This month we consider what one might cook for the new editor
Now, where were we? The Editor, having finally decided that we have spent quite long enough on the reducing diet, is demanding food, and demanding it now! No time for the shops, still less for the market – if only for the very good reason that the market doesn’t come to town for another four days. So: what is there in the fridge? What is there in the cupboard? And what is there in the wine rack?
As it’s Monday, there is of course about half a cold roast guinea fowl in the fridge. There is also getting on for a pint of rather good lightly-thickened stock which passed muster as gravy yesterday and will have to do duty as the base for our sauce today. Naturally, there is some double cream looking for a purpose in life, as well as a few mushrooms. (If there aren’t enough, I shall bulk them out with some soaked dried porcini – in fact, I may introduce some anyway!)
Start with a finely chopped onion. Sweat gently in some unsalted butter, perhaps with a glug of olive oil to stop it burning. A little crushed garlic would be a welcome addition, particularly if you managed to get some of the really fat and juicy new season stuff at the market last week. Add plenty of sliced mushrooms, season and leave to fester awhile. A few leaves of fresh thyme would help, too. Meanwhile, look in the cupboard for some rice. Long grain is what you’re after today, although you could at a pinch turn to Basmati. (Turn to Arborio and you’ll end up with entirely the wrong dish!) In another pan, melt some more butter and gently sauté the rice; when it is glistening, up the heat and add a generous slug of white wine or, perhaps, dry sherry. As the liquid sizzles, add a generous pinch of saffron and stir vigorously. (I read the other day that saffron gives up its colour and flavour better in hot alcohol than it does when soaked in a little boiling water, the way we all learned to do it at school. I don’t know if it’s true, so consider yourselves guinea pigs in this regard.)
If you have a few fresh podded peas you could add to the rice, then do. If you only have frozen, they’ll do nicely, but hold off for five minutes. Add water equivalent to double the volume of your rice (you did remember to measure the volume of your rice, I hope?); season with a soupçon of sea salt, bring to the boil and then simmer very gently until virtually all the water has disappeared, and small holes have begun to appear in the surface of the rice. (If you want to add a stock cube to the water, don’t.) Remove from the heat, place a double thickness of kitchen towel on the surface of the rice, place the lid on the pan and leave to finish cooking in its own steam for ten or fifteen minutes.
Back to your other pan. By now, the mushrooms have given up most of their liquid and those juices have virtually disappeared. Add the left-over stock and bring to the boil. Simmer to reduce until you have a sauce of an attractive, sultry appearance. Keeping it on a low light, add sufficient double cream to take the sauce from merely sultry to downright sinful.
Strip the meat from the carcase of the guinea fowl, discarding the skin. (Do not get confused here – the guinea pig was something else altogether!) Slide the cold meat into the hot sauce and gently heat through. Finally, beat a couple of egg yolks with a very little lemon juice and stir into the sauce only when you have removed it from the heat. In a moment, it will be transformed from downright sinful to fabulously seductive. A garnish of fresh chopped herbs might con you into thinking what you are about to dish up is healthy. Chives if possible.
Some cheese to follow. I seem to have some bits of left-over Camembert, Gruyere and Roquefort which will do very nicely with some decent bread or, if you must, a few cheese biscuits. Grapes are forbidden.
Luckily, I’ve got a few strawberries left over from last evening, so we’ll finish with them. Sadly, though, all the double cream went into the sauce for the main course. Whatever you do, don’t panic. Simply suspend disbelief, hull the strawberries and sprinkle then with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little freshly ground black pepper. Eat, preferably with a dessert fork.
Those familiar with the oeuvre of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann will remember that ‘Once it’s been opened, you know it won’t keep’ so a new bottle will need to be opened to wash down this improvised supper. Given that it is the height of Summer, a soothing chilled rosé will do very nicely, particularly if you took the precaution of picking up a bottle of Chapel Down English Rosé from Tenterden in Kent, the last time you were in Waitrose. In fact, if I were you, I’d pick up a couple of bottles, as the blurb on the vineyard’s website has it spot on! “A delicate rosé which epitomises English summer with its abundance of strawberries and cream”. What more could one ask? Indeed, a veritable feast fit for a new Editor!