Fast Food: Courgette & Tomato

It’s Thursday. You’re hungry, you’re tired, you’ve just got off a train filled with wankers, and you need fodder. This is what you cook.

So, what I’m doing here is frying courgettes. They just turned up, today, in the vegetable box and they’re perfect for the quickest of quick suppers.

I mean, I was on the way home and part of me was tempted to pick up a pizza from Waitrose. But this is barely more trouble, and fantastically nicer.

Those courgettes, then. They’re cut into fat fingers and they are lobbed into a pan with lots (I mean lots, you stingy bugger) of olive oil, on a good medium/high heat. The fingers are frying and acquiring golden-brown outlining where the flesh is starting to catch on the pan and caramelise. Perfect.

A couple of minutes back I chucked in some roughly sliced garlic (it happened to be wet garlic, since that too turned up in aforementioned box, but dry garlic would be fine), and this too is benefiting from the pan’s Midas touch.

Next, tomatoes. Don’t faff around skinning them. Hell, don’t even bother de-seeding them. Just quarter them and chuck them in. Four or five? However many you want. Turn the heat down to a simmer. I didn’t, but if you’re feeling fancy, you could dosh in a bit of vermouth or sherry or white wine at this point. DESPAIR NOT if you have none open, or (indeed) if you’d rather save it for your parched Thursday evening gob.

Speaking of parched — you have a drink, right? I mean, I just assumed… Mine’s a Negroni Manzanilla, since you asked.

Our courgettes and tomatoes are simmering nicely and we have our negroni. At this point, we see what herbs present themselves for duty. Since I’m a smug wanker who recently planted a bloody herb garden, I’m spoilt for choice, so I’ve picked out some oregano (not too much) and quite a lot of mint. You, though, might prefer basil or parsley or chives or thyme…

Grab a good old bunch of whatever herb(s) you favour and get them washed and ready.

Now, what you’re waiting for is for your tomatoes to start to collapse and release their juices and to commingle milkily with the oil. You don’t want this to go to pulp; you still want those tomato quarters to retain some structure. Have a taste and if it seems a bit sweet, squeeze over some lemon.

Season the crap out of it (don’t hold back with the salt). Scatter on your herbs. And you’re done.

Scoop this out of a bowl with some good bread. Or just eat it with a spoon, you animal.

Tomato, courgette, garlic and herbs in a bowl, ready to be EATEN.

Wine & Shrooms & Cheese

What do you do when you find wanky shrooms? You buy wanky shrooms, stoopid. And you buy a bloody nice wine to go with them. Also: cheese.

Well — the other weekend, I opened a bottle of Ferraton Lieu Dit Saint-Joseph 2011 (£24 from The Wine Society) and it was bloody excellent. Beyond that, I’m not going to write much more about it. Why?

  1. It came after a brace of negronis (with Sacred Rosehip Cup, natch)
  2. It also came after a bottle of Alsace white
  3. Our splendid friends were having dinner with us, so why the hell would I have been making notes on the wine?

So I can’t tell you with any degree of objectivity or accuracy what it tasted of. But I can tell you how it tasted, which was, like I said, bloody excellent. Fruit, but serious fruit, not jammy nonsense, backed up by heft and spice and the rest.

We had it with mushrooms on toast. Not normal mushrooms on toast (though those are also a majestic thing). No, these were wanky mushrooms on toast. Specifically, girolles (I spotted these in a chichi deli near where I work and cleaned ‘em right out). Wanky shrooms are bloody hard to find if you don’t live in a metropolis replete with upmarket delis. When you do find them, you obey certain iron laws. Since I’m in the mood for ordered lists, let’s crack out another, shall we:

