“Some people say you don’t fly a Spitfire, you wear it.”
-Commander Dave Mackay in The Financial Times Magazine
This year in the UK we have been commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the pivotal period of the World War II aerial battle. There have been a number of events and today there will be an impressive flypast of 40 Spitfires and Hurricanes at Goodwood Aerodrome.
During the war my father was a pilot and a navigator in the RAF. He’d chosen to fly, he told me, “because I liked riding motorbikes”. On one occasion, in a misjudged joyful display of skill, he flew so low that a wave rose up and damaged one of his propellers. He was court-martialled, but the following week he was promoted to squadron leader (he was only twenty when the war broke out) mostly because the other more experienced aviators were all dead. At the end of the war only he and one other man in the original squadron survived.
The creative process resulting in the Spitfire Omelette
I only remember my father cooking anything on one occasion. My mother must have been held up and so my father cobbled together what he could – eggs – and a couple of tins, one of minced beef and one of mushrooms. He looked dubiously at the tins and decided that the only way to make them interesting and edible was to add lashings of brandy and combine them into the filling for an omelette. It was a surprising success.
I was only a child at the time so I have no idea how he stopped the mixture from becoming too liquid. However, I have just finished writing the post on creole and Cajun cooking, and my first thought was to use a roux.
What to watch and listen to to get you in the swing
I think my father would have enjoyed listening to The Spitfire Sisters as he cooked his splendid invention (see clip below). And, from some of the stories he told me about his time as a pilot, I think he would have related to the highs and lows of Terence Rattigan’s play, Flare Path. For a heartfelt and excellent review by Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph, go here. Or watch the clip at the bottom of this post.
Recipe for minced meat and brandy filling for an omelette
This is the recipe for the filling for two people. For how to make an omelette follow this link.
- 150g/6 oz good quality mince
- 150g/6 oz mushrooms, peeled if necessary and sliced
- 1 small red onion or banana shallot – peeled and chopped
- 60ml/¼ cup/4 tbsp brandy
- 1 tbsp tapenade (black olive paste)
- About 2 tbsp olive oil (you can use some of the oil from the sundried tomatoes if they are in oil)
- 1 tbsp flour
- About 4 – 50g/2 oz sundried tomatoes, chopped
- Smoked salt and Indonesian long black pepper
- In a large frying pan (or, if you are making this in large quantities you can do this in a saucepan) fry the onion or shallot in about half the oil, then add the mince and mushrooms and push into one half of the pan.
- In the other half add the rest of the oil and the flour and cook for a few minutes.
- Then add all the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
-John Gillespie Magee, Jr (an American pilot who died aged 21 in training)