Sunday, 23 August 2015

Californian food

My friend Jill tells me evocatively: "Breakfast Tenderloin-style. Fennel sausage scramble, corn bread with chilli jam."

Menu game

I am told that this the US Menu Game was devised by A A Gill, the restaurant reviewer. Apparently, there is only one rule: you have to order with such precision that whoever is taking the order cannot ask you any follow-up questions. A game for a lawyer...

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Uzbekistani food

I recently met, halfway through the Channel Tunnel, a man who had just travelled to Uzbekistan on a motorbike. He told me that Uzbekistani food consisted largely of Shashlik. One of these days, I am going to travel to Samarkand and, on his recommendation, Bukhara, to see for myself.

Bloody Mary

I first had one of these on my eighteenth birthday. The date coincided with a school reunion and my old Science teacher offered to buy me a drink after the meal. I had long loved tomato juice - Granny used to buy it for me in green tins - although I had received parental criticism for the amount of Worcester Sauce I was in the habit of adding.

My aunt CeCe used to teach me that a Bloody Mary without the Vodka was a Bloody Shame.

But the drink I came across for the first time today, which inspired these reflections, is something called a Greasy Mary. It comes from a Scotsman, Pat MacLaren, who was commenting on a photograph of a Bloody Mary taken in a bar in San Fransisco that had so many vegetables on top that it looked like a salad. This is what he said:

"Scotsman's dilemma. Lovely booze but it's got all vegetables in it. You should try a Greasy Mary. Basically you get the runoff tray from a George Foreman grill after you have cooked the cheapest Aldi full breakfast for a scout troop. Pour into a glass and mix with equal parts vodka, garnish with a tiny Scotch egg on a stick."

Friday, 7 August 2015

Tom's salad dressing

Sent to me in a text and worth publishing without amendment:

"Just discovered the most delicious salad dressing: liquidise olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and raw garlic. Utterly amazing."

Monday, 3 August 2015

La Tielle de Sète

have written or thought about writing about Sète before: it is where I had one of the best burgers in my life, at the railway station.

More gastronomically, perhaps, I turn to one of its local specialities - La Tielle de Sète. A kind of orange pastry, looking like a crab, and filled with octopus and tomato. My father reminded me of them the other day when he sent a postcard from nearby - we have been going to Sète since the 1980s - with a photograph of half a dozen and a recipe for the same. He had written "Yuk (I think)" on the back. My father does not like octopus.

I cannot find an English translation of "Tielle", only references to this dish - more commonly named La Tielle Sétoise - with the accent changed from a grave to an acute. There is probably a linguistic term for that but this is a piece about food. I also learn that Tielle is based on the Italian Tiella di Gaeta, Tiella meaning "pan" and the whole dish being prepared like a "pocket sandwich", whatever that might be. They look a little like pockets, I suppose, so that is what I shall call them. Sétoise, incidentally, I perceive as a sauce with tomatoes, chilli and onion: orange-looking, exactly like these "tielles" in fact.

Here is the wording on the original postcard, followed by my attempt at a translation.

La Tielle de Sète

(Pour 6 personnes)

Prendre 1 kg de poulpes, les nettoyer et les plonger dans un court bouillon. Faire blondir 200 g d'oignons dans un peu d'huile avec 2 gousses d'ail, 1 brin de persil et du concentré de tomates, ajouter du vin blanc, du sel, du poivre.

Faire cuire quelques minutes. Puis ajouter les poulpes apres les avoir coupés, du laurier, un peu de piment et laisser cuire 20 mn.

Pendant ce temps préparer une pâte à pain avec 1 kg de farine, de l'eau et de la levure. Mettre la pâte dans une moule, garni avec la farce et recouvrir du reste de pâte en formant un couvercle en le soudant avec de l'eau bien hermétiquement. Badigeonner d'huile et laisser cuire 15 mn à 20 mn thermostat 7°.


(Serves 6)

Take one kilo of octopus, clean and immerse in a "court bouillon". Sauté 200 g of onions in a little oil with two cloves of garlic, one sprig of parsley and some tomato purée; add white wine, salt and pepper.

Cook for a few minutes. Then add the octopus having cut it, with bay leaf and a sprinkle of pepper and cook for twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a bread dough with one kilo of flour, water and yeast. Put the dough in a pan, top with the octopus mixture and cover with the remaining dough, forming a cover by sealing with water.

Brush with oil and cook for fifteen to twenty minutes at gas mark 7.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Bulgarian food

In the trellised outdoors eating-house in the little square where I settled down to a rather good, very oily stew of mutton, potatoes, paprika pods, courgettes and ladies' fingers, all ladled from giant bronze pans... (Patrick Leigh Fermor)


My best friend, Tom, has a very simple principle when it comes to eating in restaurants: never select one with photographs of the food. At least if you're west of Asia.