Cannelloni, Cassoulet and crikey, I forgot the bread

This evening, another European mongrel is coming for dinner, so that makes two of us.  Rather than Mancunian Italian, she is French Calabrese, her father comes from the toe of the boot that is Italy, where my mother is Siciliana.  To add, my teenage daughter is having a horse-loving friend over, and has specifically requested from Cook, the cannelloni she so loves.  Bechamel, tick, ricotta, spinach, tick, tomato sauce.  Now then, my mother as you will know if you’ve read my cooking pages, is a fan of tinned tomatoes, and of course, so am I, but this week, I had stupidly stored my tomatoes in the part of the fridge that seems to freeze the contents, so, reaching for tomatoes on toast yesterday, I bit into a frozen chunk of mush.  So these are the ones that I chose for the tomato base (not including the one with teeth marks in it).  Rather than a luscious carnation red, they are quite pale, their flesh almost orange.  Still, after dumping them in hot water and tearing off their skins, fried up with large pieces of Isle of Wight garlic, they taste lovely, but my sauce has ended up too runny.  Rushing as usual, I haven’t given the tomatoes enough time to reduce, so I’ve ended up with breakfast tomatoes rather than any kind of passata, although I don’t think the girls will notice or mind.

Soused, drenched, do I care?

Stuffing the cannelloni requires a sort of dedicated patience, it is in this kind of act where I put all my love for those who will eventually eat the food (sorry, I had to stop to polish my slipped halo).  I stood at the stove for an hour stirring the various sauces, and finally, hoping for a good play to listen to on Radio 4 (and it was), I pushed the ricotta, spinach, chopped mushrooms, and peas into twenty or so long tubes, and the deed is done.  There was even a spoonette left over for tasting.

The second dish I decided upon was put together rather haphazhardly, a sort of Cassoulet in honour of Southern Mediterranean visitors.  The farmer’s market this Tuesday was full to the brim of new stalls, and I bought lamb cutlets with some lamb sausages thrown in almost for free.  Lamb cooks so well when it’s done slowly, so this is the easiest of dishes to put together while you can get on and do other things.  Note To Self; don’t give the bones to the dog.  This week, I made that mistake (again), and you wouldn’t want to have been me coming downstairs next morning.  All I can say is thank goodness I’d put my Uggs on.

So easy peasy does it and after I’d softened the vegetables, I cut up the lamb sausages, put in the chops, doused the whole affair with plentiful red wine and some beef stock and put it in the oven.  Then I remembered that between getting up this morning and going out for a meeting, I’d begun to make bread.  The dough by this time was bursting out of the pot and spilling over the edges, so I punched it down, rolled it in flour, put plentiful thyme in it, and into the oven it also went.  And hasn’t been the worse for it either, I can smell it now.  The slow cooking cassoulet is embuing the loaf with a sweet rich red wine and herb fug which I find strangely comforting.  Oh, that sounds soooo cheffy.  But you know what I mean.

pre-oven pommes de terre haphazard style

My daughter said to me on Sunday, when she came home from being “out”, how nice it was to see Mother at Stove Stirring whilst Lovely music Played (it was the show tunes on Radio 2).  It feels wonderful to me to think that she will remember something like this so vividly.  My Sunday dinner was the usual flung together rush, but this time, I had an excuse, and a good ‘un.  Le Rugby, mais oui.  Now, you might find it odd that a knitted yoghurt such as me might like a spot of rugby, and no, I won’t say it’s about team playing, or being the superlative athleticism required to run and to scrum, nor will you hear a peep from me about rugby versus the sport of over paid, thick-headed, monosyllabic prima donnas that permeate the other ball sport, but I will share with you and only you, the secret thrill I get watching perfect specimens of male beauty with the most perfect thighs, running around a grassy field.   Roll on Saturday, two matches in a row, now that’s what I call happiness.  Best not tell Husband, though?

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