It is windy and stormy here. One fence panel has already succumbed to Storm Doris – and the three at the bottom of the garden, wizened and softly decrepit, huddle together like a trio of ancient men, waiting for the first one to fall over. To say that the grass is wet is to waste adjectives such as sodden, trench-like, soaked and slushy.
Pippa sneaks a delicate fawn paw out of her hutch, has a little sniff and a subdued lollop, her white fur slicked back with rain almost immediately, and then decides that this is not the proper setting for a bunny of her beauty and stature and buggers off back inside, her fluffy beige tail seeming, for a moment, to give the universal one-fingered salute to the world of endless bloody precipitation.
Yesterday was delightfully bright and light-strewn for the most part. My little blue glass pyramid created blue and gold patterns on the kitchen wall, and unexpected rainbow jewels dotted the door in its wake. The light blessed flowers and turned the colours in my various rooms into shining and warm versions of themselves.
I luxuriated in this gift of light – and, knowing that I have visitors today and two more likely during the week, went into an enjoyable frenzy of cooking. Long story short: When I was knee high to a grasshopper, my dear Mama found a secret recipe for home-made ice-cream – and many a summer’s day, in the late sixties to mid seventies, was crowned with late-evening bowls of succulent delight: Strawberry, mint, chocolate, raspberry, all (from faulty memory) eaten sitting in the garden under the apple tree.
So, yesterday, with my various guests in mind, I got out the bowls, having already bought Lindt chocolate and a punnet of raspberries, grabbed the magic ingredients and set to with a merry flick of the wrist and a serious plying of the hand whisk. An hour or so later, four freezer boxes were heaving with pale pink and deep golden-brown deliciousness, ready to bung in the freezer.
I decided to garnish this little treat with yet more chocolate, having always been a great believer in gilding the lily and generally going over the top, and set out the lotions, solids and potions needed for my famous Hungarian Chocolate Biscuits. This, though I say it myself, was a brave thing to do: My oven is idiosyncratic, to say the least, and has a disconcerting tendency to turn into a cremator at the drop of a pastry case. As I creamed butter and sugar, sifted flour and cocoa and beat, folded and cajoled it all together, I was a tad concerned that all my hard work would end in a minor conflagration and the fire alarms creating merry aural hell for the rest of the road.
I decided to have stern words with the accursed appliance – and told it that, if it didn’t stop burning everything, I would dismantle and replace it! Then, having moulded my dough into the required shapes, I put two trays of embryonic biscuits in my fiery Nemesis and crossed everything I could think of!
All joking aside, I am finally getting the measure of this oven – technicalities too tedious to divulge! – and it co operated a treat, turning out chocolate heaven in quarter of an hour.
Once cooled, I used plain butter icing to create an Oreo effect – and twenty-plus of these wonderful confections now sit in two tins, ready for the influx of hungry people over the next few days!
The pasta sauce is ready – and merely needs meat adding to it. The ice cream has frozen and the biccies look great. All I need to do is boil a great cauldron of pasta, heat up the sauce – and Bob’s your uncle!
I am a perfectionist and, for this reason, entertaining the troops – even known ones – causes me anxiety. Silly really because my cooking skills are coming back to me. But perhaps the worry sharpens things, gives me an incentive to be creative, in the culinary sense, that I wouldn’t get if I were a more relaxed and laid-back person. Who knows?!
Since my earliest days, visitors have caused a weird blend of nervous tension and excitement. I often, as a child, used to get asthma or hayfever before parties – and, as an adult, often get tummy aches.
Now – I just hope the rain eases up a bit so that my out-of-Glastonbury visitors don’t need an Ark and two of every animal in order to get here!
Ooh! Weak blue sky and sudden light! Stay, Light, stay!