Round And Round The Round Pond

The Round Pond in London’s Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens has always been one of my favour­ite places. When I was small my mum used to time me and my sis­ter as we ran round the pond — one clock­wise, the other anti-clockwise. In the autumn, after a cir­cuit of the pond, we’d catch lucky leaves as they fell from the Chest­nut trees. Catch­ing a leaf before it touches the ground brings good luck for a whole year. Really.

After the run fol­lowed by the leaves, there was the ice-cream. I no longer like Fab lol­lies, or even vanilla cones with a chocol­ate flake. But I do love this:

Apple Crumble Ice-Cream

The great thing about this is that it makes two pud­dings — an apple crumble for 6 people, with enough of the crumble left over to make ice-cream for 4

4 large cook­ing apples

Juice of I orange

1 Tea­spoon Chinese 5 spice powder

15 table­spoons caster sugar

180g but­ter

200g plain flour

500ml good qual­ity vanilla ice-cream

Hand­ful of flaked almonds per person

Pre­heat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Peel, core and slice the apples. Place them in an oven-proof dish, coat­ing them in the juice of the orange. Sprinkle over 1 table­spoon of the sugar as well as the 5 spice powder.

Mix together the but­ter, flour and the rest of the sugar — either by hand or with a mixer — and tip the crumble mix over the apples. Put the dish in the fridge for at least 15 minutes — longer if you like, it really doesn’t mat­ter. The point is to chill the crumble before it goes into the oven, so that it doesn’t turn into a soupy mess before it gets the chance to cook.

Bake in the oven for around half an hour or until the crumble is brown and crunchy on top, with signs that the apples are bub­bling up from under­neath. Toast the almonds in a sep­ar­ate dish at the same time and put to one side for eat­ing with the ice-cream.

Eat a lot.

When you can’t eat any more, fold the remain­ing crumble — make sure there is some — into vanilla ice-cream. Put it back into the freezer for 20 minutes or so and then scoop it into glasses and sprinkle with a hand­ful of the flaked almonds you toasted earlier.

This week the sculptor Anish Kapoor — whose work I love as much as I love the Round Pond — installed his work Sky Mir­ror, Red, (2007) in the pond. The huge, scar­let, cir­cu­lar steel mir­ror catches the pond’s myriad reflec­tions that change so dra­mat­ic­ally with the weather and the time of day. Kapoor should be allowed to do any­thing he likes as far as I’m con­cerned. But while he goes large, I’m going to go quietly, hap­pily small. So here is the Round Pond to keep in your pocket.

I snatched these 64 pic­tures before Sky Mir­ror, Red arrived, strolling briskly around the pond’s cir­cum­fer­ence to catch every angle. Cut each one of these pic­tures out, mov­ing across the con­tact sheet from left to right. Keep them in sequence and clip the pages together to make a flick book. Then you too can go round and round the Round Pond to your heart’s con­tent. If you don’t fancy the scissor-work, I’ve made you a slide show — there it is top right — and guess what, you still qual­ify for the ice cream. You get the year’s worth of good luck too.

I always love to hear your com­ments, so do stop by and let me know what you think.

A windfall…

I used to rent a house in Oxford with an old pear tree in the garden. The tree was tall and planted on uneven ground at the back of a herb­aceous bor­der. Pick­ing from the tree was haz­ard­ous, involving a lad­der, deep breaths and plenty of dar­ing. After a couple of sea­sons I decided the best way to enjoy the fruit was to wait for them to come to me. Whenever I heard a rustle and a thud I’d rum­mage in the under­growth to see if there was enough for supper.

I vis­ited Prince Charles’ gar­dens at High­grove this week as part of a char­ity fun­draiser. It was hard to ima­gine, look­ing at the per­fec­tion of his apple trees, that any of them would have the temer­ity to release their fruit until told to do so. The regi­ment of trees, each framed at the base in a per­fectly square bed of lav­ender, was loaded with immacu­late, unblem­ished green apples. And there wasn’t a wind­fall to be seen. The trees were mag­ni­fi­cent, but they made me think nos­tal­gic­ally of my dis­obedi­ent and unruly pear tree that offered up its fruit so nois­ily and chaotically.

The fol­low­ing day I vis­ited my old house, now lived in by a great friend. We searched the under­growth for enough of the slightly wonky and bruised fruit to make baked pears with. A wind­fall in both senses of the word.

