Friday 24 July 2009

Meanwhile, back in London...

It's winter. Or, at least, it feels like it, in comparison with Tuscany! Grey and cold and raining...or if not actually raining, then it either just has or it soon will be!

Whilst walking the four-footed in Kensington Gardens, we were driven briefly to take shelter in the Serpentine Gallery's Summer Tea Pavilion. This year, it's by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa and is rather beautiful - delicate and elegant, with uprights that resemble a woodland glade, and mirrored ceilings which reflect the real thing beyond the glass walls. Airy and ethereal, the only false note is the deeply plonky 'fire exit' signs idiotically fixed over the openings in the glass, which have the cretinous hand of 'Health & Safety' written all over them; the fact that in some places the signs can be seen through other glass walls which in fact block access to them would be quite worrying, were it not for the fact that the only flammable material in the whole place is probably the signs themselves. Oh, and the other false note is the staff behind the counter, from whom we tried to buy a couple of cups of coffee, but by whom we were brusquely informed that they weren't yet they poured themselves cappuccino and carried on with their conversation. The catering company appears to be an outfit called 'Mint'.

The four-footed has now just about got used to his single-dog good time for the arrival of the new mini-four-footed, who is due to be collected and brought home four weeks from now. A process that will have to be handled diplomatically, in order to ensure that the newly-promoted senior-four-footed's snout isn't seriously out of joint! Last time we went through this, nearly ten years ago, the two beasts were introduced in the neutral territory of the park, after which it seemed quite normal for them to go home together...and I imagine we'll try and engineer the same sort of thing again.

And in direct comparison with the porcini haul from the garfagnana last week, the Technical Department this morning found one enormous mushroom growing in his preferred wild mushroom patch, underneath an Indian Bean Tree not far from The Queen's Temple. Muttering darkly that the 'mushroom rustlers' must have denuded the patch of the rest of the crop earlier in the day, he couldn't really complain, since his solitary specimen measured almost eight inches across the centre of the cap!

Tonight's dinner: in Dolphin Square. It's nearly Sarah's birthday, so we're taking her a raspberry-infused Marjolaine to make her feel better about the fact that's a 'zero' birthday (always a thought-provoking event).

Thursday 23 July 2009

Recipe: Hamburger

Nothing whatsoever to do with commercially-produced junk food, this recipe is quick and easy, and bursting with flavour. Delicious served hot, as in this version with a mustard cream sauce - but arguably even more delicious served cold, the following day, after the flavours have all matured generously, when the burgers go well with a fresh salad.
This was variously derived from Pierre Franey and Marcella Hazan, with a few variations of my own which have been introduced over the years.
For four.
Ingredients: 500g ground meat (beef, lamb, or pork); half a red pepper; half a medium onion; 30g butter; 2 medium eggs; 60g freshly-grated parmesan; half a teaspoon dried thyme; salt & pepper; 2 tablespoons olive oil.
For the mustard-cream sauce: half a cup chicken stock; quarter cup of cream; generous teaspoon of dijon mustard.
1. Melt the butter in a small pan. Finely dice onion and pepper and sauté in melted butter for several minutes, until collapsed, then allow to cool.
2. Combine the onion and pepper in a bowl with the ground meat, parmesan, eggs, thyme and seasoning, to taste (I find it takes quite a lot of salt to work to my liking). Set aside in the fridge for twenty minutes or so, to firm.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy pan, large enough to sauté four burgers comfortably without them touching each other. Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and divide it into four. Make each one into an individual patty approx 3" across and 1" thick. (If the mixture seems quite sloppy at this stage, try adding a little flour in order to make it more resilient - if the burgers aren't firm enough, they'll fall apart in cooking)
4. Carefully place the burgers in the hot oil, and cook for about seven minutes on each side. Take great care when turning them over - the egg within the mixture should have coagulated decently by this stage, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
5. Meanwhile, in a small pan, combine the stock and cream, heat to an enthusiastic simmer and reduce the combined mixture until it is of coating density; add the mustard at this stage and continue to reduce further, for several minutes, stirring, until it's quite thick. Taste for seasoning (but it shouldn't really need any)
6. Serve, with a spoonful of sauce over each burger.