Thursday, 28 June 2012

Recipes for Summer Rentals: III


Not a great beauty, but so delicious.

The slummocking is going very well. A khol eye pencil languishes untouched at the bottom of my makeup bag and the mascara’s chances of remaining in daily rotation are looking increasingly perilous. The Babyliss Big Hair thing has been pushed rudely to the edge of the dressing table to make way for a jam jar of flowers from the garden. I am a breath away from going to the village shop in my slippers.

In London, I often make Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk, or variations of it. Rather like the Tuscan dish, arista al latte, or pork cooked in milk, slowly simmering the bird in milk ensures it’s so tender it’s pull-apart easy to carve.


My holiday larder is bare of a few of the things in Jamie’s recipe – sage, cinnamon - and even if I climbed the steep hill to the village shop (in my slippers), I doubt they’d have them either so I ditched them. I did add a bay leaf and sauté a sliced onion in the fat before returning the chicken to the pot. The milk curdles into cloudy little lumps, which you can spoon over the chicken, or pass them through a sieve and reduce to make a smooth, thick sauce. I also stirred some chopped chives into the sauce - if you wanted you could use parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives, alone or in combination, whatever you have.

Essentially, for tender, easy, holiday chicken, brown a whole, seasoned bird in butter, pour in enough milk to come about halfway up the pot, add some lemon zest and the seasonings you like. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover tightly and cook either over a very low heat or in the oven at 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 for an hour and a half, basting if you remember. Leftovers are great in salads and sandwiches the next day.

Today’s pictures from the beach…

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It’s sometimes hard to tell who’s exercising whom.

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Beach bum

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Tiny mussels clinging to the rocks like iron filings.

Today’s holiday reading:

The grocer had been a Socialist all of his life, and his chief pleasure now was for Sarge to come in at tea-time and sit on the empty biscuit tins, chewing a handful of currants, and asking his advice. The young people upstairs were wonderful to him and he would have joined the Communist Party now, at his age (“What, at my age?” he would chuckle, measuring out sago into blue bags) but that he feared Sarge would then stop arguing with him. “My young people upstairs,” he would boast at his daughter-in-law’s, where he lived now his wife was dead. “Of course they walk in and out of the shop when they like. They’ve got their keys, and how else are they to come and go?” Then he would wait for the inevitable expression of doubt, so that he could add proudly: “We are not landlord and tenants. We are Communists and trust one another.”

People were always coming and going up the stairs. He came to know most of them; Chris, for instance, and then Eleanor. It was different from his daughter-in-law’s, where people only came to tea on Sundays and dinner must be early because of it and scones made first and tempers lost.

From At Mrs Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor, 1945

Monday, 25 June 2012

Recipes for Summer Rentals: II

2012-06-17 09-33-03-917 Applied slummocking

We slip easily into the holiday routine of slummocking around in pyjamas until late*, hasty individual breakfasts foraged from unfamiliar cabinets, large gin-and-tonics before lunch, books and naps after, followed by little excursions to a village, a monument, a garden, a beach or the bright lights of Skibbereen, then the inevitable slouch towards Campari-and-sodas or stouts in the pub and dinner.

One excursion to Union Hall included a trip to the excellent fishmonger, supplied daily by the town’s own small fishing fleet. If you’re nervous about cooking fish, especially for a crowd, especially if the only frying pan at your disposal is a mean and wretched thing, bake it in a roasting tin on top of all of your vegetables.

*DISCLAIMER I need to exclude my father from the slummocking business. A June baby, according to family legend he was born wearing a light-coloured checked shirt and a good sweater.

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Looking over Sandy Cove

2012-06-21 02-36-45-231 A boy, a dog, a bay

2012-06-21 02-40-37-682 A most delicious stick

One-dish white fish


You can scale this up or down, depending on the size of the oven and roasting tin at your disposal and the number of people around your table. I used whiting, but pollock or any other white fish would work well too. You can add a handful of black or green olives when you add the fish and mussels if you like.

