Monday, 29 June 2009
The Date: Saturday 27th June 2009
The Venue: My Gaff
The Guests: Ten Hens
The Theme: English Country Garden (That's lucky then!)
On Saturday we started early.
Sue (my friend, neighbour and 'Cheeky Gin Friday co-conspirator') and I erected the pergola in searing heat - with only a few choice words exclaimed at various intervals - and started decorating it with the saris I bought from Kolkata and pink and green flowers and candles.
We then moved to the kitchen to finish prepping, where my AGA - the most expensive radiator in the world - was pumping out a molten-lava-temperature that transformed my face from English rose complexion to puce, verging on a stroke, red.
A quick cold shower, a change into grown up I know what I'm doing clothes and the Hen's arrived at 4.30 for their early supper. This was to be followed by a trip into Oxford for a night at The Comedy Club and some slick moves on the dance floor.
My daughter Daisy (in between her shifts at the pub) welcomed the ladies at the door and steered them in the direction of the garden where Sue was there to pour them some extremely chilled and rather delicious English sparkling wine.
This wine was care of Chapel Down in Kent - a place I have filmed at in the past for the series Dial a Mum on ITV. Fabulous vineyard and the wine is quite frankly better than some champagnes, as are a lot of English Sparklers - cue large bolt of lightening from France!
So the Hens roosted themselves under the shade of my apple trees and clucked enormously.
Women are very good at that. We may have only just met each other, but we quickly find a common ground.
This patch of earth generally includes the ability to multi-task, the dissapointment of our husband's DIY (and perhaps 'other') skills, schools, children, sex, food, wine, bit more sex...more wine....sex...a little more wine...and yes, you've guessed it...sex!
Yes gentlemen, when you think we are talking about flowers, children, school grades, recipe swaps and cleaning - what we are really conversing about is sex. Lots of it, lack of it and more of it! Hah!
Right back to the food.
The starter was my English Herb and Flower Salad with Goat's Cheese, Bacon and Beetroot in a rapeseed and Alegar Dressing, spiked with wholegrain mustard and sweetened with a little maple syrup. (Alegar vinegar is made my my friend Alan Coxon..go on google it!) I served this with some home-made bread and butter.
Main was Pork with Green Peas. Originally this dish was Duck with Peas and a favourite dish of Queen Anne, a renowned glutton. I have tweaked it, removed the fatty duck and added tons of mint to freshen the dish. I also have apples and cider in my version. In fact when you look at it, the only resemblance to the original dish is the peas! Tastes delicious though and will be in my forthcoming book, along with all the other recipes.
Sue worked like a trojan, serving and clearing the table, pouring wine and generally being bloody marvellous. Absolutely couldn't have done it without her.
Pudding raised a few sighs and lusty comments. I didn't know a pink meringue covered in glitter and served with local raspberries, strawberries and clouds of whipped elderflower cream could invoke such an emotional reaction.
Actually of course I did, which is exactly why I made them.
Gentlemen, once again I want to open your eyes to girl life.
If you were present at a pink meringue feast, we would hold back, not wanting to look gluttonous or out of control.
But without you there, we turn into she-devils with lustful meringue intentions that would bring tears to your eyes. We bury our faces in the marshmallowy centres, smear the fluffy elderflower cream over our lips and tumble handfuls of berries into our mouths a rapid intervals. We are primeval, rabid and completely gorge-ous!
We won't do this in front of you though, we want you to think we're ladies.
Nicky was chief Hen and organised the whole event for Cat who's getting married in Norway in July. Cat, with her future husband own the 'Little Italy' cafes that are at Bicester North and Haddenham and Thame Parkway railway stations and in the village of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire. If you are lucky enough to arrive or leave from one of these stations, you'll always get fabulous friendly service from truly lovely people.
Nicky really did pull off a fabulous day for Cat and rallied the troops or should I say herded the birds together, after the coffee, into the taxis to finish off the party in Oxford.
Sue and I polished off the unfinished bottle of fizz while we cleared and then some of my other neighbours arrived and we sat under the pergola, whilst it rained and had a barbecue, cooked by Simon and Robyn.
The thunder clapped, fork lightening cracked on the horizon and we were only mildly concerned about the pergola's metal frame surrounding us (wine does that!).
It was such a lovely day and it proves that when the sun shines, the wine flows and you have a gathering of good friends, there really is no where I would rather be than in England.
The pictures above show the Hen party, followed by the BBQ... please click on each photo for a close up