Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Amanda, Zoy's girlfriend, has been touring around Scotland and England for the past few months. For the last little while she has been living and working in London. Ian and Lindsey met up with her in August. Ian and Freyja met up with her in September. And now it is oh-so nearly time for her to head back to Ballarat.
And, of course, we couldn't possibly let her go without making her come and admire the delights of the Peak District. So she came up this weekend just gone. And the Peak District turned on some gloriously autumnal weather for her. It was misty and the trees were in full colour. Then the sun came out and the trees all glinted gloriously. We went out for a country drive, then fetched up in Bakewell for a wander around. And then we went into Sheffield via Hathersage to collect Freyja, who was also coming to our place for Saturday night. It is also possible that we may, quite by accident, of course, have possibly found ourselves in the Chatsworth farm shop, where we may have bought a wonderful carrot cake, and maybe some salady things for dinner. Maybe!
We had roast vegetable lasagne to go with the salady things. Freyja and Amanda helped to make the lasagne sheets. It was very delicious.
Sunday was pretty much devoted to food. The Builder and Amanda went to the allotment to collect the last of the peas and some corn. We had roast rib of beef with all the Sunday Roast trimmings (Freyja didn't have beef. She had a veggie alternative roast which tasted remarkably chicken-like). We had steamed chocolate pudding with ice cream left over from when Ian was with us. We had a proper red wine to wash it all down. We had good conversation and a merry time.
The The Builder took Amanda back to the station to go back to London, and Freyja back into Sheffield, and I stayed at home and made a start on the dishes. It was a fabulous Sunday. And I found the battery charger for my camera. I've been hunting for it for weeks. We have turned the house upside down and looked EVERYWHERE. On Sunday morning I found it sat under one of the spare dining room chairs. And I know it hadn't been there before, because not only had we looked there, but we had also hoovered there. I suspect Marlo of having hidden it!!
But we ought to have visitors more often. When visitors come, I pretty much deep clean the house. This is not to say it doesn't get cleaned when there are no visitors; it does, just not thoroughly and properly cleaned. And you don't count as a visitor if you are family and less than 10 years older than me, or if you have already been more than two or three times. On the rare occasions when people come who fall outside those categories, I pull out all the stops and dust the skirting boards and the irritating little ridges on the doors, and I scrub things that usually only get wiped down. So we need to organise real visitors perhaps three or maybe four times a year!! Amanda says she may be returning to the UK in the spring. She would still count as a visitor. She'll just have to come back!!!
I still have that irritating, low level cold. Sigh!
A busier week in prospect this week. More teaching than last week. But nothing like as daunting as it would have been without Caroline. My diary looks quite manageable when you take out the sessions that she is doing :-)
Monday, October 26, 2009
We started our feasting with a roast vegetable lasagne on Saturday evening.
Earlier in the day, I had roasted some onions, pumpkin, courgette, capsicum, garlic and some herbs and added some steamed shredded cabbage. Then I stirred it all into a bowl of light marscapone cheese and shoved it in the fridge until later. Amanda, Freyja and I made the lasagne sheets early in the evening, making the pasta very, very thin. It would never pass muster on Masterchef - the pasta was all holey. But we didn't care and it was certainly very light. And you can't see the pasta sheets once you put all the rest of the stuff on it, so holey doesn't matter!
We layered the cheesy vegetables and the pasta with pureed tomatoes and low fat mozzarella and baked it in a moderate oven until it was bubbling. Then I put some grated parmesan over the top and baked it until the cheese was golden. We had it with a mighty, mixed green salad and some white wine. It was an excellent introduction to a foodie weekend
This was the first trip out for my new pie/lasagne dish that we got in Salisbury last weekend
On Sunday we had a rib of beef with all the trimmings.
I sat the beef on a trivet of vegetables with some marjoram and a little red wine and put it into a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Then I turned it down to about 140 for a further hour or so.
A mixed vegetable trivet which will form the basis of the gravy
The meat sits on top to provide juices and tastiness to the gravy
When the beef came out to rest, I turned the oven up as hot as I could get it. Once it was hot, I put the Yorkshire pudding batter, which had been chilling in the fridge, into a pie dish which was smeared with oil and which had been heating in the oven. I took the vegetable trivet and put it in the blender together with some of the water the vegetables had been simmering in and the juices from the plate the meat had been resting on, and blended it down to a paste, which I pushed through a fine mesh strainer until I had a thickish liquid, which I then gently heated to form the gravy. And we ate it all with roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables and the Yorkshire pudding. Freyja had a veggie roast alternative and bog standard gravy. We must try to make a vegetarian friendly gravy next time.
