Miss Galindo’s Canape

I love the concept of the canape. All the flavours of an entire plateful, heaped extravagantly into one perfect mouthful. But I’ve just discovered something I love as much as the canape, and that’s the derivation of the word. Canape was coined in 18th century France  and means ‘sofa’ – a welcoming, capacious, inviting seat on which to place a host of convivial partners. The perfect description of the best kind of canape, in other words. I haven’t enjoyed a word so much since I discovered sesquipedalian – a very long word which means a very long word.

Idle thoughts about sofas took me to Elizabeth Gaskell, the Victorian novelist and biographer of Charlotte Bronte. In 1859 Mrs Gaskell combined a group of stories under the collective title Round the Sofa. Characters gather around the sofa of Mrs. Dawson to hear her account of Lady Ludlow. The subsequent story of the Countess, her feckless son Lord Septimus and her loyal companion Miss Galindo became one of the most compelling strands of the brilliant BBC television adaptation of Mrs Gaskell’s work, Cranford.

This is the canape I’ve devised in honour of Miss Galindo, the spinster daughter of a Baronet. In Mrs Gaskell’s story she struggles uncomplainingly to support herself and I figured it was time she was treated to a little luxury. So in tribute to the valiant Miss Galindo, here’s an edible sofa to enjoy while sitting on a sofa, reading Round the Sofa.

CANAPES OF SCALLOPS ON A JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE CRISP WITH ARTICHOKE PUREE AND PANCETTA

  • 500 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed but unpeeled
  • 200 g fresh scallops
  • A little lemon juice
  • 1 large knob butter
  • 100 ml single cream
  • 200 ml groundnut oil
  • Seasoning
  • A few fresh thyme leaves
  • Around 6 slices pancetta

Reserve one large, evenly shaped artichoke – put the others to one side to use for the puree. Slice the reserved artichoke very finely with a mandolin. As you slice, place the pieces in a bowl of water which has been acidulated with lemon juice. The lemon will stop the artichoke from discolouring.

Dry the artichoke slices. Heat the groundnut oil in a pan until very hot – it should be about 1.5 cm deep. Test the temperature by putting a cube of bread into the oil and checking that it fries crisply.  Lower the artichoke slices carefully into the oil for around two minutes until crisp and brown. Remove from the oil and place them on kitchen paper while you prepare the other ingredients. (The crisps are delicious on their own, with a little sea salt, but you want to end up with enough crisps to partner the scallops, so count carefully.)

Bring the remaining artichokes to a simmer in a pan of salted water and cook until soft.
Puree the cooked artichokes, along with the butter and cream. Season to taste and keep warm.

Fry the pancetta until crisp and remove from pan. Using the same pan, add a little olive oil and fry the scallops for a couple of minutes each side, until golden. Don’t overcook them or they will become tough.

Assemble your sofas by heaping a teaspoon of puree on a crisp, placing a generous shard of pancetta on top and crowning with a thyme-topped scallop. Squeeze a few drops of lemon over the scallops if so inclined. Eat immediately – no-one likes a soggy sofa.

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Bed Socks, Gold Shoes and Pancetta Salad

If you were to stop by my house at around 6 o’clock each morning, you’d regret it. I’ve perfected an efficient but hideous early-morning outfit to take my daft spaniel for a walk. Pyjamas, dressing gown, woolly scarf, gloves, bed socks and my teenage son’s giant-sized school shoes (the only footwear large enough to accommodate the super-thick red socks). They’re the kind of leather monstrosities that Pippi Longstocking would have worn – ‘black shoes that were exactly twice the length of her feet.’

Clearly this is an outfit I try to avoid being seen in. But just in case you’ve ever spotted me in those coal-skuttle shoes, can I just point out that these are the shoes I’d rather be known for…..

I had friends to supper last night all of whom have, for one reason or another, had a miserable week. I’m a great believer that in these circumstances, good food, good company and good shoes can sometimes help. We dressed up to the nines and although the food was frugal everyone felt better by pudding.

We ate pancetta and chestnuts – one of those recipes that looks and tastes as though it took more time and trouble than it did – always a good thing. But it has one special ingredient that involves a trip to Ikea – often not a good thing at all, unless you’re in the mood.

Pancetta and Chestnuts With Pea Shoots and Herbs

Serves 6

350g cooked chestnuts

250g thinly sliced pancetta

Soft salad leaves such as pea shoots, rocket, lamb’s lettuce and herbs – nothing that’s frilly or rasps the throat

2 tablespoons gravlaxsas, the sweet mustard and dill sauce that accompanies gravadlax and can be bought from Ikea. I know that sounds a little odd, so if you don’t trust me or if you can’t or won’t go to Ikea, you can make it yourself by whisking together 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar and 1 egg yolk. Drip 150ml of groundnut oil into the mixture to form an emulsion and then add 1 tablespoon of chopped dill and some seasoning.

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons best balsamic vinegar

Squeeze of lemon juice and a little lemon zest

Seasoning

Break up the chestnuts and fry them in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes until sizzling. Stir in the gravlaxsas and put to one side. Add the pancetta to the pan and fry until crisp. Again put to one side. Dress the leaves in olive oil, balsamic, lemon juice and a little zest. Season the leaves and then tip the pancetta and chestnuts over the top. Serve warm with a loaf of good sourdough bread.

When I first joined the BBC I was shocked to discover that TV news-readers wore posh jackets and ties above the desk but jeans below. In an inversion of news-reader style, we ate our pancetta and chestnuts with thick coats above the table (my boiler is up the creek yet again) and, in my case, a frothy net skirt and the divine gold shoes underneath.

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