We're in the throes of transferring all data from one computer to another (this just exhausts me to think about, and I know nothing about how it is happening, which further exhausts me: that feeling of lack of control over something immensely important to oneself?!). So I cannot show you any lovely photos of our two-day jaunt to the Oxford area, which was a complete jape, a total pleasure.
And before I even start with that sojourn's record, I must tell you about our dinner tonight: no recipes, just a celebration of what actually was in my fridge, and I'm sure a version of this is already in yours. Add one or two fresh things, and you're there, feeling quite self-righteous with your budget and your health-consciousness. Trust me.
Avery had asked for sauteed red peppers for dinner, plus mushroom soup if you can imagine. I had a rare craving for red meat, and I knew had leftover potatoes dauphinoise in the fridge, plus a smidgen of creamed spinach. I stopped by the halal butcher (if you don't know, it's the muslim equivalent of kosher, no big deal). I asked, in my spoilt Mayfair way, for fillet of beef. It became quite clear, as it had become at the Irish butcher I tried before, that our new digs do not spring for fillet. And why should they? The world's most boring cut of beef, to my mind, but Avery loves it. So tonight, soaked to the skin from watching her ride for an hour in the rain, I stopped by the halal butcher and said, "What would you cook if you wanted beef tonight?" "Rump steak, ma'am," he said without hesitation. "How would you cook it?" "Grill it," was the laconic advice, and since I now have a grill integral to my oven, I said, "Fine. Bring it on."
Well, it turns out I already had red peppers in my fridge, but I had to buy mushrooms. Then I resurrected an elderly-ish chicken stock from a roast chicken earlier in the week. Saute some garlic and onions, pile it all in a saucepan and cover with stock, simmer for half an hour with some dried thyme and a splash of brandy. Puree with a hand blender and stir in a bit of cream. Done.
The beef: I salted and peppered it and stuck it under this mysterious grill for about five minutes on one side and then got SCARED. So I took it out. It smelled divine. I left it on the countertop while I reheated my scalloped potatoes and smidgen of spinach, and sauteed the peppers. Another five minutes on the other side, let it rest a minute, slice it and brush a buttery knife against the slices... PERFECTION! Beef for three for what would cost you $5 in the States, 5 pounds here. HEAVEN. Tasty, not perfectly tender, but tasty which to my mind fillet never is. DULL.
So we sat down amid the torrid rain in the garden to these myriad delights: the garlicky green of leftover spinach, the unctious creaminess of leftover potatoes, lovely red peppers, effortless mushroom soup that used up my stock in the fridge... I was completely happy. If wet from the stable, still!
But our Oxfordshire weekend... What happened was this: we had arranged to take a school chum of Avery's out to the Cotswolds for a day and a night and it was... raining cats and dogs. That combined with the EXTREME closeness of the Mini Cooper ("bring as little as you can POSSIBLY bring," I warned the hapless child) made me a bundle of nerves as we set out on Monday morning. "I tend to get carsick," topped the departing child, so I supplied her with a bottle of cold water and our entire car with a Nancy Drew on tape, which saved our lives. Out to Oxford we went, to visit my friend Jo Ann, partner in my adoration of Richard Armitage (the crush that keeps on giving).
And the first thing that happened was that we got slightly lost. I knew we'd gone too far, so we stopped at a British Petroleum station for directions, and I left all potential carsick people in the car and marched into the station with my google map, and there... was INSPECTOR LYNLEY in person! Seriously! Nathaniel Parker in PERSON! In front of me in the queue. I simply gathered my courage and said, "I hate to invade your privacy, but I must tell you how much pleasure you have given us with "Inspector Lynley." We enjoyed "Bleak House" first and that led us to your performance as Inspector Lynley, and we just love it. Thank you!"
And I strangely did not feel like a complete fool. With his chocolately gorgeous voice, his hands clutching small bottles of apple juice and some yogurt, he said graciously, "That gives me great pleasure."
So I confessed that I was lost, and he actually gave me directions! To the proper roundabout. What a TREAT, to get lost under those circumstances. A dear, generous and gracious man. What fun! More on our Oxford adventures later... and photos, I hope, technology permitting.