Friday, 6 January 2006

All sorts of stuff

Last night was ‘interesting’ I spent a lot of it dreaming of being in the desert, for a while I dreamt of fire other than that I shivered and messed about with various draw cords, velcro and zips in an attempt to stay warm. To be honest though I did not spend much time trying to keep warm as I have discovered that it doesn’t make much difference and so I just end up falling asleep and being generally aware of the fact that I’m not hugely warm. It is odd though, I spend all night feeling cold and the moment the alarm goes off suddenly I feel warm and comfortable and not in the slightest bit inclined to get up. Getting out of bed into the cold to get dressed is a bit like jumping into a cold river or lake on a cold day; it’s not something that you just do without thinking about it, it’s something that needs building up to or, if possible, avoided altogether. It is perhaps because of this that I’m always in a bit of a rush to get to the bus and often find myself having to run part of the way. This morning for instance I was bounding at a fairly good speed down a hill through the woods, I wasn’t running as such as it was dark and I have discovered that running through the woods in the dark is just an invitation to mishaps. Anyway, steep hill, heading downwards, good speed when all of a sudden a branch catapults up into my face. I don’t know what on earth can have caused a branch to have suddenly risen up to meet me before I got to it, I’m sure there has to be a logical explanation but at the time my curiosity was tempered by more pressing matters. The branch you see was the proud owner of a number of thorns two of which where attached to my nose, one to the outer side of my upper lip, two to the inside and one to my chin. I was still moving down the hill at some speed but somehow managed to stop almost immediately. I’m fairly sure I levitated like a cartoon character that does not realise it has walked of the edge of a cliff. On tip toe I removed the thorns from my face and carried on with a bit more caution. I made the bus on time, there was no traffic on the road and I was at work an hour early.

Who wants a rewind?

Back to yesterday then.

At the farmers market I bought some oak smoked garlic from the Garlic Farm Andy, the chap on the stall, wrapped from head to foot against the cold could not have been more enthusiastic about his product and made plenty of recipe suggestions. That’s something else I like about shopping at markets, people are largely passionate about what they sell and you don’t tend to get that in Tesco. The smoking process has turned the garlic skin a golden brown colour and the smell is amazing, kind of caramel and very rich. I also picked up some Guernsey milk and cheese from Hurdlebrook Herd from Olive Farm, Somerset. Best thing about this is that the milk is untreated and is thus full of flavour; we used to get untreated milk delivered to the door when I lived in Somerset so it was a pleasure to find this source. Both the Garlic Farm and Olive Farm attend the Notting Hill Farmers Market so I will be sure to visit there once is up and running again.

Butternut Squash and Oak Smoked Garlic Soup

About 1 lb of butternut squash peeled and cut into chunks.
Half a leek thinly sliced
One small onion diced
A pint of hot water
Chicken stock cube
Cream / top of the milk
Nutmeg – watch those fingers

Fry the onion and leek together until just turning brown then add the pumpkin and stir though. Pour on the water; add the stock cube (proper chicken stock would no doubt be better) and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about half an hour until the squash is nice and soft. Add in some cream, nutmeg (didn’t cut my fingers this time) and more seasoning to taste.

I have never cooked Butternut (or any other) squash before, it looks funny. I must admit I was mighty suspicious but was going to eat one bowl of the stuff just to show willing. I have to say though the soup was lovely, really very good indeed. I ended up eating the whole lot, nibbling on roasted chestnuts as I did so. It was the nicest thing I have eaten for a very long time and I’m definitely going to be making that again sometime soon – maybe even tonight.

Whilst at the farmers market I had also bought some lamb chump chops from D and B Cox of Ixhill Farm, Oakley. By the time I had finished the soup and made yet another cup of tea the fire had bedded down, two large logs were glowing away while hot and in between them there was a thick layer of embers from the smaller sticks I had used to get the loge going. This is the perfect type of fire for barbequing on, I know I read it in Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s book. It appears that flames are not the sort of thing that you want when you are barbequing as this does nasty things, looking back at what happened to my trout I have to concur. So I sprinkled the lamb with salt, pepper and rosemary and stuck it on a cooling rack which I rested across the two logs, it took the meat about the same time to cook as it did to boil some sprouts. A very simple yet hugely tasty meal, those chops where fantastic, full of flavour and as tender as they could possibly be. I think I will be spending a lot more time in farmers’ markets this year.

10 am Sunday BBC 1 I’m going to be on The Heaven and Earth Show! Bizare, they filmed me the other day lighting a fire from scratch with no matches or paper or anything. I was most happy with this as it was only the second time I had ever done that. Having managed to replicate this success a few more times now I’m going to up the ante and attempt to make fire by rubbing sticks together. I foresee a frustrating weekend ahead.

Anyway enough of this jibba jabba.

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