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En passant

"if you say something en passant, you mention it quickly while talking about something else" Cambridge Dictionary

So not really 'this and that', which is what this post is. But we'll go with it anyway. My options for synonyms are running out.

Gayda Vineyard

When I was looking for an appropriate header picture I found this which sort of captures 'en passant' - the guy is wandering past. It's all happening elsewhere - or he is about to join in, which in a way is sort of what the whole blog is about. Because let's face it, when I'm writing about a particular topic I often wander off on to something else which is remotely linked. And I do hope you like to join it as it were.

As far as the wine is concerned there are three reasons for the name 'en passant'

"a brand made up of grapes that are “in passing” on their way to becoming organic."

"The state of flux is also reflected in the styles of wine in the En Passant range that change vintage to vintage, with different labels and designs introduced every year that tell the story of that particular wine with a storyboard design."

"Forever changing and adapting, buying and investing in new vines and putting them into organic conversion. It taps into its “creativity and inventiveness”. Tim Ford

Anyway below is the Gayda vineyard, in the Languedoc sort of between Carcassonne and Limoux. I'm including it for two reasons - the name of their various wines (en passant) - and the labels that are attached - all variations on the ones above. The other thing of note is that it is a vineyard run by an Englishman Tim Ford and South African Anthony Record. Which is sort of typical of the Languedoc area which used to be the 'vin ordinaire' producer of France. Then the Australians, and probably English, Americans, etc - foreigners anyway - moved in and things began to change. Acres of high producing, low quality vines were torn out and new ones - lots of shiraz from the Australians - were put in. So this is one of these places - built around a 1749 staging post.

'En Passant' in chess

When you look in Google Images for 'en passant' you find a whole lot of chess boards, because 'en passant' is:

"a special method of capturing in chess that occurs when a pawn captures a horizontally adjacent enemy pawn that has just made an initial two-square advance. The capturing pawn moves to the square that the enemy pawn passed over, as if the enemy pawn had advanced only one square. The rule ensures that a pawn cannot use its two-square move to safely skip past an enemy pawn." Wikipedia

A true example of mentioning something quickly - in passing - whilst talking about something else. Totally irrelevant really, but look we've all learnt something new.

A sprig and a pinch

The other day when I was looking for chicken en cocotte recipes I came across a video of the Jamie and Julia guy making a dish of the same name. Not the right one though because this was a pot roast with a mushroom stuffing from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But I do like his videos so I watched it. At one point he had to put in a sprig of tarragon - maybe more but the point is we were referring to sprigs. It seemed to me that he didn't put in enough - just a very few leaves - which got me to thinking that maybe I always put in too much. See what I did there? Assumed that I was in the wrong. However, it is definitely one of those things isn't it? I mean exactly what is a sprig? The picture above is one person's idea, and maybe it's right, and it's probably more or less what I would think of as a sprig, but obviously others - e.g. Canadian Jamie - think otherwise. Which means that it all comes down to our individual taste really.

Ditto for a pinch of salt. Sometimes when you watch a cooking video you hear them say 'add a pinch of salt' and what goes in seems to be almost a handful. Not at all what I would think was a pinch. I did read somewhere recently that chefs measure with all their fingers, not just two - like me. But then salt is usually 'to taste' anyway isn't it? So I suppose it doesn't matter. Not very exact though and yet another confirmation that cooking is an individual art.

Whatever happened to chicken giblets?

In that same Jamie and Julia video he had to chop up the chicken giblets - and he did. But it got me to thinking, once again, because every now and then I wonder about this, that giblets seem to be a thing of the past. You used to get a little packet of the giblets inside the cavity of the chicken. No more. I think for a while they disappeared more or less completely. Where to? Pet food? In the bin? I was dimly aware that you could buy chicken livers sometimes - well you might want to make a pâté mightn't you? But not giblets. However, I just looked at Coles online, and you can actually buy little packets of chicken giblets. I wonder if they do the same for the Christmas turkey. I guess it's a way of squeezing a bit of extra money out of a chicken.

No it's not a bush. I can't remember where I came across this now but here are two examples from the Great British Chefs website. I can do no better than quote their introduction to the topic:

"A shrub is a fruit-based syrup, usually mixed with vinegar, to create a delicious, tangy flavouring for drinks. Many iterations have existed throughout history; in seventeenth-century Britain, the word referred to a fruit liqueur served with rum or brandy, while the popular colonial American drink was closer to today's version, thanks to the addition of vinegar. Shrubs are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence today, thanks to an increased interest in preservation and the swathes of mixologists looking to create unique and delicious cocktails in bars."

Yes there definitely seems to be a heightened interest in cocktail these days. And summer is sort of here, so maybe, if you have a glut of something, you should have a go. Actually I have some tiny, but very delicious nectarines from my friend's garden. Maybe I should have a go with them. Shrubs are definitely a thing though. I see them referred to here and there increasingly often.

This week's Ottolenghi recipe

I can never resist can I? But this 'pie' with its barely there but striking pastry lid, is such an unusual but delicious looking combination that I just had to pass it on. It's called Chicken prune and split pea pie. The split peas are yellow and it's based on a Persian stew called Khoresh, so there are Middle-Eastern spices in there as well. Yes definitely on my 'to do' list. Apparently you can get it all ready to cook the night before as well. The same article has recipes for Apple and pear Eve's pudding with vanilla cream and Butternut squash pudding with Rosemary chilli oil. He and his team are geniuses.


This is today's picture from my Art desk calendar. It's a drawing by Aubrey Beardsley and I found it very fetching - fey and sexy perhaps. But then he did do a lot of erotica. But yes you can see the connection to a vine. It's actually an illustration of Stéphane Mallarmé's poem L'Après-mid d'un faune. We studied Mallarmé at university. I'm not very good at poetry, but I did like his poems even though I never understood them really. They were so dreamy, mysterious and so beautiful to the ear. (Like Debussy's music for the ballet). In the original French anyway.

I almost used vignette as my title for today, because the name, of course, comes from vigne meaning vine and is also related to bits and pieces in a way.

Merriam-Webster has a pretty comprehensive list of definitions - two of which are:

"a picture (such as an engraving or photograph) that shades off gradually into the surrounding paper"

"a running ornament (as of vine leaves, tendrils, and grapes) put on or just before a title page or at the beginning or end of a chapter

also : a small decorative design or picture so placed"

And above is the original drawing on the page of the book - the bit that looks like a damp stain is actually a watercolour representing 'the jagged edge of a cloud and blue sky' - or maybe water? At auction that book fetched AU$28,387.

Merriam Webster also has a little historical piece:

"In English, the word was first used in the early 17th century for a design or illustration that ran along the blank border of a page, or one that marked the beginning or end of a chapter. Such designs got their name because they often looked like little vines. It wasn't until the late 19th century that vignette began being used for a brief literary sketch or narrative."


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