Sunday, December 6, 2009

mutiple copies

Moving books today I realised that I have multiple copies of some titles. The highest count is for Monica's Kitchen by the late Monica Sheridan, published in Dublin in 1963. The latest count is three, which reflects the fact that I want to spread the good news of this neglected Irish food writer and tend to buy it whenever I see it secondhand. We seem to have two copies of Back to Basics by Maureen Tatlow who no longer writes on food. This Gill & Macmillan title is still available, I think, and is the best basic cookbook you are ever likely to find.

There are also at least three copies of Edouard Pomiane's Cooking in Ten Minutes (which is both brilliantly instructive and great to read, even in translation).

On a more mundane note, the painting of the drawing room starts tomorrow and, as always, the ceiling comes first. I quite enjoy walls, but ceilings are a menace and this one is big. However, I have just learned that priming with dilute PVA is a mug's game, so that will save some time and elbow grease. The task will be relieved somewhat by listening to BBC Radio 4's adaptation of Dicken's Bleak House online.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A long day

This has been a long day. Up before dawn and headed off to Dublin in good time to talk about cookbooks on the Marian Finnucane programme. Then straight home again, making a round-trip of...oh, God only knows. Fermoy-Dublin-Fermoy at any rate. We ate beef stew from the freezer which gets better with time sub-zero and, to start, a fabulous souffle of ricotta, Dubliner and rocket as we watched the Alan Bennett evening on BBC2. Pure pleasure.

Darina Allen phoned to say thank you for the mention on MF. She is a national treasure, as AB is in Britain. And her book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking is a REAL book, written with knowledge and passion. Spent half an hour in Waterstone's this morning considering how much rubbish is published in the guise of cookbooks.

Plans are afoot to launch a website: part blog, part restaurant guide, part guide to great places to buy food and support brilliant producers. When I say "afoot", I mean I have some partly legible notes on the back of unpaid bills and redundant envelopes. But at least it's a start!

If anyone has any suggestions for the best value fizz, white and red wines in the multiples for Christmas, I'd be very grateful. This is for a seasonal special on RTE television. Has anyone been trawling Lidl and Aldi?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Back in the blogosphere

It's addictive. Less than a week after departing from The Irish Times and my Megabites blog for the Irish Daily Mail I was getting withdrawal symptoms. There's something about the spontaneity of blogging and the constant vigil for interesting stories that can take over a certain amount of your life. But more of that kind of thing anon.

Now for some notes from rural life. Whenever I look at our woods, now that the leaves have gone, I can see that the ivy has been busy. I simply have not had the time to go out and cut it - one of the more pleasant jobs on a cold, bright day in winter - and I worry about some of the trees becoming top heavy and coming down in a high wind. Mind you, there was remarkably little damage done in the gales last week even though the wind was so loud on our hillside that we couldn't sleep.

I've never been a cat person but I'm being slowly converted by Tonks whom we acquired during the year. Tonks is a rather elegant tabby whose natural feline reticence doesn't prevent her from being sociable. This is the only cat I know who will come and welcome you home. But the great thing about Tonks is the impact she has had on the local rodent population.

When she was younger she used to prey on the blameless local vole population (and she still gets the odd bird, which is a shame) but she has now moved on to rats and an occasional rabbit. Such has been her success that this is the first winter in which telltale burrows have failed to appear in the polytunnel (I hate the idea of rats anywhere but they seem even creepier in a place where you're growing food). There are disadvantages, of course. Leaving the house the other morning for Dublin in the dark, I skidded on some unidentified entrails.

The wood-burning stoves, of which we have two Morsos, are more than justifying their existence at the moment. We have enough well-seasoned wood to keep them very hot and it's so gratifying to know that we are getting the benefit of most of the heat output. Open fires look and smell delightful, but what a waste of energy! However, I've just discovered a small leak the barn in which we store the logs which means that they will have to be moved over the weekend. Either than or I'll have to find a way of fixing a leak in a rusty corrugated roof.

The Jerusalem artichokes are good and plump now and, along with beetroot, are keeping us fed at the moment. The sprouts, which had a tough season thanks to cabbage root fly, look like they will deliver for Christmas. Speaking of which, I see that Rowley Leigh is offering well-done sprouts at Le Cafe Anglais in London. Doubtless this is a personal thing and perhaps well-done sprouts taste even sproutier, but I don't fancy them myself.

Please forgive the ramble on this occasion. I seem to be fighting a bug of some sort and have to be on the road at the crack of dawn in order to talk about cookbooks on the Marian Finnucane programme tomorrow. I think I need a day or two in bed at this stage but it's always a pleasure to have a chinwag with Marian.