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Monday, 28 February 2011

No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life...

You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford - Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)



So folks , on Saturday the 26th of February, I did go to London for the day and I did meet up with my friend Natalia. We had a lovely time and caught up on the eleven years since we actually saw each other last. It was a beautiful re-kindling of our long- treasured friendship and even though the weather was rubbish (persistently rainy), just walking arm in arm for hours with my lovely friend made it seem like the sun was forever shining. We laughed a lot, we mucked about, we reminisced, we skirted big puddles and to our great joy, Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’ played as we ate our lunch in a restaurant. I forget the name of the restaurant itself, but it sits, rather flamboyantly, behind the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane and had an extravagant interior that seemed not unlike the set from The Phantom of the Opera. The Puccini aria with its ‘Room with a View’ connection was a nostalgic reminder of some very pleasurable times when we both lived in Derby, both belonged to Derby Shakespeare Company and hung around, as friends, in the bluebell woods together on a particularly balmy summer evening back the 1980s. Fond memories.

Natalia

The restaurant interior

After lunch we sought out some way of having ‘fun on a bus ‘ that you couldn’t get arrested for. Alack and alas, we were royally put off the London ‘open top’ bus tours as the scoundrels were wanting to charge us a rip off price of £25 each. Ridiculous! You would be much better off spending the money on some nice coffees and cake. Actually at central London prices the coffees would have been £26.50 each, plus vat. Cakes you have to re-mortgage your house for.


Phil with the Phantom


As it was, we walked pleasurably for miles across central London until the rain stopped early evening when both of us decided to take tea in a hotel. We didn’t even know what the name of the hotel was but we were both gasping for a cuppa and a rest of our tired bones. Sadly, the tea rooms didn’t have any mugs and you couldn’t dunk some delightfully crumbly chocolate digestives in the aromatic Earl Grey tea and it weren’t exactly cut –price. However, the experience was a bit of pre-birthday luxury in, what turned out to be, the ultra- luxurious Berkeley hotel on Park Lane. Even the loos were well posh! Thank you again Nat for my food and drink treats that day. BTW, I’m convinced that they charged us for the ice and lemon in your tap water and you really shouldn’t have stolen that many loo rolls! How many loo rolls can a girl comfortably fit down her tights without looking obviously lumpy around the thighs!! How you passed yourself off as the Michelin girl to that keen eyed doorman in the top hat is true genius. Clearly charm school has paid off. That and quality, ladder resistant tights.



London was vibrant, we saw the exteriors of many a fancy theatre in the capital, including Her Majesty’s where Phantom of the Opera is still playing and also the surprisingly small frontage of the Adelphi theatre where the sequel ‘Love Never Dies’ is the current production. In Trafalgar Square we witnessed a big ship in a bottle and the wind was whipping a vast spray of water from the fountains across the famous square. Nelson was looking a bit green about the gills aloft on his column. Around the corner, that little chap Eros was still hanging about Piccadilly Circus but I think the rent boys have now gone home due to inclement weather. Oxford Street was rammed solid with happy shoppers and a particularly wacky couple were observed walking arm in arm singing the French national anthem (badly). Ahem!



The Victory in a bottle - big style. See pidgeons for size reference.


Frontage at Selfridges


En route, Ikea had a closing down sale where the discounted items were three times more expensive than those at Ikea’s regular prices back in Nottinghamshire. The day itself sped by far too quickly and, finally, we said our fond farewells at Kensington around six in the evening, Nat went back to her home and her fiancé in Chelsea in a taxi and I made my way on the hectic underground four or five stops towards the newly renovated St Pancras station. I had plenty of time to kill before my train at 8.15pm back to Nottingham so, after some deep consideration and a rumbling tummy, I got out the trusty credit card and splashed out on some crab, cucumber and avocado at Le Pain Quotidian –  (where bread is king) and had a couple of pre-birthday glasses of Bordeaux. Well you are only fifty-five once and the waitress was exceptionally cute and attentive. It was either that, OR spend two sordid hours lurking around the dodgier parts of Kings Cross in a dark, dank, scarily filthy alleyway armed with a crumpled and forlorn copy of the London Evening Standard newspaper under my grossly stained armpit trying to be theatrically authentic as a dubious, decidedly grubby under the nails, Londoner in a quasi- depressing Mike Leigh film. Curse those method acting classes!


