|infinitely adaptable: |
chicken, bacon and paprika stew
|pear purée with star anise|
|perfect windfall jam|
|early days in damson gin |
Sadly, gin has the same effect on me. While I am not maniacally leering as I swing from the chandeliers chain-smoking Lucky Strikes, the change from happy Rachel to wailing Rachel is disconcerting to anyone who has ever had the misfortune to witness it.
|spatchcocked chicken with smoky lemon marinade|
I once had an artist boyfriend, a funny, ebullient and very articulate chap, who could convulse me with laughter with a few pithy words and a raise of an eyebrow. Early on in our relationship, at a supposedly relaxing Sunday afternoon brunch, the artist thought it would be fun to do the Sunday newspaper crossword puzzles. While I love the English language, I am not very fond of crossword puzzles (or Scrabble for that matter); I suspect they bring out the worst competitive excesses in me. Since it was early on in our relationship, I was prepared to show willing, since he seemed so keen and enthusiastic. (Needless to say, that didn't last long!)
|a bowl of damsons|
Damsons are in season. Hurrah!
|sainsbury's harissa paste with |
mini lamb burgers
But in my experience, most of the ready-made sauces and pastes on supermarket shelves just aren't to my taste. Before I began cooking I did used to use these sorts of products, but added so many ingredients to them to improve the flavour, that I realised I might as well as cook from scratch. I also find many of these ready-made products far too sweet, a little gluey in texture and many have a peculiarly cloying and synthetic aftertaste.
|sea trout with pasta primavera|
But a primavera sauce, so named for its use of young spring vegetables, can bring sunshine into even the most cantankerous of hearts, with its delicious, delicate flavour and flecked with jewels of pretty bright green colour.
|mini beef burgers with capers|
|mini sour dough burger bun|
Burger aficionados will have an opinion on the type and even the cut of meat included in their burger. I opened the freezer to forage and I discovered minced beef, which fortunately was on the fatty side (which I believe adds flavour and definitely stops the burgers from drying out). So that's what we had; no argument.
|fabulous plum cake!|
But I right now I am a plum obsessive. It is the season, after all. There is something rather beautiful and beguiling about all the plums boxed up at the market, from bright green greengages, deep red Presidents and pale purple Victorias. But like his Royal Greediness, I do not discriminate, I was just in the mood for baking a cake that was full of fresh, ripe and juicy plums.
But unless you grow tomatillos yourself, you are unlikely to find them in the UK. But since I had gooseberries in my garden, I thought I could make a gooseberry relish to go with some roasted chicken, inspired by one of Thommi's salsa recipes.
|keeping it salad simple!|
|perfect plum jam|
Towards the top of the hill, there lived a troop of wild monkeys, led by the most alpha male of all. His Fat Highness would sit in a clearing by the side of the road at dusk, surveying his monkey gang, to ensure that none of them had something that he didn't such as food; he looked like some kind of malevolent monkey Buddha.
|chorizo and pepper stew|
flake from the wall. The smoke
of harmless fires drifts to my eyes.
Geoffrey Hill - September Song
(New and Collected Poems, 1952-1992)
In theory, September is the pinnacle of perfection in terms of the vegetable patch; a truly excellent month for fruit and veg such as sweetcorn, broccoli, apples, blackberries, damsons and early pears. That's the theory anyway. But as a result of fluctuations in the jet stream, a high altitude wind that has really put a dampener on the party, seasonal fruit and vegetables have been badly hit! Bah! It has been a truly terrible time for Britain's fruit and vegetable growers with our near-Monsoon conditions and the lack of pollination of fruit (yes, bees don't like the rain either).