Thursday, 4 February 2010

43. Junk that BBQ! Vive la plancha!

4th February 2010. One of the best things we bought since arriving down here is a "plancha"..

Stunned silence in the snug..

"C'est quoi - une plancha..?"
I hear you ask?

It's a means of cooking outdoors that consigns the BBQ firmly to the Stone Age.. (Cue howls of derision, chest beatings, etc) Now I realise that this may be heresy to a few readers - as there's some strange psychology tied up with the Western male fixation with BBQs that has never been satisfactorily explained. There are many elements at work here - the playing with fire, squatting over a smoking heap of charcoal that refuses to get going, Suburban Man reverting to Hunter/Gatherer (joke apron optional), the outsize tools, the "know how", etc etc. The stage whispered "tutting" from the neighbours as washing is hastily taken indoors due to the smokescreen drifting over the hedge that the Royal Navy could hide a medium sized warship behind (if we had any left)..

And then there's the food that's been cooked on a BBQ.. we've all suffered the chicken legs that have been cremated on the outside and are virtually raw inside - accompanied by the familiar cry of "It'll be OK, just scrape off the black bits..".

Those days are gone.

A plancha is a heavy slab of cast iron (I suspect ours is a recycled bulkhead from the "Bismarck") that's been enamelled and it sits on top of a gas burner or two. Light the gas, wipe it with a smidgen of oil, wait 5 minutes and you're in business. It's simplicity itself. Here's ours (right) :

Once you've tasted food cooked on one, there's no going back. Sardines cooked on it have never tasted better.. It does fish, meat and chicken beautifully. I think planchas may be Spanish in origin but they are omnipresent in the Pays Basque. This clip is best with the sound off!

I think I'll be heaving ours out of the garage in a month or so (it weighs a ton..) and then it sits on our terrace through to October/November - & no, it won't blow away! Madame loves to cook on it and she cooks like an angel. My arduous tasks? In March I carry it out, and in November I clean it off & put it away again. In between that I sort out the drinks. Happy days.

PS With Feb 14th coming up, and if the thrill of sleeping in the dog-house has lost its appeal, then rescue is at hand..! The site offers 40% off French perfumes..

Sunday, 7th February 2010.
Went down to Socoa to have a look at the menu at Chez Pantxua.. ie, to see if we could afford to go there next weekend. We've been there several times before and for sea food it is in a class of its own. But - it's very popular with the resident Basque population and a couple of times when we've booked under my English surname, when we turned up on the day they've managed to look surprised and maintained - strangely enough - that they had no record of our reservation. Since then, we've taken to booking under Madame's rock solid Basque maiden name and we've experienced no further problems. This is the only place where we've met this attitude down here but it's worth bearing in mind should you ever wish to book there. Anyway, today we decided that it would be foolishly expensive (around 100€ for 2) for lunch so Madame said she would make something special next weekend. She can always outdo anything a restaurant can serve up anyway. And I can extract a cork with the best of them. We stopped off at St Jean de Luz on the way home and walked along the seafront watching the surfers. The temperature was hovering around 15C.

Tomorrow, we're having the remainder of the windows at "Piperade Towers" double glazed so we'll be one step closer to finishing all the thousand and one jobs that we've had to do in the house..

I just had one of those random memory moments - I was reminded of a conversation I had years ago.. I was telling a friend about my new watch and he came out with: "Yes, I used to have a watch like that - it would lose 2 minutes a day, regular as clockwork.." Still makes me laugh.

Now, it's fast approaching that* time of day but first - put your feet up, close your eyes and enjoy the beautiful tone of Michael Lucarelli's guitar as he interprets Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata".. (and filmed through a war surplus U boat periscope)

* "Apero" time!
PS. Style Tip: Ditch the flat 'at!

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