|'Goose Fat and Garlic'|
I haven't cooked much with goose fat - just crispy roast potatoes; but as fats go, I'm told it's a relatively healthy one. Still to be convinced about that.
What's clear from the book is the cuisine of the south west of France tends to be rustic, hearty country food. It's meaty. And quite often offal-y. I'm sure a few of the old traditional recipes don't make much of an appearance anymore: the cook book is 20 years old, and the tales of how the author came by some of them stretch back to the 60's. One of my more unusual favourites so far is Le Lapin en Cabessal - stuffed rabbit in the shape of a headband; and another that fascinates and horrifies me in equal measure is Le Confit de Cou d'Oie Farci au Foie Gras - goose neck stuffed with foie gras and preserved.
Anyway I'm wandering away from the point, because the reason for searching through the book was to find something special to cook for my mum's last night with us.
Stuffed goose neck wasn't it.
The last 12 days have flown by, and it all worked out so well. We don't see much of mum and I know she enjoyed spending time with us here. I loved having the company more than I'd imagined, and it was good for a while not to be the only one to feed, clean, check, wash and scold the kids.
Also a big all-singing-all-dancing meal was a way of distracting her from thinking about the impending flight home. Mum didn't mention her flying worries half as much as I thought she would, but I knew she was very anxious about the journey.
I settled on Les Croquettes de Poulet - chicken croquettes, with a classic garlic potato recipe.
Croquettes are something my mum's mum used to make, and she was magic with leftovers.
The chicken for this is pre-cooked so it's a perfect way to finish up bits after a roast. You'll need:
350g chicken meat
100g lardons/chopped bacon (optional)
2 cloves garlic crushed
Bouquet garni - or teaspoon of mixed herbs
400ml very thick béchamel - white sauce
1 egg dried breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon cooking oil
Cook the lardons for a minute or two, then add the onion and garlic. When they're soft, add the chicken, herbs and seasoning; mix well, and once you can smell the herbs, remove from the heat. You can whizz this all up, but I've no way of whizzing here, so finely chopped the chicken and the onion instead.
Then simply blend the meaty mixture into the béchamel. Let it cool before making croquette shapes.
Dip into the beaten egg and roll in the crumbs.
Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and fry them until they're crisp and golden.
While all this was going on, wafts of garlic filled the kitchen from the potatoes, bubbling away.
Les Patates a l'Ail, is stewed garlic potatoes; a recipe from the foothills of the Pyrennes. You can add as many cloves as you dare!
750g waxy potatoes
6 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons goose fat (or butter)
salt and pepper
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes and pat them dry. Over a gentle heat add the crushed garlic to the fat in a heavy pan with a good-fitting lid. When you can smell that lovely garlicky smell, add the potatoes and turn to coat them.
Cover and cook slowly for 20-30 minutes. Check to make sure they're not sticking. They shouldn't brown but gently stew. Season to taste.
We had artichokes with melted butter or vinaigrette to start. Everyone had some, apart from the seven year old, who's deeply suspicious of anything unfamiliar, especially if it's green.
The crispy-on-the-outside-soft-inside croquettes and garlic potatoes were heavenly, and packed with flavour. I'll be making them again. Very soon. We also had some lovely crunchy french beans with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
Tarte Tatin for pudding, made with some tart little apples I found in the garden - the butter and sugar took the edge off their bite.
Everything was eaten up and not a word about the flight.
And would you believe it, mum ended up sitting next to a pilot (not the pilot) on the plane, and talked non-stop all the way back.
How lucky was he sitting beside a chatty, flying-phobic granny, who'd recently eaten a ton of garlic.