Time to eat :
Wonderfully soft and melting beef. Alas, it wasn't all for me!
Another Yorkshire pudding successfully risen
The gravy never tastes the same two occasions in a row. It depends on how the vegetables and the meat intermingle. But it is always delicious.
Freyja's veggie alternative and the vegetables
We finished up with a steamed chocolate pudding, Jersey cream and a homemade vanilla ice cream. Magnificent autumnal food (although it's a bit mild for autumn food, really)
(The Builder was also around at the weekend. He was the Chief Eater and food taster, but didn't actively participate in the food preparation - apart from collecting the peas and corn from the allotment on Sunday morning)
Friday, October 23, 2009
We did extremely well for fruit, apart from cherries, which were OK but not as prolific as last year. But the gooseberries more than made up for it.
Monday, October 19, 2009
We had a very pleasant lunch in the Air Balloon en route.
Pottered about in Lakeland and in Dingham's (which is a tardis of a cook shop - it goes on for ever!!) and bought a lovely Le Crueset pie/lasagne dish which was £14 instead of nearly £30. Alas, Dingham's didn't have any of the bench top pizza ovens they had had when last I was in there. But that's OK. I'm sure I can get one of those from somewhere. We pottered about in town and then made our way out to The Swan @ Stoford, where we were given a warm welcome and a magnificent dinner, not to mention a wonderful Sunday breakfast.
Sunday was a lovely day so after breakfast we went and collected Gwen and took her for a drive out in the New Forest. We went to lots of places where she had lived when her boys were lads. A real memory trip. And we saw pigs and cows and ponies roaming around in the forest. But npot many deer. Don't know where they were. We headed back to The Swan for Sunday lunch and then took Gwen home again and made our way in an orderly manner back to Tupton.
So really it was a very quiet weekend. Except it was a quiet Salisbury weekend, rather than a quiet At Home weekend. Which is fine by me. I like Salisbury almost as much as I like Home.
For the last few weeks I have had a low level, persistent and irritating cold. This was made all the more irritating at the weekend by the sudden onset of out-of-season hayfever :-( My eyes itched, my nose ran and I sneezed and sneezed and sneezed and sneezed. I think it might have been caused by dust and seeds. Our local farmers are still harvesting something and it is certainly very dusty. But I wish the irritating cold would go away!!
Time for coffee and then make a proper start to the week. It's not a bad week in prospect, this one. Not too many teaching sessions, some quite interesting things in the diary (like interviewing for a research project I seem to have become involved in, employing students to create a web resource for first years), general pleasantness. And I am getting used to bringing myself in and out of work. It allows for rather more flexibility than I had when The Builder was coming too. I might not come in until late on Wednesday!!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Although - I’m not sure how long he will remain retired. He seems quite happy at the moment, pottering about in the house, messing about on the Internet, digging in the garden, organising the allotment. But I do wonder how long it will be before he gets bored being at home all the time on his home (alas, I can’t retire. The very suggestion would cause the bank manager much mirth indeed!). Also, how long before we notice the missing boozing and cruising money. We shall see.
In the meantime, it was quite nice to head home at lunchtime on Friday and to have a peaceful afternoon messing about and not doing anything very significant.
Come to that, we spent most of Saturday messing about and not doing anything very significant either.
And, more or less, Sunday as well.
It is true that we ate well. A lovely lunch at The Nettle on Saturday. Very nice chicken noodle soup on Saturday evening. A super slow roasted piece of brisket on Sunday evening. We had a really nice New Zealand merlot with the brisket.
We did a bit of shopping and a bit of gardening and a bit of not-very-much. I made some cup cakes and an apple pie which would never have passed by the dragon on Professional Masterchef who stands between the contestants and Michel Roux Jr (who is standing in for John Torode who I believe is playing with the Australian Masterchef). But back to my pie. It wouldn’t have got past her because the pastry was very, very short so naturally didn’t roll properly, so I laid it out in patches. Not Michelin star appearance at all. But tasted wonderful. However, this should probably be on the food blog!
