The Competitive World of Expat Cookery

I’ve just been scrabbling round in the garden looking for a brick. I need a brick (reclaimed, natch) to put in a bag to press the duck terrine I made. It needs to be pressed for two days and allowed to mature. It was a pig to make and I can’t even taste test it because even I draw the line at putting a minced up and spiced concoction of raw duck and chicken liver in my mouth.

I’m also considering making Marrons Glaces. This is an insane thing to do because they take four days to make. Have I too much time on my hands? No, it is because I am a fully paid up member of the cut throat competition which is expat cookery in winter.

It starts as a social thing, a sharing of meals and dinners when the cool bright days of winter whet the appetite and cosy evenings in encourage us to produce food heartier than a well dressed salad. It starts as a way of bringing our home countries into our adopted countries, as a taste of the comfortingly familiar, toad in the hole, scotch eggs, steak and kidney pie. Then it degenerates. Into competition, and the competition gets cut throat.

I was on a bread kick and was making cheese breads and walnut breads and olive foccacia. My friend David, a professional chef, who in his day could whip through 400 covers a night with only the help of a seriously bullied sous chef and a trio of Stepford waitresses, retaliated with a steamed suet pudding so vast and light we had to tether it to the table.

Not to be outdone I moved onto candying my own peel, boning out entire ducks and confiting the legs. David started sleeping with Escoffier and journeyed into the mountains to find morels which he served in a delicate cream sauce with a rib of beef. The cow!

Which is why I found myself yesterday chucking my new copy of Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals onto the sofa and embarking on a complicated variation of a Hugh Fernly Wittingstall game terrine – I had to improvise a lot, I couldn’t find a well hung pheasant, or peasant for that matter.

David is coming to dinner on Saturday night, and because I may possible have screwed up the terrine I’ll hit him with a puff pastry frangipane tart, he’s useless at pastry! Ha!