Wednesday, February 25, 2009


A walk in the arboretum.

Tête-à-tête. How is it that looking at sunlight through yellow flowers can actually give you energy?

Zing up the fruit bowl like a traffic light. But don't forget to eat the stuff. If it goes off uneaten it's just plain disheartening. The pomegranate is a bowl of rubies in the fridge already, dipped into to bejewel a salad. The lime was dressing.

Get a jar of Moroccan preserved lemons from your friend as a thank you for watering her plants while she hiked in the desert. Even though it was your husband that did the good deed, and he probably isn't interested in preserved lemons, though he'll get fed them anyway. Somewhat surprisingly, since they are one of the exotic ingredients that are available here, I've never cooked with these, and am eager to do so. There's an interesting recipe here. ( In fact I rather like Gastronomy Domine's blog, I might link to it, after all, I need yet another talented person's beautiful, mouthwatering envy-inspiring blog to keep up with... ).

Listen to more music. Get some stuff on Flickr. Do some yoga occasionally without having to get together with E. to make me. Think about Sunday morning swimming if the Monday evening before work on Tuesday just seems too much.

A chat with said friend E, led me to the realisation that, while feeling much happier here and now, I still quail at making any firm plans about anything, as I feel I have some generalised sword of Damocles hanging over me, and any such decisions will be bound to bring it crashing down. We concluded one simply had to make plans, or become a prisoner to fear, and the best thing to do was pay the minimum in deposits, and the worst thing that could happen would be having to cancel them. If I dither about booking the trip we were planning in May to Chartres, until perhaps the end of a month to see if Molly's antibiotics have worked or not, the chances are the accommodation won't be available, Molly could be well then but get ill later anyway, or anything. As a wise person said, it never does any harm to hope for the best. So I'll get on and arrange it. Tomorrow.

The vet's (barely) 7 year old son is my new pupil. I had forgotten quite how very lacking in concentration even the brightest children of that age are, and wonder how well equipped I am to impart any English to him. Also how it is that the nicer specimens of very small boys only really want to construct things out of any given object or material (the nastier ones only want to break and inflict damage with them), so the chief potential and attraction of the box of coloured felt pens I took with me was as rods to build pyramids with. Little girls, I am convinced, would be far more likely to seize upon pens and pretty colours and want to make pictures and write things, like the words for the colours in English. Tom tells me I am quite wrong in this crass gender stereotyping, but I'm not so sure, and I suspect the child may be colourblind, as he's fumbling over the reds and greens. But most males of the species can go through life totally without a sense of colour without even noticing anyway, with exceptions like Matisse and Kaffe Fassett, and maybe one or two more. Actually, I find many small boys are fab, and I think this one and I will get on all right.

As you may have gathered, this is a quite formless, unpremeditated and undrafted blog post, so I'd best bring it to a halt. I'll get back to pictures and chat about my trip tomorrow, and do the blog rounds too.

Be seeing you.


Rouchswalwe said...

I'm a big sister ... I agree that "small boys are fab." We were both colouring demons in our youth.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos, as always! Preserved lemons sound wonderful! I suppose they are in some sort of syrup?
My little brother and I loved to play all kinds of games.
I thought I was the weird one, not wanting to commit to dates for trips, in case....what? And Lucy, you never sound formless, more like a friendly chat about daily stuff over the back fence. Never stop, please.

Lee said...

Thank you for the ramble!

jzr said...

Lovely photos. Kaffe Fassett has alway been my most favorite colorist in the whole world and he has often inspired my own work.

Granny J said...

Wonderful hints of the spring to come.

Michelle said...

Marvellous, marvellous photographs, Lucy!

Anonymous said...

I always try to have a jar of preserved lemons in the house. I use them, as I did, yesterday to to make a spicy cous cous. They balance very well with the flavour of dried apricots, pine kernals and lamb.

Anonymous said...

Anon just now was me who didn't mean to be anon.

apprentice said...

Sophie Grigson has a fab chicken recipe with preserved lemons and cumin and tumeric. I'll see if I can dig it out. I love pussy willows, they are like wee fairy slippers, so furry and soft.

apprentice said...

Found it online

Here you go:

Sophie Grigson

Djej Makali Tagine of Chicken,
Preserved Lemons, and Olives

This is one of the most renowned of Moroccan tagines, those gently spiced stews of meat and vegetables - and often fruit as well - that hold their name from the earthenware dish with a conical lid that they are cooked in. One Moroccan cook told me firmly that anything that is cooked in a tagine is called a tagine, not just the stews. You could scramble eggs in it, or cook spaghetti bolognaise and, to a Moroccan, these would then become a tagine.

So, I guess, technically speaking, if you cook this subtle dish of semi-stewed, semi-steamed chicken in a saucepan then it shouldn't be called a tagine at all, just a straight pot roast. Ah, but what a pot roast, spiced mildly with ginger, cumin, turmeric and saffron, and with the salty tang of preserved lemons and juicy olives. Unlike a couscous, this is a dish which should end up with just a small amount of sauce, enough to moisten the meat and that's about all, for it is usually served on its own, or perhaps with a selection of salads, but certainly without any starchy accompaniments other than a wedge of bread.

Serves 4

1 large free-range chicken
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, grated
2 chicken livers
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
11/4 cups water
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
1 preserved lemon
2/3 cup pinky red and green olives (assuming you can't get Moroccan ones, try either Gaeta, or Greek Kalamata olives)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim the flaps of excess fat from the chicken at the opening to the stomach cavity, and remove any other lumps of fat you can locate. Truss the bird firmly, by tucking the ends of the legs into the opening and tying them in place with string. Rub the turmeric, ginger and cumin over the chicken, and then smear over half the garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then cover and set aside for up to 12 hours (covered and in the refrigerator).

Put the remaining garlic, the onion, the chicken livers, the olive oil, and water into a casserole or saucepan, or a tagine large enough to hold the chicken. Stir and bring to a boil. Now, add the chicken and reduce the heat so that the liquid barely simmers. Cover the pan, leaving just a small gap for steam to escape, and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning the chicken frequently so that the flesh is partially steamed and partially simmered to a melting tenderness.

Meanwhile, soak the saffron, if using, in a tablespoon of hot water. Scrape the pulp out of the lemon and discard. Cut the skin into strips, rinse thoroughly, drain and reserve. Rinse the olives. Bring a pan of water to a boil, add the olives and blanch for 1 minute, to remove excess salt. Drain thoroughly.

When it is done, hold the chicken out of the pan, and keep warm. Find the livers, quarter them and reserve them too. Stir the strips of preserved lemon, the olives and the saffron into the remaining sauce in the pan, then simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over and around it, scattering the bits of liver in among the olives and lemon.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pics, as ever. What an eye you have.

Bee said...

The first picture looks a bit like an ear to me, with ivy (instead of hair?) growing out of it! You are right about the daffodils. I must go walk about and admire them while we have some sun out today.

I tutor an almost seven year old boy, too, so your comments on that subject amused me. I will say that his concentration has improved in the last year, but he still would much rather muck about in my garden than learn to read!