It is fair to say that we enjoy poking around in French markets when we are down in the Pyrenees and that our menu, when for the two of us, is dictated by what we find in those spectacular places filled with local seasonal produce. I make the distinction of the ‘two of us’ as often we are catering for masses of friends and family staying with us and that is a different kind of planning process!
During our busy and fraught working lives, Rocket and I have snatched conversations (via the medium of text) about what we need from the shops and one of us sweeps through picking up the usual suspects…. then just occasionally we make a change. Last night following a particularly annoying and thankless day at my own particular labour, we met for a drink at Borough Market and made it our mission to find some items for our supper. There is an enchantment in taking the time…
Having shuffled off with some vague ideas, the smorgasbord of options got us to thinking about our snack at ‘José ‘ at Liverpool Street a week earlier. We were on route to a lovely family gathering, the purpose of which was to meet our nephew Pyro’s delightful new love, Cream Cheese. Back to the tale…
Inspired by those small plates on offer at José (now a chain of small restaurants from chef José Pizarro) and in ‘omage to that style of eating, we collected some very fine ingredients. Firstly we happened across some slices of Kentish goat’s cheese. Our intention being to emulate the dish we had enjoyed at José, namely, dipped in flour then egg and fried, finally drizzled with honey. It was fabulous at the restaurant and we were really pleased with our reincarnation… fried cheese with honey – what’s not to love? I am reliably informed this dish doubles as both a starter and a dessert – I can see how that works.
We found some fabulous honey at the market and not being bound to stay with Spanish produce we went for a Greek version along with some ‘raw’ green olives. You see, I find that I don’t feel the need to exclude parts of Europe from my life…I’m quite content being part of all of it. (Don’t please take this as an accord with our current PM, as I had no tolerance for his ways previously and I certainly am not going to entertain his nonsence after the latest farcical episode – and the sausage was from the Italian Tyrol so shove that up your arses UKIP). Back to the tale…
When we woke up this morning and I decided to have a look at José’s goats cheese dish, I said to rocket – “say that I am the master, say that I am The King of all things!’ he rolled his eyes and said of course you are then rolled over in the bed. Then he opened one eye again and said, “why are you The Master?” I told him that when I had stood before the honey in the market, I had decided on the orange blossom one as I thought it would best complement the flavour or the goats cheese. When looking up the dish online, it had, in fact, quoted use of orange blossom honey….Rocket pointed out that it had probably said so on the menu, plus we’d eaten it only a week earlier so I must have known it was orange blossom in my subliminal mind. Actually he mumbled “sumblebiminal” into his pillow and drifted away. Thus, for today, I am ‘The Master’…back to the tale.
Next we sourced a few Boquerón’s, these white anchovies are cured in vinegar and make a juicy and delicious snack with a beer. I dressed them in a little olive oil with crushed basil through it. Rocket has a penchant for octopus lately, so we added a few slices of cured octopus for his personal consumption (childood stories of Ollie in his garden prevent me, in a totally hypocritical way but also – have tried…don’t like). Rocket managed to sample some oysters on his way around…..
Whilst I was tasting honey, Rocket was sampling some cured meats and he settled on a little wild boar number.
What next, we continued pottering along…so great to be able to meander through the market area when on Saturdays you simply cannot move with ease. The seafood? It had to be beautiful British Hake, for the Spaniards love this meaty fish. We requested just one thick steak and cooked it very gently in a little olive oil with some onion, then added pimenton, some tinned plum tomato, garlic, and a flourish of lemon to finish.
Buying very tiny amounts of each item prevented us ‘breaking the bank’, but allowed us to add variety with differing tastes and textures.
I always need some kind of vegetable, and in this case, we already had some jarred artichokes and piquant peppers so they fit the bill perfectly. In addition, for extra freshness, we made up a citrus salad of some tangerine oranges with red onion that I cured for a few minutes in some vinegar, salt, sugar and a few fennel seed then we dressed with some simple seasoning and a little olive oil – sounds strange, but is really juicy – sweet yet savoury. There is another platter forming in my mind that easily omits any form of meat and instead relies on beautiful cheese and vegetables…for the next time.
Finally because The Shack in France is just a bunny hop to Catalonia, we added Pan con Tomate, toasted crusty bread, drizzled with oil, rubbed with garlic and slathered with grated tomato – a sprinkle of salt and you have one of the best snacks in the known world (in my opinion!).
Not the diet food of the past few weeks, instead a sunny treat to off-set February austerity and to make amends for an unpleasant working week. Please do comment below….Cheers!