Magazine article The Spectator

Food: Saints and Sinners

Magazine article The Spectator

Food: Saints and Sinners

Article excerpt

NOT ONLY was it St George's feast day on 23 April but the powers that be added Shakespeare's birthday and World Book Day. I took part in the latter, riding in a Harrods bus from bookshop to bookshop with lots of authors, to sign books along the way. Luckily I had George Melly as my companion most of the time and was entertained throughout by his blues and vaudeville songs. He was a great joy to be with, dressed in a magnificent purple suit and pheasant-feather hat, much admired by all. On the other hand, I didn't see one red rose all day. Poor St George! This week we have St Peter Chanel, clubbed to death like a seal in the New Hebrides by Niuliki, the island chief, when he discovered his son had converted; Catherine of Siena; Sigismund of Burgundy, who strangled his son in a fit of temper, later atoned for his sin by good works and was finally executed and flung down a well by the sons of Clovis, King of the Franks. Such exciting lives.

To continue the theme of penitents, I have a fascinating receipt from David Batchelor, one of two brothers, both of whom cook a treat. It comes from the mediaeval town of Peillon near Nice where the penitents blancs -- white-robed pilgrims - used to come on foot to the chapel and, I suppose, were given a slice to sustain them.

Tourton des pjnitents

2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions

1 garlic clove, chopped olive oil

1 1/2 lbs spinach leaves

4 tablespoons pine kernels

4 tablespoons finely chopped chives

1 tablespoon each finely chopped basil or mint, savory, thyme, chervil

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons creme fraiche

5 oz gruyere, grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the spinach leaves in boiling water for half a minute. Drain and squeeze out the water very well, and when cool chop finely. Cook the spring onions and garlic in a little olive oil until softened. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, except the eggs, cream and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remembering that the cheese will be salty. Use a nonstick frying-pan (about 10 inches), oil it well with olive oil, pour in the spinach mixture and cook for about five minutes over a high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and drain off any liquid there might be. Beat the eggs, cream and cheese together in the large bowl, add the spinach mixture and combine. Oil the frying-pan again, pour the mixture back into it and cook over a slow to medium heat, pressing it down with a wooden spoon, for 10-15 minutes. …

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