Phil at Le Pain Quotidian in St Pancras

Retrospectively: On the inward London bound train journey from Nottingham via Peterborough two young ladies gave me a glass of their wine and sang a glorious Happy Birthday to me. How uplifting and sweet that was. In the capital itself, nobody mugged me; the tube was packed and whilst waiting on the platform at Holborn it seemed that the whole of the world had arrived to catch a tube train into town and being a human sardine was temporarily and unexpectedly thrilling, especially when some stranger enthusiastically grabbed at my pert right bum cheek. I daren’t turn round to see who but it was absolutely the most fun I’ve had in a hot enclosed space whilst travelling underground at speed, for years. I still have the finger print bruises and must go down there again sometime.



Travelling across London takes much more time than you think and if you are planning to go anywhere special you really do need to plan your route. Get a travel card too at £6.60 for the day for zones one and two including busses. Well worth it to save money and hassle queuing. I got mine whilst at Nottingham station. Next time I WILL go to Borough Market and maybe even Harrods food hall.

The following I day I met up with me Mum and we enjoyed some food at Edin’s café in Nottingham before shopping at M&S where she bought me some clothes for my birthday. I haven’t seen Mum since last October so it was very nice to spend quality time with her. We spent a very pleasant three hours together before she returned back to Derby.

My birthday itself was a big success and I got some lovely cards and presents and a lot of birthday wishes on Facebook, some even in German. Note to self: Must stop subscribing to that Teutonic porn site.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The smoke, Laaandan, daan sarf and other delights, guvnor.

On Saturday 26th Feb I am having a pre –birthday (27th Feb) treat and am going down to London (from Nottingham) on the train for a day trip arriving about 11.30am and returning from St Pancras on the 8.15pm train. I managed to get myself a cheap first class ticket (£43 return) so I shall feel truly spoilt travelling there and back in the posh seats. If you fancy doing the same try www. the trainline.com.

I am meeting up with an old  actress friend called Natalia who I haven’t seen since 1990! We have spoken since on the phone occasionally but it will be great to finally meet up properly and chat over lunch at Café Rouge in Wellington Street in the heart of Covent Garden.



There are so many exciting things that I would like to do that I simply haven’t got the money for (stop over, see a fantastic show, buy nice things, meet Nat’s partner, do the tourist thang, etc). I have been working quite a lot of overtime of late at Tesco and this is the only reason I can afford to go down to the capital, known up ‘oop norf’ affectionately as The Smoke. Even so money will be tight.


Borough Market. London.

I was considering going to Harrrod’s food hall to stare at the posh nosh and take a few pictures but even more compelling now is the urge to go to the Borough Market which I first heard about through Rick Stein’s programmes. Now I have had a look at their website and through some pictures on the photography website ‘flickr.com’ I am desperate to go and look around, buy foodie stuff and takes lots of pictures. It closes at five on a Saturday so part of me is reluctant to go when the stalls are looking empty. Oh decisions, decisions.



Scenes from Borough Market activity courtesy of flickr.com

Would yer look at them there tomatoes!

On my birthday itself my step mum is coming over to Nottingham and we are having lunch at the Broadway cinema where they do a good selection of food for very little money. I hope that she enjoys herself in Nottingham and that I stay awake enough to entertain her during her brief visit to the city of Robin Hood, Lace, Paul Smith, Boots the chemist and overall excellence in sports mixed with spasmodically violent gun crime (allegedly).

On Monday 28th I shall report back from my exciting weekend.Ooooooh! Exciting!

Monday, 21 February 2011

getting all steamed up about my belly

Well, I say my belly. I didn't quite mean the area of my body that once was a six pack and now is more beer barrel. I meant a piece of belly pork that I marinated and steam cooked in the oven last night. My mate Paul the fishmonger and former chef who works with me at Tesco made me a chinese marinade. He did verbally give me recipe and cooking method but I couldn't remember it all when I came to cook the pork so, with a bit of help from t'internet, I made the cooking up.