I think the most exciting thing over the whole weekend happened on Sunday morning. The Builder had headed up to the allotment to collect a few things, and to organise the delivery of some cow manure . Marlo was asleep on our bed. I had gone down to hang some washing out down at the bottom of the garden. I came back up and into the house, leaving the back door open to let some air in, it being a pleasant, sunny day. As I walked into the dining room I thought: that’s a funny noise. I wonder what it is. It seemed to be coming from the lounge room. So I wandered in to investigate. And found, fluttering up against the window, clearly trying to get to the trees across the road – a robin!
The only other times I’ve been in a house with a bird inside it, the bird has been completely hysterical, crashing off the walls and windows. The robin wasn’t hysterical at all. It moved to sit on the bookcase while I went to the window and started to move things off it. It then moved to the other bookcase while I opened the window as wide as it would go. Then it watched me as I moved out the way. Eventually it decided that it had had enough of sitting on the bookcase – and flew out the window. No hysteria at all! But it’s just as well that Marlo was up asleep on the bed. He has never shown any interest in catching birds – but he might not have been entirely delighted to find one making free of the lounge room! I assume the robin had come in through the back door, which I had left open while I was hanging out the washing. But it had done well to navigate its way through to the lounge room window. Thru the back of the kitchen into the dining room, then under the ironing which was hung in the doorway and in the archway into the front room. Not bad going at all for a first time visitor!
And that was it. The most exciting thing that happened all weekend!
Longer working week this week. Lots of teaching – though much less daunting than last year when I had to do all the sessions myself; this year I have Caroline to help :-) . But, I have, of course, also lost my lift to and from work. It is certainly not the green and conservation-minded option but I have a discount pass for the cheesegrater car park which lets me park all day for £3, and it’s cheaper to pay for parking and diesel than to pay the bus and train fares so I’ve been coming in in The Vixen. This will probably work quite well until The Builder decides to get rid of Oscar when I’ll need to re-think. I’m quite enjoying driving in and out – but I do miss my reading time. I’ll just have to start listening to my Japanese tapes instead
PS - much later
That's the second fire alarm today. Second evacuation of the building. Added complication this afternoon was the presence of a wheelchair user on the level I'm on. Still, at least that meant I got to park him in the more-or-less fireproof staff pod and go up the back stairs to alert security to his presence. Otherwise we shepherd the able-bodied students out the emergency stairs and end up on Pond Street and it's an around a city block walk to get back to the front door! Going up the back stairs more or less delivers me to the front door. But I think that might be enough practising our evacuation techniques for today!
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
We decided that I would take the Vixen into town a little later than The Builder leaves, park in the Cheesegrater (where I have a discount card for daily parking), deposit Ian in the Adsetts Centre and then escort him to the station to take a train to Manchester, with perhaps a little lunch first.
That would have worked quite well. Except that it meant that Monday evening was going to be uncomfortably busy for Ian, what with feasting, putting together a submission for some funding and then trying to pack a house worth of stuff into two suitcases.
So Plan B. Ian defers the packing to Tuesday morning, takes a taxi to the Chesterfield station, a train to Sheffield, then I meet him at the station for a small spot of lunch before he trundles to Manchester and I go back to work. Taxi to be called for half an hour before the train.
Except that I began to worry that if the taxi turned up late and there was lots of traffic and there was a long queue at the station, then Ian would miss his train. Allow 45 minutes.
So he did. And the taxi turned up on time, there was no traffic and no queue at the ticket office. Ian caught the train before the one he was intending to catch. So I took a very early lunch (having had a successful goals and objectives setting meeting with Peter earlier in the morning). But can anyone tell me why we decided to go to Burger King when we could just as easily have gone to Upper Crust or one of the coffee shops and had a pricey but proper sandwich and some real coffee? The Burger King steak sandwich was perfectly pleasant – but it didn’t half astonish my digestive system which doesn’t expect to be fed quite so much fat, sugar and salt in one sitting!!
Ian caught his train, made his way to Manchester, checked in (alas, no First Class upgrade, which he had asked to exchange his Frequent Flier points for, but also no excess baggage charges) and settled in to wait for his flight. I went back to the office.
I am happy to report that Ian got his upgrade when he got to Heathrow and checked onto his flight to Melbourne. He’s now flapping his wings good and hard on his way back home.
