Thursday, June 30, 2011


Bruno's and Mélanie's daughter Jeanne
We eat like royalty here
Italians believe that home-cooked food is better than just about anything else and a restaurateur would be flattered to hear that his food was almost as good as mamma cooks. In contrast, I used to think that going out to eat was really special but then I’ve also been known to buy a supermarket ready meal in times gone by. As I’ve neither moved in elevated circles, nor got deep enough pockets, I’ve been tantalised by the mystery of how good a Michelin-starred meal would taste or, for that matter a bottle of wine that only Premier League footballers, or the Queen of England, could afford.

Of course, I only have my uneducated proletarian taste buds and it would probably be a terrible waste but I no longer care. I have tasted manna and it is delicious!

Gabrielle honed her cooking skills bringing up her daughter Christina as a single parent and can whistle up a tasty chicken leftover risotto when all I can seem to find in the fridge are the makings of a cheese sandwich. We live in a country that prides itself on the quality of its food and whose citizens believe they are the best cooks in the world. And we produce our own food too.

So all the ingredients are in place and it is still, and always, a pleasure when we realise that most or all that is on the plate in front of us is food that we’ve raised and cultivated. We had one such moment last week, as Gabrielle has started digging up clean, round, Lady Crystal tatties, podding peas and pulling carrots and we garnished the plate with a pork chop from last year’s Tamworth/Bayeaux piggies: de-lish !

Mine's a Guiness
Our friend Bruno joined us for a day’s help in the barn renovation/conversion and although it was hot and muggy and not an Irishly-wet winter’s day, Gabrielle served up Irish Stew and dumplings. Bruno is a great guitarist and he and his singing wife Mélanie adore Ireland, its culture and music but, despite several visits and many pints of Guiness sunk, he had never tasted Irish stew. Gabrielle started with a neck filet of our own mutton and a Delia Smith recipe which she jazzed up, improvising—doodley-be-bop-pah—with a bit of Dijon mustard, garlic and a sprinkle of herbes-de-Provence. And he’d never heard of, nor could understand the concept of, a dumpling.

Oh the pride and pleasure in hearing a French man go ga-ga over food cooked by our fair English hands! He was in raptures and we were proud. We’ve got recipe books from all around the world on our bookshelves but English (and Irish!) cooks and cuisine have no need to be hiding their delicious light under no bushel.