Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Meals inspired by the 2019 Women's World Cup Football Tournament

This post is a summary of some of the dishes I cooked during the 2019 Women's World Cup Football competition. The tournament was hosted by France, so I have taken French food as my inspiration for many of the meals we prepared while the tournament was on.

I learnt to cook in the 1970s and I look back on that period of my life with great fondness. French classical cooking was very in vogue and I still believe many of the classical dishes that I learnt to prepare stand their culinary ground today. It wasn't all butter sauces and elaborate garnishes, but they did feature rather strongly. The food I was really in awe of though was France's bistro style cooking, and the breads and viennoiserie rather than the elaborate cakes and tarts.

The unique flavour of so many dishes relies on quite specific ingredients so I am always delighted when I come across a supplier that sells specialist ingredients by mail order, and my most recent discovery in the UK is frenchclick where among the many things you can order they have french cuts of meat and a superb range of french cheeses.

I think of french cheese shops as quite magical places where I could spend many hours studying all of the fascinating cheeses - so many shapes and textures created by such skillful cheese makers and affineurs. So a cheeseboard was the very simple way we celebrated french food for the opening game of the tournament.
The three cheeses above  are Port Salut, Corsica Fromage de Brebis and Tomme de Savoie.

Another simple but perfect lunch is a plate of terrine or pate with a bitter leaf salad and toast. The salad on this plate is chicory, walnut and slivers of dry cured ham. The terrine is rabbit and prune and the pate is chicken liver and brandy. Both of these were bought ready made.

The above dish may look rather British, but casserole is a saute of french veal kidney and mushrooms which was my first time cooking veal kidney. The kidney was ordered from the frenchclick supplier mentioned above and it came vacuum packed in its full casing of veal fat. I must confess to throwing away the veal fat but I need to research a little more how to use it as it seemed a terrible waste not to.

The weather really has been rather warm for 'meat and two veg' meals so the next dish was back to salads with the very classical salad niรงoise. I have managed to grow some quite flavoursome new potatoes in large tubs on the patio at home, so these were put to work and this dish really does benefit from using ingredients at their best.

Now for a dessert, or this could equally be breakfast: French Toast (Pain Perdu) with Strawberries, blueberries and thick plain yogurt, maple syrup if you wish. We enjoyed this while watching Canada play Cameroon.

There are not many perennial vegetables that I grow in the garden but sorrel is one that I would not want to be without. It is often the first 'crop' of a new year. I have a large patch of the small leaf buckler sorrel and a small area of broad leaved sorrel. The buckler leaf sorrel is really welcome in spring salads and the broad leaf I use for soup. The colour of cooked sorrel can be a tad grey and if this annoys you then you can always mix in some fresh spinach to punch up the green colour.

Rarely able to resist a bargain cookbook purchase this lovely book  'Cooking South of the Clouds; Recipes and Stories from China's Yunnan Province by Geogia Freedman, was snapped up from amazon at £6.36 back in early June 2019. The above, rather beige looking soup is a chicken and chestnut soup flavoured with black cardamom. This works well as a summer soup if you cheat and use vac packed chestnuts rather than fresh ones, which I only see available in late autumn and winter. The recipes include a wide range of ingredients such as carrot greens, thai chillies, banana leaves, potatoes, squash leaves, and  flatbreads, as well as the more ubiquitous chinese flavourings. We had this on a day the Chinese team were battling against Spain.

My next dish was back to traditional french ingredients with a cervelas and emmental salad with bitter leaves. I made quite a bad job of poaching the cervelas sausage so they all ended up with very split skins and looking frankly volcanic. The neat slices the recipe called for were out of the question as what I had left after removing the skin was sausage rubble. This was my least successful dish of the series.

Although I live very close to the coast, really fresh fish is hard to buy, so I was delighted to discover this summer that a local boat will be landing and selling fish direct to the public about once a week. The first time I went along they were just selling shellfish and I came away with two beautiful spider crabs and a lobster.
The lobster was used for a recipe that I based loosely on one by the chef Georgio Locatelli in his vast book on Italian cuisine, Made in Italy,  and we ate this while watching Italy play Brazil.

Later in the week I made Thai crab fried rice with one of the cooked and picked over spider crabs. Every time I buy a whole crab that I will have to pick the flesh out of myself I vow at the end of the process to never attempt it again. After about two years though I forget how tedious I found the process and I am back buying a whole crab again. We enjoyed this fried rice dish the day of the Thailand vs Chile game.

I went back to a rather English style starter for the Japan vs England game. In the 1970's just about every restaurant I remember going to had this starter on the menu along with soup, melon and fruit juice. It could often turn out to be a rather large mound of limp lettuce and salad cream with a few prawns on top but when made up with good ingredients I still enjoy eating this childhood memory dish. The sauce which is often called a marie rose sauce will in its most basic form be just mayonnaise (or salad cream) flavoured with a little tomato ketchup and lemon juice. I like a bit of chilli in mine and some cooks add a splash of alcohol to the sauce too. The many variations are discussed in detail by Felicity Cloake in her Guardian newspaper article 'How to make the perfect prawn cocktail'.

The above salmon with cucumber and tomato is a recipe from 'My Gastronomy' by Nico Ladenis which was published in the late 1980's. The salmon is steamed with a little butter and the cucumber is cut into spaghetti like ribbons before being briefly cooked and then dressed with dill and olive oil. The dish is garnished with chopped peeled and seeded tomatoes and a butter sauce.

England vs Argentina -Griddled beef steak with Francis Mallmann's Smashed Potatoes.
I am rather in awe of Argentine bbq methods and Francis Mallmann has written two really good books on the subject Mallmann on Fire and Seven Fires.

Germany vs Nigeria quarter final
Blue Cheese (Forme d'Ambert) and bacon salad with warm new potatoes

Sweden vs Canada quarter final
A very simple rye crispbread with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and dill. I wish I liked rye crispbreads more, they seem so wholesome when I eat them, but none the less I find them rather hard work to eat.

Italy vs China quarter final
Meatball and spaghetti pasta with a fresh tomato sauce and peppery salad leaves. I like to use a mixture of veal and pork mince for these and add a little parmesan cheese, dried oregano and breadcrumbs to the mix.

England vs Cameroon quarter final
Baked plaice (from our local fishing boat) with chips, mayo and mushy peas.

England  vs USA semi-final 
This is a Robert Carrier recipe for an omelette stuffed with a tomato and aubergine filling. Robert Carrier was a restaurant and hotel owner in England from the 1960's to early eighties who was born in the USA. He had a highly acclaimed restaurant in Camden Passage Islington, London where I was very lucky to once be treated to a meal. I always thought he achieved an ideal balance between some of the more enchanting aspects of french, english and american cooking.

Dessert 1, Gooseberry Fool for England,  in the England vs USA semi-final
Dessert 2, Blueberry Cheesecake for the USA in the England USA semi-final
I was hoping for sweet news for England but the USA put an end to our hopes of being in the final.

Netherlands vs Sweden semi final in Lyon
Meatballs with cumin flavoured carrots and lyonnaise potatoes

Chips & Mayo for an afternoon snack during the final match Netherlands vs USA, which resulted in the USA taking the cup once again.

Finally some consolation english strawberries and ice-cream for England who lost to Sweden in the 3rd/4th place play-offs.

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