Tuesday, 11 February 2014

E is for 'Eat' and Expand

Dear Nigel,

OK, so it's been one of those sorts of days; best laid plans and all that out of the window....Had to take the dog to the Vet for an operation, got caught in a really bad sudden snow blizzard on the top road going to Buxton, avoided swerving buses and visibility down to 20 mph, decided to cancel my appointment in case the school should close, marinated the lamb, went back to fetch the dog (convenient hour to marinade), forgot leaf coriander to sprinkle, decided it wasn't worth the 20 mile round trip again; and made a bit of a hash of it all in the frying pan. ('Lamb with yoghurt and Turmeric' pg 103.) This one doesn't quite come up to standard, at least my version doesn't. On the plus side, my guest and I still wolfed it down. With the lights turned down low and a bit of artful presentation of the rice, it passed muster.

The frying pan hash was entirely my own fault. Had I added perhaps just a little more groundnut oil, heated it a little more and left the lamb steaks to make a golden crust of the marinade for a little while longer then things would have been fine. But I had to meddle, didn't I; try to turn it just a little too early and so end up with a nice layer of burnt yoghurt on the bottom of the pan, which of course would no longer fry the steaks. We live and learn; or rather we most likely live to make the same mistake over and over again until we finally pluck up the courage to do things properly. (Never said I was a good cook, just an average person in the kitchen who likes to dally now and then.)

Having said that, I think I will be making this one again, and soon. There's far too much doing things with chicken in this house, and, although you say that this recipe can also be used with chicken, personally I will completely ignore that idea as the dish was wonderful with lamb steaks and the meat and the marinade balanced each other so well. I've done similar things to a chicken before, but lamb...well, it just tastes somehow a bit more authentic. It makes me realise just how few different cuts of meat I usually buy. It's so easy to get stuck in the same routine, buy the same things, make the same meals. And lamb is all around us (at least it certainly is round here, although the spring lambs aren't being born quite as yet).

This sudden shower of snow was a bit of a surprise. It's been mud, mud, mud up till now. My older daughter Hannah came over for the weekend, arriving in a dinky pair of beige suede boots. You'd think she'd know by now. I suggest going for a walk and it turns out we can't walk anywhere at all because we don't have walks that don't involve mud. (Too much city life and it's gone to her head.) So we headed into Bakewell where they have things called pavements, and cafes where you don't have to do any walking at all.

The most amusing part was kitting her out for an imminent sponsored trek up Snowdon with her dance group (much to my total amazement). Bakewell is blessed with more outdoor pursuits shops than people under the age of 60. Seeing Hannah posing in the mirror, trying to see if she still looked chic in a pair of plastic trousers doubled me up. The boots, which I think she was hoping to get for a tenner, were apparently the wrong colour and didn't have stiletto heels. Still, daughter and hard-earned cash were parted in the end and we left the store with success. I suggested she might actually want to use her new boots with us occasionally. She snorted. Clearly these boots aren't made for walking...

Getting back to the subject of 'EAT', which I was just getting to, I would just like to say how much I'm enjoying all the recipes in this book. Maybe I'm getting a bit lazy these days but so often when I'm thumbing through some of my old books I find I'm looking rather than cooking. Things which I remember sweating over for hours before friends came for dinner I'm simply refusing to make anymore, particularly fancy stuff that ends up looking ever so slightly pretentious; like you've tried too hard. I was watching some sort of dinner party dustoff, a supposedly 'reality' TV programme with Hannah the other week, and it made me realise how much we've all mainly moved on from that. I'm sure there's still a fair bit of it around but among the lovers of 'good food' that I know there is much more of a culture of informality and almost nakedness to food, exposing flavours rather than covering them up.


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