Monthly Archives: October 2016

Z & LT shell fish

The fishmonger calls on a Monday and I suggested to LT that we bought mussels.  The first time he came to stay here (apart from the blog party) last October, we went over to Southwold for lunch and I had a very good mussel dish, cooked with chorizo and chilli.  So I further suggested a variation on moules marinière, to put in some of the trimmings from our bacon, with chilli pepper as well as the usual shallot, wine etc.

It worked very well.  We’d added a jalapeño pepper rather than cayenne and it lost some heat in the cooking, so probably we should have used two, but the bacon is so good – the herbs and garlic really come through.

Otherwise, a quiet, relaxing evening.  I’m plugging away at paperwork and LT is doing most of the other work around here, but we’re aiming to wind down a bit.  It’s been a busy couple of months.

Home remedy

As LT says, the change in our lives would have been unimaginable even a year ago.  But clearly, I’m back to the old Z.  Bonkers, he says (and then sniggers like a schoolboy), but in a good way.

A few weeks ago, I suggested we try our hand at home-cured bacon.  What gave me the idea was, initially, our visit to the depths of Suffolk on my birthday, when I bought my wedding outfit – and LT bought my hat – and, on the way back, we called in at the splendid place that cures its own fabulous bacon and charges through the nose for it.

I have bemoaned the loss of good bacon from otherwise good butchers for the last thirty or so years.  It’s nearly all bought in ready-packeted and gives off a load of water when cooked.

I thought you couldn’t buy saltpetre any longer, but you can.  So I did.  100g for about £3 – you only need a little, half a teaspoon for 5lbs of meat.  And then I looked up lots of methods and rather compromised, as you do – anyway, I mixed salt, saltpetre, sugar, peppercorns, herbs and garlic and rubbed it in to the belly pork that I’d boned.  And put it in the fridge and rubbed the mixture over again daily for five days.  Then, we hung it up on a meat hook in the attic – we only left it a couple of days because I was impatient to try it.

I went to feed the bantams and they’d laid four eggs, bless them.  I took some slices of egg-and-breadcrumbed, fried aubergine out of the freezer.  LT, who has a meat slicer, had chilled the bacon in the freezer for an hour or so and cut some rashers.  And then we cooked them.

We were apprehensive, darlings – or is that too big a word? Perhaps.  We were resigned, inwardly, to it being salty pork and not actual bacon, but really didn’t want that to be the case.  But for a start, no water was given off in the cooking of the bacon.  When I cook bacon from the butcher, even dry cured, I have some paper towel at hand to mop up the liquid.  There wasn’t a drop, even though it had only hung for two days.

I baked the aubergine slices in the oven – this is a fabulous way to freeze them, I’m very grateful to my internet friend for the method – and fried the eggs.  LT had the first bite.  And he was encouraging.  I tried a mouthful.  I was happy.  It was bacon.  Green – that is, unsmoked – bacon, the real stuff.  It tasted of the herbs and spices and the cured pork, but it really wasn’t just pork.

This is clearly going to be our next Thing.  A bit more experimentation is called for, but the basic method is fine.  We think that brine would be good – this is going to be such fun.  And then we’re planning to learn about smoking it.  That’ll be even more fun.

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Leeked information

As Tim said in his comment yesterday (yes, darlings, we met blogging and we still comment on each other’s blogs), the leeks were home grown.  We are really pleased with them, they’ve grown well.

Some years ago, I had a horrid white rot on the roots of allium (onion family) plants.  It spread, year by year, through the separate beds of my kitchen garden and, in the end, I stopped growing them entirely, to give it time for the disease to die away.  And then Al bought his veg shop and I grew for him, and it would have been silly to grow onions when he bought and sold them by the sackful, so I suppose I haven’t grown leeks, onions or garlic for the better part of 20 years.  But at the gardening street fair back in May, I bought a couple of 4 inch pots with lots of rather small leek seedlings in them.  I potted them up round the edge of several much bigger pots and then, when they’d grown (but were not at all yet pot-bound), we planted them out, one dibbing the hole and the other dropping in the trimmed plant, and then watering.  And then we pretty well forgot them until they rather urgently needed weeding.  Anyway, though Tim was rather dubious at the time and I was more optimistic than I truly felt circumstances warranted, they have thrived.

There’s not a lot left in the veg plot now, of course.  Swiss chard, spinach, the leeks, a few remaining aubergines in the greenhouse and some peppers, and a daunting glut of cayenne and jalapeño chillies.  It’s been a fantastic year for aubergines and we’ve frozen lots, prepared in various ways.  As is always the way with gardeners, we’re planning next year already.

Tim the cook

Tim is making his famous leek flan for dinner. It was the first dish he cooked for me, a few years ago. I had to look back – I knew the year was 2012, which was a year after we met for the first time, when he came to our second blog party, bringing Mig, and then invited us to his birthday party – which was fabulous.  I danced, I seem to remember…  Russell couldn’t come, but Mig and her husband Barney did and so did I – I was going to see my sister, I think, and the timing worked out nicely.

