Saturday, 25 May 2013

May 22nd - Rhubarb rhubarb and Life's too short to stuff a sardine

Dear Nigel,

The cool, damp weather has ran amok in the garden and meadows behind the cottage. The wild flowers  - so Laura Ingalls Wilder circa. 1970's TV- which stole our hearts in the meadows last year, have yet to materialise (if they're going to bother at all this year). The Peonies refuse to flower; only the Rhubarb is flourishing and needs picking.

You are making a wonderful recipe for 'Rhubarb with butterscotch sauce' ( page 206), working on making a sauce 'to sweeten poached or baked rhubarb that doesn't involve making custard yet retains something of its nannying vanilla sweetness'. The rhubarb is simmered gently before the residue heated with light muscovado sugar, double cream and vanilla extract to make the sauce. 'It results in a sauce whose first notes are of butterscotch with an underlying one of rhubarb....A recipe of certain harmony.' I will have to have a go at this one because my repertoire in the rhubarb department is fairly limited, at best.

My favourite recipe of yours at the moment is your 'Aubergine, thyme and feta tart' (page 212) made with a sheet of bought puff pastry. I find the blocks of frozen puff pastry in the supermarket one of the most useful standbys to have in my freezer at home. Things always seem to look more impressive. The lovely thing about this dish is that the tart covers the whole baking sheet and feeds six easily. The salting of Aubergines is, thankfully, a thing of the past ( along with stuffing mushrooms, according to Shirley Conran) as ' most aubergines we buy have had that bitterness bred out of them.' And I'm with you on the olive oil front: 'Without olive oil, an aubergine has little to say.' The creamed aubergine is a nice base for the tart, giving a bit more substance to the lovely topping of feta, thyme and aubergine slices.

There is more of a summer feeling going on in your garden and you eat it at the garden table with a tomato salad dressed in olive oil and basil leaves. Lucky you. We are simply waiting for Summer to arrive. I am looking hopefully at barbecues and wondering whether I can be a woman in a man's world. (Seems crazy to have got to this age and hardly ever been allowed to get within three feet of one.) I am enticed by a man with a Landrover and a 30ft Airstream conversion, and the hard-sell is winning me over...

Life may be too short to stuff a mushroom, but it is also too short to stuff a sardine according to you: 'There is a well-known stir-up of breadcrumbs and aromatics traditionally used by Sicilians as a stuffing for sardines called beccafico...As much as the filling appeals in theory, I am not the sort of cook to stuff a sardine.' The combination of ingredients, though - olive oil, raisins, crisp crumbs, finely chopped parsley and anchovies - has other possibilities; and today it is scattered over lamb cutlets - a kind of upmarket chicken dipper? if you will. Served with a simple salad of lettuce hearts and green olives in their oil.

I am grilling slices of Halloumi cheese dusted in the Moroccan spice mix Ras El Hanout which, I have to admit, came in a little jar from Waitrose. It contains all the usual suspects - coriander, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon - but also lavender flowers, rose petals and mace ( which is the outside of the nutmeg). And I am contemplating fasting. Not on religious grounds, mind. I have been reading Dr Michel Mosley's book on 'The fast diet', about the current fad for 5:2 intermittent fasting. Only it seems to make sense where other diets don't.

We all want something that works - and this diet seems to be something that the medical profession have taken to heart and implemented on a very person level - but that also doesn't take the enjoyment out of food and eating. Traditional diets seem to change the whole way we view food and make the undesirable more desirable than ever. As Michael Mosley says,'(with fasting) the psychological impact of not being denied is huge; it frustrates what's known as the "disinhibition effect" - a paradox in which designating certain foods "off limits" makes us likely to eat more of them.'

I suspect that your relationship with food is on a more even keel than mine. I'm still learning that less is more. And I wouldn't contemplate buying low calorie, or fat-free, or sugar-free anything because I want to use real ingredients and would rather eat less of them instead. Preparing good food with love and care seems to help enormously in this respect.


1 comment:

  1. I find practice mindfulness when eating helps me slow down and enjoy the food.