Thursday, 14 March 2013

March 14th - Most of my eggs in one basket

Dear Nigel,

Mothering Sunday was a fair success here I'd say.

For one, I managed to get 6 out of 7 over here and in the same place at the same time. Son no.2, Christopher, gets excused on grounds that he works for a Swiss Bank in Frankfurt (and has very kindly booked the two of us into a Day Spa when he comes home in May).

2. We managed to go out for lunch without either the older ones provoking each other into an argument or the younger ones taking the place apart ( - other people's children are always so much better behaved I find).

3. Despite the fact that two of them had moaned about 'Mum always taking us to a National Trust place', and me having promised that we would do something different this time; and then changing my mind and booking lunch at The Manifold Tearoom (National Trust Ilam) anyway ( - because the food is nice and such good value and they won't mind the little ones colouring on their tables); they all went in good spirit. That's success.

You have been enlarging on your Surf and turf success from the Simple Cooking series on BBC1 by making a similar dish to the trout and parma ham, but this time using salmon and bacon. This is most fortuitous as I have just bought both for the weekend. I keep my lemon thyme complete in little sprigs in a little lock'n'lock box in the freezer, along with most of my other herbs, for that occasion when none is available in the garden. Today is a case in point as we are snow-pocked again. Not sure what herbs are up yet anyway but I did spot some chives the other day (though it's anyone's guess where to start digging).

Salmon is always such a simple and well-received supper and rarely requires much work. This recipe for 'Bacon-wrapped salmon' (page 114) takes no more than a couple of minutes to prepare and fifteen minutes to cook. As I seem to spend so much of my time as a taxi driver it is good to have suppers like this one that I can get on the table very quickly after we get back. Tomorrow's dinner sorted.

I have been using a lot of leeks lately. They are so good at this time of year, and easy, accommodating vegetables, particularly baked in some kind of creamy sauce. So I'm very pleased that you are offering another new alternative to the chicken and leek pie I have planned for the weekend. It is a Leek and mushroom pie with skin-on mash (page 116) with a whole host of my favourite things - tarragon, creme fraiche and dry Marsala. I came across a wonderful local farmer near Ashbourne who has a mushroom farm and visits many of my local farmers markets. I also bought some wild Scottish porcini which were the only mushrooms they had imported, but these have long since been gobbled up in a simple omelet, so I'll be going back for more.

I am reading your description of The Great Banana Debate. ( I believe I have made similar points myself at some point in an earlier letter.) I'm glad you have also noticed the degree to which the point of ripeness of the  Banana is of HUGE significance to half the human race. Certainly in this house it is a big issue. We like our bananas almost the green side of under-ripe. Because of this I have a freezer full of chopped banana (deemed too ripe by the family yet no where near remotely brown) which I use frozen with strawberries to make wonderful smoothies. I also have a particularly naff looking yellow duvet bag from Lakeland, which actually works, to keep bananas from ripening in the fridge (and has its uses for those of us who are not able to pop to the shops every other day.

Before I turn the page I try and guess which camp you will be in and am almost relieved (although why I don't know as this is ridiculous) that you favour the crisp, almost under ripe banana. I feel almost vindicated, having been virtually chastised for years for not eating a 'properly ripe' banana. Therefore there must be something wrong with me and my taste buds. No.

So you provide the perfect recipe for all those overripe bananas: 'Nigel's chocolate muscovado banana cake'. According to monumental Twitter activity, this cake 'trended'. So I am probably arriving at it a bit late to be trendy. Thank god. It is still on page 119 and I predict it will become a well-thumbed page in this house, too. I hate waste and the compost bin is getting more than its fair share of forgotten and unloved bananas. I did try some banana biscuits last week but I think the recipe was a little hard ( sorry Miranda Gore Browne - they would have been better as shaped biscuits but you said fork biscuits would be alright - I beg to differ). The kids were not particularly impressed - so I'm thinking of turning them into a topping for an apple crumble instead.


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