Yesterday was one of those days of almost surreal completion.
9am: Breakfast was a sausage sandwich and a near-perfect cafetière of freshly-ground coffee. This may not sound exceptional, but the bread was home-made, the sausages were pretty good and I savour my coffee when I actually have it these days. It’s my favourite breakfast and one I find actually very difficult to beat. So a gustatorily (?) perfect start.
11.15am I went on to BBC iPlayer to find the BBC4 documentary In Other Words that I missed last month, only to find it’s no longer available (why – why – do they do this? Why can’t they just bloody archive everything?) Instead I found a really rather fascinating documentary narrated by Dr Andrew Hussey on the culinary history of France, from Louis IV right up to present day. I was hooked throughout.
12.30pm I made ketchup from the pounds of tomatoes now decorating my kitchen windowsill in a spectrum of colour. I did this last year, following the recipe in Jamie’s Kitchen as the combination of herbs, spices and vegetables works really well. What I had utterly and completely forgotten was that a) last year I doubled the recipe to two kg of tomatoes, which made at least 3-4 jars of ketchup – this year I made it with just 1kg and it boiled down to just the one jar and b) it takes all bloody afternoon to reduce so 5 hours of kitchen time were diligently spent on the one sodding jar of admittedly delicious sauce. A somewhat disproportionate result but one we shall treasure, I’m sure.
NB: I really do recommend the recipe, but he does make the classic mistake of not mentioning how very long both reductions take - I suspect in the interests of not putting your average servantless domestic cook off making it. So you might as well factor it in for a rainy afternoon and be patient with it: the first reduction can take 2 hours, the second at least an hour.
1.30pm It’s not really a lunch worth writing home about but I enjoyed it: Take one slice of bread and toast. Sauté/steam some purple sprouting broccoli and when nearly done, chuck in some olives and halved cherry tomatoes. Pile onto the bread, tear up some mozzarella and melt in the oven. Drizzle over some extra virgin and some chilli flakes if you like. Lovely.
3.30pm Watched Julie & Julia on DVD and found myself wishing fervently they could have just made the whole film about Julia Child with Meryl Streep and forgotten the vapid, whinging Julie Powell story which added nothing and detracted much. She’s not a human being that comes across as worth knowing (and you might note I made mention of the same after reading the follow-up Cleaving). But it did make me long to go back to Paris and to cook. Luckily the latter scenario was still in hand by the time the film finished.
7.30pm A Goan chicken curry, rich with coconut and tamarind. I threw in some pineapple in a rebellious pro-Empire gesture and didn’t regret it. But I would draw the line at sultanas.
9pm: Another food doc on BBC4 with Andrew Hussey, this time on the food of the North West. As in lobscouse, chips, pies, tripe and so on. Striding around Blackpool like some Scouse Charles Campion, he’s a good presenter, but his background as a cultural historian could have given more insights into the consequences of the Industrial Revolution on our culinary heritage. The highlight was the World Pie Eating Champion – an old guy probably called Stan who dutifully followed Hussey round Wigan, clearly having been promised more pies. He got them in the end – he seemed to have a lower jaw that just unhinged to swallow said pie. Extraordinary.
Today I’m going to actually get out of the house. Out and about in society, nice and easy, that’s the way.