Friday, August 29, 2008

You are what you eat!!

It’s about the time of year when the hedges heave with berries and birds start to lick their collective lips. We learned the hard way last year that Arlesey is home to the avian equivalent of Augustus Gloop so we take our opportunities where we can.

Blackberries are the main order of the day right now, and there is now an entire freezer drawer dedicated to them; which is no great issue as the amount of sun this summer has led to a distinct lack of ripe figs. Blackberry picking has become such a regular part of the evening walk that young Harry has learned how to pick a few of his own.

Hmm blackberries you say?

I’ll just get that lovely juicy one there …

Eeeeaaaaasy now, these things bite back …

Aaaaaand pull.

The biggest problem we have is that blackberries, while sweet and juicy, play havoc with the digestive system – especially those of a hound – when eaten in large quantities. It’s a skill to get close enough to pick berries while standing on one leg using the other one as a brace to hold back young Harry. A skill, because as anyone who has ever walked Harry will know, he’s got the low down grunt of a Massey-Ferguson, and it turns out that can work just as well pushing as it does pulling. Which is a lesson worth learning when you’re the one between him and a nice spiky blackberry bush.

The thing about the average trip into the local fields is that it’s hot on the dessert potential, but not so good for the main course. The vegetables tucked up in the garden are suffering in much the same way as the figs and are turning into enormous unripe mutant versions of their normal selves. To console ourselves, we decided to pay a visit to the pub where Keith sometimes works to support the beer festival.

We hadn’t been to the pub for some time so it was nice to see the usual suspects manning the bar, and as the evening wore on, Keith’s eye started going in different directions, and I stepped in to cover a few smoke breaks at the BBQ.

Now please don’t assume that when I say BBQ I’m talking about a few greasy burgers in stale buns because the Old White Horse doesn’t do food by halves. Having seen off 2 whole pigs on previous days, Sunday evening’s offering was an entire cow’s leg slowly roasted over a glowing charcoal bed.

It was an impressive sight, and when the chef offered us the bone to take home for the dogs, we were duly wide eyed in gratitude, not least because attached to the bone, was enough beef to feed an Olympic swimmer for a week.

Having crammed the bone into a bin liner we were soon wending our merry way home. I made Keith carry the cow leg into the kitchen because I thought he might stand up to the hound mugging better than me – well actually I didn’t, but I thought it would be funny to see him flattened.

For some reason, despite being sober, I allowed myself to be talked into carving the leg before we went to bed. What you see here (and I’m amazed you can actually see anything at all judging by the camera operator’s state at the time) is half of the leg. The expression on my face is part exhaustion, part confusion, and a large sprinkling of being ready to gut the next drive by scavenger.

Bank Holiday Monday was a glorious sight for those of us who had had the sense not to gnaw on a cow thigh after 6 pints of real ale. Keith woke up to a new sensation however – the beef sweats – and crawled his way through the morning. So rough was my beloved husband that I was forced to hack the cow leg into two at stupid o’clock in the morning and clean down the kitchen before he could even bare to walk through it.

Having plotted and schemed all night to get hold of the cow leg (and failing miserably) the hounds stared pathetically at me until I walked through the back door with their breakfast. These photos are not of the hounds sharing a bone (as if that would ever happen) it is what they enjoyed each.

Once the hounds had polished off that lot, they joined Keith in the miserable world of the beef sweats while I rolled my eyes at the whole lot of them and turned my attention to the elder tree at the top of the garden.

Despite having been cut down five times, this little tree seems determined to grow, so I thought I’d have a go at making some cordial to stave off the sniffles this winter. It was a lot easier than I thought involving nothing more than a bit of boiling, sieving and sugaring. The results, as you can see, sit firmly towards the red end of the colour spectrum and Keith tells me tastes something like blackberries. It might just be that he has blackberries on the brain though.

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