Saturday, April 25, 2009

The hardest ever blog post to write

I’ve been absent from the blogging world for a while. Though to be honest I could say I’ve been away from life for a while. The worse of all possible things happened and I lost my dearest M at moments before midnight on April 25th.
Despite her being so ill she was determined to beat the dreaded stomach cancer and being so used to getting her own way - it was such a shock that her incredibly valiant efforts were in vain.
I still can’t believe that she isn’t there anymore and even after a few weeks I have found it immensely difficult to even start to write this post and days to actually finish it. I’m so used to us sharing the minutiae of our daily lives and I still reach out for the phone to relate some snippet I heard or saw and then of course it hits me again and that overwhelming feeling of emptiness descends.
One thing we haven’t been able to share for a long time is a meal. The last time we did was back in September for my birthday meal at Michael Caines @ Abode in Manchester. It was a wonderful tasting menu which I haven’t blogged yet, maybe due to the connotations around that day. At the end of the meal M was feeling very sick and it turned out to be the beginning of all that was to come. She started being sick every day but she thought she knew what ailed her and that she could deal with it by mainlining Gaviscon and hot mocha chocolate drinks. Little did we realise then that it was something much worse, how pervasive it was becoming and how life was never going to be the same again. I now know much more that I ever needed or wanted about enteral feeding, metastatic gastric adenocarcinoma and linitis plastica (words I never dreamt would appear in my blog). I know fascinating facts now for example that stomach cancer is more prevalent in Asian males, may be caused by helicobacter pylori (which is the rabid acid producing stomach bacteria problem M thought had returned) and is generally considered to be exacerbated by a high salt, low vegetable diet. Have I been right all along about all that vegetable dodging?
I really can’t imagine life without her but as that choice has been taken away from me I will just have to find a way to keep smiling. I am lucky I have some amazing friends who’ve been so incredibly supportive, have showered me with beautiful cards and heartfelt messages, who’ve been there when I needed them and left me alone when I yearned to be by myself. And K even sent me a red heart-shaped Le Creuset casserole dish for when I am feeling more inclined to mass catering. Thank you so much, all of you, without you I couldn't have got this far.
I’ve always tried not to live with regrets but I do regret that we didn’t talk more about what was happening to her, our fears and how we really felt about it all. M was going to beat this for sure so what was the point? We would talk about our next holiday – probably that Paris trip we’ve been promising ourselves for way too long or what crab filled treat I would cook her when she could eat again. Maybe that was our way of dealing with it all. She never even read the post I wrote when I was first coming to terms with everything and I wish I’d read it to her whilst I had the chance. I would love to know if she approved of the funeral service I organised, the songs and readings we listened to through the tears, the cascades of our favourite white lilies on a very alternative and green bamboo casket (not the type of bamboo pandas eat though!), whether the specially requested canapés passed muster and if she appreciated the significance of me wearing my red shoes. Though I know for sure that she would have been delighted as I was by how many people came to say goodbye to her.
In the words of Mary Poppins M declared herself to be “practically perfect” and even though I would never admit it before she was possibly right and everything will be a little less perfect without her. Goodbye M, I will always miss you.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Devilishly good!

Stephanie has designated this month’s blog party as devil’s food, those sinful treats you lust after when you know you shouldn’t. Though we are talking about bite-sized canapés and I’m a great believer of ‘little of what you fancy…’ but nonetheless I should be able to conjure up some wicked delights.
This last month more than ever I’ve been neither here nor there, not often at home and generally packing or unpacking. But in the spirit of ‘the show must go on’, or ‘the blog party must go on’ I started pondering some of my top decadent dishes and how I could miniaturise them whilst making one the many train journeys.
In my usual ‘cart before the horse way’ I decided on the crockery before the actual dishes. My plan was to get out my fabulous Versace Dedalo beauties that M got me for Christmas as they really are show stoppers but as it turned out I produced the eats far from home and without a wisp of Versace in sight so I have to get a little creative. In lieu of my Greek key banded lovelies I procure a black and crystal shiny frame and repurpose that to serve the nibbles on.
I seem to think beef on many of these occasions and surely one of the most wicked and rich beef dishes is Tournedos Rossini. Strictly this demands a sliver or so of foie gras but when I asked for it in the local supermarket they looked at me as if I had two heads – clearly I thought I was in Le Clerc for a moment! So instead of the foie gras I get some smooth duck pâté and sit it on top of round of rare seared beef. I wanted to make some round croûtes to form a base but I didn’t have my usual cutters to hand so instead I managed to deploy a handy metal coffee scoop to make the little discs. These were fried alongside the beef and added the perfect toasty foundations. These may have been a slight stretch to call them Tournedos Rossini but they were a fine interpretation and undeniably devilishly delicious!
Whilst getting the beef I also tried to get some little queen scallops to make my own version of Coquilles Saint Jacques but I had to settle for the larger beasts instead. I figured that M possibly formerly being the largest consumer of mini Coquilles Saint Jacques in the free world would have a surfeit of queen scallop shells but she’s destroyed the evidence. So not have any of my usual canapé spoons I had to go exploring amongst M’s cutlery drawers for suitable alternatives. Lightly searing the scallops, then dousing them with a slug of white wine and cream I then placed them in the bowls of found dessert spoons and topped them with a slick more of the sauce and grated cheese. Fearing that grilling them would mean that they couldn’t be picked up for eager consumption I protected them with foil whilst they got a blast under the grill. I had considered piping mash potato around the scallop before their final anointing but couldn’t find a suitable piping tool and boy that would have been seriously fiddly!
Whilst in the devilishly decadent frame of mind I had been pondering truffled risotto or truffled mash potato but instead opted for cocoa dusted chocolate truffles! Well they are definitely one of my favourite chocolaty nibbles.
I had planned all sorts of Chambord wildness as my wicked drink but in honour of M I opted for our ‘memories of the Cip in Venice’ honeyed dessert wine served in one of my favourite and very appropriate Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque glasses. Well Belle Epoque seriously goes witht he excessive theme and it is the original D's birthday and this was his most favourite Champagne.
The wine complements the scallops and the chocolate but maybe not so the beef! And a deserving nod to Harvey for adding a little luxurious texture to the shot!
So if you believe that 'a little of what you fancy does you good', please help yourself to a devilishly to-die-for morsel and I’ll see you at the party, don't forget your horns!