Lobsters in February

There was still half an hour to go before the sun would start on its slow creep down the back of the hills of the Mizen. Miriam looked at her glass. There were two sips left of the pale brown watered down whiskey. She knew there was no water left in the jug. That should be enough.

She watched as the two fishing boats came in passing through the gap by Owen Island. Listening to the diesel thud of their engines playing out across the bay. A few dozen seagulls hung in the air behind them. They were following the boats more out of habit than any great expectation that there would be much by way of pickings coming their way. It was still too early in the year and the fish had not yet come back into the bay. The boats had gone out to take advantage of the still water and so that the engines could be run through after the weeks of inactivity.

As the boats got closer Miriam saw that one of them had a small stack of pots at the back. So they must have been out for lobsters pulling up the pots that had been put down before Christmas. She would get up when they got in and go onto the pier to see what they had.

She took the first of the two sips that were left in her glass. She would finish when she got up to go the pier.

Coming towards the end of February

It was a day towards the end of February, mid-afternoon, and Miriam Black-Fore was sat at her chair in the garden. There was a low round table beside her on which there was a small glass of whiskey and a jar of water. She looked out over the bay and every so often she took the glass to her lips and then replenished it with the water.

She was thinking on the bad dog days of the month and how they had dragged again. Each year she was caught by surprise with the bleakness of it all, the grey unyielding wet of the hills, all colour washed out in the half light and the days when nothing could be done but to wait for the month to pass and for Spring to come.

This was the first day for three months that she had been able sit out. The wind had been stayed, the rain held back and the sky was a steel blue. The sun was low over the hills of the Mizen and it fell full on her face so she had to look down at the sea. She could feel that there was a warmth in it and her skin tightened in its light.

The water was flat across the bay and she could see two boats out beyond Owen Island. They were coming back now the – the first time they had been out since the end of December.

She took another drink and looked up at the sun. She could almost see the movement in it. She would wait until it started to edge down beyond the top of the hills before finishing her drink and going back inside.

Cooking with chocolate

I have been wanting to cook with chocolate for a while and today I finally got round to it.

The recipe came from Claudia Rodin’s book of Spanish cookerey. On previous weekends I had flicked through books of Mexican food but had not been able to find quite what I was looking for. Yesterday morning I was looking for something else and came across the brief description that involved chicken with prawns and chocolate. The most satisfying part was taking the pestle and mortar and pulverising up a paste of almonds, garlic, sherry and chocolate to stir into the chicken stew that had been made. The highlight of the chicken stew was the hint to grate the tomatoes. This meant cutting a tomato in half and rubbing it up hard against a cheese-grater until all there is left in the hand is is a fist-full of skin.

Thinking about veg and making coleslaw

Yesterday I bought three good bags of rotted manure from Rightway. In the afternoon I tipped them over the freshly dug soil on the veg patch and turned it in. It will be another month or so before I start any planting out but the soil is getting ready.

Today I spent an half hour trawling the internet for seeds to buy. I have made a change already this year by planting out some garlic. I am going to be giving onions a go as well. I have always been put off planting onions when I read something about there being little point growing something in the garden when it is cheap and easily obtainable from the shops. But I was given some home grown onions last year and they were very good.

I do try and plant things that are difficult to get in the shops but then, as with the cavolo nero, I find that I am the only one that eats it and we have a glut of the stuff in the garden. I did find something new to do with the cavolo nero last weekend. This involved cooking a good handful of the green leafs in boiling water until soft, draining them and squeezing out the moisture, like you do with spinach, chopping it and then frying it off in olive oil with some garlic and pine-nuts. I then spooned it over yogurt and very good it was although the kids didn’t touch it.

I have also gone for a couple of different types of tomato, some golden beetroot and more padron peppers. Hopefully this year I will manage to grow more than the one lonely pepper.

And this afternoon I made some coleslaw. I found a recipe for salad cream in Simon Hopkinson’s book of vegetable cookery. This meant an energetic twenty minutes beating two eggs with sugar and vinegar over a pan of simmering water until it came together. Once this had cooled I stirred in cream and tarragon and put it to one side in the fridge.

I then chopped the vegetables; white cabbage, carrots and celery. I have got a mandoline which should make this easy but I never seem to get it right and either take off the top of one of my fingers or am left with a mess of unevenly shaped vegetables. My fingers survived this afternoon but the veg was misshapen. I ignored this and stirred in the salad cream.

I am not a big fan of coleslaw so I am not sure when I will be eating it.