Having decided what we are having for dinner tonight - Lamb cutlets with mustard seed and coconut (page 167) - and shopped diligently, I am left looking at a cabbage. The recipe calls for 300g Savoy or other dark-leaved cabbage to accompany the cutlets. The crinkly-veined, dark skinned beauty and I regard each other with suspicion. Every time I pass on my way towards the fridge she is there, glowing. I haven't let cabbage pass my lips since....ooh, 1974 I think. The way that children do, I decided that I didn't like cabbage. And that was that. It's amazing how many plates of school dinners, posh dinner parties, close relatives, distant friends you can manage to avoid offending whilst still sticking to your code of 'those things which I do not eat'. But now the greatest test is questioning your own judgement; seeing whether the absolute decision of a nine year old child should still control the choices of a 48 year old woman. I'm hoping that a new way of cooking the said cabbage - in this instance it is to be shredded and fried in a little butter and/or oil - will provide new more pleasant memories.
I had to take Poppy to the Vet yesterday to have some stitches out. Ours is a large animal veterinary practice, primarily, serving most of the farms in our local area. So it wasn't surprising, really, to find two cartoon character farmers standing in front of me in the queue complaining about the new changes in the forms for TB testing and the tightening up of regulations. Did they want their heifers testing or didn't they? Well, that was a difficult one...The queue for open surgery was getting longer and longer. Big dogs and small dogs, all with uncanny resemblance to their owners, came in through the door. But rules is rules and the receptionist was having none of it - no doubt she'd heard it all many times before. How many heifers did they want testing now? Still no decision. You'd think some farmers had all the time in the world. She tried a different tack, played on the solidarity thing of other moaning farmers she had known. You could almost hear the cogs turning, thumb screws going on. They knew they were going to have to go through the hoops, like it or not. At what point we all wanted to know were they going to back down and grump off in their landrover back to the farm. The vet would be round before Friday and the cows scanned and tested she said. A dob of flat cap and out they marched in their wellies. The old vicarage (now the veterinary centre) breathed a collective sigh of relief and business resumed once more.
There is a wonderfully aromatic scent as I mix the spices into a paste with the coconut cream and roll the cutlets in it. I am looking forward to this dish. I am still unsure about the cabbage but decide that it will be fried in a fairly generous amount of butter and hopefully that will do the trick. There is always something else to be done whilst meat is marinading, and in this case it involves feeding the dog before she takes a liking to lamb cutlets. I find hiding it in the microwave prevents excavations of the canine/feline type. There is a lovely gentle warmth to the smell of the cutlets griddling in their sticky coating. In the end I find I want to keep all the sticky half-burnt marinade and chuck it on top as this has some of the best flavours. And as for the cabbage...well, it was really rather nice. And my guests agree too.
Kevin was out planting a new hedgerow this morning on the edge of the hill looking down the valley at the bottom of Old Eric's farm. It has the most amazing views but is also an exposed and windy spot. The winds of late have brought huge trees crashing down all over the place. Lots of old Oak trees and others with shallow roots loosened by the heavy rains and then blown over by the subsequent winds. Over at my friend Yuri's farmhouse a huge tree came down on their chimney a week or so ago. I arrive to pick her up for coffee and find lots of men with chain saws busy at work. It has cracked the end wall of the house and traumatised the children, who thought an aeroplane had hit the house. It is odd to see so many large old trees lying roots up in the air. When you look at how shallow their roots systems are to support such fine old specimens, it is amazing that they survived this long, I think. There will be plenty of good wood around for local craftsmen to work on anyway.