Friday, July 17, 2009

Aspiring to the Art of Food

Since moving out of the family nest and establishing my own it is interesting to reflect on how much my thoughts and priorities have switched. 

Previously I would be far more outward minded, thinking about the world around me and how all the dots connected, considering the twists and turns of society, the things that inspired me and the things I despised in the world. I would follow the news more and think about the events that impacted on us or what they said about us as people.

Now though I have new challenges which I am dedicating my time to and relishing in many ways. I never expected my blog to wind up focusing on so much food but I do love a good meal and I am trying to improve my cooking by massive strides. It helps that I have taken to it quite naturally and I have a well developed palette from years of eating good tasty food. 

Yet I want to achieve more than simply making a meal that tastes good. Gradually I want my dishes to start looking like little artworks as well. This is of course a hangover from being too busy to paint much any more either. 

That is is of course the challenge of new responsibilities, your thoughts and energies are refocused on other  things in your life whilst prior passions get left behind, at least for a while. 

In the meantime this is my latest creation. On the base is a pancake/fritter consisting of pulverised corn and fennel mixed in with a thick pancake batter to make a nice hearty fritter. On top of that is some shredded chicken which I poached in water with a teaspoon of ras el hanout spice mix to give it a delicate yet rich flavour. Then scattered on top is some pistachio nuts, toasted pine nuts, cranberries and coriander leaves. On road testing this got full marks for taste and flavour and I rather like the beautiful colours in with its jewels of red and green on a golden base. Now all I need is a name for it. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It may only be half way through July yet the sight of snowdrops popping up fills me with pleasure. I have always thought there was something quite magical about this particular flower that I have loved ever since I was a small child. 

In amongst the branches of the tree houses that formed my early life my friends and I were enthralled with the world of Cecily Mary Barker's flower fairies, we each had our different favourites and mine was not the more popular rose, lavender or sweetpea, nor was it the bright columbine or fuscia flowers my friend adored. My favourite was the snowdrop along with the willow and gentle forget-me-not. Even as a child I was more of an introvert who preferred to reflect quietly along the river banks than frolic around in bright colours with the other fairies. 

The snowdrop is a flower that is delicate yet tenacious. It's flowers are fragile, quivering little white bells on the end of bright green stems. From a design perspective they are nicely balanced with the stem colour being carried through into the delicate spotting design along the petals edge. They crush easily, wilt easily but they are strong and determined little things popping up when it's still a bit cold and taking those first steps into spring. I took them to heart as a metaphor, I can cope with the cold and desolation when things are not always rosey. I may be fragile in some ways but strong in others. It appears as a lonely flower sometimes yet its role is also a herald for better times ahead. I am not an obvious beauty yet if you peer closely and can appreciate the subtleties then yes beauty is definitely to be found there. Of course it is not a complete metaphor by any degree, but rather a sliver of a whole.

So it was with great joy when I went home to check on mum and dads place while they were away, to clear the letterbox and sweep the fallen camellias from the drive, that I spotted these lovely little darlings springing up at the base of the old magnolia tree. Again this is part of their beauty, growing up at the base of a tree, adding that little splash of green and dashing flair to the trunk of a tree whose own magnificence is further upwards. I brought some of them home with me and popped them into a humble glass bottle. As I sit here drink my tea they do indeed still bring a smile to my face thinking of their beauty and the memories they conjure up for me of idyllic days amongst the garden beds. 

I had forgotten the beauty of these flowers in many ways, I guess I wished to distance myself from the struggles of childhood, to reach forward into new things, at the florist I would select something different and unusual, a striking native or an amusing broccoli-like creation. Orchids and other exotics would grab my attention and I had no time for the humble snowdrop. Now though I am willing to embrace it again, to enjoy my rediscovery of it. I guess in ways too that I have settled now into my new life and am comfortable embracing the old, perhaps also it is a hint I am beginning to feel ready to start thinking about children and how I will guide them into life. 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Vive Le Tour

Time speeds past and it is already July. What happened to June, how did it get so buried under pressing duties, long work hours and endless things demanding my time and energy. 

For me July heralds the start of the Tour de France, a great event that I have been following for quite a number of years now. I never really took to sport and nor can I claim to be much of a cyclist at all. Yet despite this there is something quite appealing about this particular event. The scenery itself is so spectacular and no other sport can claim such a stunningly beautiful stadium.

So it is such a pleasure to snuggle up late at night and sleepily watch the roads of France unwind before you. The photographers have a real visual eye for capturing fascinating things and so many of the people it passes are also making their little contributions to the event with their roadside decorations. 

So in the spirit of the Tour de France I have baked some bicycle cookies, they are a ginger/cinnamon flavour with a hint of lemon peel. 

Now if only the members of my Fantasy Cycling Tour will start performing so I can stop regretting the decision to omit Cancellara and Cavendish from my team. Fingers crossed and good luck to you Cadel...