Sunday, 27 June 2010

It’s too darn hot!

I have never taken to hot weather. Apparently as a baby I would scream in my pram if the temperature rose too high for my sensibilities. I am also prone to heat rashes. So today has been particularly taxing. The Eagle e-mailed to say she had spent most of it shopping with her parents. Yesterday I found her at the gym exercising on the running machine. I was full of admiration for such stamina.

A week earlier the Eagle and the Owl had called around for supper. I had a very special favour I needed to ask of them and generous to a fault, they readily agreed. In the event I need not have sought such a favour off of them. But it was touching that they were prepared to show me such a marked act of kindness.

It was so hot I had to postpone their visit by a further three quarters of an hour whilst I finished baking the main course in the oven. As a starter I served sorrel and spinach soup. I had planned to make a sorrel soup using ingredients from my garden but I lacked sufficient quantities of sorrel and had to make up for the deficiency with a large bag of spinach. The main course was a Delia Smith recipe for asparagus and cheese tart..recipe I had to scour the locality for a flan tin with fluted edges and a loose base. When I rolled out the home made pastry, made with butter and grated cheese (I omitted the lard) it fell to pieces. As a result it looked more like a patchwork pastry case when I placed it in the oven. Not that anyone would have noticed when the baked case was removed from the oven, steamed asparagus pieces placed on the bottom and covered with a mixture of single cream, eggs and grated cheddar and parmesan cheese before being returned to the oven. A simple dish but as Delia opines, quite “sublime.”  The Eagle could not believe I had made it myself despite the fact that I served it from the base of the flan tin.

For the dessert I had made an Angela Hartnett's chocolate and vanilla semifreddo in honour of the Eagle’s and the Owl’s Tuscany farmhouse.recipe Again a simple but stunning dish generously flavoured with Cointreau. When Cristo popped around the following day I gave him a generous potion to take back down with him whilst he watched the football in his own flat. I replaced Angela’s splash of alcohol with a generous tablespoon full to give it an extra kick.  I almost had to abandon the recipe altogether when I could not find any amaretti biscuits to buy even from the local Italian deli. Luckily the Italian bakery further along the road did have some in. Moreover the shopkeeper asked if there was anything else the "young lady" required. It has been many moons since I have been addressed as  young lady. Methinks that shop will receiving my custom again in the near future.

It is customary for me to bake bread for my guests to take away with them. Last week was no exception. I baked two Finnish nissua loaves and a Nigella Lawson Finnish rye loaf. My flat began to resemble the interior of a Finnish sauna with regard to the searing temperature. Truly I suffered for my art.

Living under the roof of a house built in the 1850s the building is as well insulated as modern dwellings. During the long winter months my living room was often so cold I could see my breath upon the air. I deliberately refrained from using my heating whenever possible to keep my electricity bills to a minimum. Cocooned in a quilt and the strategic placing of hot water bottles around my person meant that I could tolerate the cold perfectly well. Only friends thought it cold even after I had the heating on at full blast in their honour. By contrast, there is little respite from the oppressive heat, even with the windows and the doors, including my front door, flung open in a desperate bid to allow the air to circulate. For the winter I would be tempted to install insulation in the loft. However, I have heard that such insulation can cause the rooms below to become unbearably hot in summer as the heat can no longer disperse naturally through the roof. Little wonder that I prefer to keep vampire hours during the summer.

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