When I woke up this morning Pippa–mother of all cats–was there on the bed as she has been for the last two days. She was at her toilet–conscientiously licking her paw, then wiping her cheeks and ear with it–a built-in flannel [washcloth] so to speak.
It reminded me I hadn’t shaved for two days–I’d been laid up with a “gastro“, which had started at roughly 1.30am on the morning after my birthday.
The only other time I remember being as sick (literally) was the day I was filming the dénouement scene in an episode of Sherlock Holmes. I had a long speech of explanation to deliver to a solemn, suspicious and silent Jeremy Brett, Edward Hardwicke and a very young Jude Law. I managed the first take without interruption–but had to RUN on the word CUT –and it was a bumpy ride ’til we finished.
Two nights ago at least I had no lines to remember. My timing was better on this occasion! The birthday was over and had been much enjoyed. Meredith gave me an album–cataloguing the story of an eventful year–superb photos mostly taken by her.
Looking back on my birthday though, there were signs of trouble ahead.
I remember feeling relieved I had planned ahead and prepared the Lamb Tagine (see recipe below) the day before. That left the broccoli starter and the bulgar wheat–simple!
We were eight round the table–old friends–including my old adversary from Poldark days, Donald Douglas (aka Captain McNeil). It was convivial. I was enjoying the occasion.
It was only late the next day that I realised I had forgotten an essential step in the preparation of the starter–grilling the broccoli (see below). As I served up the dish, I had a nagging feeling something was not quite right! (We have a tradition of forgetting key ingrediants when entertaining for crowds!).
PLUS I forgot to prepare the bulgar wheat, so the table had to wait while it fluffed up.
This dish also served as the starter for the special Saturday dinner on my October Cooking Workshop:
It is adapted from a recipe in Ottolenghi’s eponymous first cookbook.
On that night it tumbled over a small pile of salad leaves–radiccio, rocket, lettuce–dressed with olive oil lemon juice and salt.
1lb broccoli–broken into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves–sliced as thin as you can
2 fresh red chilis, medium hot–de-seeded and sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon sliced very thin
- Steam the broccoli–more than blanched less than tender–still crunchy in other words.
- Remove to a bowl and pour over 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt.
- Heat a grill to hot.
- Scatter the broccoli over it and colour lightly. [Don't FORGET this step!]
- Return to the serving bowl.
- Heat the second batch of oil.
- When hot cook the garlic slices and the chili until the garlic takes on some color.
- Pour this mixture over the broccoli.
- Add the lemon slices and mix in carefully.
- Serve on a bed of salad leaves dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Lamb Tagine with dried apricots & flageolet beans
(Reproduced from Delicious Dishes for Diabetics p 138)
This superb dish for company is adapted from one in Frances Bissell’s exceptional book The Pleasures of Cookery.
2 kg/41⁄2 lb boned shoulder of lamb–cut away as much fat as possible, ending up with about 1.5 kg/31⁄2 lb lean lamb, cut into 2 cm/1 inch cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic–chopped
11⁄2 tsp cumin seeds
11⁄2 tsp coriander seeds
850 ml/11⁄2 pints/31⁄2 cups stock--I use organic vegetable stock cubes
24 dried apricots–halved (use the yellow ones as they show up better in the sauce later)
salt and pepper
parsley, or even better coriander–chopped
1 large tin flageolet beans–drained and rinsed
- Heat the oven at 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.
- Seal the meat in hot oil, using a large frying pan; when nicely browned, remove it to the ovenproof casserole you will serve it from.
- Gently fry the onions and garlic in the fat and oil left in the pan without browning them.
- Fold in the whole spices and let them cook a little.
- Add almost all the stock, leaving just enough in which to heat up the beans, and let it reduce a bit.
- Add the apricots. Season this mixture and pour it into the casserole.
- Add a handful of parsley or coriander.
- Heat the beans in a little stock and when hot add to the casserole. Turn everything over carefully.
- Bring it all to a simmer and place it on a low shelf in the preheated oven.
- Cook for 2 hours, checking after an hour to see if it needs topping up with stock – being careful not to lose the intensity of the sauce.
- Serve over bulgar wheat [Which you've remember to prepare!]