You know this whole life thing, right? Well I get the impression that it can be rather unkind; that just when you think you're getting the hang of this newly enforced existence, it takes a moment to quash any notion you may have had of developing inner strength, and to quietly shatter any impressions of an impending happy calm. In the last few weeks, it has taken much from those whom I hold dear, and has been most unforgiving in delivering such devastating sadness. Even the better moments have been tainted by the inner knowledge that they shouldn't be this way, and we are all so acutely aware of what we are missing. And although you think to yourself, I've had fifteen months to get used to it, I should be able to do this by now, the emotional maelstrom still tends to hit with magnificent force, and you're sent drifting once more.
But enough of this - while I appreciate your tolerance of my occasional need to cryptically offload, we don't come here for psychological misgivings. We come here for food; and food it shall be…
Our recent gardening developments have left we of Team Pretty Bake feeling a slightly deeper shade of exhausted, and so our intentions for this weeks Sunday session were put on hold, and it was decided instead that I would host the divine Miss Rose in an intimate tea for two.
Having temporarily uprooted and headed deep into the scrays of foot for a spot of house-sitting, I had the immense pleasure of having a kitchen to myself and space to entertain. Comfort and simplicity were the order of the day, and for me this is epitomised by the virtues of slow cooking. A succulent shoulder of lamb was massaged with a paste made from fresh rosemary, lemon zest, mustard seeds and anchovies, marinated, and then set atop garlic and tomatoes and sent to roast in a slow oven for a good many hours. Served simply with flageolets and a selection of roast vegetables and steamed greens, it was a most pleasurable and relaxing way to dine indeed.
Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb rubbed with rosemary, anchovy and lemon zest
For dessert, nothing says homely like a classic pudding, and so I made my first attempt at the steamed variety using the ever-complimentary pear and ginger. Buerre bosc's were poached in a luscious ginger lime syrup sweetened with dessert wine, then topped with a light gingery batter and steamed until fluffy and moist. To say that I was rather chuffed with the turn-out would be somewhat of an understatement; and when slathered with cream and served with extra pears and syrup, it was a thoroughly delicious end to the evening.
Steamed pear and ginger pudding
So it was nice to settle back and relax with a simple meal shared between good friends. We enjoyed our change of scenery, and although the lamb wasn't quite the shoulder for leaning that I was after, I'm now happier to accept that these days it will just have to do (and yes, technically speaking it was more like a leg, but surely it's virtually same-same when it comes to ovine anatomy, and anyway, why let such things get in the way of a good title?).
…As for those alluded-to better moments - my practically-little-sis and her charming man have decided to get hitched, and gave me the utmost honour of being master baker for their engagement celebrations. Despite a few minor hiccups involving late-night baking, the forgetting of ingredients, leaking tins, burnt cake bottoms and my managing to bruise my ribs with a few cake tins (there is a perfectly logical explanation, but it's probably more amusing if I leave you guessing), the pervading of cakey delights with bitter sentiments was somehow avoided. A (not-so)-show-stopping Ding Dong was tiered with cream and strawberries, ganache and sweet cherry jam, more cream, more strawberries, and just a little more ganache to help finish things off. Thankfully, I do believe it turned out rather well:
K & T's engagement cake