Monday, 14 June 2010

Rice Salad, Tom Tom and the Jardin des Tuileries (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

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.

It is no surprise then that I do not drive into Paris. I happily drive around my calm(ish) Parisian suburb but for trips into town I rely on the RER. I have spent four years not driving into Paris and it has worked well for me.

Then a friend and I were arranging her forthcoming visit and she asked if I would pick her up from the Gare du Nord. I agreed ‘Yes, yes I’ll meet you and we’ll take the train to my house.’ The silence that greeted my answer spoke volumes. My friend is travelling with a 1 year old and a 3 year old and is 14 weeks pregnant. ‘Don’t you drive in Paris?’ she asked (a touch snippily I thought.)


‘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...

So on Sunday, with my TomTom stuck to the windscreen I loaded 4 children and the dog into the bus. It was to be a test drive into Paris. My husband was away at the 24 hours of Le Mans and I reflected with trepidation that very soon I would be in my own personal Le Mans as I was shunted and bumped around Place de l’Etoile.

Our first destination was the 17th arrondissement to meet a shadowy, unknown figure with whom I’d done a legal, but dodgy-feeling deal.

En route there was a surprise.  ‘Oh!’ I exclaimed as I went down under the Arc de Triomph into a tunnel, ‘the Tom Tom is taking us this way.’
‘Please turn around when possible’ snapped the Tom Tom. All the children groaned.

But I sorted it out and soon we were in the 17th meeting my dodgy man.  He handed me the tickets I’d bought from him online. I had texted my exact meeting point to two friends in case he turned out to be an axe murderer. Thankfully he seemed quite pleasant and I think the kids and dog dispelled any depraved thoughts that he may have been harbouring.  So, woohoo! I’m off to see Florence and the Machine on Wednesday!

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.

We chattered away and unpacked our picnics. For me and my brood; Marmite sandwiches, carrot and hummus and a naughty bag of crisps.

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...

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved


Lou said...

Brilliant writing. Love it. Nice foody stuff too....

I'm a follower please...

Flo'bear said...

A new recipe! Hooray! Hooray!

And love the new sleek banner.

Made your chocolate birthday cake again this weekend, so insanely delicious. Should win awards. I substituted agave for the sugar and golden syrup and still remained as yummy as ever.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hi Lou,
Welcome, lovely to meet you! Follow away...

Hi Flo'bear, thank you for kind comments and I love the 'insanely delicious' description. I SHOULD win awards! Maybe I'll fashion one out of tin-foil..


Potty Mummy said...

Love the new header... and the rice recipe too, obviously. As for driving in Paris, have to say that outside the UK I plan never to drive again without a TomTom, Garmin, or similar. I would be lost without one in Moscow. As for the French being bad drivers - you ain't seen nothin' yet if you've not been to Russia...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

PottyM, satnav is the way forward! I try not to think about the nasty vibes that are bouncing around my car because I'm channeling bazillions of satellites thru a little screen in my car. Or perhaps that's just paranoia... Would hate to drive in Russia. Closest I've come was living in China and back then their cars weren't powerful enough to do any damage. That didn't prevent them from driving like loonies though.

Hi Mathias, kind of you to visit. Shall I buy some viagra then? Twat.

Flo'bear said...

Or put some viagra in a cake? Valentine's Chocolate Pudding of Love, maybe? Viagra's allergy friendly, isn't it?

Q. would you rather be a) a viagra spammer or b) a parking warden?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Flo'bear, ha! Very good question. I THINK I would rather be a viagra spammer because that way I could just sit at home comfortably (with a very large stiffy) without having to go out and confront irate motorists.
Hope that reply wasn't too rude for you! (I did my best to keep it clean...)

Morgan-- said...

The rice salad looks great!

Milla said...

Lovely, Piggy. Wriggled down quite happy as so love my Tom Tom - my new best friend even though my son keeps changing the voice and making me jump.
Love the bitchy bit too. Was thinking, ooo is she being too good to be true? and then the great bit in brackets!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Morgan, thank-you dear!

Milla, moi? Too good to be true? Not bloody likely...

Marianne said...

I guess you made it, Pig, and lived to tell the tale! Good to see you appearing from time to time. More, please.