14 September, 2007

a really funny film, and the new best lamb















Well, it's not a classic yet, but it might become one. "Run, Fatboy, Run" is really worth seeing, if you like self-deprecating, sophisticated English comedy. I don't know if it will have wide release in the States, but it should. It always amazes me that we here in England can really love an actor like Simon Pegg, and he can be phenomenally successful here, and yet there aren't a lot of Americans who will recognize him. Whenever I think that our two cultures are gradually merging and losing all individual identity, I comfort myself with that fact. Although I'd like him to be successful.

Anyway, my gorgeous friend Dalia and I met up yesterday for lunch (I was in food-spy mode as I tried to identify all the ingredients in my favorite soft-shell crabs at Mandarin Kitchen), and to see the film. First we had to catch up (her summer trip back to her Lebanese family in Nigeria (how exotic is that?) and discuss the food. She recommended the crabmeat and sweetcorn soup, and it was delicious, but take a leaf from Dalia's book and order soy sauce and chilli sauce to go with it, as it kicks the flavor up from its original rather bland stance.

I can't wait till our new writing course begins week after next: "Prose Fiction and Autobiography" at Birkbeck, part of the University of London. Everyone not employed fulltime should take note: so many colleges do part-time courses, and it's a great inexpensive way to try out a new subject and make English friends. It will be so nice to see Dalia every week, instead of the random get-togethers we manage now. She is my polar opposite in nearly every way: little and dark, with a fiery temper and very strong, passionate opinions about absolutely everything. She is a fascinating combination of terribly strong and very gentle, and one of those comforting friends where I could turn to her in any situation and know that she would be on my side. And we haven't even been friends for a very long time. But it's been a joy to have her to play with. Plus she's married to a saxophone-playing model with what has to be a devastating Irish accent. I can't wait to meet him.

So I weasled what will have to pass for a recipe from the head waitress (most importantly, no batter, just flour), and I'll be giving it a try when Becky and her family come to dinner on Sunday. Becky's bringing her famous Chicken Marbella as well, since neither she nor any child would consent to eating soft-shell crabs! I hope I'll have both my recipe and Becky's when Monday morning comes around.

The movie was great fun. A rather silly premise: man throws pregnant fiance over at the altar, then fast-forwards five years and wants her back, but has to compete with her obnoxious American (sadly a rather repetitive description over here, I'm afraid) boyfriend who runs marathons. So Simon Pegg's character decides to run the marathon as well. But running underneath is a sweet story between Pegg and his little son, and a hilarious friendship between Pegg and the DIVINE Dylan Moran. I am such a sucker for an Irish accent! Or Scottish, come to that. And it's an in-love-with-London film. Great panoramic shots as well as cosy neighborhood rambles. You'll love it.

I met up with Avery and John at the incomparable Daunt Books in the Marylebone High Street, and we came away with an embarrassing stack of books. I can't seem to say no to a book purchase. She is in such heaven in a bookstore or library, and then reads them all over and over. "Are you sure you need ALL those books, Avery?" She thought for a moment. "I suppose I could go over them again," she said, and came up with a couple she thought she could live without, including a gorgeous book on the Flower Fairies she loves so much. "How about if you wait until your birthday for that one? It's not very far away," I suggested, and the little dear agreed, because she is a nice person. "But Mummy," she averred, "I know to a grownup seven weeks is not a long time, but to me..."

Now the last few days there has been a little nip in the air, and more than occasional leaves drifting down into the garden. The giant tree (that if I were a real English person I could identify) at the bottom of the garden is turning from its dark summer green to a sort of yellowy shade, and I know it won't be long before the whole garden is stripped of its leaves, so I'm enjoying it. It also makes me think of wintry foods, and so last night's dinner was appropriately warming. I need to think of a better name for this recipe, clearly, schmier being the only word that comes to mind (in Alyssa's voice, since this week was Rosh Hashanah). But the coating wasn't crispy so it couldn't be called a crust, nor was it dry so it wasn't a rub. Help!

Shoulder of Lamb with a Pinenut-Spice Schmier
(serves four)


1 whole lamb shoulder
juice of a lime
2 tbsps olive oil
8 cloves garlic
3/4 cup pinenuts
1 tsp each: ground cumin, coriander, turmeric
1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Place four of the garlic cloves into the lamb with the help of a sharp little knife. Place the other four cloves and all the schmier ingredients in a food processor and whiz until nicely chopped and mixed. Line your roasting dish with foil for easy cleanup and... well, there's no other word for it. Schmier it all over the lamb, top and bottom. Roast at 400 degrees for at least 2 hours, turning twice and basting. Let rest for five minutes or so before carving, which I do spectacularly badly.

*************

With this we had our favorite spinach and cheese casserole. It's a very forgiving recipe. Because I was feeling lazy, I reverted to frozen spinach, and because I had not adequately grocery shopped, I had no evaporated milk. I used skim milk and some parmesan cheese instead, and it was lovely. There being a refrigerator full of cheese, I did not indulgently buy something special for the casserole, and it turns out Red Leicester is fabulous in this dish.

Well, today is back to the skating rink for Avery. I will just be glad to get away from this desk and its piles of passport applications, school applications, insurance forms, accountants' bills and the like. TGIF!

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