A Slap In The Face With A Wet Fish

I don’t watch enough television to make it worth while viewing anything that is serialised, because I am bound to miss some episodes. I find it preferable to await the appearance of boxed DVD sets. Thus, those two superb HBO series, ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’, kept me entertained whist I was recovering from my hip replacement operation at the end of 2010. I have so far missed ‘Homeland’, which is well recommended and until now, ‘Downton Abbey’. This began to be rectified yesterday evening because Becky and Ian bought Jackie the boxed set of all five series for Christmas. We watched the first episode.

Serious frost, its outlines emphasising the patterns of nature, descended upon Downton overnight.Frost on primulasFrost on heucherasFrost on bramblesFrost on leafFrost on oak leafFrost on shrubFrost on gorseFrost on gateposts Seeking to savour the spectacle I took an early walk to Hordle Cliff top and back. Downton Lane was very slippery. Ice on the pools made its own patterns. The owner of a boxer dog tottered gingerly down a slope, whilst his pet, legs splayed, the claws of its paws scratching the surface, slithered on ahead. Footprints of walkers and dogs, and deeply rutted cart tracks stood proud in frozen mud.IceFrozen footprints

I crunched my way along the more crackly than usual shingle for a while, noticing that frost clung to organic matter, like driftwood and cuttlefish, rather longer than to the colder stones. As I walked down the steps I was momentarily alarmed by a cry of ‘Scooby’. I turned around and saw a Jack Russell/Pomeranian cross, bearing the same name as Flo’s Jack Russell/Beagle. This mixture had produced an animal not weighed down by an oversized head.

Frost on shingleFrost on driftwoodFrost on cuttlefishFrost on stepsFrost on bench

Where shadows had fallen across the steps down to the beach, or the sun had not yet risen above the back of a bench on the path leading to Shorefield, the white precipitation persisted.

Shadow of building on conifer hedge

A house on Pless Road cast its sharp black shadow on the bright evergreen hedge opposite.

Flo, Becky, and wet fish

All her life Flo has fondly imagined giving someone a slap in the face with a wet fish. Imagine her delight when, Jackie having bought some smoked haddock for this evening’s dinner, Becky volunteered to precede her shower by being the recipient.

We watched three more episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ before Jackie and Becky prepared the classic symphony in white fish dish. We are now as hooked as were the contents of the meal, the accompaniment to which was Wairu Cove sauvignon blanc 2014.

 

Piquant Cauliflower Cheese

This morning I finished reading the preface to Madame Bovary. I hadn’t realised that Flaubert’s now acclaimed novel once enjoyed the limelight, like ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D.H. Lawrence, more than a century later, of an indecency trial before being published in book form. Lawrence’s mediocre novel was first published privately in Venice in 1928. Not until the obscenity trial of 1960 could it be published in UK. Naturally the trial’s publicity boosted Penguin’s sales enormously.

The day began dry, but dull and blustery. It soon brightened. I walked through London Minstead to Shave Wood where Jackie met me and drove us to New Milton’s Lidl for a shop, then to Milford on Sea for lunch at The Needles Eye cafe, after which we returned home via Bolderwood.

TerrierA black terrier who lives on Seamans Lane, the self-appointed guardian of his home usually menaces me with savagery when I walk past. Today; either he lost interest in leaping up and down, barking, and showing his fangs; or he has become accustomed to my presence, because he suddenly relaxed, stuck his head through the wire fence, and gazed calmly down the road.

The two heaps of sold timber lying on the forest verge at Hazel Hill would seem to be still awaiting collection.Sold timber

There was a little difficulty in obtaining a shopping trolley at Lidl. As anyone familiar with these devices will know, you have to press a £1 coin into a slot to release a metal tag entering the mechanism through the other side to enable you to pull out your chosen  steed from a string of others. Someone had jammed a coin into ours and it wouldn’t budge. We could neither withdraw it nor put a new one in. So we had to move to another set of trolleys and successfully try our luck there. When I reported the problem to an attendant, his manner, although polite enough, suggested he thought I had inserted the dodgy bit of currency.

Gulls on sea wallGulls on shingle

We didn’t stay long on the sea front at Milford on Sea. I swear even the seagulls were shivering on the shingle and the sea wall, not fancying any encounter with the winds and the waves. Those that did attempt to fly didn’t stay long in the air.

Waves & breakwaterRough sea on rocks

Rough sea on stepsRough sea & pool on shingleSpray on sea wallSpray mounting sea wallThe waves hurled themselves and buckets of shingle at and over the wall and created pools on the walkways with their myriad drops of spray. A couple of times whilst attempting to photograph the scene I was required to take evasive action, and a deposit of salt was encrusted on my viewfinder by the time I had finished.

Our return journey took us alongside the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive near where a Tree clearancenumber of very large trees had been ripped from their shallow roots and lay waiting to be dealt with by The Forestry Commission’s clearance crews.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s beautifully blended smoked haddock and cauliflower cheese meal. I believe the splendid special piquancy of this dish comes from the cheese sauce.

Its method of preparation is this:

To make enough sauce to cover quite a small cauliflower take: approx. 1 ounce of butter; 3 ounces of strong Cheddar cheese, cubed; a little less than 3/4 pint of semi skimmed milk; 1 3/4 oz plain flour; 1 teaspoonful of made up English mustard (for colour and piquancy).

Cheese sauce 1Consistency 1Cheese sauce 2

Consistency 2Cheese sauce 3

Consistency 3Cheese sauce consistency

Consistency 4

Place a small saucepan containing all but the milk over a high heat and stir constantly, adding the milk a little at a time once the butter has melted and is absorbed into the flour. The cheese will slowly melt into the mixture. Once consistency 4 is reached you can use it to dress the cauliflower, having lightly boiled that along the way.

Cauliflower cheese

Then add grated cheese and pop it in the oven to bubble away until it browns.

Today’s mashed potato included swede and onion. With it we shared the last of the Nobilo. Afterwards we ate jam tart and lemon meringue pie.