full English……

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Here’s wishing for a full English victory at Twickenham today….even though, in truth, I rejected the fry up for some very good Italian coffee and a French croissant:)

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Posted in 2015, Breakfast, cafe, Coffee, Digital photography, Expectation, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

and now let’s hear it for the Greens …..

 

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Through the good graces of the internet and television I have been able to quickly become intimate with kings, of all nations across the ages, and through this intimacy I can confirm that familiarity has bred contempt. Conversely, although I have seen and experienced at first hand the unpleasant side of its nature, I have nothing but admiration for the now and future cabbage. I am neither royalist nor republican but I am a human and as such I can live without kings or presidents but not without food and as there is very little in the governance of today’s world that is to be admired I am plighting my troth to the soil and the sod and the good things which it produces which in turn support our lives. Of all the topics suggested by the Walrus, when chatting to his lunch, none seemed as dull as “kings”. Shoes, ships, sealing wax, cabbages, why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings are all subjects conducive to a long chin wag with a glass of wine or two and perhaps several oysters but I’d pass on kings….unless it was a royal flush: I am fully aware of the possible fun to be had by replacing one vowel with another in the verb preceding the word “kings” and how apposite that would be when linked to the royal flush.

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Today’s cabbage will be tomorrow’s soup and that soup will be rebollita, the recipe of which I was recently reminded whilst thumbing through my copy of Anna del Conté’s “The Classic Food of Northern Italy” for which I did the pictures some 20 years ago: although I see from Northern Italythe current paperback version on Amazon that my cover shot has been replaced with a lighter, brighter image than my original dark and moody picture that was then the zeitgeist. The basic ingredients for this soup, beans and cabbage, provide a link between Tuscany and the Vendée for me. Beans and pork were the mainstays of Vendéen peasants and the fields around the farms are full of cabbages during the winter months. Although our provincial supermarket did not offer the cavolo nero, which is the sine qua non of rebollita, ribollita_editit did offer a very good looking chou pomme, which, being irresistible in name and looks, I bought. I am including the whole of Anna del Conté’s recipe, which includes her careful notes about the preparation of this dish. It’s hard for me to imagine someone not making this rebollita after reading her words.,,,because I am, as you can see from the picture on the right..rebollita
You may have noticed that the recipe has come to abrupt halt which has happened because I failed to scan the final moments…impatience was my undoing. I shall write the final steps…as follows:

“Measure the bean liquid and add enough water to make it up to about 1.5l. Add to the pot and bring to the boil.Cook over the lowest heat for about 2 hours. Check seasoning and leave until the next day. The next day, mix in the whole beans. Heat the oven to 180C. Slice very finely enough onion to make a nice thin layer all over the surface of the soup. Put the pot in the oven and cook until the onion is tender: about 1 hour. Rub the bread with the garlic cloves, then roast under the grill. Put the bread into individual soup bowls and ladle the soup over it. Dribble the remaining olive oil over each bowl.”

Posted in 2015, Anna del Conte, Art photography, Cookery Writers, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Italian food, Olive oil, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Recipes, Ribollita, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Vendee, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Peanut envy…..

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Occasionally I am led to rethink my personal food prejudices but the addition of “jelly”, a term that I have never fully come to terms with in this particular context, to peanut butter is not among those occasions. Such a sublime and handsome teatime treat as a crusted slice of grilled cereal bread liberally spread with an impasto layer of peanut butter, smeared on as by John Bratby* with a palette knife, would be improved to the same degree by the addition of a layer of “jelly” as would be the Venus de Milo by the addition of a strap on. Having said this, I have a feeling that there will be strong support for both of these options.

*John Bratby’s paintings were so thick with paint that it was said that he only knew when one was finished by weighing it.

Posted in 2015, Art photography, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Grape jelly, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Prints, Toast, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 63 Comments

The cat’s bollocks and other tales…..

