Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Napoleons...

....come in a number of forms.

It's the name in French for the Humphead Wrasse, for a start - an enormous blue-green fish to be found in great quantities in tropical waters, with a wise and avuncular face, and a huge blocky body that it manoeuvres delicately by the use of tiny little fins, managing to resemble an articulated lorry doing a three-point-turn in a very confined space. They're rather beautiful things...

Then, of course, there are any number of many-layered dessert confections which go under the name of 'Napoleon' - I've no idea why - from the banal to the knee-weakeningly delicious. Amongst the latter, Raymond Blanc has one concocted from melt-in-the-mouth rectangles of buttery pastry, interleaved with slices of poached pear and a vanilla-flavoured Crème Anglaise; and my favourite is probably Bruno Loubet's Napoleon of crisp circles of tempered chocolate, with a filling of rich chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries (sometimes served also with whipped cream, into which chopped fresh mint has been mixed)...

Less appealing is the nineteenth century recipe for steak, prepared à la Napoléon 1er, which apparently involved cooking rump steak in boiling water in which a turkey had also been poached, and then serving the two of them, accompanied by thyme-flavoured mashed potatoes and a hollandaise-rich purée of Leeks. Boiled Steak and Turkey? Presses no buttons for me, I'm afraid....although the leeks sound like quite a good idea.

Actually, the only thing that directly comes to mind when I think of the corsican dwarf and foodstuffs of any kind is that wonderful anecdote that Andrew Roberts related in his book on Bonaparte and Wellington: when once staying in some rural wasteland, Napoleon ordered that the local dignitary arrange for a rabbit hunt, so that he could have some entertainment; when they did, though, it was with semi-tame rabbits who had been reared by a farmer with a surprisingly napoleonic stature - with the result that when Bonaparte stepped out of his coach, guns at the ready, Peter and Cottontail and Flopsy (and their 3,000 friends and relations) all thought he was bringing lunch, and so they went for him. En masse. He fled. Exit stout party, pursued by several thousand rabbits....!

And I could wish the same fate for his blasted legal system, which still 'operates' - and I use the inverted commas advisedly - across those large swathes of southern Europe into which he managed to introduce the Code Napoleon in his wanderings across the continent. It was for this reason that we spent four hours in a cramped courtroom in Lucca this morning, following on from a similar session on the same subject a mere fourteen months ago, for which the proceedings had originally been initiated only sixteen months before that! And we still appear to be far from finished! On reflection, I can see the connection with the Humphead Wrasse, as it moves its fins frantically, all in order to manoeuvre its cumbersome bulk on as tight a turning circle as you could imagine .......

Tonight's Dinner:

Pasta, with Mushrooms & Cognac & Cream, cooked alla risotto

Scaloppini, in Sage & White Wine,with Peas.

Crespelle, stuffed with Frangipane cream

4 comments:

Toffeeapple said...

You seem to be a little frustrated...

You have my sympathy!

froginbritain said...

Your primo piatto of 'Pasta, with Mushrooms & Cognac & Cream, cooked alla risotto' sounds really superb. Which type of pasta do you use/recommend for this dish? Do you mean by 'Alla risotto' that you cook the pasta similar to the cooking of a risotto, that is adding the liquid (broth, I imagine) as needed during cooking? I have ordered some lamb from the Orkney Islands – the lambs are raised on the seashore on a diet of seaweed, giving the meat a very interesting taste. The animals are not fat and are quite small so long cooking is recommended. This is very similar to Icelandic lamb – have you ever tasted this delicacy? If not, book your flight to Iceland now – a real foodie experience as you can taste a variety of lamb dishes prepared with great care and you can rest your tired body in the famous Blue Lagoon. But I am digressing from food….. a bit like your blog. Just not so well written though.

Pomiane said...

TA: Not really......I would be, I think, if I didn't feel that we're winning. The challenge mostly seems to be to stay alive until the end of the proceedings....

FiB: Yes, cooked in risotto style. I think I'll blog it separately - but the process is interesting. You need to use quite robust pasta (pennette, for example)to stand up to a lot of stirring.
Sounds reminiscent of the idea of l'agneau pré-salé, using lamb from the Romney Marshes, raised on a diet of samphire and salty water.....from where do you order your Orkney lamb?

froginbritain said...

Orkney lamb from:
http://www.orkneysbest.co.uk
There are two types; the one I refered to was the North Ronaldsay one. Not like the Icelandic lamb but available in UK!
There seems to be a source of similar lamb from Wales, from near Portmerion. I have not tried them yet but will:
http://www.eynons.co.uk
I did not know about the Romney marshes lamb - I shall try to find it.
Did you ever try the slow cooked leg of lamb in the middle eastern way (eg only washed with lemon juice, then cooked with oregano and douzed in olive oil)? Nice served in the garden on a hot summer day on a bed of chickeas, with toasted pittas, yougurt/tsatsiki, a good rose wine, etc and good friends.