taking the piss….

Manneken Pis, Pissenlit, Pisse-Dru, Tant Pis, Pissaladiere…there’s something very French about pissing; about not searching for a convenient bush or shady corner but just having a piss when the moment takes you.  I should make it clear that this is singularly, to my knowledge, a male habit. The iconic circular pissoire, a form of communal metal mini skirt covering the unmentionables but leaving the head and legs revealed to the vulgar gaze, which were installed in towns and cities for the protection of tourists’ eyes from the unedifying sight of group male urination, is as defining of France as is the Eiffel Tower which, in all its phallic glory, surprisingly isn’t surmounted by a fountain. This is not the case in the French countryside where, on occasion, I have been in conversation with a French acquaintance or a neighbour who, in mid flow as it were, has decided to have a piss and without ado has had one. In our small farming community, where everything that moves is either pissing or shitting, I find the idea and the practice quite sane whereas Jenny thinks it is completely insane and yet another clear illustration of men having a problem of keeping it in their trousers. In defense of French males, I think it is linked to the lack of  importance that they place on basic bodily functions which is illustrated in their choice of profanities. Body parts are not part of the local profane vocabulary whereas, in England, it would be nigh impossible to engage in a full blooded road or referee rage without running the full gamut of ersatz biological references.

All that withstanding, today we are solely concerned with the pleasure afforded by Pissaladière, a traditional Provencal tart of melted onions, which gains its name from its original seasoning with “pissalat” which was a form of the ancient Roman condiment known as “garum”. Back in the days when it was usual for local fishermen to sell their catch as their sole form of income, they would keep the smallest fish for themselves. These tiny anchovies and sardines, with their heads and tails removed, would be preserved in glass jars in layers alternating between salt, thyme and bay leaves and finally topped with a layer of salt. After several weeks this produced a purée which, when carefully sieved, was called “pissala” and this, with the addition of olive oil, was kept as a seasoning. “Pissalat”, if it still exists, is a rarity and, in the case of pissaladière, has been replaced by anchovies preserved in salt or oil. Aside from onions and anchovies, patience is the next most important ingredient in producing a worthy example of this traditional recipe. There is no short cut to the process of melting sliced onions, flavoured with olive oil, thyme and bay leaf, so that they slowly transmogrify into a soft, glistening mass of gold with no sign of catching or burning: only watchfulness and care will allow this to happen. My system is to slice the onions and put them directly into a heavy lidded pan, on a low heat, so that the onions slowly release their water. When this has happened, lift off the lid to evaporate the water and then add olive oil, herbs, a pinch of sugar and some anchovies. Then begins the slow melting process which may take 40 minutes or more; the anchovies will melt into the onions adding that extra layer of flavour that is essential in a good pissaladière. As for the base ……sometimes I will make one but in this case I used a ready made puff pastry which worked well for me but would be scorned by the aficionados who I hadn’t, and even if I knew any wouldn’t have, invited to share it with me. My second cardinal sin was to use capers rather than the small, bitter black olives de Nice….none of which I had in my store cupboard and because I like the sharp vinegary hit that capers offer and because I don’t shy away from cardinal sins as a great deal of pleasure lies in their direction. There is as much need for a recipe for pissaladiére as there is for cooking a baked potato as by making it often you will find out how you like it best, so for now….just put the onions on the pastry, garnish with anchovies and olives or capers and put it into a hot oven until the pastry is golden and a wonderful scent is filling the kitchen. At that point Jenny and I will drink a couple of glasses of very pale, chilled rosé while we talk and wait for the tart to cool.

Posted in 2017, anchovies, Baking, Bay leaves, capers, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Mediterranean food, Olive oil, olives, onions, photography course, Photography holiday, Pissaladiere, summer, tart, Thyme, Uncategorized, Wine, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

forget-me-nots…..

It doesn’t take much to make us humans gush or, indeed, to outpour. We gush or outpour at the drop of a hat or , hat dropping aside, whenever a taste, a face, a place, a smell or a moment unlocks a bitter or sweet memory, hitherto dormant….at this point we rejoin the lower echelons of the animal kingdom as eyes and mouths open wide and we screech, scream, and chatter; clap, caper and cavort; we are lost for words and revert to noise. Memory, whether the mind’s or the body’s, also has physical outpourings which, at their noblest, may be tears but more often will be the spread of vomit at the foot of a lamp post that marks the body’s opinion of what the mind remembered as a memorable evening. These forget-me-nots, unlike their botanical cousins which are restricted by season, blossom and share their scent at the most unlikely and private moments. Beetroot has a way of doing this as does asparagus; such an outpouring reminded me of this quirk of nature this very morning.

