After yesterday’s two posts it seemed fitting to feature a normal lunchtime at home involving
a salad based meal eaten from a plate placed on our knees in front of our television, watching
Antiques Road Trip which pits two experts in the field travelling together across the UK, each beginning with £200 to spend on items taken to a series of auctions, after each of which accumulative profits or losses are calculated, the winner being the one emerging on the last afternoon with the most money in their kitty.
Today’s “Really” recording featured Stephanie Connell, seen here, and Charlie Ross. Sometimes I sleep through the final stages and wake up to ask Jackie “who won?”
In the rare event that I remain awake for the whole programme we might catch ten minutes or so of the much dumbed down
Bargain Hunt, in which two pairs, each with a £300 starting sum, have one hour in which to spend their money and take their items to auction. The team that finishes with the most profit or the least loss is the winner and takes home any profit.
Today’s location was Newark Showground, which I often visited when we lived in this historic midlands market town.
Sometimes I even sleep through BBC’s One o’clock News which I like to follow.
Today Ben Brown features the England Women’s rugby squad, who are favourites to win the current world cup.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent sausage casserole, crunchy carrots, creamy mashed potatoes, and tender green beans with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Bordeaux.
CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ACCESS GALLERY THAT CAN BE VIEWED FULL SIZE.
This was a day of continual drizzle, so I scanned a batch of colour negatives from December 2003.
Most of the images, made on a frosty day in Sherwood Forest, were out of focus. These are the best of a bad job.
Jackie had more success with her stupendous sausage casserole, of which she made enough to freeze many more portions. This was served with creamy mashed potato and swede, orange carrots, and green beans. The Culinary Queen would, I know, appreciate my stating that this image, made after I had begun to eat, was not exactly how she presented it. She drank sparkling water and I drank San Andres Chilean Merlot.
A number of readers rightly gathered, from its brevity and the absence of culinary description in yesterday’s post, that I had run out of creative steam. For those concerned about the lack of sustenance, I can say that we had boiled eggs and toast for breakfast. On our knees of course. Well, on plates on our knees to be precise.
We had packed the egg-cups, but there is no end to Jackie’s ingenuity.
Offers of weekend help have come from Danni, Becky, Flo, and Ian. These have been gratefully accepted. We should have quite a party.
Meanwhile, I boxed up the contents of the airing cupboard and the shelves occupying the spare room; and cleared out the cupboard under the stairs. Those who know we live in a flat may wonder why we have a cupboard under the stairs. We are blessed with one because it is in the bathroom. ‘What?’ you may ask. Well, you see, the building underwent a vast conversion into its seventeen apartments in the 1980s. Our bathroom occupies part of what was the main entrance hall. The area under the main staircase provides us with the said storage space.
The more we achieve before the weekend, the more family fun we can have. Volunteer helpers, please note, you are required to bring your own wine and ale glasses.
One of the processes it is advisable to follow when moving house is that of emptying the freezer and the fridge. This is best done during the preceding days, so that the contents can be enjoyed and cooking be at a minimum. This makes for some fascinating platefuls. This evening we dined on sausage casserole (recipe), chicken Kiev, chips, and vegetables. And a very tasty melange it was. I drank Lion’s Gate Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2012, an extremely quaffable South African wine.
Incidentally, my younger readers may not be aware that when I was growing up in the 1940s, people owned neither fridges or freezers. This was particularly problematic in the summer of 1947, when tar melted in the streets. Butter and milk had to be stored in sinks full of cold water that soon warmed up itself. Runny butter dripping off hot toast, as described by Kenneth Graham in my all-time favourite, ‘The Wind in the Willows’, may be quite attractive. Rancid butter slipping out of its wrapper onto a dish before being poured on your bread is quite another matter. ‘Rancid’, incidentally remains one of Matthew’s favourite words, ever since I once used it when he was a child. You’d be really surprised at the number of uses to which the term can be put.
Another such versatile word usage was coined by Ray Chard, who once described a cricket ball that had been returned after being hit out of the ground, as somewhat ‘gnarled’. In our family this word did not have the longevity of ‘rancid’, but I hope Ray still uses it. I have been known to entertain the youngest Knights with it. You must admit it has a certain cachet.
After a little more packing this morning we drove over to Shelly and Ron’s in Walkford to unload some of it for storage in their home before we move. Just around the corner from Jackie’s sister and brother-in-law, the ashes of her much-loved mother lie buried in Woodland Burial Ground.