In the meantime, I got up this morning, rocked around and got everything ready for the day.
Hopped in to Oscar as The Builder was leaving for work, as is my normal practice. Got a few yards up the road and The Builder asked if it didn’t happen to be Wednesday. It is Wednesday, although I had been proceeding in a Tuesday kind of way. If it’s Wednesday, I should be in the Vixen and taking myself into Sheffield. It’s Japanese day! I got out of Oscar, went home again, grabbed the car keys and brought myself in. Just as well The Builder thought of it. It would have been something of a challenge getting home from Broomhill at 9pm!
Time to dig out the autumn gloves and a light scarf. It was quite nippy this morning (though beautifully sunny :-) )
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Homemade pumpkin and fromage frais ravioli in a pumpkin broth with a little flaked parmesan to start with.
Ian did roasted pork belly pieces for the main course, with roasted potatoes and onions and steamed carrots and peas. The veg was all from the garden and allotment
Then Ian got up and we trundled off to Chatsworth. It was our plan to create a magnificent, three course feast for the evening. Ian was in charge of the main course and wanted to seek inspiration at the Chatsworth butcher’s counter. Eventually, after much deliberation, he selected some belly pork. We acquired other delicacies to add to the feast and trundled back home again. It was a lovely autumn morning, a touch on the crisp side, fitful bursts of sunshine, misty strips hanging over the valleys . A pleasure to have the day off and to be able to admire it.
The Builder, of course, didn’t have the day off. However, those who are about to be made redundant are entitled to a half day off each week to seek for other jobs. The Builder took this afternoon, not so much to seek other jobs as to play with Ian and me. Freyja was also available for playing purposes; she doesn’t go back to work until tomorrow. So The Builder dropped by her place and brought her to Tupton and we all headed off in search of lunch. Alas, The Nettle is not open on Mondays. And nor is the Three Horseshoes, although we knew that. So we headed to the Old Poets’ Corner in Ashover, which The Builder and I have eaten in once before. It’s pub food, nothing exciting. But it’s good pub food. And they make their own, twice cooked chips which were absolutely wonderful. They also have multiple options for vegetarians, so Freyja had choices too. Even the wine choices, though not exciting, were more than adequate. Excellent.
We went for a stroll through the village after lunch, then headed back to The Sidings so Freyja could have her first cup of tea for the day (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Then The Builder and I took her home, then dashed back so I could continue preparing my bits of the feast .
We had a really good evening. Ian and I prepared a truly magnificent repast. We drank nice wine and engaged in good conversation.
Then The Builder and I went to bed, leaving Ian in charge of a submission he was writing for some funding, the coffee pot and the port bottle.
The Builder’s pay office is planning to pay all the people who are leaving on Friday all the moneys that are owed to them on Thursday. I think the leavers are firmly expecting that on Thursday evening, as they clock off, their bosses will say goodbye and thank you, thus giving them Friday free. I’m hoping that they won’t say that until lunchtime on Friday – thus giving me a lift in to work in the morning and a really good reason for asking to have the afternoon off!!!
Some horrid person has nicked Taffa's bike. This is something of an inconvenience because (a) she now needs to buy a new bike and bikes do not come cheap, and (b) it takes an hour to walk cto work as opposed to a 20 minute or so bike ride. Hoever, she says that the thief who took it didn't know what they were letting themselves in for. She says the bicycle has been something of a death trap lately and has seriously had it in for her. I think she will be glad of an excuse to get a new bike. Once she has saved up the dosh
Monday, October 05, 2009
Anyway. He’d finished his work in London and made his way to somewhere in the depths of the countryside near Ely, where lives his mate Tom in an ancestral pile he inherited (somewhat to his surprise, I think) a few years ago, thus necessitating a rather sudden relocation from Australia. It has to be said that the house is magnificent. And their gundog puppy one of the shyest, most hesitant dogs I think I have ever met. She behaved as though she was expecting someone at any minute to throw her into a blender and turn it on!
So, after a somewhat hasty Saturday morning, The Builder and I leapt into The Vixen and made our way down to Ely to collect him, leaving behind Tabitha and Gareth’s tent, not to mention all the stuff they left at hour place when they went home in August. Sigh!
