Sunday, 25 April 2010

Making the most of a cloudy day

Saturday might not have been quite as clear-skied as the forecasts had suggested, but it was still hot and sunny enough to sit out for most of the day, and enjoy a spot of Man Cooking in the evening – a whole week earlier than the first braai of last year.

The weather – which I seem to becoming obsessed with, in a typically English way – has certainly been a boon to my efforts to stick with a much more Mediterranean/Italian style of eating: and to boost my early tan.

Apparently, the British Isles enjoy more cloud than any other part of Europe. So it could hardly be considered a shock when today, unfortunately, the cloud returned. Desperately trying to get outside for the intermittent patches of sun has proved futile – and the chatter of a large group enjoying a BBQ in the carpark just beyond our tiny garden has rendered it well nigh impossible to concentrate on Gore Vidal's writings on sex. A loud and lengthy discussion about car insurance is not making it easy to concentrate on an essay about W Somerset Maugham.

So I've given up and returned inside.

Food will just have to compensate – and it's not doing badly thus far.

The first broad beans of the season were available on Broadway Market yesterday – cause for celebration and a late breakfast of these little emerald gems with some feta.

That was followed by a Collioure salad – I'd found good anchovies at Waitrose last week and combined these with some roasted pepper, a few black olives and a half each of hard-boiled egg, plus a large sprig of lamb's lettuce on the side.

Dinner was simply some boerewors that had been in the freezer since last summer, small steaks and a lamb chop each, plus a salad of orange segments and beetroot, and a nice bottle of a chilled Languedoc white.

Today, with The Other Half in sunny Yorkshire for the Rugby League, I prepared a simple tomato and basil sauce, served with penne, for lunch (the rest will be reheated for him tonight). And later, I'm going to try a vegetable dish of asparagus, broad beans, peas and potatoes, 'stewed' in olive oil – a Roman dish from one of my River CafĂ© books – followed by simply grilled Dover sole and courgettes.

I've made some more chocolates (double cream, infused with vanilla, heated and then poured on chocolate to melt it, before being dolloped onto greaseproof paper and popped into the fridge to set) and even processed a load of pictures I took on Thursday for an organisation, and which will inevitably end up as my second photographic charitable donation in eight days.

I've even managed to order some clothes to pep up my summer wardrobe, which is, to be perfectly honest, in need of a serious overhaul.

Because I've slowly been losing weight for a few years now, I didn't get anything new last summer. My collection of linen trousers were already descending of their own free will then – and it's not different now. And further up, tops that once seemed quite smart are beginning to look decidedly the worse for wear. The next thing will come tomorrow – when I actually take a binbag to the wardrobe and actually strip out all the things I won't wear again or which, bought at The Wrong Time of the Month, were mistakes in the first place. Shopping might be a form of therapy, but there are periods when that therapy is more expensive than ever: and that's particularly true of periods. Shopping trips undertaken in such an hormonal state leave you with stuff that your rational self would never touch with the proverbial bargepole.

But back to today: depending on how energised I feel, I may actually get the camera out in a while and see if I can't manage some more indoor still life shots – I have a couple of ideas and it's enjoyably creative stuff to try.

The sun may have disappeared at present, but there's no shortage of things to occupy my time.

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