Monday, 28 June 2010

World cup party

Every so often my husband and I will have a competition to see who was the more friendless and freakish teenager, who had the least loyal friends and the worst summers, who felt loneliest and most outsiderish and who is subsequently the more damaged and weird as an adult.

I always win. My husband might have been brooding and shy and crazy about comics, living in Cricklewood - but at least he was sporty. "You were on the cricket team!" I counter. "And weren't you on the football team as well? Give me a freaking break. Your parents had a house in the South of France! They bought you a car! Try being a ginger protestant called Esther living in the middle of Hampstead Garden Suburb with no car and no sporting prowess whatsoever."

Here, he almost always admits defeat. And, as an adult, he shows again and again what a sociable fellow he clearly really is, making new friends and hosting parties at the drop of a hat, whereas I am sometimes nervous of calling my own mother because I reckon she's probably got stuff on and doesn't really have time to talk to me. My husband's phone bill is regularly £200. Mine is £37.50, almost on the nose, pretty much every month.

Anyway, so my husband thought it would be jolly to host a World Cup party this weekend and rounded up about15 people at short notice to celebrate England being beaten 4-1 by Germany - although he obviously didn't know this defeat in advance, or he'd have put a bigger bet on.

He was mostly excited about barbequing the shit out of everything and I directed him towards "jamie at home" (sic), which is concerned mostly with cooking stuff over coals.

He did a fantastic butterflied leg of lamb, in the most astonishingly marvellous barbeque sauce ever, which goes like this:

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
5 cloves
salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
zest and juice of one orange
1 bulb garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
4 heaped tsps paprika
150ml ketchup
8tbsp olive oil
10 bay leaves
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

This looks like a lot of ingredients but most of them are pretty commonplace. I think he missed out the fennel seeds, but it was great anyway. He shoved it in the oven at 180C for 1 hour and then finished it off on the barbeque (but I think if he was going to do it again he'd do it in the oven for slightly less long).

He also did some chicken, which I brined for him. Brining chicken for a barbeque is a great way to get a lot of flavour into the chicken and also keep it from turning into a gritty husk on the grill. For a brine you need:

1 large pot of water
5 bay leaves
1 bulb of garlic, cut acrosss the equator
1 small bunch thyme
1 small bunch parsley
8 tbsp salt
10 or so black peppercorns
4 lemons, halved

Put all this together in the pot and heat until the salt has dissolved. Leave to cool completely and then drop in your chicken for 12 hours. After that time, rinse and pat dry if using immediately. I recommend using a tea towel if you're drying them off and then whack the towel in the washing machine, because kitchen paper just sticks and turns into spitballs.

Giles cooked all this on the barbeque for about 25 minutes.

The "ironic" Union Jack singlet did not win us the match - and it DOESN'T make him an NF loony, ok?

As well as all that, we had a potato salad, made with a half-mayo, half-yoghurt dressing - he added some torn up bits of sorrel, which worked really well but you could also use mint, or nothing at all - and some chopped shallot. Although on reflection, he thinks he ought to have used chopped spring onions. There was also a tomato salad, made in the usual way.

On top of this magnificent feast, Becky B - she of the gift of the Global knives, brought these round:

Which were absolutely out of this world. I haven't emailed her for the recipe yet because I've been too busy sinking the leftovers with a nice cold glass of milk. Nnnnhhh.

Then I had to run off because I had a date with a young man:

Also known as Edward, nephew #3. I've got high hopes for training him up to make me gin and tonics when his motor skills improve so I've got to start grooming him now. Nephews #1 and #2 and nieces #1 and #2 just don't seem interested.


  1. Fantastic entry! I am totally on board with the brining -- we will never do a bird (chicken or turkey) without a brine again. It makes all the difference in the world. Oh and I think we had the same childhood, aside from the hair colour and car, it sounds similarly awkward and sportless. (I regularly avoid calling my 92 year old grandfather for fear he's too busy for me).

    Thanks for the enjoyable read :)

  2. We did that lamb recipe on Sunday too... but we unrolled a lamb roast, cut grooves into and bashed it with a frying pan to make it as flat at possible... then chucked it straight on the BBQ for about 25 mins. Awesome! The Chicken sounds fantastic too!
    Thanks for another great entry.

  3. *stupid question alert*
    how exactly does this brining work? doesn't the chicken taste ridiculously salty?

  4. Not a stupid question at all.

    I actually don't know technically how brining works - but somehow the chicken only absorbs the flavours in the brine (the garlic, thyme, lemon etc) and doesn't dry out while cooking, without taking on a lot of salt (as long as you rinse the chicken after taking it out of the brine).

    It just seems to be some kind of magic.

  5. Loved the blog... VERY funny!!! So was Giles disappointed that England lost?

  6. Thanks dude. He was quite disappointed but, you know, he is a very philosophical guy. x

  7. Haha, I love that you compete for the most friendless, freakish teenager. I think I would probably win if it was between my husband and I- I was a short, welsh vicar's daughter (but with an english accent somehow), had multi-coloured wire rimmed glasses, hand-me down clothes that were 10 sizes to big for me, frizzy dark blonde hair, and train track braces. Score! And I was more likely to be found at our local library rather than on the swings in the park drinking White Lightning with the other local kids. Remind me why I was single again?