Yesterday was going really well. I was offered an opportunity to go on a business trip to the Juice music awards in Auckland at the end of September, I negotiated some work from home, I did a presentation on the song "London's Burning" by the Clash which went well, I got an A on an essay about The Great Gatsby, Tim had a doctor's appointment and was told that his blood sugar levels were better than ever, (I bet it's all the lentils and oats) and we were going to have spare ribs for dinner.
And then I made a batch of terrible muffins. It wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been looking forward to making them for quite some time now...I'd bought one of those big bags of fancy salad leaves, which I think are worth the price - there's no waste, and they're good for perking up all manner of meals. There were some straggly, rapidly aging fronds at the bottom of the bag that I wanted to use up, which is how I came to the idea of slicing the remaining lettuce up and stirring it into a muffin mixture. I thought it would be a witty twist on the ubiquitous spinach and feta muffins of auld. I'm so glad I can't afford feta right now or it would have been a cruel end for it.
"plans that either come to nought or half a page of scribbled lines"
They may look sorta pretty, but they tasted, to my utter dismay, monumentally feral. Tim diplomatically - and shrewdly - said "you've definitely made better," rather than anything more confrontational. I suspect the lettuce was undisguiseably on the turn, which gave it an unusual, grassy, almost metallic flavour when baked. The spare ribs were fabulous, but I spent dinner clouded over by my failure. Insult to injury- I used up the rest of my 7-grain flour in them too. They were light, moist, soft...but tasted awful. I regret to say they are now "waiting for the worms" in the garden...I might have to bake an enormous cake to counteract the bad vibes the muffins left me with. Call me overdramatic, but anyone who loves to cook should know how it stings when something doesn't work, not to mention the further, irritating reminder of the wasted ingredients.
Luckily the spare ribs were, as aforementioned, delicious, or I would have had a complete meltdown. I'd frozen them in their marinade a few weeks ago so I could have a quick dinner on hand, and for some reason I think the process of them solidifying and then defrosting in the marinade made them particularly flavoursome. If you're wondering, the marinade was a not-too-revolutionary mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, a splash of dry sherry, a little dried ginger and cinnamon, several cloves of garlic and a dribble of golden syrup. And apart from that, it was a good day. It just got better and better with one of the most amazing episodes of Outrageous Fortune yet. Tension all over the place, tear-jerking performances from Cheryl, Loretta, Pascal, Munter and Kasey and as for Baby Jane, she's cuter than a puppy and a duckling sitting in a roller skate.
"several species of small furry animals"
Just to reassure you that I still can cook: I more or less invented this casserole on Monday, and was smugly pleased with the successful results. It uses lamb neck chops which, I know, sound a little frightening, (the sort of thing that makes one think instantly of Bambi...that deer has a lot to answer for) When you consider it rationally though they are no less a part of the lamb than the fancier cuts. Furthermore, the neck chops are very, very cheap - because no one wants to be eating them - and even though there's not an awful lot of meat on them, there's also not a lot of fat. If you had a lot going on, one chop per person would do, indeed I was pretty full after one, but two is probably a decent serving.
So: I seared the chops and put them aside, before browning a chopped onion and a carrot chopped into batons, in a casserole dish. I used the sort of dish that can usefully go straight from the hob to the oven. I then put those to the side, fitted the meat in snugly, covered it with the vegetables, poured over 1 1/2 cups beef stock, and added a bayleaf, several garlic cloves, a handful of chopped dates and 2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout. I then baked it at 160 C for two hours. It just occured to me that it might make sense to brown the vegetables before the meat. I guess you could skip the browning stage altogether, and just bung everything into a casserole, particularly useful if you don't have a metal one. Adding the extra step just helps me to feel that I'm really creating something.
It smelled heavenly while it was slowly cooking and the meat came out meltingly tender. I served it over rice, and for crunch, a salad of shredded cabbage dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and tumeric. The ras-el-hanout and the slow cooking entirely embiggened the dodgy cuts of meat. Of course, neck chops are probably never going to be your first choice...especially if you can afford a French rack or whatever it's called - but now you know what to do with them.
Over the weekend I had the good luck to be spontaneously whisked up home for my mum's birthday. My dad organised it, ("I have a cunning plan...") and mum didn't know I was coming. Let me tell you, it is such an ego boost to be someone's surprise present. It was amazing to be up home again to see the whanau, when I wasn't expected to get there till Christmas, and we had a huge birthday brunch on Sunday morning. Mum, who is incapable of letting me go anywhere without food, sent me home with a slab of corned beef, some bacon, enough mince to keep us in meatballs for weeks, a pineapple, a block of butter, a bag of oats, some cheeses (brie and havarti) and some lemons. And she was lamenting that if she'd known I was coming up she'd have organised me a proper food parcel. Speaking of birthdays, a great big "cheers" for all the salutations for Tim's birthday in my last post! One of the things I love about blogging.
"I've got some bad news for you sunshine..." I found out this morning that Rick Wright, founding member of Pink Floyd, has died. I have long been a fan of Pink Floyd, and was fortunate enough to see the erstwhile Floydian Roger Waters in cracking form at a concert last February. I know from various books that Wright went through some troubled, druggy times...although not as well known as that crazy diamond Syd Barrett...during "The Wall" period Wright was actually fired from the band, although it was clearly a highly tense stage for all involved. A bit like George Harrison of the Beatles, Wright was often overshadowed by the two enigmatic main songwriters, but in fact wrote one of their very best tunes. Great Gig In The Sky is a track that can only be described as ASTONISHING. (Listen to it on youtube by clicking here.) Even if you're not into what I (probably inaccurately) term dad-rock...and Pink Floyd can dip into pompousness...the sheer spine-chilling effect that this song has can be appreciated in its own right.
"and if the band you're in starts playing different tunes...I'll see you on the dark side of the moon" I love this photo, one of the earlier ones of the band in the sixties. I think it's the artfully draped neckerchiefs that make it. Rick Wright is on the far left, then Roger Waters, the late Syd Barrett, and Nick Mason. Syd Barrett was replaced by David Gilmour. Gilmour was better looking than Waters and a superior guitar player...but Waters was the better lyricist and has aged much more gracefully. (Silver fox!)
By the way, I refuse to use "great gig in the sky" as some kind of pun/metaphor for wherever Wright may be now because I know that every journalist and would-be journalist will be doing so. I thumb my nose at such laziness and instead my title and captions have all been taken from Pink Floyd lyrics. In case you were wondering what on earth was going on.
"The time is gone, the song is over, Thought I'd something more to say..."