Posted in 2017, asparagus, beetroot, Digital photography, Emotion, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Memory, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

giving up giving up……

There are so many things that I should have given up for Lent. I should have given up turning on the radio, reading newspapers, believing politicians, thinking that the daft cunts were politicians in the first place, having faith in the basic goodness of the human race….and so many more. But, in the end, I didn’t.  It would not be untrue to say that recent events have left me so deeply, truly and madly ennervated that, as far as the written word is concerned, I have been rendered speechless which is a state that I rarely, even while that privilege of free movement still hangs on like a mobile milk tooth clinging to the last fragile threads of attachment, freely choose to visit. However, I’m home again. Still oozing bile but happy to be in a sunny kitchen, shouting at the radio and up to my elbows in flour and butter. Why are people urged to get out of the kitchen if the heat is too much for them…open the fucking window, down a glass of chilled wine and get on with tossing your hot things in bubbling butter. Making food to enjoy and eat in the sun is my today and I’m consigning all the other stuff to history. Up I have given.

A bowl of deep yellow yolks nestling in a mound of unctuous creme fraiche when beaten together with a tablespoon of sugar becomes the corner stone of this dish. I say cornerstone but, on second thoughts, the golden cream is the cement that firmly holds the slices of sweet apple in place in a shell of the shortest, sweetest pâte brisée. This is the Irma la Douce of sweet tarts and is to be found in Patricia Wells’ “Bistro Cooking”. I urge you to give up giving up and get on and make it…..nunc est edendum.

  Golden Cream and Apple Tart….Tarte aux Pommes à la Crème

adapted from a recipe by Patricia Wells in “Bistro Cooking”

3large egg yolks
185ml crème fraiche
60gms sugar
1 pâte brisée shell pre baked and cooled
4 cooking apples such a Granny Smiths ( about 750gms) I used sweet apples which worked for me

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the creme fraiche and half the sugar and beat together until well blended.
Peel and core the apples. Cut them into quarters and the quarters into two or three slices depending on size of the apples.Starting from the inside edge neatly layer the apples is concentric circles. Pour the cream mixture over the apples and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
Bake in the centre of the oven until the cream filling is set and the apples are very brown, even slightly burnt at the edges…about 45mins.

Posted in 2017, apples, Baking, desserts, Digital photography, Eggs, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Patricia Wells, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Recipes, tart, Tarte aux Pommes a la Creme, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Win a FREE holiday in FRANCE this summer…..

To celebrate International Food Photography and Film Week the first two people to send in the correct answer to the picture quiz below and book a course with me, Roger Stowell,  award winning food photographer, and the hottest chef of the moment, Olia Hercules, will be able to bring their partner for FREE.

All you have to do is to find the two correct four letter words that are created by using the first letter of each object in each of the eight pictures, taken in consecutive order, from the table of pictures above….send your answers by email to roger.stowell@hotmail.fr

The competition is open to couples sharing a room at the lovely villa Le Mazeau in W.France. Each winner will have the chance to book a holiday and to bring their partner completely FREE of charge*

The first two correct answers received by email will be adjudged the winners and will be offered the opportunity to take advantage of the offer.

The prize is a 4 night course running over a long weekend: June 15,16, 17 & 18

*this offer includes transfers to and from the airport but does NOT include travel to and from Le Mazeau nor meals and drinks at restaurants and bars during the holiday and is bound by the conditions of http://www.biginfrance.com.

INCLUDES ALL FOOD AND DRINK AT THE VILLA, TRANSFERS AND EXCURSIONS.
NOT INCLUDED: VISAS AND TRAVEL / MEDICAL INSURANCE, ANY MEALS OUT
WE ALSO ASSUME THAT YOU HAVE INSURED ANY COMPUTERS, CAMERAS OR OTHER PERSONAL EQUIPMENT THAT YOU BRING WITH YOU.

Posted in 2017, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Your vote can put things right at last…….

…….I need to hear the voice of the people

and I need to hear them cry out

“Hurrah for Roger Stowell’s film ….”

and vote for it on unearthed@Food in Film

NOW

Posted in 2017, Digital photography, Film, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Rugged Ratatouille……

This old man’s fancy is turning to Spring and dreaming of Summer when we’ll be cooking on wood fires and quaffing rosé in the long warm barbecue scented evenings…

…..my course with Olia is slowly but surely filling up….https://www.biginfrance.com/roger-olia

Posted in 2017, artichokes, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Film, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, lamb chops, Meat, Olia Hercules, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, pizza oven, tomatoes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A chance to hang Roger Stowell…..

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10″x 8″Giclée prints on Hahnemühle Pearl paper at £40.00 each + delivery*

Printed by the Print Space, London

A selection of prints can be found on my website http://rogerstowell.com

Orders can be made direct to the Print Space through my website (link above)

*UK delivery
Royal Mail (1-5 working days) costs £5.22
UK Mail (Next working day) costs £14.39
Mainland France delivery
Royal Mail International (5-10 working days) costs £14.20
International courier (1-5 working days) costs £36.00

Posted in 2017, Digital photography, Photographic Prints, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Olia Hercules will be cooking in France this June…

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OLIA HERCULES,

WHOSE NAME, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHOSE FOOD IS ON THE LIPS OF EVERYONE, IS THE GUEST CHEF ON MY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE OVER A LONG WEEKEND IN FRANCE THIS COMING JUNE

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…………….AND IT’S FILLING UP FAST.

