Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A farewell to Floyd

It's been a long day of collecting tributes to Keith Floyd, who died yesterday, for Word of Mouth. So much so that, while listening to everybody else's recollections of him, I hadn't processed my own reaction until we sat down for what is known in Hale as tea.

Of course, the only way to celebrate a departed chef is to cook one of his recipes. In need of comfort, we rejected the gumbo-ridden pages of Floyd's American Pie, one of my favourite charity shop purchases, for his nice, safe chicken korma. Made with whole spices, softly fried onions, thick yoghurt and a whole lotta ghee, it's a good one, although as you can see from the picture, it doesn't look as nice as it tastes.

In 2007, I went on a cookery course hosted by Floyd and his wife Tess (they split not long afterwards) at Linthwaite House hotel in the Lake District. It was designed to make the most of his ebullient personality, and it was clear from the excitement among the attendees, mainly middle-aged couples, that the most prized experience was not the cookery lesson but sitting down for dinner with him the night before class. He didn't disappoint, and artfully aired some eye-watering industry gossip and a few less-than-PC anecdotes before leaving us with a fair few bottles and his encouragement to enjoy them.

The next day, he rolled through a handful of classic French dishes, including a rich langoustine soup, and exhorted us not to be hogtied by the need for precision and measurements. Though he waggled a glass of red because it was expected, whisky was his preferred tipple. During a mid-morning fag break he asked me, in a theatrical whisper, to be a good girl and take his glass back to the bar before anyone spotted it. I did as I was told. No one could refuse Keith Floyd.

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