Sunday 25 March 2012

Pan Bagnat

Yesterday I'm out swimming early morning, then cycling around Swansea Bay, followed by lunch alfresco in Wind Street (swarming with police in anticipation of the Everton clash). You've got to make use of the brilliant weather while it lasts.

Today we head to Laugharne with a picnic of pan bagnat (see below). We walk around the headland and back over Sir John's Hill before our lunch then I wander round the town. This takes me back nearly 30 years both to courting Mrs B (prawn sandwiches and Anjou Rosé on the grass under the castle wall seemed to do the trick) and selling the last ever edition of the Carmarthenshire Historian (Volume XX) in bulk wholesale to the Laugharne bookshop (still there).

This enterprise taught me a valuable lesson in commerce. I just couldn't shift the wretched thing until I had the wheeze of adding 50% to the cover price and giving the booksellers a 33% margin in place of the measly 15% traditionally offered by not-for-profit charitable publishers.

Instantly booksellers all over the county, who had previously taken one or two out of politeness, took all the stock and sold it hard on prominent display - I especially remember the buyer in W H Smith in Carmarthen gleefully taking all I could give her. More profit for them and actually a little more for the history society. Of course the people who had bought previous editions had to pay up to keep their series up to date and we got a lot of casual buyers too. I see that it's still available on Amazon but only second-hand I'm pleased to say - because I sold the whole lot back in 1985.

The lesson of course is that sometimes it's not price which drives sales.

Recipe corner

I had a lot of feed-back on the Jumping Soup - several people told me they had made it successfully. So in order to compete with Mrs Blog here's my recipe which I used this morning to prepare our picnic.

Pan Bagnat ("wet bread") is a quintessentially Provençal, more specifically Niçois dish made of raw ingredients. The name looks odd because it's from the region where Occitan is spoken. You can vary or simplify the ingredients so long as you use the oil and tomatoes (so there are veggie and indeed vegan possibilities here) but please don't use cheese and certainly not mayonnaise - you might just as well buy one of those disgusting supermarket sandwiches smothered in the stuff. Needless to say there are violent debates in France about the "official" recipe and I could well be sent to Devil's Island for mine but I think it's pretty authentic...

Mix the following gently in a bowl: medium tin of tuna (around 100 grams) (drained), three big, juicy tomatoes roughly chopped, 8 black olives pitted and chopped, two hard boiled eggs sliced, clove of garlic finely chopped (or use a crusher), a few basil leaves, 4 anchovies chopped, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon red wine vinegar, a grind or two of black pepper, and a little salt - but watch it, there's a lot of salt there already in the anchovies - you can check by taste once stirred.

Split a medium loaf, French stick, or four good size rolls, spoon in the mixture, wrap in cling film and press for at least two hours in a cool place under gentle pressure (e.g. place a tray on the bread and put three or four bags of sugar or flour on top) turning once if you remember. Eat same day and, if not immediately going out for your picnic, then refrigerate but get it out 2 hours before eating.

The idea is to end up with a quite moist, firm, savoury cake - maybe a little crustiness left in the bread but no problem if not. The benchmark for texture (but not taste) would be a two-day old, cling-wrapped British Rail cheese'n'tomato sandwich circa 1978. If you use a loaf you can slice carefully quite like a cake - take a sharp knife with you. You can also ponce it up by layering the ingredients separately in the bread but I don't believe that your average busy Niçoise femme au foyer would have bothered, do you?

Trust me there is nothing better for a picnic in the sunshine except possibly stromboli. I'll do that next time the weather is good.

Red arrow on OS map shows view of picture above...