Friday, 19 August 2011

Chaos reigns - in the best possible way.

My oldest friend, E, and her cousin, S, who happens to live a couple of miles away, and who is also, I hope, my friend (we met once when we were 14 on a music camp and then became friends nearly 6 years ago when E, who had been visiting us separately finally realised that we lived only a few miles from each other) came to visit today with their children.

S texted first thing to see if it was OK to come around 12.15. E had indicated an eta of 11 but on past performance I was confidently predicting that she would be here also around 12 so that was fine. S texted back that one of the laws of sod requires that people normally known for their lateness will arrive on time when you actually want them to be late.

The blue one was returned to me just before 10 after a visit to the dentist with the husband who then legged it off to work, and the kids and I went to cash in the Euros to buy a lime and some runny honey to make the carrot and poppy seed salad recipe and the HFW carrot cake that I was wittering about yesterday. We also had to go to the bank for something else and to make appointments for blue and pink to have pre-return to school haircuts, so by the time we got home and the kids, it was about 10.30 - plenty of time to finish the quiche (fill and bake) whip up the cake and grate the carrots, meaning that by 12.15, I would be the hostess with the mostess, house tidy, children clean and playing angelically in the garden (may be drawing a lovely picture or something) - the usual fantasy of those of us who spend too much time at home (well it's one of mine - like the fantasy where the husband gets home from work to find the house gleaming, the kitchen tidy, the children playing an improving game quietly together (or better still, in bed and asleep) and I am  feeling refreshed and fulfilled after a day working flexibly from home and caring for my offspring, wearing a drop dead gorgeous outfit with some make up on and say "darling, go take ashower and change, we're popping out for dinner. The baby sitter will be here in half an hour". But I digress...)

By 10.50 the quiche (spinach and chard wilted and chopped with a good grating of nutmeg and some cheddar), was in the oven and the eggs and sugar were beating in the Kenwood. The kitchen was looking like a bomb had exploded and the children were bickering. Some of the carrots were tending toward the slimy side.

I thought I heard the door and after briefly hoping it might be the children going off to play in the traffic, I realised that it was E, with her pink ones.  I couldn't find the base of my springform cake tim that I wanted to use and I had run out of greaseproof paper. The washing machine started the spin cycle. ...

Fortunately, E and I grew up in each others equally chaotic houses, so after 15 minutes while carrots were doctored and grated, the Kenwood beat, the cake tin base was retrieved and lined with a liberal amount of butter and the butter paper (for good measure), the washing machine span and the children reorganised their pecking order to take account of each other, there was a cake in the oven, a quiche cooked, a salad made and E and I were drinking a cup of tea. It doesn't take long to create order again - and for it all to descend once more into anarchy. S arrived with her 2 blue ones, so the pecking order had to be reorganised but by 1 o'clock, armed with glasses of rose, we were all sitting outside enjoying lunch.

The lovely thing about friends like E and S is that with a shared history, it is so easy to sit back and relax. E and I did, as I have said, grow up together - indeed our mothers went to school together. At one stage of our friendship we would share a boiled egg - she would eat the white and I would eat the yolk. We haven't always been exceptionally close, but we have stayed in touch and there is a bond that is very special in the friendship. Although I haven't know S as long, I have always known of her, too, as E's cousin. Sitting down with people you feel truly comfortable with sharing a glass of wine while the chaos of small children (between us we have 6 ranging from my 7.5 yr old blue to E's nearly 1 yr old pink) raged around us felt like a real luxury.

Also extremely luxurious was the HRW carrot cake from River Cottage Everyday. Once it's baked, you drizzle warmed honey over it so that it soaks in.

Scrummy - I can thoroughly recommend. And Sarah Raven , for all I dislike her name dropping ("My friend, Emma Bridgewater") and her striding around the veg patch in Boden velvet coats, does a mean carrot and toasted poppy seed salad - 3 grated carrots dressed with the grated zest and juice of a lime and a tablespoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of poppy seeds, toasted, and poured hot onto the carrot - yum...

A final word on the subject of luxury. Another friend has just brought round a bag of homegrown  peaches - if I didn't have the proof sitting on my kitchen table:

I would never have believed peaches could grow in the UK like this - and they are delicious. I feel some peach cooking coming on. Spiced peaches for one, which go very well with roast ham...

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