When the cat’s away. . .

Mary was teaching a cookery course at Earnley this week-end, so I had long-time friend and associate Mike Skeet over for dinner. It was a real he-man’s (i.e., glutton’s) feast, consisting of:


*A farm chicken cooked in a brick with 40 cloves of garlic (only 25, actually, but they were big and fat), with rosemary, thyme and bay fresh from the garden. Contrary to usual practice, I peel the cloves - can’t be bothered fiddling with them after they’ve cooked. A couple of pan-browned Lincolnshire sausages were stuck loosely into the cavity. (No, we only had half the chicken.)


*Onion gratin from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking: onions pre-boiled until fairly soft, then roughly sliced, mixed in a pot with enough creme fraiche to coat, together with a very liberal quantity of freshly grated nutmeg, ground pepper, and a modicum of Ile de Re salt, and finished off in the oven - about half-an-hour. (In the absence of creme fraiche, I used milk, then stirred in a bit of smetana at the last minute before bringing to the table, so that it didn’t have time to curdle. Fewer calories, though in the context of this meal, that’s a joke.)


*Aligot as modified by me: i.e., mashed potato made in the food processor with olive oil instead of butter, freshly-squeezed garlic, salt and pepper, and then a liberal quantity of grated cheddar cheese added until it gets the right “stretchy” consistency. Most of the cantal one finds these days is much less interesting than good mature cheddar. I’ve had aligot at L’Ambassade d’Auvergne, in Paris, which is famous for it - beaten properly at the table with a fork - and it was rather bland.


*Spinach from the garden, end-of-season, rather strong and tough, the leaves steamed and the cut-up stalks cooked directly in the water. Still some flavor left after being cooked into submission, but slightly bitter. A touch of balsamic vinegar softened the edge.


*Finally, some good hard cooking pears simmered a few minutes in light sugar syrup, finished with a dollop of smetana and a dash of Grand Marnier.


*All accompanied by a cheap but fruity sauvignon from Bordeau, a Wine Society selection.


A food historian would raise his eyebrows, but we rough peasants gobbled it up!


©1997 John Whiting


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