Nibbles to be passed around to guests at an Art Gallery opening - tiny bocconcini sandwiched between cherry tomatoes, "drizzled" with basil oil.
Nice, but these are not canapés.
What do we call small, light morsels of food passed around to standing guests or to friends not yet seated, to entertain them possibly, while waiting for others to arrive?
Pre-dinner nibbles, appetisers, pre-prandial snacks, hors d'oeuvres, amuse-gueules, amuse-bouches, canapés?
In French, un canapé is a couch or a sofa, so a canapé acts as a little "couch" for a morsel of tasty food on which to nestle. It could be a round of rye bread topped with smoked salmon & sour cream, it could be a sliver of pineapple topped with spiced pork, it could even be a humble Jatz cracker with cheddar and a pickle.
We were always trying to find different "canapés" to build on - a round of cucumber, a small square of crisped polenta, a finger of toast, a blini, a ball of pressed rice - all to inspire us to match a topping.
So baby bocconcini and cherry tomatoes are nice, but they're not canapés. Canapés are pre-prandial snacks/appetisers but not all pre-prandial snacks are canapés.
L. to R.
Cocktail glass - prawns, mango, mayonnaise, whatever & perhaps with a prawn off the side. ("Vintage" dressing - equal parts ice-cream & tomato sauce.)
Ethnic - deep and moody, comfort food, any garnish will be "old school". (Jasmin restaurant.)
Stacked - layered, tall as possible (salad helps), generally circular, must be "deconstructed" to eat.
L. to R
Meat and Three Veg - homely, ticking off the five food groups.
Rustic - delicious gnocchi and mushrooms, artfully "plonked" on an earthy plate. (André's Cucina)
Verrine - Food piled in a glass (or even more on trend, in a preserving jar).
L. to R.
Zen - conscious simplicity and perfection - C.M.'s Peach Melba
Take-away - when the going gets tough. (Just a personal social experiment, of course.)
Geometric - Raspberries and Pistachio - Paris, Le Grand Véfour, my spiritual home.
L. to R.
Linear - a string of ingredients rather than a recipe!
Scatterings - bits of this and that, arranged...
Spoons - for tiny morsels of deliciousness - cocktail food, pre-prandial nibbles, canapés. (Never anywhere to put the empties.)
Do you remember any others?
What's trending now?
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Salamanca Market - Hobart.
Inspiring - but were these vegetables arranged, displayed or "curated"?
In these troubles times, hate is too strong a sword to use flippantly. But sitting around, as you do, we allowed ourselves to mull over clichéd and tired thinking.
Ah - what expressions we use to make our dreary lives more interesting?
We’d be really happy to see less of these in the area of food and hospitality. Indulge us here, share with us.
The worst, the top - the one that got us screaming...
Celebrity Chef (CC), followed by Chef Extraordinaire (CE).
I think a CE is lower than a CC. Perhaps a CE can give an opinion but is not as often on TV. I don’t know. Definition?
Cooking up a storm – as someone who believes in calm, quiet application, this sounds like a messy bench top and dishevelled “mis en place”.
Secrets - “CC Mavis deLornay shares her secrets for the perfect cheese platter” or “This time, we’ll uncover the secret behind the perfect meat loaf.” Something easy made very mysterious? Whatever, there are no secrets, just discovery.
These expressions make us cringe...
Crusty bread - there's no need for an adjective before each and every noun.
Honest food– As CE Frank Mc. says "I hate it when my risotto lies to me."
Infused – mystical flavouring. Frank rocks the boat by "invading" his lamb with cumin. Love it. (And the flavour rocks.)
Healthy – any funny new vegetable, preferably difficult to love
Detox – Not physically possible. Just going without to assuage Catholic guilt.
Clean eating / authentic / integrity - please explain.
Local - How close is local?
Super foods – anything dark green, very bitter and hard to source.
Curated meats – a butcher now does more than just trim meat.
Infant carrots - larger than baby, smaller than adolescents. Adults are probably used for juicing. The big old codgers, I guess, are for horses.
A cooking demonstration recently...
