this area one of my favourite locations. Both pictures are available at the Print Store

low tide ....

low tide ….

Posted in 2014, Art photography, Digital photography, France, Photographic Prints | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Seeing for the first time, not understanding and being content…

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This image bears a resemblance, if not immediately apparent, to myself staring in wonder at the emptiness of the blank page. Whether with pencil, pen, paintbrush or poised finger tips I find my self frozen in attendance of the admonitory tones of my cerebral GPS which will make it clear to me to carry on, or make a U turn or just give me a clue as to where I am or where I could be going. Howard Hodgkin, the renowned painter, has said that he may spend a long, hard working day looking at a white wall. The white wall beats me every time. As an image maker, when my world has gone blank, I have to look to words to find where my pictures are coming from and as I looked up from that exercise  the cat was having a Pauline moment. This was his first sight of fire. As with my white wall there was no understanding but there was contentment which is as hard to find as inspiration.

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A cake named Joan …

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Bakewell is to be found in Derbyshire as well as in the name of a celebrated jam filled, almond flavoured confection but, for me, Bakewell will forever be associated with crumpets. Joan Bakewell is an English journalist,  television presenter and Labour Party Peer who, being both highly intelligent and beautiful, was christened by the Press, of another time, as ” the thinking man’s crumpet”. I like crumpets, cogito ergo sum and I’m a man which combination makes Bakewell irresistible. The dangers of sugar are as nothing when compared with the wrath of those who, today, would consider such a soubriquet as deeply denigrating, so I will stay on the side of the angels and speak sweetly. The Bakewell of which I now speak would be too sweet for words were it not for the tartness of raspberries that gently brings it to heel just before your teeth start to drop out. The baker’s art owes a great deal to appearance but, as if to confirm the truth in the caveat to not judge a book by its cover, disappointment so often waits just below the thin ice of the sugar coating. Having not resisted temptation and broken the ice we are, on occasion, confronted by the soullessness of poor cake that fills the mouth with the dusty crumbs of anonymity which, in an instant, seem to suck up and absorb all the moisture that was ever in our mouths leaving us like thirst crazed legionnaires crawling on our bellies to an oasis on the horizon that is but a mirage. I had suffered this disappointment, as a child, from the commercial variety of the cake called Joan. At the time, any break from gruel was welcome, but the residual disillusionment, even though trusted friends had assured me that the recipe when made correctly was a cut above toothsome, made me circumspect of purposely recreating an example of that which had once been so disagreeable. In conclusion, I came, I baked and I came again…and again.

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Recipe below by Mary Cadogan.

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Posted in 2014, Almonds, Angels, Art photography, Bakewell Tart, Bakewell Tart, Baking, Childhood, Cookery Writers, Cooking, desserts, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Illusion, Mary Cadogan, Nuts, Recipes, Sex, Sugar, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Lifting the lid…..

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A very significant moment of the year has just occurred and passed, unnoticed, to all but me. I have put on a pair of socks. This ceremony is as clear a sign of seasonal change as naked druids dancing at dawn, but warmer. My knowledge of religion is intentionally limited but memory still serves to remind me of the discomfort of worship which is why I suggest that druids may be dancing without socks. There are few more precise indicators of hot and cold temperatures than my extremities so, henceforth, my socks and I will be an item until my feet let me know that the time to cast a clout is upon us yet again.

At this time of year, the introduction of socks into my daily life is not the only momentous change. The alliteration of sock and sausage leads me astray. Although not a committed vegetarian, I eat very little meat…..until the black sock is drawn over the foot like a blindfold. Senses numbed by superfine yarn to the squealing of slaughtered pigs I happily engage in consenting pleasure between man and sausage in the privacy of my own home although I draw the line at sausage dogging. I have seen how the pleasure afforded by a wholesome sausage sandwich can so easily lead to the free basing of pseudo sausages in sweet buns… known as “hot dogging”. Beware.

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A pair of fruitscapes from Roger Stowell’s Print Store

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Two very different views of an autumnal pear from the Print Store…looking as good on the wall as on the tree

paring a pear

paring a pear

Check out this page for more print ideas.

Posted in 2014, Art photography, Autumn, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Pears, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Presents, Prints, Still life, Xmas Presents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments