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A lost recipe

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

It's a David's special meal day and he, in a 'moment in time' mode, remembered a meal we had in France many, many years ago which was a simple but absolutely perfect feast. It began with their home-made terrine - from their home grown pigs - and was followed by a very simple butterflied leg of lamb and chips, followed by cheese, salad and a huge bowl of very fresh cherries on ice. The sort of meal that Elizabeth David might have raved about - and very cheap too. It doesn't sound much but it was absolutely perfect.

It was the lamb that he remembered - it's his favourite meat - and I did have a half leg of lamb in the freezer so butterflied lamb it would be. He requested butterflied too because that's how he remembered our French experience. Me, I'm not so sure, but he could be right. Of course I would marinate it, but how could I 'tart' it up, whilst remaining faithful to his memory?

Then I remembered another wonderful recipe I made in the early days of our marriage, from one of Robert Carrier's newspaper columns. It was lamb of some kind - I cannot remember quite what - but it was the sauce Paloise that accompanied it that I remembered. And possibly the marinade for the lamb too which I think featured peppercorns and rosemary. Now I used to cut out those columns - others too by other early and notable cooks that were published in the Sunday magazines of The Times and The Observer. I would then paste them on to large sheets of computer printout - remember that? - and assemble them into a folder which I think was made for the computer printout. It had holes with screws in at the top, that held the outer two heavy cardboard covers together, I remember. I took those folders everywhere with me from England, to Melbourne and the two houses we lived in there, to Adelaide and back to our current home in Melbourne. The last time I remember seeing them was in a box that was stored in what is now The Gatehouse - our guest house at the top of the drive, but which was then a shack, in which we stored stuff deemed not vital when we moved in.

I cannot believe that I actually threw those out. But nevertheless they have gone. I have searched for them several times to no avail. Also the children's favourite picture books - most notably Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, that my younger son knew off by heart. Will they ever be discovered by somebody in the dim and distant future I wonder. It is one of my life's tragedies.

Normally with Robert Carrier it would not be a problem. He often publishes the same recipes in several different books, but not this one. I have virtually all of his cookbooks now. And just to counter David's claim that you can find everything on the internet - no you can't. There were a few references to sauce Paloise and Robert Carrier in the same breath as it were, but they led nowhere and there was certainly no recipe.

As a holding pattern I did devise a marinade for the meat - the normal thing - olive oil, lemon juice and garlic with lots of herbs from the garden, and I shall just roast it on top of some sliced potatoes, which is what they do in France with lamb sometimes. However, having now searched for Sauce Paloise and found a few recipes I'm not sure whether I shall make it or not. Maybe or I might just make a blueberry cake for dessert, to satisfy my criterion of working from an actual recipe.

Anyway Sauce Paloise it seems is a variation of Sauce Béarnaise, from the town of Pau in the foothills of the Pyrenees, which uses mint as its main flavour rather than tarragon. Hence it's affinity with lamb. The link above is to a recipe by Steve Farrow on the Wine Society site, but I have a couple of problems with it. He talks about discarding the peppercorns, but never tells you when to put them in or how many. The picture (below) also shows a buttery sauce but not an emulsified one like a Béarnaise, and like the photograph at the top of the page - which is Sauce Paloise from the French Elle magazine and therefore one imagines fairly genuine.

James Martin, however, provides a rather more correct sounding recipe. No picture though. Yes I probably should make the sauce even though we didn't have it in that little French village hotel. I can still make the cake as well.

And here are a few 'tourist' photos from today, although I chickened out and didn't take my camera with me - they are all taken by my iPhone: nearby Montsalvat - weird artist's colony built in the 30s in a Provençal sort of style and now somewhat decaying, giveaways - oranges and rosemary, pretty flowers and belladonna lily plants, some beautiful Eucalyptus bark and David tending his bonfire - clearing up after the storm. Always something to see. Next door there was a little tonka truck in the garden, but I decided not to to snap that.


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