The Walkford site is one of many ever more popular resting places for the remains of loved ones. Here people’s bodies are interred; or their ashes are either buried or scattered. Careful records are kept for posterity. The regulations are such that nothing more than the small identification plates are put in place at the time of burial, and no flowers other than those expected to be found naturally in woodlands are to be planted to mark the spot. Bodies are buried in open spaces, and indigenous trees are planted by the plates. The ash burials are in already established copses. Mourners may set woodland flowers around those areas. Cultivated roses will be removed, although cultivated daffodils seem to be acceptable.
The idea is that the whole plantation eventually reverts to natural woodland.
The remains of Veronica Mancell Rivett lie beneath rich soil in the Pine Copse. Although bird droppings may be considered to keep the explanatory notice ‘as nature intended’, Jackie cleaned them off her mother’s marker. As she tenderly stroked the daffodils she had, along with the primroses soon to bloom, herself planted, her mother’s ring was displayed. This opal ring, which Jackie always wears, was first worn on our wedding day in 1968.
There was a funeral going on when we arrived, so we had to park at the far end of the designated area. This alerted me to the presence of a lake of which I had been previously unaware, where muscovy drake enjoyed the company of a number of mallards.
It is now three full working days since Penyards Winchester office manager undertook to investigate the recorded phone conversations I had had with his staff, and get back to me. I have heard no more from him. This morning I posted at first class rate a letter to him repeating the details of the saga, stating that we regarded our tenancy as ending on 1st April, and that I had cancelled the standing order for rent payment with effect from 31st. March. By the same post I wrote to my bank instructing the cancellation.
This evening I e-mailed a copy of the Penyards letter to the addressee.
We dined on superb sausage casserole (recipe), mashed potato, carrots and green beans. And jolly good it was too. I drank Valle del Rapel Chilean Merlot 2012.
This morning I decided to walk through the Malwood Farm underpass and see how far I got before I gave up on what I expected to be a rather soggy terrain. It probably would have been a better idea to have stayed on the roads, or at least worn Wellingtons instead of walking shoes.
Even before I’d left our garden, I could see that more trees had come down, and the steep downhill track leading to the underpass confirmed this, so I was not surprised to see the extent of the damage wrought by the winds, once I ventured into the forest itself.
The large shrub that has fallen in the garden lies across the stump of the recently deceased cherry tree. I think it is a buddleia.
This is just one of the recent falls on the short stretch to the underpass.
The sight of Malwood Farm in sunlight at the end of the tunnel was welcoming, and the promised return of the wet, windy, weather did not materialise until this afternoon.
The terrain, however, was rather less inviting. It was indeed soggy. Pools lay, and new streams flowed, everywhere. Mud patches inhaled deeply in an attempt to snatch my shoes.
It would have been unprofitable to have tried to pick out one of last year’s safe paths. The way would be blocked by either a quagmire or newly fallen trees, or both. As is usual in these circumstances, I followed pony trails.
The animals are at least a little likely to attempt to avoid the suction underfoot, although I would not have been surprised to find one or two stranded in the mud.
I had thought to take a rain check on the sandbagged ford before deciding on whether to cross it or not. Forget that. I didn’t even venture across the mud bath leading to the sandbags. It seemed politic to stay on our side of the winding stream I call Malwood. I walked along it for a while, then retraced my steps and returned home.
Walking back through the forest to the side of the farm fences, I noticed much beautifully shaped pastel coloured lichen clinging to fallen twigs featherbedded by a mulch of deep dark brown autumn leaves.
My share of the five-egg mushroom omelette with toast that was for lunch, went down very well.
This afternoon I finished reading Voltaire’s story ‘Le Taureau Blanc’. Here the philosopher, in advocating the search for human wisdom and happiness, is having an ironic pop at the fantasy of the Old Testament. At least, that is the sense I make of this fabulous tale.
This evening we dined on succulent sausage casserole with creamy mashed potato, crisp runner beans and cauliflower, followed by creme caramel. I drank more of the Bergerac.
Jackie’s sausage casserole has an interesting provenance. What she has done is perfect my adaptation from Delia Smith. This is the tops.
