In my salad days, I remember scratching my head over Heidegger and his treatise on how the 'the rose is a rose" and that it is not processing the 'why' and 'how' of its existence. You follow? Put another way, nothing is without reason (nihil est sine ratione) but not everything needs to know what that is. It helped in those days that university to me was a sea of cigarette smoke and depending on our moods or the antics of the night before, we generally tried to keep up with Heidegger and the rest, all the while smoking copious fags. I vividly remember the professors asking us students for cigarettes when they ran out! The amphitheater was dense as smog with a nicotine haze. How Health and Safety would have loved those days!
But let us return to roses....
I am a great lover of roses. The rose to me embodies beauty, desire, the soul of the 'esthete', perfume and seduction. I possess a trivial nature where beauty is concerned and I cannot change who I am (at my long tooth age that would be impossible). One of my greatest joys is growing perfumed roses- for that one moment where I place my nose as close as I can to the mature rose and inhale. In my garden are roses that smell of Pernod ("Cymbeline") to roses that smell of Heaven ("Cardinal de Richelieu"). If a rose has no perfume it will seldom find a home in my garden - that is the only criterion that matters to me.
The rose is fragrant and the sight of it is pure yearning.
Lose yourselves, if you will, inside the image that has no beginning and no end. And forget all the rest that forces us to think too hard.
Chicken with preserved lemon
This was one of the most popular posts on my blog in 2013: a recipe for chicken with preserved lemon. I made this recipe up based on my love of lemons, really.
I do all my meat and veg shopping at a biodynamic farm in East Sussex where the meat is very flavoursome and the vegetables taste like vegetables. The chicken at the farm is quite gamey and the tartness of the preserved lemon balances it nicely.
One whole chicken cut into half, then quarters and then separated into pieces (you can also use thighs and drumsticks only for this recipe if you prefer).
Two preserved lemons
One large onion
Few sprigs thyme
Dash dry white wine.
Two cups chicken stock or water
Handful fresh chives
Salt and pepper
Dredge the chicken pieces lightly in flour. Dust off excess flour.
Heat around one third of a cup of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add a knob of butter. When the butter begins to foam, add the chicken pieces and brown for approximately three to four minutes on each side. Note: you can remove the skin and then dust the meat in flour if you are worried about fat. While the chicken is browning, peel and finely slice the onion into rings. Once the chicken has browned, remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. You may wish to remove some of the oil and leave around a tablespoon only in the pan. Now add the onion and stir to brown evenly (around seven minutes). Do keep the onion slices moving in the pan so they do not burn.
Add the dash of white wine and scrape up all the bits in the pan. Increase the heat sufficiently for the wine to bubble and reduce quickly.
Slice the lemon as thinly as you possibly can - the slices should be as thin as paper if possible. Discard the seeds. Add the lemon slices to the pan along with the thyme. Return the chicken to the pan and add the chicken stock or water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the pan contents to the boil, cover and reduce to a bare simmer.
Leave to simmer gently for around 45 minutes.
The chicken is ready when it falls away easily from the bone and the sauce is thick, unctuous and fragrant.
Garnish the chicken with very finely chopped chives.
Serve the chicken with crispy roast potatoes and steamed vegetables.
Tip: cooking is about texture. Crispy potatoes complement the tangy melt-in-the-mouth chicken and steamed vegetables provide a clean and fresh-tasting accompaniment to the meal. If liked, dress the vegetables with a dash of balsamic vinegar and a good quality extra virgin oil just before serving.
A Short Quiz
And as the New Year begins, dear reader, I ask you to choose one of the following:
What really matters in life?
A. Class, status
C. Being loved
D. A big diamond ring,
E. The smell of freshly mown grass
F. Food and shelter
G. A hamburger with a large side order of fries?