About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006
To Save Your Life
When I was younger, about sixteen, I started to collect the Time-Life series, The Good Cook, which is no doubt familiar to many of you. In case your not, each book in the series was dedicated to a topic, for instance lamb was one topic, another desserts, another salads. In all, I believe there are over thirty titles.

The Chief Series Consultant was the legendary Richard Olney, an American, who lived and worked in France since 1951, and has since passed away. Richard Olney was born in Marathon, Iowa. A renowned authority on French cooking, he was the author of numerous cookbooks, including The French Menu Cookbook--and the award winning Simple French Food. Equally well-known as a wine writer, he is the author of Romanee-Conti and Yquem which received the Prix Litteraire des Relais Gourmands 1986. Olney was a member of L'Académie Internationale du Vin and other wine and food organizations. In 1992, he received le Prix de I'Académie du Vin de France "pour l'ensenmble de son oeurve et de son action iternationale en faveur du vin. "

What Richard helped create was a classic of its time. These books could be used by someone with no knowledge of cooking, right through to kitchen professionals. Their magic lay in the completely unpretentious way they were written. They are like a much loved teacher, who knew the craft and taught it well. The anthology of recipes at the end of each book is endlessly fascinating.

For some reason, about half way in, I stopped collecting the series, though I never stopped using the books. When eBay came onto the scene, it was apparent there was a market for these books and so started to try and complete my set. Every time a new one arrived, there would be much rushing to the post office to collect the latest treasure, then happy hours spent trolling through the pages.

My latest aquisition is the title Soups, and I chanced upon a recipe that I would like to share with you. It was taken from the book La Mere Besson "Ma Cuisine Provencale" by Josephine Besson. Knowing that many of you are suffering through winter with various colds and other discomforts, it seems most appropriate. What caught my eye was the title of the recipe. We have all heard the lament of those who can't or choose not to cook, "I can't boil water to save my life." Well here is the recipe.

"Boiled Water"

To serve 4

1 litre/1 quart water
12 to 15 garlic cloves
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 or 2 sprigs sage
1/4 cup (50ml.) olive oil
slices of day old, firm textured bread
freshly grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, salt the water, add the garlic and bring to a boil. After 10 minutes, add the bay leaves, sage and a dash of oil. Let cook a few minutes more, then take the pan off the heat, cover, and allow the soup to stand for about 10 minutes to infuse the water with the seasonings. Strain.

Put the bread into a warmed soup tureen, cover with grated cheese, sprinkle with the remaining oil and pour in the strained infusion.

Further notes to the recipe said,

This Provencal infusion is said to have extraordinary virtues. Nothing can resist it: hangover, illness, childbirth - there can be no convalescence without "boiled water." The old proverb says, Aigo boulido sauova la vida ("boiled water" saves your life).

Who can resist that?
  posted at 7:36 am

At 12:08 pm, Blogger Angela said...

I can't wait to try this....it sounds mysteriously easy and yummy. I am into anything Provencal these days. Thanks for always providing such new and interesting recipes!!

At 10:33 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi Angela, my pleasure, though the recipe is not so new. Love the list of ailments that the soup can cure. Perhaps I can do a test on the hangover fixing properties, it's a small sacrifice, but I'm willing.


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