25 April 2010

Good morning to you all and, in response to numerous enquiries, “Yes, thank you. We had a marvellous weekend on the south coast.” The weather was glorious – bright and sunny and moderately warm. But, for those of us who wanted to take some photographs of our walk along the Downs (think of the white cliffs of Dover), it was frustratingly hazy. Must have been the fallout from the Icelandic volcano.


Walking towards Beachey Head
Walking towards Beachey Head

Looking back along the Downs
Looking back along the Downs

Beachey Head Lighthouse
Beachey Head Lighthouse

A precarious picnic point
A precarious picnic point

I cooked dinner on Wednesday evening and I wish I could have shared it with you all, if only for it’s amusement value. I appreciate that it will come as a surprise to most of you that I even know where the kitchen is, let alone how to put anything together. However, I do cook occasionally (once in a millennium, or so) and, as I now have a bit more time on my hands, I have become somewhat more adventurous. (Well, just about anything is a step upwards from a boiled egg).

I decided to have a go at Pesto and Goat Cheese-Filled Chicken Breasts (a) because it sounded really tasty and (b) because we had most of the requisite ingredients. Creamed spinach and tagliatelle with a pesto sauce completed the main course.

Penelope was out at the gym so I was essentially on my own as I began to work my way through the recipes. (And by the way, why do recipes say that the preparation time is, say, 20 minutes when, in fact, for someone with my skill set it’s closer to two hours). I flattened the chicken breasts quite convincingly, mixed the pesto and goat’s cheese, spread it all over each chicken breast and then set about attempting to roll the breasts into a neat little parcel. Ha, ha, ha!

What I had not appreciated was that the chicken breasts, in spite of being flattened to within a quarter inch of their lives, gradually begin to un-flatten themselves if you don’t keep a very close eye on them. I wish I had thought of taking a photo of my first attempts at rolling them up but by that time my hands and most of the rest of my body was covered with the filling. The pesto and cheese squidged out everywhere and soon covered every surface and utensil in the kitchen, including some which just happened to be in the neighbourhood on a temporary visit.  I discovered that I needed three pairs of hands and several spatulas and even that was only partially successful. My first attempt produced a pathetic-looking collection of misshapen parcels secured with several dozen toothpicks from which pesto and cheese was oozing from a dozen orifices. The second attempt was marginally better and, by the third effort, I had something slightly better than dismally wretched which, given the hour and the approaching arrival home of Ms Playchute, would have to do.

Having said that, the result was tolerably tasty in spite of the somewhat disconcerting appearance and the creamed spinach was a definite success.

Speaking of cooking, you all might want to give some thought to the dishes you would like to prepare for this year’s Stragapalooza. I would love to do Pesto and Goat Cheese Chicken Breasts and I’ve no doubt you would find it tasty and wonderfully amusing but I don’t think I could possibly deal with rolling twenty or thirty chicken breasts. Back to the drawing board.

And, still speaking of cooking, I was amused by this article on the BBC web site. It seems that an Australian cookbook has had to be pulped because of one, tiny, inconsequential misprint. The recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto called for “salt and freshly ground black people” instead of pepper. Oops!

As well as an epicurean delight of staggering proportions and a delightful trip to the south coast, this was also the week, it seems, when Spring finally did “burst” as has been predicted by the weather forecasters for the past three or four weeks. On Wednesday afternoon I had a very pleasant stroll across the countryside with Molly, camera in hand to catch the first of the blossoms. I also nipped into a lovely garden owned by one of our new best friends, an elderly widow in Chipping Warden whom we meet from time to time walking her dog. Some time ago she invited us to have a look at the garden and it is lovely. So, with most things beginning to bloom I sneaked in for another look.

Much love to you all,

Greg