Simple pleasures

I found my thrill

Pickled Blueberries

The height of a very hot and unusually consistent summer means cooking has ground to a halt in this house. Almost. The sheer willpower needed to move takes away any enthusiasm we have for eating, let alone heating pans. A cold drink and perhaps a Cornetto seems about the limit of my ability.

But life is dull without good food, so the simplest things are on the table. Prawns, quickly fried and doused in garlic butter is enough, as was a little spinach and ricotta tortellini in some chicken and vegetable stock for last night’s supper. On the side, a pear, Gorgonzola and walnut salad, simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We had friends round on the weekend, so I did have to grudgingly cook for them, the freeloaders. But a few chickens, jointed, browned and then chucked in the oven to slowly cook with tomatoes, bay leaves and cinnamon and left to cool to room temperature made an easy lunch with some flatbreads and salad. And pudding was a few caramelised bananas shoved under some ready-made puff pastry. A banana tatin with minimum effort. That was served with some cheap vanillia ice cream, which sometimes, is just the thing.

So there is no need to miss out on meals when the the grass is scorched brown and the riverbeds are cracked drier than a Ryvita with no butter. Light and simple is the way to go and these blueberries are excellent on a plate with some anchovies or a little albacore tuna, gently cooked and preserved in olive oil the Italian way. Don’t use cheap rubbish or it will taste like it. Throw a couple of rocket leaves or lamb’s lettuce over the top and that should do it.

Why you may ask, am I pickling soft fruit at the height of its season when everything should be simple and easy? Well, this is simple and easy, and a little jar of this in the fridge goes a long way. The effort is minimal, and besides which, have you seen what happens to soft fruit in this weather? It lasts about ten seconds. And besides, a little sharpness can be just the tonic in this heat.

400g blueberries
120ml cider vinegar
200g golden caster sugar
1 long cinnamon stick
1tsp cardamon seeds
A pinch of chilli flakes
A pinch of saffron

Slowly heat the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, cardamon, chilli and saffron in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and add the blueberries.
Wait for a bit to let the heat come back and cook for 30 seconds. Remove to a plate or tray with a slotted spoon and let the pickling liquid cool and thicken.
Put the cooled blueberries and liquid into a clean jar, seal and leave in the fridge for at least a day.

This week
Dipping in and out of Vasari’s ‘Lives of the Artists‘. Reading it now, rather than back at Art College before we had the internet is such a different experience. Being able to see reproductions on the screen as you read illuminates the text in ways the author probably couldn’t imagine. Although there is something to be said about a book that describes paintings, you tend to imagine what they look like from your perspective with all its experiences, influence and scars.
Sacred Games on Netflix. Indian cop drama set in Mumbai. Thoroughly engaging if a little lacking in living up to its potential, but there are supposedly more series to come so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. The baddy is so charasmatic and good looking and the good cop has enormous humanity and presence. It’s gripping for those two alone.
Ice cream
The Sporkful‘, a food podcast by Dan Pashman is always a good listen. Apart from that, I had Tanita Tikaram’s album ‘Ancient Heart‘ on for the first time in years. That was a good blast from the past. (1988 if you were wondering. Cripes, it’s 30 years old!)

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