Breakfast this morning consisted of fresh brambles, real honeycomb, and clotted cream atop a light pastry shoe. Our beverage of choice was a pleasurable cup of Irish Barry tea. Never let it be said that English tea can ever match the dry Barry leaf when it has been air dried and nurtured to perfection. When one considers that the East India company used to adulterate their tea with gunpowder, iron filings and god knows what else, I always find it hilarious that the English go on and on about tea being the ultimate morning beverage. Tea was being enjoyed by millions of people before they ever heard of it. It is false to assume that it is only the English that are the indisputable arbiters of what constitutes a good cup of tea.
These days I like to spend the first hour of my day frequenting various pavement bistros along the promenade. There is something deeply satisfying watching other people go about their day when I now have liberty and oul Faither Time as my guests.
Speaking of which, I must soon be swift of foot if I am to procure the perfect ingredients for my small dinner soiree this evening. I have decided to prepare a very intrinsic version of Brown Windsor soup.
To join in this evening you will need:
225g shin of beef, cut into 2.5cm cubes, no bigger please
225g lamb fillet, cut into 2.5cm cubes, as above
60g dripping or good rich butter
10g of Chefs secret ingredient (send money for clarification)
1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots cut into small cubes
60g plain flour
1 marrow bone, sawn into 5cm pieces
2.25 litres of beef or chicken stock. No cubes, the real deal only or the flavour will suffer
bouquet garni of celery, bay leaf and thyme
salt and white pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
small glass of sweet sherry or Madeira
chopped chives, crème fraiche, horseradish to garnish.
In a heavy casserole dish, brown the meat in the dripping or butter. Add the sliced onion and carrots, lower the heat and fry gently until they wilt. Sprinkle over the flour; turn up the heat and brown, stirring.
Add the marrow bone, pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Skim, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the bouquet garni and season. Simmer for 2 hours, topping up with spring water when needed.
Remove the bones and the bouquet garni (Making sure to scrape the marrow out into the soup of course). Scoosh with a stick blender, then use a Mouli or push through a sieve using a wooden spoon into a clean pan. Adjust the seasoning and add the cayenne pepper and sweet sherry or Madeira.
Heat through gently before serving. If you fancy pepping it up a bit, as I do, add some crème fraiche mixed with horseradish and finely chopped chives.
Soup is always best served for the first course at every opportunity. It must of course be prepared lovingly by hand, never from a packet, carton or, may god have mercy on your soul, a can! It must be eaten with etiquette, nonchalance and of course, the correct implements at all times. A good Scottish host will ensure that only silver soup spoons fashioned by Paul Revere Jr are to hand, and this must in turn be rewarded by the diners correct protocol in reciprocation. Soup, taken from the sides not the tips, without any sounds of the lips and never sucked into the mouth audibly from the ends of the spoon. Should these guidelines not happen at my table I would expect your man to call upon my man and present me with your card and an apology within seven days of the meal being served.
Bread should always be served from a woven reed basket, never a porcelain or wooden receptacle. White bread must always be favoured foremost over brown bread whenever possible. Yeast, not to mention the rye husk found within brown bread may cause flatulence later on during the evening, which cannot always be disguised by the discreet cough from a lady, whereas a gentleman will always hang on until the cigars and brandy are served. A common young fellow in the next village was only last week taken outside, stripped to the waist and flogged severely for suggesting serving his fellow dinner guests brown bread in a Tupperware container. This was an extreme case, Tupperware unfortunately still does appear at dinner parties in the lower IQ areas of London, Reading and Guilford, but please, do not have nightmares, the chances of it happening in your area is very remote.
One must always ensure that bread is not broken into soup or gravy. Unless, of course, you have no front teeth and your best friend answers to the name of 'Gator'. Never ask to be helped to soup a second time unless you are of Dickensian descent or suffering a tad with heatstroke, pleurisy or menstrual twangs. For the latter I recommend powders and a long lie down. Fish chowder, a colonial dish, not often consumed in European households, is also to be served in soup plates. This is said to be the exception which proves this rule, and when eating it is correct for an American guest to take a second or third plateful, if desired.
Another generally neglected obligation when entertaining guests from abroad is that of spreading butter on ones bread as it lies in ones plate. The protocol is to slightly lift at one end of the plate; it is very frequently buttered in the air, bitten in gouges, and still held in the face and eyes of the table with the marks of the teeth on it. This is vulgar and certainly not altogether pleasant, it is far better to cut it, a small piece at a time, after buttering it, and put it into the mouth with ones finger and thumb. Never help yourself to butter, or any other food with your own knife or fork. It is not considered good form to do so in Scotland. It is written, to mix food on the same serving plate is a cardinal sin and will unleash the hounds of hell on your heels if caught.
Drink sparingly while eating good food as it is far better for digestion, but when you do drink, do it gently and easily and do not pour the wine down your throat as if you were a French ingrate. Never, for the love of all things holy, receive wine or water into your mouth before the food has been well masticated and swallowed. Do not talk loud or boisterously at the table about politics, financial downturns or military campaigns, but aim to be cheerful and companionable and join in the conversation. Never twirl your goblet, nor soil the cloth by placing bones or fish fragments upon it. A good host will already have placed a small dog within three feet of your chair for these unforeseen occurrences. Do please use it.
In tomorrows post we will cover the correct protocol for sophisticated European ladies riding over cobbled streets wearing long dresses and concealing their mysterious bicycle smiles.