Taken from my companion cookery book ‘Seduction of Taste’ . Spaghetti con le Cozze, is a dish eaten by the heroine of the romance novel ‘Dynasty’ – Shannon Aguerri – when she’s in Venice. Herbs and shellfish bought in the market that morning and cooked for her by a real Italian smoothie, Fabio. It’s full of taste, passion and fresh ingredients, guaranteed to stir your libido and power up your loins…..
Scrub and rinse themussels in cold water.
‘De-beard’ the mussels – remove any remnants of rope emerging from the shell.
Drain and rinse to get rid of any sand and foreign bodies.
VERY IMPORTANT – discard any mussels that are permanently open as these may already be dead and may give you really bad food poisoning– not worth the risk IMHO.If you can squeeze them together and they stay shut you could consider using them – sometimes putting them in water makes them open.If you squeeze and they re-open – throw them out.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil (you can add a splash of olive oil too to stop sticking).
Add spaghetti and cook for 2 minutes less than the recommended time.
Add half the butter and the olive oil to a large pan and over a low heat, soften the garlic and chilli.
Turn up the heat to high, add the drained mussels and the wine. Cover immediately.
Cook on a high heat for 5-7 minutes until the shells are opened.N.B. If any shells are now stillfirmly shut – discard them. (This also means they were dead before cooking = bad stomach) Remove any empty shells (sometimes the mussels fall out!)
Drain the spaghetti.
Add pasta to the pan with the mussel mixture and the rest of the butter. Toss well.
Cover and leave for a minute.
Add the lemon zest and a squeeze of juice.
Stir the chopped parsley through the mussel-pasta mixture.
Season with freshly ground black pepper and extra salt to taste.
Serve with a green leafy salad, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and crusty bread.
This dish also works well with clams if you can get hold of them – it is then known as Spaghetti con Vongole and is equally delicious. Substitute 500-750g of clams for the mussels.
Or for a combined experience, why not try the 2-book gourmet – ‘Dynasty Plus’ and get both books in one edition. Then you can use the live links to jump between the story and the recipes. Or when you cook the food, you can jump back in to get a feel for the romance and passion of that moment in the story!
Canard – The first bite is with the eyes. Then you taste with your heart and enjoy with your soul.
The French have many words to express culinary excellence. They have cordon bleu chefs and haute cuisine. My favourite term is La Gourmandise which kinda expresses a perfection of pleasure. It takes into account the ambiance and the sheer joy of tasting a wonderful meal.
Monk fish – too good to eat, so you savour slowly
A few days ago I had lunch in the village of Taillebourg which lies alongside the beautiful Charente river. This was not the first time I had visited “L’Auberge des Glycines”. You can check out my previous post here. Between us we tasted duck, sea bass, filets de rouget, monk fish, souffle with grand marnier and on and on. We had a pichet of the house Bordeaux red which was as full and smooth as anything I’ve tasted anywhere.
An experience of beauty
Clearly the guys who run this place take pride in their work. It seems to me that they have a passion to provide an experience of beauty. They sure do succeed.
Inside there’s chocolate and caramel…..
My warmest thanks to “L’Auberge des Glycines”. They top the list of Emma’s Spare Tyre Tummy Awards. P.S. They have the cutest boxer dog!
Je suis français, but you can call me Winston.
Elsewhere in life, we are now in Movember. I’m gearing up the machine to draw attention to myself – this time for a good cause as a ‘Mo Sista’. The local press have just been on the phone. Oooh – let’s hope we sell truck loads of the Movember anthology ‘Let’s Hear it For the Boys’.
Emma thinx: Take the male out of Female and you find the iron lady
Okay – you write a hot sexy action romance novel. So what? These days everyone’s mother is an author. So – you think about what people do on this planet. They work blindly and hopelessly trying to please insatiable faceless bosses. They declare wars and pour hate on the other tribe.They divide and sub divide tribe so there’s always an enemy. They work out how to keep money in their own pocket. They work out how to get it out of the other guy’s pocket and into theirs. If you wanna applaud that endless circus leave now! Still there? Here’s the real deal of ennobling human experience.
There’s nothing better than a nice tart.
They have loving unselfish sex. They hunger, dream and eat. They taste and worship the other. This is my department of life. Oh yes – they savor and flavor. They concoct and consume. They tempt and create longing. They mystify and reveal. Their appetites come together in bed and in the kitchen. Forget the wars and and greed. Love and eat. Eat and love. Dip in to the juice of the others and their tribes and know the true meaning of life, belief and human joy. Fellow wo-men – scrape off all the dividing junk food you’ve been fed all your lives. Take off and bake off. Fly and get hot.
