Saturday, May 29, 2010

Roquefort beurre

You will bless me for this information


You will need
Roquefort cheese

When I was in Paris as a student in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the offered items of restaurant and cafĂ© food were still peasantly simple – staunch and traditional favourites of the natives.
Both radishes and Roquefort cheese were offered with a pat of butter. Why?
I never quite saw the reason why the taste of radishes would be enhanced by the addition of butter. And just how should that combination have been eaten anyway?
But I was soon to notice that customers used a knife to blend the Roquefort with the proffered butter. So I did the same.
The result was delicious. The salty astringency of the cheese was transformed into a blend of softness and creaminess – retaining all the wonderful taste of the cheese.
Roquefort may still be served with butter in French eating places. In Paris, the only restaurant that I know of that still serves that “traditional” menu, and at a reasonable cost, is the enormous and fun Chartier, 7 Rue de Faubourg Montmartre.
The last time that I ate there, Roquefort was not on the menu, but Blue d’Auvergne was, and it was offered with beurre. Radishes were not featured.
So I recommend that for a cheese treat you put a lump of butter in a bowl, allow it to soften, add twice its volume of Roquefort cheese, and mash the two together with a fork.
Place the bowl in a freezer bag if keeping it in the refrigerator.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ice-cream sauces

The STOP ME AND BUY ONE ice-cream man on his tricycle cart of old, served blocks of ice cream, wafers, cones and water ice in a triangular stick that you pushed out of its container as you sucked or bit. I do not believe that anyone thought of adding sauce to the blocks of plain vanilla made for home consumption. But there are lots of sauces for ice cream in the kitchen that are normally used for other purposes. They need no further preparation, or very little. So should you have dull ice cream to use up, have a good look around the shelves and cupboards.


You will need:
Any of the following:

After the most popular chocolate sauce (see below), a fine sauce is golden syrup, straight from its can or jar, or heated. When blended with melted butter it is even better. Chocolate spread is another potential sauce. Jams and marmalade, straight from the jar or heated and diluted with a little water are other ideas. Grated chocolate, nuts, sultanas, currants, green raisins and peanut butter (worked in and excellent), all make good sauces on their own, or mixed. Crumbled plain digestive biscuits may not strictly be a sauce, but the crumbs are delicious on ice cream. But top of my list comes hot or cold chocolate sauce, made simply by melting some butter, adding plenty of sugar, half its volume of cocoa powder, a little vanilla essence and water to form the consistency required. Whisk it all together as it heats through. If too much water has been added (it won’t need much) and the sauce too thin, just whisk in more sugar and cocoa powder. I let the mixture rise in the pan three times over heat – only to make sure that the sugar has melted completely. Put what you do not need to use right away into a screw-top jar, make sure it is cold, and refrigerate until wanted to enhance ice-cream at other times.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

a French bathroom

A room contains, in the normal run of things, four vertical surfaces (walls) and two horizontal surfaces (ceiling and floor).
On a recent trip, our bathroom in France had 22 vertical surfaces, 13 horizontal surfaces (where dust could lie) and one angled surface.
It was a conglomeration of surfaces, mostly, or partly, blue tiled (ceiling part tiled).
Pleasingly held in my affection are the arrays of bathroom pipes and pipe work that can resemble a complicated knitting pattern.
With general upgrading, these open knots of copper tube have been much reduced over the years in which I have been to France, but still offer enough wonky pipe work to intrigue.
Beautifully exposed in that same bathroom (brought up to three star standards) were six horizontal pipes and eight vertical ones (some large to very large), all plain to see when lying in hot water.
And nearly always there is a little hole somewhere at floor level – presumably to please mice.
The surfaces, pipes and mouse hole contrive to create bathrooms of infinite enjoyment to the interested observer. And for that panorama of fun the French don’t even have to try.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

String and a blue tit

Outside and near to my kitchen window are three plastic sacks of soil into which I am planting beans this year.
Broad beans are already growing well there.
To accommodate the climbing beans (Climbing French and Blue Lake) I have constructed a bamboo frame, giving each plant either a bamboo or a vertical strand of green, garden string up which to climb.
Looking out of the window one early morning in late April, I saw a blue tit struggling and swinging round at the top of one of these strings.
I witnessed its distress for a short time before planning to go outside and free the poor fellow.
Then I noticed that it was sliding downward. Perhaps the string had become wound around its leg.
Then, apparently still struggling, it fell lower still.
It was about to be saved when I noticed that the bird was not attached to the string at all, but holding on to it.
Lower it went, pecking at the string all the while.
By the time the blue tit had reached the bottom of the string it had harvested a beakful of short green strands, made of jute, sisal, hemp, or whatever garden string is made from.
Then off it flew to add decoration to its nest.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Rice salad

Rice was used in England’s past mainly for rice pudding. It was also added to soups and stews – especially in poorer households. Then the Indians and Chinese came.
Rice salad does sound a bit boring. But with a bit of imagination it can be turned into one of the very best of dishes as a first course or main one for vegetarians. A large bowl of this salad will make a summer's day feast - and be economical and easy to prepare.
You could boil rice especially for it, but why not cook more than will be wanted for, say, a curry or whatever you normally eat with rice. Then you could start to prepare the following day's salad with the surplus. Add oil right away and stir it in, otherwise the rice will dry out and some grains will revert to their hard state. I favour brown rice for this salad, although it takes almost double the time to cook.


You will need:
Pepper and salt
Various additions

Let us presume that you have cooked more boiled rice than wanted for a meal. Put what is left over in a bowl and add oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), pepper and salt. Give it a good stir. If the rice is still hot or warm, so much the better. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it when cold.
The next day, add some capers, possibly green peppercorns (I soak black peppercorns in vinegar for a month or more and use a teaspoonful of them) and a chopped gherkin or two. That's a good start - and finish. But there are other items you might like to add, like chopped nuts (I favour pre-roasted cashews, pounded), pine nuts, chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped parsley or coriander, chopped fresh or dried herbs, chopped fresh chillies, a dash of chilli sauce, pounded coriander seeds, chopped hard boiled egg, diced cucumber, chopped green, red or yellow peppers, chopped cumquat pieces, green raisins, sultanas, olives and on, and on, and on - though not all together.
Whatever you choose to add, you can hardly go wrong. But start with a simple few ingredients - like nuts, capers and chopped gherkins. These give the salad some “bite”. Nuts and peppers will give it added colour and texture.
From plain and simple rice you will now have made a delicious salad. For a main course, decorate it with halved hard-boiled eggs, tomato quarters, sardines or anchovies. Add a few stoned black olives to delight the eye.
To elevate the salad to a much higher plane, skin a small knob of fresh ginger root. Cut this up into the smallest of morsels, or grate it. Add this and stir.
Before you have turned cooked rice into a salad, you might consider saving some as the stuffing for vine leaves, when in season. Soften the leaves with boiling water. Mint will be your main addition to the rice as stuffing, with cooked minced lamb.