It’s a new week, so it’s another couple of Patricia Wells recipes and a new book.
OK, for the starter this week, I’m doing this… terrine? Tell me you’re reading this recipe the same way I’m reading it: It’s a bunch of boiled leeks? (Leek? What’s the plural? One leek, two leek… probably with an s… I could look it up but that’s work.) And then pressed into a square for half a day in the fridge? And then served with a vinaigrette and truffles?
Shouldn’t there be like more stuff in a terrine than 1) leek and 2) nothing else?
So here’s the ingredients.
The exciting thing about this recipe (for me), other than its risible simplicity, is that it has truffles! I’ve never even bought a truffle before! So I went to the delicatessen and asked “do… you have truffles?” And she said “Yes! We had two yesterday!” and there was one left, and I got it?
It’s not a thing commonly used in Norwegian er cuisine.
I guess it’s in a little box with rice? To keep it dry?
So I’ve trimmed the leeks…
… and then into well-salted water for ten minutes.
I bought that 35cm (that’s 13 inches for you non-metric people) pot a couple of years ago, because I was fed up with having to bend spaghetti down into a smaller pot. THE INSANITY MUST STOP!!! I thought, so I got this thing, and I’m so happy I got it (every time I’m boiling spaghetti): It’s quite low, so I can sample the spaghetti as it’s boiling with just a normal fork…
ANYWAY! It’s also perfect for these leeks, and it’s the first time I found something else to use it for.
And then I let some cold water run over the leeks to chill…
And then into a foil-lined bread form, because that’s the only thing I had that’s square and long. Except my head.
As you can see, I just got four leeks, while the recipe calls for twelve of them, because… I don’t want to be eating leeks for the next nine weeks.
All bundled up, and then into the fridge for the next day.
So while that’s resting, let’s pick a book… not many to choose from; just a couple to go now.
The book of the er day is Christianna Brand’s Tour de Force. I first became aware of her last year when I watched Green for Danger, which is a very witty movie based on one of her books. It was so witty that I bought three of her books immediately, and read one of them. It was very witty indeed.
So here’s another one. Let’s read the first three pages together:
This is very witty!
I love how Brand dumps us into a classic mystery setup — a group of people (who do not know each other) on a tourist trip abroad. She quickly pencils in the different personalities: We have a gay clothes designer; a very witty novelist (gotta have one of those); a grouchy policeman (can’t do without); and a bunch of others — presumably one of these others will then be killed off, and the mystery can start.
So we’re not talking Huge Original Masterpiece here, but I find Brand’s style of writing here irresistible. There’s such an exuberance to it: I can picture Brand cackling maniacally behind her (presumed) mechanical typewriter with every clever turn of phrase and bouncing up and down on her chair when introducing a mid-paragraph twist.
Brand isn’t one for killing off her darlings. She’s more likely to pat them on their heads and then send them off to the Riviera.
She does love leading the reader up the garden path. She almost tends towards the oblique, and you have to pay attention to her longer-than-usual-for-this-sort-of-stuff sentences, but she always reins it in and lands it successfully.
This book is simply!
There’s even a map! It’s perfect!
OK, I’m definitely buying all of her books now. There’s unfortunately less than a couple dozen, apparently, and most of them are out of print. It’s a disgrace.
But what’s for the main course?
It’s a terrine! With a lot of ingredients! I like that. I mean, whenever I see a long list of ingredients, I’m like “whee this is gonna be fun”.
But it turns out that most of the ingredients are herbs. Dried herbs at that, so I basically had most of the ingredients already. And I got to use the summer savory, which I got from the UK a couple of months ago. It’s not a herb used much here…
And this recipe has white wine, port wine, and cognac. Gotta be awesome!
The recipe specifies ground pork neck and pork liver… and I couldn’t find pork liver at the delicatessen, so it’s just ground pork meat.
And… I forgot to buy shallots, so I substituted these tiny onions I had instead. And one shallot.
Hey! Chopping onions in a FUD professor is really efficient.
So that’s stirred into the group meat…
And then I had to open the port wine. I bought a nice port today, and… THE CORK DISINTEGRATED WHILE OPENING!!!1!
Well, I managed to get the port out, and it didn’t taste awful (it tasted very nice indeed), so I decided to use it.
Some of the spices need to be ground, so I used the Kenwood spice grinder attachment.
