18 April, 2010

of eruptions and interruptions

Two words: volcanic ash.

Who knew that two words could have such a devastating, discombobulating, disorienting effect on much of the world.

No flights.

In or out of the UK, as you all know by now, and this since Wednesday night. So my poor mother in law, who wanted nothing more than to be in Iowa on Thursday evening, is bravely sticking it out with us here this weekend, hoping to get out on Tuesday if the reports are safe and healthy.

I keep thinking how much I would like to get to Indiana on Wednesday. I do NOT want, however, to be part of the sort of seismological experiment entitled "How Much Volcanic Ash Does It Take To Shut Off Transatlantic Airplane Engines Headed for Detroit?"

In short, we're stuck. Can you believe it?

We've done:

Piccacilly: Hatchards (my favorite bookshop ever), plus lunch at the Wolesley with my friend JoAnn (duck livers in Madeira, halibut steaks and endless laughter) and the Van Gogh show (total yawn from Avery's and my perspective: we spent the entire time making up irreverent replacement titles for the very repetitive paintings ("Peasant With Bottom in Air Taking Care of Chickens and Possibly Dead Dog")

Highgate Cemetery (fascinating, ask for Josephine the Guide who is knowledgeable, funny and loyal to the cemetery)

Covent Garden (lovely spices from the Arabica company, including something called "Dukka" which was lovely on duck)

Avery's audition for a very silly-sounding sitcom like "Hannah Montana"

Portobello Market where we bought loads of presents I cannot describe here because their recipients will read about them! and lunch at E&O, possibly the best Asian fusion food in the city: seared tuna with miso aiol, crispy chilli squid, a beef dish with chopped peanuts in lettuce... words fail me. Perfection on a plate.

The Criminal Courts in the City (a murder case involving a young Kurd in a chicken shop who killed a man with a mop to get his cell phone)

The Lock and Canal Walk from Paddington Basin (a good five or six miles, be prepared, but in good weather it's delightful)

Camden Market (hideously crowded but found the BEST presents for everyone in Indianapolis, should I ever get there, and excellent donuts)


We're in a tailspin.

All I can do is cook. Can I interest you in:

Salmon in Teriyaki Sauce
(serves 4)

4 fillets of salmon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob ginger, grated
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup Japanese mirin (or sake)
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp sesame oil
zest and juice of 1 lime
handful chives, chopped long

Line a baking dish with foil (very important as the sauce is very difficult to clean from baking dish!). Place salmon fillets in it.

In a small saucepan, place all marinade ingredients except chives and simmer until reduced just a bit, perhaps 5 minutes. Cool slightly, then pour over salmon fillets.

Cook either in a very hot oven (425F, 210C) for 20 minutes (or until opaque in center) or grill on one side for about 6 minutes, then turn and grill for another 4-5 minutes, JUST until cooked through.

Scatter with chives.


Haddock with Tartar Sauce and Savoy Cabbage and Curly Kale Saute
(serves 4)

2 inches high (in a wide, shallow pan) tasteless oil like rapeseed or sunflower oil

4 pieces haddock loin fillets
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsps cream

1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3/4 cup cornstarch (cornflour)
salt and pepper

3/4 cup mayonnaise
tbsp capers, chopped
6 cornichons, chopped
juice of 1 lime
pinch dried dill
pinch dried tarragon
black pepper and salt to taste

3 tbsps butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 head Savoy cabbage, chopped
2 handfuls curly green kale, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Mix eggs with cream in a wide bowl. Mix breadcrumbs with cornflour and salt and pepper in a flat plate.

Mix following ingredients for the tartar sauce and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, toss butter, oil, cabbage and kale until JUST slightly limp, then season and turn off heat.

To prepare fish, heat oil to nearly smoking. Meanwhile, coat each fillet of haddock in egg mixture, then in breadcrumb/cornflour/seasonings mixture. One at a time, lower into hot oil carefully. Cook on each side about 2-3 minutes, until firm. Drain on paper towel.

Serve with sauce and cabbage. Perfectly crunchy, light and you'll never go for fish and chips again. At least, until I learn to make chips and teach YOU.


So until the air clears, I'm stuck cooking for my growing household. Tonight, close to midnight, Avery and I walked to school to pick up a friend back from a school trip in Italy, to stay with us until her parents, stranded in America, can get back.

"Can I just tell you," chortled Avery as we trundled along with Lille's suitcases through the dark neighborhood toward home, "How extremely funny it is that your trip back from POMPEII was delayed by... a volcano."

Trust a teenager to make it funny.


Janet said...

Well, what DID happen in Salisbury after all? Worth visiting? We plan on going there later in the summer.

Kristen In London said...

Briefly, YES, Salisbury is amazing and a very surprising village/country experience. We stayed in a Landmark Trust property called the Wardrobe (will blog about all this when I get two minutes to rub together).

Bee said...

I LOVE Avery's comment about Pompeii and volcanoes. So has there been movement now with the travellers? Did your mother-in-law get to leave today?

We have been stuck in Houston, which is not so bad (except that you really can be away from home too long, and a month is really too long)and we hope to fly on Sunday now. Yesterday, our flight was booked for next Wednesday but then the situation improved overnight.

At least you have made the most of the extra time in London . . . oh my goodness! I really want to take that Highgate Cemetary tour. Yesterday, I went to a Faberge exhibit at the History/Science Museum here, but I'm really not so fussed about objets. I liked the stories behind them much better.

Kristen In London said...

Nope, Bee, mother in law still here until Saturday, and the little houseguest's father MAY turn up late tomorrow night in London, but we'll keep her until Friday anyway.

Won't you be glad to get HOME! The perfect thing about our Connecticut situation is that it's home away from home, not someone else's home.

And yes, we've been the Compleat Tourists. I agree with you completely about museums full of things. We went to the Carlyle Museum here, and while it was a lovely Georgian house full of Things, what made me happiest was ordering a book of Jane Carlyle's letters, and now I can sit back and imagine being HER.

Casey said...

What took me so long to read this? Delightful, as always.
We first had Dukka in New Zealand--served as a dipping spice for wedges of warm flatbread. Loved it and bought a bag with that name on it at a shop, only to discover there is dukka and there is dukka--many, many versions and not all of them great. Must google some recipes.

Kristen In London said...

Thanks, Casey! Interesting about dukka... I really, really liked the mixture I bought, but sadly there's no detailed information about proportions, etc. Used for dipping, sounds great.