Always a trifle disconcerting when a precious memory comes at you when you are unprepared. Granted, it's not quite as disconcerting as when the wonky Scarlet one comes at you, naked, valgus, slathering and me, totally unprepared of course. Tantamount to terebration. Nothing in life can prepare you for that particular dark night of horror. I digress. Returning to the house you grew up in only to find that is in the process of being demolished. A brief glimpse of forgotten, long covered over, yet very familiar faded wallpaper hanging forlornly on brickwork that was once your parents bedroom wall. It was a strange experience standing in the rain, watching, half hoping, expecting my oul fella to come around the corner of the broken stairway in his thick woollen overcoat with a cup of tea for the mammy. He would trudge in from his work of a night, regardless of what his day had brought to him, be it good or nae, he would fetch the woman her cup of tea. The oul fella was a brawler in his day, that much is true, but he loved and doted on his good lady and we loved him even more for that. Mind you, she would be none too pleased now to see coarse looking workmen with bushy moustaches and mucky boots in what was once her parlour with its fine china cups and all. Oh how she loved those cups. Hated moustaches though. Hated them...
I have received numerous official letters from the Post Office, which was quite a result considering the following, informing me that they are unable to deliver any future mail due to the fact that we appear not to have a visible mailbox attached to either the gate, wall or suitable adjacent protrusions to the property. Their words, not mine. It seems that a backlog of mail has built up at the local office and because they can never get a response from the intercom on the gates they have been unable to proceed with the direction of Her Majesty's insistence that the carriage of mail must be delivered if it has been affixed with an official stamp. 'It is hereby recommended that you put forward a remedy to ensure that the current delivery system is improved forthwith before a handling/storage fee is produced.'
Which is all very well and proper in an intimidatory type of way, but considering that it was addressed to a Mr McBillicoddle, a mysterious gentleman who according to the address on the envelope lives in the next village and to the best of my knowledge, not at my actual address. I also pointed out in a rather eloquent way, that herself down there in the palace of Buckingham is the queen of England, not Scotland. Let's not point out the technicalities, feazings and politics involved here, why spoil a good yarn? Of course, I have had to return the letters to the Post Office myself. Well, I didn't want them getting mislaid, eh?
It is not often that I am sent to the supermarket to get food messages for our household. Something to do with the flamboyant purchase of a Christmas goose back in 1983 if memory serves. I somehow managed to lose three days of memory, the little singing fella and one brown leather brogue. I was heartbroken to lose such an expensive companion. Good shoes are hard to find. Not to mention the contents of my stomach when I got peckish in the gutter, where I wound up rather merrier than what was intended and took a bite of raw goose. However, on this occasion I was dispatched to the supermarket specifically to purchase a suitable margarine to accompany my wife's penchant for small sheets of carpet underlay mistakenly labelled as dietary crisp-breads. Siobhan, waylaid at the gym and too busy ensuring a suppleness about her body continues to manifest itself, had decided that her rumbling belly required immediate sustenance on her return home.
I stood motionless for the best part of the mornings foray into the magnificence which is known locally as the ASDA. Before me was a vast, spectacular array of vegetable fats of all shapes and sizes. I counted 27 in total before I realised that I had strayed across to the full fat section. Silly me. It was an innocent moment, I meant no one any harm, my intentions were strictly honourable. I merely wished to satisfy my curiosity over the contents of something called 'Seedburst'. An item which was surrounded by many eco friendly shoppers in their Toyota Prius driving jackets, biodegradable sandals and strangely wispy beards. The packaging offered up all kinds of exciting promises about what lay inside. At no time did I see a sign that said 'please do not open the lid and dip your finger into the yellow creaminess of butter heaven.' The days of try before you buy ceased in 1972 I was rather curtly informed. Before I was asked to leave. By a sales assistant of no more than twenty three. And she was a girl too. Possibly Scarlet has a sister. Also with a beard.
Apple Charlotte with Cinnamon Sabayon
For the mixture:
1/2 tub of seedburst margarine or butter
4 Granny Smith apples
1 vanilla pod, scraped
1 fresh lemon, juiced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
For the batter:
2 large free range eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tbs white sugar
1 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tbs unsalted butter to grease the ramekins
20 slices of good brioche, no crusts ladies, no crusts.
For the sabayon:
6 fresh egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup of calvados
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, again, scraped
dash of spring water
Make the filling. Put a large saute pan over a medium heat and add the butter. Peel and cut the apples into 1/2" chunks. Once butter has melted and just starting to foam, add apples, scraped vanilla pod, lemon juice cinnamon and brown sugar. Coat well by tossing the mix for 20 minutes until the apples are tender and the liquid has gone. Let the sauce caramelise until nicely rich and dark.
In a shallow dish, make the batter by combining the eggs, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Whisk well until combined. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and generously butter and sugar 4 ramekins. Invert a ramekin, or use a round cutter on half of the bread slices to use as a guide to cut out circles. These will be the bases and top of the charlottes. Cut the other slices into lengths half lengthwise.
Working with the circles, lightly coat in the batter and place in the bottom of each ramekin. Lightly dip the other rectangles of bread in batter as well, then use them to line the walls of each ramekin. Stand them upright around the edges, but leave an overhang. Use the overhang to seal the charlottes. Bake for 25 minutes and allow to cool.
Pour the sabayon on top of the charlottes and demolish with a nice cup of tea and a read of the Daily Mail.