Mostly Concerning Food
It’s been one of those weeks when I don’t realise just how well we’ve eaten until I download the photographs. It’s been busy busy busy and I was wondering whether I would have enough shots for a Saturday food blog. And then… I looked at the photographs and wonder how I am able to fit into the same shirt. Have to give myself a pat on the back. How I managed to do anything at all around these meals is a wonder. The fact that I’ve had a particularly fulfilling weeks (as well as a filling full week) makes me very happy indeed.
The week started as all good weeks do with a visit to the local cake shop and our Saturday morning treat. Someone had beaten us to the iced cream buns so we had to make do with “elephant’s foot éclairs”. I’ve rarely made choux pastry. It seems to me not to be worth the bother unless you’ve got a large party of profiterole fanatics descending. The problem of buying these at a bakery or patisserie is that they go hard and dry very quickly. Our bakery bakes same day in the old fashioned way. What you eat for a mid-morning treat came out of the oven the same morning. These are really good éclairs and the chocolate is strong and tasty and they let good cream speak for itself.
I like ironing. I never used to. I’ve got to be doing something else, but if I get it right, an afternoon with a steam iron is a relaxing treat. Some radio drama is a perfect accompaniment. Recently T’s school did a wonderful production of An Inspector Calls and, having been reminded of what a treat it is to watch on the stage, I put on a radio version with Toby Jones as Inspector Goole. Ninety minutes ironing never went quicker. I’d pay good money for the feeling of calm that swept the kitchen. Once it was all finished and the room smelt highly of fresh laundry and the Birlings had been put firmly in their places, I celebrated with a plate of Wensleydale and crackers with a few pickles. If it looks a generous plateful my defence is that it was my sole daytime meal; and I like cheese and crackers.
We’re going to manage without meat in May so the fridge needs emptying. A piece of roast beef had provided some very nice sandwiches last week. The last of it is chopped very fine and made into a Bolognaise. I’ve never made one with roasted beef before and it passes for a decent mid-week meal. I would never have dreamed putting chilli in in the old days. Today I find it a necessity, but only as a seasoning. Enough to enhance the flavours and give the mouth a slight glow. More than this and it beats up the essence of the classic dish and turns it into something completely different.
Dear old Aldi (still the only supermarket I have any affection for) has four quail for £2.99. It’s silly not to. The meal takes no time to make. The birds get a rasher of bacon each to protect the breasts from the direct heat of the oven and thirty minutes later you are sitting down to a full roast dinner. Some new potatoes and carrots are supplemented by some rather good green beans. I’m always happy when green beans are on the plate. No sauce, no gravy. A little butter on the vegetables and we enjoy a meal that thinks well of itself.
I’ve started my research for my A – Z of East Midlands towns and Tuesday finds me exploring one of several towns that calls itself The Gateway to the Peaks. I stop off at Arbor Low on the way. It’s a neolithic henge monument site in the Peaks. Probably the most important such site in the region and though not Stonehenge, is a wonderful place. You have to pay a fee to the local farmer to traipse across a bit of field. He’s obviously keen to take the money (I place my pound in his honesty box) but he’s obviously not keen on people actually walking across his field. It’s full of bullocks. I wander across the dewy grass followed by a couple of inquisitive young beasts and watched by a dozen more when I notice that in among them is one of an altogether studier build with a ring through his nose. We look at each other for a minute and decide that it is probably better if I don’t proceed. There is no-one around to debate the rights and wrongs of keeping a bull in a field you have allowed people to pay to cross. I presume there is some reasonable explanation but finding yourself in a field with many hundred weight of prime beef on the hoof is a little unsettling.
When I get to my market town I’m ready for a mug of tea. To get one in a bone china pot with a hand knitted tea cosy prompts me to ask for the menu. I cannot resist ordering the “legendary” breakfast. If I’m eating meat then I’m going to celebrate the fact. At £12.50 it isn’t cheap but it is substantial, cooked fresh and very, very good. I manage all bar half a sausage and one piece of toast. (The pot of tea and the toast are included in the price).
I later resort to joining the usual middle class conversationalists in Costa so I can look through accumulated documents. The woman brings round free cakes. I’m happy to accept a rather nice honey nut cake. The affluent intellectuals descend on the free food with unseemly relish.
Wednesday is the last day of meat and there are two packs of dry cure bacon that were bought for when children were home. Bacon with homemade cheese coleslaw is a sandwich worth trying. I tried two of them and nearly fell asleep in the afternoon.
For tea a good old ham salad. I just had a fancy for one.
And back to vegetarian fare again on Thursday. An old favourite: The Hemingway breakfast. A favourite of the novelist as well as the two of us. Today I fancy my eggs with a golden filigree. A well fried egg is a well fried egg!
On Friday we remind ourselves of a hundred hotel breakfasts by going for prunes and grapefruit segments. Why we don’t have them more often I do not know. They don’t sound exciting, they don’t even look particularly exciting, but once you start it is a pure delight.
Saturday is the start of the May Day bank holiday weekend and deserves something special. Scrambled eggs with mushrooms and smoked salmon on homemade toast is up to the task. There is nothing that says May Day about the meal but everything that says “Happy Saturday”. Washing your face with the dew on the morning of May the first is supposed to bring you twelve months of good luck. I do it without fail and continue to be lucky in almost everything I do. We may not be wealthy and we may not be brilliant but we seem to have found a way to be happy and that is worth more than gold to me.