Monday, 5 November 2007

A fantastic weekend!

Yes, the weekend really did live up to expectations! Well, almost. It started badly, when we discovered the dishwasher was broken, which cast something of a shadow over the weekend. I checked the web, but all the sites I found said that if the motor was broken (it is) to call in a professional. For a 25 year old dishwasher, I think I can see what's coming!

Jenny seems to have liked her presies. A mixture of various things, some silly (eg a pair of socks with the periodic table of elements on), some more serious. I like to give her something I've made myself, and this year completely failed on the silver front, which was frustrating. I ended up shaping a piece of wood rescued from the loft into a pendant. The grain is rather special. Having smoothed it with very fine grade wet-and-dry I French polished it, which was hard work. I'm very poor at French polishing, and had to have many goes before it was finally OK.

Having beautiful weather both days was a bonus, and with 7 canons being inducted during the evensong, Coventry Cathedral was packed. An audience congregation of 600 completely changes the accoustic dynamic of the building. And we acquitted ourselves well. We sang the Rose responses, Psalmo 150 by the Brazilian composer Aguiar, and Joubert's O Lorde the maker of all thinge, all of which suited both the occasion and the building perfectly. The clergy were very complimentary afterwards, too. I think the Aquiar was so different from your average psalm setting, they were impressed. Well I think it should have knocked their socks off, but that's just me.

Afterwards everyone retired to the Ramada Hotel where Jenny and I stayed. I'd arranged for the hotel to lay on canapés and champagne and they really did us proud. Courteous, friendly staff and great canapés.

Afterwards, Lorna and Richard came with us to Simply Simpsons restaurant in Kenilworth, where we had top notch food and a really nice claret, again with excellent service. Quite pricey, but worth it. Sadly, the link to their own website doesn't work, so what I've given is just a kind of review page.

Sunday, after a pleasant drive home, I cooked Jenny's birthday meal. I did have to ask her to help a bit, as I also had to wash up by hand, but I did almost all of it myself.

I started with Alternative Anna's roasted peppers with halloumi and pine kernals, which is really excellent. Thank you, Anna! I opened a bottle of 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet, which was lovely, and matched the peppers well.

Then I roasted a wild mallard with a sour cherry sauce, roast potatoes, red cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli. The mallard was falling off the bone, as requested by the birthday girl, but sadly the flesh was rather dry. The recipe I was following said to pour the excess fat off from time to time, but there wasn't any, and it wasn't until we were actually eating it, that we concluded that a) being wild, there was no fat and b) there being no fat I should have been basting it. Ah well, that's how you learn these things. It was very tasty, nonetheless.

This was going to be accompanied by a 1986 Chateau Gruaud Larose, which is a second growth claret I bought 20-odd years ago. The last one of these we opened a couple of years ago was completely stunning, but this one was not nice. The cork crumbled as I extracted it, and the wine itself was slightly vinegary. I opened a second, which was better, but that was still rather cool, having come straight up from the cellar. Very disappointing.

Pud was pears in spiced red wine. I modified a recipe we've used before, because I don't like it as sweet as it otherwise would be. Half the amount of sugar, and then added a couple of inches of cinnamon stick as well.

After the main course, we cleared up a bit, partly to give the food time to go down a little. While we were doing so, Jane, Lorna and Richard arrived, and we retired outside for fireworks. I'd bought these a year ago and just not got around to letting them off, so was relieved when they all worked properly. Lorna and Richard brought some of their own, and let some of those off, too.

Finally we went back indoors and ate the pears. I'd anticipated doing something like this, so had made enough for 5, and it did seem to hit the spot. I was pleased with the result of the modified recipe, so have kept notes for next time. Nothing worse than modifying a recipe and being very pleased with the result, only to forget what you'd done the next time you come to do it.

Today I'm whacked. I feel a powerful need for a quiet evening at home, with simple food and not much booze. So naturally we're going into Cambridge for the fireworks on Midsomer Common, followed by dinner in whatever restaurant we can get into. Well, maybe I'll get a rest tomorrow!


Anna said...

Sounds like a fun time!!

I'm flattered you liked the peppers, they are a favourite of mine. I hadn't thought about making them as a starter, but it's a great idea.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Sounds lovely. So glad to hear you went to Midsummer Common for the fireworks - it really brought back memories. Hope you put something in the bucket for us! Margot xx

DJ Kirkby said...

Sounds superb and a belated happy birthday to Jenny!

Rob Clack said...

Thank you all! Thinking about the peppers, next time I do them I think I'd choose a sauvignon blanc instead.

We did put money in the fireworks bucket, but I didn't notice who it was for, sorry.

Thanks DJK, I'll pass it on.

ArcticFox said...

Wow you've been a busy bee..... sounds like lots of fun and a great deal of indulgence.... Watch out for that bloody gout!!

Another James Bondesque moment of coolness: "I'm very poor at French polishing, and had to have many goes before it was finally OK."

You're one suave gent!!


Rob Clack said...

You should've heard me curse every time it went wrong! You apply layer after layer of the varnish, each as the previous one is not quite dry. I then let it cure for a day or two, then polish out the marks with T-Cut. When it goes matt, you know you've got right back to the wood and must start again!