Saturday, 6 October 2018

Food blog thirteen - Thank God it Wasn't Two Weeks Ago

So we had the party plans down to a fine art. Brother-in-law was to sleep downstairs on a fold-up bed. I'd affixed a better curtain so he wouldn't be disturbed by cracks of light from outside and given him hanging space in the en-suite shower room. Yes, we have an en-suite bathroom next to (or in... ie en...) the sitting room. On night one we ended up putting the fold-up away as b-in-law fancied another arrangement. But that was ok. And he didn't mind the cat sleeping downstairs there with him.
Next morning he told us he hadn’t slept. It wasn’t the cat or the persistence of light but the amaretto he’d had - and wasn’t used to. We had to ensure a sober evening for night number two.

Niece and nephew-in-law were to have the guest room (...not en-suite... go figure...) with Bobby-the-dog at their feet and their daughter in the en-suite transit room. I had to move everything I use for my writing out of the transit room aka my study, and move a few chairs to enable Richard to put the sofa bed down. But it worked. We could barely get into our bedroom but that's a tiny sacrifice...

Everything was going well. The meals Richard had prepared were ready. After the space-in-the-fridge wars we were a few hours off the start of the party. Then I went seriously tired. The cause was too much hoovering and making the garden look as perfect as I could get it without employing hired help.

I'd done my hair, even resorting to curlers to give it an extra bounce. I wanted a soak and turned on the bath tap. Instantly I was sprayed all over  with icy water as one of our guests hadn't switched the shower lever back to the taps. The bathroom was soaked. I was coated head to foot and swore...loudly. Thankfully there were so many party guests downstairs, nattering away, that no-one heard. Our cat, however, was looking awfully fearful.

Nelson-cat wasn't used to having all these people and a dog on his premises. Cats are sooo territorial, aren't they? It meant he stayed outside for the most part. But it was the wettest Saturday we'd had for weeks and he also got soaked. After (bravely) snatching a bite to eat mid-afternoon from his bowl he dashed outside again. But, after my bath, I found him in the guest room, looking terrified, wet and coated in mud. Needless to say the sheets he was lying on were full of small grey paw marks. Minor calamity.

Then came the issue of how to get seven cakes down to the party venue, along with balloons and displays of images of Richard through the years - it was a party in his honour after all.

How do you transport cakes, in the rain, and park at the same time? Maybe many streets away?
Answer:  Get your brother - who's just driven 100 miles - to drop you off. That way you can hold a cake or two on your lap. And get a niece to accompany you, with two more cakes on her lap. But, as with mice and men, plans don't go to plan. Our niece ended up somewhere else, in the pouring rain, with cakes, Bobby-the-dog and her four-year-old in tow... Bath isn't the easiest place for parking, and not on a wet Saturday night in a howling gale balancing cakes on one finger. (And certainly not if you don't live in Bath and aren't familiar with it.)

Thankfully my aunts were staying behind at our house, for a short time, and had wedged their cakes in proper cake carriers with slats of wood. No movement there. And aunties were as good as gold. They locked all our windows. They stroked Nelson-the-terrified-cat and ensured all internal doors were open so he could leave the guest bedroom, sneak downstairs, snatch a bit more to eat, as Bobby-the-dog was at our party, thence go outside to empty his bowels. (If he'd been shut in the guest room it wouldn't have been only muddy paw marks on those sheets.) The aunts also locked our house up and came to the party in my brother's car. Yes he made yet another journey into town ... I can't even remember where he parked... so busy was I talking to party guests when he arrived at the venue. By the end of the evening I'd almost lost my voice and my brother had driven another thirty miles. Were we all mad?

Imagine, if you will, that the minor panic about cake transportation and parking was met with this weekend's events- additional stresses and strains to throw in the mix:

Last night our cooker threw a wobbly. One ring under the ceramic hob didn't want to come on.  A standard lamp in the transit room, my study and home of the aforementioned sofa-bed, crackled, blinked several times, went off and refused to come back on. Then the cooker, oven, all rings and grill completely blew. Finally the main bedroom wall lights failed to come on at all. Something electrical was amiss. Smart work, Miss Marple.

The repair team for the cooker, rings, oven and grill can't come until Wednesday. Today we are using my plug-in induction plate and the microwave oven. Richard has never made a chicken stew on the induction hob before but I gave him a lesson this morning. He's trying it out now. You can make it with four small chicken pieces or two larger ones.

    He is using Delia Smith's chicken recipe - 
   chicken cacciatore

       4 chicken pieces - seasoned
       1 tbsp white wine vinegar
       1 tbsp olive oil
       1 thickly sliced onion
       350g ripe tomatoes, skinned or out of a tin
       1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
       1 tbsp tomato puree
       140 ml dry white wine
       1 bay leaf

      1.  Heat the oil in a casserole* on P4 (hot) on the induction hob.
      2.  When it's shimmering fry the chicken in it until golden brown. Then remove the chicken pieces and allow to rest on a plate.
      3.  Add the onions to the casserole, turn the heat down to P3 or P2 and cook for about 6 minutes until soft.
      4. When the onion is brown add the other ingredients, bring it to the boil on P4 and reduce it, while bubbling, to half its volume.
     5. Add the chicken pieces, stir them in the liquor, and simmer on P1 for about 30 minutes. 

You'll likely find P1 too furious for a simmer but if you haven't got a working cooker...
Remember you need *ferrous-bottomed pans and casseroles for use on an induction hob and it cooks VERY quickly.

It's a much quicker meal than your average stew but tasty. And the above is enough for two to share.

Thanks goodness the electrics didn't go two weekends ago when we had eleven for lunch on the Saturday (aunts, nieces plus a spouse -to-be, brother-in-law, brother and my sister-in-law, Bobby-the-dog and a four-year-old) and thirteen for coffee on the Sunday morning...

I managed to fix the standard lamp this morning and our electrician is coming Monday morning to see why all our bedroom wall lights blew at the same time. It can't be anything to do with the cooker as they operate on completely different circuits. Ho hum. A gremlin has got in.

I'm glad I found out two candles and a torch the other day. But just imagine if all these electricals had gone when we had a houseful for four days...It isn't Gosford Park or Downton Abbey here. We don't have staff. But sometimes I wish we did.

I'm not an especially skilled person, although I'm fairly adaptable. Wouldn't it be nice to have a butler, or a handyman, a groundsman and a cook-housekeeper? Just now and then. When the cooker blows, for instance, or when the shower inadvertently soaks everything in sight or a terrified cat coats our guests' bedding with his muddy paws. Or you need a chauffeur and maids to carry your party cakes.

Smithers... Just attend to that would you?

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