Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2022

Dinner in ten minutes: creamy avocado and mushroom pasta.

Due to the time pressures of a high-powered career and various domestic pressures such as wife and children, I used to try to cook a meal in the shortest possible time. I wrote about it in a post entitled the  four-minute meal , a take on the four-minute mile. Heat was a mandatory factor, otherwise you could just eat cold pizza from the fridge. The following recipe is fast and easy but doesn't approach four minutes. You'll need at least ten. Just make sure the pasta goes on first, because everything else can be done within its cooking time. OK, pasta's on. Now peel and slice an onion and a garlic clove and put them in a pan with some olive oil on low heat. Slice some mushrooms, halve an avocado, remove the stone and slice and cross-hatch it. I do it in the skin and then carefully remove it.  Now slosh some white wine into the pan and check that the onion and garlic are softening, not burning. Now put in the mushrooms, lid the pan and turn up the heat slightly to soften the

No. 55.

I stood in the mid-morning silence in filtered sunlight watering potted plants. I didn’t know their names then, but they were orchids, geraniums, begonias, monsteras, lace-delicate ferns, and succulents in long hanging strands that looked like pale green jewels. The pots sat on cascading terraced boards in a west-facing outbuilding that was latticed for semi-shade.  The outbuilding was at the back of the house next door to mine. I was ten. The owner of No. 55, an old lady by the name of Mrs. Snaith, was away on her annual summer holiday. She paid me each year to keep her plants alive for four weeks. There were hundreds. I climbed the fence each morning and entered the kind of quiet I had never found anywhere else. Me, the plants, the gentle hiss of the hose, and the drip-drip-drip of the hydrated pot plants onto the cold concrete below the terracing. No. 55 was utterly, achingly empty under the clear, cloudless early summer sky, and life - mine - was pregnant with its unknown future. T

Plainchant interrupted: archbishop unruffled.

Mid-ceremony: somewhere around the offertory. St Patrick's Cathedral choir was in full voice performing something by Palestrina. The congregation was silent, some possibly dozing. Five hundred year old polyphony does that to you. The dean (or the deacon, I never know which is which), wielding an incense burner, was smoking the altar like a beekeeper calming his bees, and the chains of the incense burner were singing a soft metallic rasp. He turned and swung the burner towards where we were sitting in the transept, and the indefinable aroma (perhaps the inside of a hundred-year-old cedar drawer used to store pipe tobacco in the library of a vicar who has given up smoking) of incense drifted across to greet our noses. Palestrina's unearthly syntactical perfection was progressing along a sonic line unbroken by any harsh melodic, and I was marvelling that it was probably the most sublime sound ever created by man, beast or machine. Then the siren went off. It was a discordant, hig

Meatloaf and the snow leopard.

First day of summer. I gazed out the 1940s timber sash window at the front of the house, looking to the north, and realised that that framed piece of landscape is now arched by a crepe myrtle on one side and a six-foot Queen Elizabeth flowering rose on the other, and the arch meets in the middle creating a church-window vista of stained glass reality. Not by accident. That view was planned seventeen years ago . To build a garden, and hence a series of revealed vistas, you need patience. The previous night I had taken Alex to see The Velvet Queen (more accurately La Panthère des Neiges ) at Cinema Nova and explorer/hermit Munier had declared that patience is mankind's highest virtue. I gazed out the window thinking about taking patience to its ultimate end, such as blundering around the roof of the world for three months looking for an animal that might eat you in three minutes, the aroma from the kitchen crept up the hallway: meatloaf in the oven. * They have been packaging sausag