Sorry, guys. I meant to come home and make the most delicious-sounding rhubarb and rye scones from my new favourite place for finding things to do with rhubarb. I also meant to make watermelon lemonade, because somehow it’s been 30 degrees out for the last two weeks and I’ve sort of forgotten what to do when that happens but I’m pretty sure long, refreshing drinks are in order, and what sounds more refreshing than watermelon lemonade?
Instead, though, I didn’t. Firstly, I got distracted by a boyfriend (mine, just to be clear) in a pub garden with a glass of pimms and some calamari – not a good start, productivity-wise – and then, then, somebody on twitter posted that the water at Claverton Weir, my
second new favourite swimming spot, is at a perfect temperature right now. I am not so good at resisting that kind of temptation, apparently.
Oof! I don’t know what happened there, but one day it was May, and then suddenly it was July. What happened to June? I’ve gone straight from early rhubarb to elderflowers, without so much as a whiff of wild garlic and hardly an asparagus spear to be seen. My sister is becoming really quite concerned that I don’t seem to have eaten in a month. (I’m secretly hoping that she’ll take pity on me and come and live in our flat when her lease is up, and make me lots of her delicious food to fatten me back up).
In reality, though, I have been eating – mostly ice cream, I admit, but I have been eating – I just haven’t been writing any of it down. I blame John, who very unreasonably had a birthday only a week before our old housemate returned from 18 months on the other side of the world for four very short days before jetting off to Finland, only a week before my godfather flew across for a visit from Australia (although, in his case, not with a new Finnish girlfriend).
Obviously, it’s been a very hard month.
I bought a punnet of Spanish strawberries a couple of weeks ago. Spain, I thought, that’s not so far away. Maybe they will be nice. They weren’t. Are you surprised? No, I wasn’t either. It’s that time of the year, though, when soft fruit is back on the shelves (the week-end special at the Spar up the road is £1 for a punnet of nectarines or peaches, indistinguishable in their hard scentlessness except for the half-hearted fuzz on the peaches), far, far before it’s even remotely beginning to be nice to eat.
We are lucky enough to live near a good greengrocers and within walking distance of a farmers’ market, but this time of the year makes me long for French markets – the kind you pop to to buy something for lunch, instead coming back laden with armfuls of cherries and doughnut peaches and spending the afternoon in the garden continuing the eternal competition to see who can spit their cherry stones the furthest. Currently, Mum is winning (although she wouldn’t thank me for telling you that); none of the rest of us have quite mastered the technique for the over-the-garden-fence bonus points. Proper class, we are.
I’m very excited today: I finally have my writing room back again, reclaimed from the pile of John’s printing stuff which has been occupying it for the last few months. I probably should point out – before you start wondering how an unpaid blogger can justify having an entire room dedicated solely to writing, decide that property prices in Bath must really have hit rock-bottom and rush, headlong, for the estate agents – that in this flat, ‘writing room’ is just a slightly grander name for what other people would probably call the ‘utility room’. You know, the one with the freezer in, and the slug pellets. I write resting my feet on the pipes for the washing machine (shh! don’t tell John – I’m sure that’s the sort of thing you’re not meant to do with washing machine pipes), with a lovely view out of the window over the wall that separates our path from the neighbours’. Luxury, I’m sure you will agree.
In order for me to have my
corner elegant writing retreat back, I have had to move several racks of moveable type into the corner of the living room, a reallocation I distinctly remember John agreeing to. He denies all knowledge of this, but then I have been known to hold entire conversations with him in my head, and then argue furiously that he absolutely definitely said, in real life – last Tuesday, in the salad aisle at the supermarket – whatever it was that my imagination actually made him say. That’s normal, right? In any case, It Is Done, so most likely it will stay done, at least until the accompanying press makes its way home.
My garden is mostly escapee herbs: mint grows through the gravel path by the front door, I have to fight through huge clouds of oregano to hang the washing out, and lemon balm has colonised the remainder of the poor excuse for a lawn. I think I have found horseradish, as well, colonising the scrappy bit by the hydrangea, but I’m trying quite hard not to think about that – where would my wildflower meadow go then, I ask you? Certainly not at the end of the garden, where a solitary clump of chives vies for land with whatever those yellow buttercuppy flowers are (well, my horticultural knowledge does only extend so far).
Of course, this is all very pleasing in summer, when we can waft sunnily past the herbs and pretend we are somewhere on a Mediterranean hillside, but half-dead craggy broken stems poking through the front path do not look quite so picturesque in March. Certainly not in the snow. Nor the sleet, nor even the never-ending grey that some thoughtless weather god has seen fit to grace my corner of England with for the last hundred years (yes, literally).
However! It must be spring – the oregano is struggling back to life, underneath the manky bits I still haven’t quite got round to chopping back (I am pretending that they are ‘ladybird hotels’. This seems to be working so far – either that, or John is resigned to my idleness), which means, of course, that it is time to eat peppers! and aubergines! and tomatoes! again. No?
It’s around this time of year that I can get a little fed up of side dishes involving brassicas and root vegetables. It has to be said, though, that if you were to take this blog as evidence, you would probably conclude that I eat neither kale nor potatoes as often as I eat pies or cake. Strictly speaking, this is not 100% true – it’s just that I’m not sure how interested you’d be in recipes for steamed broccoli, or colcannon, or even kale sauteed with chilli, garlic and ginger. I have been imagining that if you were that keen, you could probably work those out for yourself (especially the first one), and so my writing efforts are far better used in telling you about 101 things to do with pastry, no?
If you are feeling equally frustrated by the limited options available at the greengrocers, this bright, lightly vinegared dish is a perfect way of cutting through the seasonal monotony. This is admittedly probably partly due to the fact that peppers have no season here in rainy England, so are shipped to us all year from halfway around the world, unlike the more prosaic winter vegetables – I can’t remember ever seeing kale in a supermarket in July, for example, but perhaps that’s because I never want kale in July. I’m always far too busy stuffing my fat little berry-stained face with dressed crab, tomato salads and crunchy green beans.
The other day, a colleague followed me part-way down the corridor at work in order to compliment me on my shoes. I was, of course, flattered (particularly because they are very old, and slightly odd), but after very little time I found myself entirely at a loss as to how one is expected to continue a conversation about shoes. This is fairly shocking, especially given that I can have long and involved discussions about the best way to prepare courgettes. Only with appropriately vetted people, mind, don’t worry – I’m not that person.
When pressed for a definitive answer, I tend to plump for long, tagliatelle-esque ribbons. Although I wouldn’t dream of roasting anything other than ¼-inch-thick rounds, ribbons are far more fun to twiddle round a fork, and cook in no time at all. I suppose you could use a mandolin if you were the sort of highly organised person to have such a thing, but as we have managed to move into the only flat with a kitchen smaller than the one we left, I use a vegetable peeler.
Once you have ribboned all of the courgettes you currently own for the sheer pleasure of seeing if you can get all the strips to line back up into a courgette shape (no? just me?), by far the best thing you can do with them is turn them into either garlicky-courgettes-with-gruyere pasta, or these little balls of deliciousness. Strictly speaking they are a starter, but I have eaten them for dinner – on their own, off the baking tray, on those evenings where you have just enough time to strip 3 courgettes, mix up a big bowl of stuff and shape and bake your dinner before running out of the door. Cheese on toast would probably be the most time efficient option in these circumstances, but I do like a challenge.