Rain, Rain, More Rain And Chutney 08.10.2015
I woke at 04.50 after a restless night characterised by disturbing dreams, none of which I can remember now. No worries, maybe my subconscious needed to rattle them around my sleeping consciousness. Who knows? I’m damned if I’m paying a dream therapist to try to make sense of them. That’s just another kind of hocus pocus and I have no time for hocus pocus of any kind.
From around 06.00 it rained and with a few short breaks it rained all day. Some of it was soft rain, some of it head numbing, roof drumming, heavy as hell rain that made mushroom splashes on the ground and turned Avenguda Jaime 1 Conquerador (James the First Conqueror Avenue in Valenciano) into Riu Jaime 1 Conquerador (River James the First Conqueror in Valenciano.)
We didn’t mind. We are not made of sugar to use a well worn phrase coined by former Councillor colleague John Prestage’s mother. We have waterproof clothing and what is more, after lunch I bought myself a pair of ankle wellies – sorted. Besides, we knew that today and tomorrow were going to be rainy, we also knew that the painter was going to come to paint the new bathroom ceiling, so we had already designated today and tomorrow as chutney days.
I woke Garrath at 07.40 because I knew that we had to be finished with the bathroom early because of the painter. He was as he describes himself, “A bit flat” which is hardly surprising in view of my crack up last night. That was enough to flatten anybody’s batteries, including mine. Nevertheless we got on with things.
As it happened the painter arrived at 09.20 and had his work done in an hour, a superb job done by a really meticulous professional. It transpired that it was the very same painter who had painted the entire interior of the house some years ago, a job that he did so well that it is still immaculate, and considering what a peeling, damp damaged wreck it was with layer upon layer of peeling, water stained, cheap paint, he is a painter of near genius. He is also a lovely man with a very cheerful, positive attitude. I am beginning to believe that all Monasor’s employees have to pass a good looks test (he was pretty) and be advanced graduates from Charm School.
After ablutions and breakfast and receiving the painter, I started the chutney preparations. The tomatoes, chillies and Seville Oranges had been thawed out overnight, the spices were ready, the vinegar and sugar at hand. All I had to was steam the lemons until they were soft, peel the onions, de-pip the Seville Oranges and lemons (therein lies a story) and chop everything.
When I use Seville oranges straight from the trees they have to be boiled or steamed until they are very soft before they can be used in either marmalade or chutney (They are tough buggers.) It is the same with lemons and limes (equally tough buggers.) Kumquats are not so difficult, apart from making you want you cut your own throat with boredom when preparing them. We have a deal with the gardeners. They harvest all the fruit, after taking what they need, bung it in plastic bags and stick it in the freezer for me. I am delighted to report that freezing Seville oranges renders them soft enough to be used without prior cooking – what a relief. I shall claim that I knew that all along and had them frozen deliberately!
I had already topped all the chillies and tiny cherry tomatoes last night (a straight 8 on The Kumquat Scale) so all that was needed was to steam the lemons and de-pip them and the Sevilles. There were 3 kilos of Sevilles and about a kilo of lemons. I started with the Sevilles while the lemons were steaming. I cut them in half across their equators and used the handle of a teaspoon to remove the pips.
I had previously thought that Kumquats were the champions of the citrus world for the production of pips but oh no, I was wrong. Sevilles are winning by a mile and are absolute champions in deviously, deliberately hiding them. Each orange has around twelve segments and each segment can have up to six pips lurking in there. Some have none just to fool you. Some have just two, some more so you can’t make an educated guess. You just have to prod and poke until you prise the reluctant bastards out and no matter how meticulous you are some will manage to evade your explorations. They score 9.75 on The Kumquat Scale and are only saved from being a 10 by the fact that they are big enough to hold, unlike those piddling, fiddly Kumquats!
Sevilles duly, and I confess, rather grumpily prepared, I moved on the the now soft, steamed lemons. They too presented challenges. I think that Perran planted a so-called seedless variety. For seedless read ‘ fiddly little annoying seeds that are really hard to get out.’ At times like this Marike’s words,
“Why do you make so much work for yourself?” springs readily to mind, but so does “I’ve started so I’ll finish.”
Sevilles and lemons de-pipped, it was time for the onions. Sadly Garrath didn’t respond to my comment,
“And now comes the job I hate most” by offering to peel the onions for me, so I plodded on while he recharged his batteries. Garrath recharges his batteries by relaxing and withdrawing into his own private world which is fine. Today my recharging has to be achieved in the way that I usually do it, like one of those bikes where you pedal like crazy to put more charge in, with lots of activity. T’was ever thus!
Onions peeled I then employed the new Food Processor. All electrical items have to have a name so that you can swear at them when they go wrong so we have decided to call the Food Processor Abdellah, because like Abdellah, it seems to be able to cope with just about anything without getting flustered. Anyway, Abdellah sliced the onions in a breath and then went on to chop the chillies, the Sevilles and the lemons.
I used the whizzy stick (stick blender) to whizz up the tomatoes then it was time for the easy bit, to chuck it all in the preserving pan along with the sugar, vinegar and spices gentle heat it all to boiling point, boil it for five minutes to ensure that everything was sterile then cover it so that we could go to lunch. Phew, what a breeze after the mental health threatening process of de-pipping!
It sounds tedious and laborious, which it is, but what we have to note here is the objective – the immense satisfaction I get from the production of delicious things that neightbours, friends, the gardeners and the builders this time, will get when I hand over truly delicious, home made, unique preserves that are given with genuine love and appreciation.
Lunch was had at the local cheapie and it was lovely, salad, a starter, a main course and a dessert along with a drink, and all for €9 each. Having navigated the torrent that was the road I remembered that it was at the shoe shop next door to the restaurant where I had seen the ankle wellies so I went in and bought them then had the pleasure of plodging through the puddles on the way back to the car. (Plodging, a peculiarly English entertainment borne out of having so much rainy weather, it consists of stamping heavily through puddles so that you cause maximum spray, noise and disruption. I love it!)
A brief call at the local GF aware supermarket later and we were back to both Garrath and I recharging our batteries in our own particular ways, him with whatever, me with the chutney boiling. He booked our restaurant for Sunday with Rob & Marijke and upon informing Rob of this became aware that he has to do his Dr Megabyte act with Rob tomorrow morning while I chutney boil again. (Deep joy, I have the unending joy of bottle and lid sterilising to do and then messy bottling with as little spillage and skin burning as possible.)
Come beer o’clock (I wish) we repaired to the local watering hole to imbibe the electrolytes that facilitate both our recharging systems, beer in Garath’s case, wine in mine.
Who said this was a holiday?