I’m sure you know the story of King Alfred the Great – the guy who allegedly let the cakes burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his beleaguered kingdom? Well, I bet you’ve never heard the story of Barn, the guy who let the pies burn because he was preoccupied with thoughts about his kingdom?
Alfred had fair justification for his absent minded approach to baked goods; the fellow’s very life was in danger and he was on the run – sleeping in ditches and begging for food – whilst also trying to save his lands from actual marauding Vikings. There was every reason for culinary timing to be low on his list of priorities. For Barn? Not so much.
He was sitting comfortably, on a sofa in his living room, tasked with nothing more than listening out for the oven timer then informing me of said occurrence. The only kingdom he had any concerns about was the virtual one in Kingdom of Camelot (oh yeh, I’ll name it and shame ya! 😘 ), and the only ‘life’ in danger was that of a pixelated soldier. Apparently he didn’t hear or smell a thing as the oven alarm shrieked for its fully allowed time slot, and our dinner gave itself to the funeral pyre, clutching its last vestiges of flavour, mourning its uncelebrated heyday.
Naturally he was referred to as Burning Barn for the rest of the evening. No opportunity, no matter how small or tenuous, was passed over when it came to teasing and tormenting him. Petit Man is a great ‘bouncing’ partner for this particular form of verbal entertainment (Mum and Medieval are also superb co-jousters, but sadly they weren’t around for this one); we amused ourselves mightily,
stumbling upon forcing references to Barn the Great Pie Torturer from every TV advert, programme and innocuous conversation :twisted:.
The chicken was poached in cider, then the cider stock reduced and used with cream to make a sauce for the chicken, fried chorizo and leeks. A happy little layer survived the torrid oven affair and was sufficiently good to put the recipe on the ‘definitely try it again’ list.
Tuesday: Fridge bottom soup. Sounds vile doesn’t it? I know I should call it ‘leek and courgette’, or ‘cream of veg’ or somesuch, but it was what it says…soup made with stuff that needed using up from the drawer at the bottom of the fridge.
Sautéed soffrito (finely diced onion, carrot and celery in the ratio 2:1:1 – an excellent starting point for many sauces, stews etc. – make huge batches with a food processor and keep portions in the freezer); chopped leeks and courgettes added & browned. Two crushed garlic cloves, fresh thyme and parsley, dried oregano chucked in and swished around for a while. Chicken stock added (enough to cover veg plus a bit more) and simmered for about 15 minutes. Blitzed in the food processor, added soured cream, a little double cream, and chives. Reheated, adjusted seasoning, added an extra swirl of cream and more fresh herbs to finish. Served with warm g/f cheesy puffs made with extra mature cheddar and English mustard. It tasted insanely good.
Wednesday dinner: Warm salad of grilled chicken breast and sweet ripe pears, with creamy blue Stilton and crunchy caramelised walnuts; served with baked tomatoes on a bed of crisp, fresh watercress and baby spinach leaves, dressed with wholegrain mustard and balsamic vinaigrette.
Barn made the leftovers into a sandwich for his lunch at work the next day. I believe he was hoping for a reaction something akin to one of these:
What he got was this:
K: What’ve you got there?
Barn: Olive ciabatta, with watercress, pears and…
Barn: Yeh, and blue cheese…
K: Mouldy cheese?!
Barn: …and chicken.
Pause, while each chews their chosen lunch and K contemplates Barn’s sandwich
K, dubiously: Well, I suppose the chicken would be ok.
Friday: The end of the week found me in the mood for something extra spicy, so for dinner I whipped up a Thai green chicken curry with rice noodles, and vegetable spring rolls on the side. Just seeing that array of ingredients gets the appetite going; by the time the sauce had simmered for an hour or so, filling the house with its pungent fragrance, we were salivating like beasts, falling upon the finished dish with the all the decorum and delicacy of a pack of starving jackals. Good times.
Saturday brunch: Picture this: you surface from sleep, gently and naturally. Deliciously unexpected sunshine tweaks at the curtains and tickles your closed eyelids. The gurgle of children laughing drifts in through the window. From downstairs you can hear comfortable sounds of domesticity…the clinking of dishes being washed, the mellow rhythms of the radio. You stretch, unfurling your body across the bed with feline grace and pleasure. Opening one eye you check the time then grin as the blissful realisation dawns…it’s an obligation free Saturday. Turning the pillow to the cool side you flop back down with a happy sigh. After some consideration, you eventually tempt yourself out of bed and downstairs with the promise of bacon and eggs. Snuggled in fluffy dressing gown and slippers, you pad into the kitchen to discover it has seen the ministrations of a house elf – all around you now sparkles and gleams. On the table loose ribbons of steam curl from a pretty mug containing freshly brewed tea…
Is that not a pretty perfect start to a day? It was one of those times where I felt supremely lucky and grateful to be me 🙂
Brunch, eventually, was a light, fluffy herb soufflé omelette, crispy, grilled thick cut bacon, and baked mushrooms that were stuffed with cheese and topped with a herb and cheese breadcrumb crust.
Saturday dinner: Somehow, although I’ve made cannelloni before, I’ve never made it for Barn. I’m stumped as to how this omission has occurred…we have never eaten home made cannelloni together? Not once, in more than a decade? Good grief 😯 Anyway, the situation has been rectified and he now swears he will never eat shop bought again. Which is a good thing. We made these together so he knows how to do it himself. Which is an even better thing.
Cannelloni tubes stuffed with ricotta, parmesan and spinach, placed on a rich tomato base sauce, covered with creamy cheese sauce and baked until golden brown. Served with watercress and artichoke salad.
Sunday brunch: Smoked haddock mornay with a crispy crumb topping, served on a bed of spinach, with grilled tomatoes. Eaten whilst watching The Hotel Inspector and marvelling once again at the people who have a failing business, invite an expert in to assist, then argue the toss and ignore all suggestions. Some of the properties are so stunning, and so perfectly situated, it beggars belief that the business could fail. How do such juicy plums fall into the laps of so many incompetents? One might be tempted to declare it to be ‘not fair’! Yes, that is correct, you do detect a small green eyed monster lurking.
Sunday dinner: Ending the week on a high with perfectly roasted topside of beef. Served resting on a bed of crushed carrot and potato (the beef, not me), accompanied by steamed broccoli and maple syrup glazed roast baby parsnips. A drizzle of gravy and a spoonful of horseradish mustard were the only dressing required.
Have a terrific week people!