on retaining one’s paddle when up that creek…

peppers_piedmontaise2_0004

There is a creeping despondency in the air that is almost tangible. This glum onset of what should be bright summer is eerily apposite. I am truly grateful not to live in the mainstream of life any more and to have had the good fortune to have run aground in this tiny tributary of peace where something as trivial as the intense flavours of a dish of roasted peppers stuffed with pesto and cherry tomatoes and eaten in the company of my wife brings a smile to my face and a glass to my lips.

Posted in 2016, Alistair Little, Art photography, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Drinks, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, peppers, Photography, tomatoes, Vegetables, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

bored of the flies…..

fly_curtain3_0008

The sun has finally, if temporarily, ceased its curmudgeonly behaviour and has had the good seasonal grace  to put on its hat and come out to play.Summer’s forte lies in promises rather than foreplay and as these promises are so often unfulfilled we are normally caught with our pants on; which overdressed state is no way to enjoy the good seeing to that summer is about to give us. The fly curtain is up, signalling open door time, and it’s time for a post coital glass of wine after summer’s first delicious embrace.

Posted in 2016, Art photography, Digital photography, Drinks, Emotion, Expectation, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, lifestyle, Photography, summer, Uncategorized, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

..a rude awakening….

cockerel_ext_0005

When I was first awakened by the black cock it would be fair to say that I was not ready for it. I sleep deeply, maybe not the sleep of the just but, having never experienced that, in a sleep that is just as deep although it must be clear that I’m only guessing. However deep the sleep in fact was, the black cock penetrated those depths with ease….thick stone walls and double glazing were as butter to this cock and before he had crowed thrice I was already wishing he shut the fuck up and get in the pot with wine and vegetables and just be delicious instead of noisy.

coq_au_vin_0032Recipe from Stephane Reynaud’s “Ripailles”
coq au chambertin

Posted in 2016, Bistro, Chicken, Chicken, Cookery Writers, Cooking, coq au vin, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Drinks, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Meat, Poultry, Recipes, Stephane Reynaud, Uncategorized, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Hobson’s egg….

egg_hard_boiled3_0004

Hobson’s choice: Any egg you want as long as it’s this one. Henry Ford’s choice: Any egg you want as long as it’s hard boiled

Given the choice,  we humans will invariably choose to have a choice. The more extensive the list of choices may be, the more highly we regard that which is on offer. Not withstanding, that in this time of ours,  knowledge has never been so available and so easy to acquire it is remarkable that we still choose to make our choices without recourse to it. When the thick, leather bound allegorical wine list is placed on the table we will appear to carefully peruse the many pages which offer a catholic choice of bottles the contents of which we know, for the most part, absolutely nothing  but for their origin, vintage and price, yet, armed with this nominal information we will make an apparently measured choice whilst ignoring the possibility of asking the knowledgeable wine waiter for his or her thoughts on the subject which simple act might well prevent us from looking like that which we are about to effortlessly become. But, despite these regular pratfalls,  it cannot be said that we are not consistent in doggedly dusting ourselves down and continuing to make these hopelessly ill informed choices in each and every part of our lives ….divorce struggles with obesity which struggles with debt, each vying for supremacy in this field of expertise. Hobson and Henry Ford were highly successful with their choice methodology which never failed to provide takers with a horse or a car, maybe not exactly the one of which they had dreamed but then again they never imagined that their dream would come true…all they wanted was a choice, which is why bookmakers are very rich and we live in hope.

Next week: Morton’s Fork ….a practical view of cutlery and why you can’t always get what you want.

.

 

Posted in 2016, Bad Habits, Bad luck, Digital photography, Dreams, Emotion, Excellence, Expectation, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Good luck, Google, Humour, Illusion, Luck, Reality, Uncategorized, Wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

‘aving a larf..

roast_veg

Fennel and carrots roasted in olive oil with cumin, sumac, lemon, pepper and salt