Baked Pears With Hazel­nut Brittle

Enough for 4

For the brittle:

5 table­spoons caster sugar

1 table­spoon water

50 grams roas­ted chopped hazelnuts

For the pears:

4 pears

4 table­spoons caster sugar

4 table­spoons sweet dessert wine

40 grams but­ter

Pre­heat the oven to 175 degrees C.

Make the brittle by stir­ring the sugar and water together in a sauce­pan over a mod­er­ate heat until the sugar dis­solves. Raise the heat and con­tinue to stir until the syrup turns to car­a­mel. Be care­ful you don’t let it get too dark, because it will taste bit­ter. Stir in the nuts and spread the tof­fee mix­ture out on a piece of bak­ing paper — it will be scorch­ing hot so don’t be temp­ted to touch it yet. Let it cool while you make the pears.

Peel the pears and put them in a dish with the sugar, wine and but­ter. Bake for around 50 minutes until the pears are soft and slightly car­a­mel­ized. Check on them three or four times to see they don’t burn and each time spoon the juice over the top of the fruit. Snap the brittle into shards and eat with the pears and the juice.

You may know that I have a thing about eat­ing out­side, whatever the weather. I have two loyal and long-suffering friends who always wear vests when they come to visit. But even the most reluct­ant among you would have enjoyed eat­ing those pears with me. As I walked out­side a rain­bow appeared in the sky. Even Prince Charles can’t order one of those.…

Black garlic — fashion faux pas or design classic

It amuses me to see fash­ion stores from Zara to Benetton to Top­shop packed with rails of mil­it­ary capes this sea­son. How did the cape sur­vive its first out­ing, let alone get resur­rec­ted? I remem­ber plead­ing for one as a teen­ager, along with a pair of white pull-on wet-look knee-length boots. I even­tu­ally got the cape — still wait­ing for the boots.

The first thing I learned about wear­ing a cape is that the restrict­ive slits give you instant Dalek-arms. In fact, the whole sil­hou­ette is start­lingly Dalek-like. So, no, I won’t be buy­ing a cape this time round.

The food equi­val­ent of the over-rated cape has to be foam. To my mind, eat­ing foam is no tastier than lying on the beach, swill­ing the frothy water’s edge around your pal­ate like a whale siev­ing plank­ton. I’m not 100% con­vinced by any­thing ‘en croute’ either, since it’s little more than a posh pie with a swanky name.

I’ve just been to a food fair and I bought what was described as ‘the next big thing in food’. It’s black gar­lic — stand­ard white gar­lic fer­men­ted for three weeks and dried for another week. Black gar­lic tastes like liquorice crossed with rais­ins with a back fla­vour of cooked gar­lic. It has a con­sist­ency that reminds me of chest­nuts or even fruit pas­tilles. It’s reputed to have none of that fierce, pun­gent after­taste that lingers. My daugh­ter ate a whole clove and pro­nounced it to be like ‘eat­ing a candy’. And it turns out the man­u­fac­tur­ers are telling the truth — there’s abso­lutely no lingering.

But is black gar­lic just a mil­it­ary cape in dis­guise, or is it pure Chanel — eleg­ant, time­less and exquisite?

This was my fash­ion experiment.….

The Recipe: Beet­root and Black Gar­lic Bruschetta With Goat’s Cheese and Walnuts

Enough for 4

1 beet­root

4 slices sour­dough bread, toasted

8 cloves black garlic

150g goat’s cheese — the soft, creamy kind

Bal­samic vin­egar — the syr­upy kind

Hand­ful of chives

Hand­ful of wal­nuts broken up with your hands

Cut the stalk off the beet­root and place in a pan of sim­mer­ing water. Boil for half an hour or until tender. Remove from the water and once cool enough to handle, peel the outer skin off. Slice the beet­root and put to one side while you toast the sour­dough bread.

Rub one clove of black gar­lic onto each slice of toasted bread. It will dis­in­teg­rate as you rub it in. Spread each toast with the goat’s cheese fol­lowed by the beet­root. Slice the remain­ing four cloves of black gar­lic and heap onto the beet­root. Add the wal­nuts, a trickle of bal­samic and a drift of chopped chives.

The Ver­dict

I would def­in­itely buy black gar­lic again and I would cer­tainly pre­pare it like this again. It’s still not quite Chanel, but Chanel wasn’t Chanel in the beginning.