That’s a lot of spices and herbs. I think there’s… eight? And plenty of every one?
So that’s all mixed.
Here’s another thing I’ve never cooked with before: Lardo. (Or fatback, as Patricia Wells calls it.)
It’s fat, dude.
So I line the bottom of the pan with the lardo… Wells specified a square pan, but I didn’t have one of the requisite size.
And then the meat’n’spice thing patted down…
… and then bacon on top.
Wells specified “caul fat”, which sounds just gruesome, so I didn’t even try to find out what it’s called here. But she mentioned that “mild bacon” would be a substitute, so I ordered some non-smoked, fat bacon… and when it was delivered, it was smoked, very non-fat bacon.
HONEST! I”D NEVER! I”M JUST EXPLAINING!!1!
Anyway, it turns out that this is a meat loaf? I’ve never made meat loaf before, so I was somewhat surprised that this is what I’m ending up with, because it sounds better in French! Anyway, so it’s in the oven, in a pan filled with water.
Wow, that’s blurry. What did the camera focus on?
The recipe said two to two and a half hours; it’s done when, as Wells puts it, when you stick a knife in it for 30 seconds, and when you pull it out, the blade is warm.
I though that sounded kinda unnecessarily vague, so I googled it, and google says 70C.
So I stuck a thermometer into it after an hour… and it’s already 80C!!! GAH! It’s like making a half-size recipe makes it cook in half the time! WHO KNEW!
I verified with another thermometer.
It’s done. But is it over-done?
Oops! The recipe specifies that it’s supposed to rest in the fridge for at least a day. BUT I”M HUNGRY NOW.
I should really read these recipes before I start cooking instead of just the list of ingredients…
So since the end of this cookery came kinda fast, I didn’t have time to make any salad or anything, so I’m just eating it hot with some bread.
The first few bites I thought were delicious. But then … all the different herbs and spices just kinda seemed to be… less complex than just confusing? It’s all these vague flavours without anything that stands out.
But it wasn’t overly dry or anything… So I didn’t totally ruin it, I guess?
I preferred the bread and the butter to the meat loaf, and that’s not a good thing.
So that’s what’s left after I finished eating, so I continue with the recipe, which is to let it chill while being compressed.
Is this compressed enough? When it’s cool enough, I’ll pop it into the fridge and then see what it tastes like tomorrow.
[two days pass]
So I’m eating the leeks first, so I have to make a vinaigrette. It’s just lemon juice and oil and salt & pepper. And truffle shavings.
Hm… er… what is this? This is the truffle I bought, but all the truffles I’ve had in restaurants have been black inside? Is this a white truffle? It’s also got a very … grainy texture…
But I snacked a bit, and it does taste like truffle. Only a lot less. Hm.
So that’s the vinaigrette…
So the leeks are out of the fridge, and I’m cutting.
That’s a long name for a very simple dish! You can’t even see it under all that text…
So here it is without the text.
Hm… Well, if I got this as a starter in a restaurant, I wouldn’t be mad. The leeks have developed a fuller flavour, and taste like… asparagus? It’s kinda towards asparagus territory. And the vinaigrette and the truffles do add something.
I like it. But it’s not like OH WOW I CAN”T BELIEVE IT; it’s more like “yes this is a starter and I’m not disappointed”.
(Yes, I’m typing this after drinking a bottle of wine. Whee!)
But I’m wondering what that truffle thing is…
“Tuber aestivum Vittad”.
The flavor, size and color of summer truffles (Italian: tartufo estivo) is similar to that of burgundy truffles, but their aroma is less intense and the flesh (gleba) is a paler hazel color.
OK, so the ones I’ve had in restaurants have must have been burgundy truffles, I guess.
“Less intense” is an understatement. At least for this one truffle I have: It does smell like a truffle, but it’s very subtle.
Onto the meaty terrine:
Yeah, that totally looks appetising.
So I cut a bit…
And here it is on the plate.
Well… The texture is quite nice; very terriney. But the flavours are still the same; haven’t developed much over the two days in the fridge. That is, the spices are still kinda off-putting. When I’m taking a bite, I’m thinking “there’s at least a couple of flavours here that shouldn’t be here”.
Could some of my dried spices have gone off and gone bad? Is that even possible? Herbs usually just taste less instead of bad…
Oh, well. It was fun to make.
This blog post is part of the Bistro
Cooking & Books series.