not getting it……

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There’s something clearly very sexy going on here. Fruit can’t help being sexy because that’s what they are. They’re the fruit of some tree’s loins and they look like sex. The one moment that I remember from Ken Russell’s film, “Women in love”, was the celebrated fig eating scene which, although I had read in reviews that it alluded to sex and thus was ready to react suitably so as not to appear like a naive twat which I was,  didn’t mean as much to me then as it does now. In 1969 there was little chance of me associating a fig with the one thing that I thought about continually and of which I could not get enough. Maybe if there had been more fresh figs in post war Sutton, and less jam roly-poly, the allusion would not have been wasted on me. I’ve been told that time is a great healer but, finding myself with the keen sight of a bat and the teeth of a basking shark, I think that time has been over optimistically reviewed, probably by the same man as recommended “Women in Love”.

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I try to avoid using the word “love” when writing about food mostly because I find it nearly as annoying as “Oh, my God” ( the abbreviation is so annoying that I’m not going to give it page room) but not quite as stultifying as “Yum fucking Yum”. Fruit of very nearly all denominations brings me close to using the word as I find it as irresistible and satisfying as was the fig to Alan Bates and Co…but they were acting and I’m not. Summer fruit gets better when it’s warm and even better when the hot sun, such as the sun today, draws forth the perfume and coaxes out the juices from all those stoned fruits. I’ve just made this small tart of nectarines and apricots which sit on a layer of ground hazelnuts, creme fraiche, sugar and vanilla …..turn over, action.

 

Posted in 2015, apricots, Baking, Cooking, creme fraiche, desserts, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Memory, nectarines, Photography, Sex, tart, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

on doing one’s duty …

 

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Whenever I hear of duty and the honour bestowed on those who, when called to it, perform it without question, I am whisked back to a much earlier time when, early each morning, I was to be found perched on a lavatory in a crumbling country house deep in the Worcestershire countryside. Our raw boned Scottish headmaster, a ringer for Thring in Ronald Searle’s “Molesworth”, was of the belief that the first thing opened each morning by a child in his charge should be his bowels. This quotidian dump was known as “Doing one’s Duty” and to ensure that evacuation had indeed occurred, a burly matron stood outside the lavatory door, her trained ear cocked to confirm the expected sounds that would signal success in order that a tick might be placed, next to the current incumbent’s name, in the impressive Duty Register that lay open upon her heroic folded arms. Failure, as with the Light Brigade, was inconceivable which resulted in most of the boys being able to mimic the sounds of various styles of defecation in the way that freer children can imitate bird song.  Ours was an ear for a turd song. It was eggs that moved me into that train of thought this morning or rather the lack of them at that time of my life. Nothing that bound was served in the refectory. It was a system that produced alumni with highly educated bowels together with a skill that would have made them a fortune in the music halls, if they had still existed, or on “Britain’s got Talent”, which had yet to be created.

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Notwithstanding Thring’s admonition on eggs and all things eggy, eggs and I have become well acquainted without them making me any less dutiful than I was in my adolescence. Moreover, with the arrival of summer they become essential ingredients for summer cooking and eating. Without them we would be bereft of mayonnaise, aioli, oeufs mayonnaise, cheese or crab  soufflés, meringues, oeufs mollets, salade Nicoise, eggs with tarragon in aspic and, a favourite of mine, thin cold omelettes such as the omelette aux fines herbes in the picture. This was a truly summer dish as the omelette was made with the egg yolks left over from making meringues, which were eaten with a pile of raspberries and thick, yellow creme fraiche. A very delicious way to enjoy these small, cold omelettes is to make five or six of them, each slightly different …let us say that two may be flavoured with Parmesan, two with fresh tomatoes and two with courgettes..and then pile them on top of one another to make a layered omelette cake. Cut slices as you would a cake…..Caroline Conran showed me this idea many years ago and it has never failed to please.

Posted in 2015, Caroline Conran, Childhood memories, Cookery Writers, Cooking, creme fraiche, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Herbs and Spices, meringues, omelette, Photography, raspberries, Uncategorized, Writing, yolks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

keep it clean, Roger….please..

