Sunday, 31 August 2008

Is that a Lebanese Cucumber in your salad or are you just pleased to see me?

Saturday 30 August - and believe it or not the sun is shining. In fact it is beating down on an unsuspecting London. Shorts are immediately donned and the pubs make proper use of their outside seating for the first time in a long while. I head into central London to get my hair cut and Bren joins me later. We head into Soho and spend a lengthy period quenching our summer thirst at a number of the local hostelries. As a result of this I waken on Sunday (late morning) not feeling at my sharpest and without any of the required ingredients for the salad I have promised for the theatre picnic this evening. I resolve to head to what I believe is a Middle Eastern grocers on the Walworth Road in the hopes of being able to source everything I need there. My mood and hangover do not improve when I discover my car has a flat battery. Thinking it wise to get the salad done first, I leave the car and take Bren's car for the short drive to the shop - noting as I go that the sun has disappeared and been replaced by low cloud!

The shop turns out to be something of a treasure trove of things Middle Eastern (or possible Turkish - but I am not in the mood to be picky at this point!). The pavement area has a brilliant display of fruit and vegetables and I am soon collecting huge bunches of mint, dill and coriander which each cost considerably less that the rather pathetic plastic bags of herbs available in the supermarkets. They even appear to have Lebanese cucumbers (probably). I have researched them and they are described as smaller and sweeter than normal cucumbers and with a thinner, less tough skin. Wishing to avoid further disappointment and delay I convince myself that the small cucumbers on display are indeed of Lebanese origin and throw a couple into my basket. In fact the only thing I can't pick up at the grocers is the lamb fillet I need but at least I will have the satisfaction of looking disdainfully at the pathetic bags of herbs in Sainsburys when I call in there to pick up the lamb.

Scornful looks having been thrown at the supermarket herbs I arrive home and make the following:

Cucumber, Pepper and Lamb Salad.

Marinade the lamb fillet in some olive oil, lemon juice, ground cumin and ground black pepper for about 30 minutes in the fridge.

Meanwhile, chop one red and one green pepper into very thin strips lengthways and then cut two Lebanese (!) cucumbers into thin batons (having discarded the watery seeds in the middle by scraping them out with a spoon). Combine these ingredients with one very finely chopped red onion, a cup of chopped mint and a half cup of each of chopped dill and coriander. The smell at this point is amazing!

Next cook your lamb fillet in a very hot griddle pan for about 2 or 3 minutes on each side (it should still be pink in the centre). Don't be tempted to turn the fillet or move it too soon but feel free to press down on it to get those nice chargrilled marks. When it is cooked, leave it to rest for 5 minutes and then slice it very thinly and add it to the salad.

Finally make a dressing with the juice of one lemon (add another half lemon if there does not seem to be much), some very good olive oil and a crushed clove of garlic. Season the dressing with sea salt and black pepper, pour over the salad and toss.

I propose to serve this piled onto Turkish bread spread with some fantastic hummus that I picked up at the Middle Eastern grocers.

Now all I need to do is get my car to start.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Menu

The tickets have been ordered for the outdoor performance of "A Winter's Tale" and thoughts have now turned to the food (and the weather). Louise has managed to rope in Lucy to join us for the evening. Lucy is a sculptor and landscape gardener and has agreed to bring some Neal's Yard cheeses and home made bread to the event. Louise has gone for the pudding option and is promising fruit salad, meringues and cream and I am going to make a salad of pink lamb, peppers and cucumber (Lebanese cucumbers if I can work out what exactly they are and where to get hold of them in Camberwell) to be served with Turkish bread and hummus. A perfect menu for a balmy summer's evening. This is the good news.

The bad news is that the BBC weather site has now come to its senses and has changed its "light drizzle at worst" forecast to "Thundery Showers" for Sunday 31 August. I do not have the heart to enquire of the Globe theatre whether thundery showers constitute the extreme weather conditions in the face of which performances will not go ahead. Instead I resolve to buy a pop up tent even though I am not at all sure I can bring myself to overcome the embarrassment of erecting the thing should the need arise. I am also slightly un-nerved by the fact that there is no mention in the product description of the tent "popping down".I do however feel that the tent, combined with the rucksack picnic hamper that I have had for some time but never used, will give us the edge over other theatre goers should things turn ugly!

Friday, 22 August 2008

A Cultural Culinary idea

"There are so many things on locally, and we never seem to get round to doing any of them". So began the conversation in the local pub (The Phoenix at Denmark Hill Station, London SE5 for those of you that like to place these things in a geographic context) when I met my partner Bren and my friend Louise for a post-work beer last week. Within the space of 30 minutes it had been decided to introduce a little oasis into the desert that was our cultural social life, by booking tickets for an open air production of Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale" to be performed by a touring cast from the Globe Theatre in Dulwich Park.

Culture having been decided upon, Louise's thoughts immediately turned to the food we would all be preparing as, in Louise's book, no outdoor event, whether cultural or not, could be attended without an interesting food offering in tow. It was agreed that further thought would be given to this issue - food not being a subject to be rushed! Victuals having been put on the back burner, thoughts turned to the weather. Anybody reading this in the UK will know that Mother Nature has decided to dispense with Summer this year, preferring instead to replicate November on a monthly basis. However, there were rumours of a "nice weekend" and so with confidence levels high, it was decided that we would go to the first performance in the park which was to take place on Sunday evening.

We were buoyed to discover from the Globe's website that performances would take place in "all but the most extreme weather conditions" and that the BBC weather forecast promised no more than light drizzle at worst on Sunday.

We left the pub with promises of liaising on the food offering and with Louise intent on drumming up some further recruits for a balmy evening with the Bard.