Appealing Eyes and Irritating Flies

Unfortunately my seeming inability to keep up with modern advancements with computer technology has let me down. I have been unable to post any pictures to accompany the It’s My Birthday entry so here they are instead, along with a picture of our Max, our little bean, who thinks that he can solve all the world’s problems if only he can keep catching and fetching myriad items in a day. These might range from a cinder, a rock, an empty disinfectant bottle (quickly confiscated for obvious reasons), empty loo rolls, the cap of a marker pen, and even occasionally the odd maverick ball or Frisbee. Max has a furrowed forehead because he takes his job so very seriously.

On the news front, as you can see from the pet section of photos, Coney won First Place in the Harlow Retired Greyhound Show 2006, for Most Appealing Eyes. She failed miserably in the Waggiest Tail section by resolutely not wagging her tail. As I said, she can be very difficult at times, and since this latest accolade her prima donna like behaviour has reached mammoth proportions. She now insists on eating from a pink bowl, but not just any shade of pink. It has to be Fuschia Pink, after her favourite flowers, which she expects fresh in a vase next to her water bowl every morning. She now uses Spangley Peepers Eye Drops, meat scented, three times daily, to keep her ‘assets’ appealing and has suggested getting them insured for £1 million. On the bright side, she still sniffs where other dogs pee and has appalling flatulence. The moral of this story being that every appealing eye has a whiffy tail.
My birthday passed by peacefully. I prepared the aforementioned meal, along with a Greek Salad which of itself was delicious and light: taken from Falling Cloudberries, it combines lambs lettuce, a soft, slightly peppery leaf, salty and soft Feta cheese, shiny, large Greek olives, vine tomatoes and chunky cucumber with a red wine and olive oil dressing. The tart creaminess of the cheese mixes with the dressing to bring all the ingredients together: perfect for a warm Summers evening.
The Whitebait were a bit of a disappointment but I think that perhaps they were overcooked and would have benefited from a deep fat fryer. I refuse to give in to purchasing one however. I just know that Paul and I will be deep frying everything from Mars Bars to Cream Eggs to Schmackos (well, we wouldn’t want the beans to miss out). And that is just not good for our already burgeoning cholesterol levels.
Perhaps you do need to be sitting on a Mediterranean bar somewhere to truly appreciate these silvery morsels, with a glass of ice-cold white wine or beer. Sometimes food is about the ambience. For example, road food (by which I mean, salty crackers, peanut butter M&Ms, food on the run) just doesn’t taste moreish when you eat it in your living room. A Christmas Meal doesn’t exude the same seasonal aura when eaten in March. Baked Potatoes and butter doesn’t envelope you with a fluffy hug in the summertime.
The Moussaka was another matter altogether. For a dish that, like revenge, is best served lukewarm, it is incredibly flavourful. Layers of fried Aubergine and Potatoes, a slow cooked meat sauce, delicately spiced with Cinnamon (but don’t tell the Cinnamon-phobes), topped with an inch thick layer of b├ęchamel sauce, baked for 40 minutes or until that creamy blanket has become burnished and bubbling. Then the hard part. Do not eat until at least at room temperature. This can take up to an hour on a warm day. Sweet torment! It is worth it though. Moussaka is one of those special dishes, like Lasagne, that just works in a rare instance of alchemy instead of science.
We enjoyed the leftover Moussaka the next evening (when the flavours had amalgamated even more) in a real merging of cultures with some Ratatouille tiny rice shaped pasta, the name of which always alludes me.
A cautionary note: do not do as my Grandmother did and force yourself to eat the Moussaka at room temperature. If you think you will prefer it hot, then reheat it! Eating food is not about rigidity; it is about enjoying a life-giving pursuit.
The lovely, lovely summer pudding remained in the fridge that night because we were much too full and content on the first two courses, so we decided to have it for dessert the following day.
A summer pudding is a joy to make, particularly if you have picked the fruit yourself (see below) because it is so colourful and simple. I used Redcurrants, Blackcurrants, Blackberries, Strawberries and Raspberries (of which I picked only the Blackberries myself unfortunately), and seeing them simmering in the pan, all their juices being released in a red rainbow, makes you thankful for this time of the year. The mishapenly cut pieces of bread are wodged into the pudding basin after being dipped into the fruit juices to form an airtight layer and the fruit is then poured in and a final pink stained bread lid is put on top. It is weighted down and fridged for many hours, preferably overnight, after which time it is nervously unmoulded. To be honest, if I can produce such a piece of food art with my clumsy fingers and impatience, then anyone can. I served it with a whipped cream, sweetened with icing sugar and vanilla and smartened up with a tub of Marscapone Cheese (tempting to eat this alone as it is!) and, whilst the ever-present flies drove everyone made as they frantically tried to get to the sweet fruit that they could sense, it was a success and one that I would consider repeating again.

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