Saturday, 7 May 2016

Of More Truffles And Marzipan

Shame on me for missing April.  I meant to write and heaven knows there was certainly enough to write about, but I didn't get round to it.  I took advantage of being too busy and too tired and probably too cold as well.  

I went to France to spend a week with P.  As always it was great.  We came back to the UK on the same flight so that he could stay with me on the boat for a couple of weeks.  I even fancied that we might get out for some boaty travelling.  We got less than ten miles … and I was stuck in the boatyard for the next fortnight awaiting the return of the fuel injection pump (which had gone off to be serviced/repaired for the third time in sixteen months) during which time P. had to head back to France where more work, exams and piles of papers needing to be marked were waiting.

As usual on the boat, P becomes very domestic and, when not knitting, he commandeers the galley for the important business of conjuring up confections of the most delicious kind - in between delicious meals of course.  He brought marzipan in pastel colours and first made batches of marzipan sweets with dates and other fruits and from liquids clear or in various shades of brown poured from the bottles with which he has filled my food drawer.  It started with Madeira a few years ago.  I realised after a lifetime of teetotalism that, while pretty much undrinkable (even French people don’t drink Madeira), it does wonderful things to a vegetable sauce. So, on the trips when I could afford the extra costs of taking a suitcase, I began to bring flasks of the stuff back from France.  After that came the brandy, the whisky (or should that be whiskey?), the kirsch. the orange liqueur and there may well be vodka for all I know.  I can’t drink any of it, but I do try from time to time to see if the flavour has changed into something that others seem to find delicious.  The joy of alcohol has completely eluded me.  

Rubbish at making delicious sweets, but excellent at clearing up

After the marzipans it was off to a neighbouring village’s shop for clotted cream.  P. is often distressed and appalled at the state of the chillers in most of our food outlets here.  At home in France he likes to put butter and cream in almost everything.  However, in the UK most of the big supermarkets don’t seem to sell proper cream.  They do sell worthy products of the reduced fat variety filled with chemical colourings, flavourings and preservatives and often oils extracted from the plantations that spring up for a generation or two between the periods of destroying native rainforest that may have been in place for thousands of years and the dust that’s left after the palm oil plantations will no longer grow, but it doesn’t taste like cream - even I know that.  After failing to find real cream at any of the big supermarkets in the nearest town he was overjoyed to find, and become curious about, Cornish Clotted Cream. It is now the main ingredient in his chocolate truffles.  He confectioned for the two final days of his stay leaving me with no space for cooking in the galley after he left, just trays and trays of lovingly hand-crafted truffles, most of which contained more of the boozy contents not used up in the marzipans.  The whiskey (or whisky) and crystallised stem ginger ones were particularly successful.  He added them to his list of favourite truffle recipes and made cling-filmed trays from the tops of used and long-disappeared, ice-cream containers along with instructions as to whom these gifts should be given.  Each of the hundreds of truffles had had their microscopically small pink sugar hearts tweezered into formations and patterns.  Thankfully those destined to be covered in coloured sugar strands could be rolled in saucers filled with said sugar.  Even P may not have had the patience to apply each strand individually.  Still, his sweets are known amongst our friends and they always know when he has been here because I turn up to places with boxes of truffles and marzipans.  Invite me somewhere and you may find out for yourselves.

P. labouring in the galley

A tray of truffles from P.'s fair hands.

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