I drove 30kms last week to have my watch battery replaced. The jeweler, who was very patient and more interested in nurturing her inner teacher than her inner profiteer, took the time to show me that the big hand was on the 10, and the little hand was on the three. She said this meant that the watch was showing 3:10, and as it really was 3:10, the watch battery was still working. She then went on to compliment my very blond hair and blue eyes; it was only once I’d left that I realised the subtle point she had been making!
Since Brexit, it has become exceedingly expensive and complicated to send packages to the UK from Europe. Also, the sender is now inundated by far too much information. I recently sent a parcel which took 10 days to arrive. Every single day, I was the delighted recipient of intricate details of its progress. For the record, I’m OK with not knowing when it leaves the post office, when it gets into the van, when it sets off, when it crosses the border, when it stops for a potty break… What next? It’ll be setting up a Tiktok account and papping the posties.
What a boar!
A few evenings ago, hearing a terrible commotion coming from the forest, Leo’s immediate reaction was to ask where Java was. I assume this was based on the premise that where there is Java, there is commotion. Java is currently going through a bit of a phase: Despite angelic airs, her leaning definitely tends more towards criminal than cherubic. As it turns out, it had nothing to do with poor Java, who was snoring on a sofa. (It used to be we blamed it on the boogie; now, apparently we blame it on Java.) The neighbours’ dog had attacked some wild boar, which caused the neighbour and her daughter to escape up a tree, out of harm’s way. When Léo arrived to rescue the damsels in distress, they were still stuck half way up the tree, yelling futile instructions at their dog to leave the boars alone. Java, meantime, was still snoring on the sofa.
Although in Texas and Mexico where chili con carne originated, it is usually served with tortilla chips, I like this variant as the courgettes cool and complement the spices beautifully.
Recipe for chili con carne courgette gratin (serves 4)
- 250g pre-cooked red kidney beans
- 500g minced beef
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 6 tomatoes, blanched and skinned
- 1 red bell pepper (cut into strips)
- 4 chilli peppers (sliced)
- 6 mushrooms, peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons of tomato purée
- 2 glasses of red wine
- 250ml beef stock
- 1 sprig of rosemary and 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
- 1 square of 80% dark chocolate
- Seasoning to taste : sea salt, black pepper, chilli powder
- 3 courgettes, cut into rounds
- Conté (or any other hard cheese), grated
Pour the olive oil into a medium-sized casserole dish and heat. Add the onions, garlic, mushrooms and mince and brown well, stirring around a bit. Once browned, add the bell pepper, the chilli peppers and the tomatoes and continue to cook until gently simmering. Add the tomato purée, the kidney beans, Worcester sauce, seasoning, stock, red wine and herbs and bring back to a simmer. checking from time-to-time that there is enough liquid. Add the dark chocolate, stirring well to melt, then place the chili in an oven-proof dish and cover with the courgette rounds and finally the grated cheese. Cook in the oven, preheated to 180°C, for about 45 minutes, or until the courgettes have softened and the cheese is bubbling.