It turned out that it was another visit down to Wink when I saw him again and a momentous visit to her it was – the purpose was to go down to see our oldest friend Dodo for her hundredth birthday.  After leaving Wink, I spent the evening and night with Mig and Barney and then went on to lunch with Tim.  It was the 30th September 2013 but I wrote about it fairly briefly here.

And then it was nearly two years until I dropped in again and, when I did, he made Salad Niçoise, which was delicious.  Actually, it was by no means my fault that we hadn’t seen each other in the interim, because my emails (I hardly ever delete emails except for marketing or, of course, spam) show him making excuses on several occasions.  Hmmm.

The fifth meeting was at the end of September last year, and then he cooked lamb shanks.  And I stayed overnight – in his spare bedroom, of course, hem hem.  But something had certainly clicked between us and we were already more than just good friends.  And certainly, he is an exceedingly good cook.

Z has fun

It wouldn’t be worthwhile if it were not fun.  It’s a lot of work, on and off, over months and it would be silly to try to cost out my time.  But I do enjoy the auctions and it’s good to see that others do too.  Some new clients this year, a few absentees, a nice buzz in the saleroom and LT said he enjoyed it too.

I found myself bidding for one piece and then found I’d bought it.  Afterwards, my colleague D said he’d bid for it too.  Haha.  We should have compared notes beforehand.  I had liked it all along but I did bid on impulse.  Because that’s fun too.

Z & LT raise a glass. Two glasses. Each…

We have modest ambitions, LT and me.  This morning, we compared what we wanted to have achieved by the end of the day.  For LT, it was bring in some fuel for the fires, iron at least three shirts and – oh, I’ve forgotten the third.  For me, it was phone my consultant’s secretary, deal with the vat of stock that had been made yesterday (it had to be strained etc and a lot of washing up done) and sort out the remaining documents for this Wednesday’s auction.  Of course, there were the usual everyday jobs and so on – and we did them all.  So it feels like an achievement, though only because we decided it would be.

We are busy every day, though.  I do have more time, now I’ve relinquished the governor stuff (apart from a couple of directorships, they’ll carry on for a little more time), but that mostly makes me wonder how I fitted everything else in.  We’d like to fit in a couple of nights away, a mini-honeymoon, but I looked in my diary today and realised we’d be pushed to manage it in November.  We’ve reserved a few days though and will keep them free.

LT invited me out to lunch to celebrate our first anniversary – it is a whole month since we got married.  And we drank champagne this evening.  Blessings to count every day and we want never to take anything for granted.  We will sometimes, of course, everyone does.  But we always want to remember to stop and wonder and be vastly appreciative.

Z has her ups and downs

If you look at the third photo down from the previous post, you can see that there’s some standing water on a flat roof.  Weeza noticed it at once – but building maintenance organisation is part of her job and she’s observant anyway, which I’m not.  So I thought I’d better shin up and have a look.  Fortunately, though, there are two flat roofs, one atop a single storey (the larder and back lobby) and one above the porch and an upstairs bedroom.  So we got out the double ladder, but headed for the lower roof first.

I went up to check out what I’d need, and it seemed pretty okay, to my relief.  But, having gathered a few tools, I went again and discovered that actually getting on the roof wasn’t that easy for an unagile person like wot I am.  It’s the castellations, the up and down bits.  I knelt in one of the down sections, where there was just room, and wondered how to climb over.  So I leaned down and crawled down onto the roof. It was only about 10 inches.  25 cm.  You see how helpful I am to young people who aren’t au fait with the old-fashioned measurements I was brought up with – but it’s not so hard to be bilingual, in that respect at least.  I decided to worry about getting down again afterwards…

It didn’t take so long to gather up the moss from the roof and a bit of crud from the guttering; there was no blockage and it was simply wet, the other day, because of the overnight rain.  And I dropped (gloved) handfuls of muck down into a bucket on the ground, and that was fine.  And then I climbed over, backwards, and put my foot on the ladder – the second rung down felt more secure – and wondered what to do with my left leg, the arthritic one.  I slowly drew it up, but there was quite a stretch … but either I did it or I was stuck, and I did it.

I’ve left the second roof.  There’s no way I’m asking LT to go up there and, though I’m okay on ladders, I didn’t like that experience one bit.  It may wait until Weeza is here again.

In other news, we’ve lit a couple of small fires in the new stove, to dry everything out and ‘season’ it, and today we lit a bigger one.  So, from now on, we’re away.  It’s going to be fabulous, and it takes big logs, up to 18 inches.  That’s 45 centimetres, darlings, give or take.

The fire was dying down by the time I snapped this.  And a bit of tweaking is required.  But I’m getting used to the smaller – but vastly warmer – stove and I’m very glad of it.  As is LT, of course, who’s looking forward to being warm this winter.