“I’ve made it gluten free so it’s really good”. NO, it's good for ceoliacs and the non-coeliac gluten intolerants, but it's not necessarily better for most people, especially not with the bloody sugar you've added!
"Recent studies show" proves it’s correct.
"Laboratory tests prove" contradicts whatever “recent studies show”.
Think before you say this...
To die for / Simply divine - cute the first time we heard it. No longer.
"Don’t go to any trouble" - Passive aggressive.
"You must come to dinner" - Oh, so it's my fault I haven't turned up or are you indicating that you are lazy and haven't got around to it but mean to do it and in the mean time, you're covering for yourself, or thinking about it but want to look generous and gregarious? Or you just don't want to see me?
"Can I help?" as you walk in the door. If I needed that much help I wouldn't have asked you all over for my larks' tongue pâté en croûte, my roasted deboned pheasant galantine with turned baby vegetables and my new season chestnut and rum bavarois. (Could I send you down to the dressing room to iron a few napkins? I'll bring down a glass of bubbles.)
But especially for us secret, wanna-be or fledgling CCs and CEs, what gets us pulling out our hair (and hurts most)...
"I could never cook for you." - We're all allowed to be good at something. You have a better degree than I have, you have read Proust in French, Russian and English, you can sight read music, you have more jokes up your sleeve than I have, you have climbed Machu Pichu. Allow me to do this one thing without recrimination.
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Some things I've been thinking about...
Glasses - just a reminder of a great lunch, languid and generous - wine-maker Tim Knappstein - no more no less.
"Show me another pleasure like dinner which comes every day and lasts an hour." Charles Maurice de Talleyrand - 1754-1838 French philosopher and diplomat.
Some people are uncomfortable hearing swearwords. Some people get edgy and giggle when the word "butter" is mentioned.
What is it with the centre of the plate? It seems to terrify people when they serve themselves.
At my greengrocer's, saw infant carrots. Are they larger than baby carrots but not as big as adolescent carrots? Is this trying to scare vegans?
The "health" bandwagon is barreling its way through, not only the French language but also through traditional French flavours and la gourmandise.
In my latest ELLE à Table bi-monthly magazine, I read the following. Even non-French speakers should get the drift.
Went to the market. Cute young hipster at the organic stall (of course).
"I'd like a celery and two Grannie Smith apples. I've been watching Fawlty Towers."
"Ah ha! Waldorf Salad! My dad loves that show."
I felt very old.
Celery- too much left over after our Waldorf salad. Sliced on an angle, poached, white sauce, cheese & bread crumbs, baked, even better than cauliflower cheese.
Gratin - what's not to like?
Don't forget to check out comments - always a little extra, more stories or ideas for using peas (and pasta).
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The owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
In the second verse, they marry - a simple ceremony - (an early example of marriage equality?)
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon.
They dined on mince and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
(Edward Lear - 1910)
But what, you ask, is a runcible spoon and why am I quoting Edward Lear?
Lear loved nonsense verse and nonsense words. The idea may have come from his friend George Runcy who talked of designing a spoon for children with tines at the end. Some were in fact manufactured in the early 1900s and it's not known if the spoon or the invented word came first. Like Lear, I like a fanciful word. And anyway, how often does it arise that I can suggest eating with a runcible spoon, whether it be peas, mince or quinces?
Is the runcible spoon the inspiration for the Splayd, (far superior to the Spork)? This multi-function utensil was the invention of Bill McArthur, of Potts Point, New South Wales in the late 1940s. It went viral, as they say in media-speak, - popular in Australia, America and GB particularly for the stand-up buffet. Boxed-sets are still available in our "better department stores", very reasonably priced. As their website tells us, "they are always in demand for gift giving". I have boxes of them, no longer required. I'll keep a dozen and perhaps start de-cluttering by giving them as birthday and holiday presents. https://www.splayd.com.au
Investigating on eBay, I'm SHOCKED to see that Sporks are being passed off as Splayds. Don't be fooled. Splayds have a distinctive mid-century modern simplicity and sophistication.
