Sunday, 11 September 2011

(Almost) Perfect Picnics, and Suicidal Suppers...

We made it to Wisley yesterday at around midday, as per instructions, to be met with full carparks and crowds of people. None of us had checked, and it turned out that we had chosen Wisley as our venue on the weekend of its flower show. We were directed to an overflow carpark, quite a way from the main entrance. We met up with F2 (one of the 2 families we were meeting - see post from Friday 9th September) almost immediately, having arrived not long after them and so fortunately had been directed to the same car park. After half an hour of waiting, F1 (bringing GAA) had not arrived. And F2 wife, and, more importantly the link between us and F1, had forgotten her mobile, so we had no way of contacting them. Cue contrived conversation about how we never used to have mobile phones and things would always turn out one way or the other, so we decided to head into the garden and take it from there. I began to warm very much to F2 wife as she began to write notes to F1 to leave at various key points, on the basis that they might just be directed to the same car park us we had. This is very much a recipe junkie approach to life - much to the husband's despair.

Picnic anxiety returned when F2 child appeared with a very desirable picnic holder type thing, but we headed off together nonetheless. Our confidence that we would meet up with F1 suffered a further blow when we realised that there were not 1 but 3 cafes in the garden. We headed for the first cafe near the main entrance but no F1 and no GAA, so we decided, it being most definitely lunchtime, we decided to find a spot and feed out 4 kids (and ourselves) and worry about F2 and GAA later.

Imagine my relief to discover that F2 picnic was in many ways very similar to ours (albeit packaged in a more desirable container - which I have tracked down to John Lewis - you could have guessed!). We had potato salad - homemade and with hiomegrown potatoes - they had cold rice salad. They may have had muscat grapes left over from their recent holiday in France, but they had shop-bought biscuits to my homemade cake. We both had designer crisps with us. A draw, I feel.

Eventually, lack of mobile phone not withstanding, we were united with F1 (delayed by an accident on their trip from Cambridge) and we had a very jolly afternoon dodging the rain and forging new family ties. It was a great relief that the older kids (ours and the F2 kids) did a quick appraisal of each other, found each other to be suitable companions and headed off to find the nearest muddy ditch (there are several at Wisley).

It was late by the time we left, GAA safely installed in the front of the car while Recipe Junkie was crammed in the back between the kids' booster seats, wishing that she wasn't quite so addicted to baking. GAA's suitcase fell on top of Fred (who had had to accompany us and who had spent a miserable afternoon in the car, visited by the husband whenever he wanted a fag (the husband that is, not the dog), and the kids were getting ratty. "Still" thought I, "I have a simple but delicious meal ready to knock together and still be in time to watch Dr Who".

Rule No 1: Never ever ever cook something new when you have guests. I wish I could follow this - it must be the cardinal rule of entertaining. On the basis that I never remember this until it is too late, the husband has started to refer to my 'Suicidal Suppers'. Saturday night was no exception. I had ordered the finest sea bass to be roasted whole, along with a roast peper and tomato salsa. The meal came from a Good Food mag (September 2009), and I had selected it for a couple of reasons. I thought that GAA would probably like fish, and it seemed like a quick but sophisticated meal. I have never roasted whole fish before.

In fact, the meal was relatively easy to put together. The fish were already scaled and gutted and it was just a matter of shoving some lemon slices inside along with some parsley stalks and roasting for 20 minutes, and the salsa was also quick and easy. Served with some new potatoes, it should have been (and in my head, it so was) a triumph of sophisticated dining, suiting the palates of young and old alike. However, when it came down to it, I think I'd forgotten that I really don't like it when my food looks like it's supposed to be - so faced with the fish, eye whitened from the cooking, tail on, it just didn't seem so appetising. And there are just so many bones. It tasted good, but it went cold quite quickly - what with all the faffing around getting people to the table. Blue manned up and ate it - we all liked the salsa anyway, GAA, the husband and I too, but Pink looked at it, tried the timiest mouthful and said - "Mummy - I do like some fish - just not this type". I know what she meant.  

Sunday is of course another day. The feta & chard parcels were a great success at lunchtime for the adults (Blue didn't like, but tried at least before chowing down on his preferred cheese and chutney sarnies, and Pink was in junk food heaven at a birthday party taking place at local soft play), and as I type, the lovely scent of roast chicken is wafting out of the oven for our supper. After the hazards of playing with fire (and fish) last night, I needed something routine to night to keep it together. I'm doing rosemary roast new potatoes and Vichy carrots (Sarah Raven again - cook them in water but with some butter, sugar and salt & pepper till the water is all gone and the carrots are glazed then chuck in parsely and lemon juice) and for pudding, a rhubarb puff thing that needs to go in my 'How Puff Pastry Saved my Life'  recipe book that I found on the Good Food website .I'm going to whisper that it doesn't quite seem the weather for crumble (even though it has been lashing with rain) but GAA has expressed a desire for Rhubarb and we have a freezer full, so this seemed like the least labour-intensive option. Puff pastry (bought) is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, I need to get off my backside and get on with the gravy, otherwise my beautiful roast chuck will suffer the same fate as Friday night's fishfingers, and that would never do.

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