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
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
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.