Sunday, 17 April 2011
So I was looking forward this afternoon to watching Basil Dearden's 1962 movie All Night Long. My DVD is part of Criterion's Eclipse Series #25: Basil Deardon's London Underground, a set of four movies by this British director. It's a retelling of Othello set among jazz musicians as a party is held for the first year anniversary of married couple Delia and Rex. He's the leader of a successful jazz band; she's a former singer who gave up her career for marriage. Johnny Cousin is the Iago in this film; a jealous drummer who wants a band of his own with Delia as its star, and who tries to break the couple up by feeding Rex's jealousy. You know the story; the ending won't quite be the same. It was all a bit melodramatic (thunderclaps at portentous moments) and the acting isn't terribly good. The party seems quite devoid of guests except for the main characters (no budget for extras, I suppose) and there's an awful lot of going in and out of rooms whenever Deardon needs some quiet for two characters to talk. Still, the music is terrific and the musicians include Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus and Tubby Hayes with enough camera time on them to let them rip. Their scenes are definitely the best bits of the movie.
Sunday, 10 April 2011
I was shortly due to meet a friend for a long walk, en route to a farmer's market (where a basket of organic onions would come in handy later). Enthusing about my sudden obsessive need to make spaetzle that night (which she completely understood; she's known me too long), I enlisted her help in checking out several local kitchen gadget stores in search for this elusive tool. Either the spring weather has created spaetzle fever, or Smitten Kitchen has a lot of Toronto readers, but I heard from more than one retailer that they'd either just sold out, or didn't carry them, but had recently had inquires. I'd nearly given up, but thankfully I remembered The Pepper Mill and yes, they had them (see above) and yes, they still have more in stock.
Okay, so why did this recipe torment me all day, apart from the fact that it's really fun to say?
1. Easy ingredients. Flour, eggs (a lot of them - I used Omega 3 ones) and milk. Combine.
2. They are so much fun to make! Once the batter has cooled in the fridge for an hour, you just bring a large pot of salted water to boil, put the spaetzle maker over the top and pour the batter into the little box. Then you slide the box back and forth and the batter falls through the holes into the hot water, creating little squiggles of noodles.
3. They cook incredibly fast. You'll know when they're done when they rise to the top like this. It only takes a minute or two. I did them in several batches, or else it gets too crowded.
4. They are so versatile. Drain them in a colander and then you can use them in any recipe calling for pasta. I fried up some onions and pancetta in some melted butter and then added the spaetzle, some ground pepper and thyme and there was the dinner I'd been happily anticipating all day.
5. As hoped, it was absolutely delicious!
A couple of things to note. The recipe which I followed from the Smitten Kitchen post above, makes a LOT of spaetzle. It could easily serve four if used as the main dish, and six-eight if you were serving is just as a side dish. I'm going to use the leftovers to bake a large Spaetzle n' Cheese dish for dinner tonight. I may never buy macaroni again. Also, when moving the spaetzle maker back and forth, be careful so that the batter doesn't go down the side of the pot where it'll hit your stove element and start to burn. It did get a bit messy at times and you have to work fast, but it was completely worth it.
UPDATED: I used the leftover spaetzle in place of macaroni and it was fantastic. The spaetzle doesn't dry up overnight and takes the sauce really well. It just adds an extra creaminess to the whole dish. This is definitely replacing my old Mac n' Cheese standard.
Sunday, 3 April 2011
This is the gorgeous view from the top of Wansfell Pike, overlooking the town of Ambleside. It's so hard to really capture the effect, but from here all you can see are peaks everywhere and Lake Windermere to the left.
On this trip I was also visiting a friend in Liverpool who took me out to Crosby Beach at the north part of the city, which contains a really interesting art installation by artist Antony Gormley. Called Another Place, he created one hundred life-size figures of himself and placed them at various points along several kilometres of the beach. They are all staring out at the water and the effect is quiet and reflective but not intrusive. Very peaceful, though I think it might look completely different, and possibly more fearful, when the tide comes in.
My reading on this trip has been True North: In Praise of England's Better Half by Martin Wainwright - a book debunking the negative stereotypes of Northern England. It's a terrific read - I'm constantly writing down a list of places I need to visit, historical buildings to see, art galleries to go to, and even bands to check out, like The Doves. Technically, I'm a Northern girl myself having been born in Yorkshire, but I came to Canada when I was just nine months old and have lived here ever since, so even though I visit England often, there's so much about the history and culture of my birth country that I'm ignorant of. I never get tired of exploring it though.