Three words to do with food and drink popped up in our conversation. Margreet, being unfamiliar with any of them, wanted a dictionary definition. Even her smart computer’s dictionaries and my large Concise Collins dictionary were in the least bit helpful.
Those words were punt, musseau and chabrot – one very English and the others French.
Starting with punt. In conversation I was referring to the “thief”, “voleur” or indentation at the base of a wine bottle. It took a lot of roundabout questions to the computer before she found definitions. They were mainly of boats and gambling. Although “punt” was not in a dictionary, the definition was found.
There are various reasons for having a punt at the base of a wine bottle, the most common being that it is there for stability and when
bottles need to be turned by hand.
The word musseau, again, did not appear. So I referred her to a recipe in the Oldie Cookbook that I wrote in 1993. There it was, and she had eaten it many times when it had been my turn to cook. It is a wonderful way of consuming leftover meat – especially when served as a main course with hot potatoes.
Slice the meat finely, cutting away any fat. Place the result in a serving dish and cover it with capers, cornichons (gherkins) chopped finely, chopped onion or shallot, pepper, salt, olive oil and vinegar (we make our own cider and wine vinegar in 5 litre jars). Turn the mixture around to marinate. Serve with some fresh herb as garnish.
My own speciality is to add pickled black peppercorns to the musseau’s dressing. Almost fill a jar (having a plastic lid) with black peppercorns. Cover with vinegar. It will take some time for the peppercorns to soften and become ideal for a musseau or other dishes (use sparingly). They will keep indefinitely, but may need a top-up of vinegar over time.
The last word was chabrot. To “faire chabrot” is a French peasant’s custom of pouring red wine into the dregs of his or her soup, swilling it around to blend, warm, and clean the plate, and then drinking the result from the plate’s rim. It may look as peasanty as it is, but delicious. I have found that poorer red wine makes a better chabrot than a good one.