top of page

Dithering over dinner

"Dithering - present participle of dither - to be unable to make a decision about doing something" Cambridge Dictionary

Tonight I was going to make Poulet au cresson (chicken with watercress) from Volume 3 of Robert Carrier's Cookery Course. Last week I had almost bought some watercress from the supermarket, but hadn't yet decided on this dish and so I couldn't justify the purchase. However, I remembered it as I sought a guru recipe to make this week, and saw this recipe. I like watercress, not just because of its slightly peppery taste, but also because it's a nostalgic thing for me as it was a food we regularly ate at home as a child - in sandwiches and salads mostly. I don't think my mother ever cooked with it. I also somehow remember that the Queen Mother called Robert Carrier's watercress soup un poème. Now isn't it weird the things one remembers? I made it once, and although it was nice I don't think I would call it a poem. But then I was cooking it, not Robert Carrier and it was here, so maybe the watercress wasn't up to scratch.

Anyway, of course, when I went to buy some watercress on Thursday there was none, Nor on Friday and so I had given myself one last chance today telling myself that if there was still no watercress I would replace it with rocket - also peppery but not quite as delicate. And so it was. No watercress but with a tinge of regret I bought the rocket instead.

Decision made. But no - for I forgot to check the recipe before we went to the shops and now I see that I also need celery and leeks. I have a very small part of a leek left, but no celery and celery is rather irreplaceable. So what do I do? Go back to the shops, thus wasting petrol and polluting the planet or do I cook something else and go to the shops tomorrow - which, of course won't solve the wastage and pollution problem?

Hence the dithering, because my other planned meal for the weekend involved yet another pickle - sauerkraut - which I was going to braise with some sausages, bacon, onions and potatoes. Not very original but really nice. I have already taken out the sausages from the freezer and I have everything else that's necessary, but still I find myself dithering. Basically I think because I really fancied the chicken and the potato gratin I was going to make to go with it.

So to fill in the time, whilst I dither as it were, a couple of detours. The first into poulet au cresson. Of course Robert Carrier's recipe is not online. Very few of them are, and surprisingly - to me anyway - when I looked for other versions with that name there were very, very few. This is virtually the only one I found in fact - Filet de poulet à la sauce au cresson on the Bien de Chez Nous website (in French). There were salads, and soups, and chicken with bits of watercress as a garnish, but it really doesn't seem to be a French classic. Translate into English and the search result is no better. At first sight this looks rather like a soup as well, but I think it's actually just a shallow plate with a sauce on the base and chicken slices on top. I don't think Carrier's chicken dish would look the same however, as his chicken is braised - with those leeks and celery, plus some mushrooms and carrot.

I did however, find that the British seem to think that it's a traditional British sauce, which is generally served with salmon or trout. There also doesn't really seem to be a consensus on what goes into the sauce - Jamie Oliver has silverskin pickled onions in his Watercress sauce; The Great British Recipes website simply mixes watercress, lemon juice and crème fraïche and Great British Food Awards cooks its Traditional watercress sauce with that celery and those leeks as well as a few other things.

I suppose its not really a suprise that the British would have made a sauce from watercress because I do think of it as a quintessentially British ingredient - along with mustard and cress and radishes which somehow seem to get into the same memory mix. Maybe it's the pepperiness.

Second detour. When I looked for a picture to represent dithering the first thing I found was this somewhat technical definition in Wikipedia:

"Dither is an intentionally applied form of noise used to randomize quantization error, preventing large-scale patterns such as color banding in images. Dither is routinely used in processing of both digital audio and video data, and is often one of the last stages of mastering audio to a CD"

It looks like this:

There's a very long article about it in Wikipedia which gets much more technical than the above.

Third minor detour - an etymological explanation of where the word 'dither' comes from on Etymonline:

"1640s, "to quake, tremble," phonetic variant of Middle English didderen (late 14c.), which is of uncertain origin. The sense of "vacillate in opinion, be indecisive" is from 1908. Related: Dithered; dithering."

Interesting how the meaning evolved from actual physical shaking to mental shaking.

Which is what I'm still doing.

No - decision made. I will guiltily pollute the planet by going back to the shops to purchase a leek and some celery. I really fancy chicken and sauerkraut tomorrow. Who knows my decision may be vindicated by finding some watercress.


The pickles experiment continues. This was last night's dinner - never to be repeated, not because it was not good - it was actually really tasty even though it looks pretty ordinary - but because the main ingredient of the sauce was my last pickled peaches and their liquid. I doubt very much that I shall be making pickled peaches again, even though they were actually very tasty. Mostly because I am unlikely to have such a bumper crop of peaches that I have too many to just eat. Anyway they were not particularly appetising looking and so when I put them out on a cheese board, nobody ever tried them. Like that celery salad. Just for your information the dish consisted of some pieces of pork spare ribs, some roughly chopped carrots and onions which had marinaded in a blended sauce consisting of those peaches, garlic, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of yoghurt, the juice of a mandarin, some peanut oil, a small spoonful of baharat and some chopped coriander stalks - the leaves being scattered on top at the end. The mix was then baked in the oven slowly for a couple of hours, turned around once or twice in that time. Served with rice. Yum.

Today's Impressionist masterpiece from The Met Museum. From Monet - La Grenouillère. Such a beautiful moment in time don't you think? So still, and peaceful, and yet full of movement, beauty and happiness. I did ponder on riffing on that, but thought I had probably overdone the art thing yesterday.



Related Posts

See All

1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
May 19
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

As always it was yummy, but it seems to me that this is part of the art of cooking - dilly dathering over the minutae of food results in unique and different tates. It was of course delicious and green!

bottom of page