Exercises in Scones

The French poet Ray­mond Queneau’s sen­sa­tional lit­er­ary exper­i­ment, Exer­cises in Style, recounts the same incid­ent 99 ways. He repeats the story end­lessly, but in dif­fer­ent styles. The nar­rat­ive goes like this: it’s mid­day and a man on a crowded No 84 bus accuses another pas­sen­ger of delib­er­ately tramp­ling his feet. Later he is seen again, being told by a friend to add another but­ton to his coat. Each of the 99 ver­sions is no more than a page or so long and some are much shorter.

This is the start of the Gast­ro­nom­ical telling of the story:

After slowly roast­ing in the browned but­ter of the sun, I finally man­aged to get into a pista­chio bus which was crawl­ing with customers.…’

The Inter­jec­tions ver­sion of the incid­ent is 3 lines long in its entirety:

Psst! H’m! Ah! Oh! Hem! Ah! Ha! Hey! Well! Oh!

Pooh! Poof! Ow! Oo! Ouch! Hey! Eh! H’m! Pffft!

Well! Hey! Pooh! Oh! H’m! Right!’

and the Math­em­at­ical story starts like this:

In a rect­an­gu­lar par­al­lepiped mov­ing along a line rep­res­ent­ing an integ­ral solu­tion of the second-order dif­fer­en­tial equation:

y” + PPTB(x)y’ + S = 84′

If you’re still with me, you’re going to have to take a leap of faith here. Because the very funny Exer­cises in Style, first pub­lished in 1947, got me think­ing about scones. I always ima­gine that I’m going to like scones and jam more than I do. But the pale, chalky crumbs of the scone and the over-sweet, livid red­ness of the jam are so often a dis­ap­point­ment. So why not, like the great Queneau, tell the same story a dif­fer­ent way? So here it is: Exer­cises in Scones, the Savoury chapter.….

Exer­cises in Scones — Mush­room, Smoked Ham and Cheese Scones with Crab Apple and Rose­mary Jelly

For the Jelly — these quant­it­ies make approx­im­ately 6lbs

6lbs of crab apples or other tart-tasting apples

6 pints water

1 large orange

2 gen­er­ous sprigs of rose­mary about 20 cm long

1lb of gran­u­lated sugar to every 1 pint of juice

I shook my crab apples into a blanket from a friend’s tree. There’s no need to chop or peel them, although wash­ing them is a good idea. Just put them in the pre­serving pan whole. If using lar­ger apples, cut them in half, but don’t remove the skin or cores. Add the peel of the orange, the rose­mary and the cold water and bring to a sim­mer. Cook for 30 minutes or until the apples have turned to pulp. Pour the whole mushy lot into a jelly bag and allow to drip through overnight — the usual rule applies of not for­cing the pulp through to avoid cloud­ing the jelly.

Meas­ure the juice and for every 1 pint of liquid allow 1lb of sugar. Add the juice, sugar and strained juice of the orange to the pan and bring to a gentle sim­mer. Stir thor­oughly until the sugar has com­pletely dis­solved. Turn the heat up to a boil and allow to bubble for ten minutes without stir­ring it. Skim the sur­face, pour into ster­il­ised jars, top with waxed paper circles and seal.

For the Scones — these quant­it­ies make around 12

1 medium onion, chopped finely

100g mush­rooms, chopped small

Small hand­ful fresh thyme leaves

360g plain flour

2.5 tea­spoons bak­ing powder

250 g grated Ched­dar cheese, or other hard, salty cheese

220ml semi-skimmed milk

1 egg

60g smoked ham, chopped finely

Season­ing

Heat the oven to 170 degrees C.

I adjus­ted this recipe from a muffin recipe made by the Hum­ming­bird Bakery in Lon­don — this is a muffin/scone cros­sover really.

Melt the but­ter and fry the onion and mush­rooms until soft and start­ing to col­our. Stir in the thyme leaves, sea­son and put to one side.

Put the flour, cheese and bak­ing powder in a large bowl. Mix the milk and egg and pour gradu­ally onto the flour mix­ture. Com­bine, either by hand or with an elec­tric mixer. Add the onions, mush­rooms and chopped ham and make sure they’re mixed through well.

Put a gen­er­ous splodge of mix­ture into paper cases, place on a bak­ing sheet and cook for about half an hour or until gold on top and cooked through. Slice in two and serve with but­ter and a dol­lop of crab apple and rose­mary jelly.

Eat while read­ing Ray­mond Queneau’s Haikai chapter of the story, which con­sists of no more than this:

Sum­mer S

long neck trod on toes

cries and retreat

sta­tion button

meeting’

Per­fect.