today, you can colour me

today, you can colour me a particularly green-and-olive shade of fatigued. I’m really struggling to stay awake and keep focused on anything. My mind is wandering all over the place, and one or two things are filling my thoughts rather more than I would like. It isn’t an entirely positive situation, but I do have a good evening to look forward to (I hope!).

Condolences to the Morgan family.

Condolences to the Morgan family.
When I was born, I had a full set of grandparents. My maternal grandfather died within two weeks of my birth. I am told he was an amazing character, one of the nicest people you could wish to meet with a fantastic sense of humour. In a way, I’m glad he was alive to see the day his youngest grandchild was born.
My paternal grandparents both died before I was ten years old, so my memories of them are vague at best. My maternal grandmother lived until I was in my late teens, reaching the mighty age of 93 – and therein lies a source of regret. Like just about every other teenager on the planet, I was too obsessed with youth and my own perceived troubles to spend much time with my grandmother. She lived through two world wars, survived being bombed-out of her home, raised six children only to see one die in her teens, witnessed social and technological change that would stagger the imagination and went through life with a cheerful, positive and friendly demeanour.
If only I had spent more time with her, perhaps I might have learned a few things that would be useful to me today.

Political comment for today: let

Political comment for today: let me see if I have got this right – the government is going to give employees the right to ask for something, and preserve the employer’s right to say “no”. So, um, what is the point of this, exactly? Who, other than the bureaucrats, actually gains from this gem of New Labour thinking?

In the holiday choice stakes,

In the holiday choice stakes, Verona and Venice are nudging a gentle lead from Oporto (which is my preferred destination), with Seville trailing badly (too hot at this time of year, apparently). Nobody has anything to say about Naples. I plan to book this over the weekend, so you still have a little time to get comments in.
Oh, and I am *not* going to Ibiza.

hmmm. I’ve not been following

hmmm. I’ve not been following Big Brother at all (I don’t have a TV, and frankly, this sort of thing bores me witless) – but, I am fairly convinced that Narinder is someone I had a lengthy e-mail friendship with a few years ago, although we have lost touch now. Does anyone have any info on her? The woman I knew lived in Nottingham.

Results of my trip to

Results of my trip to Brighton today:

  • a new jacket, ready for a trip to the races on Friday, as well as a new shirt and smart trousers. Bizarrely for me, all these things came from Debenhams, who seemed to have been exposed to a swift kick up the backside in the menswear department. I was seriously tempted by some Fahri stuff I saw, but it was way beyond my budget – but very cool, nonetheless.
  • a new book, Three To See The King by Magnus Mills. Already I’m half way through, so expect a review shortly. So far, I like it. Lots.
  • lunch in Food for Friends.
  • birthday gifts and cards for the weekend.
  • two CDs: Slag Boom Van Loon: So Soon and Andrea Parker: The Dark Ages – all good stuff.
  • some bath ballistics.
  • a new pair of shoelaces (woohoo).
  • ….plus some odds and ends from Habitat.

Book review time (haven’t had

Book review time (haven’t had one of these for a while – college, work and everything else has got in the way of reading, but now I’ve found more time, and will gradually work through the backlog of books):
Don’t Tell Me The Truth About Love by Dan Rhodes – an excellent collection of short stories all themed around love. I have to agree with some of the other reviews that I have read – Dan Rhodes is brilliantly sparing with words – he can convey not only description, but raw and powerful emotion, using the minimum amount of words. In consequence, his stories flow without being interrupted by long wads of prose trying to convey something – excellent stuff.
The stories themselves manage to convey something of the reality of love, using quite unreal situations – in particular, he focuses on love’s imperfections, on how things rarely work out as well as we dream.
My advice – go get it, read it, enjoy.
Thanks to Vaughan once again.

Not so much Dinnerblog as

Not so much Dinnerblog as Graybo’s Handy Recipe Reference. A couple of people have asked for the recipe for the chicken dish I cooked last week that went so well – so here it is:

Chicken with wild mushroom and champagne sauce
Serves 4 (or two greedy people)
Preparation takes about 10 minutes if you are organised, and cooking 30 minutes. It pays to pre-heat your oven to a low temperature so that you can keep the chicken warm.

Ingredients:

  • 500g chicken breast fillets (i.e. 4 fillets)
  • 300ml champagne (although you can use cava or any other sparkling dry white wine – but nothing impresses a guest quite like champagne!)
  • a little olive oil for frying
  • 250g wild mushrooms, cleaned and larger mushrooms halved (wild mushrooms includes all those funny ones you don’t often see – ceps, blewitts, girolles, chanterelles – whatever you can get in your local deli – did I say this recipe was cheap? no, I did not)
  • 2 tbsp half fat cr&#232me fra&#238che (the only concession to calorie reduction in this meal)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (I actually used about twice this amount)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Place the chicken breasts in a single layer in a large saucepan. Pour over the champagne and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken breasts are thoroughly cooked.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden. Strain the chicken breasts, reserving the liquor, and keep warm (see! I told you to warm the oven!). Add the reserved liquor to the mushrooms and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the cr&#232me fra&#238che and tarragon. Simmer gently for 2 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season to taste.
  • Slice the chicken breasts diagonally into thick slices and arrange of warmed serving plates. Pour over the sauce straight away and serve.

I served this on a bed on white and wild rice mixed with fresh green beans, which worked really well. But then the second bottle of wine had been opened by this point, so it could have tasted of anything to be honest!
Thanks to Waitrose for the recipe.