What to do when you find wanky shrooms

  1. Buy them, you idiot
  2. Cradle the resulting shroom-filled brown paper bag in your arms like a stinky, shroomy baby. Occasionally steal surreptitious sniffs as you carry them home, heedless of the disapproving glances of passers-by
  3. When you cook them, don’t fuck about with your poncy cheffy nonsense. They are the star of this show, not you.
  4. You are never the star of this show. When will you learn?
  5. Don’t fucking soak them. If they are absolutely filthy and too difficult to wipe off with a damp cloth, run them extremely quickly under cold water. But don’t let those greedy shrooms gulp up any more water than you can help, because it spoils their splendid texture and makes them squelchy.
  6. Butter is your friend. Garlic is your friend (not too much, please). Parsley is your friend. Thyme is your friend. Lemon is your friend. Salt and pepper are your friends.
  7. My, my. How many friends you suddenly have. Remember point 4, above, before you start congratulating yourself.
  8. Cook the shrooms just enough and absolutely no more. Don’t you dare make a sludgy mess of them, you animal.
  9. It goes without saying that you want wanky bread for your wanky shrooms. Sourdough is ideal.
  10. Mushrooms on toast can be the food of kings. So it’s certainly good enough for you.

I hope this helps.

So. We boshed our way through girolles on toast. All the while gulping away at bloody excellent wine. Then we had cheese.

Cheese was from aforementioned deli also. It was all great, but I want to talk about just one cheese — which happens to be another thing I will pretty much always buy whenever I see it. Waterloo cheese. Christ, it’s outstanding: ridiculously creamy, fabulous stuff. That, I guess, may be down to its provenance: a fine herd of Guernsey cows, who are notoriously creamy buggers. And look how yellow it is.

Waterloo cheese closeup

Come on, if you’re don’t have a string of drool hanging from your lip by now, I don’t want you reading this blog any more.

So, it seems that Waterloo is made in Berkshire by a couple called Anne and Andy Wigmore (yeah, they also make Wigmore cheese, which is superb too), trading as Village Maid Cheese. They’ve won a bevy of golds in the WORLD CHEESE AWARDS, which is admittedly a lesser accolade than being raved about by Old Parn, but impressive nonetheless.

So. In summary, one final ordered list to play us out: consider it homework, if you wish.

  1. Buy Ferraton Lieu Dit Saint-Joseph
  2. Buy good shrooms
  3. Buy Waterloo (the cheese, not — god forbid — the station)

Well? What are you waiting for?

What To Do With Half A Cabbage

In which Old Parn tells you what to do with the aforementioned article of vegetation

Okay. Here’s what you do.

(This has nothing to do with wine, but everything to do with things that taste fucking excellent. What you need is a cabbage and some storecupboard stuff. And a ravening hunger.)

You shred half a cabbage and whack the blighter into loads of bubbling, well-salted walter. It only needs 2 or 3 minutes in there, then drain it — but save the water it was cooking in.

While the cabbage is boiling, mash up a few anchovies from a jar and crush a couple of cloves of garlic. Set those bad boys frying — along with a sprinkling of dried chilli flakes, if you like the kick — in a hefty dose of olive oil (about 2-3 tbsps, I guess).

Stick that water you saved from the cabbage right back into the cabbage pan and get it boiling again. Add a bit more salt, why don’t you? Then put in some pasta. Tagliatelli, spaghetti or linguine. 200g of it, if you’re a greedy fucker like me.

You’ll end up with pasta boiling away while your garlic and anchovy is frying. Good work, soldier. Reward yourself with a swig of gin and tonic.

After a while, your garlic mixture will go all nice and golden, and the anchovies will hve pretty much dissolved into the oil. When you’re happy with all that, stick the drained cabbage into the pan, too, and fry it around.

Once your pasta’s done, drain it (saving a bit of the pasta water). Toss with the cabbage/garlic/anchovy and add a little of the pasta water to make it all bind together. I never used to do this pasta-water shebang, but — believe me — it makes a difference. So do it.

Then cram the whole bunch into your ravenous maw.

Good, eh?

And, no, I don’t have a photo. Because by the time it’d occurred to me to take one, I’D ALREADY FUCKING EATEN IT, HADN’T I?