We have these chaotic trips to the shack in France. Rarely is it just Rocket, and myself and for that reason the place has become some sort of communal home for friends and family. We realised in the early days that catering on a mass scale day in day out made for little respite for us, however much we loved it. So we decided to take ‘mi casa es su casa’ (a Rocket saying due to our love of the film Pulp Fiction – and the shack is near the Spanish border?!) and now we have a willing workforce available for the duration of any trips.
Breakfast is always a muddled affair with yoghurt, fruit, jam, cold meats, fabulous french bread, and fresh croissant thrown onto the gingham clad table. Lunch depends on the time of year and activity levels but it’s like breakfast with the addition of wine, beer and cheese – usually takes about 3 hours. We try harder with dinner and by tradition we all group up in the kitchen for ‘sundowners’ and much chopping of whatever is needed. When Rocket is with us – he often isn’t due to his job – he is definitely in the driving seat as he takes a Gordon Ramsay approach to things and frankly…we let him. When left to me, things can be a bit more random (some would say relaxed but far be it from me).
When a group is a really organised one, like the one consisting of the Marmoset, Mata Hari, DJ Ozz, Oceana and Stepney, we sometimes even plan loose menus in advance. Last year, the trip was to celebrate Mata Hari’s new life outside the organisation I shall refer to as Robben Island henceforth. Myself and many of my friends worked ‘there’ for most of our lives …some are still there, I’ve titled it to illustrate my long walk to freedom, the journey having taught me a huge amount and enriched my life in so many ways, but I’d have rather escaped my incarceration and eventually I did!
Back to the tale…DJ Ozz undertook to do a lemon tart (that boy loves a dessert) also a favourite of Mata Hari. The DJ did his diligence before travelling and gave me a list of ingredients to get when I arrived. DJ Ozz had decided on the Mary Berry approach and over a few V&T’s he worked away on his creation whilst the rest of the kitchen was in utter chaos. I often find myself not cooking but running around finding implements and ingredients for the ‘chefs’, this was no exception and meant that I became the DJ’s helper.
The DJ was very pleased with how things went and we fired up the little convection oven (the duck was in the main oven) and placed the tart down carefully – we both smiled because now our work was done and we could actually enjoy aperitif time whilst watching others slave away….”we might even sit outside for a minute shall we hon?”… when for some reason, I suddenly said “didn’t you have to blind bake the pastry?” DJ Ozz looked stunned, he flapped about for the recipe for a minute and sure enough, Mary does say blind bake…. it seems so obvious now that I’m not full up with Rosé. DJ Ozz saw aperitif time slipping away from him as he tipped the lemon mixture back into the bowl. There were gasps of horror from the others – but I think I heard some sniggering too…
We elected to enjoy the evening and the DJ just baked the lemon-coated pastry before putting his mixture back in – it was delicious anyway. She is a clever woman, that Mary Berry, and DJ Ozz did Mary proud (in the end). The tart is tangy, soft and scrummy. You can find Mary’s recipe here.