Thursday, 31 December 2009

Let thy servant depart

So here we are at the end of 2009. I had hoped to finish the year with a post that is half written covering our Christmas adventures and our New Year escapades in the Kitchen. It is a post that also looked forward to the year to come and to the adventures planned and under consideration. As it is unfinished it will have to wait for another day to make its way here. Instead I offer this photo which is of a little bowl of wasabi I made from powder which I added to some Miso, Sake & Mirin and am using as a marinade for some steak which we will cook tonight.

The news of the shooting in a shopping centre in Espoo today has however sombred my thoughts and as I sit here surveying the winter wonderland of snow from the comfort and warmth of my living room I cannot but help feeling saddened by what has happened. 4 people killed for no reason other than shopping for groceries. What were their life stories, who is mourning their loss now? I guess I feel all this so keenly because of the precious gift the boss & I have received this year. They all told me parenthood would change everything. I didn't believe any of them at the time and even before this sad news I had already lost count of the number of times they had been proved right. This is supposed to be a time for hope. I hope my blind faith will be enough.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The woods are lovely

Outside the snow is falling and the land is dark. I have had a busy day at work and am in a dreamy mood: the kind of mood that comes from the weather - tonight is the kind of night I remember from within myself: it is the kind of night that is made for walking across fields, through woods, beside rivers, canals for just being out, lost in the myriad millions of snow flakes falling falling falling.

I have done such nights many many times in my life and I hope one day soon I will take my daughter Frances out on such a night and introduce her to the beauty of a dark night, a snowy sky, a walk without a destination, the poetry of just being a traveller as a blot on an otherwise quiet world. As a teenager at school I would regularly escape into the snowy nights to wander, into the clear crisp winter nights to wander and see the constellations, into the summer nights to wander yet none of them moved me like the snowy nights when the sky seemed full of wonder falling falling falling. The wind, the dark, the snow, the sound of my feet crunching through fresh snow, the fields luminous and yet indistinct, the woods clear and yet closed and mysterious and the precious moments where the clocks disappeared from the world and the only thing that mattered was how long you wanted to go.

The kitchen will be closing for Christmas and I would like to wish all readers a happy Christmas. I will be back in the new year. I know the year ahead has many many exciting adventures planned. I just hope I will be able to put them all here.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Creeped out in Barkaby

I've been in Sweden with work this last week. On Monday I found myself in Uppsala waiting for a train to Stockholm and found this book in the store at the station. "Let the right one in" is a tale of vampires, murder, mayhem and the less savoury aspects of life in Stockholm's western suburbs during the long dark Swedish winter. Where did I get off the train and start wandering around in the dim light of dusk? Stockholm's western suburbs. Did it freak me out? Hell yes!

The 500 pages of the book only took a few days to read as it was a compelling read. Somehow it took various aspects of the Vampire mythos and turned them on their head in a refreshing way. It then also added to the mix several other normal story lines and characters and let them all begin to converge in a way that moderately predictable. The ending managed to be slightly surprising in the way it unfolded although thinking about it for 10 minutes told me exactly where the clues were. I'm avoiding a precis of the plot as it works on many levels and let us face it and 200year old vampire befriends small boy isn't your average premise for a book. The fact that it jumped into other genres as well; crime, low life, romance only added to the enjoyability of the read.

As I am travelling a lot at the moment I am keen to find books that pass the time away, don't demand too much attention and yet are above average quality. This book fits that criteria and it was better vampire book than twilight.

So now I am kicking around looking for a new book, preferably still in the Vampire genre which seems to be where my head is at right now.


While in Stockholm I was lucky enough to have a traditional Swedish Christmas dinner on a boat cruising the archipelago. While it was a huge meat and drink fest which has all the staples of Scandinavian cooking (I felt like a herring the next morning) this one included some of the less often served dishes which I was keen to try: pigs trotters. I understand the whole mind over matter thing and I almost chickened out before the first mouthful however I can recommend them! Of course they are not as good as other bits of the pig but do not be afraid! They are quite fatty and there isn't so much meat on them but they are like eating ham to all intents and purposes and that isn't so bad is it?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Tabbouleh winter

It is getting colder in Turku, there has been a hard frost and today the first snow has fallen. What does the kitchen do in a week like this? Cook like it is summer time! We started the week well with some tabbouleh and chicken which with it's lovely parsley freshness really seemed to pep me up from the slumbering darkness. It was remarkable simple to make and I cannot for the life of me think why I haven't made it before. I used the recipe in Leith's cookbook as a guide and towards the end let me taste buds guide me as I added salt, pepper and lemon juice.

I think it is an indication of the power of food to evoke memories of times, places and people gone by a long time ago that eating that tabbouleh in a kitchen in Finland put me in mind of a visit to some Lebanese friends of my parents called Sammy & Theresa and how at their house I was given tabbouleh for the first time and eating it again this week was a reminder of how wonderful it was.

The other thing to note is that tabbouleh will be a staple in the BBQs that will be a feature of next summer. So easy to make, so good to eat - can I praise this stuff enough?

Writing of BBQs my day job is about to launch a frying pan designed specifically for a BBQ, this has me very curious as I have only seen a bad photo of it and it looks like it has lots of holes in the bottom of it. I look forward to seeing it closer up!

On Wednesday evening we dabbled with Spanish food - here I used pimenton, sherry vinegar and garlic as a flavour base and added it to onions, pork, tomatoes, mushrooms and chorizo and let them stew. As I served it up with potatoes I realised that if I should have used chickpeas to make it even more authentic.

This is a perfect supper dish that demands minimal attention and any left overs can be turned into soup the following day as we did this afternoon for lunch.

Tonight we will be making a hearty macaroni cheese, I had thought about burying some asparagus in there to make it more summery but that seems to be trying too hard and maybe on this cold and darkening evening the best thing to do is to make the macaroni cheese as thick and as gloopy as I can manage so that it makes your insides so warm the cold will not touch you.