Last week was the wedding of two of my closest friends.
We’ve been friend ten years almost to the day; we’ve been friends through engagements and bereavements, we’ve shared drunk tears and sober laughter. We’ve read the same books, we’ve held the same babies, and we’ve watched the same people get married. They are so inextricably a part of my life and who I am.
My salad-for-supper obsession continues apace. Partly because I seem to have about a hundred odd items in the freezer, that I froze in good faith far too long ago, and now need to find a way of using. Enter the salad, the perfect vehicle for a mismatch hotchpotch of freezer tombola. I love chicken livers, and they’re perfect flash fried with a splash of sherry vinegar; and the croutons and lardons turns this into a handsome supper.
By the time you read this, I will be on holiday. In fact, I will be nearly back from holiday. Back, I hope, to crunchy leaves and high-tog duvets and tights fresh from the packet. I’m ready for crumbles and shepherds pies and soups thick with lentils. And mashed potato. I’m ready to eat a lot of mashed potato.
‘It’s not a salad, Liv’ says Sam for what must be the fifth time this morning. ‘Stop calling it a salad’. Sam has very clear views on what constitutes a salad, and this, he insists on saying grandly and repeatedly, is not it. It is a salad, for what it’s worth, it just uses herbs rather than leaves (although that argument didn’t fly with Sam).
Until last Sunday, I had never been blackberry picking. It was inevitable, then, perhaps that I managed to get caught on brambles no fewer than four times during our excursion. But I emerged physically and figuratively victorious, with stained fingers, and overflowing tupperware. After two large boxes, crammed tight with blackberries were wedged into the freezer, for dark crumble-filled days, there was still a surplus of berries. So I made this vinegar.
When Sam and I first started dating, I would occasionally make him neat, thoughtful packed lunches as an act of love. They invariably involved expensive ingredients, or time consuming preparation: smoked salmon, or proper homemade chutneys. I composed salads that would make a grown man cry, with mackerel and beetroot and horseradish, or tiny potatoes, with dill and creme fraiche and gherkins. He would probably have been as happy with a haphazard cheese and salad sandwich as anything else, but for me it was a way to send him off to work with affection. Fast forward four years and he now survives on a combination of leftovers and sandwiches he hastily makes himself. Until now.
When we were little, there was one pudding that my non-pudding-making mother would occasionally make: pavlova. We would watch it being made, placed carefully into a low oven. We were barely allowed to watch it whilst it cooked, so keen was the fear of cracking. When it came out, little fingers weren’t permitted to pry or poke. Then it was crowned with cream and accoutrements, and placed in the back porch – desperately tempting, and absolutely forbidden. I thought it was the most impossibly glamorous pudding.
It’s raining today, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’ve just filed a long piece about the best pudding to make in high summer and bright sunshine, and now it is raining with blustery gusto. Oh British summer, how you toy with me.
I bought a huge punnet of nectarines this week. One of those punnets that is designed to ‘ripen in the fruit bowl’, which sounds, when you’re in the cold aisle of a supermarket, like a dream: you will have soft fruit gradually ripening as the week progresses, for you to pluck at whim, your kitchen gently scented by the heady, sweet, honeyed perfume. Imagine Eden with formica kitchen units, and you’re approaching what I envisaged in the fruit aisle.
We’ve been decorating a lot recently. Despite moving into the house we now live in in October last year, and endless trips to Homebase, we are still sanding, still painting, and still making trips to the timber yard at 6:30 am. I am not a gracious decorator. I have little to no idea what I’m doing, so await instruction, and then moan about whatever task I’ve been given. The prospect of cooking at the end of these long, sweaty, dusty days is not one I want to entertain.
And when I feel like that, I make these: speedy, spicy, peanut butter noodles.