I haven't posted on the blog for sooooo long - 16 whole days ...
What can I say, this has been a very busy time, and I am looking forward to long peaceful weeks of nothing much happening! To compensate for the long silence I have decided to offer, free, gratis and for nothing, an extra R. So today this is not The 3 Rs, it is The 4 Rs.
Reading, RAVING, Ranting and Recipes.
Over the past fortnight my reading has been patchy to say the least, too much going on to really settle down and have a comfortably serious read. But of course I have been reading because I am incapable of not doing so, reading is as important as food and drink to me.
Here is a quick waltz through some of the books I have gobbled up in between visiting friends and family, entertaining and being entertained, and general jollification:
One Stop Short of Barking – uncovering the London Underground by Mecca Ibrahim
This was on my Amazon wish list, so I was really pleased to be given it as a Christmas gift. This little book is both hilarious and informative and should be compulsory reading for all the 3 million people who use the Tube every day.It is lavishly illustrated – the photo of Tony Blair pole hanging in a carriage while reading a Government White Paper and pretending to be an ordinary bloke is absolutely killing, who thought up that little wheeze I wonder? There is a selection of some of the funniest driver announcements: “ I am the captain of your train and we will be departing shortly. We will be cruising at an altitude of approximately zero feet and our scheduled arrival time in Morden is 3.15pm. The temperature in Morden is approximately 15 degrees Celsius and Morden is in the same time zone as Mill Hill East so there’s no need to adjust your watches.” Listing all the wildlife to be found underground from rats and pigeons to drunks and backpacking tourists, the author also gives details of the rules for buskers and the most popular and frequently busked song titles.
This is a great addition to my growing collection of books about
Nigella Lawson – the unauthorised biography by Gilly Smith
I snatched this off a shelf in the local library just a week before Christmas when you couldn’t switch on the TV without seeing the Domestic Goddess thrusting her cleavage at you and licking her fingers provocatively whilst she made and fried crab cakes DURING a drinks party – yeah right.
Anyway, the book gives you all the information available as to her family background, her marriage to the late John Diamond and subsequent marriage to Charles Saatchi, and how her career has progressed. The author is not doing a hatchet job on Nigella by any means, but the reader certainly gets a picture of quite a determined woman who will use anything and anyone to achieve what she wants, but –as Kenny Everett would have said – in the nicest possible way. I must admit I found it ironic that a Jewish woman was presenting a television series on how to cook and prepare to celebrate Christmas, which is a Christian festival after all, and using foods and ingredients which are specifically prohibited in the Jewish faith. Would Delia Smith have been allowed to get away with telling viewers how to prepare food for the Passover seder? I doubt it, well not unless she bought herself a crimson satin negligee to wear whilst cooking on screen!
I am in love with the present my DH gave me for Christmas - a Rolser shopping trolly. My son was absolutely horrified with the idea of me being given this..he thought I should have a blue rinse to match it. But this is in another league, it was featured in Vogue (Paris edition) nogal. Three years ago I broke my right ankle, in 2005 by horrible happenstance I broke it again; now I have a limp and I am nervous of falling and breaking it again. Consequently I am slow when I go shopping and have to carry bags full of things I've purchased, I trek back and forth loading stuff into the car which is parked as near as possible. But now my life has been revolutionised, I have my trolley. It holds a huge amount of stuff, library books, all my groceries, a huge pack of things from the chemist's, and 4 loaves of Dunnary bread and 6 Cornish Pasties from one of the best bakers in the entire world, Dunn's of Crouch End.
Now come on, admit you'd love a shopping trolley like mine.
Just before Christmas an undercover journalist from the Guardian posed as a member of the BNP in order to write a tabloid style exposé of this rather nasty little party; when his article was published, he listed some of the people who are paid-up party members, and Simone Clarke, one of the leading dancers with the English National Ballet, was one of them. This started a media frenzy and the dancer, who had never sought to publicise her political views, gave an interview with a rival paper explaining why she had joined the BNP. Many self-righteous folk have been clamouring for the ENB to sack Miss Clarke because of her BNP membership.
I am absolutely appalled at this, indeed I find this kind of witchhunt extremely worrying. It is Macarthyism in reverse. As anyone who knows me will testify, I am an old-fashionedly woolly liberal libitarian – to the point of being moth-eaten – and personally I have nothing but distaste for the BNP and loathe it’s aims and intentions. Never-the-less, it is a bona fide political party and there is absolutely nothing illegal about joining it as a member and Miss Clarke has every right to be aggrieved that she is being painted as some kind of criminal. To suggest she should loose her job because of it is just plain wrong. For the life of me I cannot see how her dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker is in anyway affected by her political affiliations. People who say that they wouldn’t be able to stand watching her dance now that they know what she votes are just plain silly. Should every programme come with an attached list giving information about the private lives of members of the cast? So that the public can boycott any performance where the background and views of the performers don’t coincided with their own high moral standards? So-and-so cheats on his wife and has a record for shoplifting, Ms XYZ lies about her age and drives an un-taxed car….for heaven’s sake where would it all end? Let dancers dance, musicians play, actors act and to hell with what stupid ideas they espouse -personally I always thought some of Vanessa Redgrave’s political ravings were quite bonkers, but I also thought she was a fantastic actress and would not have missed seeing her in film or on stage because of them.
We are not some country where the tiny new shoots of democracy have just poked through the soil and require protecting whilst they grow, we are an ancient nation with a long and robust political tradition and we can certainly accommodate dissenting views – even if we consider them repugnant.
After all the rich foods during Christmas and New Year we are back to some rather homely family meals, not to mention some much needed belt-tightening (in both senses). So for Sunday night supper it is to be Cauliflower Cheese with a few additions to gussy it up and make it a little more substantial, and with crusty bread or a baked potato on the side it is an excellent main course.
CAULIFLOWER CHEESE A LA MODE
For the cheese sauce:
30g plain flour
250ml milk + water mixed (use the cauliflower water)
Salt + freshly ground black pepper
125g grated cheese
50g grated cheese
50g toasted breadcrumbs
Fry the bacon lardons and when browning add the finely chopped onion and continue cooking until translucent. Set aside.
Trim the cauliflower and break into medium-sized sprigs. Cook in boiling salted water until tender – approx 8 mins. Drain and reserve some of the cooking liquid for the cheese sauce. Arrange the cooked cauliflower sprigs in a well-buttered ovenproof dish and keep warm. Now sprinkle the cooked bacon, onion and sweetcorn over the cauliflower, making sure they are under, over and around every sprig.
Melt the butter for the sauce stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook gently for a minute or so, and then gradually stir in the hot reserved cauliflower liquor and then the milk. Bring up to the boil, stirring all the time to make a smooth sauce. Allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes then season to taste. Add the grated cheese and stir over a low heat until the cheese has melted and amalgamated with the sauce. Stir in the chopped parsley.
Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower, bacon, onion and sweetcorn, making sure it goes round everything.
Sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs and the remaining cheese.
Put in the oven for 20mins at 180°C or pass under the grill until brown and bubbling.