Monday, 30 August 2010

A Sunday in Solitude

In an introduction to his poem Life of Sundays, which you can read or listen to here on the poetry archive, Rodney Jones writes:

"I think I could recognise Sundays from any other day if I came back from the planet Mars."

I feel the same way. Sundays can be oppressive. This week I chose to surrender to the atmosphere of the day. I baked. I wandered. I was aimless.

Onion Poppy seed bread
Freshly-baked Onion and Poppy Seed Bread.
I am quite pleased with how this turned out. I made some top class cheese sandwiches with this loaf and used the rest to mop up beetroot soup.

Wild mushrooms on a windy day
I took a walk along the Marriott's way and spotted lots of mushrooms on the verges of the path which was once a railway line. I want to learn how to forage for wild mushrooms. Teach me?

View of the city from New Mills

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Pizza-shaped stress relief

I've been tempering some low-level but increasingly nagging anxiety with some serious "look after yourself why don't you!" behaviour.

Home-made roasted vegetable pizza. In bed. The final of Celebrity Masterchef.

Yes please.

I used this recipe and left it in the fridge over night to prove. I forgot to halve the amount of yeast and spent a few moments at various points of the day worrying that there would be a burgeoning dough monster lurking next to the milk on my return. There wasn't.

Monday, 23 August 2010

When things get messy grate beetroot.

My weekend was nightmarish. All you need to know is that the sort of catastrophe occurred that led to a phone call to Blockbuster Drain Service, the plumbing equivalent of Ghostbusters.

Anyway, I have been meaning to make these Beetroot fritters with lemon and saffron yoghurt from Yotam Ottolenghi's column the New Vegetarian for a while. The house was in such a mess I didn't think grating 250g of cooked beetroot then squeezing out the juice (the sort of activity that back home would have sent my Dad's blood pressure rocketing) was going to make much difference. Attempting to dry out the beetroot was tricky. To make the fritters bind together and fry effectively I ended up adding a couple of tablespoons of flour. That was a much more sensible solution, though I admit I relished the Lady Macbeth-like drama of beetroot blood on my hands.
Take these things...

I did some substituting on the fresh herb front because I'm pretty challenged on the keeping-green-things-alive front so I replaced them with a healthy shake of dried oregano. Also, lacking saffron and lemon I made a tasty sauce with tahini lime and with yoghurt instead. So that is quite a bit of tweaking but fundamentally this flavour combination is ace: earthy, tangy and sweet.
and make this!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Ghent: architecture, art and flexitarianism

So, Mum and I have been trying to organise a trip to Ghent for a while now and the other week I finally got an opportunity to tag along. With my shifts at the cathedral shifted and my apologies made to the Greens I was able to take a break from incessant smiling and letterboxes for a few days.
On the Eurostar as we hurtled through the countryside and into the city we spotted some spectacular rainbows.

I don't know if you've noticed but in Norwich there are 12 iconic buildings (the Castle, Cathedral, St. James Mill... the ones worth noticing) that are linked up with 12 buildings in Ghent, a city that shares some common features, as part of an EU funded project called Shaping 24. I was keen to track them down like a pirate looking for architectural treasures, or more accurately, a big kid. The lady at the tourist information desk had never heard of Norwich or this initiative, but she helped me out marking the sites on the map, no doubt thinking I was a bit of a nutter. I managed to visit or spot 9 out of 12 buildings (75% explorer success rate!) including: two abbeys, a cathedral, a church, an old monastery, a museum of fine art, a city hall, a bell tower and a castle. Their Castle of the Counts looks even more Disney than ours on account the flags on top and St. Bavo's Cathedral was a bit spooky, too many tombs and a crypt full of bling and tat. The Beguinages monastery, however, where religious women the sign defines as "widows or spinsters who wished to live and independent but committed life outside the recognised orders with their vows of fidelity and poverty", was well worth tracking down. I wandered around the monastic buildings weighing up the likelihood of my being one of those women and came to the conclusion that a nun's life would seem like emancipation in comparison to a life of perpetual childbearing.

I also spent some time nosing around the S.M.A.K contemporary art gallery. They had an exhibition about installation art and the new challenges it brings to curators. Its interesting to think about the order behind what appears to be chaotic, the huge files of information about dimensions, materials and even dust that you wouldn't otherwise know existed.
at the S.M.A.K
Installation by Honoré d’O

Apparently, Ghent is the 'Veggie Capital of Europe'. I don't know who gave them that accolade, especially considering this statistic from the campaign website: "In Belgium we eat an average of about 1,800 animals during our lifetime: 891 chickens, 42 pigs, 5 cows, 789 fish, 7 sheep, 43 turkeys and 24 rabbits and other game. With one veggie day a week you can save 250 animals in the course of your lifetime!" Perhaps this prize is for good intentions and progress. The campaign emphasises the benefits of "flexitarianism", an umbrella term that provides shelter for vegetarians who occasionally eat meat and meat-eaters who are keen vegetarian food and reducing their carbon footprint. I think its really important that making green choices becomes a natural part of people's lives. I reckon the spirit of compromise central to flexitarianism is vital if greener ways of thinking are ever to become just thinking.

I had lunch at the Soup Lounge a café where you can get a bowl of soup and with bread and an apple for 4 euros. The décor was pretty swanky, all white benches and orange stools and funky lighting. I sat slurping tomaat soep by the window watching people walk by a cobbled street. Amusingly enough despite my tomaat soep sounding vegetarian I didn't experience Donderdag Veggiedag (Veggie Thursday) in action the chef man piling a generous helping of not particularly welcome greyish meatballs into my bowl with a flourish before serving it up to me!
I went to Ghent. It is a medieveal city. Ignore the crane.