Saturday, 25 September 2010
He describes when walking through the snowy forests the effect of a million of pine needles catching the frosty light and cross hatching the snow with a hundred thousand sequins. That alone made me want to be there.
He muses on the correlation between the Baroque and decorative ironwork, the fact that from Nepal to Switzerland or wherever there are cold winters and mountains, woodsman with too much time on their hands in front of the fire and access to sharp knives take up fretting and carving wood to within an inch of its life and the rise of the brown shirts...
"In cold weather like this," said the Innkeeper, "I recommend Himbeergeist." I obeyed and it was a lightening conversion. Spirit of raspberries, or their ghost - this crystalline distillation, twinkling and ice cold in it's misty goblet, looked as though it was homeopathically in league with the weather.Sipped and swallowed it went shuddering through it's new home and branched out in patterns like the ice ferns that covered the window panes, but radiating warmth and happiness instead of cold. Fierce winters give birth to their antidotes. Vodka, Aquavit,, Danziger Goldwasser. Oh for a thimble full of the cold north!
I like to think that when the weather gets bad this winter (and I think it will) Patrick can knock at my door and I can offer him some of my Sloe Vodka that will be a fiery-frost potion to spark his blood and revive aching limbs and send him back on his youthfull travels, rocketing through the ice and snow. Cheers.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
The Bloomsbury lot have been occupying my mind for some weeks now - and this wonderful slim volume has been a real joy to discover. Bloomsbury in Sussex by Simon Watney is a little treasure trove of facts and snippets of those two sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, that still linger in our imagination. Even if we don't know their work, we are all still in thrall it seems to their chosen way of life.
Charleston and Monks House.
Charleston of course, sounds jollier. Even the name conjures up flappers dancing, whilst Monks House does have a slight ring of gloom.... I loved knowing so much about the houses. The fact that Virginia, who loathed shopping and felt that the shop keepers mocked her for her shabby dress and inability to make a simple decision, leant on her sister Vanessa heavily for all domestic choices. "I have ordered some wonderful brightish red-orange stuff for the curtains to be lined and bordered in mauve."
Vanessa was of course the Bloomsbury domestic goddess, but with very little cash. She urged Virginia to attend a cooking class in Bloomsbury where she distinguished herself by baking her wedding ring into a suet pudding.
Charleston was of course decorated within an inch of it's life - and jolly good it looked too. Heavily leaning on the new Russian Ballet for inspiration and colours, it was, and still is, an amorous house. With rooms leading off rooms and all with an individual, casual shoes off, collar undone and stays loosened sort of feel to it.
Monks House was different - more formal, very austere and oh - so little comfort. (Neither house was in any way luxurious and must have been so cold in the chilly Sussex winters) The guests complained amongst themselves, but put up with it as The Wolves's were a joy to be with. Water from a pump, no electricity and outside 'earth closets'. All this changed when the money started to come in, but even then there were certainly no frills. A range in the kitchen, hot water in the bathroom and tiny electric fires in the bedrooms were a big concession.
But - and it's a big BUT, I know....the houses then seemed to sing with the joy that the inhabitants took with their surroundings that very few homes seem to have now.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
The real chef was old mate Andrew Kay, but I was allowed my own radio mike, chopping board and very sharp knife, which I eyes with a great deal of mistrust. I was convinced that I'd cut myself and bleed on stage, and there's nowhere to hide, as there are those horrible professional mirrors above the working surfaces and cooker, as well as cameras following your every move.... But, fear not, all went well.
It was a stonking wonderful autumn day, bright blue skies, sunshine and a hint of falling leaves and conkers in the air. Tapas was on the menu, so we knocked up Chorizo and Butter Beans, Chicken livers in Sherry, Green beans braised in Olive Oil and Garlic and some Padron Peppers - now, I'm sure you are all aware that the infamous padron peppers is the equivalent of a gastronomic game of Russian Roulette. These pretty looking green things are briskly pan fried in olive oil till blistered then drenched in flaky sea salt and eaten warm. They are sweet and delicious - but - one in ten are fearsome hot. I mean, mouth numbingly, sweat inducing, throat clutchingly hot. What to do? Well, I picked a random looking innocent and chomped away. Nothing but sweetness and a salty taste. Andrew was not so lucky.... Poor boy, nor the woman sitting in the second row. A certain amount of schadenfreude on my part was going on, it had to be said.
The food went down incredibly well, judging from the rush of people to sample it - but the best was definitely the Chorizo and Butter Beans. A perfect quick snack or a great supper dish with some crusty bread and a sharp green salad. So, here it is.....
1 large sweet onion
Throw the thinly sliced onion into the hot oil along with the garlic and sweat for a few minutes, add the chopped chorizo and watch in amazement as the colour from the chorizo turns everything the most glorious colour. Breathe in the heavenly aroma for a while whilst stirring and imagine a back street of Barcelona, complete with orange trees and clinking wine glasses and a rather gorgeous man smiling at you... oh sorry.... I drifted off there for a moment....anyway, let it all sizzle away for about 10 minutes then add all the rest of the ingredients, put the lid on the pan and leave it for another five to ten minutes. Time to pour a glass of wine and make the salad. That's it. Simple and gorgeous. Cheers.