Well, it is the first big cycling tour of the year, the Giro d'Italia and so I thought I should do an appropriate recipe. I've done Tour and Vuelta linked recipes before but not one for the Giro which, given Italy has the most interesting and consistently high quality food of the three, is a bit of an anomaly. One of the Eurosport commentators actually is doing a recipe a day so I thought I'd have a go at the one for Stage 8, which is a pheasant recipe. However, while his recipe was for the regionally, appropriate pheasant, it is only in season in the UK from October to February, so I used chicken instead. I pointed this out to him on his website and he came back and said that people might have frozen pheasant in their deep freeze. Oh yes, between the Ben and Jerry's and the peas, of course. It was like when Selena Scott said on The Clothes Show, once, that "everyone has their Jean Muir little black dress". Actually, Selena... But then this character calls himself 'Jono', which is only one step down on the pretentious scale from calling yourself 'Jonty'. Thinking about it, for many years I did actually often have frozen pheasant in the freezer as my aunt and uncle used to shoot them and give us a brace every time we went down to see them in Sussex. The Old Bat pointed out that we had them in the field at the back of the house at the moment and perhaps I should get my air rifle out. "Only if you pluck them" I replied. Silence. When I was small we often had dead (obviously) pheasant hanging around in the garage before Christmas (we would always have it on Christmas Eve) and my poor mother had to pull all the feathers off. It is no wonder she preferred to cook Spam fritters.
For the first time in a major cycling tour the race started outside Europe, with three stages in Israel, giving us the most scenically tedious stage ever, as they trekked across the Negev desert. Enlivened only by the occasional random camel, the landscape reminded me of a recent documentary on the Titanic where they digitally recreated what the wreck site would look like if the ocean was removed, thereby providing a scene like the one from the opening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It looks like it might be a close race this year with a number of people looking like they could win and Chris Froome and Sky looking decidedly off form (Are your men on the right pills? Perhaps you should execute their trainer). The race is currently being led by British cyclist Simon Yates who was banned for four months in 2016 because his team doctor failed to apply for a Theraputic Use Exemption for his asthma inhaler. It's amazing how many asthmatics seem to take up cycling.
Anyway, at least the Giro has not banned podium girls, unlike the Vuelta and as now threatened by the Tour de France this year. Does no one worry about what tall, skinny students and models in Europe will do in the summer? Don't they have an association fighting for their rights? Perhaps, I could help them form one, as they are an oppressed minority and those seem to be the only groups who anyone thinks about these days. It's not often I see the Old Bat completely enraged but she was last night when there was TV advert for the Army that showed a unit having to stop patrolling while a Muslim soldier prayed to his imaginary friend. "But they're the people we should be fighting!" she squawked, on the edge of apoplexy (she loves Donald Trump). On a similar note, I don't have any time for the government of the People's Republic of China, as I have worked with them quite a bit and found them unpleasant but they went up in my estimation last night when they refused to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest, not on grounds of musical taste, as you might think, but because there were people with tattoos in it and these have just been made illegal in China. Hooray! Can we do this too, please?
Anyway, on to our recipe for Stage 8. The trick with this is to marinade it for an hour. I put two chicken breasts (or a jointed pheasant if you have bothered to check when it is actually available, Jono) in a glass bowl with around 50cl of olive oil, together with the individual leaves from around four stalks of rosemary, one quartered lemon and about six cloves of crushed garlic into. Make sure you rub the marinade into the chicken breasts thoroughly and add salt and pepper before covering and putting in the fridge for an hour.
Take the chicken breasts and gently brown them in a casserole on top of the oven and then add the marinade (without the lemons), two glasses of Italian White wine and cook with the lid on for about forty minutes.
You should, properly, serve this with rice and green beans but I substituted peas as I can't stand green beans which are always cold whenever you get them on the plate and, anyway, taste like compressed pond slime.
Speaking of pond slime, the Old Bat (careful) was cleaning out the pond yesterday and rushed inside ,crying: "There is a baby alligator in the pond! Get the camera!" I pointed out that as we don't live in Florida it was unlikely but there you go. It was a newt, of course but, still, we don't recall having one in the garden before.
An appropriate wine to accompany newt, er chicken masquerading as pheasant, would be the aromatic Greco di Tufo, the grapes for which are grown, appropriately for a stage with a mountain top finish, at altitude. In fact it is produced in only eight villages just ten miles from the stage finish at Montevergine di Mercogliano in Campania, just north east of Naples. Mine came from Waitrose (£10.99 and helped cushion my senses to the Eurovison Song Contest, too.