The Whitworth

Friday was the last day of half term so I stayed at home to spend some time watching the kids do revision for the exams that start next week.

In the afternoon we took the car to Manchester and spent a couple of hours walking round The Whitworth. I am not sure if I have been there before. If I have it was a long time ago.

It has just been revamped and is now in contention for a prize as museum of the year. It would well deserve to win.

It was a combination of the old building with modern open galleries inside and at the back a new extension with wide clean windows that looked out over the park.

One room was filled with 17th/18th Century watercolours and etchings. They were hung up to the ceilings. A criticism might have been made that there were no labels next to the pictures so you were never quite sure what you were looking at. But there were sheets of paper there to be picked up telling you what was what and part of the enjoyment was shifting the eye from picture to picture picking up the details rather than being distracted by the label.

As we walked round it was apparent that there was no fuss being made on photos being taken. This came into its own in a exhibition of work by Cornelia Parker.

There were bullets that had been pulled into a piece of wire a mile long that had then been coiled against canvas; small piles of incinerated cocaine courtesy of a local customs office and flatted plates, trumpets and trombones hung by wires from the ceiling.

But most impressive were two large internal rooms each given over to its own work of art.One room had been hung with the bright red paper templates left after a poppy had been punched out of it. They were hung from the walls and in inverted arches from the ceiling and lit for four bare lightbulbs.

Another room was filled with an exploding shed lit from the inside throwing slow black shadows on the wall.

After the art we went for expensive tapas at Iberica. We had a plate of very expensive ham that wasn’t quite big enough for the price and I then went for the three cheapest tapas on the menu:-

– Aubergine, honey & pinenuts – these could have done without the pinenuts and theere was something astringent about the honey. It was also a long slice of aubergine with the skin still. So all in all not as good as it could be.

– Confit of cod (brandada) with olives & white grapes – this was better. Salt cod mixed with potato and served cold as three spoonfuls set on the plate with white grapes and diced tomato.

– Butifarra with trinxat catalan – this was the best. A thick spiced sausage on a small spread of pureed potato with a green embellishment.

We also had croquettes, chorizo lollipops, cheese and omelette, padron peppers and patatas bravas.

I even managed to finish with a small glass of patxaran over ice.

Ships not boats

There were three big ships on the Mersey today but the most that we saw was the back of a lot of peoples’ heads.

What was impressive was the massive crowd of people milling down through Hamilton Square and then catching a glimpse of the ships through the buildings rearing up almost as if they were buildings in their own right.

Down by the water the ships dominated the city shrinking the cathedrals and the shiny new buildings that have gone up too eagerly over the last few years. The only things not subdued by them were the squat tugs that busied themselves around the ships – like dogs shepherding large slow moving sheep.

And then the red arrows flew past quickly. Very quickly. Blink and you would have missed them. But they did leave behind some nice blue, red and white cloud.

Then we went home.

Before finishing I should mention that last nights asparagus were particularly good. I had probably over bought but when it is only around for a few weeks it seems silly not to indulge. They were boiled in a large pan of water their tops sticking out for five minutes. In the meantime I had hard boiled and peeled four perfectly light blue duck eggs. A large plate was warmed in the oven.

When the asparagus were done I lifted them out onto the warm plate and snipped at the elastic bands holding them together in bunches so they could spread out. The eggs were cut in half and placed at each end of the plate, butter melted and poured over and plenty of salt and pepper then went on top.

We ate them outside in the last of the afternoon’s sun chewing them down to the hard stem.

Getting galvanised

I should have known that assembling a hammock on a sunny Saturday would lead to rain on the Sunday.

And so it came to pass. When we woke up this morning the sky was grey and heavy with cloud and the the ground was slick with rain and the hammock too damp to lie in.

No matter we have friends coming round for a late lunch and now mid-afternoon the sun is making an effort to break through the clouds.

There will be a Greek influence with both the guests and the food although we will be starting with the pure English of a large plate of freshly cooked asparagus slathered in butter with hard boiled duck eggs.

Having feasted on that we will be eating chicken cooked with honey, coffee and brandy. I have in the past cooked something similar with beef.

The recipe comes from a book I was given earlier this year The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking by Susanna Hoffman.

The combination of flavours works surprisingly well. The coffee and honey work off each other to create a deep sweet taste bolstered by cinnamon, bay and cloves. We will eat it with a large bowl of crusty rice and salad from the garden.

To follow that we have a box of mangos to eat. I have just taken the lid off them and had a smell. Who needs perfume when you can have a smell like that.

Listening new wave funk and modern day psychedelia.



It would be nice to think that some of the youth might be galvanised by the prospect of another five years of the Conservatives to create something is good as The Slits or The Gang of Four.

Assembling a salad

At the start of the summer it is always a good idea to pick on a salad that will be the default salad for next few months. The one you know that will be good and will go well with whatever might have been thrown on the barbeque.

In previous years it has been a chickpea salad and a roast aubergine salad. This year we seem to going for a Turkish chopped from the Morito cookbook.

It is a mixture of cucumber, radishes, cherry tomatoes and red onion all chopped up into small chunks and stirred together with some finely chopped parsley, mint and rocket. The seasoning comes from half a dozen pickled Turkish peppers, a squashed clove of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.

We had it on Thursday night and we are having it again tonight with lamb chops cooked on the barbeque, yogurt and flat bread.