It’s easy to think, when hearing the words ‘processed food’, of the sort of additive-laden ready meals that you can buy and pop into the microwave, to be ready in a matter of moments.
But processed food also has saving graces, from tinned pulses – a magnificent timesaver – to tinned tomatoes. For the latter, we have one August Escoffier to thank.
Frozen vegetables have a role to play too. Is there a freezer anywhere that doesn’t contain at least a packet of frozen peas?
But as good as frozen veg are and as good as frozen peas are in particular, they’re not the same as the fresh version.
Podding peas goes along with scraping new potatoes as two of summer's kitchen jobs that I find thoroughly pleasant. And the aroma that follows that first pop, before you even start flicking the perfect, emerald spheres into the pan, is wonderfully redolent of growth and plant life.
The taste and texture are different too. And as with so much other spring and summer produce, you don’t need to do much with them. Frankly, you won’t want to most of the time.
It’s simply a question of three to four minutes (depending on size) in boiling water and they’re ready. They’re undemanding in other ways too, only needing a bit of seasoning and some good butter.
As such, they demand equally simple ingredients to make a perfect meal: simple, but the best quality possible.
Since there’s nothing wrong, in culinary terms, with the obvious – there’s usually a reason it is – then today’s pan of peas was served with ivory smooth Jersey Royals and lamb chops, with the meat cooked under a hot grill for around six minutes a side, until the skin was crisp and golden.
The potatoes benefit from a slick of butter too, while whatever the French may say, mint is a wonderful accompaniment to lamb cooked this way.
It was a day for such simplicity.
I was late out for the shopping and, by the time I got home, it was hot and sweaty. The realisation that I’d forgotten a vital ingredient for tomorrow saw me spit a hair or two before heading back up the road.
With the street now utterly rammed, it was hopeless to try to rush. Musing that some good water biscuits would also be nice, I revisited La Bouche, leaving not just with biscuits, but also one of a batch of Saint-Marcellin cheeses that had melted so much that Max had had to put them each in a plastic container and, in entrepreneurial fashion, was offering at a cut price. Although even that wasn't enough for many people, who looked with suspicion on them, as though that state of ripeness was indicative of something bad.
A ciabatta was then sourced before I headed back home and began tearing the bread and scooping up the creamy liquid with it. Utterly gorgeous.
It was an afternoon when the flimsiest of clouds rippled across the sky like the sand on a damp beach. My first melon of the season was perfect refreshment. Just plain slices cut from the globe – another wonderful scent – and consumed greedily, as the juice trickles down the chin.
Food really doesn’t have to be complex to be as voluptuous as this.