At left - Splayds
Our very own runcible spoons
I eat my peas with honey,
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife.
(Anonymous - 1871)
In vintage etiquette manuals, peas are classed as a “difficult” food, along with artichokes, asparagus, sea urchins & rambutans as dessert. It is recommended they not be served at a formal event because they are awkward to eat when knife and fork are held correctly (see post HKLP 21 Nov. 2017). Scooping is definitely out. If served, it is suggested you mash them onto the top of your fork, or impale a few on the tines or better still, if mashed potato is also served, incorporate them into the mash. (We are told, “At all times, consider what the person opposite you is seeing”.)
Sod that for a lark! Squashing? Mashed potato? Because I love peas, I must confess that I’m guilty of the surreptitious scoop.
Friend A.W. and his father were fortunate to be included in a dinner where grouse was served. A delicate situation threatened as the game bird was tasteless, dry and stringy. After dinner A.W. asked his father how he had managed to keep accepting another helping so politely. He hadn’t noticed that each time his father accepted more grouse, he also took more mashed potato, which he used to cover and hide the inedible bird.
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What a retro image! So old-fashioned, so off-trend, so "vintage" it's nearly cool. Whatever, it's my favourite dish of vegetables. I made this with 500 gm of peas and I could have sat down on a muffet and eaten the whole lot with a runcible spoon.
They are peas, petits pois, done my mother's way where there's no such thing as crunchy, under-cooked vegetables. I never eat a plain, boiled, six-minute pea.
As a teenager, as you do, I looked into existentialism, positivism, rationalism, nihilism, humanism, atheism, anarchy and dialectics. At some stage, I was drawn to Charles Fourier (1772 - 1837 Paris), a Utopian Socialist. He believed the transformation of labour into pleasure would lead to harmony and mutual consideration. I particularly liked his ideas on children, (for whom he recommended a diet of preserved peaches and sweet white wine).
He saw children as naturally industrious and it was simply a matter of channelling their energy. (Their passion for filth made them perfect rubbish collectors.) The best occupation to utilise their love of activity and rummaging was the shelling and sorting of peas!
Shelling peas is calm and "mesmerising", perfect for watching Dr Phil. Sadly, whether from a farmers' market or a supermarket, whether organic, macrobiotic, biodynamic, bucolic or hydroponic, they are disappointing.
Fourier's peas would have been shelled and cooked within minutes of being picked from the vine. Our peas in the pod can be days before arriving at a greengrocer's shelf, then days before being sold, only to hang around a bit longer before being prepared in one's kitchen. As soon as pods are picked, the sugar in the peas begins converting to starch resulting eventually in "bullets". (Sorry, but...)
Are frozen peas better than fresh? IMO, yes, especially if you choose "baby" peas. There are no other vegetables that benefit as peas do from snap freezing.
Petit pois à la française (Peas in the French manner)
4 people - unless you want to eat them all yourself
500gm frozen "baby" peas
50 gm diced bacon (very, very optional)
50 gm -70gm sliced onion or spring onions, keeping some of the green
50 gm diced carrot (optional)
60-80 gm lettuce, either leaves or heart
A very flexible recipe, of course. If not using bacon, use the larger amount of onion, for the umami. If using spring onions, cut into 7 cm pieces, using the white and some of the green. It's nice to have a couple of small lettuce hearts but sliced outer leaves you don't know what to do with, work very well.
The question remains however. How does one eat peas? I'm researching the answer.
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It's been a strange year in the suburban home garden. Honey yield in the state is reported as 85% down on previous years. That's a worry for a start. The avocado tree, the pride of the garden, will not offer anything this year; small fruit was blown away in several storms and then the heat polished off the rest. Nashi pears are not too bad, tomatoes, woeful although those that made it were superb.
Any excess is with the figs and something we don't use much, chillies. Oh, they are handsome, robust, plentiful and handsome. The punnet of three assorted seedlings was a mistake as we're not sure what we have. A brief tasting with our Bhutanese garden helper identified "birds-eye" (very hot), long and thin (hot) and cute and chubby (benign). I urged her to take away as many birds-eyes as possible.