IF YOU WANT TO JOIN US PLEASE BOOK NOW ON

WWW.BIGINFRANCE.COM

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Posted in 2017, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

cooking with my hat on…..

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When the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool, that’s amore: no it’s not. What it is is pasta e fagioli but even though Dean Martin was Italian, Italians in America become American after quite a short time which entails a naturalisation test, which you must spell with a “z”, and a severe reduction in syllables. If Dean Martin ever cooked..I’d be surprised, but, if he did, he’d cook pasta fazool because fagioli has too many syllables and, more importantly, does not rhyme with drool; and he’d wear a hat. Eaters of pasta fazool always wore hats. Tony Soprano and his fellow goodfellows wore hats even when cooking pasta in prison or, after naturalization, in the monosyllabic can.

Hats were on my mind this cold morning; indeed, one was on my head. A February morning in a cold kitchen in the Northern hemisphere is a test of the human spirit. Its days being slightly longer and its nights that bit shorter allow the subliminal suggestion to creep into our subconscious that the good times are about to roll whereas all that is about to roll is heads, or head colds, unless there’s a hat on them. February is 28 days of treachery and disappointment. It is known as a leap year in memory of all the people who have metaphorically leaped into the slough of despair on that quadrennial red letter day 29. Food is a way out of February: cooking deep flavoured dishes that will take our minds to places that aren’t February which thought leads directly to my book shelves where I can enjoy the foreplay of leafing through favourite books in search of today’s panacea. Some twenty years ago the wonderfully talented Alastair Little published his “Italian Kitchen” which I recently bought on Amazon for 1 pence; which is sad in that the insatiable hunger for new cookery books renders them worthless within days of publication, but joyful in that I could afford it…pace Alastair. That he is a renowned chef is a given but I am drawn to the cook and the writer in him. A small chapter about Pasta Fagioli included pasta e ceci, pasta e lenticche, pasta e patate and, of course, pasta e fagioli which was what I then realised was my ticket to ride out of February. His version takes time and care which is, for me,  the heart and soul of cooking.

Taken from “Alastair Little’s Italian Kitchen” ( recipes from La Cacciata – his cookery school)

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Posted in 2017, Alistair Little, beans, Cookery Writers, Cooking, Digital photography, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Herbs and Spices, Humour, Italian food, Olive oil, Parmesan, pasta, pasta e fagioli, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Recipes, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

lunch…alone…

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“…lost to almost everything but a vague sense of jam and idleness” Although, pace Maggie Tulliver, in my case “jam” was supplanted by “lunch”. This perfectly conceived emotion had caught my imagination as I was reading last night and had come flooding back as I sat in our sun filled kitchen this morning contentedly considering, that most important of midday things, what should I cook myself for lunch. Cooking for oneself and eating alone is not to everyone’s taste but it is a pleasure that I have always enjoyed because it is not continually imposed. Memories of lone lunches, such as a well put together welsh rarebit with a bottle of cidre de garde at St,John, Clerkenwell or jamon iberico with a chilled fino at the bar of Moro, come to mind together with the fact that the dish in question was not complicated yet always satisfying and toothsome. Oeufs Meurette is such a dish and is perfect to make at home as the ingredients required are not too Hoxton so it’s more than likely that you’ll have them without losing spontaneity by first heading to the shops. Whenever I make this dish, which is probably two or three times a year, it occurs to me that I have never eaten a better version than my own…anywhere…yet. 

Oeufs Meurette
Ingredients…( the amounts relate to me cooking this dish for myself )
Eggs 2
Banana shallot 1
Lardons fumés 100gms
Garlic clove crushed
Flour 1tsp
Bayleaf
Large glass of red wine
25gms butter
Seasoning
Vinaigre du vin rouge/Jerez/cidre….add some to the salted egg poaching water

Cut the shallot into 4 quarters lengthwise and brown, with the lardons and crushed garlic, in the butter in a small, thick based, frying pan for 5 mins. Stir in the flour and cook, moving the ingredients about, for another 5 mins. Add the wine and bay leaf and cook, bubbling over a medium flame, until it has thickened. If it’s too thick, add some wine and so on. Season with salt and pepper …I add a pinch of sugar.
Meanwhile poach the eggs in boiling salted water and vinegar and, when ready, put them into a bowl or small dish.
Spoon the sauce around the eggs…..add some chopped parsley…I always have it ready and forget to put it on.
Fried bread is good with this.

  • the quotation is from George Eliot’s “Mill on the Floss”
Posted in 2017, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Drinks, Eggs, Excellence, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, oeufs meurette, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, poached eggs, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments