Friday, 24 September 2010

The lure of the kitchen

That’s it. It was apparently our final splurge of summer on Wednesday and now, it seems, autumn is well and truly on the way.

Not that autumn is a charmless season – far, far from it. And I’m feeling the pull of those darkening nights and the comforting food.

The ‘Frenchification’ of the kitchen is still a work in progress, but it’s taken nice steps forward this week – and welcome ones, given the changing season – as a raid on John Lewis that produced various useful additions.

There are table mats now, and a new chopping board for bread. There don’t really seem to be specialist bread boards any more and the chopping boards with ridges around the edge for catching gravy (or crumbs) were massive and ridiculously heavy, so I settled on a very attractive olive wood board with paddle handle, which can sit on the table itself.

This proved a popular choice. For some reason that escapes me, Otto and Loki in particular think it’s fabulous and want to make love to it.

There’s a proper bread knife for the first time and I invested in a new knife block – the old one was falling apart and only took fives knives anyway – plus a fish filleting knife.

The food hall at John Lewis provided decent bread – a sort of thick baguette – plus a sweet onion confit and a bottle of Grenache from their Sud de France display.

So on Wednesday evening, with music in the background, we sat down to attempt to replicate one of those help-yourself suppers at home for the first time, with a lovely fennel salami and some delightfully tangy English goat’s cheese from L’eau a La Bouche, plus olives stuffed with anchovies, tomatoes from the Sunday farmers’ market, a glass of rosé and, of course, bread.

Okay, it might not be totally authentique, but it wasn’t far off, and I was quietly pleased that it worked as well as it did. And the kitchen is really coming into itself as a warm and pleasant place to be.

My first aim has been to break us away from the habit of eating off trays in front of the telly. We’ve realised over a number of trips to France how much more pleasantly sociable the alternative is – and you can enjoy the food more too. But this is the furthest I’ve got in terms of initiating it once back at home in perfidious Albion.

Tonight, after a grey day of drizzle and with the temperature having dropped back after Wednesday’s fleeting reminder of summer, we’ll be wanting something comforting.

I’ll make a quick trip to Waitrose after work for various bits and pieces (“good chocolate” is on my list as well as a box of the camomile tea with vanilla and honey that I have become very fond of and some nice bath smellies to really soothe me into the weekend) and then I’ll start work on a supper that will nicely use up a number of things in the fridge (cutting back on waste is another major aim I have for the autumn).

Thinly sliced onion will go into a little olive oil and butter to very gently cook until it’s gorgeously golden and sweet; two dessert apples that are almost past it will be gently reduced to a sauce; some potato will be cooked, until it can be mashed as thoroughly as possible (John Lewis was out of the potato ricer that was on my list earlier this week) and then served with a little drizzle of the best virgin oil I have in the house.

All this will accompany some black pudding that I’ll warm in the pan with the onion when that’s almost ready.

Then, since there is a punnet of plums around, I’m thinking of stoning and roasting a few with some honey, a little sugar and vanilla, to be served with a dollop of cream.

On the subject of plums, I’m going to root around and see exactly what jars I have – and work out measurements for using the liquid pectin I have in for some low-sugar plum jam.

Yes, this is definitely the autumn coming on. And with the project I’ve set myself, I don’t altogether mind.

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