It is not unusual for children to dislike, and to take extreme steps to avoid, both vegetables and Shakespeare. I prefer vegetables to either children or Shakespeare which preference may well be blamed on their parallel and equally irritating proclivity to tell jokes that aren’t funny; it is rare for a child and non existent for Shakespeare to make me, in the words of the dictionary,  express mirth or pleasure with an involuntary audible vocal expulsion of air from the lungs that can range from a loud burst of sound to a series of quiet chuckles or, expressed more succinctly, bring tears to my eyes and make me spit out my drink. Rather, they elicit from us, in the case of children, a dutiful pastiche of laughter the exuberance of which will be calibrated to the closeness of the relationship between the child and the laughee whilst, in the case of Shakespeare, the counterfeit laughter will be accompanied by a supercilious smirk which will hopefully be noticed by other members of the audience who, it is hoped, will assume that you are clever little fucker or, depending on the quality of the smirk, a descendant of Marlowe….Christopher not Philip as Philip Marlowe didn’t laugh at anything..ever. It is interesting to note that many of us would find it offensive to be thought of as a vegetable or a child, assuming that we are not actually one of the latter, yet, unbelievably to me, would be flattered to be considered as rib ticklingly funny as Will the Jolly Japester.. although, I must admit, that even I found Hamlet  to be very funny indeed.

chorizo_peppers2_0003

 

Fun as that was, it’s time to turn our attention to the serious and taciturn vegetable, several species of which gave me a great deal of pleasure this weekend and I’m probably not alone in saying that. The roasted fennel and carrots in the opening picture were blindingly simple to prepare and played a supporting role to the main event that was an adaptation of a recipe from Elizabeth David’s “French Provincial Cooking”.

saucisses navarrais059
Ms, David is suitably imprecise about quantities as this sort of food is not about precision. My version used less chorizo, more red peppers and no green peppers, red wine instead of white and so on. This is a dish of big powerful flavours that depends on tasting the dish continually as one cooks it preferably with a glass of wine in one hand, tasting spoon in the other and some good music playing in the background.

 

Posted in 2016, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Elizabeth David, fennel, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Herbs and Spices, Humour, onions, peppers, Photography, Recipes, Saucisses a la Navarrais, Uncategorized, Vegetables, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

immaculate deception…….

eggplant_white_7481

This white eggplant has a slightly unnerving beauty in that it appears artful rather than useful and, depending on the particular beholder’s eye through which we are beholding, either toxic or exotic. It just doesn’t declare itself. Looks aside, I have never been happy with the name “eggplant”; it has about it the ring of Toytown and, that being the case, I shall temporarily assume the character of Mr.Growser the Grocer, purveyor of eggplant, from his own egg trees, and resident curmudgeon of that town whose preferred judgement of all things that vex him, which accounts for most things, is that “they shouldn’t be allowed”. As chance would have it I was not yet born when the first series of Toytown was broadcast and, on the occasion of the second series in the late 50’s, I had reached that awkward age, too young for Lolita and too old for Mother Goose, so I missed that as well. There was apparently another series in the 70’s but I was unconscious for a large proportion of that decade; as for the rest of the time, I was just not paying attention. However, through a virtual revisit, I have become reacquainted with the place (Toytown) and it occurs to me that the principal characters, such as  Larry the Lamb, Denis the Dachshund (very European with a strong German accent but a good grip of English, save for some misunderstandings), Mr Mayor the Mayor and Mr Growser would not give better or worse advice than those currently elected, some self and some by ballot, to clarify our choices and to lead us to their particular promised lands, both of which are apparently filled with silk and money.

On the other hand I very much like les aubergines blanches .
Yours faithfully
Disgusted – Toytown:)

Posted in 2016, Art photography, aubergine, Childhood memories, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, harmony, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Claude’s plums

greengage_pastel2_0035

My love for Claude’s plums is a love which can indeed say its name and, should there be any doubt about that,  I shall be happy to shout it from the rooftops. I say this safe in the knowledge that I could shout anything that takes my fancy from our rooftop in the sure and certain knowledge that it would be unlikely to attract the attention of any sentient being with less  than four legs. The view taken by local upright bipeds is that when on a roof, shouting is the norm which is worth considering should shouting for help become a possibility as  it will  be recognised as no more than normal roof shouting and of no particular import. Best to stuff one of Claude’s finest in your gob and fall politely and noiselessly to your doom which cautionary tale clearly defines the downside of not speaking with a plum in your mouth. Plums are so often a disappointment; they flatter to deceive and red plums are at the apogee of this deception. How often have I bought a pile of ripe, red plums only to find, at the first hungry unwashed bite, that the hoped for nectar of  plum sweetness was replaced by a soft vegetal texture with sour notes. Engraved in my mind are the luscious memories of the moment of biting into a dribblingly sweet ripe Victoria plum or an intensely flavoured almond shaped deep purple damson but these memories live in too close a proximity to those legions of less happy moments when the too brown, too soft, near rotten plum is popped int0 the unwary mouth producing a near perfect test of the gag reflex. However, up to this point, I have not experienced this disillusionment with a Reine Claude, la bonne reine, or, if I have,  that memory or, heaven forbid, those memories have been thoroughly expunged from the recesses of my mind.  The recollection that I cherish is that of a neighbour paying me for some photography with a huge bowl of Reine Claudes and, as I recall, not a single one was a bad one. Certainly a memory to treasure which is the ideal purpose of any memory….. however untrue.