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The woolly hat pulled down around my ears efficiently protected them from the chill of the biting wind but failed miserably in filtering out the piercing cries of an enraged cat in a cage being carted off for castration. Molly, the cat in question, might appear to be an unlikely candidate for castration which only goes to confirm the foolhardiness of judging anything by appearances, names or, indeed, covers. When he was a tiny kitten, some 6 months ago, we had pored over diagrams of cats’ genitals whilst holding him up by his tail in order to make a clear decision as to his Molly or Manliness. The diagrams were simple and seemingly foolproof. A male was designated by two black dots, one above each other, in the form of a colon whilst the female was symbolised by an inverted exclamation mark. Following this foolproof system we, clearly far beyond fooldom, named him Molly. At the moment of writing, Molly, should be groggily awakening from a drug induced slumber filled with dreams of pussies which is where they will remain henceforth. I on the other hand, desperately clinging onto the equivocal mantra of things hurting me far more than they’re hurting you, came home and cooked Cock Robin: fooled again by the punctuation, Robin is no cock.

Exhausted from innuendo, all that remains is to tell you how good is a simple roast chicken. “Roast Chicken and other stories” by Simon Hopkinson has a place on my shelf of most used cook books. His view that a good cook will produce a good dish from even the scrawniest chicken whilst a bad cook will produce a bad dish, even if using a chicken from Bresse, is one to which I subscribe. The chicken in the picture is a Label Rouge chicken, not from a smart poulterer, but from our local Lidls. To prepare it I carefully slid wedges of butter under the skin of the breast and filled the cavity of the bird with a quartered onion and a bunch of snow covered sage branches from the garden.chicken_roast_0006 Once trussed, I poured some olive oil over the breast and thighs and liberally sprinkled the bird with sea salt and ground black pepper and placed the bird on a rack which sits in roasting tray, in which I poured a couple of glasses of water. The bird goes into a pre heated oven at 21oC  which is turned down to 190C after 20 minutes. A further 40 – 45 minutes of cooking, with occasional basting, will produce a well cooked bird. I also take the time to place pieces of cooking foil over areas that I feel are browned enough. The cooked chicken should be left to rest for a good 30 minutes which gives one the time to reduce the delicious juices in the pan. This with a green salad, some good bread and glass of wine is the dog’s …….which reminds me, I must go and pick up Molly.

Posted in 2015, Chicken, Chicken, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Dreams, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Herbs and Spices, Humour, Olive oil, Photography, photography course, Poultry, Recipes, Roast Chicken, sage, sea salt, Sex, Simon Hopkinson, Uncategorized, Wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 62 Comments

A table on Oleron..a new print on canvas…

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A reminder that, if not summer, then at least spring is on it’s way. This is a print on canvas (120x80cms) which is the first in a long line of images that will find its way into the Prints on Canvas gallery. The picture below gives an idea of scale. Table in Oleron_0006

Posted in 2015, Art photography, Photography, photography course, Prints, Still life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

did you think I’d crumble..

 

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Crumble is an apposite word for this time of year when the testing dullness of January reduces resolution to surrender. That enervating post Christmas week, which gave us pause to recognise that we must change ourselves for the better, slough off that old skin and renew ourselves is now several long weeks in the past. Maybe Narcissus should be the patron of New Year’s resolutions as our view of better tends toward thinner rather than kinder: giving up sugar in our diet is far easier than giving our time to others. So, as January draws to a close, when the mirror has confirmed that our Narcissistic resolve has been to little or no avail, it becomes clear that there must be a rapprochement: a relaxation in the self imposed, strict dietary regulations. There must be compromise. There must be crumble.

Foremost among the wonders of crumble is the simplicity and speed of its creation. When a recipe promises to be ready after 20 minutes preparation and 30 minutes cooking I am suspicious. Experience has shown me that such promises are akin to a politician’s pre election commitments….they are snake oil, a sales pitch…they are unfounded in reality. After hours of frustrated toil I have viewed and reviewed, despairingly, through flour and egg caked spectacles, at recipes that offered such short routes to pleasure. They were fools’ gold…they were bollocks.

I have long been a devotee of the crumble. Long enough to have learnt never to make a New Year’s resolution. A good maxim would be that one should do enough running when young to allow for time to crumble in peace in later years. Whilst shopping I was mulling over this thought when a tray of mangoes, each of which seemed to be attired in its own string vest*, caught my attention. So often mangoes, in the same way as quick recipes, offer so much more than they can deliver but these mangoes were, casting the string vests aside, as Catherine Deneuve in “Belle du Jour” is to a world weary hooker in Kings Cross. They were definitely to be picked up. As an added bonus, they came with a recipe for Crumble à la Mangue…..which is a total delight and confirms in my mind that it’s better to eat a Marathon (now known as Snickers) than to run one….the Spartan who started that insanity only did it because it came with the alternative of death.