Fuel your passion with a meaty sausage
No decent romance novel should ignore food. I’m not talking here about chocographic flavored encounters of the flesh. This kind of stuff is for the sun bed sugar daddies of sclerotic friterature. I’m talking the food and flavor of sexy love. Whether it’s a rich sausage toad in the hole, silky salmon slither or tantalizing tart, it’s all food for love. In my latest book SHANNON’S LAW, boy do they eat and love. The front burner of unleashed passion needs to be fed and fanned. There was only one thing a dedicated novelist and philosopher could do. There’s no formula for love – but there’s a recipe for passion. Nothing but an accompanying cook book would do. If those lovers you’re following can taste it, so can you. Whether it’s a heart revealed raw in Venice or a canteen meal in a south London police station, the food of love in SHANNON’S LAW is now a sister book. It’s a munchin’ of luncheon, its an eye full of trifle it’s a stuffed heart palpitating with love. It’s COP’S KITCHEN. Every erotic moment of sexy passion shared is in the novel. Every morsel of tender taste is in the cook book. It’s more than love. It’s the love of love itself expressed in perfume, aroma and appetite. It’s the front line and burner of desire.
There are some words in French that just convey how different life is here. The word “Auberge” carries such a quality of hospitality and warmth. Oscar and I decided to lunch out today at Taillebourg at a restaurant named “L’Auberge des Glycines”. For the Romantic novelist this is the kind of venue where lovers might dine. Earlier in the year I strolled past when the front of the building was ablaze with mauve wisteria. Today rain fell on the river Charente as it swept past. In this mood I think the lovers would be discussing the impossibility of their love. As they talk, the raindrops leave their stamp of ripples on the flowing water – perfect circles, reaching for ever outwards and yet are swept helplessly onwards in the flow of life. These reaching innocent moments of perfection are born to fade into the chaotic power of the river. Maybe our lovers can escape the pull of time? As I sat sipping my aperitif, these were my sketches anyway. This restaurant is in a beautiful location. The cuisine is absolutely first class. The menu is relatively limited – but believe me, this is no bad thing. It means they know what they are doing and do it well. If you are in the region and fancy a real gourmet treat at a very reasonable price check out “L’Auberge des Glycines” here.
You know those cookery shows where some celebrities get a tin of baked beans, 2 kippers and a cabbage. Their task is to create a gourmet meal whilst celebrity chefs pontificate and mock their efforts. I thought I’d give it a go but without the mocking supercooks. I had some left over salmon, some Brussel sprouts and some potatoes and a couple of slices of bacon. I also had a rather dried out baguette, garden herbs and some chillis. The result was breaded salmon fish cakes with chilli sauce served with stir fried sprouts with bacon. At Intermarché whole Pacific salmon costs about 6 Euros and the bottle of Bordeaux will cost you 1.43 Euros. It’s obviously not a grand cru but it’s more than acceptable.
One day I’m gonna patent the safety cheese grater. Making my breadcrumbs I managed to remove enough fingerprints from my thumb to keep me out of Scotland Yard’s data base for life.
You can tell I’m back in France because I’m rattling on about love, food and wine. Well everything else is just dust and existence isn’t it? (Well, there is cycling I suppose).
Emma thinx: Love does not confer rights. But it makes your wrongs delicious.
I’m guessing that most of you will recognise the above picture. Certainly it is one of my favourites. What many people do not realise is that somewhere under the heap of bodies is an oval rugby ball. Poor old France lost the world rugby cup to New Zealand by one point. The game was a dour muscular struggle and I think the French can come home filled with pride at the show they put on. A couple of weeks ago, France played Wales in the semi final. I am not a rugby fan and to be frank some of the guys look a bit fearsome. France won by one point against a Welsh team reduced to 14 when the captain was sent off. I must confess to having felt a slight conflict of loyalty since Wales used to be part of Great Britain. Nowadays they are semi independent but they don’t hate the English like the Scots do. I don’t know if the Scots and the Welsh hate each other. They probably do, but at present they are united by their dislike of the English.
The whole business of the Delacroix painting of Liberty leading the people came to mind as protesters all around the world have set up encampments in capital cities to protest against CAPITALISM. Given the course of politics I guess there will soon be camps of folks protesting about lowercaseism. Shortly after the Popular Italic Front will split away and it will be the story of Great Britain all over again. What I didn’t know is that the figure of Liberty served as the sculptor Bartholdi’s inspiration for the statue of Liberty in New York. In researching this matter I came upon this fascinating photo taken in Paris. The link of course is that the underlying framework for the Statue Of Liberty was fabricated by Gustave Eiffel.
