Tag Archives: learner drivers

Cider and bacon mussels and terror-struck parents

Cider and bacon mussels

Léo and I attended a morning course at the Driving School yesterday, along with about ten other learner drivers and their frazzled parents. In France, following about 20 hours of lessons and a pre-test, learners are able to drive accompanied until they reach test age at 17. The aim of the course was just to check in with everyone and see if there were any concerns or questions (ha!). What struck me was how many parents seem to regard their teenage offspring as basically just really tall, inconsequential, hormone-drenched toddlers.

When asked how his daughter’s driving was coming along, one man, with tears in his eyes, kept repeating mantra-like, : ‘I can’t do it anymore, I can’t do it anymore’. His poor daughter, sitting beside him looking slightly bemused, didn’t seem to have it in her to comfort him anymore. Somebody else asked if it was possible to hire a dual control car, because if not there was no way in hell that they would contemplate going out with their child again. One man was very hot and bothered every time they hit a roundabout (and that’s a whole lot of hot and bother because roundabouts are all the rage in France now). Yet another father was very troubled by the fact that his son somehow managed to hit sixth gear before he’d reached the end of the driveway. He had a virtual spreadsheet in his head, details of which he regaled us with at length, of every time he changed gear. He kept saying: ‘I don’t think he gets it, he’s just not made for driving’. Luckily for both of them, the son took his father making him out to be a total cretin in very good humour.

All in all, it was not dissimilar to an AA meeting so when it was finally my turn to speak I said: ‘hello, my name is Fiona and I break out in a cold sweat and start shaking every time we approach an intersection’. As Léo explained to me quite resolutely afterwards, I ‘need to go and make peace with my bloody intersections because I’m the one with the problem, not him’. He has a point, but the good news is I certainly don’t seem to be alone!

These mussels make a nice change from ‘moules marinières’.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 kg fresh mussels

30g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves of  garlic, crushed

6 rashers of bacon (cut into strips)

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

150ml dry cider

Wash the mussels in cold running water making sure to remove any grit or sand. Discard any that float or any that are already open. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the shallots, garlic and bacon and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the mussels and coat well with the melted butter, oil and shallots. Add the herbs and seasoning and then the cider. Bring to a simmer and cook for about five minutes until the mussels have opened.

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BBQ ribs and life in a haze

I was on the loose in town today sans glasses. I realised they weren’t on my nose as we were leaving, but Léo was driving so I didn’t think it would be too much of a problem. Also we were running late, and the whole ‘when and where did I last see them etc.’ thing would have been too boring and time-consuming. It would obviously be easier to wear them all the time, but as I’m short-sighted, shallow, vain and in denial, it’s never going to happen. Anyway, Léo is a 16-year-old know-all learner driver boy racer, so out-of-focus is definitely the way to go. Far less white-knuckle stress.

While Léo was having his French horn lesson, I went shopping. All things considered, I didn’t do too badly. I bought baby peppers instead of tomatoes, but you know, who cares?  And I had to ask the owner of the shop to tap in my credit card code but again, no big deal. I waved like a maniac across the shop at someone who didn’t know me from Adam, but she was very nice about it and we chatted for a bit. In hindsight I realise she maybe just felt sorry for me, but is hindsight always a good guide? Going in to the post office I misjudged the doorstep, which resulted in an expedient and slightly melodramatic head first entrance. I then ‘Madamed’ a Monsieur, although he didn’t seem too put out – he was obviously quite woke; it’s so last century to fixate on gender.

I went back to the car to wait for my chauffeur (I got into the right car after just one small blunder), and passed the time contemplating my seemingly smooth, almost Photoshopped, wrinkle-free forehead (I’m making myself sound like a simpleton/lunatic now). I concluded that forgetting your glasses is cheaper and more effective than botox, probably less painful too, although that might be open to debate, as my doorstubbed toe will attest. It can be quite comforting to not see things too clearly all the time – I’m not sure that an obsession for detail is necessarily healthy. Think big picture. All in all, blurred worked pretty well for me today.

These ribs are a bit time-consuming, but so worth it. I had given up making ribs because they didn’t seem to be available to buy. We have now found a great butcher who has them all the time. They’re really not particularly healthy, but in a way they are because they’re so delicious they make you happy. And anyway, moderation is the key.

Ingredients (serves 4)

For 4 racks of pork ribs (approx. 400g each)

For the marinade:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 orange, juiced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

Combine the ingredients to form a runny paste in a food processor.

For the BBQ sauce:

1 onion, peeled

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 chilli, seeds removed

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon fresh coriander

1 teaspoon chilli powder

50g brown sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

50ml tomato ketchup

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon mustard

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients to form a paste in a food processor.

Rub the marinade over the rib racks and leave in the fridge overnight. Preheat the oven to 125°C, place the ribs on a baking try and cook for 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and wrap the ribs in tin foil and cover with the sauce. Return to the oven for another hour. Open the tin foil wrapping and increase the oven temperature to 200°C for a further half hour.