February 26, 2009
We noticed the first lambs in the fields. And where there are lambs, can swallows, cuckoos, warmth and, best of all, ‘New Season Lamb’ signs in butchers’ shops be far behind?
(picture shows last year’s lambs; your mileage may vary. Serving suggestion only)
September 1, 2008
One advantage of all the rain we get around here:
Lots of them
So we took some home
And had them on toast for tea.
I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms to be honest, but if I’m going to eat mushrooms, then these are the mushrooms I like to eat.
August 19, 2008
One major design flaw in our move to the country has been the fact that we have moved to a place with no garden of its own. So any thought of growing our own vegetables – let alone keeping our own hens – have had to be postponed. But, nothing daunted, I did at least buy a couple of tomato plants when we moved in to put in a couple of pots by our front door.
That was May. June passed, and July, with the plants growing like weeds in the rain, and flowering away like mad, but producing no actual tomatoes. Having consulted t’internet, I then spent the first part of August gently brushing the flowers in an effort to get some fruit to set. And then I saw this:
My first tomato. Giant fingers for scale...
One fruit. Given the cost of the plants, plus the compost, and time, this was shaping up to be the most expensive tomato of all time. But that was not all. One day later I found this:
Third tomato - a plum tomato this time
in fact, a grand total of 5 tomatoes in all…which have an approximately zero chance of ripening before the frost comes. Somehow I don’t think the world food crisis will be solved by my efforts alone.
Meanwhile, in other news, the other half has fixed our signal booster and we once more have access to BBC and the olympics. If our usual effect on British sporting efforts holds, expect Team GB to go crashing down the medal totals – we’ve already screwed up the Madison**. Sorry about that.
*To see how it’s really done, go here
**Surely the Mornington Crescent of the sporting world
July 24, 2008
They were bouncing around in the fields when we arrived, looking all cute and white and fluffy. They’ve been gambolling around ever since, getting slightly less ickle but still pretty cute, and even more fluffy. When it was wet and miserable, you’d see them lying on top of their mothers’ backs, keeping out of the mud. When it was sunny and bright they’d play games – king of the castle, tag, grandmothers’ footsteps with any passer by who stopped when they were close enough to the wall.
None of which adorableness mattered a damn when we saw the sign in the butcher’s window: local new season lamb. And you know what? They’re not just cute, they’re delicious. Sorry lambs…
July 15, 2008
Top tip for those moving to the country – get someone with some botanical expertise, such as my sister*, to come and visit early on and identify all those things in the hedgerow for you. That way you won’t miss the fact that those funny looking brambles by the side of the road are in fact wild raspberries complete with delicious ripe raspberries. It’s even better if they tell you before they and their daughter have scarfed the lot, but never mind. I’m sure some more will ripen eventually…
And speaking of families, we’ll be off helping Huttonian downsize for the next few days. I may blog, I may not. It will depend on whether I can get a word in edgeways at the computer.
*Not babymother but the non-blogging one. Every family has a black sheep, you know.
June 24, 2008
In our bid to savour the finer things of our new life – and ward off that deep-fried Mars Bar moment as long as possible – we made the trip to Notso Bigtown in search of good food. Notso Bigtown fancies itself as a foodie haven and it has no fewer than four butchers which we’ve been working our way through gradually in a spirit of elimination. It’s complicated, being green in the country. Driving to Notso Bigtown takes more petrol than just heading to the Bigtown Tescos (whose commitment to local produce doesn’t extend beyond slapping the Saltire on anything remotely Scottish) so we have to weigh in the balance all the putative foodmiles of the actual food, versus the known personmiles of ourselves getting there and back. Throw in a detour to the local creamery – which sells delicious cheese and sourdough bread produced on the premises but also organic new potatoes freighted in from Egypt – and it’s all just too complicated to work out, so we said what the hell and went anyway. The last butcher we had tried had sold us 28-day aged ribeye steaks so good they could have airfreighted them from the moon and I wouldn’t have minded. This time we wandered into a different butcher to give him a crack at winning the coveted town mouse household meat supply contract, and I asked if he had any free-range chicken.
‘Not free range, as such,’ he said, prevaricating and pointing to the chicken he had. ‘That’s better than free range, that is. That’s Scottish.’
June 20, 2008
Woo hoo. We finally have our kitchen table and two chairs, which means we have achieved the ultimate metropolitan middle class domestic fantasy: the dine-in kitchen. Throw in the Rayburn and we’re in Country Living heaven, although of course you can’t throw the Rayburn very far because it’s made of cast iron and weighs a ton. Unfortunately this simply opens up new hazards, the chief one being that once you have a kitchen big enough to sit down and eat in, you never use any other room in the house. All we have to do is move the bird feeder so that we can watch babybird tv* out of our front windows as well as our back ones, and we’ll be all set.
