Sunday, 3 October 2010

GCSE Spanswegian?

To this day, I still don't know why she did it. And to be honest, I don't why I agreed to her proposal. I think it was the discreet tap on the shoulder and the whisper to stay behind. Although fairly plain in looks with lanky greasy hair, she still carried off a certain gamine charm with her big brown eyes and button nose so for this pubescent freckle faced boy, the whole arrangement was spiked with frisson. With the class finally empty, she beckoned me to come over as she sat perched on top of her desk, legs crossed and angled to one side. Slowly, I edged over from the far corner of the room and stood, motionless in front of her. I was so close that I could smell stale coffee on her breath. The transaction could have only taken a minute or two but I distinctly remember walking out of the class room into the heaving throng of a school corridor at home time, flushed and heady from what had just happened. The French supply teacher was probably only at Forest Lodge Secondary School for about 3 months and you know what, I can't even remember her name but what had just occurred would have an impact on me for the rest of my life. I definitely remember sitting in the gymnasium a few months later, sitting there, staring at the paper and then staring at the clock and then staring at the paper again, thinking "why the hell did I listen to that French bitch? Why did I agree to take the higher levels? My god, what have I written down here?! It makes no sense! Oh shit, time is running out, oh shit! Why? Why?!"

I ended up with a grade F for my French GCSE and the whole episode has left me with a total distrust of grubby, waif-like, sexy gallic women. Audrey Tatou? Phwoor but non! She would date you, make mad passionate love to you but then go on to mentally screwing you up for her own perverse amusement. Embittered? Moi? Non, je ne regrette rien.

Which is a lie because I would really love to have a second language that I could casually and fluently slip into. When abroad, I hate that squirm of embarrassment in the pit of my stomach as I desperately flounder about the place before launching into barking and gesticulating mode. As such I am always in awe when I witness someone move from their mother tongue to a completely different one with no effort at all. Rachel of Catalan Cooking and erstwhile partner in crime does this all the time. Except she speaks Glaswegian AND Spanish and when I met her for a WMPC swap at Moo Grill some moons ago, the brain did go into meltdown at times as we conversed over a big juicy lomito. Try imagining holding two phrasebooks up at the same time, manically juggling the pair and flicking through the pages, eyes and ears jumping all over the place, lip reading, trying to make sense of what was being communicated and you'll get a sense of my inner turmoil. To be fair on myself (and to Rachel) when she in is full flow using her native burr, I can keep up quite well. My boss of 12 years is from East Kilbride so I am well attuned but Rachel, being the Catalonia obsessive that she is, will often start waxing lyrical about a recipe or story that is interjected with Spanish prose. At which point, I might as well stick my fingers in my ears and shout "la la la, I can't understand you, la la la, I'm not listening". More to the point, throughout our lunch, Rachel would often break off to utter something incomprehensible to the handsome Argentinian chap who runs the very cosy and affordable Moo Grill. This always unnerves me when people do that and I have to say when Rachel was pointing in my general direction and having a good ol' laugh with said chap who also started to point and laugh, it did irk me somewhat. Rachel after told me that was she was telling him of my exploits with lamb and holes in the ground but I don't believe her. Perhaps I should get off my arse, just try to learn a language and banish the memory of Mademoiselle Tordu altogether. I mean if an Argentinian can learn how to speak Spanish, how hard can it be?

Linguistic issues aside, it was great to meet up with Rachel as she's always prepared to give advice and a piece of her mind and she has a great sense of humour to boot but what did she come up with? Well somewhere, out there, is a poor little piggy who is wandering around with no feet as Rachel decided to introduce me to the Catalonian staple of trotters, one part of the animal that I had yet to try. There were 3 variations to sample, Trotters A La Catalan, Trotters Stuffed with Prunes and Plain Trotter, all prepared up to a point with some cooking to finish them off as well as some super concentrated pig stock. It was stipulated that the finishing part should be done at home and with a proper hob and oven. Try to do everything in a microwave and it will all turn to "pish and I'm nae having that" I was warned. By the time I got home that night, it was a little late to eat even by Spanish standards so I decided that I would rustle up the trotters for breakfast. So the next morning I set to business before work filling my kitchen up with delicious porcine smells. First up was the trotters catalan which were heated through in a vibrant orange carrot sauce and finished with picada stirred in, which is a blend of chopped hazelnuts, garlic and parsley fried with some of the sauce mixed together. Second was the trotter with stuffed prune which were to be sliced into rounds, fried and served up with a simple accompanying tomato sauce. And the third was the plain trotter wiped with some honey and roasted until crispy. And in terms of order of preference that's exactly how I favoured them. The trotter in the lairy orange sauce was beautiful and cut nicely through the glutinous flavour of the meat with a lovely nutty sweetness. I ended up drinking the remnants from the pan like soup which left me with a happy carrot moustache. The trotter with prune was a very close second with it's mixture of caramelised piggy crunchiness and soft textures within. Prune and pork made good bedfellows and the tomato sauce with some of a teaspoon of that thick stock blended in added just enough tartness to balance the flavours overall. The plain trotter was also nice but having smeared some honey on it, the tasting session was starting to err towards the saccharin end. I would be interested to see how trotter fares with more savoury or spicy flavours. The twins finished them off nevertheless (in fact they had a good dig in with everything).

Thit Rachel, thanks doll, tha's a great bit o' scran ya knocked up therr (as they say in Barcelona)

Trotters 3 ways (with extra super concentrated piggy stock)

Trotters A La Catalana

Trotters Stuffed with Prunes and Tomato Sauce

Roast Honey Trotter


  1. Great looking trotter dishes. I've only ever had them wobbly and soft but the caramelisation on 2 and 3 looks really interesting.

    One of my favourite trotters dishes is Chinese style with ginger and black vinegar. Although there's no chili in it the large amount of ginger adds some heat to the mouth and the vinegar cuts through the rich fat and gelatinous skin beautifully.

    They're also really nice in a simple noodle soup with some wide flat rice noodles and a little braised lettuce. If I need to boil some pork belly for something then I'll chuck a couple of trotters in too and make this soup with the resultant stock. You have to really like your trotter though as it's very plain and boiled looking.

  2. ooh, might have to retract my offer to cook you Trotters Chinese style. Have to think of something else. ;-)

  3. Wait - I'm confused. So did you shag your French teacher or not??

    I'd have killed for those trotters btw.

    Erm, what did Rachel get in return?

  4. Joshua - a trotter enthusiast eh? tell me have you ever heard of Where's My Pork.....oh of course you must have done.

    May - I'd try trotters again, Chinese style but of course if you want to do something different then that's fine too.

    MiMi - no I didn't shag her, she kept me behind to convince me to do the higher examination papers and I was just alluding to a sordid schoolboy fantasy.

  5. MiMi - oh and I bought lunch for Rachel in Moo Grill

  6. That all sounds, and looks, delicious - i'm a big fan of trotter and i think Hugh F-W has a sweet and sour trotter recipe in Meat that's pretty good.

    That last trotter (in honey) looks like you've gone and roasted a whole suckling micro-pig...

  7. I wish I could speak another language fluently. At times I feel quite ignorant. Those trotters look amazing! It's like a piggy christmas! I am so very very jealous of this meal, it is astounding to read about and look upon. Also, it's very cool that the twins got involved with the trotters, I reckon a lot of kids would be funny about it.
    Great post Danny.