Food and book time!
I usually shop specifically for the dishes in the Bistro Cooking book, but today I saw some lamb cutlets and I thought that surely there’d be a recipe for that in the book, even if that meant I had to cheat and skip forward a bit in the Les Viandes chapter. Such naughty.
Oops! There isn’t.
But there’s this, which is a lamb leg slice dish, so it’s… close-ish?
I also decided to make a potato mash, and I thought there’d surely be a mash recipe in the book, but there isn’t? What? How is that even possible?
So I just made a Canna Mash.
The recipe is: Boil some potatoes, add some salt/pepper and lots of thyme…
… and then keep adding butter to it until it says I CANNA TAKE ANY MORE BUTTER, CAPN!
Or you run out of butter, which I did here, after adding 250g butter to 500g potato. So I added some cream, too.
It’s practically keto!
Anyway, back to the lamb recipe… First I saute a bunch of garlic cloves in a pan (along with some thyme). The recipe talked about garlic skins and stuff, but I only had fresh garlic, so no… papery skins. Which I think is a plus, anyway?
After about eight minutes they seemed tender and nice.
Then cook the cutlets in the same pan until desired done-ness (which for me, with lamb, means “remove from the pan two seconds after there’s no redness left”… what is that? Medium well?).
And then the pan is deglazed with some white wine, and then the garlic is returned to the pan to head up again.
Mmm… that mash is delicious. I’ve made it twice before, and the first time it came out fabulous, and the second time it was meh, and this time it was fabulous again. I guess it depends a lot on the quality of the potatoes.
And the lamb cutlets! So flavourful! And the white wine garlicey thymey sauce! Yum!
I was slightly surprised by the garlic, though: I thought they would taste full-on garlic garlic, but instead they were more ok-that’s-garlic? Perhaps using dried (or whatever they call non-fresh garlic) would have been better, because it would have retained more garlicness after sauteeing?
The book didn’t quite go with the dish, though:
Today’s book is *gasp* Norwegian. It’s not that I avoid Norwegian books, but… they do seem to be somewhat under-represented on my shelves.
This one was a gift from the Xmas before last? I think? I’ve read one book by Gert Nygårdshaug before, and I thoroughly loathed it. But that’s several decades ago… and perhaps this one is… better? Zoo Europa seems to be the nth book in a book series about … well, I have no idea. Looks kinda post-apocalyptic on the cover there? If you can read Norwegian, you can read along with me the first three pages.
Geez. It’s just like the book of his that I loathed. It’s written in a style reminiscent of 50s Norwegian, but liberally sprinkled with words that must have been archaic even then. Well, I don’t really mind: It gives everything a mannered, distanced quality, I guess…
He drops us right into the post-apocalyptic action, with several characters running around the world. There’s been a civil war between the Nazis and the fundamentalist Muslims in Europe, and civilisation has broken down.
Most chapters are short and end on a cliffhanger. The main viewpoint character is somebody who seems unrealistically out of touch, but that gives the other, wiser characters plenty of opportunity to info-dump at him (and the reader) endlessly. I guess that’s a better technique than having people “as you know, Bob, I’m your brother Jim” which even worse writers than Nygårdshaug commonly does, but it’s still rather grating.
As I said, I know nothing about the previous books in this series, so I don’t know whether all the characters are recapping them or delivering new information, but I’m guessing that it’s mostly recaps. There’s a lot of it.
The plot is… I don’t know what word to use. Childish? Child-like? It’s basically a sci-fi novel, but the concepts are so ludicrously simple-minded (a magical forest; a plague that kills 80% of people, but totally painlessly; the Baroness with the Hobbit house) that I started looking around on the cover for something like “for readers age 12 to 16”, but, nope. So I did something I never do while reading books: I googled for it to see whether it’s a kids’ book… and… none of the reviewers seem to touch on it, so I guess not?
It’s just… stupid?
And then it hit me! This is a 50s sci-fi novel! It’s just like a Heinlein juvie! It’s got that “sensawunda” thing going on, with (literally) unbelievable concepts dropped into an adventure story here and there, where our heroes fix the world (or whatever).
After readjusting my brain a bit, reading got easier. Instead of me going “this is silly…” every two pages, I’m now going “this is silly!” Makes all the difference in the world.
Of course Heinlein didn’t make Houellebecq references in the 50s, but he probably would have if he could.
OK, but I need a dessert after the lamb cutlets. And since I cheated with that recipe, I skipped ahead in the cake section of the book until I found something where I had all the ingredients (because no shopping today).
So it’s a lemon pie: My second pie ever.
So it’s got like these ingredients.
OK, there’s a Pâte Sablée pie crust to make first…
So you blitz the ingredients in a fud professer, and it turns into a gooey, horribly sticky mess,
And then… smear it onto waxed paper?
And then try to tip it into the tin…
And then even out everything and smear everything into all the crevices of the pie tin. Because this dough is just impossibly sticky.
And then into the fridge for… FUCKING THREE HOURS?! I don’t have three hours!!! I’m running on fumes (rum and Stargate: SG1) already… I’ll give it an hour…
OK, out of the fridge.
Line it with foil.
Pour the er pie balls? into the tin. (This is the part that took the longest, because I couldn’t find my balls anywhere. They turned out to be… in the cupboard where they were supposed to be, but behind something else.)
And then into the oven for 20 minutes.
And it comes out looking… kinda… pancakey? That’s weird.
Well, back into the over for another 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, I make the filling, which is just lemon juice, sugar, some cream and lots of eggs.
Eep! After 15 minutes, this looks kinda…. done? I think? The edges are…. crispy!
Holey pie crust, Batman! It’s pie crust, and it has holes!
OK, I put it on a baking sheet… perhaps the leakage will… slow…
Well, this isn’t going to be pretty.
Well, OK, it didn’t leak… that much. But was it supposed to raise or something? Hm, I guess not, because the eggs aren’t like whisked that much…
Well, it didn’t. It’s flat as a flat omelette, only flatter.
The crust is surprisingly good. The lemon egg thing is very tart indeed… I think it needs like 2x the sugar.
But it’s OK.
Reading this book got easier when reading it as a 50s juvie, but the sheer stupidity flowing through these pages… I get the distinct feeling that the author thinks he’s all kinds of clever (quantum consciousness: it’s particles that make up consciousness), and you feel like you’re being condescended to by a moron.
Beyond that, the sheer amount of repetition is tiresome. Most of these short chapters start with a page or two of people recapping to each others (and the readers) what we’ve read just a few pages earlier. It’s maddening.
But he’s got his fans: A previous book in the series was voted “best Norwegian book ever” in 2007.
That’s the most frightening thing I’ve heard this year, and this is a year with Covid-19.