~ pertelote ~

July 2002

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Saturday 27th July

Yes, I know I said I was leaving - and I am, in a matter of hours - but this is about last night, and belongs here... We went to the Proms; the operas were fantastic: "Through days and nights and in and out of weeks/ and almost over a year..." Each one satisfyingly finishes with a meal, and so did our evening: hot garlicky galettes at the creperie down the road from the RAH. Which has just whetted (?) my appetite perfectly for France!

Friday 26th July

We're off to Paris tomorrow, so last night we finished off all the random things in the fridge - which meant blini and vegetable tortillas. Yes, rather a strange combination! Who cares, I'm off to Paris: a whole week of fantastic food. Not many people, I suppose, look forward to the luxury of a self-catering holiday, but the flat has a gas hob, a decent freezer and a dish-washer - pure relaxation. And on Sunday there'll be an organic farmers' market on the doorstep, so I'll be in heaven. First though we're off to the Proms where a friend is making this happen. So I'll speak to you in ten days...

Thursday 25th July

Writing about red slop yesterday has made me nostalgic for my student days. Health warning: C and I were at college together so my recollections may put you off your breakfast, if you're of a sensitive disposition: not that you should be eating over your keyboard (tut tut). Cambridge is a funny place. A couple of times a year college will lay on a feast of five or six courses, just to remind you what you're missing - because the rest of the time you're either eating in caff, or struggling with one electric ring and an eighth of an elderly fridge. Mind you, we managed pretty well - the competitive streak of the typical Cambridge student rises to the challenge - a typical dinner party was likely to include homemade soup and ice-cream at the very least. Then again, there was the famous occasion when I forgot to drain the pasta... (Though the guests from that evening are now married, so not a total disaster!) The first meal C cooked me was risotto - in fact that was the first time we met, as I'd been invited by another friend and C had just taken over the cooking out of pity... The first meal I cooked him was salmon - baked salmon with a herb and lemon crust, new potatoes - and a ridiculously boozy chocolate cheesecake. Happy days!

Wednesday 24th July

Pasta puttanesca: tart's spaghetti, as Delia so charmingly describes it. Now I'd hate you to think I share her romanticised vision of the sex industry - but on the other hand I can see how this is the food you'd want at the end of a hard night's work. Yes, of course it's basically that ubiquitous student standby, pasta and red slop... refined for adult tastes.

Tuesday 23rd July

We ate late last night, stuffing pitta bread with minced lamb (with cinnamon, mostly) and hoummus. It was saved from being just a greasy pseudo-kebab by a good sprinkling of smoked paprika. This is the most gorgeous stuff - having read about it, I picked some up at Bluebird, only to find (of course) that a month later it was in Sainsbury's. Not that I'm complaining... I love it that I can pick up more and more exotic ingredients on my way home from work.

Monday 22nd July

Weekend in London with C's family. That means plenty of simple, delicious, French cooking - but we were there to be sociable, so we wrenched ourselves away and ate Chinese in Chinatown with a bunch of soon-to-be-marrieds, and a very garlicky roast Sunday lunch with college friends. Also memorable was a greek-style (olive-y, lemony, and prettily be-tentacled) seafood salad: C claims not to like squid, but for a moment there, sitting outside in the sun, even England felt genuinely summery...

Friday 19th July

Home alone in front of the TV can only mean one thing: comfort food. Rich, fruity, slow-cooked lamb tagine with couscous. I love Moroccan food and one day I'll go there - for now, the best I've had was in Paris, a beautiful little restaurant near the Tour Eiffel, with mosaiced walls and low, cushioned seats. We'd just been giggling at the Palais de Tokyo (trust me, I like conceptual art, but in a foreign language it makes even less sense).

Thursday 18th July

Feeling summery, I was craving salsa verde - thick, cold, herby Italian sauce, full of capers, anchovies, mustard and cornichons (that's right, food for grown-ups!) Instructed C (by mobile phone! Still a novelty...) to bring home parsley and mint - then on checking the recipe found I'd invented the mint. Well, it was there, so what harm? Two minutes in the vibrator, a big slug of extra v., and presto! Plain grilled supermarket salmon and boiled lentils (oh, ok, they're puy left over from our last trip to Paris...) transformed.

Wednesday 17th July

To Girton, for the Shakespeare - open air theatre is a big thing in Cambridge, Shakespeare in particular. The students do it in May Week, then when they go home the professionals take over. A lovely evening, so we bought random picnic food - hoummus, olives, strawberries, cookies, and the boys insisted on pork pies. Oh, the play was A Comedy of Errors (yes, there's a dinner in the plot) - lots of fun. Amusing to see how much faith the company had in the English summer - we'd brought a nice chilled Chardonnay; they were selling mulled wine!

Tuesday 16th July

C home from conferencing. Obviously the poor man needs a welcome-home feast; but then again he's been in France, so he'll have had a surfeit of all his usual favourites (turns out he ate duck practically every night last week...). This time last year I did the full-on thing and roasted a couple of poussins with garlic. Very worth while - the stock was amazing, solid enough to do the tagliatelle described in yesterday's Observer. But after a year, you can relax a bit, I think - and besides, it's too warm to roast. I had some amazing black nanjing rice I found in London, so I grilled tuna steaks with chilli and orange, and made a lovely warm salsa of mango and avocado - last year's Masterchef, I think. Perfect. Exotic, summery, sexy. My, but it's nice to have someone to cook for again.