|Taken on 25 September|
Tuesday 29 September 2020
Monday 28 September 2020
Wednesday was a Good Day. Work was sufficiently quiet (a calm before the storm) that I got to spend an hour with Darren, chatting in his kitchen (only partly about work) and then I went to the office for the first time since March to collect post, stationery and cheques. It was oddly unexceptional to visit my desk again. In the evening I opened this bottle of strawberry wine to drink with the Egg & Pepper Thing, and it was as good a bottle as it always is: cold, dry and tasting of strawberries. Finishing it on a Wednesday may have been an error.
|Taken on 23 September|
Dark mornings and autumn are upon us.
The Egg and Pepper Thing
This is one of our fairly regular meals, and is dead easy (though is not quick). Get a large frying pan. Heat some olive oil (a tablespoon or so), and briefly fry some cumin seeds and chillies (seeds or flakes). Add a whole sliced onion (thinly sliced in halves) and cook for a while until it has gone soft and is browning. I often start with the lid on the frying pan to help it cook, and then take that off to help it brown. Add a crushed clove of garlic whilst cooking the onion. As the onion is close to being done, add two thinly sliced peppers of whatever colour you fancy. Cook those for a while until soft-ish. Then add a handful or two of chopped tomatoes (or three handfuls - I don't think you can have too many). When the tomatoes have cooked a bit, so that it is all quite liquid, add a dash of stock or half a stock cube, and stir around. When it all looks cooked, create four spaces within the frying pan (make a 'cross' with the vegetables, leaving four holes) and crack an egg into each one. When the egg whites are solid, the meal is made. This really is more than the sum of its parts.
Sunday 27 September 2020
It has been a thoroughly satisfactory Sunday. After an early morning trip to the Asian supermarket, where we bought vast quantities of pulses, spices and exotic flour, I spent the afternoon gardening and then foraging for sloes. We are having my 50th birthday garden bench delivered this coming week, so needed to clear a space. This is the sort of gardening that I can do - unsubtle manual labour. Then in the evening I made a lasagne, we drank this bottle (entirely acceptable) and watched Line of Duty. A grand Sunday, followed by a night of anxiety dreams about Law Society Finals (sat in 1993). This coming week is likely to be difficult!
|My 50th Birthday Garden Bench (which arrived on 25 September)|
Saturday 26 September 2020
It has been many years since I last worked on a Saturday. I don't think that I have done so since I joined Stonebridge Homes in 2012. That is until today. Strangely, I didn't hate the experience or feel hard done-by. This suggests that I enjoy my job and am loyal to my employer, and both these things are true.
Otherwise, I played Mom at Scrabble (only winning because I got all the letters out with UNDERAGE) and we watched Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which took me straight back to living in Arizona in 1989. Plus we drank this bottle, which was hovering around 'Quite Good'.
|Taken on 19 September|
Tuesday 22 September 2020
Sausages require a red wine and I gave Claire a free choice of which red wine to choose, which is how we ended up with blackcurrant. She was not in the greatest of spirits - a combination of Brexit, Covid 19, the upcoming US election (Trump will get in again, of course) and despair at research facilities at Leeds University all combined to make opening a bottle of wine a necessity. Both nights I have worked till past 6, so I did not discourage this. The wine itself was a fruity and tasty as ever, but perhaps not the best red to go with sausages.
|Another Leeds doorway, taken on 17th September|
Sunday 20 September 2020
Sunday 6th September, despite being earlier than previous years, was really my only opportunity to forage for elderberries. Next weekend we are in Newcastle (before Leeds is put into quarantine) and the weekend after that would be too late. I had planned to go in the morning, but we were entertaining Jayne in the garden instead. Here I use 'entertaining' to mean 'making polite conversation and enjoying each other's company' rather than juggling fruit and eating fire.
|Elderberries that made it into my bag|
I drove to my usual parking spot and walked down Kennels Lane, noticing that there was little fruit in the hedgerows on either side. When I got to the field I always use, I discovered that it had been gated: the right of way has been diverted elsewhere. This, though, was not going to stop me! I climbed over the gate and picked the few elderberries there were along the previous right of way. My haul was clearly insufficient, so I wandered along the field side adjoining Kennels Lane, which was far more successful. Every now and again I head a tractor in a nearby field and I kept my eyes open for irate farmers, but my surreptitious plucking remained undetected.
|A view across the field |
As usual I came away with two plastic bags three-quarters full, and this translated into 7 lbs of elderberries. It took a very long time to translate them, though - over 2 hours. During this time I listened to many episodes of Punt P.I., learning about Emile Zola's death and a mysterious low hum that certain people hear constantly. Separating elderberries from their stalks is a dull job.
|7 lbs of elderberries, successfully stripped|
I put 6 lbs of elderberries into my bucket and mashed them with the potato masher. These were covered with 5 lbs 8 oz (which is nearly exactly 2.5 kg) of sugar and 12 pints of boiling water. Next morning I added a teaspoon and a half of nutrient and a teaspoon each of yeast and pectolase.