The heat of a chilli was "codified" by Wilbur Scoville, an American, in 1912. The pungent heat comes from capsaicin and is measured in SHUs (Scoville Heat Units).
To illustrate, your basic red or green capsicum is at zero SHUs whereas Police Grade capsicum spray is around 16,000,000 SHUs.
Some approximate SHUs
Espelette 1,000 Poblano 1,000
Jalapeño 3,500 Serrano 15,000
Cayenne 30,000 Tabasco 30,000
Scotch Bonnet 150,000 Habanero 300,00
At left, the Carolina Reaper, the world's hottest chilli as of 2019. It's the result of selective breeding and world record holder since 2013. It comes in at a whopping 2,200,000 SHUs! Check YouTube for blokes (yes, sorry, it is mainly men) who sit around with other blokes and suffer, cry, groan, and writhe, the huge dose of capsaicin tearing through the delicate tissue of their innards. (Then, they do it again.) The following day must be terrifying. Seeds are probably available online but you have to to admit it's one hell of an evil looking dude!
My chillies (in a Tunisian couscous bowl) from the top and clockwise...
Birds-eye, I think - very hot, next, long & thin - hot, finally, plump and fruity and totally benign. (Can you identify?)
The heat thing is something I simply don't understand. I want flavour and a "small" kick. Too much is just not gastronomically delicious. There, I've said it. Anyway, in the interest of using up some produce, today I make a fig and chilli chutney. I use a tried and true fig jam recipe and simply add a fair amount of fresh garlic and some chillies. The result is not too bad.
I'll now give myself heartsease and make a cake.
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Cauliflower Mouse with Lumpfish Roe (caviar).
Served in a cup and the lumpfish roe highlighted by some "olive oil pearls", a jar of which I discovered during my cupboard-decluttering phase. The "pearls" didn't catch on, I expect, because I haven't seen them around lately. (Recipe below)
Planning a meal is like working a play. There's the story, the cast (of ingredients), the audience and the props.
One feels privileged to sit at Liz's table. She is an artist and has an eye for an eccentric, dramatic but beautiful and comfortable table setting. She and her partner/husband are generous and funny. But darling Liz has been facing a dental challenge.
To be blunt, the new dentures look marvellous, but they are not fully "acclimatised". That's the story.
We ate together and the challenge was to prepare a dinner with no hard surfaces, no snapping, no crunching, no chewing. Four courses had to be delicious, unctuous, nourishing to mind and body - and soft.
A few chilled oysters with a glass of fizz, then sat down to...
Later, I pondered for a long time on how much I rely on cream and eggs. Can't get enough of them.
Images and recipes follow. We won't always be faced with dental challenges but each dish would fit nicely amongst others with crunch. (Ideas for pea soup and cauliflower mousse from Yves Camdeborde of the Relais du Comptoir, place de l'Odéon, Paris.)
Chilled Pea Soup with Mint.
(Recipe - See post "Dinner Without a Stove" 17/1/2018)
For 6 people, I use 750gm of frozen peas and reserve 600ml of cooking liquid
The "hook" in this recipe that that it contains only peas and water (if you don't count the mint and olive oil). I repeat, it's just peas and water and amazing.
Why do I use frozen peas? Next post.
Cauliflower Mousse with Lumpfish Roe (image above)
For 4-6 small pots
300 gm cauliflower
200-220 ml of whipped cream
150 gm (approx) of lumpfish roe, about 2 small pots
Seasoning and a little olive oil.
Note: Feel free to top the mousse with Beluga caviar if you wish! LOL!
Prawns on Creamed Spinach with Beurre Blanc.
For 8 small ramekins
500gm uncooked, peeled prawn meat
500 ml single cream
2 egg whites
Chocolate Mousse with Frozen Raspberries
The legendary Elizabeth David offered a recipe that couldn't be simpler. It was originally measured in ounces, of course.
For each person...
1 ounce of chocolate (dark, no more than 70%, please)
1 tbsp flavouring e.g.coffee, rum etc.
Metric, this translates as...
For each person...
