In Stanley Ellin’s brilliant short story “The Speciality of the House”, one of the characters, Laffler, is trying to describe his favourite dish, Lamb Amirstan, to his friend Costain…
Laffler remained lost in thought for a minute. ‘If,’ he said at last, ‘I were to give you in my own unstinted words my opinion of this dish, you would judge me completely insane. That is how deeply the mere thought of it affects me.’
I know exactly what Mr. Laffler means. Some dishes just do that to people.
My first mother-in-law used to lay awake in bed at night, tormented by the very thought of my chicken curry. In the end, I had to teach my then father-in-law how to make it, so that he could cook up monstrous, industrial sized batches of it, so that the poor woman had a steady supply available to satisfy her cravings.
This is another such dish.
I won’t launch into a passionate discussion about its many merits, in case, as Laffler says, you consider me to be in need of urgent professional assistance.
Besides, that would only make me want to prepare it, and I’ve got other plans for lunch…
Pancetta, Avocado, and Egg Salad
- a 200g block of pancetta
- 1 ripe avocado
- 2 eggs
- 75g pine nuts
- 65g baby spinach
- lemon juice
- sesame seed oil
- freshly ground black pepper.
- a few fresh chives
- Hard boil the eggs for 12 minutes. Refresh in cold water, and allow to sit in a bowl of cold water until completely cooled. Peel, quarter, and set aside.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the pine nuts, and, shaking the pan to keep the nuts constantly in motion, dry fry until lightly toasted. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
- Cut the pancetta into slices about 5mm thick. With your non-stick frying pan now on medium heat, fry the pancetta slices until golden brown on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes a side. Again, it shouldn’t be necessary to add any other oil to the pan. When the pancetta slices are done, remove from the pan, and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, firstly slice off the top layer of skin, and then slice into strips across the layers. Set aside.
- Slice the avocado in half. Remove the stone. Cut into quarters, and then peel. Cut the flesh into large pieces. Set aside.
- Plate up. On each serving plate, begin with a handful of spinach leaves. Scatter over some pancetta strips, avocado pieces, and egg quarters. Sprinkle over a few pine nuts. Gently mix with your fingertips. Season lightly with freshly ground black pepper. Dress with a drizzle of sesame seed oil, and a splash of lemon juice. Garnish with a few finely chopped fresh chives. Serve.