Monthly Archives: March 2017

Z can never deny being obsessed with food. Which isn’t necessarily the same as being greedy….or am I?

We don’t generally go out for dinner in the evening, but we regularly eat lunch out.  There are a few reasons for this – the first is that there are several nice coffee/lunch/tea places around here that simply aren’t open in the evening.  The second is that we rather like cooking and take quite a lot of care over our meals.  We don’t take it in turns to cook but sometimes Tim does, sometimes I do and sometimes it’s a joint effort.  I’d have to think quite hard which of these happens most often.  A third reason is, of course, that it’s nice to have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and one of us would have to forego the pleasure because of driving home.  Yet another is that eating out in the evening seems to be an occasion that requires more food than we really want to eat – one course is fine at lunchtime but it doesn’t quite do ‘an occasion’ justice, or so it seems to me.  But today’s reason was slightly different, because the Aga had been turned off last night, preparing for its annual service today and it wasn’t even warm enough to heat up the rest of yesterday’s celery soup.

As I said, there are a number of good places to eat lunch – coffee shops plus food, restaurants and pubs – within a few miles, but we like to try out a new place when we hear about it: and I had.  It’s not a new pub by any means, but the landlordship had changed not long ago and I’d heard good things from a few people who had tried it.  And it was a pleasure.  But our fish and chips and my cheesecake and LT’s ice cream filled us up for the rest of the day and neither of us really wanted dinner, even several hours later.  Such lightweights we are, darlings.  And I simply poached some new-laid eggs and served them on toast.

Over dinner, we discussed the cooking of simple egg dishes – that is, poached, boiled, scrambled, fried and as omelettes.  We agreed that how they’re cooked dictates the minimum number of eggs involved.  So a single boiled or poached egg makes a perfectly good breakfast or light lunch, but a single scrambled egg is a dismal mouthful; a mere sample. One fried egg is fine but it really needs something else with it – mushrooms, bacon, tomato, whatever you like – we’re being fairly moderate here, not aiming for the Full English.  A boiled egg is allowed soldiers of course and poached and scrambled may have toast, but an omelette doesn’t need toast and a one-egg omelette is pretty well impossible to cook.  I suggested that it could be done as a soufflé omelette – that is, separate the yolk from the white, whisk the white separately and then cook it in butter.  You couldn’t do toast with it but a spoonful of jam or a grating of cheese would fill the bill.  Otherwise, two or three eggs are absolutely necessary.

But in truth, the perfect breakfast, for me, is one newly-laid egg, poached and served on a small slice of buttered toast, with tea or coffee and the juice of a freshly-squeezed orange.  It cannot be beaten and I don’t want to eat anything more all morning.  It absolutely must be a fresh egg though, anything more than three days – which is pushing it – and it’s better cooked another way.

Z is on the High Cs. Sort of.

I was sound asleep at 5 o’clock this morning, but LT wasn’t and nor was Eloise cat, and she was the culprit.  She was chasing a mouse – I don’t know whether this was a very stupid house mouse or one that she had caught outside, brought in and dropped, but she managed to dispose of it, after some excited running around.  So Tim got up to put it in the bin.  I reluctantly and slowly became aware of him leaving the room, returning, leaving again and then coming back to bed.

That was the end of the night’s sound sleep, we dozed on and off after that.  And Eloise cat came back to greet us about 8 o’clock, when we were contemplating getting up, walked across Tim and onto the table to drink from her glass of water.  A few minutes later, I heard a tumbling, flapping sound.

“I think a bird has fallen down the chimney.” Tim thought it might have been Eloise, who was jumping on and off the chaise longue and the chest  of drawers but, a few minutes later when she’d gone downstairs with him, I heard more flapping.

The chimney pot is very tall, about six foot and it’s tempting for birds to sit on.  But birds are not always as gracefully agile as they give the impression of being and it’s not that unusual for one to lose its footing and tumble.  Once in the very wide chimney, they can’t manage to fly up the chimney pot and get out.  There’s a board in front of the fireplace, as it would be extremely draughty otherwise (a working fireplace in the bedroom is absolutely lovely, but impractical even from my romantic viewpoint) and a chest of drawers in front of that.

We were lucky though.  After breakfast, we went up and shifted the chest of drawers, pulled away the board and, rather than the pigeon I expected to see, there was a rook.  It could have been a crow but it looked like a rook to me.  We’d drawn all but one curtain and opened a window.  It swooped around the room a few times, having a false start by thinking the cheval mirror was open space, and then flew away.

The rest of the morning was less eventful.  Stevo has finished roofing the shed and made a start on replacing missing boards from the sides.  We had the celery soup I made yesterday for lunch and then met Roses and Lawrence in Norwich to hear a concert.  The star turn was Emma Johnson, playing the world premiere of a concerto by Patrick Hawes, which was very fine and whose showiness I can never aspire to play.  It ended on the top note that can be played on the clarinet, the highest C, which I used to know how was played, but I’m not sure if I ever hit it myself.  The composer was in the audience and took a bow, of course – I’ve been to at least three premieres with the composer present, I always think how absolutely magical it must feel to have your composition performed in public for the first time.