30gm chocolate (dark, no more than 70%, please)
1 tbsp flavouring e.g.coffee, rum etc.
Tiny, because the mousse is rich and we like "pudding" but we don't need much.
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In the morning I like what can be called “builder’s tea”, hot, dark, tannic, softened by a little milk, no sugar. By late morning and into the afternoon, tea moves into a lighter mode with Lapsang, a “well-bred” Darjeeling or perhaps a spice-tinged Mariage Frères.
Rosa and I are sitting down for a chat, setting the world to rights. I select a Mariage Frères, with a hint of orange and cinnamon. It is tasteless. I check the tin – use-by date 2008! Wow! How embarrassing.
Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and also on Netflix) is totally mad and at the same time, very sane and inspiring. It’s time to de-clutter the kitchen larder.
Attacking one shelf at a time (both fridge and cupboards) I find neglected things that were once intended to inspire innovation and greatness. I have to face reality. Old sesame seeds (why did I ever need a kilo?) must be rancid and so I ditch them but some whacky things still "spark joy". I arrange them all in a basket and place them, visible, on the kitchen bench. I'll drag them into something, kicking and screaming if I have to. They will be used, somehow, day by day, until they're gone.
An interesting challenge will be the organic beetroot powder - brighten up a risotto perhaps with it, using red wine, fine shreds of red cabbage and some crisp bacon.
Whackiest of all - see at left. There's cuttlefish ink (from Aldi of all places) to blacken some hand-made pasta. I'll top that with a bottarga beurre. (Dried smoke mullet roe that also needs to get a move on, grated and blended into butter.)
The Grilling Papers I found a couple of years ago on a food conference in Chicago. They are very beautiful sheets of cedar, like those wrapped around a fine Cuban cigar. A rolled parcel of fish or vegetables is tied with a cute chive, and grilled or baked. The flavour imparted is not as dramatic as the presentation. (It might be more tasty saving the sheets from your cigars, if you do that sort of thing.) But I have five packets so they will be used this month.
As for the vanilla-infused seaweed flakes, what was I thinking?
After the cleanse, I am invigorated. A hand cream is described as "nourishing" , a facial mask as "invigorating" and now I see a face wash (sorry, cleanser) that will "de-clutter" the toxins of my skin. Ah Marie, what crimes are committed in thy name?
Arabia stoneware teapot designed by Ulla Procope (she of the heavy, heavy, rustic plates) early 1960s.
Cup and saucer, Royal Tuscan Cascade, bone china 1970s.
Mariage Frères tea, Esprit de Noël.
...the whole sitting in front of a collection of glass stacking containers by Wilhelm Wagenfeld (Bauhaus from 1938). (Pre-Tupperware!)
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Getting the year off to a good start and I'm ready to clear out some books. The Friends of the Library annual book sale may benefit. I certainly will. (If you're in Adelaide, you're in luck.) Shelf space and fewer books in piles on the floor will make finding easier.
No point being sentimental about favourite novels. When they were favourites, I wanted to share them. I lent them and of course never saw them again, saving me having to de-clutter them. (Should have kept a record book.)
Cookbooks can be an issue but I find I go back and back to the same ones. (It's the classics but also still Jamie, still Ottolenghi, still Rick Stein.) If you can get one recipe from a cookbook, it's a keeper IMO. So I find I'm discarding some of the more superficially beautiful. I give an example, a sample of the books I pass on...
The above page is from a glorious coffee-table book AKA as a cook-book. Alinea, is a Chicago restaurant headed by wonder-boy Grant Achatz. It's a massive labour of love, beautifully bound, with glorious photographs - and it weighs a ton. It's the work of an inspired (and quite mad) chef - a perfectionist. I never got around to trying anything. I've shortened the recipe below but you'll get the drift.
PB & J - recipe
After the books and the filing cabinet will come the thirty five year old lipsticks, the 1950s plastic ear-rings, the wardrobe. I'm ready to pass on the vintage little black dresses - I will never be that thin again and I won't ever sing like Edith Piaf. I just don't have the eye brows.
"Non, je ne regrette rien."
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