Friday, 26 August 2016

Flat Pack Queen

The Flat Pack Queen and her Assistant get up close and personal
 with yet another shelving unit. 
With visitors over from the UK this weekend to coincide with her Birthday, Liz is in maximum Domestic Goddess mode getting the house ship shape, baking all manner of goodies, blitzing the kitchen from top to bottom and so on. No going to work for a rest, though as the (Montessori) Pre-School group which operates in her building takes delivery of a sizable batch of new "stuff".

Inevitable downside of flat pack assembly - huge pile of
cardboard boxes, foam and strapping.
They get a good range of educational toys (model farm, dolls' house, a 'den', a child-sized shop, a 'polar explorer' ship with penguins, whales, sea-lions etc) as well as chairs, tables of various sizes and robust shelving and storage units. Most ingeniously (in my opinion) there is also a rack for drying dozens of paintings in a vertical stack with about half an inch between pages - genius!

Cattle in the morning mist
The main school mistress is widely acknowledged to be brilliant in many respects but is by her own admission "hopeless" at the DIY and all the above stuff except the plastic chairs came in flat pack or part assembled in boxes. A daunting task with school restarting very soon. Step forward, then, our own Queen of the Flat Packs, Liz, who did all of our flat pack furniture during the house build. Sparks and I were happy to lug those boxes that weighed as much as, and would soon become, wardrobes or book cases, in from the van, but also happy to place them on the new floor of their appropriate room where Liz would fall upon them with allen keys, electric screw driver and a knife to open the boxes. Sparks and I would creep off on some other job and, Bingo! , by next tea break we had complete units and a pile of cardboard outers for the bonfire.

So that is how she spent a couple of days this week. On the first day they built most of the 'toys' but also started on the shelving units which, as anyone who has done this will tell you, involves a certain amount of waving heavy wood parts around, leaning into the unit at unlikely angles, twisting round to tighten up screws and fixings upwards, sideways and backwards. This usually while taking the weight of some heavy part with a spare arm till you can get a screw into it. You use muscles which don't get a lot of practise and you ache, especially the morning after. No respite for Liz though, day #2 involved a load more toys and 4 more of those solid shelving units. Liz came away on Thursday night determined to do NOTHING towards the house-blitz that night and demanding a beer! School Mistress lady is delighted to have all her stuff put together. Everyone's a winner.

Would you like some lamb with your marinade? In all this
yogurt-y slop is a leg of lamb.
We are hoping, of course, that the guests enjoy their stay here and the baking mentioned above is only part of it. They are going to be guinea pigs in a try out of a rather special 'new' recipe we will do on one of our legs of lamb. This is Madhur Jaffrey's book version of "Shahjahani leg of pork", which allegedly "belongs to the very finest tradition of Muslim banquet cookery" Shahjahani, Liz tells me, is the man who had the Taj Mahal built. This recipe involves marinading your lamb, stripped of all skin, fat and membrane (caul) for 48 hours in a mix of yogurt, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and garam massala. Non-'curry' eaters (I was one) may be a bit alarmed by all this spice but we have found throughout this book that Madhur J delivers food which is very brightly and interestingly flavoured without ever being stupidly and off-puttingly hot. Trust me and try some.

Aduki bean sprouts
While I'm on food, I will finish with a rather foolish admission of omission (if that is not too tangled a phrase). For some reason I have lately got back into Chinese food and stir fries. I used to do a lot of these while a student but have since branched out into other things and left the stir fries behind a bit. Back then we were the sandal-wearing (well Ugg Boots anyway) "health food" nuts - I remember we were labelled "wallies" by our fish and chip eating brethren. Bean sprouts were everywhere - you could buy the dried 'mung' beans and sprout them yourself in a wet jam jar on the window sill, or you could buy pre-sprouted packs, tins and so on. 30 years later (and now in Ireland),

Mmmmm. One of these swallows might actually be a jackdaw!
I tried to get back into this and found that no-one does mung beans any more and certainly not pre-sprouted bean sprouts. I could only find split dried mung (or moong in the Indian shops) beans which I guess you cook as per lentils. What to do? I eventually got a tip off from friend Anne that a shop in town had 'Aduki' beans which would sprout in the same way as mung beans, so I bought a packet and set a load to work in a small tupperware box. I was going to do the best ever stir fry the following Wednesday and I planned it and dreamed about it for the week.

Wednesday came and, having finished 'harvesting' the Hubbard chickens, I kept back some meat from the freezer and created a very successful and delicious chicken stir fry. It was only the next day when I went to do the daily rinse/drain/re-pack on the "remaining" sprouts, that I realised that they were untouched - I had not used the precious things at all! Ah well, I have since corrected this by doing a little side-dish of stir fry including bean sprouts to go with a chili con carne. They are as nice as I remember and the rest will definitely get used up over the next few days even if not as part of the guest menu. More on that in the next post.

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

Matt, I'm picturing you now as Neil from the Young Ones, has made me smile in work.