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Whilst driving through the countryside this morning I was momentarily overcome by the unalloyed happiness that is afforded me by just being here. It’s the way that each day is spent not looking forward but just looking. An edible metaphor would liken each day to taking lunch in a favourite restaurant that offered a simple set menu with no choices. Occasionally there will be disappointment, occasionally there will be severe diarrhoea but most days I will thoroughly enjoy at least three of the four courses, which is standard fare in any bistro or cantine offering menu ouvrier, and on occasion all four. I have started to chew each day thoroughly before I start the next. The metaphor has more than a hint of truth as we eat at home from a very similar palette, although our own palates lost their taste for meat some time ago: mine still allows the occasional slice of butchery but it is rare….as is the cooking. Yesterday I had potatoes  and eggs with which to conjure….washing_line_0012as I look up from my writing I see the washing line stretching across the pool to catch the end of day rays. A still, white sheet is embroidered with the shadow of an olive tree, each leaf of each branch clearly drawn, black on white, the whole reflected in artificial swimming pool blue…the blue whitener.

Back to thoughts of food for supper. The choices that I have been busy denying come thick and fast when I am writing because writing reflects reading which reminds me of recently read words that have moved me. Alan Bennet’s “Writing Home” is, like the pool, something that I have been dipping into regularly over the past few weeks as summer starts to make a fist of being who it says it is. His piece on Andrew Motion’s biography of Philip Larkin has made me spit out my wine with laughter, made me wonder at the fluency and ease of his prose and made me lament the loss of the emotive “cunt” to the spoken English language. The zeitgeist would seem to find racial prejudice preferable to the abomination that Messrs Bennet and Larkin both use with care and wit….and back to the potatoes. Nigel Slater is more careful with the written word and it is from his pen that I give you the recipe for this mouth wateringly good recipe….with which we had oeufs mayonnaise and a very good tarte au citron for pudding.

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Recipe by Nigel Slater from “Tender. Vol.1″

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Posted in 2015, Bad Habits, Baking, Bistro, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Nigel Slater, potato, potatoes, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

the dark side of asparagus….

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I’d been editing  pictures from my archives when I was struck by the animation in these natures mortes. The protagonists seem anything but mortes; they seem to be very much alive. The curvy group of close friends bound together by string and bitchery, seem to be engaged in the serious business of slagging off a good friend who is just across the room, whilst one or two of their number cannot resist a glance over the shoulder, ignoring the endlessly repeated “whatever you do don’t look”…..and below, the recipient of those harsh words seeks comfort from her own coterie of supporters. It may be greener, but it’s meaner.

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Posted in 2015, Art photography, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Pimping my sides….

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This is a picture of a dish in my kitchen, filled with summer vegetables, which serves to illustrate that what you see is not what you get. It is not what I got either, at first. What it is is what I got after I had plied the image with a healthy dose of virtual Botox ( Butox is similar but only for rump). It is how I imagined the vegetables would look whilst I was choosing them. At such moments my “across a crowded room” filter can be inadvertently activated with the result that truth is replaced with desire. The vegetables that I chose were perfect specimens, richly coloured and, amazingly, blemish free. Let me confess that I have nothing against blemishes on vegetables; on the contrary, with unfiltered vision I see them as a stamp of quality and authenticity, as clear evidence that they have spent time in, on or just above the soil, and have been in close contact with Mother Nature on her good and bad days. The moment of waking with the results of the “across a crowded room filter” can be a moment tinged with surprise and, dare I say it, disappointment. Vegetables being inanimate ( not an argument into which I have any desire to enter) on this particular waking moment the emotions were one sided. I don’t know if the vegetables felt the same disappointment as I did; I hope not, as they don’t have recourse to Photoshop to mend a broken heart…or blemished skin When I first worked on the picture I was full of good intentions and was midway through swearing to tell the truth when I threw the Bible out of the window and just started swearing; cursing the mendacity of the cicatrised cuckoo specimens before me and wondering how they had surreptitiously replaced my preciouses ( I’m not convinced that it’s the plural of precious, but why not) in my shopping basket. There is a similarity in all this to the Portrait of Dorian Grey as the vegetables that modeled for this portrait have now withered and started to show signs of rottenness. Sic transit Gloria…she should never have eaten it in the first place.

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One of the aubergines survived to make a very good dish of grilled aubergine, tomato and mozzarella which does taste as good as it looks…or looks as good as it tastes..

