Tuesday, 12 May 2009

High days and holidays

Organic moments...

Sunday dawned, as did some of our gaggle, but for most of us it was a day to be revered.  Caro was on a mission to track down Sunday papers, even though we had a forest of them in the sitting room still neatly folded, Saturday's orphans discarded, forgotten or forlorn, so she and Adam went in search of yet more reading material, as if the thousands of words sitting between the covers of dozens of cookbooks wasn't enough.  An expedition set forth whilst the rest of us discussed yet more food and started to prepare for lunch before even the breakfast clutter had been cleared away.  

The kitchen garden was a constant source of new found delight and Sam boasted about his freshly plucked spring onions with all the pride of a parent describing the finest characteristics of their first born.  He couldn't have been more proud than if he had birthed it himself.  The scent of fresh scallions is delicate yet heady, as well as capable of invoking an immediate response from all the senses.  They were so green and before you say they are meant to be, they had a crisp green appeal like the colour of envy, rather than that of the Fir; when they were chopped their essential oils were released in fresh bursts into every corner of the kitchen. Kristen and Sam made a perfect blend of spice, seasoning and lamb mince and shaped the burgers into patties.  

The Bloody Mary's were made, along with Bison Grass Vodka (I am a new convert) and tonic, Pimms o'clock, in addition to the large helping of recipes based on 99 things to do with Road Kill from our Jenny , who we had to all but physically restrain from scraping up the badger further on up the hill, thus proving her point, that it is just possible to raid the country lanes for discarded, unwanted or RTA wildlife in these credit crunchy times.

We mellowed before lighting the beast of a BBQ weighing almost the same tonnage as the 4 x 4 and after preparing a range of salads and accompaniments threw on the burgers, aubergine and tomatoes and dined al fresco on the south side of the property with its English cottage garden resembling a scene from a 50's movie.   (Kristen's blog - Kirsten in London - contains a perfect picture of simplicity of the memorable plateful on offer).  

All weekend Susan and Katie did not stop clearing up, cleaning and putting away or setting out for the next meal.  Pauline delighted us with her poems and observations, Caro proved a goldmine of information about where to buy, procure, acquire, source, track down, virtually anything to do with food, Susan kept us entertained with the exploits of a Food Technician and Sam and Adam ensured we were all made to feel special and interesting and Kristen brought her own sense of enthusiastic wisdom, kitchen style and calm to the proceedings.

Full to the brim, a walk was in order to make room for the next feast, so we meandered through the archway dripping in foliage and beyond the rickety gate into the ancient church with its wooden rafters, lured via the graveyard, which held painful secrets carved out on stone or marble of young men killed.  I could not help but notice how young many of the occupants were.  In sombre, mellow mood, in the late afternoon sunshine, we trundled along the lanes like city folk picking our way carefully between the straw and the methane left behind by bovines on their urgent evening trail homeward after a day of munching on grass.

Either side of us, banks of wild spring flowers were bathing in the dying embers of a golden day, soaking up the last of the heat rays before finally drooping their heads in silent reverence.  A friend picked a delicate purple-headed flower (periwinkle?) and placed it in my hair, a gesture of true symbiosis, of perfect understanding, a need unvoiced... delivered through a simple gesture.

Again returning to the kitchen, Mistress Muscle had cleared the decks in anticipation of the next onslaught and everyone set to, nothing was forced, everything felt organic, like the perfect blend of a notable wine, nothing was out of sorts.  Adam lathered the beef ribs with a combination of mustard, seasoning and flour and cooked the beef in the oven for around two hours; I gave a quick demonstration on how to mix the perfect Yorkshire pudding batter (fool proof method of Brian Turner's - equal quantities thoroughly whisked lump free, of sieved self raising flour, eggs and milk and a quarter teaspoon of salt and pepper and, if you have it, two pinches of dried mustard or chives) I place the mixture in the freezer for half an hour (or in this case forgot about it until someone retrieved it for me when fetching the essential homemade ice for the drinks).  Ten minutes before the meal is ready, place the individual tins (or 25 minutes in a big tin) with a teaspoon of groundnut oil or duck fat, or in one big tin pour in two tablespoons of oil or duck fat and heat in the oven to almost scorch temperature, before adding the batter.  I have never failed to make one rise yet!!!!  

Like food disciples at their last meal, we devoured the offerings, minus Jenny who had left to go and visit an old friend but who had loyally hand picked the asparagus but sadly missed out on their celebratory marriage to the peeled quails eggs  with lemony dressing.   The crusty topping on the beef was truly memorable, worthy of any highly acclaimed chef and everyone was aghast at the Brian Turner recipe for Yorkshire Puds as they stood at least 4 or 5 inches tall.  Sadly we were unable to convert our wary American, but some had more than a second helping.

Our time together was running out, plans were underway for the next potential reunion the time, date and place with Katie volunteering her services to co-ordinate the next set of dates... just one more sleep before the inevitable farewells...


Kristen In London said...

such a perfect, lilting commentary, Rosie... I feel so bad I wasn't converted to Yorkshire pudding, but at least I now know this: if I was EVER going to love it, it would be at that dinner, so England has done its best! But I do feel an honest reaction to food is important... or no? Whatever my response to that particular national pasttime, our revels that evening will never be forgotten.

Foxi Rosie said...

Bless you Kristen... We are all so ingrained in our own food culture but the key thing is to try everything and you certainly did try with gusto... a girl can ask for no more. What a compliment too...