Putting this into its demijohns was a Friday lunchtime job, so that we could drive to Newcastle in the early evening. I had limited time and was as efficient as possible. Including sterilising my equipment, it took about half an hour. The wine is as dark as ever and is bubbling enthusiastically.
|Elderberry wine in its demijohns|
Saturday 19 September 2020
I have broken tradition with this bottle but at Claire's suggestion. Covid 19 makes it near certain that we will not be able to celebrate Christmas with others. Therefore, we decided to mark the event three months early in Newcastle instead - as well as celebrating all the birthdays missed (which includes Bob's 80th and my 50th). We had just the best evening at 3 The Alders with all the Taylors in attendance. The food was excellent and the wine rather too plentiful. For an evening we forgot about pestilence and enjoyed each other's company.
As an aside, this wine is rather good. I think blackcurrant is the dominant flavour, which is remarkably odd, given that in the ingredients there is not a single blackcurrant!
|The Taylor siblings|
Thursday 17 September 2020
We are in Newcastle! This is the first time that we have stayed away from home since late March, but we thought spending time with Claire's family before an inevitable second Lockdown occurs was important. I brought one of my best wines with me and we drank it to a take-out curry. This flavour was possibly overpowered by the spices and heat of the food, but still excellent with its buttery smoothness. It was just lovely sitting round the table with Bob & Judith - and tomorrow Sooz and Andrew will be with us too.
|The entrance to Gipton Woods, taken on 11th September|
Tuesday 15 September 2020
This was one of those mid-week bottles where both wine and the days on which it was consumed were unremarkable. Not bad by any means - just ordinary. Nothing dramatic happened at Work, in the evenings we ate and watched television, the cats didn't bring anything unwanted into the house.
I nearly finished our Book Group Book: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, which I have enjoyed but not as much as the superlative comments on its cover would suggest. I wouldn't make everyone read it, it is not an unconditional masterpiece and Ferrante is not the foremost modern writer in the world: all claims on the back of the book. It passed the time.
|Taken on 9th September|
Wednesday 9 September 2020
This was a fabulous bottle of elderberry wine. It was as smooth and rounded as I have ever had, with the rich earthy tones that elderberry does best. I had spent the afternoon picking elderberries and then stripping them from their stalks, so the evening's bottle was always going to be this flavour. We drank it to a chicken and prune casserole, which was also delicious, and started planning our trip to Newcastle next weekend - to be taken before Leeds goes into a localised lockdown.
|Taken whilst picking elderberries|
With this post, I have caught up entirely on my diary since the winter hiatus. Therefore, I am unlikely to be posting daily from now on.
Tuesday 8 September 2020
Saturday was one of those days where I could have achieved far more than I actually did. But what I did do was lose spectacularly at Scrabble to my mother (418 to 282) and make a yoghurt & raspberry cake. We have been collecting large pots of plain yoghurt - three at last count - and Something Needed To Be Done.
|The cake before it went into the oven.|
In the evening we drank cold and delicious Apple Wine to hot and delicious Fish Cakes, and watched The Lost Boys with the Snarkalong Film Club: a ridiculous film with too much going on in terms of genre. Not one that I will bother watching again.
|The cake after it came out.|
Monday 7 September 2020
I should have started a week's holiday on Friday. Not that I particularly wanted one, but Work passed and edict that all must take two weeks between July and September. I planned, therefore, on a week's walking holiday in North Wales. However, now is a particularly poor time for me to take a week off, so I have won favour by cancelling something originally unwanted. Instead of being on holiday I opened a bottle of blackcurrant wine, drunk to leftover curry and an episode of Green Wing.
|Crab Apples in our garden taken on 5 September|
Sunday 6 September 2020
This orange wine is too sweet. The base taste is good and certainly the wine is easy drinking, but orange wine should be dry and this is not.
