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THIS WEEK    –   A Cake that really Celebrates Christmas…click at right for the recipe…

September took us almost due eastwards to Holland, in company with a group of 44 other mostly senior citizens swanning around Amsterdam, the Hague, Gouda and other places where works of great Dutch artists could be seen, as well as the houses in which they were born, lived, worked and passed on. I have always liked the country, so evidently the work of man in its incredible reclamation of land from the sea – the amazing use of space, the immense tidiness (except for a bit of litter in Amsterdam) and, of course, the ubiquitous bicycle, which comes in every form you can think of. There are cyclists everywhere. The Dutch people are charming, too, and you actually find them working in hotels, pubs and restaurants!

We travelled by Eurostar from St. Pancras to Brussels and had wondered why the tour operator recommended buying some food to take on to the train – the offerings in the Buffet Cars, which actually bore the name “Waitrose” on them were ghastly.

The food in Holland hadn’t changed a lot in the 25 years since we last were there; still fairly heavy, mostly fried with chips a-plenty. We remembered good Indonesian food, but this seems to have been diminished in availability and quantity. But it was the works of art we went for and we were not disappointed. The magnificent Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, recently restored at as cost of 130 million Euros is a sight one ought to see at the very least once in one’s lifetime. It is only when you see great paintings “in the flesh” you realise the genius of their creators. Not only the huger canvases of artists like Rembrandt but very small ones, too, with tiny brush strokes and vivid detail.

Wandering around Delft, where we were based, a charming town with a delightful pedestrians-only old centre, the streets criss-crossed by canals, the street lamps adorned with flower baskets reminded us of home in dear, funny quiet old Saxmundham. And despite the glories of what we had seen, we were glad to be back and admire the work of our local painters, at work on the High Street shops.

NED24 - Delft - water, flowers, boked, lamps      NED27 - Delft - the only way to travel

In towns like Delft there are photo opportunities galore – pretty canal-side houses, shops and restaurants and many a flower bedecked street lamp.  At dusk Delft is delightful to stroll around. Bikes are used by every age, from small boys and girls of four or five following their parents, to the very elderly.  They are used to carry everything: students’ books, housewives’ shopping, babies, and very frequently as in the right hand picture, Man’s Best Friend.

GRINDINGS FROM THE MILL

Quite a lot of time at the moment is being spent piecing together the history of our home, Albion Mill, which is proving quite difficult. One bright light was shed on its recent years by the architects responsible for its conversion into a domestic premises – no less than 1172 photographs arrived on a CD-ROM, covering the period 2003 – 2006. Sorting these is keeping me quite busy. The big gap is in the period from its building in 1823 to its demise in 1907. Then there is its period as a petrol station and garage. Two good photos of this period, in  the 1970s have come my way. Any others, and any information or anecdotes readers of Sax News may have will be warmly welcomed.

AM17A - 1972 Garage at the MillAM18 - 1975 use as garage

Can anyone put a date on either of these pictures?  The left hand one seems to be a bit earlier than the other.  Early 1970s?  Any information will be gratefully received.

EATING OUT – if you can!

Sadly, at the moment one is dealing with closures rather than openings.  To be expected, I suppose, but I was still surprised to see that 152 Restaurant in Aldeburgh’s High Street appears to have shut its doors.  When visiting  Suffolk over the years and since settling back here, we had had some very good meals there with our family and friends.  The longer a place remains closed, the less likely it is to re-open and to pass what had been a good eating place with rooms above looking increasingly forlorn is miserable.  I am talking of The Bell at Saxundham.  One waits in hope for news of The Bell, perhaps in vain – who knows?

On a happier note, the 2014 Michelin Guide top 500 have been announced, and it’s good to see the Lighhouse at Aldeburgh is included.  I think The Regatta ought to be there, too.  A Daily Telegraph feature lists the “500 Best Restaurants” in the 2014 Michelin, from which I see just sixteen are in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex.   I think this is probably  not a true reflection and I am preparing lists of good eating places, from by various guides, my own experience and that of friends, family and readers.  All comments welcome at editor@eastward-ho.com   Watch this space for news and reviews.

 

“PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA”

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The next best thing to travelling, they say, is reading about it. As you get older this becomes truer. I always have at least one book on the go and for me this is my “Paris Season”. It was brought about by my finding a journal I wrote in 1959 describing my first visit to that glorious city. Our cheap little hotel was next to the Sorbonne University and close to the Latin Quarter, with its cafés, restaurants, jazz clubs and places of entertainments. Our cash was limited, so we looked out for inexpensive places to eat. We soon found good food at good prices. “Look out for priests eating in a restaurant”, people said. “If there are bicycles outside, eat there”, was another hint. Only on our first evening meal at a main street around the corner from our lodgings, a roast chicken place, were we disappointed.

This was our first lunch at a small restaurant in a side street just off the Champs Elysée, to which we’d travelled by bus:

Garlic sausage (with fresh French bread, of course); trout fried in butter, Steak/Frites (a thin cut quickly fried and still pink in the middle, with thin cut fried potatoes); dessert (a slice of fruit tart); cheese (Brie); coffee. Accompanied by a carafe of house wine.

Perfect! The cost for two was €2.00. Yes, two Euros. Ah, those were the days. Those two Euros would equate to 40 today – even in a modest taverna you can’t get much of a lunch for two, with wine, for that!

