December 26th, 2016


Marcassin De Flandres

We've had boar for Christmas for the last umpteen years, but this year I tried a new recipe, patriotically named Marcassin De Flandres. The marinade is much the same as previously, but boiling rather than roasting struck me as risky. However, it worked, and even little U, often dubious about strange food, ate hers all up. The recipe is as follows:

1 chunk young wild boar for roasting (1-1.5 kilos)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 0.5 cm cubes
1 rib celery, cut into 0.5 cm cubes
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed with the flat of a knife
bouquet garni: 3 springs parsley, 1 sprig thyme, and 1 large bay leaf tied together with kitchen string
6 juniper berries
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
400ml full-boiled red wine, such as Burgundy, Spanish Rioja, or Merlot
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
60 g unsalted butter
30 ml vegetable oil
100 ml Cognac
1 to 2 tablespoons redcurrant jam
1 to 2 teaspoons cornflour if needed

1 One to two days before you plan to serve, place the meat, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bouquet garni, juniper berries, and salt and pepper in a large glass or earthenware bowl. Pour in enough red wine to just cover the meat and add the vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, the longer the better.
2 Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Heat half the butter and the oil in a large casserole dish (Dutch oven) over high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce the heat to medium, add the meat, and brown on all sides, about 15 minutes. Off the heat, carefully flambe the roast with the Cognac. Add the marinade and all the ingredients in it. Simmer, partially covered, over low heat until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest wrapped in foil before slicing.
3 Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve, reserving the vegetables. Discard the bouquet garni. Return the cooking liquid to the casserole and boil it, uncovered, over high heat to reduce by one third, 5 to 7 minutes.
4 Finish the sauce: Puree the vegetables and cooking liquid in a blender to a smooth consistency. You should have a thick, full-flavored sauce. Return it to the pan and reheat it. Add the redcurrant jam and whisk until well blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the sauce seems thin to you, add a little bit of cornflour dissolved in 1 tablepsoon water or wine. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Do not boil the sauce beyond this point.
5 Slice the meat and arrange on a platter. Spoon some of the sauce over the sliced meat and pass the rest in a sauceboat.

Comment: for a slightly smaller chunk of meat, as we had, 45 minutes seems fine for the main phase of the cooking (I should really have used a meat thermometer), and the sauce did not need further thickening at the end. But it was very yummy.

Bullet Time, by David McIntee

Second paragraph of third chapter:
A plane coming into Kai Tak took a perilous descent between Hong Kong's skyscrapers, pulled a 90-degree turn to avoid running straight into Diamond Hill, and then tried not to drop off the end of the runway into Kowloon Bay.
The final Seventh doctor novel in terms of continuity, actually it is much more about Sarah Jane Smith in Hong Kong just before the 1997 handover, getting sucked into what at first appears to be a criminal conspiracy but turns out to be the work of aliens - well, one alien in particular... I felt that Hong Kong itself was well conveyed, and the plot had enough twists involving characters I was interested in to make up for the fact that it's relatively light on the Doctor. I'm also not in general a big fan of the Seventh=Doctor-as-cosmic-manipulator, but it worked OK here. However, certain events at the end don't sit so well in overall Who continuity.

This is the last of the Seventh Doctor novels, in terms of internal continuity. That still leaves a few Eighth Doctor and other pre-New Who novels, apart from those I have already read. The next will be the Telos novella Rip Tide, by Louise Cooper.


Alexander the Great: The Hunt for a New Past, by Paul Cartledge

Second paragraph of third chapter (parsing a contemporary report of what else was happening at the time of Alexander's birth):
Philip and Parmenion we have already met. The Illyrians were Macedon's traditional enemies on their western border. The Olympics were the most prestigious of the Panhellenic festivals. Alexander's mother was Philip's fourth wife, Olympias, a Greek princess from Molossia in Epirus (to the south of Illyria), who had given birth at the Macedonian administrative capital of Pella. Alexander's name was already a royal one within the Macedonian kingly house. But the fact that it was also the alternative name of Homer's Paris may not have been irrelevant either, given our Alexander's passion for all things Homeric.
The author is a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and I was dimly aware of his existence when a student there myself, but do not recall ever having met him. This is an interesting but somewhat frustrating biography of Alexander the Great. It assumes a better knowledge on the part of the reader than I could summon up from my memories of L. du Garde Peach's Labybird Book on the subject more than forty years ago, hanging a structure of chapters each addressing different themes of Alexander's short life, which necessarily means that the same incidents get cited over and over again from much the same angle. (Alexander as leader, Alexander's sexuality, Alexander as a Greek, Alexander as a Persian ruler, Alexander as a living god among men, etc.) The most interesting chapter was the last, in which Cartledge looks at the difficulties of working out exactly what happened given the diversity of the sources - it reminded me a bit of the digressions on De Selby in The Third Policeman, only for real. I guess I should let fiction fill in where fact is lacking, and finally get to grips wwith Mary Renault.

This was the top book on my shelves acquired in 2012. Next on that list is The Stormcaller, by Tom Lloyd.

(Please excuse provocative userpic.)