Posted in 2016, Childhood memories, Digital photography, Excellence, Expectation, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Humour, Memory, Photography, Reine Claude, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

too Little too late….

IMG_20160417_191651
There was a time, not all that long ago, when quantity and quality were unlikely bedfellows. It would be rare indeed for them to be seen together, even just holding hands, let alone snuggled up together under the duvet where it would seem that they now spend most of their time making the two backed beast…both hard and soft covers. Quantity and quality are now an item. After years in the shadows they have sashayed from their closet screaming that they are remaindered, and proud of it. But above all, they are cheap, which word was once a pejorative and is now the grail. I speak of  the tsunami of books that has been created by the seismic upheaval created by the internet which has given us all the chance to be authors, diarists or journalists and by so doing has mightily augmented the creation of books whilst reducing their value  to that of  flotsam and jetsam. Luckily the internet has not yet encouraged us to be amateur surgeons or airline pilots. The upshot of this  may well not be politically correct but because of this surfeit and the consequent reduction in value, I can now buy, and indeed have just bought from that mighty on line river, a very good cookery book by one of my culinary icons for the sum of 1d…that’s one penny, one denarius, one pee or not a lot at all. The icon in question is Alastair Little, who is well worth a pee or two, but probably not directly after eating asparagus, and the book of which I speak is his “Italian Kitchen”, which was published in ’96, some years before Rush replaced Potato after Yukon Gold. In that era, Alastair, together with Rowley Leigh and Simon Hopkinson, formed a trinity of brilliant cooks (I dislike the word chef and have less and less respect for it) who were able to produce masterfully simple and flavour filled food without the need to pair obscure ingredients nor to decorate their dishes with smears, foams or other beastly goo gahs. I knew Alastair a little in the late 80’s when he was going up the mountain and I was beginning my dizzy slide down. At that time he prepared the food at the Zanzibar, an infamous Covent Garden watering hole, where we would talk of food and his plans to open a restaurant until the martinis brought gravity into play and I would fall off the bar stool. I still have a memory of him saying that he was a Bolton supporter, whatever that meant, and at those moments I could certainly have done with Bolton’s support myself.

asparagus_risotto_0001

I used the book to make dinner last night which consisted of an asparagus risotto followed by a raspberry and frangipane tart. That which is impressive with his writing, as with his cooking, is the detail which is neither padding nor decoration. His advice that it would be a waste of time to make his recipe for asparagus risotto if one could not be bothered to make the recommended asparagus stock from vegetables and the asparagus peelings could easily have  appeared as overbearing and pedantic but in his  safe hands it read as good advice which I happily followed and because of it this butter rich risotto was packed with a sublime asparagus flavour, which simplicity is so often crushed by intemperate seasoning and over generosity with the Parmesan.

asparagus_risotto051

Posted in 2016, Alistair Little, asparagus, Asparagus risotto, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, friendship, Humour, Martini, Parmesan, Photographic Prints, Photography, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Strike over a lack of conductors…..

