If you have even the most basic understanding of the French, you will know that they are genetically incapable of driving with any degree of safety. It is one great big, Gallic free-for-all when they hit the roads. Offensive gestures, wild Mediterranean gesticulating and uncontrolled Latin aggression are par for the course on any given day of the year. Leaning on the horn whilst in a gridlock is a national pastime.
‘Darling, we need a satellite navigation system’ I announced when my husband came home. Gadget man agreed ‘but I’ve been saying that for years!’
‘Yes, yes’ I replied, ‘but now I’ve decided that we need one...’
Then with a tip and a tap I told my new friend Tom to take me to Place de La Concorde. How absolutely thrilling to drive through perfect, cobbled Parisian streets knowing I’m not going to get lost!
We parked in a ‘f&*k me that’s expensive!’ car park and tripped off to the Jardin des Tuileries to meet my dearest friend Sandra, along with her lovely man and lovelier (sorry Ja) little boy.
Then Sandra started to unpack her very large bag. Out came a Spanish tortilla, still warm. Then a tomato and basil salad. Home-made hummus was next and lastly, a rice salad and a small bottle of vinaigrette. 'Fait maison', bien sûr.
For a minute I thought she was doing that bitchy oneupwomanship thing. I hate it when women do that. (Unless I’m better and I win, then I love it.) But this was Sandra; she is far too nice to play that dirty game.
‘Sandra’ I said, ‘what are you playing at? We said ‘a picnic.’ That means sandwiches and crisps. It’s an easy, guilt-free meal.’ She looked sheepish ‘I’ve been in France too long...’
Still, her rice salad was delicious, especially when served with a soft boiled egg that Ja kindly peeled for me. Ah, les français, they might not be able to drive but they know how to treat a lady...
When it was time to leave, we returned to the 'How much? Is that in Euros or Zloty?’ car park. As we drove up the Champs Elysées I chirruped happily to the children about how we were driving up one of the most famous streets in the world and wasn’t it absolutely amazing and beautiful and aren’t we really lucky and oh shit! we’re at Place de l’Etoile, hold on tight and nobody speak!
Rice Salad (serves 4)
3 medium carrots
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsps honey
1 clove garlic
195g / 1½ cups basmati rice
1 red pepper
20-30 green (or black) pitted olives
3-4 tsps of yeast flakes
fresh basil leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste
For the vinaigrette:
2 tbsps gluten free Dijon mustard
about 3-4 tbsps olive oil
1-2 tbsps red wine vinegar
the innards of a juicy vine tomato
- Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the rice as per the packet instructions (about 10 minutes). Drain the rice then douse it repeatedly with cold water so that it doesn't stick together. Sprinkle over the yeast flakes, add the salt and pepper and stir thoroughly. Set aside
- Peel and dice the carrots and finely chop the garlic. Put the carrots in a bowl and add the vinegar, honey and half the chopped garlic. Stir and set aside
- Chop the red pepper and olives
- Mix all the vegetables into the rice and stir throughly
- Prepare the vinaigrette by placing the mustard into a bowl. Add the remaining garlic then add the olive oil and stir to combine. You should have a thick, glossy mixture
- Add the wine vinegar little by little, stirring to combine. The vinaigrette will now taste quite sharp because of the vinegar. Take your tomato and cut it in half, then hold each half above the vinaigrette and squidge until the innards of the tomato fall into the vinaigrette. Satisfying, isn't it?
- Mix to combine and yum, yummity yum, it's done. Pour it over your rice, stir and eat
- Ridiculously, childishly easy. A bit like driving around Place de l'Etoile...