I was adventurous with my cooking on Thursday night: I did a Mexican fish-dish which involved a spicy marinade with many ingredients, and both frying and grilling. The result, other than filling the kitchen with smoke and setting off alarms, was spectacular - if I do say so myself. Otherwise both Thursday and Friday have been unremarkable, though my morning walks both days have started with walking Claire towards work.
|Taken on 4th September|
Saturday 5 September 2020
What an unusually busy weekend we have just had. Saturday was spent yomping in the North York Moors with Bob & Judith - the first time that we have seen them since January. Then on Sunday, 23rd August, we went to York to pick blackberries and see my parents, whose 56th wedding anniversary it was.
|Sarah Moore's grave|
We arrived at the cemetery at around 11 and mostly went our separate ways to collect brambles. Claire found a bountiful patch that was sufficiently overgrown to be secluded and which led to a bee hive. I was rather less successful, finding the odd stem laden with fruit here and there, but mostly found whole areas where the blackberries were already rotten or covered in grey mould.
|Claire picking blackberries|
During this search I coincided with a man and his pre-teen children: Elliot and Isobel, who were enthusiastic bramble pickers. Isobel had a large tub full of blackberries, reserved for crumble, and they were interested in how I turned blackberries into wine. The father commented that the beauty of the cemetery was that there was enough fruit for everyone. "Yes," I agreed, secretly not agreeing at all and seeing him and his children very much as the competition. We went our separate ways and finally, finally I found an excellent area for foraging - near to, but behind, the chapel. Here the graves were Mary Ann Nightingale and her husband George, Sarah Moore and Jane Oldfield. Earlier I had picked from Harriet Atkinson and Robert Burton. Thomas Douthwaite did not figure this year: his grave had been cleared of brambles.
|Near the Chapel|
Once back in Leeds I weighed the fruit. I had picked 4 lbs 1 oz and Claire won convincingly with 6 lbs 5oz. I used 8 lbs, putting the rest in the freezer, and mashed them in my bucket. I poured in 5 lbs 12 oz of sugar and 11¼ pints of boiling water (though could have used half a pint less). Next morning I added the yeast (Mangrove Jack's R56), 1½ teaspoons of nutrient and a teaspoon of pectolase.
|Blackberries in their bucket|
I put the wine into its demijohns on Friday 28th August whilst listening to the first Prom of 2020 - played to an empty Albert Hall. And now I have two demijohns of blackberry wine bubbling away.
|Two demijohns of Blackberry Wine|
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.
Friday 4 September 2020
Blackberry Wine felt like the appropriate bottle for Sunday. We had returned from York with 10 lbs of blackberries between us and I was in the process of turning them into wine. It had been a lovely day; as well as spending time foraging for blackberries, we ate Big Breakfast with my parents and Simon Weeds sat outside in the garden and then Claire won at Scrabble.
The wine was a solid red with an earthy taste. We saved half the bottle for Monday night where, unusually, we watched nothing on telly but had an early night instead.
|Taken on 24th August - one of my regular walks|
Thursday 3 September 2020
Rhubarb wine is one of my reliable ones. It has been years since I have had a poor batch, though I have probably cursed 2020's vintage by writing that down. Avi has taught me an Indian phrase: I have a Black Tongue. This means that when I say something like "Light traffic, today," it immediately becomes worse. Anyway, this bottle was tasty without being spectacular. Some of it was drunk whilst watching Labyrinth as part of the Snarkalong Film Club. It is a beautiful film from an aesthetic point of view, but so, so eighties. Whilst I am clearly not the target audience, I still enjoyed it.
|Experimenting with my camera and its|
Selfie functions. (Look into my eyes!)
Wednesday 2 September 2020
A Friday Night Bottle of Wine. We are at the start of a Bank Holiday Weekend, and I spent most of Friday night putting blackberry wine into its demijohns. We drank this bottle to a fiery chick-pea-and-butternut-squash curry, and then to an episode of Green Wing, which is our current Binge Watch of choice. The wine was decent without being memorable: there is a welcome roundness to it but no one fruit dominates.
With apologies, for what must rank as one of the dullest entries in this entire blog!
|And here is a dull photo to go with it|
Tuesday 1 September 2020
I have made jam! There were many excess strawberries from having Picked My Own for Strawberry Wine and when I suggested that Claire turn them into jam, she urged me to have a go. So I did, and it worked! The jam set and everything. I see a new book in the offing: Ben's Adventures in Jam Making.
I opened this wine shortly after my condiment success, and it was less good than I had remembered, though Claire disagrees. The fizz didn't help, and I thought it thinner than usual.