wish_bone_1224-copy

French lightning conductor…..current model

The after effects of yesterday’s storm have been apocalyptic. I use the term advisedlyas, apart from the expected mayhem, it appears that the storm has temporarily bent various, previously immutable, physical laws to its will, of which more later. Electricity, water and ice contrived to flash, dash and crash from the heavens in a wilful demonstration of celestial spleen which revealed an unforeseen quality in our newly built préau, being that of a well perforated colander.Standing beneath the colander brought to mind how Hawkeye remained hidden from view, behind a waterfall, from Chingachgook’s Mohicans whilst a small fragment of my shattered sanity remembered that Hawkeye had been grateful for the fortunate presence of a waterfall whereas I was not; at that point there was a loud bang which suggested that I had been shot by one of the Mohicans, who, to be honest, I thought we had seen the last of, but the lack of cordite in the air led me to the fact that lightning had once again struck in the same place and had blown up my office. Ever the pessimist, how lucky was I to find that it had only grilled my computer, the telephone and the internet…hard to get luckier than that. My luck continued to such an extent that, as I reached hurriedly for the car keys on their wall hook, I was lucky enough to witness an example of either auto kinetics or a slight tilt in the earth’s axis as the keys fell from my grasp and landed, not neatly but with a fucking great splash, in the bowl of cat’s milk that I’m sure had not previouslybeen directly beneath them. Finding pessimism too depressing, even for such a curmudgeon as myself, I optimistically set off to the nearest large town to replace the frazzled router.The queue outside the ill named Orange (henceforth to be known as Orage) Boutique was very long indeed.Each of us in that Orage queue cradled a dead Livebox in our arms which, when alive, will serve as a conduit to the treasure trove that is the sum of man’s knowledge and when dead will not; rather it will act as a conduit to the darkest recesses of of our minds wherein abide the three imps of impatience, impotence and imprecation. As I stood there, deballed, the oh so nearly smiling Orage sales person advised our beleaguered line that there would be no more Liveboxes available until the end of the day…which information, it was clearly evident, was not a crowd pleaser leading her to hurriedly lock the Boutique’s portal as it looked as though the tumbrils might roll once more down la rue de la République……there maywell be trouble in store.

Posted in 2016, Digital photography, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

on a wing and a préau….

préau110421

The longing, in this month of April, for the warmth of summer is with me for an unseemly proportion of my waking and dreaming moments. A longing that has me limping along these final few furlongs of heavy going before winter, spring, or whatever this unseasonably cold period is called, finally does the decent thing and drops dead. I weary of daffodils; I need the sun, and when it arrives I shall hide from its glorious heat beneath our newly constructed (might be useful in a crossword) préau and drink chilled wine and eat delicious dishes such as artichauts à la greque with good bread to soak up the oil until both the sun and I, exhausted from a hard day’s shining and dining, will happily turn off and turn in. However, were this to be an ointment, in it there would be a very large fly. Indeed, as I conjure, legions of mosquitoes, wasps and other mordant beasts are currently nestled, nascent, in some dark place waiting for that very same sun to awake their determination to buzz, bite and generally do their damnedest to fuck up the idyllic long summer evenings of those very dreams. And that’s summer….bites, burns and sand in sandwiches ….with which I am so much happier than I am with the pinched faced cold of the other six months…yet without the aching anticipation, those longed for moments would lack their delectable savour….which brings me back to those artichauts à la greque..

Young purple artichokes,without chokes, quartered and peeled. Cooked in oil and water with aromatics.

Young purple artichokes,without chokes, quartered and peeled. Cooked in oil and water with aromatics.

Here is a précis of Elizabeth David’s recipe from “French Provincial Cooking”.

“To prepare the artichokes for cooking in this way have ready a bowl of water acidulated with lemon juice. Draw your sharpest knife through a lemon and rub the artichoke also with lemon. Cut off the stalk and hard leaves on the underside, then slice through the leaf part right down to the tip to the last but one row of leaves nearest the stalk. Holding the artichoke in your left hand rotate it while with the knife slanting towards you in your right hand you slice off the hard outer leaves until only the little tender pale green ones remain. Scoop out the choke ( le foin, the hay) with a little silver spoon. As each artichoke is ready throw it into the prepared bowl of water. Although it takes so long to describe it is really only a matter of a minute, especially after a little practice.

The fonds or hearts are now ready to be boiled, stewed, sauté in butter, stuffed, ect. To cook them à la greque first prepare a mixture of  1/2 pint of boiling water, a small coffee cup of olive oil, a sprig of thyme and a bayleaf, about 10 coriander seeds, a little salt and pepper, and the juice of half a small lemon. Bring this to the boil in a small saucepan, tall rather than wide. Put in the prepared artichoke hearts ( 4 for this quantity of liquid), and let them simmer steadily for 15 minutes. Leave them to cool in the liquid. Cut them in quarters when cold and serve them in a shallow dish with some of their liquid.”

I get a great deal of pleasure from reading her precise instructions on cooking something with which we are now so familiar, whilst reflecting that, at the time of writing, artichokes were a little known vegetable to the English publicand even good olive oil was not easy to find.

 

Posted in 2016, artichokes, Bay leaves, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Coriander, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Dreams, Drinks, Elizabeth David, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Olive oil, Photographic Prints, Photography, Recipes, summer, Thyme, Uncategorized, Weather, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments