12 JUNE 1971, Page 28


People in gastronomic print (not always the same as those who really cook well) tend, I note, to 'happen to have by them' all kinds of things that, even in the chaos of what one dinner guest once called `London's most cluttered restaurant' (my flat—if you can't see it, you're sitting on it), I seldom happen to have by me. I mean things such as a boned, stuffed duck, brace of pheasant (or a freshly-hewn salmon, recently-gaffed haunch of venison, cornucopia of cavi- are), pounds of freshly-podded peas, peeled grapes, shelled chestnuts, choux pastry, mer- ingues, and the bases for a choice of sauces each of which takes five hours to prepare.

Food that I often happen to have by me is stuff with which I hope to do something— and as it wouldn't be polite (or good for one's reputation) to inflict the results of unsuccessful culinary experiments on visi- tors, I, living by myself, do sometimes get bogged down by recipes and foodstuffs which can only be used in fair quantity. There was the chick pea period: I had never cooked same and, when I did, they were with me, in various guises, for about ten days. Cassoulet, likewise, hung about until I did invite a friend whose appetite is such that he doubles most usefully as a waste disposal unit. Recently I was tempted, by a superb cauliflower. ThOugh not enor- mous it was, as a witty friend remarked, made for the pulpit, not the plate--•its prime

quality definitely fitted it for a harvest festival Day after day I sawed off beauti- ful florets and, prompted by the news that Marks and Spencer are now pre-pack- ing cauliflower cheese and someone's com- ment that this is such a simple dish surely anyone could run it up, I was dominated by cauliflower in cheesy versions for a week.

For version one—lovers of garlic only— you blanch the cauliflower, either whole or in fair-sized pieces (I give it one minute in the pressure cooker), then you fry it in a mixture of oil and butter plus a clove of garlic. When it is browned-1 separate the vegetables into fairly small florets, but you can keep them large—you put it in an ovenproof dish and cover it with home-made tomato sauce (or slightly thinned tomato purée), and top with grated cheese. Put this in a warm oven for about fifteen to twenty minutes and accompany it by slices of brown bread rubbed with garlic and toasted in the oven. A coarse dish but likeable.

After a brief excursion into cauliflower polonaise (steamed, then covered with crumbs fried in butter and finely-chopped hardboiled egg), I evolved another cauli- flower cheese. For this version, you cook the vegetable—whole or in segments—un4 til just done, but when it is still very firm. Keep it warm. Meanwhile in a pan put a knob of butter; to this add quite a lot of grated parmesan and gruyere (I used about 34- ozs. for a quantity that would have served two to three people); when this is tacky season it, pour in about + pint of un- flavoured tomato juice and a little purée (or your own sauce), and let it simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced. Add two lightly beaten eggs and stir, taking care that the mixture doesn't boil, until it thickens slight- ly, then pour this over the cauliflower which you have arranged in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with toasted crumbs and a few slivers of butter, bake in a fairly warm oven for twenty minutes, more if the cauli-

flower is whole. if you have any left, it is surprisingly good cold, with a salad, as one might eat in a Mediterranean country.

A summer red Wine shoWn to me by Saccone and Speed when I asked them for something 'like a Chinon—lightish, rather crisp and with sufficient bouquet to appeal, and flavour to withstand certain summer dishes': I was astonished by the quality of the South African Nederburg Cabernet, with a classic Cabernet smell, delicious fruity flavour and excellent freshness—it was a delight to find a wine showing it- self off to the greatest advantage, and its price—£l—is value for a wine bottled where it is made. Ughsome corner: my friends at the Westbury, always impeccable in giving the customer what he or she wants (rather than what they deserve), swear that they recently had an order for steak and vanilla ice-cream, the customer complaining about the service until she got her ice with the steak, and Promptly plonked it on the meat. They also had someone who mixed up a large portion of finest caviare with hot chocolate sauce ..