Ooh, for a woman I can be a right old boring anorak. And that brings me to something you can all help with. (No – it’s not about my placing of prepositions.) My agent and manager (my dear friend Rosina) has been on to me about my blog. Seemingly it’s too wayward. I am a Romance writer but my daily wotsit can be about anything from Fine Arts to Old Farts. I must promo myself to the Romantic readers. It’s no good going on about carrots or world events. I think she’s right so let me give you a sneak preview of my up and coming Romantic blockbuster “The Billionaire’s Woman’s Secret Furrow”.
She drew the ripened marrow to her belly. There had been moments among the carrots, and a brief longing around the courgettes. Since the multi billionaire Rogerico Fantastico had entered her garden she had longed for his seed of fertile wealth. Even her past lover – the Count of Monty Bisto- with all his beef was nothing. But how could she bring him to her furrow when he was busy controlling the world?
Emma thinx: Molecool – two trendy atoms getting it together.
Do you ever wonder what you would go through to get to what you wanted? I seem to remember a game show on Japanese TV where you could win prizes by eating maggots or being drowned. If you Yanks haven’t seen this stuff check outEndurance here. This type of entertainment came to mind as I endured a night crossing on a Brittany Ferry between Portsmouth (UK) and St Malo (France). I cannot seriously fault the staff of Brittany Ferries. They are hard working and courteous. However, these night crossings are an ordeal. Because our vehicle had a roof box we were loaded last and so when we got to the restaurant there was a huge queue. Since many of the would-be diners were French, the word queue did not apply. Probably best to imagine the French Revolution and the mobs at the barricades. Since it was half term, loads of English were also on board and I’m guessing that the ship was at full capacity. We attempted to storm the self service barricades for about half an hour but gave up and headed for the posh restaurant. No tables of course. We headed for the bar. We grabbed a table and dear old Gilles went off and got pizza from a kinda cafe place. He was back in half an hour. And do you know what? Not a single guy asked me if I was on my own/would like a drink/fancied a shag. There’s nothing more pleasing to me than being fancied and offended. I was a bit miffed to be frank but that’s how life is these days for the pre-menopausal bus driver. We gobbled the food and a singer did a Tom Jones, Englebert, Sammy Davis, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, Bobby Darin medley. It was all a bit D.I.Y. so I suppose you could call it the Flat Pack. The guy was good and we all had a good old sing-along. Just imagine having to entertain folks on these ferries. The audience don’t want to be there and they’re more worried about little Wayne having run off and jumping overboard than your rendition of “Born Free”. To all the staff and entertainers of Brittany Ferries “Chapeau”. (I take my hat off to you). I’m not cross really, but these boats at peak times are just unable to cope at any acceptable level of comfort. And you pay premium fares!
After the pizza, the Flat Pack and the beer we strolled to the outer deck. There was darkness, not as an absence of light, but as a presence and a offer of anonymity. The white wake of the ship spread out in that bridal train fashion behind us. Ahead of us lay our home and I saw my man under the stars against the backdrop of the ocean. And then we kissed. Two creatures of flesh in a moment that took in the randomness of the moment and the pure pleasure of another body. If you were a passenger on that boat and saw completely inappropriate snogging by two old folk I hope it didn’t spoil your evening.
Emma thinx: If you wanna get to heaven – go out and kiss under it.
I wait at the end of a block of lock up garages. The usual lad is not there. Above us is a concrete village in the sky of about 8 storeys. I watch a woman of close to my own age dragging herself on crutches down some steps towards me. She hauls herself breathlessly up to my window. I notice she has two lip rings.
“Ee’s not comin’ today – ee’s got an ‘eadache. I would ‘ave phoned but me credit’s gone,” she says.
I thank her and reverse the bus as she struggles back up the concrete steps to the sky village. The radio plays “It’s all about tonight” by a young electro-warblesse called Pixie Lott. The pumped out pop culture kinda overlays the grey inarticulate desperation of so many lives. This is the way we are – a proletariat of tinsel, piercings and tattoos, climbing the stairs of manipulated individualism towards a nirvana of that lottery win, that Friday night out, that romance like what they does in them trash books.
