Late last week, our neighbours, Paul and Liz, returned from a l-o-n-g trip to their house in Spain. We hadn’t seen them since May when we scarpered off to France, so we thought it would be fun to get them round for dinner and introduce them to Inger and Helge.
The weather seemed as though it might break with current tradition and be pleasant enough to fire up one of the barbecues. After our habitually lazy morning, however, time could have become pressing for shopping and preparation. Jamie Oliver to the rescue; his Jamie’s Kitchen publication has a few marinades to liven up kebabs of various kinds in about an hour. We chose one for lamb one for chicken in an attempt to introduce a bit of variety. Being Jamie, the recipes were somewhat eclectic but a traditional Greek salad and a green salad seemed like reasonable accompaniments that weren’t going to clash and we were soon off with Inger and Helge on a raiding party to the local Tesco, just to complete their English cultural experience. No holiday in England would be complete, after all, without a manic trip to a rugrat-infested Tesco. (I cannot wait for school to start again. School really is the only thing that makes life bearable for civilized human beings.)
Sometimes, the words “free” and “range” on Tesco chickens are as rare as, well, hens’ teeth, to pick an appropriate metaphor. Such seemed to be the case today. Finally, after about ten minutes searching, I found what appeared to be Tescos single example of a free-range chicken hiding behind a several examples of its flabby, battery-raised cousins. Since he who hesitates is lost, I swiftly grabbed my prize and prepared to defend it, if necessary with my life, while I went in search of Carol and our shopping trolley. Having subsequently selected a couple of packs of traditionally outrageously expensive English lamb neck fillets, I used these to hide the free-range chicken lest another crazed, discerning shopper spotted it and developed designs upon it. I needed my Viking bodyguards but they were off on an independent raid of their own.
Nonetheless, we protected our booty successfully and escaped unscathed whereupon it was back home to give our plunder the Jamie Oliver treatment. Having got the marinades prepared and slathered over the meat, Paul and Liz seemed a little behind schedule so I decided to smoke them out by firing up some particularly noxious Big-K charcoal briquettes. All briquettes on sale in England seem to produce noxious fumes but these produce enough evil-smelling smoke to hide the Bismark. Our other poor neighbours were forced to close their kitchen door, for Lord’s sake. Fortunately, that’s about it for the briquettes from hell and they are now nearly all gone. It worked, though, Paul and Liz soon turned up bearing gifts of booze so it was out with the drinking horns once again.
Inger and Helge, being excellent at English, were soon nattering away with Paul and Liz while the longship galley slave (guess who) threaded various bits of marinated meat onto various skewers prior to incinerating them.
The weather was kind, remained dry and relatively warm, so we actually managed to eat outside. Good Lord, that’s the second time this year!