Posted in 2015, Art photography, Cheese, Cooking, Digital photography, Expectation, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Illusion, Photography, Shopping, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Pam Dora’s box….

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It occurs to me that the globe artichoke and Facebook have much in common. Neither is blessed with good looks and both have uncertain reputations. For the uninitiated, trying either of them for the first time is akin to opening Pam Dora’s box. Her sister’s box must have been far more tempting as one hears of it being opened regularly and  with devastating results, not only to the intrepid openers, but also to her good name which was left in tatters: very judgmental in my opinion and I don’t think A.Pollo helped, who is god at the Sun, which, on reflection, is not a surprise. Pam’s box, on the other hand, was more like the artichoke. Few rushed to open it and those that liked it are far fewer in number than those who liked Facebook: which I find odd. To my mind, the Camus artichoke has the structure of a Frank Gehry building combined with the looks of Christy Turlington, whereas Facebook looks like street pizza. Yesterday I had a small mouthful of Facebook and it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined although I can’t see it as part of a regular diet. Maybe I’ll get accustomed to her face.

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Posted in 2015, artichokes, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Sunlessday……

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Long summer days with rain pass slowly with the dullness of a nagging pain. Sixteen hours of twilight.The kitchen is unusually sombre. A bowl of ripe apricots is today’s sun.

Posted in 2015, apricots, Art photography, Digital photography, Fruit, Photography, Sunday, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

pain relief…

 

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Street furniture, as a term, is an oxymoron: as a manifestation, an abhorrence. It can, however, be amusing as in the plethora of pavement situated wind driven spinning signs which are as unpleasing to the eye as are the small piles of vomit that so often decorate their heavy bases. These spore are clear signs that, if nothing else, they have been put to good use as leaning posts by drunks, anxious to avoid the overload of lager and chips falling directly onto their shoes. One would have imagined that in a high wind, which is not unusual in Northern Europe, their aerodynamic design would spin the weakened wassailer like a compost spreader thus eliminating those unsightly piles at the base. This is sadly not the case but that failing could be solved by more wind or less lager: a matter of wind over matter.

Although the main purveyor of European street furniture appears to be a French concern, it does not take long to notice that the villages of France are not home to their wares nor to realise that the absence of pavements in those villages would entail the carefully designed furniture becoming literally true to its name by being sited in the street itself which would  be a challenge, if not a hazard, to the dozen or so cars that pass through each day. However, where there’s a way there’s a spinning sign and for the most part they are, ironically, drawing our attention to the ubiquitous availability in France of PAIN. With such an appetite for PAIN it was no wonder Gilles de Rais and the Marquis de Sade flourished yet how much safer from prosecution would they have been had they carried out their nefarious activities in a boulangerie: no fear of a latter day Brussels bureaucrat fining them for inaccurate description of their wares as long as the PAIN sign was madly spinning in the forecourt.  The French love PAIN and they like it on a daily basis; twice a day is ideal and, in order to satisfy that lust for PAIN, ” Dieu créa la baguette”. A brilliant piece of baking ingenuity, the baguette stays fresh for half a day meaning that the baker sells his bread twice a day. No market gets commoner than this.

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The pain that I have been enjoying today is pain cereale; a thick slice of which I toasted under the grill. Once toasted, the pain is left to cool a bit, letting the surface becomes crisp in order that it will act as a grater when it is rubbed with a clove of fresh garlic and then with a chunk of fresh tomato over which is then drizzled some olive oil. This pain not for the faint hearted, but then again, what pain is?

 

Posted in 2015, baking, Baking, Boulangerie, bread, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Olive oil, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Ma pomme….

