Daughter was going out. So could I PLEASE make dinner early? Well, I approached the kitchen all well-intentioned, but then we had the chicken incident and so there was no dinner. A quick scrabble in the fridge produced eggs, peppers, celery, spring onions, chillies, fennel, salami, salad, limes and lemons. Enough inspiration for a thousand meals. But we’d wanted chicken. Chicken in a pot. Chicken with pancetta. Chicken with baby mushrooms. Chicken with shallots. Chicken with white wine. Chicken with herbs. Chicken with all of these things – yes, chicken bonne femme, as in ‘the good woman’, the ‘farmer’s wife’, fat of the land, old-fashioned French country goodness served by a plump rosy-cheeked maman (that was going to be me, plump and rosy-cheeked from the heat of the oven!). But to no avail. The chicken was off, off the menu, sure, but literally off. Flung in a bin. Until I remembered the cost, $18.99, and dug it out along with the receipt from the supermarket from whence it came. It shouldn’t have been for sale on its expiry date. Phoned the manager. At 5.55pm. And got him. He thought someone could possibly drop me a fresh chicken on their way home and took my number and promised to ring back. He did ring back, in a matter of minutes, but unfortunately, no one was coming my way, so he offered to bring it himself, but it wouldn’t be for 30 minutes. So he offered me a deal: he would drop me a fresh chicken in 30 minutes (meaning dinner would not be ready before daughter had to go out and I’d have a whole chicken bonne femme to myself at 9.00pm) or I could collect a fresh chicken at my convenience AND get my money back for the dead chook providing I had the receipt and brought in the dead chook. He rescinded and said I didn’t have to bring in the dead chook, realizing how whiffy it could be given an extra 24 hours. I thought that was a pretty damned good offer from Luke at Takapuna Foodtown. He knew me just as Julie.
But the problem with dinner was not solved. We looked at the collection of bits and bobs, celery, spring onions, salami et al, and I’m not sure if she sighed first or if we sighed in unison. It was sad. All shruggy shoulders and down-turned lips. Appetite gone. I proposed resurrecting the leftover pasta with fresh tomato sauce (the tomatoes were from the garden so one couldn’t grizzle) and making pasta fritta (fried pasta) and that was going to do, for her, but you know, when the thrill goes out of it, your energy goes. Then I remembered the sourdough bread. Thank GOD for sourdough bread. Because sourdough bread is a saviour, an absolute saviour, a meal on its own, something you could curl up in a corner and just chew on, slowly…. and not share. Bean puree, she said, fried eggplant, I said, and away we went. The richest, satiating, sensational bruschetta yet. 10 minutes work, max.
Puree a can of cannellini beans in a food processor. Tip them into a small pan in which you have 2 crushed or minced cloves of garlic, 1 Tbsp of chopped rosemary and 2 crushed tiny dried bird’s eye chillies melting in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Stir the puree around until hot, add a few splashes of water if it is too thick. And there you have it – a superior bean puree.
Slice some thick chunks of sourdough bread and drink in the yeasty sour smell (smelling is nearly as good as eating). Char the bread on a grill or in a dry ridged frying pan. Rub each slice with a cut clove of garlic and slather with bean puree, then top with chopped slices of fried or barbecue eggplant and scrunch a bit of rocket on top, pour a glass of full-bodied red wine, sit with daughter, munch, slurp, mop dribbles, laugh and giggle. Stuff the chicken.