Dec 21 2017

Long Shadows Winter Sun


The early morning sun struggles over the hill slowly lighting the frozen valley. My boots crunch on the grass as I make my way through the glistening garden to the icy farmyard.

Cobwebs sparkle on shining rosehips, the last little rose shimmers as its petals warm; a winter camellia is covered in perfect tiny flowers impervious, apparently to the cold. Mist rises from the stream.

Donkeys hear me and Eeyore’s fill the air. Chickens tumble out of their barn sliding across the concrete.

I feed handsome young Hercules and Fat Larry, his greedy wether companion. Poor ram, as he busied himself tupping ewes he developed an abscess in his foot. Retired from duty he is recovering slowly in the big barn. Alas, I fear we will have few lambs this year!

As Millie and I climb the hill to check the rest of the sheep the white fields slowly melt into green and my shadow stretches out before me; I’m elongated like a man on stilts!

By the time we reach the top the sun is up. The fields unfold all around, rolling green hills in a silent land. How I love these winter mornings alone with my dog on the top of the world

Dartmoor in the distance, the river glowing a deep blue below us. I never tire of it.

But I do love the occasional visit to the big city; my world of long ago. A recent visit to London to stay with dear friends: a Frederick Ashton ballet at Covent Garden, a walk in the sun along the Embankment jostled by a huge happy crowd. Modigliani at the Tate Modern and then the Borough Market!
We filled our bags with treats for Christmas: Iberico ham, whole French salamis, big fat green olives, a huge rough chunk of Parmesan, balsamic vinegar and so, so much more. I could have stayed all afternoon!
Eventually we tore ourselves away back to West London where Jill cooked us a Sea Bass, fresh from the Solent and brought up to Putney’s own little Saturday Market that day: so delicious!

Then, after a wonderful weekend it was back to the tranquillity of our Devon hills refreshed and exhilarated!

And so as Christmas creeps ever closer, last minute shopping is complete, presents wrapped, cards sent, tree decorated, turkey ordered. And soon there will be the Carol Service, the Nativity, and the wonderful camaraderie of Church on Christmas Day, family, friends: the joy that is Christmas all still to look forward to!

Happy Christmas

Baked Sea Bass

There are so many ways to cook Sea Bass but I agree with Jill; simple is best.
Par boil some sliced potatoes. Drain and place in a roasting tin. Toss in olive oil.
Make two or three cuts in the skin of the fish and rub with more olive oil. Fill the fish’s cavity with Fennel fronds or finely chopped fennel. Place the fish, covered in more fennel, on top of the potatoes, drizzled over Pernod or white wine and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes in a hot oven. Check to see if the fish is cooked : it will be just opaque. Don’t be tempted to overdo it !
Serve it at once with Hollandaise sauce or a simple mayonnaise and a crisp green salad of watercress and rocket. Quite delicious!

When buying fish the flesh must be firm, the eyes bright and the gills deep red. If this is not the case and fish smells “fishy” then I would rather cook something else!
Fresh fish cooked simply and quickly is my rule.

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