Sunday, 24 July 2011

157. Foreign food in the Pays Basque

Place de la Liberté
22nd July 2011. Back from a walk through town with the dawg.. Stopped for a coffee at the café on the Place de la Liberté outside the Town Hall and noticed that the former shoe shop across the road on the corner of the Rue du Port-Neuf (Newport Street doesn't have the same ring to it does it?) is being revamped. It's receiving the beauty treatment - the stonework has been cleaned up so it's now gleaming white. There's a sign up outside showing that it will be a Sushi shop. Not convinced that will work here - this is Basque heartland and restaurants serving foreign food (ie, anything that's not Basque!) are in short supply. Certainly there's nothing like the profusion of foreign restaurants here that you might see across the channel. No Greek or Indian for example - and I'm not sure there's even an Italian. There are a couple of Chinese across the river in St Esprit. Maybe this Sushi shop is aimed at people working in town.

23rd July 2011. Out in an all-mec VIII this morning - it's a fairly new carbon fibre boat that's a pleasure to row in.. We did 18km (Running total: 888km) and all of it was enjoyable. We rowed a mixture of starts and sprints (series of 10 and 20 at full pressure), followed by light and firm. Someone pointed out a cyclist riding by on the riverside path - it was explained to me that he'd ridden (on a bike) from Paris to Beijing for the last Olympics. Took him 6 months apparently. Next year he's doing Beijing - London. We had an impromptu apéro after the outing and the Johnny Walker Black Label came out.. As I'd never tried this before in my life (true!), I had to have a second one to confirm my view - this is one good whisky.. (but, as my Scottish neighbour used to say, "There's nae sich thing as a bad whusky..")

24th July 2011. A long time ago I was told in all seriousness by a Frenchman that whisky was made from potatoes and hence couldn't seriously be compared with cognac distilled from wine (from the more noble grape). I heard a similar misconception yesterday. Talking to Y at the club, the subject of English cooking came up and she described her idea of  English food as "boiled beef with mint"! I think she was half-joking but clearly the persistent legacy of the former barren years of English cooking is still around and hasn't totally been erased. I've heard this before - although the quote has usually been the "boiled beef and carrots" one.
I've never been offered "boiled beef" in my life - let alone tasted it. Maybe it dates back to what sailors would have been fed in the days of sail..? That would be my guess. As for the "mint" part - I think she's confusing that with the practice of eating roast lamb accompanied by mint sauce. Now that I have had - and many times. No apologies necessary!

It's one of the great English dishes - roast leg of Welsh lamb (gigot), with mint sauce, new potatoes and either fresh garden peas (petit pois) or green beans (haricots verts). That's a dish that can stand comparison with any other. The taste of Easter.. For the ultimate nostalgia trip, try listening to this old signature tune while a leg of lamb is roasting away in the oven.. This will soon have you swallowing large lumps! Click on this link and under Contents at the left, click on "Take It From Here", then scroll down until you see the old fashioned radio marked "Another Audio clip". (Here's a complete "Take It From Here") Here's another classic - this one reminds me of listening to the BBC World Service news on HF fading in and out  in the wee small hours while flying red-eyed way up north of the Faroes in my previous life.

My mouth's watering watching this next video..

It took a while for my dear old Mum to get used to the French custom of studding a gigot with slivers of garlic - I think she initially thought that was heresy! Or the culinary equivalent thereof.. In my opinion, roast lamb is best served rare.. ie, very pink verging on red. I grew up eating it what I now know to be over-cooked - brown, dry and eminently chewable.. (Remember Phillips Stick-a-soles?) My Dad liked his meat cooked beyond the point of possible resurrection! Plus another 5 minutes. This (below) is my idea of how roast lamb should look:

Here's how it's cooked in France. And here's a recipe for Marinated Lamb (believe it's a Jamie Oliver one).. I should add this is untried at Pipérade Towers.

1 leg lamb, boned
1 large bunch mint, roughly chopped
1 large bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
17 1/2 ounces (500 grams) natural yoghurt
1/2 (14-ounce/400 gram) can chickpeas, drained and mashed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, juiced

Tray Roasted Vegetables:
Baby carrots
Quartered fennel, with its own leafy tops
Quartered red onions
Whole baby turnips
Butternut squash, cut into chunks
Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and halved
1/2 (14-ounce/400 gram) can chick peas, drained
Ground cumin
Coriander seeds
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lamb: Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Crush the coriander and mint together and mix with the yoghurt, garlic, and seasoning. Reserve half to use as a sauce once the lamb is cooked.
Score the lamb pieces, season with the salt and pepper and mix with half the marinade and the chickpeas, so it is all coated.
Transfer the marinade and lamb to a plastic bag and seal. Place in the refrigerator until required.
To cook, place the meat directly on the oven shelf above the tray of vegetables for approximately 45 minutes.
Vegetables: Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Place all the vegetables in a roasting tray, add the chickpeas, cumin, coriander seeds, nutmeg, sea salt, pepper, and olive oil and toss together.
Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes then remove the foil and continue roasting for 20 to 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and golden.
Serves 10 to 12.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

What a great drive by Lewis Hamilton to win the German Grand Prix..! If only McLaren could find some more speed in qualifying. Well done Lewis and the team.


Lesley said...

Yes Welsh lamb. Done 'a la Mum' on a Sunday lunchtime. Billy Cotton Band Show, Life with the Lyons, Meet the Huggits on the radio. I may have the names of the shows wrong but the taste was just right.

Pipérade said...

You'll find all those here:
Listening to their signature tunes I can smell the gravy!

Manning, Le Puy Monsegur said...

Liked the blog. Was a pleasure to meet you on Saturday and hope our paths cross again - even if its not until next year at the Comete Line! Look forward to reading your account of events in near future. We really enjoyed your comments on the wines of France & Europe.

Pipérade said...

Pleasure to meet you too. Always stimulating to meet someone who's passionate & knowledgeable about wine. I'm busy sorting out photos and films at the moment and waiting for the dust to settle from the weekend before I write up the experience.