And, in continuing proof that blogging really does get results, after the great pine nut fiasco of last week there was a nice lady at Tescos yesterday introducing the masses of BigTown to the delights of low fat Creme Fraiche. I can confidently predict that the supermarket aisles will soon be ringing with the sound of the local kiddies, demanding the right kind of pesto to go on their Turkey Twizzlers.
* The real TV doesn’t get much in the way of reception so we have to make our own springwatch up here. The other half does a good Bill Oddie although I’m not bubbly enough to be Kate Humble…
June 17, 2008
… to ask for pine nuts in a non-metropolitan Tescos and not come across as some poncey twat Londoner up for a weekend among the proles. Lord knows, I tried. But the recipe demanded pine nuts, and I’d already racked the shelves for twenty minutes looking. I got the answer I deserved, too: ‘Pine nuts, wha’re they?’ the callow youth in the produce section asked*. A passing shopper had the answer: ‘they’re nuts,’ she said, ‘from the pine tree.’ ‘Oh, that’ll be whole foods, then.’ And that’s where they were. I stocked up. I don’t want to go through that one again for a while.
Now then, where do you think they keep the organic goose fat?
*In the interests of balance, I should add that in the Lambeth Tescos I regularly had to identify such exotic vegetables as leeks to the checkout girls
June 8, 2008
The upgraded BT poles – just like the old BT poles, only browner – have been marching slowly up our road these past few weeks. The other day, they reached our gate and, seeing a BT man descending from a ladder by one of them – we accosted him for a progress update. His part of the work was done, he said (I’m translating freely from the Scots here) and we should be hearing from head office soon.
Sure enough, on Friday I got a phone call from one of the nice young men that BT reserve for calling customers who’ve been waiting weeks and weeks for their phone line. The line was almost ready, he told me. All that remained was for us to make a date for an engineer. Finally, I said. We fixed on next Thursday, but I was going to be away. Could I give them the other half’s mobile phone no as he would be the one waiting in? I could. The only problem was that I didn’t know the other half’s phone number, and I was going to have to find out. The nice young man said he’d hold. The other half shouted out that it was on the card in the toast rack*. After a bit of hunting around – it was in my blind spot – I found it, and read out the number to the nice young man, but he had forgotten he was a call centre operative and had reverted to being a human:
‘Did he just say it’s in the toast rack?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Why, where do you keep your mobile phone numbers?’
And we completed the call with the mutual giggles. I hope this means we still get the engineer, and more importantly the phone line. But it’s nice to know that somebody whose job is basically ringing up irate people and being nice to them had a bit of amusement in his day…
*Look, toast in our house has a half-life of thirty seconds and is usually consumed standing over the toaster, waiting for the next round to be ready. It does not survive long enough to go into a toast rack. But we got one as a wedding present and jolly nice it is too, and it seems a shame to waste it, so we use it for holding important things, like mobile phone numbers and unpaid bills.
June 6, 2008
Emergency pasta sauce
You will need:
No risotto rice
A head like a sieve
Take a heavy pan and melt the butter on hottish plate of the Rayburn. Chop the leeks and the bacon. Remember too late to turn up the Rayburn. Take the chicken stock out of the fridge and go to measure out the risotto rice. Discover you have no risotto rice. Stand staring at the cupboard singing a little song to see if risotto rice appears. Call other half to see if he can see risotto rice. Remember distinctly writing down risotto rice on shopping list. Remember too late that simply writing things down on shopping list is not in itself sufficient to buy them. Remember nearest shop is fifteen minutes drive away.
Take burning butter off stove.
Stare into fridge. Rack brain. Consult Joy of Cooking. Consult other half. Find cream. Put pan and butter back on stove on the not-so-hot plate and cook leeks and bacon. Grate parmesan. Put pan to one side. Put pan of salted water heated in kettle onto hottish plate to boil for pasta. Heat cream gently on not-so-hot plate and gradually add parmesan. Stir constantly, waiting for pasta water to come to a rolling boil. Stir more while cream thickens. Wait. Wait some more. Remember that while the Rayburn has many good qualities, bringing water to a rolling boil is not one of its strengths. Not without having recieved five working days notice in writing, anyway. Decide feeble simmer will have to do. Add spaghetti to feebly simmering water. Wish one wasn’t quite such a purist about quick-cook spaghetti, for once.
Take thickened sauce off not-so-hot-plate and combine with leeks and bacon. Wait for spaghetti to cook. Try not to take lid off pan too often. Drain spaghetti and combine with sauce. Serve lukewarm.
Still, at least it wasn’t haggis.