Friday, 16 March 2012

March 16th - self-destruct basil and hats with ear holes

Dear Nigel,

I gave in to my inner kitsch and came back from my shopping trip with a striped tea cosy with a pom pom on top and the union jack knitted into its side. There was, partly, a practical angle to my purchase, in that my morning starts with half a pint of hot water and lemon, then a pint of tea. Then a further pint of tea, then a pint of coffee; by that time we've nearly reached eleven o'clock anyway. Obviously slowing down a bit, i was partaking of that disgusting habit of warming up my lukewarm tea in the microwave. So, all well and good; except for the fact that the cosy no longer makes it to the teapot. My four year old, Molly, prefers to eat her breakfast wearing it on her head. She's particularly impressed with the holes in the sides for her ears to stick out of.I'm prepared to say nothing about it as long as she is prepared to carry on eating and not engage me in meaningful (or -less) conversation, depending on how you view it.

Sensing  the first few rays of Spring sunshine this week, i plonked a couple of pots of Basil from the supermarket on the windowsill. These, i ought to remember from experience, are very demanding little plants, who need to be watered every day or they die on you. The one day you forget, the little beggars have keeled over lifeless, and only the day before you were planning to make that little Italian number with "large handfuls of hand-torn Basil leaves". I suspect that this  is a clever ploy on the part of the supermarkets to keep their shelves forever rotating. I sometimes remember to pick up my Basil plants in garden centres or nurseries, and these plants always have a considerably longer shelf-life and are less high-maintenance. One teenager in the house is quite enough, thank you.

Most of my fresh herbs very quickly make it into the freezer, often still attached to their stalks. I rub the leaves off or chop them from frozen and they work well that way. I have a double hachoir which i love for chopping, but i have also lately bought a nifty little pair of scissors with five blades which makes short work of herbs like fresh chives.

Sometimes food still has the power to suprise you. I was making some spinach and coconut soup this week, which i assumed was going to be some kind of take on a green Thai curry given that it contained coconut milk and green chilli. When i first tasted it i thought 'oh no, not hot enough, needs more chilli'. But then i tasted again and i realized to my suprise that this was a perfectly rounded, thin green soup; and the chilli, though present, was unobtrusive. It acted in much the same way as ground pepper, to lift but not dominate. And the taste was not Thai in any way.

I see a change in heart in your way of viewing the world, too. One day you 'feel we have reached the bottom of the cook's year'...and 'the shops have never looked less inspiring'. Then a couple of days later, with a few more therms on the mometer, and everyone seems to be welcoming summer with open arms - cafe tables on the pavements, cats on hot flagstones, bodies lazing in the parks. You tempt fate in a short-sleeved shirt and smoked mackerel for a salad. The day cools, as it inevitably does ( - but which of us isn't prepared to be the eternal optimist when it comes to summer -) and you end up using it on toast with cream and cheese, and a light salad of fennel, lemon and parsley.A moveable feast. Summer will come, i promise.


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