First I part sliced the belly pork through to create lots of little squares of pork but the slab of meat still remaining as a whole piece. Then I rubbed in the delicious smelling marinade, covered it in silver foil and left it in the fridge for a day.



To cook the belly I turned the oven up full (gas mark nine). With the belly on a wire rack and suspended over a water filled tray I popped it into the hot oven for an initial fifteen minutes and then turned the heat down to gas mark four. It remained cooking for an hour and a half and a couple of times along the way I basted the belly with the water in the tray. At one point I rather stupidly moved the hot wire rack along the work surface with my bare fingers! Ouch! I called myself a few choice names and took my stinging finger tips to the cold water tap.




I could hardly wait to eat the chinese style belly pork and finally at 9pm I wolfed down the little cubes of gorgeousness with some plain cooked rice and a few greens. Yummy!


PS: I still have half of the belly sitting in the fridge but it I don't really fancy it cold.

Friday, 18 February 2011

to snack or not to snack

Snack n.

1.A hurried or light meal.

2.Food eaten between meals.

intr.v., snacked, snack·ing, snacks.

To eat a hurried or light meal.

[Middle English snak, variant of snacche, trap, bite, from snacchen, to snap.

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I think we all snack at various times of the day and graze bits and pieces of food and drink from the house or office sometimes to the extent of not really wanting a proper meal afterwards. What I found interesting from the definition above is that the English word comes from the Dutch (snacchen) to snap. Years ago I knew some young men who were coal miners in the Derbyshire coal fields and they called their dinner/lunch that they took down the mine in a tin their 'snap'.

Do you like to snack? What about in the middle of the night?


Monday, 14 February 2011

St Valentine's Day fantasy.

If you could have a fantasy St Valentine's Day, who would you choose to spend those precious moments with and where would you spend the time? In the fantasy, money is no object and the fantasy lover can be enjoyed guilt free.


My personal choice would be to spend the time exclusively with the French actrice, Audrey Tautou. Our time together would be in a private carriage on the Orient Express from Paris to Venice. We would share a beautiful meal and each other's company, some fine champagne and lots of luuuurve! How she would love to hear about my life at Tesco.

Philip: So Audrey, this customer came over t' meat counter and ordered some pork chops and 550 g  of lambs liver.

Audrey: (eyes wide with desire) Oh Philippe, you enchant me so. Tell me more mon amore. Tell me about your sausages en offre and ozzer stuff.


Happy Valentines all xxx

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Cheering myself up with Nigel Slater's Toast

Since having my finger re-set at the fractures clinic on Monday (local anthesthetic and a loud crack!) I have been cheering myself up by reading Nigel Slater's book Toast. He writes in a similar style to me and is from my generation and his mum died when he was a young boy just like my mother did. And he is passionate about all things food. The book is in turns very funny and most touching and is one of those that you can't put down and don't want to finish.


I made a spag bol last night and tried some of the Jamie Oliver spaghetti that was on offer at my local Co-op store for £1. It was ok ...

This morning I cancelled my facebook account as I am finding it too intrusive.Tomorrow I am back at work and steering clear of cooked meat slicers for a while! See previous blog post for more detail on the accident.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

thank goodness for a big stew and ouch my hand hurts.

I should be at work today but yesterday morning I managed  to injure my left hand lifting part of a cooked meat slicer. Fear not gentle reader as there are no severed fingers, deep lacerations or even minor cuts involved. Originally I thought the injury was a dis-located finger as the pain was so instant and severe. After five hours at accident and emergency the docs seem to think that the injury to the middle finger of my left hand is tendon based. All I know is that it is still painful and swollen and that I have an appointment at the QMC fracture clinic on Monday morning. Doing things with one hand is blumming awkward and cooking is probably off the menu of life for a week or so. This blog post has been typed with one finger. The other hand is freezing from holding a bag of frozen peas against the inflamed finger joints.

Thank goodness that I made one of my mammoth stews the other day and on the evening of cooking tried (for the first time) pan frying some king scallops in butter and a light dusting of black pepper.

steak and kidney cooking with onions and bay leaves


scallops with roes cooking in butter


stew and dumplings with onion and puy lentils

scallops with lemon

Tonight I shall enjoy the last of the stew. Problem is that I now have a plie of washing up to do. Any volunteers?