We rocked in at about lunch time, terrified the dog, relieved Tom and his wife Marina of a large bag of apples, captured Ian and went into Ely for a small spot of lunch.
The Kings Arms, where we went for lunch about a year ago, seems to have changed hands and doesn’t seem to be doing food any more. So we went to The Lamb instead and had a magnificent lunch – but being mindful that we had a booking at Loch Fyne in the evening, so taking care not to overindulge!
On to Cambridge, and a pleasant stroll into town, followed by a mini-pub crawl. We were extremely lucky with the weather. The only rain we saw was a short but very sharp downpour, while we were in the Anchor and able to watch the rain bouncing on the river without ourselves getting in the slightest bit wet!
Loch Fyne was lovely. I was a touch surprised that our hot and cold platter to share only had hot mussels and clams – I had expected a mix of hot and cold prawns and lobster as well. But it was nevertheless a magnificent platter. It looked much like a seafoody wedding cake! And I was extremely impressed when I asked for a box or a bag or something to take home the oyster, scallop and clam shells I had saved for my collection in the bathroom – they gave me a proper, sturdy plastic box with lid and everything. It now has a whole new life as a fridge container at The Sidings. Today it has left over pumpkin and fromage frais mash snuggled in it. And I don’t think it was all that expensive, either, when you consider that it is a seafood restaurant, and 5 of us had three courses, and coffee and were not abstemious in the alcohol department.
We took a taxi back to Alex Wood Road :-)
Sunday gave lots of options. The most popular option (lunch in the pub in Fen Ditton) wasn’t actually available because all the tables in the restaurant were booked until 4pm, which was a bit late for us, and we didn’t want to risk there being a table on the patio. So what to do. It’s the start of the new academic year (tomorrow, apparently, according to the University Calendar) , so the pubs in the city centre were likely to be full of young people with their parents.
Somewhere out in the country then.
We ended up going beyond Milton to a pub which had been catching Tabitha and Gareth’s eye for sometime. It advertised a Sunday carvery. Sunday carveries can be a bit hit or miss, but it’s usually worth giving them a go – even if only once. However, it was much too early for lunch when we set out. So we called at the Old Rectory farm shop and bought bread rolls and biscuits and rabbit stuff for Bricknell and Henny and eggs and all sorts of yummy and useful things. We patted the donkeys’ soft, soft ears and admired the pigs and the trout lake.
Then we went to Denny Abbey, which was once a monastery, then a convent and then a farm mansion and is now in a state of disrepair. It is, nonetheless, a magnificent building and the grounds house an interesting farming life museum. We have been before (well, not Ian). Last year, we called in when they had some sort of festival on, but the weather wasn’t as good and we didn’t really potter around as much.
Ian, Tabitha and Gareth indulged in a bottomless coffee pot AND Victoria Sponge. At midday. Before lunch!!!!
I nearly caused an international incident! I was typing a text message to Tabitha which said: “In the gift shop looking at things. Lunch time! Time to go.” Which is all very well and would have been perfectly meaningful to Tabitha. Except that I oh-so, oh-so nearly sent it to Tony instead, which might easily have puzzled him quite a bit!!!
We enjoyed the carvery. It was a fine Sunday lunch. Possibly not worth making a special trip for, but easily acceptable if you happen to be at Denny Abbey at lunchtime on a Sunday. Next time, though, I want to try the Lazy Otter. Except that next time is likely to be my birthday weekend when I intend to have a Sunday Lunch table booked well in advance at The Plough in Fen Ditton!
We abandoned Tabitha and Gareth and headed home. We didn’t need much in the way of food in the evening, having eaten magnificently all weekend, so I decided to make some onion and mushroom soup and to have that with grated parmesan and with warmed garlic bread. The Builder was surprised to find garlic bread. He didn’t realise that I’d bought any. And indeed, I hadn’t. I made it with our own garlic and some of the bread rolls from the Old Rectory. I hesitate to blow my own trumpet – but that soup was every bit as magnificent as the other stuff we’d been eating over the weekend. Not that I’ll ever be able to duplicate it. I made it with ham stock from the freezer and the left over sauce from Friday’s beef and ale stew.
Tabitha and Gareth had a new housemate. Her name’s Magda and she hails originally from Poland. I do hope she won’t mind that I accidentally used her milk and her olive spread while we were there. I had failed to think that some of the food would probably be hers!