Friday, 13 July 2012

On a grey salad day

The rain, having stayed away for most of the day, chose the very moment I stepped down form the bus and turned for home, to announce its return.

By the time I’d changed, the cats were sitting at the door to the patio and complaining at my slowness.

The girls are great believers in the merits of empirical evidence. I can stand there all I like, telling them that it’s wet under paw, and they will not believe me until they get to experience it for themselves.

So, briefly, I opened the door. Boudi hopped out and hopped almost straight back in.

Otto had a sniff around before concluding that I hadn’t been telling porkies, while even nominally determined Loki didn’t bother to attempt to dive into next door before running back into the flat.

But I had to go out, because the evening had been slated for the first salad from the garden.

So I donned a cap (keeps the rain off my specs), accepted that I was going to get a bit damp and headed outside.

Rolling back netting, I snipped the biggest leaves of lamb’s lettuce into a bowl, followed by some American land cress, a few young nasturtium leaves and then some sorrel.

There didn’t seem to be very much, but in he case of both lamb’s lettuce and cress, anything more would have been silly.

I also very gently dug up the most developed radish, but since there was no radish there, I carefully popped it back into the soil and returned the netting over that planter.

It might not have been much, but it was good. Rinsed and spun, it was later served with the simplest dressing, of just a little olive oil, whisked to an emulsion with a few drops of cider vinegar and salt.

It was an accompaniment to tiny new potatoes, scraped (even though that took time) and then simply boiled for 20 minutes, dotted with butter and good salt.

The centrepiece was an omelette – two extra large eggs each, whisked at the last moment and then cooked in butter that is foaming and just (but only just!) beginning to turn a nutty brown.

The Other Half’s was done first – he prefers it a tad less ‘wet’ than I do. Mine takes little more than a minute before folding out onto the plate.

And my ability to make omelettes (and pancakes) has increased massively since I invested in a really good, French omelette pan – copper-bottomed and heavy, it really does make a difference.

The other thing that really made a difference for me was reading Elizabeth David on the omelette question. Now admittedly I don't use two full eggs plus an extra yolk, but my basic method remains the one that she repeats.

We’d spent years buying cheap eggs. In the end, you don’t use them much – and certainly not as the centrepiece to a meal.

But – like the bacon I mentioned last week – if you can get quality, then it becomes worth making a meal of just such simple produce. And indeed, the moment you make eggs the heart of a dinner, then it's not expensive, even when you get the best eggs you can.

However, while everything was good – this really was a day for feeling rather chuffed that I could put together at least a small salad with fresh ingredients straight from a (rainy!) garden.

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