Monday, January 26, 2009

Cor Blimey Charlie!!

Who would have thought that a little piece of France would be lying hidden deep in Clapham. More specifically, at my dear, lovely friend Charlie's house.

Now wait, let me backtrack. Charlie is, to put it simply, a culinary genius (I know, I cultivate my friends well). The boy is wasted in a Managmenet Consultancy firm, where he does all sorts of clever, whizkid stuff wtih spreadsheets and sorting out ailing firms. Thankfully for his friends, though, he unleashes his real talent and passion in the kitchen at the weekends where, with an apron wound round his gentle giant frame (he is a 6'3" giant who dwarves us all), he regularly works his magic on a series of Sunday lunches. Poor lad, not sure if his motley crew of no good amigos aren't rather a wasted audience for his talents. I, however, am fully appreciative.

The Sunday in question is now a couple of weeks back, and I write having had the chance to digest my extremely generous and quite truly delicious portion of...oh, no, one sec, don't let me spoil the suspense, I'll get to the food later.

So, there I was, on one of my many Sunday mornings up in the big smoke, recovering from a monumental night out, during which I had somehow managed to lose my mobile phone in the bowels of my friend Looble's teeny tiny car (a whole nother story, but suffice to say her car has now been dubbed the Bermuda triangle of phones). This rather clever move was somewhat hampering my usually buzzing social life, and I was slightly perplexed as to how on earth I was going to dredge up memories of where exactly in Clapham Charlie's flat was hidden. I was a little panic-stricken at the thought of missing lunch, if I'm entirely honest with you. One of my trusty friends came to the rescue with his fancy iphone, and on ringing Charlie I learned that I needn't have worried, the original (already alarmingly late to my clockwork tum) lunchtime of 3pm had now been pushed back a little. Apparently I wasn't the only one suffering from post-Saturday night pains... it meant I could rock up at a more leisurely pace. I rang on the bell at 3.30pm, and was greeted by the warm, comforting waft of cheesy pastry, some little home-made rolls that the Chef had whipped up out of some pastry leftovers ('posh cheese on toast').

Appetite well and truly whetted, I settled in to catch up with a university friend, delighting in the pleasure of mouthwatering anticipation. Thankfully the real event was every bit as good as the (lengthy) anticipation (Charlie really knows how to drum up a feeding frenzy amongst even the most food ambivalent of guests - a category in which, you'll no doubt not need informing, I am not found), when at 4.30pm our tummies rumbled, the table was laid and the metaphorical drum rolled. Delicately, and with loving care, our Chef served:
  • Cassoulet - look, I know I may have slightly lost credibility, what with my neverending and continuous tendency to wax lyrical about the different food I'm lucky enough to sink my gnashers into (the nasty critic in me does sometimes make an appearance), but let me tell you, I'm not exaggerating when I say - I have never tasetd such a succulent medley of different meats. I carefully picked out, identified and verified with our maestro chef a full array of meats, including tiny, juicy sausages, rich, dark confit duck leg, nuggets of lambshoulder, pork rind and chunks of pork belly. Each medley was doused in a savoury meat sauce, with a couple of spoonfuls from the layer of juice-soaked breadcrumbs topping the whopping great Le Creuset casserole dish. The punch of the meat was tempered and mellowed slightly by the melting creaminess of small, white, haricot beans. Simply outstanding, especially when served with...

  • ...a young, spicy Watercress Salad dressed with a sharp, mustardy french dressing - the perfect punchy, simple sidekick to the rich cassoulet.
  • Treacley and golden, a darkly rich genuine Tarte Tatin, with large chunks of moist upturned apple over flakey, sticky pastry, soaked iwth its fingerlicking sticky juice. Brings a whole different meaning to this particular apple pastry, which can often be muscled in on by an awful imposter (think thin, insipid, crunchy 'apple' slices, and dry crusty pastry). Not so with this rendition, which did its name proud, perfectly served alongside a dollop of decadent clotted cream.

One lesson learned by our talented host, will no doubt have been 'never text one's guests with requests to bring 'interesting cheeses' when one's guests consist of a handful of cheeky comedians and acerbic actors'. Our 'Interesting Cheese' selection consisted of one mesh bag of mini wax-clad BabyBels...which was, obviously, the perfect end to the perfect meal.

Thanks Charlieboy. xx

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