Enough potatoes for 4 people, scrubbed and cut into wedges
3 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
Olive oil
Juice and pared zest of 2 lemons (use a vegetable peeler to pare the lemons, making sure you scrape off any white pith)
2 red peppers, cored and cut into thin strips
2 yellow peppers, cored and cut into thin strips
4-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 fillets of whiting
A couple of handfuls of cleaned mussels
A handful of parsley, tough stalks removed and chopped
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 190ºC/370ºF/Gas mark 5. Scatter the potatoes and onions in a large roasting tin, pour over a glug or two of oil, the zest and juice of one of the lemons and season well with salt and pepper. Toss everything together with your hands and cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 30-40 minutes and remove the foil. If the potatoes are tender (if not, re-cover them and cook for a bit longer), mix with the peppers and garlic and return, uncovered, to the oven and bake until the peppers are soft and the potatoes start to take on some colour, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the parsley, and lay the seasoned fish fillets over the top. Scatter on the mussels, add the remaining lemon zest and juice and cover tightly with a double layer of foil. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and the mussels opened. Serve with more lemon wedges on the side.

Today’s holiday reading:

Julia was making flaky pastry. Oliver liked to sit watching her folding in lard, rolling, folding, turning. The quick movements of her strong wrists, powdered with flour, pleased him. Mrs Lippincote’s old mixing-bowl pleased him, too. The creamy glazed earthenware was scribbled over faintly with sepia cracks, and a spiral of indigo wound thickly round it. He was probably the only person who had ever thought it beautiful. Julia stamped out the centres of the vol-au-vent cases and took the baking tray to the oven. She knelt there, sodding and blasting with the heat puffing over her red face, and brought out another tray of pastry. “Risen beautifully,” she told herself. She began to clear up and Oliver returned to his arithmetic book. “Nine and nine is eighteen,” he began to drone. Roddy had said he shouldn’t go to school until the next term, but get his strength up instead, run wild a bit. Oliver simply didn’t know how to run wild, so he sat in the kitchen and watched his mother. And five is twenty-three.

From At Mrs Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor, 1945

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Recipes for Summer Rentals

20120619_140933My nephew Angus reclining on the rocks at Toe Head.

Yesterday I woke to the thrumming of rain against the large hosta beneath our bedroom window. The leaves are as tough as the waxed cloth of an expensive umbrella and almost as broad. It was as loud as someone throwing gravel against the glass and it took me a second to remember where I was.

We’re in West Cork, where the rain can be heavy and insistent enough to wake you one moment, and then, by the time you’ve laid the fire and dressed yourself to face it, it’ll give way to a clear hyacinth blue sky. Which is what happened yesterday morning.

We took our lunch to the beach, a little westward-facing shingle cove a few miles along the coast at Toe Head. We sat in the blustery sunshine watching the dog flirt with the frothy white edges of the tide as we ate lunch. Egg salad sandwiches, crisps, KitKats, orange juice and a thermos of strong tea… I’ve eaten this, or slight variations of this, on beach picnics all my life. It made me think of the things I make every year in the invariably-sparsely-equipped kitchens of houses we’ve rented for the summer. I thought I’d share some of them with you – the kind of dinners I make when I can’t weigh anything or whizz it in a blender, the sort of dishes that don’t mind terribly if you bake them in scratched 70s Pyrex, improvise a lid with tin foil, subject them to a temperamental oven, or let them fend for themselves while you linger over drinks in the pub. These are my recipes for summer rentals, though of course they taste just as good at home too.

Egg salad sandwiches


I like to use a bought, French-style mayonnaise for these. It has a little mustard in it and tastes pleasingly eggy. But use whatever you prefer. For ‘something green, chopped up’, I use either rocket or chives, though I often hanker for classic egg-and-cress and wonder why I don’t grow cress on blotting paper on a sunny windowsill as I did when I was a kid. It makes me a little sad that we live in an age when cress is almost as difficult to find as blotting paper.

If you’re the kind of family who has a cooked rasher or two of bacon left over from breakfast, chop that up finely and stir it in too. We’re not, so sometimes I cook a couple especially to mix in with the egg. A finely-chopped spring onion is also a good addition.

For four to six people:

5 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
A generous spoonful or two of mayonnaise
Something green, chopped up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bread, slices or soft rolls

Optional: A couple of cooked rashers of bacon, finely chopped; a spring onion, finely chopped

Gently stir together the eggs, mayonnaise, green thing of choice, bacon and/or spring onion if using, and season well with salt and pepper. Spoon the salad onto white bread or brown, slices or rolls. Avoid sand.

Today’s holiday reading:
‘Liz sat under the mulberry tree. The fruit was scarlet and black among the dark leaves. Outside this circle of shade, the garden burned and blazed with the hot colours of the bean-flowers, of montbretia, golden-rod, geraniums.

“My dear Arthur,” she had written on a piece of paper; but it had blown away across the flower-border, and, too lazy to fetch it, she had begun again on another sheet.’

A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor

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