|Skipjack tuna tartare with salicornia ( Ile d’Oléron), August 2011
The longer I live in France, the fussier I get. No, that’s not true. The more aware I become when people serve me rubbishy, careless food in restaurants. Having a perfectly cooked chicken, with exactly the right sauce – even with potatoes superbly crisped in duck fat – if the poor, impoverished fowl itself was reared in some kind of Dotheboys Hall of a slaughterhouse where, were it human, the Health and Safety people would put the owner out of business, you can’t expect it to taste better than mouldy cardboard. Why in otherwise quite luxurious hotels do people serve breakfast bacon the colour of unhealed wounds, mushrooms swimming slimily in overheated brine and desiccated tomatoes with blackened skins which masquerade as ‘grilled’? In many parts of the world, people don’t ask how your hamburger should be cooked, they simply char it to blackness for ‘health and safety reasons’, which is petty, juvenile and suggests that the meat has not been minced and prepared on-site and the management can therefore take no responsibility for its bacterial content. Asking for good steak to be ‘well done’ is an insult to the animal who gave its life to feed you.
Which brings me to salads. Ungarnished salads are like turning up to dinner at the Archdeacon’s stark naked. So, Caesar salad. A surprisingly easy recipe. This is how to do it properly.
1 large, free-range egg.
1 or 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed.
Juice from half a lime.
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce.
4-5 anchovy fillets, chopped (this is not optional and the anchovies must be salted, not marinated).
3 tbsp good quality olive oil, plus a little extra for frying.
freshly ground black pepper.
25g/1oz parmesan cheese, coarsely grated, not the sawdust from the supermarket
1 cos (aka romaine) lettuce, washed, spun and torn into pieces.
2 thick slices of white bread, crusts removed, cubed.
Place the egg in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 1 minute and then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process.
Once the egg is cool enough to handle, crack the egg into a food processor and add the garlic, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies and oil. Process well and add pepper to taste.
Place the lettuce in a bowl.
Fry the bread cubes in a little olive oil until crispy, then drain well on kitchen paper.
To serve, pour the dressing over the leaves and add the croutons and parmesan. Toss well and serve at once.
Adding pineapple to pizza and calling it ‘Hawaiian’ insults the intelligence and should be punishable by electrodes being attached to sensitive body parts.
Not that I’m fussy, or anything like that.