Friday, August 28, 2009

the rabbit & the horse

Well that's the housework over for another year. (BB actually told his Mum that the clean-up operation required the use of a shovel! - which was rather ungallant, and untrue I hasten to add.)

We had a very pleasant week with our guests - picnicking in the mountains, swimming in the lake, playing boules and belot, foraging for bilberries and eating leisurely lunches out. I'd emailed BB's Mum to ask if there was anything his Aunt didn't like to eat and the reply came back: no horse or rabbit please.

So last weekend we booked to go for paella at the 'regional produce' shop in the next village. I know paella isn't regional or even French but the shop organises monthly outside-catered meals for up to 100 to get people through the door and buying - mainly wine to go with the meals. I love paella and this was about as good as I've tasted in Spain, cooked in a huge paellara outdoors with seafood and chicken. Or so we thought, until I went to chat to the chef after the meal and it transpired that the chicken was in fact, ahem, rabbit.

The day before yesterday we went for lunch in a local restaurant we used to frequent until we got fed up with the surly wife of the chef (who constantly looked like she was sooking a lemon) and her over-charging. The problem is, it's a great place to take visitors because it has a terrace with fantastic views of the mountains, the food can sometimes be very good and it's within walking distance. So we bit the bullet and booked and because it was warm and sunny, I asked if we could eat on the terrace. Well - you'd have thought I'd suggested parricide. Her lip curled up like a dead woodlouse, she huffed and puffed and complained that she was serving on her own (there were six other diners) before marching off without giving us an answer. After waiting 20 minutes for our apéros, she reluctantly set up a table on the terrace before ungraciously taking our order.

The starters were all very good: there was quiche maison with a light fluffy bacon and egg filling, excellent duck paté and a huge fresh seasonal salad. But when the steaks arrived (requested à point - medium rare), they should have been surrounded by police incident tape because what was on the plate was a crime against cooking. They looked as if they'd been forced through a wringer they were so thin and were so over-cooked it was like eating a leather glove. I couldn't eat mine and told Madame it was over-done when she came to clear the plates (she did ask why I'd left it). "No it's not", she said. "Yes it is", I said, demonstrating with exaggerated sawing movements. "No it's not". And off she huffed to the kitchen bearing my plate aloft.

When she returned she fixed me with a scary rictus smile and launched into a lecture on how steaks are cooked en France before adding, "but horse is always a bit tough". Rebelot!

By sheer coincidence, the following day Katie Bear came round with a leaflet advertising the aforementioned restaurant: "Take advantage of our terrace with panoramic views of the mountains where Madame will serve you avec un rayon de soleil - with a sunny smile!!


Kathie said...

Are what you call bilberries the same as what we call blueberries in the US? The appear the same.

le moulin said...

Kathie, yes I believe so.

Kathie said...

In case you happen to have 1½ cups of bilberries lying around someday when it's cool enough to run the oven without sweltering...

CAKE: ¾ cup (= 1½ sticks = 6 oz.) soft butter
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unflavored yogurt or sour cream
1½ cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
2 teaspoons flour
TOPPING: ½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
¼ cup (= ½ stick = 2 oz.) CHILLED butter
1/3 cup slivered (sliced) almonds

Butter a 9"13"x2" cake pan (or two 8"x8"x2" cake pans)
CAKE BATTER: Cream butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon.
Mix 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt.
* Sift, then fold, 1/3 of the mixed dry ingredients into the batter, then fold in ½ the yogurt; repeat from *.
In a small bowl, toss berries with the remaining 2 teaspoons flour, then fold them into the batter; pour into pan.
TOPPING: Cut butter in ¼" bits. Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg, lemon, then cut in butter till crumbly; stir in nuts. Sprinkle over batter; bake cake 40-45 minutes @ 350°F (= ca. 175°C), till golden brown. Let cool; cut and serve from pan.

Buy already- slivered almonds.
Grate and freeze peel from juiced lemons in advance to have on hand as needed.
HINT: To obtain grated lemon peel without inevitably bloodying your knuckles, cut the required amount of zest (minus white) from the lemon(s) and chop fine with a small sharp knife; place in blender or food-processor with the amount of sugar called-for in recipe, then whirl at highest speed till peel is the same size as if were grated.