Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Kitchen matters

The first thing to do when you arrive at a new holiday home is to check the kitchen. And I mean really check.

What utensils are there? Are the knives halfway decent? What is the oven like? Does the fridge have a freezer that'll hold more than a few ice cubes?

This year we were in a new house in more ways than one. After two years staying at the same place, that was no longer available. And this one, which we very much picked with the outside terrance in mind, had only been renovated in 2010.

So it wasn't too big a revelation to discover a modern kitchen, pretty well outfitted.

But this trip, another question had been preying on my mind ages before we arrived: would there be a whisk?

'Why,' you ask, 'would anyone be so concerned about a whisk?'

Well the answer is really quite simple. When in Pays catalan, do as the Catalans do - and I wanted to make aïoli while within sight (well, almost) of Canigou.

In the course of our journey to Collioure, that plan had crystallised from the sort of aïoli I've been making for a few years now, with yolk, to the traditional one without, that we'd first come across in Villefranche de Conflent.

So at least I didn't need to get eggs in. There was already a bottle of basic virgin oil here too, and a selection of salts - basic table salt (the stuff I now avoid after discovering that aluminium is added to help it run), a little course stuff in a mill and, in a drawer, three pots of Roussillon salt: one natural, one with herbs added and one with "muscat rubi".

And there was a whisk. Okay, it's a fairly feeble one that looks as though it has seen better days, but it was there, in the drawer, waiting for me.

All that was needed was garlic.

So I bought a stinking big bulb that was gloriously fresh - none of those green bits in the middle (Michel Roux Snr says to remove those as they're indigestible).

Come the hour, I was left with minor quandaries. The woman who owns the house has something like half a dozen chopping boards, but it's not clear what is for what. I didn't really feel I could take the flat of a knife to a load of garlic and salt on one of her boards, since it might leave something of an aroma.

And there was no mortar and pestle, so I couldn't work the garlic and salt that way either.

The solution was in the draw, keeping company with the whisk - or possibly trying to avoid being seen with it: a spankingly big, heavy duty metal garlic press with a brushed steel look.

It did a job, mincing four large cloves into a small bowl.

From there, I added a little of the natural Roussillon salt and used the back of a spoon to get the best emulsion I could. It wasn't bad. And then just a little oil to loosen it.

It was another of our simple suppers. This time, there was a bowl of aïoli to spread on the bread.

It was a little too salty - the Roussillon salt was far stronger than I realised - and it would be smoother if I'd had either board that I could be assured nobody would mind being used for blending garlic and salt, or a mortar and pestle.

But for a first attempt at the regally traditional form of this regional mayonnaise, it wasn't bad - and it did have a real garlicky kick.

1 comment:

  1. Love Aioli and the Spanish version Alioli, simple but great