Well, that cheered you all up didn’t it. My home seems far away this week as I watch the fallen leaves begin to swirl more and more in the Autumn gusts. In France the socialists slug it out to see who will challenge Sarko for the presidency. The departure of DSK from the picture threw everything into disorder. Last night I watched Martine Aubry speaking on the French News. From the distance of the UK I find myself warming to her. She may or may not have had a few problems in the past (it is a job to tell when there are so many dirty tricks). But, if she has had a few issues then she knows about struggle and humanity. She answers questions patiently and has an air of being a neighbour to whom you could chat. She also has kind eyes. Martine – I would vote for you if I had a vote. As it is I’ll just tell Gilles to vote for you. The poor old boy slogs up and down to London directing his branch of the corporate world. He wants to go home. I’m gonna cook him some moules tonight. A couple of weeks ago he saw a rabbit running across the sports field. He glanced at me with a grin. I know what he was thinking. Oh yes I do!
Everyday is a school day. This morning I learned about a style of architecture called “Brutalism”. Essentially it means that 60’s concrete slab style. When I was young it was thought to be modern and artistic. There’s a big debate over whether or not to demolish Preston Bus Station. There’s some folk who want to keep it as a monument. I can see both sides to this. Speaking as a bus driver it looks as if there is plenty of shunt room. Take a look at the picture and let me know. Comments from fellow bus drivers very welcome.
Emma thinx: Room to manoeuvre – get your guy to tidy the lounge.
So we cruised up towards the coast.The names of towns had lived their growing signposts of fame, then slipped away behind like rejected talent show hopefuls: Poitiers, Tours, Le Mans. It’s really quite alarming to realise that there actually is a weather line at the River Loire. The temperature steadily reduced by about 8 degrees Centigrade as we neared the coast. About a mile from the port there is a Mcdonalds and I could tell that Gilles was getting a bit excited. You see I have the zeal of the convert and see myself as une Francaise , une maitresse de moules, une femme de fromage. All in all too posh to nosh. Not so my Gallic gourmet -“Zay ave zee Big Tasty.” He told me. The place was crowded. (The French are lovin’it – but don’t tell anyone). We queued behind 4 chavs – baseball hats backwards, bits of bling, a few tattoos. Somewhere in their lives would be a hot hatch with an exaggerated exhaust pipe. I wanted coffee with my Big Tasty meal. “Impossible!” Snapped the serveuse. “Pourquoi? “It is not part of the Big Tasty menu.” Mumbled the rude child in an exasperated tone. She was the kind of person who would be rejected by Somali pirates. I ordered 2 Big tasty meals and a separate coffee. I could tell she despised my tactical manoeuvre. We munched – or rather licked and absorbed our soggy baps. I felt like an amoeba slithering my body around the outside of some unspeakable nutrient mass. Gilles pretended to be enjoying himself but I know that deep down he is a flame grilled whopper guy.
We pulled away. In the distance were the lights of the port. Now -have you ever seen a horse galloping in the lead towards the last fence of the Grand National. Suddenly the animal looks at the fence and says “Nah!- I’ve had enough.” Yes- the car saw those lights and stopped – more or less dead. She did not want to leave France. She could read my pain. The thought of driving on the left had stopped her heart. Gilles started to make unrepeatable remarks about having given le garagiste 1,600 Euros. All that cholesterol and anger at his age could be dangerous. We needed some exercise. The push was only about a mile. We huffed and puffed up to the check in and just about let it roll up to the cabin. I was worried that they might not let us in pushing the car. No one noticed. We were directed to follow a Monsieur red vest. We shrugged and looked helpless. We had our boarding cards. We could ask for Asylum.
There were many shrugs, smiles and “C’est la vie”sentiments. A large lorry appeared driven by a cheerful docker. We explained the story of the newly repaired car. The guy shrugged. “In Charentes they only think of beaches and the sun…this is no surprise.” He towed us on board. He shook our hands. As France slipped away behind us we made for the bar. The beer was French, the tricolore trailed out stiffly behind the ship. I was still a little bit at home.
Emma thinx: Disappointed? But deep down you were right weren’t you.
Still no car. The problem is apparently “technical”. Now, there was me thinking that it was purely emotional. A very well dressed gentleman has shown me a black lump of plastic with some umbilical wires attached and explained that in the case of “electronic modules”, other experts have to be consulted. Gilles shrugs and thinks the old gal should go. Over my dead module! She’s a friend and a link to right hand drive going back to the first Roman chariot to scramble off the boat in 55 BC. “I came, I saw, I drove on the left”(Veni,vidi,veered) were the first words of Julius Caesar. Every school child in Britain knows that.
