Online Shopping and French Onion Soup

This festive season I decided, to minimise the pain associated with christmas shopping, to do it all online. Of course, like a Pavlov dog, I had erased from my mind the reason why online shopping is not all it’s made up to be.

It’s easy to browse for something, to be sure. It’s easy to pay for something, of course. What isn’t quite so easy is obtaining your goods. It’s a hit and miss affair.

Your online shop of choice might state that you will receive your goods in one to two days. Then you get home (having ordered something at work for example) and find a card saying ‘we tried to deliver but you weren’t in so we’ve sent your parcel back to the depot’. But, you think, it’s supposed to come tomorrow!

Or, just as easily, the item that should have been delivered in one to two days turns up three months later, and you can’t even remember why you purchased it, or who it was for.

So there I was, waiting for one of those ‘delivery next day’ parcels. And I was quickly running out of ‘next day’, so to speak. But I had tools. I had a tracking number. With this number I could track my item. I could see, virtually, where it was. At that specific time it was…

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…‘Out for delivery’. I lived in hope. But not expectation.

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Obelix and the Wild Boar Casserole

Many, many years ago, when I was a lad, I had an ear-ache. Nasty one too. My father, in a moment of altruistic generosity, arrived home that evening from work with a comic. It was called ‘Asterix the Legionary’.

It was a story about a little Gaulish warrior and his best buddy Obelix. They roamed ancient France, bashing Romans and eating wild boar. A lot of wild boar. Obelix liked to finish off three or four in one sitting, and they were always (well nearly always) eaten roasted.

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Obelix could eat as many wild boar you could throw at him…

Later, as I got older, I realised it wasn’t a moment of altruistic generosity that led my father to purchase the comic. He liked it too. In fact whenever he got me one for Christmas or a birthday, he’d read it first. The cheek.

But I always wondered what wild boar was like. I mean from what I have read and heard, wild boar is like pork.

So when I took a trip to my new best-place-to-buy-food (the Farm Shop down the road) I spotted some wild boar, vacuum-packed. I knew I had to try it.

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Coq au Vin Redux

You know that thing where you think you can cook a recipe because you did it before so you must know how to do it again without Googling it? You don’t? So you remember how to boil an egg? It’s 3 mins of course.

Actually maybe its 4 mins….See, those that cook can easily get trapped in the ‘Valley of Indecision’. That deep, dark area where you start second-guessing the amount of flour, the exact proportion of water and milk, the number of seconds to leave that fillet steak frying in butter…

So this is what happened when we had Coq au Vin with Croissant. Coq au Vin with Croissant? What kind of messed-up tomfoolery is that, I hear you yawn at your PC/laptop/mobile device. Well it’s what it says on the tin;

You make a Coq au Vin, and then you stick some croissant on it. Easy. Except this version didnt’t turn out exactly as I remember it.

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Yes this is Coq au Vin…

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The Biggest Steak I Ever Ate

I’m thinking of renaming this blog ‘John’s Blog of Steaks’. It’s all I seem to be cooking right now. Steak with this. Steak with that. Being married to a vegetarian doesn’t seem to be a problem.

I mean if I decide to make ‘Steak and Beans’ then I simply make ‘Beans’ for the wife. Boom boom! (She told me to write that). So when I visited my newly discovered ‘Country Farm Shop’ I decided to go for broke and get a big steak. A really big one.

I walked up to the butcher’s counter and asked for a thicker sirloin than those on display.

‘One moment sir’, replied the man, and disappeared out the back. He was gone for five minutes.

I started wandering around, and found some chocolate covered nuts to stare at (it’s that kind of shop). He returned, with half a cow slung over his shoulder. (I really like that shop).

He cut out the relevant piece of carcass (I don’t know the butcher’s jingo, so keep with me), and placed it on the counter, holding a large cutlass, sorry knife, over the meat.

Immediately I sprung into action.

‘Keep going’, I said as he moved the knife to his left, slowly, to determine the thickness of the steak I wanted.

‘Go, on’, I continued, a slightly increased pitch in my voice betraying my growing excitement (I’ve eaten steaks at Kincaid’s in Redondo Beach, so I know what I want).

The man gave me a sideways glance (kind of, ‘For God’s sake man, this is England, have some decorum’) but the knife edged along.

‘That’s it’.

He sighed with relief.

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To be clear – that’s a dinner plate, not a side plate…

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Cottage Pie with Seared Fillet in a Madeira Sauce, Parsnip Puree Croquettes and Horseradish Cream’. Or ‘Beef, Two Ways’

I was watching ‘MasterChef: The Professionals’ the other day. MasterChef is bad enough in terms of the sheer terror those poor contestants go through, but being on the show and being a professional chef as well is even worse.

Having the likes of Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Gregg ‘that’s a lovely plate of food’ Wallace tell the head chef of a gastropub in Hampstead Heath that his ‘Pan-fried Duck with Distressed Carrot Salad on a Bed of Infused Cherry Curds with Cognac Reduction’ looks like road kill could do more than dent a bit of pride.

One of the meals prepared was ‘Lamb three ways’. The chef did Shepard’s Pie (in a mini saucepan), a kind of lamb meatball thing (can’t remember exactly what it was) and lamb leg loin. It looked good to me but the judges were harsh and said it didn’t taste of anything much. Of course us viewers wouldn’t know, we just stare at the food whilst munching on nuts and sipping a glass of wine thinking ‘I wish I was eating that rather than these crappy nuts’.

So I decided to do something like what I’d seen. You know ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’. I opted for ‘Cottage Pie with Seared Fillet in a Madeira Sauce, Parsnip Puree Croquettes and Horseradish Cream’. Or ‘Beef, Two Ways’.

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