Mango Crumble
Ingredients:
2 mangoes
100gms unsalted butter
150gms flour
80gms sugar
a pinch of cinnamon
2tbsp powdered almonds
a pinch of Quatre Épices

Mix 75gms of the butter, softened, with the flour, sugar(keeping 1tbsp back), the cinnamon and powdered almonds in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs.
Peel and cut the mango flesh into strips. Warm them in a pan, over a low heat, with the rest of the butter, the reserved sugar and the Quatre Épices.
Spread the warmed mangoes over the base of an oven proof dish (or in separate ramekins), cover with the crumble and cook for 20mins in a preheated oven at 200C.

Posted in 2015, Almonds, Baking, Cooking, crumble, desserts, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Fruit, Mango, Mango Crumble, Photography, photography course, Recipes, Shopping, Still life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Cut glass ….

 

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There is a very great difference between good and bad charcuterie, which is why I try to only buy the first kind. This difference persists in the quality of pleasure enjoyed between thick, clumsy slices and those that are fine and delicate, the latter of these two varieties being my ideal. Producing the fine and delicate slices that I so enjoy, and not having a slicing machine to call my own, entails a steady hand and a particularly sharp knife. Was it not for the lack of charcuterie in his musings, it appears to me that Omar Khayyam may well have come from Lyon. Aside from thou’s absence, Omar’s choice of bread and a jug of wine is very Lyonnais and very me: unless I’m using a very sharp knife. When cooking, I have found that a glass of wine often finds its way into my hand and, in consequence, I have equated size of glass with frequency of event, the point of that sharp knife finds its way as regularly into the flesh of my hands as it does into the seasoned, marbled beauty of the rosette saucisson whose flesh I am paring into translucent slivers. Slices of pinky and thumb might have added a frisson of daring to one of Mrs. Sweeney Todd’s canapés but I do not have her digital reserves in my freezer. Whilst recently looking through my very limited prop cupboard, I came across the ideal sized glass for use in these operations, which affords me the pleasure of good wine as I slice without the blood letting.

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Posted in 2015, Art photography, Cooking, Digital photography, Drinks, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Photography, Sausages, Uncategorized, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

A puree of Gorgons’ heads…

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“Cheap” is a much maligned word. Cheap skate, cheap shot, dirt cheap and on the cheap are terms that denigrate, that define something or someone as less than it or they should be. In our wealth driven society a divide has appeared. A rift, that dwarfs the eponymous valley, between the very wealthy and the abjectly poor. On one side of that valley, let us call it the Cheapside, “cheap” has become, not so much an accolade, but of the essence. Cheap lets people eat and keeps them warm. Events seen and words read dispirit and disillusion me, but my blog is not a pulpit for proselytism. Although that is the case I should confirm that I am daily more and more depressed with the way that groups of the human race, who purport to be forces for good, seem to be striving to return to the fundamentalism of the Dark Ages and, this time around, fully equipped with all the accoutrements of the modern world to make the experience truly infernal. The sea change in the way of life in the West, one side of the rift, has widened the valley immeasurably.

Meanwhile, here in happy valley, our neighbour’s vegetable garden is positioned but a biscuit’s toss from our wood pile and because of this, and their generosity, we are often the beneficiary of gifts such as the leeks and potatoes in the picture above. They, our neighbours, regularly encourage me, in winter, to take vegetables from the ground whenever I want some but, not having a vegetable patch of my own through which I could return the favour, I am loathe to do this. The potatoes come from their store in a darkened outhouse where the forms of ghostly white potatoes are clearly visible in the gloom thanks to a coating of lime which slows down the shoots that, if left to grow, would create a hellish vision not unlike a box full of shrunken Gorgon’s heads. Was our neighbour’s name Perseus, I would be nervous of accepting a gift of such spuds. This also makes me worry about Gorgonzola….did Perseus go through a nightmare cheese making period.

