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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Reasons why Fran is glad of the fickle British climate



Twice now, we have accidentally had a Christmas barbecue, both times because my daughter-who-was-a-contestant-on-Masterchef has arrived at our house with the Christmas meat, over-estimating the size of our oven.  Once it was a piece of beef which was so big and boastful, we had to tell it to breathe in before it came through the front door, let alone the oven door. Last year, she brought a goose which had an ambition to be an Olympic shot-putter and had been undergoing intensive training before its hopes and dreams were cut short. Both the beef and the goose found themselves being barbecued in our back garden, there being no room in our tiny oven for roast vegetables and meat with pretensions. We took turns togging up in hats and coats to baste or check the meat, avoiding the twitchy curtains of the neighbours who wondered why, if we wanted a barbecue at Christmas, we didn't just move to Australia.

This year, we went to our daughter's house for Christmas and, by design rather than accident, because she is someone who lives in London but really wants to be a farmer's wife and live off the land, we sat in her garden all Christmas day watching as she roasted two pieces of meat - lamb and pork - on a giant spit made by her partner who lives in London but really wants to be a farmer. While she prepared the meat, my husband, who's a gardener, dug up the parsnips, potatoes and carrots from the vegetable patch. If you used to watch The Good Life, you're in the right territory.

The picture below is of the meat loaded onto an uber-skewer in my daughter's kitchen, with a smug duck looking on, glad it wasn't his turn. So that you can get a sense of the size of the skewer, I will tell you that the bench is about five feet long. The partner who lives in London but really wants to be a farmer is also a skilled carpenter who made my daughter a table and benches to seat ninety. If they do achieve their ambitions and move house, I think the house will have to be lifted up by a crane so the table and benches can be removed, and the table and benches will need to have wheels attached so they can be towed down the motorway towards Sussex or Wales or Ireland, wherever the farm is.



Here's the pork and lamb cooking over hot coals at the bottom of the garden.



Christmas Day, weather-wise, looked nothing like any of the Christmas cards. Not a snowflake in sight. In fact, it was such a mild day that we could sit outside, without coats, and watch the meat on the spit. So, our Christmas Day entertainment went like this:

- pour a drink
- go down the garden with the drink and a book
- Say 'Those juices are less pink now'
- watch the meat being rotated by someone else in the family
- eat some crisps
- take a turn rotating the meat
- read a book
- chat a bit
- Say 'Those juices are less pink now'
- eat some crisps
- go back indoors for another drink

No, it's not Charades, and we had to catch up on the Queen's speech later, but watching meat cook for hours and hours and hours makes you relax. Our modern, instant cooking methods that we use day to day don't provide this same sense of 'Aaaah, that's better!' It's just not the same, peering at the dial on the microwave while it goes 59, 58, 57, 56 ....

There was some incongruity within this pseudo-rustic scene in that my daughter's house is in Isleworth, next to Heathrow Airport, and the planes fly over her garden so low that you can order a drink and a snack from a member of BA's cabin crew and watch a scene from Shrek 3 before the planes move on. Occasionally, when one of us said, 'Those juices are less pink now', no one heard. You can't imagine how noisy those planes are until you've sat in my daughter's garden and felt a hot undercarriage singe the top of your head as the aircraft flies off to New York or Italy or Africa.

Every five minutes, someone said, 'Shall we taste a bit?' so we sat in a line, our mouths open just like the beaks of baby birds in a nest, and tiny slivers were sliced off and deposited in our mouths like little sweetmeats.

At five, we sat down around the mahoosive table in the kitchen, squinting through the candlelight at other family members sitting far away at the other end of the table, and calling to each other for salt or to pass the parsnips just as Heathcliff calls to Catherine across the North Yorkshire moors. In the middle of the table was an Everest of fragrant, juicy meat, and if you're a vegetarian, and still reading this, WELL DONE, YOU!

With the meat, we had homemade mint sauce and cranberry sauce and apple sauce and crispy potatoes cooked in goose fat, and parsnips and carrots and indigestion and regret.

But it was fabulous.

As an addendum, here's a picture of one of the parsnips, which I dubbed an octoparsnip. I think you'll see why.






22 comments:

  1. What a feast you had and what fun watching it cook in the garden and digging your own veggies. Maybe when the time comes for that move you can get one of those low flying jets to tow the table and benches.

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    1. Ha ha - that suggestion made me laugh. But it's going to take something like that!

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  2. My son barbecues all year round in Buckinghamshire, sometimes dressed in sou'wester and oilies, but his food is always delicious. He also smokes his own food - no, not in a roll-up, that would be silly!

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    1. I had this vision of him smoking a whole joint of beef.

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  3. YUMMY!! Any leftovers for me?

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    1. I can send the address if you like. It's all in the freezer.

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  4. My brother also bbqs all the year round. He and his wife sat in the shed in the rain on Christmas Eve bbqing meat. His children refused to accompany them. Great post. Really funny. My favourite bit is the part about ordering snacks from the cabin crew 😂

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    1. Ha ha - I have a feeling that if we had sat in a shed barbecuing meat on Christmas Eve when our kids were younger, they'd have disowned us. And now look!!

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  5. I am a vegetarian and I now feel rather ill. However, I'm glad you had a nice time. Spirit of Christmas and all that.

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    1. You are most gracious! I hope you enjoyed the octoparsnip at least.

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  6. Even with that bench being five feet long, I still don't get a real sense of how big those chunks of meat are. They just don't look that big. How small/big are your English ovens? Dimensions would be helpful.
    I do recall from barbecues past that spit roasted meat is delicious and worth waiting for.

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    1. They would have been too big for our oven, but on the spit (which is BIG) they look small. Most English ovens are bigger than ours. We live in rented accommodation and if the landlord wants us to have an oven that will only cook a sausage, so be it.

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  7. It sounds like a Pagan feast. I love the idea of digging up the parsnips & carrots.

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    1. Yes, it was a bit primitive and back-to-nature!

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  8. At first glance , the top photo looked like a trussed skeleton and I couldn't think quite what you were all going to eat . I ought to have known that there was no need to worry .
    Are there any leftovers ?

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    1. The leftovers are in her freezer. I'll send you the address and you can queue behind fishducky.

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  9. .. merry Christmas and happy New Year Fran..... the whole Christmas BBQ sounds wonderful.. I live in Sydney, Australia ...no snow here.. but we do have lots of rain... My hubby BBQ's all year round... he loves it.. he has a fan out in the BBQ area for when it's hot and he made covered walkways so he can cook in the rain... he likes to do the vegies on the BBQ too..
    ... Barb xxxx

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    1. He's a keeper! Sounds as though he does loads of the cooking! Happy New Year, Barbara. Thanks so much for following the blog this year. x

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  10. So very many funny lines in this post, but my favourite is "calling to each other for salt or to pass the parsnips just as Heathcliff calls to Catherine across the North Yorkshire moors." And your daughter was a contestant on Masterchef? Wow! Did Gordon Ramsay ever swear at her?

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    1. Thanks for reading, DSWS! Yes, she was a contestant, but the judges were John Torode and Greg Wallace. I don't think they swore. Not in the bits the TV showed, anyway ....

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  11. It all sounds like great fun and wonderful food..... the planes would freak me out though. We live about 5 miles south of Luton airport, so see a lot of planes overhead, but they are at 6/7 thousand feet by the time they come over, so not worrying at all ! Happy New Year to you and family. x

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    1. We used to live in Greater London right under the flight path. We now live in Warwickshire. The planes really DID freak us out and were partly why we moved. When we go back to London now we are very, very grateful it's only temporary exposure ...

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