Setting aside all the preserving, the weekend provided a semi-success and a total triumph on the cooking front.
The semi-success was Saturday night’s meal. Ever desperate to find ‘different’ ways of serving essentially simple foods – in other words, not every plate consisting of basic meat or fish in one third, basic starchy stuff in another and basic veg occupying the final third – I’d managed to come up with a somewhat more interesting idea.
The plan was to oven roast some fish and serve it with a small mushroom risotto and then some courgette fritters.
“Interesting” perhaps, but also a tad more complicated than what I was attempting to improve on.
I got cod – that was easy to roast, with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. The risotto was easy too – I simply had to remember not to use as much rice as I would if it were intended as a main course in its own right. In this case, I used bottled chicken stock, heated gently with dried porcini it it.
I sautéed a few chopped chestnut mushrooms, added a little white wine and a squeeze of lemon to those.
To serve, I topped off the risotto with a little grated truffle.
All of which left the total experiment of the day, the courgette fritters. A courgette was grated, salted and left. But I then – for some reason or other – made the mistake of rinsing it, which then made it difficult to squeeze dry. But anyway, that was combined with some breadcrumbs and around half an egg, for make a rather sloppy mess.
It made four smallish balls, which were rolled in plain flour and then left to sit in the fridge for a few minutes until the actual cooking was advanced enough and the vegetable oil hot enough to fry the fritters.
Amazingly, with care I managed to get them each. into the pan in once piece. And they came out in that state too.
Not sure about the result, though: the taste was okay, but it was an odd texture; very light in a rather strange way – almost like fried soufflés, if that makes any sense.
So, generally, the meal was a success, but I remain unsure about the fritters.
Sunday was another game day. I picked up a pheasant from Andy on the market (and yes, there really was a conversation about ‘pheasant pluckers’).
Now I’ve not tried a great deal of feathered game before – except duck, really – and haven’t felt that, when I have, I’ve really cracked it.
This time, I used a River Café Easy Two recipe, browning the bird on all sides in butter and oil, and then adding halved garlic cloves and bacon, and then roasting it in Chardonnay. Now the recipe specified pancetta, but I had a pack of streaky bacon open, so I used that – and before popping it in the oven, put three of the bacon slices over the bird’s back.
It was basted a couple of times and cooked for longer than specified (my oven is a fan on, so times and temperatures have to be adjusted – the former is something I’m barely getting used to).
In the meantime, I cut the cores out of a load of savoy cabbage leaves, chopped them into strips and then popped in boiling water for around eight minutes. Drain well, and then sauté with more of the halved garlic cloves.
When the bird’s ready, remove and rest, pop the cabbage and garlic into the wine, and reduce a little. It was all served it with riced potatoes.
And that was my triumph of the weekend – the first time I’ve really felt that I’ve cooked game and it’s been really worth it: plenty of taste, but not dry.
Not that the weekend’s foodyism was restricted to the human members of the household.
For a late Sunday breakfast I had toasted a thin slice of bread, buttered it and added the contents of one of a selection of tiny tins of potted meat that I bought in Paris last July.
Otto, who would know from a mile away when I’ve opened one of these small tins, came hurtling through because she also knows that I fully intend to share it with her.
Later, she was determined to see what the soup of the day was too, despite its lack of meat. Not that that ever stops her.
But I can never forget how, when she came to us, I could feel the gaps between her tiny ribs, and her coat was like sheepskin: clearly, she was the runt of the litter who’d not been able to get enough of the teat. Neither her sister not Boudi are so interested in our (well, my) food – so bearing that history in mind, I am particularly tolerant. And besides, what’s the point of having ‘pets’ around the house if you don’t want to treat them as members of your family?
Fortunately, even my little feline gourmet didn’t seem bothered by the pheasant – although the evening was to provide a surprise when not only did she fancy some cheese, but Loki and Boudi also decided that cheese was on their menu too.
This, in the latter’s case, is pretty much unprecedented. Presumably she’d decided that, if the kittens were having something, she wasn’t missing out – no matter what it was!