                    Americans in Paris

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Most people, asked to name American writers who lived or spent much time in Paris, reply: “Ernest Hemingway”. Yes, he was one – but he kept himself quite a bit to himself whilst there and didn’t take much part in the French-American literary scene (His little book “A Moveable Feast” is evocative and entertaining, however). However, my personal favourite is A.J. Liebling (1904 – 1963), who is best known for writing for the “New Yorker” magazine from 1935 until his death. He spent some years in Paris and caught the flavour of its life, times, food, drink and amours. A particular friend of his, Yves Mirande, lived a full life around a contented and luxurious home with wife to match, a well-to-do mistress and a well-filled stomach….

“In the restaurant on the Rue Saint-Augustin, Parisian actor and gourmand Yves Mirande would dazzle his juniors, French and American, by dispatching a lunch of raw Bayonne ham and fresh figs, a hot sausage in crust, spindles of filleted pike in a rich rose sauce Nantua, a leg of lamb larded with anchovies, artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, and four or five kinds of cheese, with a good bottle of Bordeaux and one of Champagne, after which he would call for the Armagnac and remind Madame to have ready for dinner the larks and ortolans she had promised him, with a few langoustes and a turbot — and, of course, a fine civet made from the marcassin, or young wild boar, that the lover of the leading lady in his current production had sent up from his estate in the Sologne. ‘And while I think of it,’ I once heard him say, ‘we haven’t had any woodcock for days, or truffles baked in the ashes, and the cellar is becoming a disgrace — no more ’34s and hardly any ’37s. Last week, I had to offer my publisher a bottle that was far too good for him, simply because there was nothing between the insulting and the superlative.’”

It would be with some difficulty that I could today dispatch a repeat of my first meal in France, but tackling the meal consumed by M. Mirande I could not even consider in my prime. But observe the writing – how wonderfully it evokes the time, place and people.

Writing came easily to Liebling – he observed life closely, often from the table, at which he was a glutton. He over-ate, over-drank, became obese and died at 59. His literary legacy is not large but greatly enjoyable.

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              THIS WEEK’S RECIPE

               Aubergine Canneloni

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“ Egg Plant”, “Aubergine”, “Melitzana”: whatever you call it, it is a useful thing to have in the kitchen. It’s quite versatile. Floured slices of aubergine, fried are an essential layer of Moussaka. It is the basis of Moutabal, that lovely garlicky dip (pictured above). It is one of the ingredients of a good Ratatouille. And it makes this very interesting alternative to pasta cannelloni…

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                          Ingredients for 4-6 servings

2 large aubergines (not too bulbous in shape).

500 g spinach, cooked, finely chopped and drained.

250 grams Anari soft cheese (or similar).

Salt and pepper.

400 g chopped peeled and de-seeded tomatoes.

Some fresh basil.

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed.

2 tbsps grated Parmesan or other hard cheese.

Method

1. Slice the aubergines lengthways.

2. Each slice should be approximately a half cm in thickness.

3. Discard the outer slices.

4. Layer the aubergines with salt in a large colander.

5. Place a plate with a weight on top inside the colander, to press down gently on the aubergines, for approxi­mately 30 minutes. This will remove unwanted bitter juices. Place the colan­der in a basin to collect the juices.

6. Remove and rinse the aubergines and dry carefully with paper towels.

7. In a large frying pan, heat a couple of tablespoonfuls of olive oil and fry the aubergine slices on each side until they are brown and quite soft. This will take approximately 3-4 minutes for each side.

8. When you have done this, place the aubergine slices on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Leave until cool enough to handle. Mix the cooked spin­ach and the cheese until well blended, adding salt and pepper and nutmeg to taste.

9. Put approximately 3-4 teaspoonfuls of the cheese-spinach mixture in the centre of each slice of aubergine and roll up to make a small parcel.

10.Arrange the parcels in an oven-proof dish.

11.Make a simple tomato sauce by frying the garlic in some olive oil. Do not let it burn. When it is light gold, add the chopped tomatoes and simmer gently for approximately 10 minutes. Add some fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.

12.Spoon the tomato sauce around the aubergine parcels and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

13.Place in a medium-hot oven for about 20 minutes to heat through and brown gently.

14.Serve with crisp fresh bread and a green salad. At hand, have a chilled, dry rosé.

 

“WHERE THE FLYING FISHES PLAY”

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Patrick’s BLOG – week ending 30th July 2016 These days the world’s sea foods and fishes travel the globe in frozen or chilled style every day of the year. It used to be quite rare to fly the stuff about. Yonks ago, 1957 to be exact, I worked on a dreadful British film about two […]

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A BIT OF BETTER BATTER

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  A few thoughts of Old England Last weekend was quietly celebratory, because it covered my birthday and that of my daughter, who, along with her brother, spent a couple of days with us. I will not tell you my age, because you may remark that I am well past my Sell By date. My […]

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A BIT OF OLD ENGLAND

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Anyone who watches British television will know of the many programmes devoted to “Baking” – of pies, pastries, buns, caked and bread. Where flour, water and fat are often the basis for inexpensive and filling dishes. In times past, working people, especially in the rural areas, seldom had enough money to eat meat (or fish) […]

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APRIL ISSUE

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HOW (NOT) TO MAKE FRIENDS I remember the first time I smelt garlic. It was in Paris. Young and impressionable, I had gone with a friend by car to stay in a grubby but inexpensive hotel near the Sorbonne University. We decided to go to Montmartre that evening by Metro. As we walked down the […]

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