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Memories of my first visits to France, when I was very young, are full of the warmth of the sun, the scent of melons and peaches, the blue of the sea and a litany of tastes  the like of which I had never imagined. A lifetime later I anticipate, at this time of each year, the pleasure of the materialisation, a distillation, of those memories as sunlight starts to paint the landscape with inimitable colour and the warmth draws the perfume out of every living thing. Nothing of our today transcends good memories of our yesterday, which are veiled in soft layers of delicious exaggeration.Remembering a perfect summer lunch in a tiny restaurant by the sea where both the food and the service were impeccable, implausibly retouched as that moment may be, will always overshadow the perfect moment of now which includes a wasp and the braying laughter of the people on the next table that have not yet passed through memory’s excellent editing suite. However, cooking from other people’s memories can be a very good thing depending on the choice of person whose memories are the source of the chosen recipes. Elizabeth David is one such person. Not only did she guide and advise on dishes that she had eaten but also recreated the atmosphere in which she had enjoyed them. My main delight in her writing is that she rarely created recipes; I say rarely, as opposed to never, as I am sure that there must be instances of this but of them I am happily unaware. Patricia Wells does the same, for the most part. Like Ms. David she records good things that she has eaten and, more importantly, who cooked them and where she ate them. This recording of good memories is the very best of food writing.

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This modest apple tart, seen on the same summer day in two locations some 2 meters apart, is such a recipe. Ms. Wells records that she ate it at the home of Francoise and Gerard Potel, of the Domain de la Pousse d’Or in Burgundy, where she had organised several wine tasting dinners. It was Francoise Potel, a great home cook, who prepared it and so impressed was Patricia Wells that she added it to her “apple pie” repertoire. Those words, that preceded the recipe in her book “Bistro Cooking”, filled me with confidence and confirmed that the home of good memories is the place where good food resides.

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Posted in 2015, apples, Baking, Bistro, Childhood memories, Cookery Writers, Cooking, desserts, Digital photography, Elizabeth David, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, Fruit, Garden, Humour, Illusion, Memory, Patricia Wells, Photography, Reality, Recipes, summer, tart, Tarte Francoise Potel, Uncategorized, Vineyard, Wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

y ail, y ail, aulx…..

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It has been passed down in rhyme and song that Old Macdonald had a farm, y ail, y ail, aulx and on that farm he may well have had pigs, chickens and cows but there is no mention of garlic which is a shame as fresh, new garlic goes very well with pigs, chickens and cows, y ail, y ail, aulx. The difficulty of producing a catchy onomatopoeic rendering of the sound of garlic may well account for this omission but, owing to personal prejudice, I have never felt that Macdonald, or his ilk,  could enjoy a happy association with good food, and his apparent disregard for garlic vindicates my presumption.Hell will be home to the netherworld’s most celebrated ice rink on the day that a Big Mac with extra roasted garlic appears on the hallowed,illuminated menu of the eponymous food chain.

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Such is the way of the world that a selfie in front of the Mona Lisa is more desirable than a gander at Leonardo’s leering lovely, as is a sandwiched slab of compacted meat over a meltingly soft, thick slice of char grilled aubergine spread with a creamy layer of garlic infused mayonnaise, studded with capers and decorated with torn basil. Another menu option that the big pant fillers won’t be choosing….which is a shame because such a dish made with fresh garlic does not come with the pungency of dried garlic. The beauty of the bulbs themselves is reflected in the delicacy of the creamy interior of each roasted clove. It was my seduction, whilst shopping, by a trio of pastel hued garlic bulbs nestling close to a delicate pink and cream aubergine, compounded by the suggestiveness of an image in a fine cookery book* that drew me, dribbling, to this simple and wonderful dish….

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..entitled “Grilled aubergines with roast garlic cream”. The young garlic bulbs are wrapped in loose packets of silver foil into which has been poured some good olive oil and a few sprigs of thyme. Roast them in a hot oven for just under an hour, leaving them to cool before handling them. Once cool enough,squeeze each clove between two fingers to release the creamy interior which is stirred into mayonnaise, loosened with a little milk. Meanwhile, the aubergine, skin scored from top to bottom, is cooking under the grill until the flesh is soft and the skin is oily dark and glistening. Cut the aubergine in half from top to bottom, season and dribble with dark green olive oil and place the cut side under the grill until there are sexy little burnt edges and it looks irresistible. Once on a plate, spoon over some garlic infused mayonnaise and scatter over a handful of capers and some torn basil leaves. I served these wonderful treats with a sharply seasoned salad of haricots blancs and white tuna, some primeur Noirmoutier potatoes and a green salad. This was a good summer lunch and not a Scottish farmer in sight.

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Posted in 2015, aubergine, Basil, Burger, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Grilled aubergines w roast garlic cream, Herbs and Spices, Humour, Nigel Slater, Olive oil, Photography, Recipes, Thyme, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments