a taste of 2016….perhaps..

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Something has stirred in the forest, still faint, but definitely stirring. The forest in question is the tangled thicket of my thoughts into which a seed has fallen and taken root. If it grows and thrives I shall tell you more about it. Having a computer, which can do more that two or three million things at the same time, allows me, a forgetful septuagenarian mortal, to let the seed grow or wither whilst I concern myself with meatier meditations on cooking in a wood fired pizza oven. Whatever my feelings on meat eating are, were or will be must be disregarded when confronted with a toothsome côte de boeuf looking as sexy, and bronzed as the one in the picture above these words….or the gigot below.

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There is a visceral quality to cooking with a medium as direct as the living heat and fire of an oven such as this which quality extends as much to the burnt offerings and burnt hands of the novice as to the glorious look and unique taste of dishes that emerge successfully from the heat of furnace. I am very taken by this style of cooking whilst being equally aware of its demands…lots of wood and lots of time. There needs to be an intense heat created for the quick preparations such as pizzas or flatbreads but that which interests me most is the slow cooking that happens while the oven is cooling down……which is something that might well interest some of you who would like to spend a few days cooking and taking pictures in the Vendée in a new and glamorous location….and so the seed begins to grow.

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Posted in 2015, beef, clay oven, Cookery School in France, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, gigot, Meat, Photography, pizza oven, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Poule A or Poule..?

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A glaring misjudgment that I made early in our life here in France remains, annoyingly,  as fresh in the minds of those who witnessed it as on the day of my gaffe. With the best of naive intentions I bought a fresh chicken from the local village shop, seasoned it and roasted it for the prescribed hour and served it to my waiting family and friends in full confidence that I would be showered with compliments for the golden skinned and herb scented delight that I had set before them. The first thrusts of fork and knife, rather than sinking through tender, melting flesh, rebounded from the rubbery roasted elastic that characterises a boiling fowl that has been cooked in an oven for an hour rather than benefiting from the traditional method of simmering in water, with aromatic vegetables, over several hours.The pneumatic quality of the flesh, impenetrable by anything save the sharpest of chef’s knives was to serve as an unforgettable demonstration of the difference between Poule B and Poule A. The pictures in today’s post are those of a roasted Poule A that I roasted, for the prescribed hour, with a big bunch of those herbs that still remain in our garden. Both my knife and Molly’s teeth found just the right amount of resistance before we each, in our own ways, enjoyed the pleasure afforded by the savoury aroma,  mouth watering appearance and inimitable flavour of a perfectly roasted chicken.

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Posted in 2015, Chicken, Cooking, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Expectation, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Herbs and Spices, Humour, Photographic Prints, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

cross dressing….

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Happily, we have not only passed the age when Victorian modesty demanded a frilly covering for naked table legs, but also the more recent era when ” nicely brought up ” folk would protect delicate sensibilities from the disagreeable sight of a pristine roll of lavatory paper by weirdly concealing it beneath the skirts of grotesque knitted ladies in crinolines who stared outwards, from their home on the frigid cistern top of the Armitage Shanks, primly observing mens’ members pissing towards them and no doubt wondering why the owners of those members, when the flow had ceased, rather than shaking the last drops around the room weren’t reaching forward to put a hand up their skirt to grab a sheet of  Bronco. The English language, or the users of it, have adapted the term “dressing” not only to cover their modesty but also to cover a multitude of other possibilities, the strangest of which may well be salad. Why in the name of sanity would one dress a salad and what could that even mean? Dressing a deer means to rip its belly open and gut the poor creature….I’ve tried that with a Cos which served as clear proof that another form of dressing would be appropriate for salad. There is “dressing down” which entails not wearing diamonds in case you piss off the less fortunate or,  with the addition of the indefinite object, ” a dressing down” means a thorough bollocking and loss of privileges. “Dressing up” is less  ambivalent as it may mean rifling through a trunk of of theatrical costumes to dress as someone who you are not or rifling through your wardrobe for your most expensive clothes in order to dress as someone you are not either. Were you, like Johnny, to have gone for a soldier ( a phrase that may well be misunderstood in current parlance) the command “dressing by the right” might well be shouted at you which would entail you looking over your right shoulder at the man next to you and shuffling around a bit until you, he and the rest of the Duke of York’s 5000 men were in a straight and evenly spaced line whereas if your tailor whispered “dressing on the right, sir?” it would be unwise to look at the man on your right and shuffle around a bit as you may well get a pin in the bollocks. “Cross dressing”, on the other hand, is how I feel when I see someone put a proprietary goo, called salad cream, onto salad leaves or raw vegetables.

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a salad of green leaves seasoned with the jus from a roast

The confusion induced by the misuse of the word “dressing” pales in the face of the many misappropriations of the word “salad”. How can salad ever be a bowl of cold rice with bits of other foods mixed through it; the concept may well be worthy and economic, an ideal that in my experience rarely pleases the taste buds of anyone save those retaining their nursery palate. I suppose “salad” has the purpose of signifying that a dish is going to be served cold although “salade tiède” is well known and it can’t be long before there is “salade chaude”. In spite of this, salad so often means that it will be a dish of various cold foods, often ill matched, stirred together with a gloopy sauce based mostly on vinegar, cornflour and sugar.I have seen potato salads in which the potato is unrecognisable to both the eye and the palate. However salad may be defined by the dictionary, my personal view is that the words “mixed” and “salad” should be kept separate.  A green salad is my ideal and a green salad constructed of lettuce is perfect. In France lettuce is known simply as “salade” and that says it all. The warm jus from a roast chicken ( or whatever roasted or grilled meat takes your fancy) simply poured over a cool, crisp lettuce provides all the seasoning that the leaves may need.

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Then there is vinaigrette which, when well made, partners a salad or crudités particularly well. For a good vinaigrette it’s important to stick with the traditional ingredients and to have a care with the proportions. Somewhere in the back of my mind is the memory of the young Michel Roux describing how to make a vinaigrette. The details and proportions are clear in my mind, but they might have nothing to do with M.Roux:

“Be a miser with the salt and generous with the ground black pepper. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a teaspoon of honey. To these flavourings add 5 tablespoons of olive oil (I now use 3 tbsps olive oil and 2tbsps of rapeseed oil) and half a tablespoon of red wine vinegar ( or whatever vinegar you like). Shake this in a screwtop jar until it emulsifies”

The avocado appears to have been created with vinaigrette in mind.

Posted in 2015, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Honey, Humour, hypocrisy, Olive oil, Photographic Prints, Photography, Salad, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

PC in Lyon…

suckling_pig2_0133People love piglets. That statement may be ( definitely is ) a little too inclusive, I know, but, all the same, I have met many people who are piglet lovers and there is no doubt that the many thousands who read Celi’s delightful blog are piglet lovers too. Not conclusive proof of ubiquitous piglet love but moving in that direction  But our love of piglets wanes at the first waft of sizzling bacon or at the crisp crackling of a spit roasted suckling pig. Good advice for a young piglet would be to trot, on his PC’s (Pieds de Cochon) as far away from Lyon as is piggily possible. Lyon may well be Politiquement Correcte but the only version of PC available to a tiny porker will be on a Plateau de Cochonaille. In my PC ( Pig Caring) life at home I do not partake of pig or piggy bits….as I feel my nose growing longer I now remember a sausage or eight and some good saucisson….but as a rule there is the same chance of a bacon sandwich being on offer as there is of watching an aerobatic display performed by the local Old Black Spots in the skies over La Moussiere. However, on the other lard smeared hand, in my life as a PC (Photographe Créatif) specialising in food, it behoves me to eat whatever is put before me, from which onerous duty, shirk I do not.

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The swirling waters of the Rhone and the Soâne flow through Lyon but it is the Bocuse that pumps the lifeblood through the veins and arteries of that city. His name and his influence permeate this food capital in a way that is unmatched, to my knowledge, in any other. Paul Bocuse has attained the status of a high priest yet, if one listens carefully, it would be impossible to overlook the undercurrent of supposition as to what will happen, or more to the point, who will inherit the crown, in the time of PB or Post Bocuse. As one might imagine, there are more than enough pretenders to the throne. Through my job as a photographer, as well as my interest in food and cooking, I have been able to eat at the tables of some notable European chefs yet I have never had much interest in fine dining and even find the term to be faintly ridiculous. That is by the by, as the successor to Bocuse will have to be a recognised and impeccably qualified master of those skills who will have been elected by his very jealous and competitive peers and who, even if he has those credentials in spades,  will still not be Bocuse. Just wearing the hat will not be enough…..PC ( Pauvre Con :(

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Posted in 2015, Art photography, Cooking, Digital photography, Expectation, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Illusion, Photographic Prints, Photography, Pork, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

another cake moment….

Today I discovered, which is to say, saw for the first time, the food paintings of Wayne Thiebaud. I can’t imagine how I haven’t known about his work before as the his imagery, for me, is utterly captivating. It makes me feel like “I wish I’d said that…” The slide show is of a cupcake picture, that I did some time ago, together with some versions that I created today…a faint homage to an amazing painter.

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The grey damp day outside is occulted by the wind blown shutter of my office window. Here, inside, everything is warmth and peace with a cat sleeping on the shelf next to me as I write. This is a good place to be.

Posted in 2015, Art photography, Baking, cup cake, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Photographic Prints, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

grumpy santa’s golden balls….

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Being that we are, if not renowned, at least known for our minimalist Christmas decorations which, were it not for our grandchildren could easily descend to many degrees below minimal, you can imagine my surprise when I was, this very afternoon, faced with examples of these decorations being refurbished in our outhouse at an indecently advanced date. I just hope it’s not me who’s doing it….although it very well could be.

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Posted in 2015, Christmas, Christmas decorations, Digital photography, Humour, lifestyle, Photography, Still life | Tagged , , , , , , | 27 Comments

I’ll be the judge of that…

 

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Taste is everything in the world of food and drink. Outside of that realm it is nothing. Good taste does not predicate tasting good which is why the discernment between good or bad taste rests in the eyes of the beholder whilst the personal judgement used in discerning whether something is tasting good or bad resides in sensation, perception and experience……a précis of which would read something like this “People with bad taste are people whose opinion differs from mine and if you don’t like the taste of this you’re a tosser”. This carefully considered judgement came to me but a few minutes ago when our neighbour gave me a bunch of turnips. For the next few hours I shall be carefully leafing through that classic tome,  Baldrick’s “The Turnip and I” or is it “The Turnip and Eye”…that would definitely be an acquired taste.

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Posted in 2015, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Photography, turnip, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

a cake named Roger….

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My mother once had a Pekinese dog whose given name was Brownie. As she did not have a memory for names she may well not have known that. I’m not sure whether this was because her mind was full of other much more interesting things, which, if that were the case, she never imparted to me, or whether, like myself, when she had achieved a certain amount of years, she just took no notice of names. We both would have had a similar reaction when being introduced to people at some gathering or other.The person performing the introduction might as well have recited the alphabet as neither my mother nor I would have absorbed any of the information that he/she was sharing with us as, in my case, I would already be too absorbed in the faces and behaviour in front of me and my brain would have applied the name filter whilst I imagine that my mother, although graciously nodding and smiling interestedly, would have been wandering through the garden in her own place of no names. The upshot of this, if upward shot there is to this rambling reminiscence, was that my mother would sometimes call me Brownie and would happily introduce me to friends of hers, friends who treasured and remembered names, in the same way: it’s fair to say that she did ring the changes by sometimes introducing me as Manuel, my maternal grandfather, or Charles, my father, which meant that I might find myself in a conversational group where, owing to the protagonists’ clear memories for names and according to the style in which my mother may have introduced me to them, I was prepared to be addressed by a multitude of names save for my own. And so we come full circle and I can share with you this very good recipe for these toothsome and chocolatey Rogers….jolly good.

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CHOCOLATE ROGERS

175g butter, chopped
300g light muscovado sugar
175g dark chocolate, chopped
50g walnuts, chopped(optional)
3 eggs, beaten
100g self raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

1 Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas 4. Line a shallow oblong tin with baking paper(about 20x30cm) Melt the butter, sugar and chocolate gently in a large pan. Remove from the heat, cool for a few mins, then stir in the eggs.
2 Sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder and fold everything together until well mixed. Pour into the tin and bake for 30-35 mins. Cool to lukewarm in the tin, then cut into squares.

Posted in 2015, Baking, Brownies, Brownies, Childhood, Childhood memories, Chocolate, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Garden, Humour, Illusion, Photographic Prints, Photography, Reality, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

fly poster….

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I foolishly forgot to include a recipe for the this wonderful pear cake in my last post so here it is. The recipe comes from Patricia Wells’ “The Provence Cookbook” which is among my favourite books of recipes. There is a common link between the cookery books that I use most and that link is the absence of recipe photographs: this book stays true to that ethic.

THREE PEAR CAKE  from “The Provence Cookbook” by Patricia Wells

Ingredients

Spring form pan or loose bottom cake tin 9”

Cake
0.5 cup all purpose flour
0.3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
0.5 tsp fine sea salt ( I leave this out)
0.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp eau de vie poire Willian
0.3 cup yoghourt
Grated zest of one lemon
4 x large pears, peeled, cored. Cut lengthwise into 1/16’s

Topping
0.5 cup sugar
1 large egg lightly beaten
1 tbsp eau de vie poire William
Grated zest of one lemon

1/Preheat oven to 180C. Butter and flour cake pan.

2/In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and stir to blend. Add the vanilla, eggs, oil, eau de vie, yoghourt, and lemon zest and stir until well blended.. Add the pears and stir to thoroughly coat the fruit with the batter

3/Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan and place it in the middle of the preheated oven. Bake until fairly firm and golden; about 40 mins.

4/Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, egg, eau de vie and lemon zest and stir to blend. Set aside.

5/Once the cake is firm and golden, remove it from the oven and the the topping mixture on top of the cake and return it to the oven for a further 10 mins.

6/Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 mins, run a knife around the edge of the pan and release the cake from the pan, leaving the base under the cake.

Posted in 2015, Art photography, Baking, cake, Cooking, desserts, Digital photography, Eau de vie, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Patricia Wells, Poire William, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Just William…

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Pears can be tricky, of that there is little doubt. There are times when they can just fuck off -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVTDwq2q3Ak – but that time was not this afternoon. The pear on my plate, by the name of William, could not have been better behaved having reached that perfect moment of ripeness which state, in a pear, is undetectable from the outside giving truth to the maxim that beauty is only skin deep as there is no way to judge if it is pleasure or disappointment, sweet flesh or decaying mush, that lays beyond that thin epidermis. Today I had sweet flesh. which I relished whilst waiting for the flesh of William’s chums to transform themselves into an excellent cake.

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Posted in 2015, Baking, cake, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Fruit, Humour, Pears, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments