91. Let Us Remember

Yesterday was VE Day, 75 years after the end of the Second World War in Europe. What we are going through at the moment may feel like we are suffering by being stuck at home but it’s nothing in comparison. We will get through this and our homes, the cities and all other places will look the same. When I first started working in the early 1970s, there were still bombsites around that had not been rebuilt, used for the most part as car parks. That is unimaginable now.

Without planning to, we spent yesterday planting a couple of oaks that John’s father had grown from acorns and given to us, along with a load of other oak and horse chestnut seedlings, a number of years ago. How these two were not planted out I’m not sure, but they have been growing in pots at the front of the house for the last few years. With hindsight it’s appropriate that two English oaks, nurtured by a Second World War Navy rating, should be planted on VE Day. We have two corners for the other oaks and horse chestnuts but these two have gone to fill gaps in the hedges. In years to come, they will just be part of the countryside. Looking further back, English oaks were used for the keels of ships in Elizabethan times. We can be thankful that we do not have to face the thought of all our trees being chopped down for such purposes.

But you don’t come to my blog to read history or serious subjects. What about the cocktails? All in good time. All the jobs we were doing we’re still doing, everything seems to take an age when there’s no urgency. I did try a remote piano lesson on Zoom but we were getting some strange feedback. Possibly my (very untuned) piano, possibly my playing, let’s be charitable and say it’s a problem we can solve. It does concentrate the mind when you know someone else is listening. I might have an appreciative audience outside but maybe these partridge are deaf to my music.

Not spotted by Polly

JD had his birthday in the middle of last week so I tried a cocktail out in advance. This week’s ingredient is Aperol, an Italian aperitif. For those of you who have never come across it, this is the bright orange stuff that people in the UK “discovered” a few years back and made into Aperol spritz (Aperol with prosecco and soda water) to drink in the long hot summer evenings. Well, I could be boring and stick with that but I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous. The Aperol website says the colour is due to a blend of sweet and bitter oranges, accompanied by a secret mix of herbs and roots. The recipe was perfected in 1919. https://www.aperol.com/en-gb

Polly relaxing

Go back to Blog Post 87 of 12th April and you’ll see that I’ve already used it in Rimbaud’s Right Hand. Can’t do that again. I came up with ten new recipes, some still with absinthe. I guess both were around in about the same era. There’s one called Scotch Bonnet which includes Tabasco. I don’t know if the Scotch Bonnet chilli pepper is used in Tabasco but it’s not my idea of a refreshing cocktail. An Aperol Royal is similar to the Spritz, with champagne. I decided upon a slightly more festive one for John’s birthday, called Bois de Rose. Mix 20 ml elderflower liqueur, 7 ml Aperol, 30 ml gin, 7 ml lemon juice and top up with pink sparkling wine. Very enjoyable.

Despite my cake making, we had a professionally made one for the actual birthday. I have also been making desserts, mostly of the mousse variety so I can prepare a batch to freeze, otherwise we’ll be eating the same thing for a week. I was allowed to cook for JD’s birthday (I usually eat what has been prepared for me) so we had smoked salmon with pink grapefruit, grouse and lavender & maple syrup bavarois, which is a mousse to you and me (well, certainly to me. You can decide what you’d prefer to call it). As we couldn’t have a proper get-together, there were a lot of parcels delivered from the family for JD to unwrap on the day. Mostly food and wine so we’ll be OK for the next few months in lock-down.

And there I think I’ll call it a day as the cocktail hour beckons once again. The sun is shining so we can drink al fresco and call it a sun-downer.

90. We’re Busy Doing Nothing

I am so sorry, you’re probably thinking I’ve poisoned us both with all that old food and that’s why you didn’t get a cocktail recipe at the weekend. Fear not, I’ve just been remiss and neglected you all. And before JD tells me off for the title today, we are very busy. I just like the song, it’s sung by Bing Crosby in the 1949 film “A Connecticut Yankee in King’ Arthur’s Court” based (very loosely I suspect) on the book by Mark Twain. Sing along now…

Post 89 received a few comments that I should reference. “Shower caps” are available from Ikea, they look much more robust than the ones I’m using. https://www.ikea.com/ch/en/p/oevermaett-food-cover-set-of-2-silicone-light-blue-70461936/. I cannot agree regarding Hobnobs, I won’t tell you the remark that JD made but I’ll send the next packet straight through to Wiltshire! Finally, some boxes of wine do indeed hold 12 bottles but more and more I’m seeing boxes of six (unless my reputation has gone before me and they think that’s all I can handle). I was under the impression it was due to EU regulations and maximum weights, such as we had many years ago in our profession, before computer submissions became the norm.

So, what shall we get up to today?

Post 88 on 18th April, ELEVEN DAYS ago, left you waiting for a cocktail. Who guessed the magic ingredient? Not Aperol (which comes next in my alphabet) but Amaretto. You can find (non alcoholic) Amaretto biscuits as well as the drink, the word apparently means “little bitter” (I don’t speak Italian so didn’t know this). I’ve just found out, while doing my research, that 19th April was Disaronno Day last year so I’m on trend for this year! http://www.disaronno.com/en/news/disaronno-day-2019. This is the brand I like (others are available, maybe I should try them). It has a very distinctive shaped bottle which I’ve finished off (there was less than an inch in the bottom) and thrown away so no photo of it I’m afraid. Here’s a magnificent wisteria instead.

Bearded iris and wisteria

Amaretto is an almond flavoured liqueur (from almonds or apricot kernels) which I love (as well as the biscuits), especially after a good dinner in front of a roaring fire. However, there’s no excitement in that for you so what mixture did I come up with? After I’d dismissed the shots (see Post 86 on 7th April), I was left with nine possibilities, although there are many others on the internet. I’m not a fan of egg white or cream in cold drinks and the ones with tea seemed like a cheat from Prohibition. There were a few with just Amaretto and one other ingredient (lemon juice, Irish whiskey, tequila) which I didn’t like the sound of. This left me with three: Cosmic Bliss, Bad Attitude and Big Red Hooter. How to decide between three such wonderful sounding names? Let’s look at the constituents of each: the first has orange, lemon and lime juices; the second FIVE other spirits (gin, rum, tequila, triple sec and vodka) plus Grenadine, as well as three juices (cranberry, orange and pineapple); the third has merely tequila, Grenadine and pineapple juice. Decision made, I need my five a day and don’t have any pineapple juice. Cosmic Bliss it is! As I’m trying to see the Starlink (Elon Musk’s satellite train) when it passes overhead this is very appropriate as well.

Cosmic bliss!

The rest of the time has mostly been taken with routine tasks mentioned previously so of no interest. I’ve made lemon and cardamom drizzle cake as well as caraway seed cake. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m trying to use up the spices that we have in the cupboard, this is a great book to have as an inspiration for recipes. Author Dhruv Baker (what an apt name!) won MasterChef in 2010 on UK television (for anyone not au fait with such programmes, including me).

Adie has not eaten anything she should not have (to the best of our knowledge). The garden and lambs continue to grow. The vegetable seeds I ordered before I left London (see Post 84 dated 27th March) finally turned up so I’ve planted those as well as some old ones I found in the shed, we’ll see what comes up. The rain that has now arrived is most welcome. Also looking back at that Post, I see that I said I’d missed the daffodils. Not so, yesterday I came across these in the garden.

Pheasant’s eye narcissi

George had his birthday last Friday. We were expecting to be celebrating in Seattle with a crowd of sailors. Instead George is still “on his tod” in London so we held a virtual party with his Godparents, a couple of friends and us. (If you’re not familiar with this saying, it’s Cockney rhyming slang for being alone. I didn’t know where it came from so looked it up. There was a US jockey called Tod Sloane at the end of the last century. Sloane = on your own). We tried to get together on WhatsApp but that only allows three people, so George had to set us up on Zoom, while the rest of us ran around turning on our computers. Lessons learnt: as well as not trying to WhatsApp too many people, do not leave your wine in a garage behind an electronic door. If there is a power cut you’re stumped! (I’m glad to say we do not have any electronic locks so we had plenty of champagne to toast George).

And finally, in case you want to know how the lambs are getting on, here’s two of them yesterday aged eleven days.