For four to six servings:
Take 12 sausages; lots of shallots; plenty of button mushrooms; a packet of Sainsbury’s cooking bacon, chopped into bite sized pieces; 3 big cloves of garlic; 5-6 bay leaves; 1 heaped teaspoonful of dried thyme; 3/4 pint of pork stock (if pork sausages – today’s were Milton Gate pork and apple from Lidl which provide a touch of sweetness); enough red wine to cover the contents of the dish.
Red peppers provide a bit of colour, but are not essential. Similarly thickening with the help of gravy granules or cornflower may be required.
Fry the sausages until browned on all sides and set aside. In the casserole dish then fry the bacon and shallots with the crushed garlic. Add the stock and wine; bring to the boil, turn down the heat, add the bay leaves and thyme, pop the sausages back in and simmer for 3/4 hour. (The simmering refers to the cooking heat. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt a suppressed emotional stance).
Then add the mushrooms and simmer for further 20-30 minutes.
Jackie cooks this dish without a lid until the sauce looks rich enough, if necessary adding one of the thickening agents.
The final touch of the peppers may be added in the last few minutes.
Before rounding the morning off with a Totton Lidl shop, we had an almost fruitless search for a house in Romsey. We knew it was close behind the famous Abbey; we knew there was a river and a park nearby; we knew there was a ‘Greenfield View’. But negotiating the centre of this historic town is not particularly easy by car. And the map was all in Jackie’s head. She sought Little Meads, or The Meads. Round and round we went. Just before giving up, she drove us down Church Lane which didn’t look much of a road. This became The Abbey. Turning right, we found Little Meads. There was something of a blockage in Little Meads, caused by Highway Maintenance and Electricity company vehicles. With a screeching of bushes on the passenger side window, our driver managed to reach the end. Which didn’t go anywhere, and didn’t contain the missing house. Unfortunately the angles were all wrong for her to drive back out again. This could only be achieved with the cooperation of the Highway Maintenance driver who was loading his truck. He gave a thumbs up sign, but continued his task. A postman who had left his cart at the entrance to this cul-de-sac, gave Jackie an encouraging smile as he made his deliveries on foot.
We decided that the place we were looking for must be in The Meads. Leaving Little Meads, one could turn left or right into The Meads. My regular readers will not need to be told that I turned left and that it was the wrong way. To the right there was a bridge over the River Test, so I thought that was the end of the road. I walked back down Little Meads to the car. It wasn’t there. So, back to The Meads. Peering through the railings of the bridge, I spied a familiar number plate. Jackie was waiting there, from where she had established we would soon find Blackbridge House. We did.
The house was surprising. Although it is correctly described as an end of terrace property, the cunning photographer had displayed what seemed like a detached one. Its front porch and door is on the end of the row; something I have not seen before. Much of the back garden is given over to hard-standing for a car. Given the paucity of parking in the area, this is a necessity, and there is an adequate front garden facing fields and a green hill. We were pleased we had had one last attempt to find it.
Had I remembered that I had walked this area on 11th March, and even taken photographs in The Meads, it might have helped.
We are now into the season of soups and warming cauldrons. Lunch was Jackie’s compost, sausage, and chicken broth with lovely crusty bread from Sainsbury’s.
As always, whoever cooks makes enough for more than one meal. Tonight we enjoyed a reprise of Jackie’s superb sausage casserole (recipe). But not before it had suffered a minor mishap. In a magnanimous gesture designed to allow Jackie to take it easy this evening, I volunteered to heat up her magnificent concoction and take care of the vegetables. This turned out to be somewhat counterproductive.
Jackie told me afterwards that you don’t put metal on metal. I did just that when I placed the metal casserole pot on a metal trivet on the tea trolley we use to transport meals from the kitchen to the dining room at the far end of the flat. The result was that the casserole slid onto the floor. Not very gently, and with disastrous consequences. Happily, enough remained in the pot for our sustenance.
After the first course, my lady insisted on doing the clearing up, at which I have to confess she is the more competent. I believe there is a bit left for me to do, but I haven’t dared look at it yet. So we didn’t have our sweet of lemon drizzle cake and vanilla ice cream until some time later. She will deal with my trousers tomorrow.
Fortunately, the superb Chateau de Ballon bordeaux 2009, that John had brought yesterday, was on hand for me, whilst there was more Pedro Jimenez for Jackie.
P.S. In her Facebook comment Emily speaks of fond memories of The Gite From Hell, where another pair of trousers suffered a similar besmirching. The casserole-soaked pair are, after two washes the next day, as good as new.