I have come to the conclusion that Norfolk, like the past, is a foreign country. They certainly do things differently there. This assertion is based on over thirty years of research which started when my brother moved there in the early eighties and continued when my sister moved there soon after and my mum followed a few years ago.
I do not now, nor have I ever, harboured any desires to relocate to Norfolk, even to be nearer to my beloved
Norfolk drivers seem to think the safe speed for a straight wide road is thirty whilst on a narrow country track with potholes and blind corners it is perfectly acceptable to attempt to go fast enough to escape Earth’s gravity. I have a sneaking suspicion that they think that the main beam on headlights reduces waste electrickery so they never use them when there is a car coming the other way when they put them on just to show the other driver.
Last November we got together for my mum’s birthday and went to a pub-restaurant near Stratton Strawless. I have always been a little wary of restaurants which do more than ten dishes per course. I worry that I might order something the chef has forgotten how to cook or which which has been languishing at the back of the freezer since the last brave soul ordered it. I worry that with all those dishes none of them will be mastered and that everything will be disappointing. At this pub the menu was written on a blackboard that covered one wall completely. I have looked on their website and they list over thirty main courses excluding specials. I will admit that other members of the party commented how nice it was to see lots of choice on a menu but they were vegetarians who are used to having a choice between hay and an omelette.
I saw that they had a venison cassoulet on the board which I had assumed would be like, well, a cassoulet with the duck replaced with venison. I had visions of some sort of Carcasonne meets Cromer fusion with East Anglian game mixed with Occitan flavours. I expected beans and unctuousness and crispy breadcrumbs. I got a game casserole. It was an ok game casserole but I have the feeling that someone thought “Hmm, I need to make this sound more exotic, what is French for casserole? I don’t know but cassoulet sounds similar so I’ll use that.” Maybe they even did some research and discovered that the French for casserole is casserole and decided it was just too mundane a word to describe such a dish. I think I would have been happier with the brown gloop I was served being called cassoulet had it contained more than one bean.
Just before Christmas we stocked the freezer with the idea that I would cook between Christmas and New Year. It turned out that I cooked one meal and the rest of the time we improvised meals from goodies we had lying around. This meant that the last week we have been eating meat we froze without the vegetables we bought to go with them. Last Wednesday I defrosted a loin of venison. I looked at what we had in the cupboard and fridge and came up with this:
Not Cassoulet (but more of a cassoulet than the one I had in Norfolk)
150g Bacon lardons or pancetta. If you are dieting you can remove most of the fat
2 Medium carrots finely diced
1 Onion finely diced
2 Sticks celery finely diced
2 Cloves garlic
1/2 tsp Dried thyme
1/2 tsp Dried rosemary
1/2 Cabbage sliced
1 tin Haricot beans
1/2 Glass white wine
If I had had them I would have added a couple of Toulouse sausages
1 Venison loin
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F or gas mark 7). Fry the bacon in an oven proof pan until it starts to render what fat is left on it. Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic (leave it whole if you want) and sweat until starting to soften. Add the herbs and wine and bring to boil. Add the beans, cover with water and return to boil. Add the cabbage stir through then cover with a cartouche of greaseproof paper and lid and place in the oven.
Scatter salt and ground black pepper on a chopping board and roll the venison loin in it. Brown the loin all over in a frying pan and then transfer to the oven. Depending on the thickness roast it for around 15 minutes then remove from the oven, wrap in foil and rest it for another twenty minutes. Slice the venison and serve on a bed of the beans (if you left the garlic cloves whole give them a little mash and stir through now) .
The first time I made cassoulet at home it took over twelve hours (excluding the time it took to make the confit duck). I recently cheated and got it down to two hours but this took me forty five minutes from start to finish. As I said however this is not cassoulet.
As we were standing in line waiting to be weighed this evening Debbie and I were looking over our weekly history. We have not really lost any weight since September last year with a loss one week being met with a gain the next. We have had a very nice three months but now we need to knuckle down. I only lost a pound and a half this week but hopefully it is the start of a downward trend.