The possession of right hand drive in France leads me on to the vexed subject of Les Péages. These are toll paying motorways. They are fabulously smooth and straight runways of black asphalt. They are also tremendously expensive. The journey from my home to the port of Ouistreham costs about 35 Euros ($48). If you add in 70 Euros ($96) in fuel you can see why I don’t get back to the UK too much. The journey is never without comedy if I’m travelling alone. The French have set up all the toll machines for their own people. Now, how chauvinistic can you get? Usually I pull up and try to climb across the car either to grab the ticket or to make payment. My arms are rather short and even sitting in the passenger seat I struggle to reach the slot. I once heaved half my body out of the window, caught my coat collar on the end of the roof-rack bar and couldn’t get back in. On another occasion I tried to step out of the car, found myself too close to the machine and managed to twist my foot and sandal under the seat. Then I freed my foot, got it out of the car and my flip flop fell off onto the ground. I then couldn’t get the door open wide enough to reach it. I decided to reverse but an angry male had driven right up to my bumper. Quite a queue of impatient left hand drivers had built up by the time I just stretched my arm far enough to reach it. Now I’m getting older I tend to get out of the car and sprint round to the other side. This was after I got cramp in my thigh and had to perform auto massage lying across the front seats.
An excited neighbour has just told me that she is going to St Jean d’Angely this evening to an “Indian” restaurant. She asked me if I had ever been to one. I tried to explain that in the UK, chicken Tikka Masala is the National dish. English food is Indian/Chinese/Italian/American/Turkish et al or fish and chips cooked by any of them. Furthermore young warriors fuelled on beer, have to overcome plates of mouth blistering vindaloo as a late night rite of passage before they can become proper football hooligans. She asked me what I would order in an English pub. “Curry and French fries” I replied. In France they have French restaurants. It’s a whole different culture!
Emma thinx: Tomorrow will take care of itself unless you want the job.
The apple tree hangs pregnant with sweet fruit. Any moment it’s waters will break and I’ll be on the phone to Gilles to come home. The late rains and warm southern air have created a greenhouse climate this last month or so. The tree is a matter of some interest to nearly everyone. An aunt to the South has called to check on progress. She will actually travel up so that neither pip nor peel is wasted. She has several culinary plans. In recent years the French have rather taken to apple crumble and there is always the faithful old tart – but I don’t want to talk about myself all the time. But the point is – and I know I keep on about this – that the affairs of growth, soil and food are the concern of everyone. An unharvested tree is a matter of genuine emotional distress. Even fallers, bruised decayed or wormed are seen as sorrows as if they were lost souls. One of my neighbours will collect the most rotten and damaged fruit from the ground and fight to save some unblemished morsel. Quite often she will present a bag of moribund windfall survivors to me with the cheerful words “they are at their sweetest now – there is little time!” Quite so. I know how they must feel.
Let’s talk about love poetry. I saw a great love poem on the web the other day by the writer John Geddes. – obviously about someone he knew. Since that person was inaccessible to the reader, the poet relies on our experience as being at least similar in our own contexts. The great thing about Love Poetry is that most of us know the subject. Possibly more of love is known by its absence and by the experience of longing. My own guess is that many “Love Poems” are not written about love itself, but the intensity and vibrancy of the writing can only come from someone who is newly and desperately in love. If there was one thing I would beg poets to do it would be to write, write, write when such matters are upon them. The tender rage of lips un-kissed will soften with the kissing and harden with denial. Seize your moments and put it out there in print cos I love it! I guess I don’t have a favourite love poem but Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s brand of cool fire takes some beating. In my innocent youth I became captivated by Oscar Wilde. His letters to his lover Bosie are beautiful. Take a look here.(By the way I think that a letter or a paragraph of prose can be a poem. You know it’s a poem when each word counts so much that no one counts the words). On my poetry page I’ve put up a poem of my own. It’s not a “love poem” but it’s about being in love on a wet London day and not being with my man. It was one of those days when I was alive to every feeling in the catalogue. Check out “For Gilles”.
A very important letter arrived from the Electricity Company. An official would call to do my reading today before noon. I waited in. A young guy in a baseball hat pointed some kind of ray gun at my house and walked on, jigging about to his iPod music. Was that it? Officials just ain’t what they used to be. Ever since Tony Blair went cool and took his tie off we’ve been slipping down the slope. I saw Sarko and Cameron on the TV in Paris. Their suits looked identical but the French president had a centre jacket vent and the Brit PM two side vents. I reckon it made his bum look bigger. I guess statesmen don’t have wardrobe guys.