So a day that started somewhat jaggedly is ending well.  A gin and tonic is in front of me, as well as some rather nice Spicy Peas from the Exotic Supermarket.  Duck breast with sprouting broccoli and mushrooms for dinner, and the Aga is having its annual service tomorrow.  So the ducks seem to be lining up nicely at the Zedary.

Z nearly went round the bendy

I paid three insurance policies today – nearly £1200 that I hope is money down the drain, i.e. that I won’t have to call on them.  It was a frustrating and long drawn out experience that I won’t bore you with and I had a headache by the end.  So the day had to get better and it did.

  • I hardboiled some eggs and LT made a lovely salad for lunch.
  • I made celery soup.
  • The peas, broad beans and radishes are all up.
  • We planted early potatoes – outside, that is.  I planted them in bags in the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago.
  • The bantams were more cheerful today than they’ve been for ages.  They must finally be over the shock of the dog attack and they’re ready for spring.  They’re laying three or four eggs a day, which is quite a lot to keep up with, though at least they’re small eggs.  I’d whizzed up some heels of cheese with bread in the food processor for them and they were very pleased.
  • The outdoor cats are catching their own food and I rarely see them except for Freddie, who comes to be friendly.  But this evening, Barney and Betty were there too, so I was pleased.

Now I only take one newspaper a day – sadly, the local daily, which has always been excellent, isn’t any longer.  I tried for several weeks after its revamp, but it’s unreadable.  I still take the very local weekly, which has adopted the same editorial policy,  and I will give you an example of a headline on page 3 – Campaign for 30mph speed limit on bendy stretch of road through centre of village.  There was a sub-heading – Villagers are campaigning for speed reductions on a bendy stretch of a Suffolk Road.  The article itself repeated the same information, just adding the village’s name and a few quotes.  It’s bemusingly badly written, it must be driving the good journalists to distraction, assuming there are still some of them there.

Z loves her chilli — how did the song go?

Today – and yesterday – we’ve mostly been making chilli relish.  We last made it at the end of the summer with our own jalapeños but we ate both Kilner jarsful (they’re the equivalent of Mason jars, if you are of the American persuasion) and we craved more.  So we bought a kilo of red chillies at the Exotic Supermarket and made two more batches.  We tried the first lot with cheese for lunch today, just in case the chillies were over- or under-heated and, although we know the flavours will develop and we should really let it mature a bit, it is so delicious that we were glad we didn’t resist.  Last night, I was out for supper with the book club girls and the Cyder Club’s latest batch of vinegar (which is actual vinegar, though telling the difference between that and the cider is a slightly dubious question) was praised.  So we went along with a jug and bottle this afternoon and the second batch has been made with 250 ml of home brew.

The next village is always an interesting place.  It’s got such a fabulous community, lots of events and social things going on all the time.  I used to be very involved there but drifted away rather, mostly because of other busyness.   But I’m less busy now and my friends are very keen to welcome LT into the social circle, so we’re engaging again.  And tomorrow, we’re going to a quiz supper – LT hits the high life here, he certainly knows he’s moved to the countryside.  But it’s fun, it’s friendly and we makeses our own entertainment in Norfolk.

I’ve washed many times, including the scrubbing of my hands with salt, but I’m still infused with chilli.  On the one hand, a lick of a finger is delicious but on the other, I daren’t touch my eyes or any other sensitive spot.  Is there a guaranteed way of eliminating chilli from the skin, does anyone know?  I’m just about to apply my best Jo Malone hand cream, in the hope of masking it somewhat.

Z can’t spell

Eloise cat has been very affectionate since we arrived home.  She’s not usually very demonstrative, though she likes to be close to us but she’s even been sitting on my lap, when it’s usually Tim’s she prefers.  The outside cats are evidently feeding themselves – only Freddie came to greet me this morning though his father, RasPutin, was surprised napping in their straw shelter.  Freddie only wanted a cuddle so Ras ate most of the breakfast and none of them was there when I went out this afternoon.  I put a little food down but if they’re living off the land it’s all to the good.

The old asparagus bed had become thoroughly overgrown and it was too old to bother to resurrect.  I asked Wince to rotovate it last week as it was really beyond digging.  I know there will be a lot of roots left but I’ve covered the whole bed with garden membrane, so that will keep down weeds to an extent.  I expect I’ll cut holes and plant squashes in there to use the ground and by next year it should be all right.  If you haven’t seen my vegetable garden, it’s got six long, narrow beds – the other, larger areas have been grassed over now as we don’t really need them.  I wasn’t sure how to spell rotovate, by the way – if it might be rotavate, neither looking quite right to me, and even t’internets seem to use either spelling.  So I don’t know and I can’t quite be bothered to fetch a dictionary.

Young Stevo has been great – he’s been demolishing an old play house which Al and Russell made for the children some years ago and has been able to use the tongue-and-groove back to mend the shed roof.  If the weather is fine tomorrow, he’ll add the roofing felt.  He’s working hard and I’m glad to have him back for a few weeks.  As for me, the extra work I’m doing in the garden is very good for me, in that I quite often sleep all night, for a change.  Which may indicate that I previously hadn’t been, of course.

