20 May, 2009
a bit of fizz...
Well, such is my life, surrounded by the best possible friends, that the gorgeous meatballs shown here were shoved unceremoniously into the back of the fridge this evening, never eaten. Let me explain.
Drumroll, please... we are legal! Our visas finally came through today, after over three months' limbo while the British powers-that-be deliberated over whether or not we were worthy to stay in the country. So demobilising, so demoralising, so depressing, so discouraging! To feel as if our adopted land did not want us here.
But after so much waiting, the notification came, and with almost undecorous haste, a motorcycle messenger showed up on our doorstep with our passports, full of exciting visas, photographs, much stamping and officialdom. It's official! We're staying.
Naturally I turned immediately to my phone and rang up Annie to tell her the good news, although equally naturally I had to tell it like it is. "I hope you can get the deposit from the caterer back, because... the double wedding's off." A sigh of relief: Annie's lovely son Fred and daughter Georgia can live in peace, not having to marry me and John to give us legal means to stay. Honestly, the legal relationships would have been too, too nauseating. Avery's best friend also her step-aunt? Let's not go there.
Annie immediately said, "Can you come for a bit of fizz?" But they declined dinner together as the older children had to revise for exams. I should have known, knowing Annie, but no, I slaved through the afternoon concocting meatballs with ricotta and parsley, and a tomato sauce with fresh basil and red wine, and left it on the stove, ready for us to return for dinner, after the "bit of fizz." HA!
We were greeted with many kisses, exhortations to learn all the verses of "God Save the Queen," champagne (and for me, Zubrowka, my absolute favorite bison grass vodka, dear Keith never forgets), and... deep breath... smoked salmon and creme fraiche on blinis, little skewers of buffalo mozzarella, fresh cherry tomatoes and pesto, chilled prawns with a remoulade, a platter of salami, parma ham and chorizo, roasted asparagus spears, red pepper hummous, a gorgeous chunky puree of edamame, a platter of crudites! And just when we thought it was safe to take a breath, plates of little hot bites arrived: tiny falafels, puff pastry filled with chorizo paste, another with feta cheese...
Oh, Annie! Thank you, my friend.
We simply lingered FOREVER. Their garden is surrounded by roses, just flowering, and presided over by their two cats, Gracie and Caesar, and children wandered in and out, telling stories, swiping goodies (I won't confess how many little skewers Emily had from the mozzarella platter, nor how many blinis Avery wolfed down). Birdsong, bubbly, talking over each other as usual, rejoicing that there are so many such occasions yet to come: we're here to stay!
So the meatballs are shelved. Tomorrow night, perhaps. We're all in a sort of stupor of relief, a sort of light-heartedness that's the lifting of a guillotine. Avery can stay at her beloved school, we can stay in our beloved house. Just this afternoon my phone rang and it was my next-door neighbor, the ever-elegant solicitor Sara. "You know, there is a little furry face pressing itself against my study window just now, and her tag proclaims her to be 'Tacey.' She is a lovely cat, and I don't mind a bit..." We traded stories about the apparent random wanderings of the cats up and down our street, within our houses. Yesterday afternoon we came up the steps to the reception room to find Charlie, next door tabby but one, calmly ensconced on the landing! And regularly Midnight and Smoky from next door roam through our kitchen, looking for food or trouble or both. Clearly they've taken on the neighborliness of their humans.
Sigh. A bit of fizz. Relief. And if you don't have Annie...
Meatballs with Ricotta and Parsley and Tomato Sauce
(serves four, twice)
2 tbsps sunflower or other vegetable oil
1 kilo (about two pounds) pork mince
125 grams (about half a cup) ricotta cheese
generous tbsp Italian seasoning
large handful flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
large pinch sea salt
generous splash red wine
5 clove garlic, minced
1 white onion, minced
3 soup-size cans tomatoes
large handful basil leaves, rolled and chopped into ribbons
Pour oil in a large, wide, heavy-bottomed frying pan. Mix all meatball ingredients and form into balls of about an inch in diameter. You'll end up with about 24 meatballs. Set aside and heat oil till nearly smoking. Turn on extractor fan and open garden doors! Fry meatballs in a single layer, in more than one batch, if necessary, for a couple of minutes on each side, just to brown. Don't worry about cooking them through; they'll poach in the sauce. You just want a crust.
Set meatballs on a plate covered with paper towel, and pour wine into pan. Scrape up all lovely bits from bottom, and then add garlic and onion, cook just till soft, then add tomatoes and basil and cook down on a medium heat till slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add meatballs carefully and turn heat down to just a simmer. Let cook for about 20 minutes. Done.