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Casting aside the vision of faces wreathed in writhing serpents, I created a wonderful supper from those humble ingredients with only very few additions. Leeks in red wine is a recipe which, each time I make it,  surprises me with its depth of flavour. I originally found the recipe in my copy of Caroline Conran’s “Poor Cook” which volume has survived the depredations of countless house moves and which I still use regularly. There is a meatiness to the flavour which I like, not in the terms of a meat substitute, but because it is so much more substantial as a single vegetable dish than I would ever imagine. The leeks become fondant to the point where a table knife cuts cleanly through them, thus avoiding the wet, stringiness that can so often be the case with cooked, whole leeks, whilst the red wine reduction adds the umami that waters the mouth. I serve these leeks with a purée of potatoes made silky with plenty of butter and creme fraîche. Good as this may be, a winter’s supper would be incomplete without pudding.

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In winter there are always apples, pears and clementines together with a hand of breakfast bananas in the fruit bowl.Today,on television,I saw a very good recipe for what appears to be an incredibly quick and simple banana ice cream, so a few fingers of the hand will be sacrificed to that end. It was the scent and appearance of two large and perfectly ripe Williams pears that decided dessert. Returning to the book shelves I remembered a recipe in Mary Cadogan’s “Pies & Tarts” which was a clever combination of apples and orange juice in a light sponge which, in turn, was encased in a flaky pastry case. As thrift was the key to the menu, I decided on using the two pears in place the apples and orange. Apples and pears would have been very good, but why waste the apples which will make another pudding….cheap skate, Roger!

Here are the two recipes….enjoy. How nice it would have been had I bothered to create both the recipes with the same size fonts, etc…..just another cheap shot..must try harder.

Leeks in red wine

Pear sponge tart

Posted in 2015, apples, Apricot jam, Baking, bananas, Caroline Conran, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, desserts, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, friendship, Fruit, Garden, Gardening, leeks, Leeks in red wine, lifestyle, Mary Cadogan, Pear Sponge tart, Pears, Photography, photography course, tart, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

A Tale of Two Pies…

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It was the very best of pies: it was the very worst of pies.Veal and ham pie, best described as a long raised meat pie with a row of hard boiled eggs running through the middle, is part and parcel of my faded memories of summer picnics in the England of my childhood. The true fascination of this confection, to a boy, was the appearance of a perfect section of a hard boiled egg, chrome yellow heart with a pure white halo, in the centre of each slice. Such a slice was the ideal slice but, owing to the contrary nature of eggs, this golden orb waxes and wanes as the knife proceeds along its length. Hating egg white, as I always have, the mystery of how an egg could successfully be inserted, undamaged, into an already cooked pie was of less interest to me than the possibility of being the unfortunate recipient of a yolkless slice. A slice studded with a perfect oval of solid egg white, like the boiled eye of a very big fish, was my nemesis, my personal short straw. In that era the utterance of the phrase “I don’t like that”, particularly by a child, fell on deaf ears and was thus little used. Being sick at a  picnic was not encouraged as one was there to enjoy oneself and not to be sick. No Geneva Convention covered such behaviour, so when an abysmal moment, such as the egg white horror, was upon me there was nothing for it but to swallow and call upon those inner resources,  thankfully gifted to pupils of boarding schools, that could efficiently subdue the retching impulse. At those moments the jelly around the pie, which had previously seemed quite benign, became very much more threatening. I think I always expected too much of veal, ham and egg pie. My father, on the other hand, although happy with the pie, found the same problem with my good self.

Meanwhile, in Lyon, pie makers had not troubled themselves with the mystery of egg insertion. Foie gras had been their choice of stuffing which they surrounded with duck and truffles. This sensible combination of fine ingredients fitted neatly into a golden crust, the top surface of  which was pierced with a row of small holes, through which the intense stock, created in cooking the duck, was poured and which would set into a toothsome jelly. Inexplicably, I very much enjoy quails’ eggs in jelly, the egg white of which doesn’t offend me in the least. No question but that I had gone to far better place.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Art photography, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Duck, Eggs, Excellence, Foie Gras, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Hard boiled eggs, Humour, Meat, Photography, photography course, Pie, Quail eggs, Truffles, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Je suis Charlie…..

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