This new advice to eat ten portions of vegetables every day.  How on earth do you do it?  It’s a substantial amount of each, you’re not *allowed* to count potatoes nor more than three helpings of fruit, nor a double amount of anything.  The other day, for instance, we both had a freshly squeezed orange at breakfast, Tim had some strawberries too and I had some lychees later.  Then we had bean salad for lunch.  I think the beans are allowed, then there was onion, red pepper, tomato, cucumber, garlic in the dressing – but relatively low amounts of each, once we’d shared, and we couldn’t manage the tinful of beans.  We had a Spanish omelette for dinner, which included more onion and red pepper, courgette and mushroom.  So allowing for quantities of each being relatively small but what we had at both meals adding up to one portion each, I still can’t make it more than five or six plus two helpings of fruit.  Yet it was a fairly veg-heavy, vegetarian day.  Yesterday was almost veggie (a little chorizo in the lunch menu) – leftovers for lunch plus more cucumber and tomato, egg curry for dinner which had a lot of onion and tomato in the sauce, but I can’t make it add up to more than six, even including our breakfast orange juice.  LT finished the strawberries, so he can have seven.  Today – I know I’m banging on, but this is really puzzling me – I made soup for lunch with leek, onion and potato; but we’re not able to count potato so that’s two plus oj so far.  We’ll add three more veg with our pork steaks this evening.  I’d count twenty portions in three days as okay, but the random number the health people guess and dictate gives it only two-thirds of what we should be having.  Bunging more fruit in would be easy, but that wouldn’t count because of the fructose.  As I said, potatoes don’t count, but please don’t suggest that the lovely first Jersey Royals we had the other night have less worth as a vegetable than a cucumber, which is mostly water.  We are naturally inclined to eat a good balanced diet and we don’t indulge in fads or take notice of temporary scare stories, but we do get tired of the absurdities.

Z is back, happily

We’ve been away at our other home and, whilst I could have blogged on my iPad, it doesn’t feel the same to me.  I’m evidently getting fussy in my old age.

We had a really good time and enjoyed the break.  LT goes down there frequently, the last few times I haven’t joined him for one reason and another, so it was three months since we went together.  We had various items to buy and things to do, I did a whole lot of dusting and hoovering, we washed and ironed, very domesticated.  And I have bought a whole kilo of red chillies at the Exotic Supermarket to make more pickle – the two jars I made with our surplus jalapeño peppers have been eaten already and it’s so delicious that we long for more.

The journey down was fine, though there was a major hold-up on the other carriageway on the motorway and we were sorry for those people who, at the end, were bowling along happily, not knowing they were going to be stuck in a jam for an hour or so in a few minutes.  But the way back was even better, we took 2 hours and 40 minutes door to door, which is a time that probably can’t be bettered.  Not legally anyway.

The leak in the kitchen hasn’t been entirely cured – as suspected, the drinking water tap that bypasses the rest of the system (which otherwise goes through the water softener) is also leaking.  LT turned off the cold water supply but unfortunately it’s the other side of that tap so it didn’t help.  Lovely Roses has been mopping up daily – it’s a drip not a flood.  But the cold water supply tap ceased to function when LT turned it back on again, so now we have no cold water and presumably the hot water tank isn’t filling up either, so we can’t use it all up.  I hadn’t quite appreciated that everywhere was cut off and nor had Tim so when I went for a bath, I put on the hot tap as usual, undressed, went to turn on the cold … at least in the kitchen there’s a dribble from the cold tap but nothing upstairs and the four inches of water in the bath was too hot to sit in.  I know, darlings, because I tried and I had to get out again, squeaking a bit.  Luckily, I noticed the hot water bottle that I’d put in Gus’s bed hadn’t been emptied and that couple of pints was just enough to make the bathwater bearable.

So LT went and filled buckets and watering cans from the outside tap and we’ve got jugfuls from the annexe, because Roses is unaffected (of course, we couldn’t have cut her supply off!), so we can flush the loos and clean our teeth and cook.  And our good friend who is a heating engineer and plumber is coming in the morning to put things right.  DV.

My friend Jan had a silly fall back some six months ago – needing to get out of bed in the middle of the night, she couldn’t find the lamp switch, got up and felt her way to the loo but stumbled and fell on the way back.  She fell against her bed and broke her upper arm and she’s still in a nursing home.  But she’s hoping to go home soon, finally.  So I’ve bought her a lamp that is activated by touch, so that should relieve her worry about needing to put on the light again.  Falling is potentially the worst thing that can happen when you’re getting on in years, I’m hardly of an age to worry and yet I do, rather, probably because of my clumsy awkwardness with my hip.  I am grateful every single day that I’m so well recovered.

The greenhouse seedlings are doing fine and the radishes in the garden are up.  So much coming into leaf and blossom, it makes me happy.

The chickens have been laying well in our absence and we had a lot of eggs when we got back.  So I made brownies – terribly decadent, but irresistible – and we had egg curry for dinner.  A very nice recipe actually, quite simple and quick to cook and the sauce would work well for a number of things.  One to bear in mind.