Once upon a time, about two years ago on a normal Monday night, I decided to make Nigel Slater’s chicken with cream and tarragon. A superb dish.
This requires chicken, cream and tarragon. The first two ingredients were easily procured; the third proved rather tricky.
I popped into a couple of different supermarkets in Clapham Junction, both were sold out. I pootled along the Northcote Road, normally a reliable place to find poncey esoteric ingredients like fennel, sumac and organic foccacia, but the shops there were similarly bereft.
Not to be deterred, I walked to Waitrose in Balham, but this fine establishment, normally stocking five different species of Heston Blumenthal lemon grass beloved of the yuppies of SW12, was also out.
Bafflingly, so were all the supermarkets, greengrocers and Asian food stores from Balham to Tooting. I returned home wide-eyed and empty-handed: sixteen shops, 5 miles of walking, and two hours later. We cooked it with dried tarragon but it was terrible.
The next day an article on the BBC website revealed a worldwide tarragon dearth, after floods in Israel.
Needless to say, when the news got out about this ludicrous wild goose chase, a bit of harmless banter ensued; and that was when Dan and Louise bought us a tarragon plant. Its intended home was to be our new flat in London but sadly it got forgotten every time we were round at the Perrys’, and died before it even left Twickenham.
This year, they bought a second specimen, but likewise, one too many glasses of something-or-other each time we visited saw the poor herb getting left behind again.
Finally, last week when I visited them, like Archimedes leaping from his bath, or Newton being hit on the head by the apple, Louise had a great flash of inspiration, remembered the tarragon at last, and I came back to Felucca with several bushy sprigs.
And so it passed that tonight we had smoked salmon and tarragon tart, a la Emily, with milk, eggs and smoked salmon nicked from my parents, and Twickenham tarragon.
And the tale of TWO tarts? Well, we made jam tarts with the leftover pastry. Happy days!