Z and the raising agent…

Well, it wasn’t messy at all.  They put dustsheets over all the furniture and floor, but it was all remarkably clean.  If the chimney liner had been installed properly in the first place, it might have been okay – but this one has a 35 year guarantee, so it’ll see us out.

I was given my cherrypicker ride, huzzah!  Yesterday, the weather turned drizzly, on and off, and Stuart wanted to seal the joint on the chimney, but the ‘picker wouldn’t go up and it turned out that the weight limit had been set to 120 kilos so it wouldn’t take the weight of the cement.  So he put some of it in another bucket and did it in two goes.  I knew I weighed more than a bucket of cement (obvs, darlings) so gave up hope – but still put on jeans this morning, just in case – he managed to fix it to its usual weight limit of 200 k this morning and it was bright and sunny.  So up I went.  It was brilliant, as I knew it would be.  And pictures are best here, so I’ll shut up now … or rather, I will in a minute or two.

For those who don’t use it, Facebook shows you posts you put up on the same day in the past.  And six years ago today, the Wall was being completed as far as I was concerned, though I was away the next week so Dave and the Sage finished the capping.  And a year later, the drive was being resurfaced, after some months of preparation, because we were widening it too.

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Snapping in all directions, including straight down!  Tim took my picture as I took his – the first two were taken by him, of course, the rest from my perch.  Weeza noted the water on the flat roof, so I’ll have to investigate that – probably a blocked downpipe, doubt it’s anything awful but it’s a good job it’s been photographed as it needs sorting out before the winter.  I’ll shin up a ladder at the weekend, if someone can put it up for me.

I’ll take a picture of the new stove to show you, of course, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.  If you are on Facebook, I’ve put up two panoramas, only friends can see my posts of course, but if we are friends, you’re welcome to send a request – just message me to say who you are, I don’t befriend strangers, of course.  I’m under my new large surname.

The two installers, Stuart (on the cherrypicker) and Kiwi (on the ground by LT), were very clean, efficient and really nice people, as is the owner of the company, Justin.  We were really impressed.  And Stuart and Kiwi thanked us for our hospitality as they left.  Wasn’t that nice?  Though LT does make exceedingly good coffee…

Z hopes to go up in the world

We’re having our new woodburner installed tomorrow.  The old one has a crack in it and has had for some years – it’s double-skinned, so no smoke or fumes leak out but it’s reduced its efficiency.  The chap who came to quote for a new one explained, once he’d investigated – it wasn’t installed right in the first place.  The chimney liner hasn’t been attached to the house so is resting on the stove and that caused a lot of stress and weight, which changes according to the weather.  The stove is cast iron, so can crack, unlike stainless steel.

So, new lining, new stove and, instead of replacing the Franklin stove I’m so fond of, we’re having a modern, much more efficient one.  Sorry as I am about this (losing my lovely Franklin, that is), I know it’s the best choice.  And we’re looking forward to all the lovely warmth.

Of course, the new lining will be installed from the top down.  So a cherrypicker was brought along this afternoon.

“I wonder if I can persuade them to give me a ride in it?” I said hopefully.  The delivery man thinks they will.  Let’s hope so.  I’ve been up in one before to look at a different chimney and it was great fun.  Though rain is forecast tomorrow – still, one can hope.

I’ve a feeling the whole procedure will be messy.  I think there’s a lot of soot up that chimney.

Losing their way

I can’t now remember why I wanted to look up St Davids, the very small cathedral city (with a very small cathedral), on my phone but, with the most recent software update and accompanying Apple Maps update, it proved impossible.  It simply didn’t recognise it as a place and tried to send me to St Davids in Scotland, various St David’s Roads or other places and, in the end, the only way I could do it was by adding ‘Cathedral.’  Then, it so happened that we were driving in the vicinity when we were in Pembrokeshire, so we took a short detour and went there, which reminded me to do a bit more searching about on the map app.

And it’s pretty awful.  For a start, when you put in a place name, you’d think that the town, city or even village that you type in would be the first place you’re offered.  It isn’t necessarily .  I typed in a local village just now.  To be fair, the village school was the first suggestion (and it’s nowhere near the centre of the village) but the place itself was fifteenth.  Lots of roads and a few businesses, some of them nowhere near the place, came before it.  I’ve typed several other place names and it seems quite random.  Sometimes, the village is first and sometimes a road leading there, often several miles away, comes before it.

Then, I tried searching for a route from one place to another.  This used to be an option.  For example, say I was planning to visit two separate friends, one after the other.  I know the way to each but not how to get from one to the other.  So I’d look for directions, not from here to point A but from point A to point B.  This had been straightforward, but not now – I haven’t worked out how to do it yet, if it’s possible at all.  It only offers me how to get somewhere from where I am already.

So I’ve downloaded a different map app onto my phone (which can be used offline, so is more useful anyway) and I went to leave a review on the Apple Map app.  But it isn’t possible to do so.  You can give feedback from within the app, but it’s not public.  I’ve a feeling they know it’s not very good.  But why, for heaven’s sake, make it worse than it used to be?