Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Of politics, baking and preserves

It was a pleasant morning in London – which was provident, since I did the second leg of my journey to work on foot. Traffic was snarled more than usual as commuters took to their cars, with swathes of the underground closed by strike action.

I don’t like the Tube (and avoid taking it unless absolutely necessary) and I don’t like RMT leader Bob Crow, but looking beyond the usual shrill headlines about how awful it all is, they have a serious case. Anyone who really believes that you can get rid of 800 staff without having an impact on service and safety is naïve in the extreme, I think.

One thing that struck me recently, given all the strikes in France (where they actually have a far lower density of trade union members than we do in the UK), was the explanation of one commentator that the French media in general doesn't play this infantile game of simply shrilling its irritation at the inconvenience. All the media, right across the political spectrum, actually bothers to consider the issues.

They might not agree, but they actually consider the issues.

Oh, to have a public discourse like that.

Anyway, just for once, I wasn’t nearly knocked down as I walked by some cyclist careering along the pavement and then getting aggressive when I challenge them as to why they think they can break the law.

But in general, the day felt as though everything was back to some form of normality after the excitement and work of the bake-a-thon.

As a direct result of my recent decision to join Facebook, Mary popped into the office on her way from Birmingham to a conference in Belgium – and took away her reserved slice of chocolate cake, plus a couple of pieces of bark, to eat on the way to that centre of chocolately excellence.

There is one donation to come in: a couple pieces of the bark remain, together with a little ginger cake, but we’ve already hit £81. So it feels worthwhile. Everyone seems to have enjoyed it too, which was every bit as important to me as raising the money. So a big thank you to anyone reading who helped and dipped into their pockets.

And the good things keep coming: after my medlar and quince jelly had failed to set at the weekend, an internet exchange with George prevented me throwing it away in a frustrated huff. He suggested adding some liquid pectin and bringing it back to the boil very, very gently.

I’d assumed – I don’t know why – that you couldn’t do that and that it was effectively ‘dead’ if it hadn’t successfully set straight away. But now it’s set nicely – not too solid, but with a hint of a wobble, and it’s lovely and clear and pink. So thank you, George.

‘If at first you don’t succeed’ applies to preserving too – and in more ways that I had imagined.

And as George also pointed out, although I’ve been thinking of the jelly accompanying meat, it’ll be perfect to eat with cheese – and as I really should have remembered from Les Trois Moutiers II. Indeed, the Spanish produce a much more strongly set quince jelly called membrillo to eat with cheese.

But much as I love cheese, I’m fascinated by preserves that you can serve with meat (or fish, for that matter). And with a bottle of liquid pectin now opened, I want to use it up before it goes off.

So with that in mind, I may pop to Waitrose this evening or tomorrow – they had some rhubarb in last week. After years of being nigh on impossible to get hold of – except perhaps within a very limited season early in the year, when it’s ‘forced’ it in big, dark sheds in Yorkshire’s ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ – it has been enjoying a revival.

I remain utterly convinced that rhubarb and chili will make a great combination for a savoury jelly. I’ve had a couple of attempts already, but haven’t yet got it right. The problem – which I discovered from Jane Grigson’s English Food – is that chili appears to negate the effect of pectin, so you need to compensate by adding quite a lot more than you would usually.

On the first attempt, I didn’t add anywhere near enough; it didn’t set at all and – not knowing what I know now – I threw it away.

The second attempt went to the other extreme, with a tasty jelly that was way too hard: it almost needs a hammer and chisel to extract it from the jar.

In the meantime, a survey is being sent around the office to see what we would like from the deli bar when we move to a new building next year.

Simples: please not such a preponderance of spicy dishes and please just go for a bit more simplicity!

I can't actually open the survey at present and have let IT know. Is there a plot afoot to prevent this foodie from commenting?

I shall let you know.

No comments:

Post a Comment