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Diary and Notes
It almost happened again. That thing that people do when they come around for dinner for the first time, that aura of fear that they bring with them. The Deutschenvolksenglanderessenangst as they call it in these parts. I felt it as they approached. They had tried to defend themselves by offering to come around and help me cook. Cheeky blighters, I wasn't having that, no way.
I could imagine what they whispered to each other when I first invited them for dinner "But he's English!" And the shock and horror and revulsion of the thought of eating what around the world is considered to be far less palatable than UNHCR emergency rations, or a stew made from beetles and hot, fresh tallow, straight from the rendering plant.
OK, this time it wasn't true. Firstly one of the people who came is English. Two of the others I've cooked for before and the last one is far too polite to even harbour such malign and misguided thoughts (plus, if he said anything, his English girlfriend would castrate him). This aside however, there is the general belief that British food stinks, and I'll tell you partly why this misconception persist today:
Imagine, if you will, some foreign visitors to our Sceptred Isle from an imaginary country. We'll call this country Amrika. They are on a one week whistle stop tour of Europe and have a guide book with little boxes to tick when they've done the things they are supposed to do in each of the fifteen countries they've come to visit. Their aeroplane (notice the spelling and imagine how it's supposed to be pronounced) arrives a Paris Charles de Gaulle and what do they say? "Ooh, it says here Marjory, that France is famous for it's food. Why don't we spend a little of our time and money going for a good meal?" And off they trot all the way to Lyon to taste the delights of L'auberge du Pont de Collonges where they spend 190 euros each on the Menu Grande Tradition and buy a bottle of 1987 Chateau Margaux for another 300 euros. Plus twenty on a glass of fizzy water. Then they come to Britain, having heard all the horror stories and fearful of the food and say "Oh Marjory, we should be careful here, the food is disgusting." And go to MacDonalds for lunch. Why don't they head to La Gavroche or eat at Gordon Ramsay's or even go into one of London's thousands of bars/restaurants/bistros and try something local and well made? It's not all jellied eels, steak and kidney pie and tripe.
I can't do it any more. I can't go on trying to convince everybody I meet from all over the world that their knowledge or British food is either mistaken or racist. I'm tired, I've grown weary of the fray. As such, if I meet you and you make just one joke or slight about British food, instead of trying to defend our honour by making something tasty and proving you wrong, I'll just beat you up. Yep, I'll punch you squarely in the stomach and then kick you in the balls, I'm quite a big bloke and fairly good with my fists so I think I can. It's the British way; we love a good fight. And if, by some fluke of nature, you manage to be harder than I am and I fail in my attempts to smash your face into the ground, I'll follow you home, nail your doors shut and burn your house down with you inside it. "Now there's some fine English cooking." I'll say, as the smell of roasted man wafts on the breeze. "Hmm, why don't we toast some fine, hand made, Gloucester old spot sausages, by the fire?" And Gordon Ramsay will pass the HP sauce. (I think he'd be a bit tasty in a scrap too).
Be warned, I may not be joking!
Oh and we had an excellent dinner.
Mandarin and pistacho zabaglione: Made by my friend Ellie. Absolutely delicious. Almost put my dinner to shame, almost.
Spaghetti with olives, sun dried tomatoes and chanterelle mushrooms,
Gorgonzola and roast red onion tart,
Wood oven bread. (Fantastic crusty baguette from Cafe Hemer, baked in a traditional wood fired oven)
Mandarin and pistacho zabaglione.
Spaghetti: Spaghetti, spiced olive oil, olives, sun dried tomatoes, chanterelle mushrooms, parmesan cheese, black pepper.
Tart: Flour, butter, salt, red onions, olive oil, egg yolks, cream, gorgonzloa cheese, mozzarella cheese, black pepper.
Ratatouille: Olive oil, onions, garlic, aubergine, courgette, green pepper, dried chilli, white wine, bouquet garni, passata, tomatoes, black pepper, salt, fresh parsley.
Spaghetti: Warm some spicy olive oil in a pan and put the spaghetti on to boil. Stir some olives (chopped in half), some strips of sun dried tomato and some chopped chanterelle mushrooms into the oil and warm through gently. Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce, grind on some black pepper and serve with mounds and mounds and mounds of fresh parmesan cheese.
Tart: First make some pastry. (Rub cold butter into salted flour, add icy cold water, form into a ball and chill). When the pastry is cold, grease a flan tin, roll out the pastry and line the tin. Bake blind (with a few dried beans to keep it's shape) for about twenty minutes.
Filling: Peel some red onions. Rub with a little olive oil and bake in a hot oven until they are soft. In a bowl, mix some egg yolks and cream (about 1 part egg to 3 parts cream). Add some black pepper and a little salt. Chop the onions and layer on the tart case. Pour over the egg mixture and crumble on loads of gorgonzloa cheese, then slices of mozzarella. Bake for about 45 minutes.
Ratatouille: Chop the aubergine, courgette and green pepper into large chunks. Roughly chop some onion and garlic and fry gently in a little olive oil until soft. Add the chopped aubergine and fry a little longer, then the courgette and green pepper and the dried (whole) chilli and fry a little more. Add the bouquet garni and some white wine, put the lid on and simmer gently until all the vegetables have softened. Pour in the passata and some pepper and salt. Cook slowly for about 3/4 and hour. About 10 mins before serving, remove the dried chilli and stir in some quatered tomatoes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving. (A small tot of pastis isn't a bad addition if you have some, gives it the Marseille touch).