Bill's home looks cosy and full of books. He has removed his tie and undone the top button of his shirt. In my dreams, I am Chloe, and in these dreams I imagine that when I have finished my complicated satellite tracking I adjourn to Bill's kitchen to find that he has prepared me the perfect poached egg on a slice of toast.
Bill has not made something too over-the-top. His poached egg is a tacit demonstration that he could cook more elaborate things perfectly well, though he does not need to show this now. Not everyone can poach an egg properly. He is playing a subtle game, and it makes him irresistible.
I'm going to leave things there for now, to save us embarrassment. (And also because I have given a good deal more thought in this fantasy to the quality of the imaginary egg than I have to any imaginary sex. If you are looking for cheap thrills, you have come to the wrong blog.)
For me, a poached egg is just about the perfect meal, and it is what I have almost every time I eat alone. There are a variety of different approaches - Jill Dupleix piles hers on a bed of lemony courgettes; Bill Granger has eggs benedict with hollandaise sauce and a slice of ham. So when I was sent a copy of the new book Cookery School to review, the first recipe I tried was the one with the poached egg.
Cookery School is the official tie-in cookbook to Channel 4’s Cookery School daily series, with recipes by Richard Corrigan. (I must admit I haven’t watched it. Far too many series of 24 have been made to give me time to watch cookery programmes.)
Cookery School separates recipes into different ability levels - basic, intermediate and advanced. The poached egg is in 'Basic', but don't let that fool you - the recipe still takes four different pans. Working your way through the recipes, the ultimate aim of the book is to make you cook like a Michelin-starred chef.
The book includes step-by-step photographs which demystify quite a few cooking processes - including preparing scallops, boning a fish, preparing ravioli and making a proper custard. What I do like very much about this book is that it is neither too patronising nor too showy - whilst assuming you have the confidence to cook oysters, it does not assume you can cook a poached egg, and provides some rather fine instructions.
Poached eggs aren't rocket science, but not everyone knows how. Just look at the success of poach pods. (Bill Buchanan certainly would not use poach pods.) Most of us have gaps in our cookery skills - I can happily joint a chicken, but I'd never been told before that you should fry a pork chop propped up on the fat for a minute or two. Turns out it really makes a difference.
Later in the week I treated myself and Mr Coffee to pork chops with an apple and grain mustard sauce with colcannon. This was a beautiful, subtle and delicious meal, which we followed up with the fine apple tart with maple and pecan.
The tart was from the Advanced section, but was actually very easy to make, with a few simple ingredients, and was utterly gorgeous. It had that "I made my own apple tart - what of it?" insouciance that you are looking for when you want to show off without trying to look as if you are showing off.
Just the kind of dessert, in fact, that Bill Buchanan might make for me.
Clockwise from top - fine apple tart with maple and pecan,
pork chops with an apple and grain mustard sauce with colcannon,
sticky red onions with a poached egg and herb butter.
Images from the book.
Cookery School is published by Michael Joseph Hardback.